Monday, August 31, 2009


People have told me that the time adjustment from China to America is harder than going from America to China. It seems to me that going forward eleven hours or back thirteen is pretty much the same. I'm not sure why one would be significantly more difficult than another. But I have heard such is the case.

If anybody knows anything about this or has an opinion about why, I'd be curious to hear it. I'd like to do a Google search on time zone switching, but am not really sure what terms to search for.

All I do know at the moment is that I slept two hours last night and am completely screwed up time-wise. Qian is doing a bit better than I am, but she's not doing that well really. The first couple days were actually quite smooth, but the past couple have been rough.

My goal today is to not take a nap no matter how much I want to. I took a 3.5 hour nap yesterday. That wasn't a good idea.

Despite sleep problems, everything is going really well so far. We watched the DVD of our Chinese wedding ceremony with my brother and parents on Friday night, went out for dinner and drinks with my friends on Saturday night, and had a cousin/aunt/uncle family taco night (25 people total) last night.

Qian is doing really well with names surprisingly. She pretty much had all 25 people straight last night.

People have been really impressed with her English level. My friend Luke told me that she already has a Kansas accent (or, one could say, the General American accent). While I've been frustrated by our lack of use of Chinese in day-to-day life in China (and my lack of fluency in Chinese), I believe our English-based relationship is now paying dividends for Qian.

This week should be cool. We have a wedding to plan and such. Although tedious, it should be fun.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Coming to America

Qian and I completed our day long journey or so from Xi'an to Kansas City yesterday. After a very deep and hard night of sleep, we're now sitting around, hanging out in the good ol' US of A!

The trip was, uh, long. Xian -> Beijing -> San Francisco -> Salt Lake City -> Kansas City. Including stops in airports, the trip came out to almost exactly twenty four hours.

Considering how difficult getting the visa for Qian was, I was a little bit concerned that, upon our arrival in San Francisco, the visa people there would give us trouble with getting Qian into the country. Thankfully, the Customs and Immigration officials at the San Francisco airport were all very polite and friendly though. The customs declaration guy even waved us through and congratulated us on our upcoming marriage instead of going through our bags. Very cool!

So, so far, the run ins with officials we've had have been infinitely better than the ones we had in in China in Guangzhou.

We're getting married over Labor Day weekend here in KC. So for the next several days, it's going to be full on marriage mode. Should be pretty intense. Very exciting too though.

I'm really looking forward to the coming days when Qian will meet my family and friends.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Obama in November

Obama is going to make it over to China in November.

From Reuters:

Image from

BEIJING, Aug 22 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will visit China in mid-November, the new United States ambassador to Beijing said on Saturday, setting a date for a big summit likely to tackle the global economy, North Korea and climate change.

Washington's new envoy to Beijing, Jon Huntsman Jr., told reporters Obama "is going to be visiting in the middle of November", but he did not give specific dates.

Until now, neither Beijing nor Washington has publicly given such a firm time for the big visit.

It means the U.S. President is likely to go to Beijing and perhaps other regional capitals after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in Singapore on 14-15 November.

Huntsman, speaking at his residence after arriving in the Chinese capital, said relations between the two economic and political powers were improving.

"By the end of the year, we should be in better shape than ever before between the United States and China," he said, in a speech that switched between English and fluent Mandarin Chinese.

Read On
It'll be crazy when Obama comes over here. I can imagine that China, on the whole, will be pretty fired up. I don't hear about Obama that much anymore over here, but I think he's still a fairly popular guy.

I know that Obama's numbers are down now in America. From what I can tell, a lot of people are very underwhelmed with how he's doing. I'm having a bit of trouble gauging his performance and America's reaction to him from China. I'm looking forward to immersing myself into more American news and politics when I get back to the States soon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Saving Face at All Costs

China's stock market, which, until a couple weeks ago, had nearly doubled from early January, has run into some trouble.

From Bloomberg:

Chart from Bloomberg

China’s benchmark stock index, the world’s worst performer this month, may fall another 10 percent as bank lending slows, said Andy Xie, a former Morgan Stanley chief Asian economist.

