‘Not the Only Gorilla in the Jungle': Japan Overtakes China as Largest U.S. Bondholder

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Japan’s purchases will help soothe lingering concerns that U.S. bond prices could decline as China slows its buying. 

Min Zeng in New York, Lingling Wei in Beijing and Eleanor Warnock in Tokyo report: Japan dethroned China as the top foreign holder of U.S. Treasurys for the first time since the financial crisis, following a wave of purchases by buyers shifting money to the U.S. as Japan’s economic policies push down interest rates there.

“China is currently the 800-pound gorilla in the U.S. Treasury market. However, it is not the only gorilla in the jungle.”

–James Sarni, a managing principal at investment manager Payden & Rygel, which oversees $90 billion of assets

In reclaiming its status as the largest foreign creditor to America in U.S. official data, Japan is japan-chart-WSJreasserting itself as Beijing holds its Treasury portfolio steady amid a weakening Chinese economy.

“U.S. debt bears higher yields than government bonds offered in other rich nations, thanks to the perception of stronger U.S. growth prospects and to central-bank bond purchases that have driven yields near zero across Europe and in Japan.”

Private investors and official institutions in Japan owned $1.2244 trillion of U.S. government securities at the end of February, compared with $1.2386 trillion at the end of January, according to the latest monthly data released by the Treasury on Wednesday.

China held $1.2237 trillion of Treasury debt at the end of February, compared with $1.2391 trillion a month earlier.

Over the past year, Japan has boosted its holdings by a net $13.6 billion, while China’s holdings dropped by $49.2 billion.

“The single largest holder of U.S. long-term debt is the Federal Reserve, with more than $2 trillion. The amount has surged from $755 billion at the end of 2007, fueled by Fed purchases of long-term securities in response to the financial crisis”.

The Treasury data, released with a two-month lag, don’t capture all of the Treasury-bond holdings China may have parked at middlemen in places such as the U.K. and Belgium. Many analysts and investors believe China has considerable holdings bought through such intermediaries. The Treasury notes on its website that “it is difficult to draw precise conclusions about changes in the foreign holdings of U.S. financial assets by individual countries” from the capital-flow data.

“The shift also reflects changes sweeping China. The world’s most-populous nation has in recent months largely held its Treasury portfolio in place, reflecting a slowdown in the growth of its $3.73 trillion foreign-exchange reserve, the world’s largest, and an effort to shift those reserves toward higher-yielding assets.”

The Japanese purchases have helped drive long-term U.S. bond yields near record lows despite an economic expansion that averaged 2.7% annually over 2013-14. Those low yields have, in turn, helped keep down interest rates for Americans on everything from home loans to credit cards. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s New Social Enforcement Campaign: Beijing Turns to Social Media Tattletales in Battle Against Smoking

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Alyssa Abkowitz and Hu Chao report: Smokers in Beijing get ready: law enforcement officers won’t be the only ones trying to catch you smoking indoors.

“To pump up attention for the WeChat account, the government is inviting people to vote for a hand gesture that residents can use to try and discourage people from smoking.” 

Beijing’s government is rallying residents to help enforce the country’s new smoking rules, which will be implemented on June 1. The rules ban smoking in restaurants, bars and other indoor public places, with maximum fines of 200 yuan (about $33) for individuals and 10,000 yuan for organizations and companies.

“The government-suggested images include:  I do mind(我介意),which depicts a woman covering her nose with her hand, Don’t(不可以), in which the woman is holding her palm like a stop sign, and Please stop(请停止), in which the woman makes a time-out signal with her hands.”

The government this week launched an account on the social messaging app WeChat to allow residents to report violators, either by uploading images or videos of smokers caught in the act. In addition, the account offers a bevy of anti-smoking information including the full text of the regulations, anti-smoking videos featuring famous CCTV anchors, and warnings about the health impact of smoking (such as the fact that it can negatively affect the quality of one’s sperm).

