Articles in society & culture
multimedia, photography, society & culture »
Traveling the China road in search of stories to explain a beat as big and complex as the People’s Republic can’t help but impress a group of reporters with the country’s marvelously varied visual resources. Every pile of bricks stacked outside a construction site, every flash of conspicuous consumption, every farmer who says that a hard life is less hard than it used to be attests to the fact that China is undergoing a remarkable transformation from the grassroots up. That process is inescapably reflected in the country’s rich menu of images – by turns gritty and elegant, stodgy and sweeping, indelibly grim and endlessly uplifting, uptempo and sophisticated. Our reporters, photojournalists and multimedia-istas found such to be the case in the big cities as well as the outlying rural communities. Herewith the Reporting China team offers a selection of photos chronicling our journey from Beijing to Xi’an and Shanghai. . . .
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. . . .
Ten years ago, the African elite sent their children to study at universities in America or Europe to ensure their success and financial futures. Now, the target is slowly shifting from the West to the East. “My father’s colleague told him if I studied in China I would always have a job,” said Pitshou Ngoma, 29, whose father is an agricultural minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “So he sent me to Beijing.”
Africa’s wealth of oil and other mineral resources has long been of interest to China. China-Africa trade has increased by an average 30 percent a year this decade, reaching nearly $107 billion in 2008, according to The New York Times. In order to solidify China’s hold in the developing economies, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao went on a much publicized African tour early this year, visiting eight pivotal countries. As government ties deepen – bringing Chinese companies to rural Africa to install roads, excavate minerals and construct schools, many African students are seeking to ride the Chinese tide to prosperity in their home countries.
alice ju's travel blog, caitlin meredith's travel blog, dawn jones-garcia's travel blog, kelly west's travel blog, multimedia, society & culture, video »
Many great questions have been pondered throughout Chinese history. On a hot June day in 2009, four brave women dared to ask: “Where is the toboggan?” Their quest was part of this year’s Reporting China assault on the Great Wall of China and a special mission to search out a toboggan ride discovered by the 2008 Reporting China team that provides travelers the option of a little mechanical help in getting up to and down from the battlements, with a few thrills and chills thrown in for good measure. Join them now to see how they fared.
dawn jones-garcia's travel blog, editorial, featured, kelly west's travel blog, on the street, society & culture »
When I arrived in China, I expected to meet people sporting red armbands and green hats, like icons from a 1950s propaganda poster. So when I began seeing young people in Beijing that broke this mold – Mohawk-sporting musicians, tattooed skateboarders, extreme-sport enthusiasts – it seemed more significant than what this same behavior might mean back home. Thus the question: In a country that has put so much stock in conformity, do new forms of self-expression represent small but meaningful forms of rebellion?
“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.
In matters of culture, momentum is not necessarily a function of time. Haipaicai, or Shanghai-style cuisine, has a history less than two decades old, yet the gravitational pull of the city’s food scene is no less effective or transformative than that of time-honored culinary bastions like New York and Paris.
The concept of creating a unique culinary identity by adaptating various regional flavors from all over China was primarily a marketing scheme devised by Chinese Communist Party officials in the 1980s to promote Shanghai as a happening place for culture, as well as finance and markets. And it’s worked—today there are over 20,000 restaurants in Shanghai alone, and in one way or another, they all owe their history to this culinary development.
In the trendy Maoming Road section of Shanghai, Longwu Kung Fu has established itself as a popular martial arts center among both local Chinese and foreigners as well. That is thanks in large part to the studio’s owner, Alvin Guo, who has dedicated his life to the study of wushu, as martial arts is known in Mandarin, since he was three years old.
Guo was captain of the prestigous Shanghai Wushu Team for 12 years, as well as a three-time national champion, until an ankle injury forced him from competition to become the Chief Instructor and Director of his wushu center. “Kung Fu is getting [more] popular,” says Guo, now 32.
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.