“The current correction is reflecting the tightening in lending,” said Xie, who correctly predicted in April 2007 that China’s equities would tumble. “We’ve seen the peak of this market cycle, though there’s likely to be a bounce as the government seeks to stabilize the market.”

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index plunged 5.8 percent yesterday, the most since Nov. 18, extending its decline from this year’s high on Aug. 4 to 17 percent. The gauge, the worst performer among 89 benchmark indexes tracked by Bloomberg worldwide, sank as foreign direct investment plunged and Yunnan Copper Industry Co. posted a loss, saying there are “no clear signs” of a recovery. The Bank of New York Mellon China ADR Index, which tracks American depositary receipts, slumped 5 percent, the most since March 2.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) stimulus package, coupled with record bank lending in the first six months, helped the Shanghai index more than double this year from the low on Nov. 4. An estimated 1.16 trillion yuan of loans were invested in the stock market in the first five months, China Business News reported on June 29, citing Wei Jianing, a deputy director at the Development and Research Center under the State Council, China’s Cabinet.

The equities rally faltered as new loans in July fell to less than a quarter of June’s level and the securities regulator allowed initial public offerings after a nine-month moratorium.

The government may order the national social security fund to support the market before Oct. 1, when the Communist Party celebrates the 60th anniversary of taking power, according to Xie. Other measures that may be taken include halting the approval of IPOs and share placements, he said.

“This is not the bursting of the bubble,” Xie, who is now an independent economist, said by telephone. “The government will be under pressure to take action because a lot of people have lost money.”

Read On
I'm not simply posting this because of the huge loss that was posted yesterday. For all I know, stock prices may be up today or by the end of the week. Reacting to every rise or fall of the Chinese stock market will probably not tell too descriptive of a story and will instead surely paint a very bi-polar picture.

The thing about this article that struck me were the comments from the analyst, Mr. Xie, about the upcoming anniversary in China and the need to have things "going well" when that day occurs.

Is the "government action" that Mr. Xie says is imminent the most prudent thing to do at this time? I suppose it depends upon what that action is. If it were regulations aimed at promoting stability in the markets and economy, then those could be a good thing. But if it is simply more cash aimed at propping up otherwise stalling and over-inflated markets, then I would think that that would be pretty harmful.

A few days ago, there was a discussion in the comments of one of my posts about the notion of "saving face" and how important and central to Chinese culture the concept is. Hopfrog, a frequent commenter, encapsulated the absurdity of doing things for the sake of saving face very well, I think:
I personally think if it weren't for this whole ingrained "save face" concept that the government would do the right thing and regulate their markets to prevent the crash, which I will guarantee, is imminent.

Saving face is without a doubt the most moronic ancient concept among any culture on the planet. Yeah, let's not be open and honest and try to improve... why would we do that when we can lie to ourselves and each and continue to make mistakes while maintaining a false pride based on lies?? BRILLLIANT!!!
I'm not a savvy investor and this stuff that drives how markets work is all new to me in the past year. But the idea that saving face would be the driving force behind government economic policy and particularly the intentional creation of a bubble is crazy to me.

If money is pumped into the Chinese markets so that October 1st is a grand day, I really hope that China has a glorious day that they remember forever. Because it'll certainly be an expensive one.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


This morning, I asked Qian if there is a Chinese idiom for "swimming upstream." I don't know why, but this seems to me exactly the kind of phrase that the Chinese would have an idiom for. She gave me a four character phrase, but she said it isn't an idiom per se. The phrase is 逆流而上 (ni liu er shang).

The reason I asked about this kind of a phrase is because after reading an article about Americans coming to China for work the other day, I have the feeling that Qian and I are about to leave a relatively smooth and calm brook and are about to begin walking upstream in a substantially stronger, and possibly raging, river.

From The New York Times:

BEIJING — Shanghai and Beijing are becoming new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates who face unemployment nearing double digits at home.

Even those with limited or no knowledge of Chinese are heeding the call. They are lured by China’s surging economy, the lower cost of living and a chance to bypass some of the dues-paying that is common to first jobs in the United States.