“But the campaign will face an uphill push in a country where smoked-filled banquet rooms are a routine part of doing business, and the state-run tobacco industry generates a whopping 956 billion yuan ($156 billion) in taxes and profits.”

Asking the public to help police the nation is a familiar thread in Chinese history. During the Cultural Revolution, neighbors were encouraged to report anti-revolutionary actions of one another. More recently, the government has urged citizens to report polluters by calling an official hotline. Read the rest of this entry »


Beijing is Restricting How Often Residents of Neighboring Shenzhen Can Enter Hong Kong

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China Reduces Mainlander Visits to Hong Kong

Isabella Steger writes: Can a tweak to a visa arrangement for mainland Chinese tourists coming to Hong Kong help ease tensions between the two places?

“The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long.”

On Monday, Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying confirmed a long-anticipated move by Beijing to address the influx of mainland visitors to Hong Kong in recent years. The move is aimed specifically at those who come from neighboring Shenzhen to Hong Kong to engage in so-called parallel trading, the practice of buying goods ranging from toiletries to food in Hong Kong to resell at a higher price on the mainland.

“Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.” 

According to the new arrangement, Shenzhen residents applying for an individual visitor visa to Hong Kong will only be allowed to enter the city once a week, rather than multiple times. The change is effective Monday. Residents of these towns complain that parallel traders drive up the prices of goods and rents, pushing out small businesses serving locals.

“Since 2009, Shenzhen permanent residents have been allowed to apply for one-year, multiple entry visas to Hong Kong…”

The change was prompted by a marked increase in public anger in recent months against parallel traders. Protests have broken out in areas of Hong Kong near the border with the mainland, such as Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui and Yuen Long. Read the rest of this entry »


Australian Koalas Chill in First Class Before Being Flown to Singapore

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Jenni Ryall: writes: Australia’s national airline, Qantas, has released photos of four koalas living the high-life in first class seats.

The native animals were the stars of the photo shoot a week before they were gifted to the Singapore Zoo on Monday, to mark the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.

Although it looks glorious for the furry guys, they were actually transported to Singapore in the plane’s cargo hold, like all animals.

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The photos posted to Facebook show the koalas, from Lone Pine Sanctuary in Brisbane, being offered treats such as fresh gum leaves, a can of lemonade and a hot towel. Read the rest of this entry »


Three Foreign Tourists Arrested for Sexual Molestation in Japan Claim Novel Defense: ‘But We Thought it was Normal Behavior!’

A suspect was caught trying to capture upskirt photos while riding an escalator. In another case a Chinese tourist was reportedly caught grabbing a woman’s ass inside an adult store.

From RocketNews24  reports: Given the size and longevity of the adult entertainment industry, it’s safe to say that such products serve a purpose in societies everywhere. However, one purpose for which adult videos should never be used is as travel guides for visiting other countries.

“Watching Japanese adult videos, I thought the people here were open about sex. I thought molesters were everywhere.”

— Foreign suspect’s confession to police

You might think that would be common sense but apparently we can’t stress the point enough after there has been a recent spate of molestation committed by foreign tourists who claim to have thought it was normal behavior in Japan after watching Japanese adult videos.

Adult actress Miki Mayuzumi

Adult actress Miki Mayuzumi

“And then we have the case of a man arrested for lifting the skirt of a woman while riding the train. This last incident appears influenced by a scene from the classic 1993 AV Nurse Monogatari staring Miki Mayuzumi.”

According to Focus Asia there have been three separate incidents of foreign visitors overstepping their bounds.

[Read the full text here, at RocketNews24]

In one instance a suspect was caught trying to capture images up women’s skirts while riding an escalator. Then in another case a Chinese tourist was reportedly caught grabbing a woman’s buttocks inside an adult goods shop.

jp-molest-rn24

“You might think that would be common sense but apparently we can’t stress the point enough after there has been a recent spate of molestation committed by foreign tourists who claim to have thought it was normal behavior in Japan after watching Japanese adult videos.”

