Monthly Archives: February 2008

What’s in a Name?

Earlier this week, Shanghaiist had this great post about how a guy from Chongqing got stuck with the same Chinese name as Hong Kong actor Andy Lau (Liu Dehua). This supposedly caused the guy’s business partner to split with him over the fact that having the same as Andy Lau nobody would take him seriously and his girlfriends would always get scolded because everyone would compare their boyfriend to the real Liu Dehua. But then it turns out later in the story that the guy’s name came about because of an error:

“What’s really ironic is that Liu Dehua isn’t his real name. In fact, his name ought to be Liu Jianhua, because the siblings in his generation all have “Jian” as the middle character. So how did he end up being “Dehua”? Because, someone in a bumble-fuck township government office in Chongqing municipality probably wrote his name wrong. If you stab yourself in the eye and squint long enough, the characters for Jian (健) and De (德) look kinda similar. Or maybe you have to be illiterate, and then stab yourself in the eye. Anyway, the title of the article says that Liu now suffers from depression, and he feels like he’s going to have to go back home and officially change his name.”

When I got my first resident permit in Shanghai, the public security official mispronounced my last name as “Guose” and gave me the same Chinese name as Tom Cruise (ironically we share the same birthday and so does TV tabloid godfather, Geraldo). But this didn’t help my prospects or personal for the three years that I had it. So in late 2006, I changed it to my current Chinese name.

J.

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Writing for Lost Laowai

As of today, besides writing for One-Eyed Panda I’m now also writing for Lost Laowai. You can find my first post here and check the site link above for future posts.

J.

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Bad Kids or A Bad Home Life?

Last Sunday, I saw a documentary on the Discovery Channel’s Asian Gateway program entitled Bad Kids. It was about the military-style schools that have risen up in China in response to the number of badly behaved (more like holy terrors from what I saw) Chinese children that have appeared in the last few years.

After watching for about 10 minutes I was sort of suspicious of the show’s premise that these children’s bad behaviour came from the new opportunities that China’s economy gave them. If you look at the way the parents treat them not allowing them to be children and instead study all the time. If the child gets 80% on a test, it’s not good enough. He should have got 90% or 100%. When you’re parents give you nothing but negative praise, of course you’re gonna rebel.

Brendan John Worrell in a column in China Daily agrees with me:

“Here it is common for children as young as six to be assigned several hours of homework each night. Then they are sent to extra classes on the weekends, to learn English or music, math or calligraphy. Before these children have even had a chance to be kids, they are competing academically with their peers.

American mental health professional Dr Gregory Mavrides who has lived and worked in China for several years says, “In America, any parent would dance for joy upon finding that their child was reading anything, even the television listings in the daily newspaper, let alone a magazine or work of fiction. In China, children are often physically scolded by their parents, and, in some areas, their teachers, if and when they are caught reading anything other than assigned textbooks. In this context, there is simply no psychic energy left over for doing anything other than preparing for the next exam.”

Compounding the situation is the continuing family planning policy, where most elementary and middle school students have no siblings to talk to when the pressure gets too much. In such situations friends become increasingly important, yet they too are under similar strains and are not equipped to offer practical emotional advice.”

According to Worrell the central government seems to be seeing children’s mental states as a potential problem too and are placing mental health professionals in schools. This is a good start, but it’s not a solution. The amount of homework has to be less (this is happening in some places and school is starting later).  But most importantly change needs to happen at home. Stop the cram-classes let kids be kids and have fun. Otherwise the rebels will just get worse over time.  One of the major problems for China right now is innovation. If children are stuck in a ridge structure of classes and studying with no free time to think or play how can they be creative?

Time to play will give Chinese children time to be creative and that can only help the country.

J.

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My Holiday in the CAR (Cantonese Administrative Region)

I had a great time in Guangzhou with Winnie visiting her family. I ate a lot, shopped and slept a lot — most of all I learned a lot about Cantonese culture that I didn’t know before. Here are some things I learned about life in what I call the Cantonese Administrative Region or the CAR.

  1. The CAR doesn’t look towards Beijing for direction instead it looks south to Hong Kong: You’d think that this is pretty obvious and I had a suspicion that it might be the case last time I was there. However, last time I was there I stayed in a hotel so my interaction around aspects of daily life such as watching TV or eating a regular meal was limited. This time I stayed in Winnie’s parents’ home so I was able to watch TV with them and eat regular meals. I noticed that her family only watched Cantonese-language channels from either HK or Guangzhou. They also speak fluent Mandarin, but they find the Cantonese-language programming much more interesting. I have to say that I agree the programs were much more creative than the state-run CCTV channels. I also noticed that when the government wanted to thank people for their patience during the recent weather problems, they chose to cut into the news broadcasts on the HK channels and not on the Mandarin-language stations.
  2. They may speak the same language but the priorities of HK and Guangzhou are sometimes miles apart: One of the biggest things that I noticed while watching TV in Guangzhou is that the Guangzhou stations focused on the snow storm and its effect on the city, which was a major one. That makes sense in a way, it was a major event for the country with significant local effects. What’s surprising is the event also had a major effect on HK as well but instead they decided to focus on the Edison Chen sex scandal on the front page of all its major newspapers (Coverage from Shanghaiist and the event’s Wikipedia entry can be found here and here; A comparison of the front pages of GZ and HK newspapers is here; Fallout from the way the HK Police handled the event here). I can see the reason why they cover the event — it’s local and sex sells — but it disgusts me that the only place with a truly free press in China resorts to using that press as a platform for tabloid media.
  3. If you’re on a crowded bus in Guangzhou and the driver takes a short-cut everybody will be pissed even if they’re not missing their stop: This happened to us on the Lunar New Year’s Eve. I was happy about it cause the road was jammed but almost everyone on the bus was complaining. I could see it as a problem but since nobody missed their stop what’s there to whine about?
  4. Great food and amazing service: I’ve mentioned this before but I need to say it again: Guangzhou has amazing food and the service people are some of the best in China. That just made me fall in love with the region even more.

So those are my thoughts. I can’t wait to go back again.

J.

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Back in Shanghai

I just got back from Guangzhou yesterday and I have lots of stories and thoughts that are going to make a great series of posts. Unfortunately I have to prepare an urgent event at work for this Friday and there’s that special romantic day called Valentine’s tomorrow so the posts will have to wait until the weekend. More then.

J.

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Off to Guangzhou

I’m off to Guangzhou tomorrow for the Chinese New Year holiday. There will be no new posts until after February 12th. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday.

J.

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