"I’ve seen a surge of young people coming to work in China over the last few years," said Jack Perkowski, founder of Asimco Technologies, one of the largest automotive parts companies in China.

"When I came over to China in 1994, that was the first wave of Americans coming to China,” he said. “These young people are part of this big second wave."

Read On
Over the past couple months, I've talked a number of times on this blog about my apprehension about returning to the States at this particular time (I think I laid out a lot of the reasons well in a comment on this post). Qian and I know that this is a terrible time to be leaving China and going to America. But at the same time, it's something we really have to do right now.

In a selfish way, it angers me that some of the brightest minds in America, and the rest of the world, are now focusing their attention on China. I want to, in a way, keep the country "mine" and want to have my unique experience of being in China for more than three years stay a really remarkable thing.

But, of course, this is a ridiculous feeling for me to have. I'd be a fool to think that intelligent people from around the globe wouldn't want to come to China to take advantage of the situation that is being presented right now. And in another way, China is going to be a much better place the more that foreigners come here and the more exposed its people get to the rest of the world. The benefits of foreigners coming to China now will affect both the country and myself positively in the future, I feel.

So, overall, this article above and hearing about western people finding success in China are good things. It's just that reading stories about westerners becoming quasi-economic refugees and leaving the States when I'm a few days away from heading back to America gives me some conflicting feelings.

Anyone who's read my blog with any frequency the past few months knows about my disillusionment with a lot of the aspects of American life and about how I feel that the economic crisis is not a little blip on the ever climbing path of unlimited and unrestrained growth. I have serious concerns about the direction America is headed and particularly about what Qian and I are going to do with ourselves upon our return.

Saying all that, I'm confident that, despite the bleak economic scene in America, we are going to end up being alright.

A week or two ago, Qian's parents, Qian, and I got together for a formal dinner where I, essentially, asked for her hand in marriage. At that time, Qian's dad grilled me a bit about what our plans are and how we're going to survive in America. I feel like my response was one of my all-time most awesome uses of Chinese ever (her dad, of course, does not speak English).

He told me that Qian is there only child and that they are worried about her being on the other side of the planet in a country with a struggling economy. I assured him that I'm strong enough and resourceful enough to both take care of Qian and provide her a decent life in America. I used my life in China as an analogy. I asked him to remember the first time I met him a year and a half ago and how crap my Chinese was and how much I didn't understand about China and its customs. I then talked about where I'm at now both with my Chinese and with my general knowledge of how China works. I pointed out to him that I'm now a manager with ten people working underneath me at the school I work at and have done a good job at adjusting to life in China. I told him that I will get things done in America and will do them well.

After I finished my minute or two of talking, he flashed me a huge smile, stuck out his hand, and said "OK!" We then gave each other a very firm hand shake. Apparently I'd convinced him that I'm 厉害 enough to marry his daughter. That conversation and the look on his face throughout the conversation are things I'll never forget.

The things I said to him were all strong statements and ones that I'm going to have to back up. I'm confident I can though.

Qian and I are about to 逆流而上, yet we are committed to living in America for at least two years (when she can receive a green card) and possibly much longer if things are going well. We're both a combination of nervous and excited. Us going to America is scary and it is a gamble. But I truly believe that we're about to embark upon a fantastic journey.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Monday was absolutely unbelievable. One of the best days of my life. The love and happiness in the celebration Qian and I had was overflowing. I still can't believe how amazingly well everything went.

I have tons of pictures and the whole thing was videotaped. Hopefully I can get some of that media on here in the near future.

The past couple days, Qian and I have been on cloud nine.

Unfortunately, I got sick yesterday. Life has just been too hectic recently. I'm not back to normal, but I'm feeling better. Still not 100% though.

I'll try to post some more substantial posts this weekend.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Photos of the Week - Wedding Photos

Although Qian and I won't be legally tying the knot for a about a month, tomorrow is a big day for us. We're going to have an unofficial traditional Chinese ceremony/party for our friends and Qian's family in Xi'an. I don't want to get into all of the details right now, because there are a lot, but it's going to be a really nice day.

One of the things couples who are about to be married do in China these days is go to a photo studio to take wedding photos. I wrote about this some in April when we took the photos. (I'm really glad we did it then when life wasn't so hectic.)