And then we have the case of a man arrested for lifting the skirt of a woman while riding the train. This last incident appears influenced by a scene from the classic 1993 AV Nurse Monogatari staring Miki Mayuzumi…or maybe something else. I don’t know because I don’t watch the stuff.

Reports claim that one foreign suspect confessed to police, saying, “Watching Japanese adult videos, I thought the people here were open about sex. I thought molesters were everywhere.”

All three men are currently in custody and deliberations with the victims’ lawyers are being held to determine if criminal charges will be pressed, or if they can find some other settlement. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Government to Put 3D Printers in All 400,000 Elementary Schools by Next Year

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 reports: Education is probably one of the areas that will benefit the most from 3D printers in the long run. The problem though is getting the machines into the schools in the first place. With prices generally ranging from $400 to $3,000 for typical desktop 3D printers, they are not cheap, and with budgets c3within many school districts running dry, both in the United States and overseas, the unfortunate fact is that many schools simply can’t afford them, not to mention the materials and time it takes to train teachers to use them.

Speaking with former MakerBot CEO, Jenny Lawton, at CES this year, she told me that 3D printing will become mainstream and really begin to explode as far as adoption rates go, when a full cycle of education has been exposed to the technology. Just like many of us who were exposed in school to desktop computing back in the ’80s and ’90s can’t envision not having access to a computers now, the children of today may one day think the same about 3D printers.

The United States clearly understands the importance of this technology, particularly President Obama. In addition to investing heavily to bring manufacturing back to US soil, he has mentioned the importance of 3D c41printing on several occasions, visiting manufacturing facilities that are using 3D printers, and even going as far speaking about the technology in one of his State of the Union Addresses.

With that said, news coming out of Tapei, Taiwan today, from Simon Shen, the CEO of Kinpo Group (parent company of XYZprinting), suggests that China is about to one-up the United States in a big way.

According to Shen, the Chinese government has a new policy to install a 3D printer in each of its approximately 400,000 elementary schools over the next two years. This number caught me totally off guard for two reason. First of all, that’s a lot of elementary schools. For instance, in the United States we have approximately 70,000 elementary schools, and approximately 100,000 total public schools. As a nation we could easily match China’s ambitions. Read the rest of this entry »


The Great Wall of Manners: China to Start Keeping a List of Badly Behaved Tourists

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Recent guidelines issued by state media have included gems such as admonitions against wearing clothing items that have images of pigs on them and making off with chunks of coral when diving off the coast of Fiji

Chinese tourists behaving badly abroad are in for a shock when they return to the motherland.

New measures announced this week by China’s national tourism authority mean that misdeeds by wayward Chinese vacationers will now be kept on record for a period of up to two years.

According to the announcement, “tourist uncivilized behavior records” will be compiled for those travelers that behave in an unseemly manner—including getting into fights, defacing public property or historical relics, disrespecting social norms of the host nation, gambling or whoring.  Although the notification didn’t specify whether the guidelines were aimed at Chinese behaving badly at home or abroad, the most scandalous tourist behavior has tended to involve Chinese abroad.

“According to the announcement, ‘tourist uncivilized behavior records’ will be compiled for those travelers that behave in an unseemly manner—including getting into fights, defacing public property or historical relics, disrespecting social norms of the host nation, gambling or whoring.”

When necessary, such files – which will be maintained for a period of up to two years — will be shared with Chinese authorities such the police, immigration, banking and transportation authorities, the announcement said, without specifying what kinds of consequences might follow.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

If the flow of examples of uncouth behavior by some of China’s 100 million annual travelers in recent months is any guide, China Real Time expects the keepers of such records will be busy.

“Don’t throw water bottles everywhere, don’t destroy people’s coral reefs and eat fewer instant noodles and more local seafood.”

— President Xi

From tantrums involving the hurling of hot water at flight attendants to writing graffiti on ancient monuments in Egypt, Chinese tourists have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Chinese authorities in recent years have grown worried about how some of its roving nationals could be damaging the country’s image abroad.

