Articles in business
It’s no secret the Chinese government heavily censors its country’s news media. Controversial topics are ignored and uncomfortable facts are sometimes omitted, particularly when it comes to the Three T’s: Tibet, Tiananmen, and Taiwan. Newsroom editors must routinely ask themselves what stories are appropriate to run or risk having officials shut them down for crossing the line.
Historically speaking, there is good reason for such caution. Since the founding of the Peoples Republic in 1949, the news media have mainly served as an instrument in the dissemination of government policy and information, and is expected to show support for such policies.
Because of the recent commercialization of media, however, that may now be changing. “Commercial media is only a couple of decades old in China,” said William Moss, a specialist in international public relations. . . .
“Shanghai is a modern city… compared to most other cities in China, so I came here to learn about fashion,” said Zhang Yujing, a fashion design sophomore at the city’s Donghua University.
The travel Web site asiarooms.com said Shanghai was one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and that fashion was a “booming industry.” The site also said that over the past few decades, fashion here had developed a unique style of its own, attributing the trend to factors like the mixing of indigenous and Western patterns of dressing or “East Meets West”.
While the amount of fashion in and from Shanghai that is truly representative of Chinese or Shanghai fashion is debatable, few question that Shanghai is an important global fashion post. When did the city become a big player in the world fashion scene?
On American indie musician Brian Seymour’s 2006 Web site promoting his tour through China, he promised a “fostering of cultural exchange and creative collaboration.” So when he decided to perform at Shanghai’s Cotton’s, a restaurant with a predominately expat clientele on June 22, Seymour’s intentions for his most recent tour in China seemed to demonstrate otherwise.
As expected, Seymour’s audience at Cotton’s was a large expat crowd. If the listeners were not Chinese who either lived or were born abroad, they were foreigners.
The derailing of Seymour’s good intentions is not all that uncommon. Despite hopes for performing for more ordinary Chinese when touring China, foreign indie artists often find themselves playing for large expat crowds. In fact, the economics of touring make it almost unavoidable. Artists and their promoters have a hard time making a profit if they do not tap the expat demand.
When Celestin, 39, traveled from his native Rwanda to Beijing China on a scholarship to study economics in 1998, his Chinese classmates didn’t know what to make of him.
“They didn’t think I could be very intelligent,” Celestin said, who preferred that only his first name be used in this story to protect his privacy.
When he shared the top score on a citywide economics exam with a Chinese student, they had to revise their opinion. This isn’t the only change he’s seen in his adopted home of Beijing.
In the past ten years, Celestin traded economics for computer science, developing a successful embassy IT-support business as well as exporting electronics to Rwanda.
Rio Zhang, 24, visited a dentist for the first time in his life only three weeks ago. Strolling the streets of Yuxian, a city in the countryside west of Beijing, he spied a business office with lots of interesting-looking high-tech equipment visible through the window. When he asked his friend what kind of business this might be, the friend said, “a dentist office.” On the spot, Zhang decided to have his teeth cleaned and the experience was so positive he was hooked.
“That experience really made me realize teeth are important,” said Zhang. “I don’t want to have [false] teeth when I get old.” And so, he plans on visiting the dentist office twice a year from now on.
Going to the dentist for a check-up and cleaning is a routine many Americans take for granted but, in China today, quality dental care remains relatively rare and, depending on the work involved, expensive.
Wang Xiaojia would never marry a man who didn’t own his own place. “No house, no security,” she stated flatly. A 26-year-old living in Shanghai, Wang said she planned to marry in a few years, but only to a guy with the right real estate bona fides.
Sitting in the city’s People’s Park, Wang confirmed the widespread Shanghai view that owning property is a status symbol, and for many men, a qualification for marriage. “‘The girls who aren’t looking for a house aren’t realistic, they’re idealistic,” said Wang.
It’s 9 a.m., my eyelids are heavy with sleep, and the Sofa Café doesn’t open for another hour. The café down the street also has an hour and a half to go before opening time.
“What type of coffee shops don’t open until 10 in the morning?” I ask Hao Ziduan, my interpreter, while walking with her through Shanghai’s tree-lined streets, punctuated with café’s, coffee shops and restaurants, in my quest to explore China’s coffee culture.
“Coffee for [Americans] is different than coffee for Chinese people,” she tells me. “For you, it [helps you] wake up. For Chinese people, it is [an opportunity] to sit around and talk.”
While Hao’s assessment is accurate to some degree, coffee in its various roles has taken China by storm. Every morning, a stream of Chinese walk into their local Starbucks, emerging with a cup of Joe to go. Inside, the scene appears equally familiar to the Western eye — students study at tables stacked with textbooks and coffee mugs while businesspeople talk shop with clients.
Bai Zhuxian’s modest eatery is easily overlooked amid the many retail signs that decorate the bustling streets of central Xi’an. Just around the corner, Chef Wong’s Prosperity and Fortune Restaurant, boasting both neon lights and promises of what could only be good things, could bewitch any passerby.
Yet the vast difference between the two establishments does not lie in their physical exteriors but in the attitudes of their chefs. “When you go into the kitchen, all you deal with is smoke and grease…” Wong says.
“You are supposed to help me because we are both Chinese,” an angry shopkeeper told Xia Wengian, a local man helping a visiting American student bargain for a piece of jewelry. The seller’s tone and facial expression made it clear that she felt Xia was interfering with her business.
Aside from its concentrated minority population, Xi’an’s vibrant Muslim Quarter is a tourist district where store and stall owners are known for their ferocious haggling techniques. On any given day. . . .
“Desert has now come within 200 miles of Beijing,” said Liu Gengyuan, a doctoral student in environmental studies at Beijing Normal University, in a briefing he gave to our Reporting China workshop in Beijing in early June entitled “China and the Path to Environmental Sustainability.”
As Liu pointed out, in addition to desertification, key environmental issues facing China “are air pollution mainly caused by coal and vehicles, [and] water pollution.” And not surprisingly, university students throughout China are interested in how to solve such issues for the sake of their country’s future. This was evident when I had the opportunity to speak with a group of students at Xi’an International Studies University in central China, where I learned that opinions on environmental issues are just as diverse and passionate as they are in the United States.