Posts tagged ‘2008 Summer Olympics’

11/08/2016

‘Primordial Girl’ or: How China Learned to Stop Gold-Medal Worship and Love Sporting Effort – China Real Time Report – WSJ

For two days in row, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui clambered out of the Olympic pool in Rio clueless about her breakthrough performances: breaking personal records and clinching a bronze medal.

Each time a poolside reporter had to break the news to the bubbly 20-year-old, whose vivacious epiphanies on live television have broken the Chinese internet.“I was so fast! I’m really pleased!” Ms. Fu exclaimed Monday after learning that she swam the 100-meter backstroke semifinal in 58.95 seconds, a new personal best. “I’ve already… expended my primordial powers!”

After Tuesday’s final, when told that she trailed the silver medalist by just 0.01 second, Ms. Fu replied, “Maybe it’s because my arms are too short.”

Her gleeful candor made her an overnight online sensation. Fans feted her as “Primordial Girl” in online memes and viral videos spoofing her exuberant expressions. Her Weibo microblog following swelled more than sixfold to 3.8 million users.

China has a new sports star, and never mind that she didn’t finish first. In a country long obsessed with winning gold medals, Ms. Fu’s newfound fame seemed to signal shifting social perceptions about the meaning of sport.

“‘Primordial Girl’ and the netizens who appreciate her have taught all of us a lesson: sport is about the struggle and, especially, enjoyment, but most definitely not about spinning gold,” the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, People’s Daily, said in a Tuesday commentary.

“The warm support from netizens,” according to the newspaper, “shows that public attitudes toward competitive sport and the Olympics have sublimated to a higher level.

”Ms. Fu’s fans, for their part, credited her “authentic” demeanor, which contrasted with the mild mien typical of Chinese Olympians. “We love your happy optimism and strong personality,” a Weibo user wrote on Ms. Fu’s microblog. “That’s what makes a true athlete.

”Winning used to be everything for China’s Olympians, virtually all of whom came through a grueling state-run sports regime that fetishized success. Athletes who strike gold can expect fame and fortune, while those who disappoint often suffer neglect or even ignominy.

Liu Xiang, a hurdler who became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic gold in athletics at the 2004 Athens Games, saw public adulation turn into anguish and anger at the Beijing Games four years later, when an injury forced him to withdraw just before running his first race.E

China nonetheless crowned a grandly staged Beijing Olympics by topping the gold-medal tally for the first time, with 51 in all. Their gold haul dropped to a second-place 38 at the 2012 Games in London, and some Chinese pundits expect a further slip in Rio, to between 30 and 36.

State media, for its part, has tried to manage public expectations about China’s ebbing gold rush.

“As we mature in mentality, learn how to appreciate competition, and become able to calmly applaud our rivals, we’d showcase the confidence and tolerance of a great country,” state broadcaster China Central Television said Sunday in a Weibo post after a goldless first day.

“We still need our first gold medal to boost morale, but what we really need is to challenge ourselves, surpass ourselves,” CCTV said. By Tuesday Chinese athletes had racked up eight golds, alongside three silvers and six bronzes.The message seems to be filtering through, with many Chinese fans appearing more tolerant of athletes who underperformed.

Among the beneficiaries was Ning Zetao, a swimmer who won widespread popularity at last year’s world championships with his boyish good looks—and a 100-meter freestyle gold.

After crashing out of the same event in Rio at the semifinal stage on Tuesday, the 23-year-old appeared philosophical about his failure.

“I’ve done my best,” he told a CCTV reporter.

His comments found a receptive audience among his Weibo fandom. “This is Ning Zetao’s first time participating in the Olympics,” one user wrote. “Don’t give him too much pressure!”

Source: ‘Primordial Girl’ or: How China Learned to Stop Gold-Medal Worship and Love Sporting Effort – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Advertisements
18/06/2016

The great crawl | The Economist

LATE last month a black-and-white photograph of a professor from Beijing Jiaotong University spread on social media. His image was edged by a black frame, like those displayed at funerals in China, and trimmed with white flowers of mourning. Though Mao Baohua is still very much alive, he had angered netizens enough to depict him as dead. His crime? To suggest that Beijing should follow the likes of London and Stockholm, by charging drivers 20-50 yuan ($3-7.50) to enter the capital’s busiest areas in the hope of easing traffic flow in the gridlocked city.