“Why don’t we just learn from Singapore and just cane them?”

— Wisecrack from a Weibo user

On a visit to the Maldives last September, even President Xi Jinping spoke out,  saying China needed to teach its citizens to be “a bit more civilized” when overseas. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Pint-sized String Quartet Joyous String Does an Awesome ‘Smooth Criminal’

 at RocketNews24 discovered this gem: Meet Joyous String, a four-kid string quartet with musical aptitude way beyond their years. Joyous String belong to the Joyous Music School of New York. They’ve been playing together since they were just four years old, and have progressed to the point where they can produce a flawless rendition of the Michael Jackson classic “Smooth Criminal” without even breaking a sweat….Here’s their version of “Smooth Criminal”!

Here’s their rendition of Katy Perry’s mega-hit “Firework”

Eight-year-old cellist and quartet member Justin Yu has even appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show! After a short (and pretty hilarious) interview, he performs a solo on the cello….(read more)

RocketNews24


China Escalates Hollywood Partnerships, Aiming to Compete One Day

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With China adding an average of 15 cinema screens every day, the country’s box office brought in $4.8 billion last year, tripling in size since 2010

SHANGHAI —  writes: Tucked away in a quiet design studio in this fast-growing city, a team of young animators, illustrators and computer programmers is bringing an ancient Chinese village to digital life.

Using three-dimensional texture painting software, the team — mostly graduates of China’s leading arts schools — is adding intricate details to temples, palaces and pagodas. Team members are also helping animate the movements of the digital characters, including two pandas named Po and Mei Mei.

“Because of the importance of the Chinese market to Hollywood, no one wants to make movies that offend China. Some may see that as self-censorship.”

— T.J. Green, a former Warner Bros. executive who now runs Apex Entertainment, which builds cinemas in China

“This is what I really love to do,” says Fang Zheng, a 32-year-old animator who studied environmental arts in college. “I’ve always been interested in characters and cartoons and things like that.”

[Read the full text here, at New York Times]

The project, part of the next installment of the blockbuster Hollywood film franchise “Kung Fu Panda,” represents a shift in China’s moviemaking ambitions.

“We want to learn how to make movies that appeal to a global audience. Eventually, we need to go global.”

— Ren Zhonglun, president of the state-run Shanghai Film Group, which is also negotiating to form alliances in Hollywood

No longer content simply to build movie sets and provide extras in Hollywood films, Chinese studios are moving up the value chain, helping to develop, design and produce world-class films and animated features. They want a bigger role in the creative process, one that will allow them to reap more rewards, financially and artistically.

An animator in the Shanghai offices of Oriental DreamWorks, the Chinese partner of the American studio DreamWorks Animation. Credit Tim Franco for The New York Times

An animator in the Shanghai offices of Oriental DreamWorks, the Chinese partner of the American studio DreamWorks Animation. Credit Tim Franco for The New York Times

Kung Fu Panda 3” is the first collaboration between Hollywood’s DreamWorks Animation and its Chinese partner, Oriental DreamWorks, which is partly owned by a government investment fund and a private equity firm, China Media Capital. DreamWorks Animation has taken the lead in the creative and design work for the animated feature, which is scheduled for release in early 2016. Oriental DreamWorks contributes by adding Chinese elements, creating storyboards and building parts of the 3-D digital sets.

“We’re trying to develop Chinese creative talents,” says James Fong, the chief executive of Oriental DreamWorks.

It is part of a broader push by China Media Capital into the entertainment business. Over the last few years, the investment firm has made deals with Warner Bros. and the IMAX Corporation of Canada. It also helped develop a Chinese version of the hit TV show “The Voice.

An employee in Shanghai at Oriental DreamWorks, which is collaborating with DreamWorks Animation on “Kung Fu Panda 3,” such as by adding detail to traditional Chinese structures. Credit Tim Franco for The New York Times

An employee in Shanghai at Oriental DreamWorks, which is collaborating with DreamWorks Animation on “Kung Fu Panda 3,” such as by adding detail to traditional Chinese structures. Credit Tim Franco for The New York Times

For American companies, such collaborations offer access to new talent and the chance to understand better a culture that will increasingly be portrayed in its films. And coproduction deals provide greater access to China’s tightly regulated market, which in a few years is expected to surpass the United States as the world’s biggest film market.

