Blogroll: Quality (enforcement) is job none

Matt | Blogroll,Food Safety | Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

For the past few years I’ve been concerned over quality standards in China and food safety was always high on my list.  Although I didn’t do anything about it and I continued to live in Beijing, it still concerned me.  There is so much food being produced from so many different suppliers and quality does not seem to be a concern for most Chinese products, so a food safety disaster seemed inevitable.  But when the melamine, baby milk scandal hit, it was a nauseating thought: some people intentionally poisoning babies to make money.  Some roots of the problem seem to be: lack of quality standard enforcement; low levels of care for fellow human beings; an attitude where passing the test seems to be all that matters; seemingly no concern for morality, where “my getting mine” is what seems to matter first and foremost; the all encompassing desire to make money at all costs.

Here are some interesting articles that give some background over these major issues facing China.

Asia Times recently reported Greed, Mad Science and Melamine, which gives some background on how and why melamine came about.  I guess it’s like cutting costs anywhere and trying to cheat and pass the test. Interesting to read that melamine was developed back in ’99.

Asia Times also had a great article about foreigners living in Beijing called Beijing Dangerous.  Here it talks mostly of the dangers on the streets of Beijing, from the insane traffic, to the air quality issues.  Again I think the root problems are the same: lack of enforcement of rules, people driving wherever they want, whenever, however, regardless of who’s in front or beside them; lack of respect or concern for other people.  That one bothers me the most.

Maybe the best thing to do is laugh at ourselves.  Here at Zhongnanhai: The Onion: China becomes the world’s top polluter -  they found a different take on pollution in China and how it could be a good, or at least humorous thing.

To end on a slightly more positive note, here is something else we can laught at.  The thought of seeing your teacher naked.  As a teacher, this is a terrifying thought from The Globe and Mail:The teacher has no clothes.

Weekly Roundup: The Games are over.

Matt | Blogroll | Friday, August 29th, 2008

Now that the Olympic games are over, it’s a cool and weird vibe in Beijing.  It’s like combining 15 years of Christmas and New Year’s rolled into one, and then the feeling you have the next day: head is sore; got a weak, empty feeling in your belly; emotionally you’re spent.  Looking back it was a great Games and I’m happy to have been here for them.  Now that the big Games are over, although we still have the Paraolympic games coming up, I’m not sure what people, and myself, will focus on.

China Briefing recently wrote The Beijing Olympics: A Fifteen Year Long Ride talking about how these Games were 15 years in the making.  I enjoyed reading the background and buildup to these Games.

Here is a great article from China Law Blog – Where the News is always good showing the differences between how one story, was printed differently in The New York Times and in the Beijing Evening News.  I found it quite interesting, especially the author’s postscript.

At Lost Laowai, I stumbled across BBC’s Cool Gorillaz’ Monkely Olympics Video that the BBC had put together for their opening ceremonies created by Gorillaz’ and BBC.  I loved the music, the funky video, and how it told the famous Chinese story of Journey to the West and the Monkey King.  Check it out.

Weekly Round up: Oh (Big) Brother…

Matt | Blogroll,Chinese Culture | Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Since coming to China 3 years ago I’ve been a bit paranoid about being watched. I’ve lived in hotels, university dorm rooms and now in my own apartment and I’ve gone through different waves of paranoia. Now that the Olympics are coming closer, a lot of weird little things are happening around me here in Beijing.

A few weeks back I picked up one of my favourite expat magazines, That’s Beijing, and was surprised at how it changed. It used to be a must read and now it was a cleaner, glossier, more anti-septic magazine. I didn’t know why until I read some other blogs today and found out the management has been changed just in time for the Olympics. From ImageThief’s article The New That’s Beijing and the Art of Stench Management. This is a shame as That’s Beijing was a great magazine. But it looks like now we’ll have to look for The Beijinger instead.

China Law Blog put out another great piece: You Saw Me Do What? Privacy in China. The talks overtly on how you’ll be watched if you come to Beijing for the Games.

Absurdity, Allegory and China had many good articles that I enjoyed, but here are two. The first, Don’t Go There, informs us how Beijing University is now off-limits because it is an Olympic venue. The second: Public spaces vs Private Needs, sadly, talks about how the beautiful new Olympic structures – the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium and the CCTV building – will likely become off-limits to the general public and what some of the likely options will be. From what I’ve seen of parks, exercise spots and generally nice places in Beijing, I’m guessing it will become surrounded by a wall, a gate, a guard, a ticket booth, and beside a shopping mall, above a shopping mall, or near a shopping mall.

Weekly Roundup – China Experiences/ Experience ChinaWeekly Roundup – China Experiences/ Experience China

Matt | Blogroll,Chinese Culture,Dating | Saturday, July 12th, 2008

I’ve been a little lax on keeping up with what’s happening around China with the Olympics less than a month away. Actually, it hardly feels like the Olympics are so close. The weather has been unusual for a Beijing summer: rain every day, what is this London? Also, while people are working feverishly to finish things, subways, buildings, restaurant menus, still feels odd the ‘Pics are so close. But, deep down in the background, there is a wave of excitement that is slowly building; that the Olympics will be here soon.