Most Chinese urbanites see buying a vehicle as a rite of passage: a symbol of wealth, status and autonomy, as it once was in America. Hence their outrage at any restraint on driving. Since car ownership is more concentrated among middle- and high-income earners in China than it is in richer countries, any attack on driving is, in effect, essentially aimed at the middle class, a group the Communist Party is keen to keep on side. That makes it hard to push through changes its members dislike.

Since 2009 officials in Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou have repeatedly aired the idea of introducing congestion charges. Netizens have fought back, accusing their governments of being lazy, brutal and greedy. Many also gripe that the policy would be “unfair” because the fee would have less impact on the super-rich. Complaints about the inequality of congestion charging echo those made in London and other cities before they launched such schemes. But the party, nervous of being accused of straying from socialism, is particularly sensitive to accusations that it is favouring the wealthiest.

Because of such objections, city governments have not pushed their proposals very hard. But that is now changing in Beijing, where officials face a dilemma. Traffic jams in the city and appalling air pollution—30% of which comes from vehicle fumes, by official reckoning—may end up causing as much popular resentment as any surcharge. The local government is trying to work out how close it is to this tipping point. It is conducting surveys to “pressure test” how people would react to a congestion fee, says Yuan Yue of Horizon, China’s biggest polling company (the results will not be made public). It is likely that a concrete plan for a congestion charge will be announced soon. Beijing’s environmental and transport departments (not usual partners) are collaborating on a draft. State media have recently published a flurry of articles about this, not all in favour.

Public opinion is not the only challenge a congestion scheme faces. The urban planners who conceived Beijing’s layout, and that of other Chinese cities, never imagined that so many people would want to drive. The capital now has 3.6m privately owned cars: the number per 1,000 people in Beijing has increased an astonishing 21-fold since 2000, according to our sister company, the Economist Intelligence Unit (see chart).

On most days large tracts of the capital are now bumper to bumper amid a cacophony of car horns. Beijingers have the longest average commute of any city in China, according to data collected by Baidu, a Chinese search engine. The problem is not confined to Beijing. The capital has higher vehicle ownership than any other Chinese city, but car use is rising rapidly across the country. Many second- and third-tier cities are already clogged.

Beijing’s congestion scheme would be the first outside the rich world, where a handful of cities now charge drivers to enter a designated area. (Singapore has a different form of road pricing, with tolls on individual arterial roads.) Such measures have been credited with reductions in downtown car-use, improved traffic flow and greater use of public transport. They have also cut pollution, including emissions of the tiny PM2.5 particles that are particularly dangerous to health and abundant in Beijing’s air.

Transport planners reckon a congestion zone would have similar effects in Beijing, and complement existing attempts to restrict car use. In 2008, after Beijing staged the Olympic games, the city launched the current system whereby each car is banned from the urban core one workday per week, depending on the last digit of its licence plate. Beijing is now one of 11 Chinese cities with similar restrictions.

But some drivers choose to pay the 100 yuan fine, which is far higher than the congestion charge that Beijing is now mulling (around the sums suggested by Professor Mao). People also drive without plates, or buy second cars, to bypass the rules. In 2011 the capital introduced a lottery for obtaining new licence plates (six other cities do this). In Beijing the scheme has slowed the increase in car ownership, but not enough to cut congestion; some residents use vehicles registered elsewhere. Also in 2011 the capital raised parking fees, hoping to deter drivers. But people often park on pavements and traffic islands instead, usually with impunity.

Source: The great crawl | The Economist

28/01/2016

George Soros in China’s Crosshairs After Predicting Tough Economic Times Ahead – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China is putting a face on the economic pessimism it accuses of helping weaken the yuan and the economy: billionaire investor George Soros.

A front-page commentary published in some editions of People’s Daily on Tuesday appeared to warn Mr. Soros would lose any bets he made based on a recent prediction that hard economic times for China are “unavoidable.”

Other state media followed suit. Denouncing “radical speculators,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency dismissed the famed currency trader’s view as “the same prediction several times.” The Global Times, in its English edition, asked, “So why are so many Western pundits and media outlets so intent on talking China down?”

The rhetorical shots come as China is making broader efforts with market interventions and rule adjustments to offset the impact of its slowest growth rate in a quarter century, shore up grinding stock markets and stem surging capital outflows. China’s state-run media regularly note concerns the economy is cooling, but they tend to highlight positive aspects of what the government describes as a broad economic restructuring.