“We want to leverage the best of the Hollywood creativity with the best Chinese characteristics.  We make it faster, do it cheaper, and in the end do something really innovative.”

— James Fong, the chief executive of Oriental DreamWorks

With China adding an average of 15 cinema screens every day, the country’s box office brought in $4.8 billion last year, tripling in size since 2010, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. And Chinese piracy is no longer such a significant threat to American studios; for example, “Transformers: The Age of Extinction” made more money in China than in the United States.

An employee at Oriental DreamWorks. The company's chief executive said, "We’re trying to develop Chinese creative talents.” Credit Tim Franco for The New York Times

An employee at Oriental DreamWorks. The company’s chief executive said, “We’re trying to develop Chinese creative talents.” Credit Tim Franco for The New York Times

The rapidly growing market is reshaping the way Hollywood deals with China, from the scripts it accepts to the marketing strategies it adopts. Some of America’s biggest television and movie production houses, including HBO and Warner Bros., are already pushing into China with a raft of joint ventures, partnerships and cofinancing projects. Read the rest of this entry »


China: Pet Owners Honor Furry Friends During Qingming Festival

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It’s not just deceased relatives but also pets to which people are paying tribute during the Qingming Festival in China this year.In southern Beijing, many pet owners held a memorial ceremony for their deceased companions. The pet owners met up at a pet cemetery to lay flowers and share their experiences, recounting the memorable moments they had enjoyed with their furry friends.Most of the tombs in the cemetery have been marked with pictures of the little creatures inside. Some are beautifully decorated by the owners showing their deep love for the deceased creatures.The cemetery has been set up to ensure the safe disposal and burial of dead animals not only to prevent the spread of diseases, but also to allow pet owners to cherish the bonds that they shared with the animals.


[VIDEO] Modern Take on Japanese Fan Dance Has Naked Men, International Appeal

Ah, the Japanese fan dance. In popular culture, its staid connections to Noh and Kabuki theater are put aside in favor of something more risque. Usually it’s a coy geisha slowly using her fans to seductively cover and reveal her face and body. But just as more business are capitalizing on male sex appeal these days, the modern Japanese fan dance has a hot, sweaty man version too.

This may have started with the Japanese musician and provocateur DJ Ozma, who famously earned a lifetime ban from national broadcaster NHK after his first appearance featured dancers in skin-colored leotards painted to look like naked bodies. His 2008 song DRINKIN’BOYS featured a group of naked male dancers using strategically placed fans….(read more)

RocketNews24


Malaysian Cartoonist Zunar Charged With Nine Counts of Sedition

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Zunar says he will ‘draw until the last drop of ink’

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—A cartoonist known for lampooning Malaysia’s ruling coalition has been charged with nine counts of sedition over a series of tweets criticizing the country’s judiciary system.

On Friday, lawyer Latheefa Koya said the charges against Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, are excessive and are aimed at silencing government critics. She says Mr. Zunar faces up to 43 years in jail if found guilty on all nine charges.

The nine tweets criticizing the judiciary were posted Feb. 10 when opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim began serving a five-year prison sentence after losing his final appeal on a sodomy charge.

Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, played with fake handcuffs during his court case in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, played with fake handcuffs during his court case in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

“The lackeys in black robes are proud of their sentence. The rewards from the political masters must be plenty,” said one of the tweets. “Today Malaysia is seen as a country without law,” said another.

Mr. Anwar’s arrest was seen by many at home and abroad as politically motivated to eliminate any threat to the ruling coalition, whose popularity has been eroding slowly since 2008 after more than five decades of dominance. Mr. Anwar and his three-member opposition alliance were seen as the most potent political threat to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s coalition. Read the rest of this entry »


Industrial Robotics: Why China May Have the Most Factory Robots in the World by 2017

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A perfect storm of economic forces is fueling the trend

Timothy Aeppel reports: Having devoured many of the world’s factory jobs, China is now handing them over to robots.

