08 Oct 2015
The ‘rags-to-riches’ image in politics that works well in America may not be useful in Taiwan/chinese democracies.
In discussing current US politics with my friend Liv, I mentioned how Americans love rags-to-riches stories and tend to prefer candidates that play up an image of coming from a humble background and rising to success on their own achievements. It’s a very capitalist and democratic and “American” sentiment, perhaps. Several Republican candidates are building this kind of story in the current election cycle (and others, like Donald Trump, who don’t have such an experience to draw on, are surely still paying lip service to it).
20 Jan 2015
The Chinese Communist Party has made great efforts to promote a common language for its citizens. Since the fall of the Qing Dynasty and especially after the formation of the People’s Republic of China, a common spoken language has been heavily promoted; all school instruction, most news and radio broadcasts, and most official communication throughout China are in Standard Chinese (also called Mandarin and Putonghua). Today, many Chinese whose ancestors would not have been able to communicate with those living a few hundred kilometers away can now communicate more easily using the country’s new common spoken language. A recent study reports that about 70% of Chinese citizens can speak Standard Chinese, a large proportional increase from one decade before, and it is assumed that much of this increase has come from Chinese youth’s experience with an education system in the now-standardized language.
But the ability to speak Standard Chinese should not be confused with the preference and incidence of speaking the language. The government’s efforts seem to have had little effect on everyday communication (maybe that was never the goal). Local dialects are alive, preferred, and spoken daily by young people.
11 Jan 2015
Coffee and cafe culture is an essential component of life in Vietnam. Not everyone drinks coffee at the same places, at the same times, or with the same flavors, but it seems like every Vietnamese sees the hour they spend every day at a cafe drinking coffee as a ritual they couldn’t live without.
11 Jan 2015
Chengdu has two open subway lines with more on the way, but most people using public transit still rely on the bus system. Though the system works pretty well, buses at peak hours can be completely packed. Several times in the last two weeks I’ve been one of the last passengers to board a bus that’s so full that I’m leaning up against the dashboard and front windshield, looking back at everyone else:
09 Jan 2015
My friends in Guiyang tell me they live in a second-tier city. In China, I don’t know if these tiers are officially described by the government or if it’s based on perception, but Guiyang does feel like a bit of a step behind in development from cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Shenzhen.
One aspect of life in a second-tier city in China is reduced access to international brands. Large international chains like Uniqlo are still available in one or two major shopping malls, but high-end luxury brands have not yet arrived.