Fortunately, some friends have been forwarding me some interesting articles about China that I’d like to share and here is one from the Independent Enter the Dragon..and Gain.. This talks of the benefits of (UK) students coming and experiencing China first hand. Also, it mentions how the quality of teachers coming to China has increased dramatically and that I’d agree with. Remember to get your qualifications before you come to China if possible if you want to teach.

Another great article, actually a nice series of articles, that I found on MoneyMSN, is called Keeping up with the Wangs: Land of 1.3 Billion Shoppers. It’s a lengthy piece, but the charts are fantastic, if you’re a nerd like me and like to read interesting charts and statistics – i.e. there are more cell phone users in China than people in the U.S. All in this series of articles looks fascinating.

This last article from Asia Times, touched me close to home, as a 30 something guy who isn’t married and who has an active father who’d like to see me get married off. Sunday Afternoon at the Marriage Mart

This talks about how parents of one-child babies sometimes go to the park and try to sell (pair) off their child. I found it quite interesting and terrifying. I was interested in how even in pairing off their children, how the selling (girl’s) parents would lie and try to trick the unsuspecting buyer (boy’s parents), by showing a different picture of their daughter. Like all things you buy here, you need to examine it closely to make sure you aren’t getting cheated: this includes love to I guess. What terrified me, wasn’t that this happens, it’s only parents who love their kids and want them to be happy, what terrified me was thinking about my dad being unleashed in this park trying to get (buy) me a nice girl and to see what he’d write on my advertisement card.

Weekly Roundup – Schizo China

Matt | Blogroll | Saturday, July 5th, 2008

Here is a schizophrenic look at what I’ve been reading about China lately.

I just read this piece and while I agree with some aspects of it, I vehemently disagree with others. This is a piece calling for tougher guidelines on university professors. Read on at China.org.com – Standardization of teachers’ profession

While I agree that all professions should have higher standards and that all should have professional development to keep those standards high, I don’t agree with the statement that a “poor teacher can ruin a students’ life” nor that a teacher who doesn’t perform should be “punished”. Maybe something is lost in translation with the punished part. But I have seen the conditions some university teachers teach in: 50 plus people in a class; paint peeling from walls; chalkboard. I’ve also seen the attitude of some students who don’t care about learning and simply want to slide through and get their degree.

Block/Unblock/Block/Unblock – the continual saga of getting and sharing information in China is an interesting process. Just heard the other day that Facebook is now blocked in China, but Wikipedia is open. Probably a good trade off for seeking info, bad for sharing photos with loved ones back home. Here is a link that has more info: Net Nanny Follies: Wikipedia Chinese version unblocked.

Visa challenges still. Here is an interesting story from The Opposite End of China trying to get back into the country before the Olympics. Here is an interesting opinion from The Chinese Visa Blog. From this blog they also linked to the China Daily concerning the design of the new visa policy. From what I know it’s very difficult to get a visa into Beijing especially now during the Olympic period.

Living in Beijing still feels like the calm before the storm. There are few tourists. Things are quiet here, while the workers are busy trying to cover up the dirt piles, tear down the remaining buildings, set up new inconvenient transportation situations like scanning bags everywhere. Beijing is getting ready. I’m thinking about getting ready to leave.

Weekly Roundup: The earthquake

Matt | Blogroll | Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

On Monday, I was in class when people excitedly ran around mentioning and earthquake. Actually, my boss got a call from her husband who was evacuated from his apartment building as a precaution. Other students who worked in tower buildings nearby also were evacuated. As I was in the basement of a building all day, I never felt the tremors here in Beijing. But I’ve heard that others did, especially those in tall buildings. This truly is a disaster. My heart goes out to the people in Wenchuan, Sichuan.

Here are some articles about the quake. I especially liked the one about bringing the Torch to Wenchuan and leaving it there. That almost brought a tear to my eyes. My prayers go out to all those affected.

All Roads Lead to China: Take the Torch to Wenchuan . I don’t know how possible this is, but it’s a great image. The torch left burning at Wenchuan to help bring attention, friendship, donations and love to the affected area.

CNReviews: China Earthquake photos and blogosphere. Some amazing photos here.

Whenever people talk about earthquakes in China, I am reminded of the deadliest earthquake of all time that happened in Tangshan, China near Tianjin in 1976. In this disaster over 240,000 people died. This quake happened 3 days after I was born.

Also when these natural disasters strike, I can’t help feeling like a tiny, insignificant spec on this planet. How all my stresses and worries really are about nothing. How if planet Earth wanted to change things up in my life it could do so in an instant. How really, life is a blessing that I take for granted too often.

Today I looked online at some personal finance blogs (another passion of mine) and found this great quote.

“They should just tell us we are dying when we are born, so that we actually live our lives.”

I don’t know why it takes something awful for me to realize this. That life – love, friendship, happiness – is an amazing gift.

If you want to give (money, clothing or food) you can see the updated contact information at the bottom of the CNReviews site.

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