Thunder-Robots

China is already the world’s largest market for industrial robots—sales of the machines last year grew 54% from 2013. The nation is expected to have more factory robots than any other country on earth by 2017, according to the German-based International Federation of Robotics.

A perfect storm of economic forces is fueling the trend. Chinese labor costs have soared, undermining the calculus that brought all those jobs to China in the first place, and new robot technology is cheaper and easier to deploy than ever before.

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Not to mention that many of China’s fastest-growing industries, such as autos, tend to rely on high levels of automation regardless of where the factories are built.

“We think of them producing cheap widgets,” but that’s not what they’re focused on, says Adams Nager, an economic research analyst at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation in Washington. Mr. Nager says China is letting low-cost production shift out of the country and is focusing instead on capital-intensive industries such as steel and electronics where automation is a driving force.

China’s emergence as an automation hub contradicts many assumptions about robots. Read the rest of this entry »


Occupy Hong Kong: Six Months Later

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One of the most memorable sights of the Admiralty site during Occupy was the study room, built of wood and decked out with furniture, lights and Wi-Fi.

Isabella Steger writes: Six months have passed since the outbreak of the pro-democracy Occupy protests in Hong Kong, and a small but determined group of activists wants to make sure their struggle isn’t forgotten.

On the sidewalks by the legislative chamber and government offices in Admiralty, a collection of tents has remained since police cleared the site in December. It was here on Sep. 26 that students scaled a wall to try to enter Civic Square, a place that had been sealed off by the government. Two days later, tens of thousands poured into the main roads, prompting police to use tear gas, on a day now remembered as “928” by activists.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

Over the weekend, crowds turned out at the encampment, and to a second protest site in Mong Kok, to observe the anniversary of the protests. There were seminars on democracy and photo and art exhibitions to commemorate the date.

Students gather at a recreated version of the study room that was one of the highlights of the Occupy Hong Kong protests. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

Students gather at a recreated version of the study room that was one of the highlights of the Occupy Hong Kong protests. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

The tents have been growing in number, from about 70 in December to over a hundred now, stretching back out on to the side of the main thoroughfare on Harcourt Road. Some of the more permanent occupants are familiar faces to the protesters, such as Bob Kraft, an American pastor. Others drop in and out.

One of the most memorable sights of the Admiralty site during Occupy was the study room, built of wood and decked out with furniture, lights and Wi-Fi. Even that has been reconstructed in recent days at the new encampment, albeit much smaller and away from its previous location the middle of the road.

New York-based artist Miso stands in front of some of his paintings near the Occupy protest site in Hong Kong’s Admiralty neighborhood. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

New York-based artist Miso stands in front of some of his paintings near the Occupy protest site in Hong Kong’s Admiralty neighborhood. Isabella Steger/The Wall Street Journal

On Sunday evening, a group of students sat studying for their university entrance examinations, nibbling on Japanese snacks and breaking out into occasional discussions over Occupy-related family strife and a proposed third runway at Hong Kong’s airport, which some have criticized for cost and environmental reasons.

“We want to recreate the feeling of being at the study room,” said Joyce Lo, 18 years old, who was set to take an exam in Chinese reading and writing on Monday. “It’s that feeling when people walked past us in the study room and they fed us and told us they support us, even though the food wasn’t always great, like sometimes the dessert was a bit watery.” Read the rest of this entry »


BLOSSOM FIGHT! ‘Cherry Blossom is Chinese, Not Japanese,’ Claim Growers in China

Artfully Awear Cherry Blossom 5

Old literary references prove flower synonymous with Japan originated on Chinese soil, argues association, after South Korea has also laid claim to the species

Alice Yan reports: A group in China has weighed into the debate about the non-stop-panic-pearlsorigins of a flower synonymous with Japan, the cherry blossom, saying it was first found on Chinese soil.