The uniformity and prominent placement in government-run media of the challenges to foreign critics, including economists quoted by Western newspapers, appear to suggest growing concern in Beijing that negative sentiment is spreading.

State media warnings directed at private individuals like Mr. Soros are rare. But his legend as an investor stems from a career making profitable currency bets – both real and rumored – that are widely studied in China. It comes just as China’s central bank is taking steps to limit flight from the Chinese yuan by its huge middle class.

Suspicion in China that Mr. Soros is now placing bets against the yuan follow comments he made last week at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. “A hard-landing is practically unavoidable,” Mr. Soros told Bloomberg Television. “I’m not expecting it, I’m observing it.”

“Declaring war on China’s currency? Ha,” said the People’s Daily commentary, which appeared in the overseas edition, a newspaper aimed at Chinese living outside China. The paper serves as the official purveyor of Communist Party views, and the commentary was authored by a researcher at China’s Commerce Ministry. It wasn’t published in the domestic editions, though it did appear online.

Source: George Soros in China’s Crosshairs After Predicting Tough Economic Times Ahead – China Real Time Report – WSJ

22/01/2016

Beijing shut down over 1,000 factories over past 5 years|Society|chinadaily.com.cn

Very good news, indeed.

Beijing has closed 1,006 manufacturing and polluting enterprises over the past five years, the municipal government revealed Friday.

In addition, 228 markets were also closed over the period, Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun said in a government work report presented during the city’s annual parliamentary session, which opened Friday.

More than 13,000 applications for new businesses have also been rejected because they were on the list of prohibited or restricted operations, Wang said.

Beijing had closed or relocated nearly 400 polluting factories in 2014 and another 300 in 2015, previous figures show.”

Source: Beijing shut down over 1,000 factories over past 5 years|Society|chinadaily.com.cn

21/08/2015

China gets Chariots of Fire sequel up and running

The much-loved British film Chariots of Fire about the Scottish runner and missionary Eric Liddell is getting a sequel thanks to his many fans in China.

Ian Charleston as Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire

Joseph Fiennes will play Riddell in a new movie filmed in China, co-written and directed by the Hong Kong director Stephen Shin with Canadian director Michael Parker.

It will be distributed by the Hong Kong-based Alibaba Pictures, who this morning also announced that they are to back the fifth Mission Impossible film.

Chariots of Fire, which won four Oscars in 1982, starred Ian Charleson as Liddell, a devout Christian who had to choose between his sport and religious beliefs at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Months before the Olympics took place, Liddell had to drop his plans to enter his preferred 100m race because the heats took place on a Sunday. Instead, he trained for the 400m and succeeded in taking the gold medal for Great Britain.

The Independent reports that the Chinese-born Liddell is regarded as a hero in China, partly for his sporting prowess but also for his actions in the Japanese internship camp where he died aged 43. Liddell was thought to have organised the smuggling of food in to prisoners.

Born in China to missionary parents, he returned to that country after his Olympic victory to continue his parents’ work. In 1934 he married fellow missionary Florence Mackenzie with whom he had three children.

Liddell remained in China after Japan invaded in 1937. In 1943, he was held in an internment camp in Weifang, and died of a brain tumour two years later, aged 43. In 2008, shortly before the Beijing Olympics, it was revealed that Winston Churchill had negotiated his release through a prisoner swap, which Liddell turned down so that a pregnant inmate could gain freedom instead.

China allows only 34 non-Chinese films to be shown in its mainland cinemas each year. Alibaba Pictures says that it “should” get such a release.

Such a focus on religion is unusual for a film in China, where the Communist government promotes atheism.

via China gets Chariots of Fire sequel up and running.

22/07/2015

Kind of Blue: China’s Air Pollution Not as Terrible as Before – China Real Time Report – WSJ

If you’re living in China and have the vague impression that the skies have been bluer than usual this year, it’s not just wishful thinking.

According to an analysis released Wednesday by Greenpeace East Asia, China’s air is not as awful as it used to be. Among 189 cities examined by the environmental nonprofit, PM2.5 levels in the first half of 2015 were down an average of 16% compared to the same period last year. Only 18 cities saw their levels of PM2.5 increase.