“We don’t want to start a war of words with Japan or Korea, but we would like to state the fact that many historical literary references prove that cherry blossom originated in China. As Chinese, we are obliged to let more people know about this part of history.”

He Zongru, executive chairman of the China Cherry Blossom Association, told a press conference that historical references proved that the flower originally came from China.

He’s comments came after media reports in South Korea earlier this month suggested that cherry blossom was first found in the country’s southern province of Jeju.

blossoms

”To put it simply, cherry blossoms originated in China and prospered in Japan. None of this is Korea’s business.”

“We don’t want to start a war of words with Japan or Korea, but we would like to state the fact that many historical literary references prove that cherry blossom originated in China. As Chinese, we are obliged to let more people know about this part of history.” he was quoted a saying by the Southern Metropolis News.

Tang Dynasty

He said the species spread to Japan from the Himalayan region during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

Zhang Zuoshuang, an official at the Botanical Society of China, was quoted as saying that among the 150 types of wildly-grown cherry blossoms around the world, more than 50 could be found in China. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan is Paying to Have Japanese-Language Nonfiction Books Translated into English

JBOOKS

Government opens another front in public relations battle with China, South Korea

TOKYO— Peter Landers writes: Japan’s government is paying to have Japanese-language nonfiction books translated into English, with the first works to be produced under the program arriving in American libraries this month.

“Japan is among the top nations in the world in terms of books published, but unfortunately, they’re just published in Japanese. If they were known around the world, there are a lot of books that people would find really interesting.”

The move is one of several nontraditional public-relations steps by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, which is trying to enhance Japan’s profile among U.S. opinion leaders and the general public as it engages in a public relations battle with China and South Korea.

“Some efforts have been overtly political. South Korea has created a website in seven languages to make its case that two islets claimed by both Tokyo and Seoul rightly belong to South Korea, and last year sponsored an exhibit in France on forced prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II.”

Japan’s foreign ministry has boosted its public diplomacy budget. Measures include spending $5 million to fund a professorship in Japanese politics and foreign policy at Columbia University. Another program, begun last year, sends Japanese people from various walks of life to places like Lawrence, Kan., and Lexington, Ky., to talk about life in Japan.

The books translated into English with Japanese government funds will carry the imprint “Japan Library” and be published by the government itself—a different approach from that of some other nations that subsidize private translations. Read the rest of this entry »


China: Coca Cola Poster, 1948

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How to Use Chopsticks

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[VIDEO] Houthi Forces Fire Tear Gas at Yemen Protesters


Want Your City State to Become a Capitalist Success Story? Ban Spitting

Photo dated 19 December 1984 shows senior Chinese

It may be hard to measure just how much Singapore’s famed spitting crackdown helped – but it certainly didn’t hurt.

The governing philosophy of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew contained multitudes: a belief in the enriching power of the free market; a development agenda implemented by a strong central government at the expense of personal freedoms. Alongside these well-known themes, however, there was also this: absolutely never, under any circumstances, would there be public spitting in the Lion City.

“Many of the biggest admirers of Singapore’s rise have since followed in its footsteps and stepped up anti-spitting measures. In 2003, in the wake of the regional SARS outbreak, Hong Kong announced a “no-tolerance” policy, tripling the penalty for spitting to $300.”

In Singapore, anyone caught expectorating can be hit with a hefty fine of up to $1,000 and $5,000 for repeat offenders. That law is part of a raft of legislation that Lee put in place — on gum chewing, bird feeding, and flushing public toilets — that 51z84gsE3EL._SL250_reached deep into citizens’ daily lives and that remain a part of Singapore’s legal code today.

[Order Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000” from Amazon.com]

Lee’s strictures on spitting were designed to curb a habit fairly thoroughly ingrained in traditional Chinese culture. Here, for example, Deng Xiaoping meets with Margaret Thatcher with a spittoon in the foreground. The Chinese reformer was a lifelong spitter.

In the West, Singapore’s laws on personal behavior are seen as quirky eccentricities at best (that happen to be great listicle fodder: “If You Think the Soda Ban Is Bad, Check Out all the Things That Are Illegal In Singapore”) and the mark of an invasive nanny state at worst. These laws, however, are rarely considered as a component of Singapore’s much admired economic growth – but maybe they should be.

“The Shenzhen ban comes at a time when the politics of spitting as a dividing line between the ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’ world have grown increasingly fraught, given the growing clout of mainland China, a country of rampant spitters.”

Spitting has long been against the law in Singapore, a vestige from the days when, as the New York Times put it in 2003, “British colonialists tried in vain to quell what the port’s Chinese immigrants once considered as natural as breathing.” The city-state didn’t begin enforcing laws on the behavior until 1984. But when Singapore did decide to crack down, it meant it: The government fined 128 people for spitting that first year and another 139 in 1985. Read the rest of this entry »


The Japanese City Time Almost Forgot

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Kanazawa: New bullet-train service from Tokyo makes this city—a place of castles, gardens and geishas—a tempting side trip

Chaney Kwak writes:

Kanazawa, for the moment, anyway, is a refreshingly low-key affair. This 16th-century castle town of some 460,000 on Japan’s west coast has remained blissfully off the radar of most overseas travelers but has long been a favorite getaway for the Japanese, explaining why tickets for this month’s inaugural Shinkansen high-speed train service—which has cut travel time from Tokyo down to just two and a half hours from almost four—sold out in seconds. 

Designated a Unesco City of Crafts and Folk Art, Kanazawa has serious artistic credibility and is a center for artisans who produce lacquer ware, textiles and other crafts using traditional techniques. None of these is more identified with Kanazawa than gold leaf. True to the city’s name, which means golden marsh, Kanazawa produces virtually all the gold leaf made in Japan, where they like to cover everything from monuments to food with the stuff…(read more)

WSJ


Alyssa Abkowitz 沈丽莎: Sex Toys and ‘Er Nai’: Inside China’s Unfolding Sexual Revolution

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Alyssa Abkowitz reports: In 1989, sexologist Li Yinhe conducted a famous survey that showed 15% of Chinese respondents said they had premarital sex. Today, that figure is about 71%, according to local figures. “China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom,” said Zhang Lijia, author of the forthcoming novel “Lotus,” which looks at prostitution in modern China.

“China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom.”

Ms. Zhang was speaking to a mostly younger crowd at Beijing’s Bookworm Literary Festival on Sunday. She was joined by Jemimah Steinfeld, author of “Little Emperors and Material Girls,” which focuses on China’s sex and youth culture, and Faramerz Dabhoiwala, who has been called the Stephen Hawking of sex for writing “The Origins of Sex,” which looks at the western sexual revolution of the 18th century.

Pictures that an Internet poster on China's Weibo microblogging site went viral when it was suggested they were of officials in Lujiang County.

“Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket. For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”

— Zhang Lijia

Only several decades ago, “Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket,” Ms. Zhang said, referring to the 1980s, when women started to wear makeup and shorter skirts. “For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”

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“Er nai, as modern-day Chinese mistresses are called, are deeply entwined in business practices, because having multiple mistresses is a sign that a man has the pull to seal a deal.”

Today, sex is everywhere in China, from adult stores on nearly every corner in Beijing to young entrepreneurs, such as one interviewed by Ms. Steinfeld, who wants to import quality sex toys because he thinks Chinese sex toys are faulty. (This could be a tough road, as the majority of sex toys are made in China and exported around the world, Ms. Zhang said).

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“There are women who have lovers just for fun too. Male prostitutes are far more expensive here because they have more work to do.”

Judging from the panel discussion, progress is mixed. As Beijing looks to pass its first domestic violence law, cleavage is being banned on television. One of the most popular items sold at roadside sex shops is hymen repair kits. Read the rest of this entry »


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