Health experts say that small particles such as PM2.5 are particularly worrisome for human health, given their ability to creep deep into the lungs and aggravate heart or lung disease.

“I think this is the first time I’ve seen a massive reduction on PM2.5 concentrations at a national level,” said Dong Liansai, Greenpeace East Asia energy and climate campaigner. In recent years, the frequent grey pall and onset of periodic “airpocalyses” have helped discourage tourism to Beijing and have spurred expats and locals alike to leave for more oxygen-rich environments.

In the country’s notoriously smoggy capital, residents have seen PM2.5 levels drop by 15.5%, with levels of sulfur dioxide – which can contribute to respiratory problems — experiencing a still more precipitous drop of 42.6%, the group said. The capital has been making a concerted push to clean up its skies, closing or relocating 185 firms in the first half of this year, according to the Beijing government. Since last July, the city has also shuttered three of its four coal-fired power plants.

Mr. Dong said the bump in clean air doesn’t appear to be just a blip. He credited more aggressive government standards on emissions and efforts to shutter its dirtiest factories. He also cited the government’s 2013 air pollution control plan, which mandates that by 2017, certain regions must reduce their PM2.5 levels by as much as 25% compared to 2012 levels.

Compared with the rest of the world, the Middle Kingdom’s air still ranks as wretched: the average PM2.5 level in the 385 cities ranked by the group was 53.8 µg/m3, more than five times the World Health Organization’s recommended annual mean.

To keep skies blue-hued for events such as last November’s APEC summit, the city periodically shuts down nearby factories and orders cars off the streets. Such a strategy has in the past paid health dividends for residents. A recent study found that women pregnant during the 2008 Beijing Olympics—when the Chinese government worked aggressively to keep air pollution down for a seven-week period—gave birth to heavier, and presumably healthier, babies.

via Kind of Blue: China’s Air Pollution Not as Terrible as Before – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

08/05/2015

For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland|Society|chinadaily.com.cn

As the first wave of Chinese migrant workers return to live in their hometowns, they may find that life has changed dramatically from when they first left, a PhD student in Shanghai University revealed in his journal published in The Paper.

For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland

Rural areas tend to evoke empty villages where the working population has left, but the fact is that more and more middle-aged migrant workers are coming back home in recent years, said Wang Leiguang, a native of Luotian county of Hubei province who impressed readers with his “Journal of returning to hometown” during the Spring Festival.

Ever since China’s reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, waves of farmers left their land and worked in cities, where they could enjoy higher incomes but faced various disadvantages.

After working in cities for decades, they feel tired and no longer welcome in the city. Most of them have built new houses in their hometowns and have some savings. More importantly, they have to look after their grandchildren, as Wang elaborated in his article.

The year-on-year growth rate in the number of migrant workers has been declining since 2010, said a report released by the National Bureau of Statistics in late April. Since 2004, China has encountered a continuous labor shortage and many migrant workers aged above 50 have returned to their hometowns, as Wang has noticed in his hometown, Luotian.

However, returning home doesn’t mean a return to farming. Since most young laborers moved to the cities, the remote farmlands have become wastelands no one wants to reclaim. Meanwhile machines have replaced manual work in the remaining farms. Even so, many don’t really care about the harvest and some even give up their land.

City life has apparently estranged them from the farmland.

Meanwhile, the pace of urbanization in China during the past 25 years has seen the decline of many villages. As people have drifted away to urban areas, the countryside has become stripped of community and culture.

Unlike twenty years ago when villagers could enjoy various activities such as temple fairs, outdoor movies and opera performances, there are almost no cultural activities these days, as rural people left for cities to find better-paid jobs. When those migrant workers return, they find that villagers have less contact with each other, even between neighbors. Most of them stay at home watching TV.

Rural life is lonely and dull. Wang described the common sight of an old man or woman sitting in the sun at the gate every day, greeting acquaintances when they pass by, as if waiting for death to come.

Increasing social bonds may be a solution to fight the alienation in the countryside, Wang suggested. He found that villagers communicated more and felt happier during their efforts to build a road.

Zhou Jinming, an agricultural official with the Yulin government of Shaanxi province, suggested that the government should focus on supporting large villages by improving conditions, such as setting up libraries and clinics.

via For returning migrant workers, a changed and desolate homeland|Society|chinadaily.com.cn.

03/02/2015

BBC News – The palace of shame that makes China angry

There is a deep, unhealed historical wound in the UK’s relations with China – a wound that most British people know nothing about, but which causes China great pain. It stems from the destruction in 1860 of the country’s most beautiful palace.

Tourists at the Old Summer Palace

It’s been described as China’s ground zero – a place that tells a story of cultural destruction that everyone in China knows about, but hardly anyone outside.

The palace’s fate is bitterly resented in Chinese minds and constantly resurfaces in Chinese popular films, angry social media debates, and furious rows about international art sales.

And it has left a controversial legacy in British art collections – royal, military, private – full of looted objects.

By coincidence, one of the story’s central characters is Lord Elgin – son of the man who removed the so-called “Elgin marbles” from Greece.

But there’s a twist – a hidden side to this story – which I’ve been exploring as it involved my ancestor, Thomas Bowlby, one of the first British foreign correspondents.

His torture and death at Chinese hands – and the revenge taken by Britain, destroying the old Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860 – was a moment, says one scholar, that “changed world history”.

These days the site is just ruins – piles of scorched masonry, lakes with overgrown plants, lawns with a few stones scattered where many buildings once stood. The site swarms with Chinese visitors, taken there as part of a government-sponsored “patriotic education” programme.

As everyone in China is taught, it was once the most beautiful collection of architecture and art in the country. Its Chinese name was Yuanmingyuan – Garden of Perfect Brightness – where Chinese emperors had built a huge complex of palaces and other fine buildings, and filled them with cultural treasures.

A new digital reconstruction by a team at Tsinghua University gives a vivid idea of what this extraordinary place looked like when, 155 years ago, a joint British-French army approached Beijing.

via BBC News – The palace of shame that makes China angry.

12/07/2013

Austerity threatens to take gloss off China’s national games

I wonder if the government’s austerity drive and the anti-corruption drive is contributing to the slow down in spending and exacerbating the slowdown in the economy?

FT: “Fireworks are out and frugality is in at China’s national games after the organising committee rushed to comply with edicts requiring officials across the country to tighten their belts as the economy slows.

A football match is held inside the Shenyang Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, one of the five football venues of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, in Shenyang...A football match is held inside the Shenyang Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, one of the five football venues of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning province August 1, 2007. Picture taken August 1, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA) - RTR1SG8T

The austere sporting championships, which start at the end of August in the northeastern province of Liaoning, will contrast with China’s lavish spending on major events from the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to the world expo in Shanghai in 2010 when the economy was growing at a double-digit pace.

Now, with growth dipping towards 7.5 per cent and Xi Jinping, the new president, railing against ostentatious displays of wealth, the organisers of the Liaoning games – China’s national equivalent of the Olympics – have gone out of their way to highlight their cost-saving measures.

The funding for the games, held every four years and the largest national sporting event in the country, has been cut by 78 per cent from the original budget to Rmb800m ($130m), with fewer new competition venues and less spending on entertainment than initially planned, they announced.

The opening ceremonies will be held during the day to reduce the need for lighting, the first time since 1987 that they have not been at night. The organisers also vowed not to use fireworks, departing with the tradition of bombastic pyrotechnic displays at the start of Chinese sporting events.

“For the opening and closing ceremonies, stadium construction, the torch relay and all other segments of the national games, we strive to create, hopefully, a fresh fashion of organising big events in a thrifty manner,” said He Min, deputy director of the organising committee.

Along with cancelling a series of conferences and exhibitions on the sidelines of the games, the number of invited foreign guests has also been reduced by half. Those foreigners who do make the guest list will have to endure relative privation. There will be “neither welcome banquets nor souvenirs for them”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The shift to austerity falls in line with a tone set by Mr Xi since his first days in office late last year as head of the Communist party. He banned flower displays at official events and ordered that banquets should be pared back, demanding that government spending should be less wasteful.

These demands have intensified in recent months as the Chinese economy has slowed and after Mr Xi launched a new campaign against “hedonism and extravagance” among other ills.

The finance ministry this week ordered all units of the central government to reduce general expenditures such as car purchases and overseas travel.”

via Austerity threatens to take gloss off China’s national games – FT.com.

Law of Unintended Consequences

continuously updated blog about China & India

ChiaHou's Book Reviews

continuously updated blog about China & India

What's wrong with the world; and its economy

continuously updated blog about China & India