We picked up the photos a couple months ago. They're just awesome. We're so pleased with how they turned out. We have a couple of professional-looking books of photos and had several shots made into larger photos to be hung on walls. In total, we have about 30 photos printed. On a CD, we have more than 120 photos in all.

Edited out

I'm going to be very busy for at least the next few days. Probably won't be posting too much. I'll surely be back before too long though!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Train Wreck

No, the title of this post isn't about my bachelor party. That went really well. As one of my friends reminded me yesterday, "what happens on the stag do stays on the stag do." So I'm not going to give away too much information. I'll just say that it involved copious amounts of baijiu, good times with friends, and me feeling absolutely wrecked the next day. So it was a complete success!

Yesterday while suffering a day-long hangover, I heard from a friend about a section of Xi'an's under-construction subway that collapsed this week and killed two construction workers. I hadn't caught this initially.


Firefighters used bare hands to retrieve two migrant workers trapped after a section of a subway station under construction in Xi'an collapsed on Sunday morning.

The two, who had been buried under 10 cubic meters of earth for over three hours, died later in hospital.

The accident occurred at 9:20am at the Sajinqiao section of subway line one, where an area over 20-meters-wide of the construction site gave way, trapping workers below.

China Railway NO.2 Engineering Group Co., Ltd., which is responsible for the section's construction, blamed continued rain and leaking sewage pipes for the collapse.

The cave-in became the fourth accident in subway construction in the capital city of northwest China's Shaanxi province in seven months, the Wenhui Daily reported.

A fire accident occurred at a line 2 construction site on December 30 last year. Luckily, the fire was extinguished one hour later and all 64 workers were evacuated safely.

Only 66 hours later, on January 2, another station on line 2 caught fire due to improper operation by workers. Then on May 26, a person suffered minor injuries from a fire during infrastructure work on line 1.

Following the third accident, the Xi'an Subway Construction Office, the department overseeing the subway projects, ordered the 21 construction companies to each hand in three million yuan as a production safety guarantee. The deposit will be confiscated if any further accidents occur due to negligence or other human factors from the construction and supervision parties.

However, the harsh measures and a series of penalties meted out apparently failed to stop more accidents.

Read On
This is really sad. Particularly because this is not new and there have been so many problems in the construction of this project.

Although I'm not a civil engineer, I found it troubling that rain is being given partial blame for the collapse of the tunnel. Is it just me, or does that seem pretty thin? It's not like it's monsoon season here.

Over the past few weeks, I've noticed that every time it rains at all, ponds of water start showing up everywhere on Xi'an's streets. Seriously, if it rains mildly for an hour or two, a street near my work completely floods over. And I'm talking about a section of road that was just built last year!

I'm not sure what about occasional rains makes Xi'an's streets turn into rivers and tunnels to collapse, but it's pretty disconcerting. China, in the west, has a reputation for being a country full of engineers. I suppose this might be true, there are a lot of engineering graduates, but what good are engineers if the things they build are done so poorly?

Over my last few weeks in Xi'an, I will try my best to take some pictures the next time it rains. It really is amazing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Stag Do Tonight

I'm having my stag do tonight. For Americans, "stag do" is what the English call a bachelor's party (a lot of my friends over here are blokes).

Qian and I are having our Chinese ceremony next Monday. Because most of my friends and I work on the weekends, we figured tonight would be the best night to go out before I get hitched (at least symbolically going through the ceremony... suppose I still have one month until September 6th, the day of real, legal marriage).

We're going to go to one of my favorite restaurants to begin the night: a dumpling restaurant with canons and wood paneling in front near Xi'an's "Bar Street" (I don't even know the name of the restaurant). I like the place a lot both for the food and the home-brewed baijiu they serve.

After a big meal and plenty of baijiu, we're going to head out on the town. Not sure where yet, but there are plenty of choices.

A couple months ago, a bunch of my friends and I went to a transsexual cabaret show at a local bar in Xi'an for our friends' bachelor's party. Some of my friends have hinted that we'll end up there tonight. Just as long as they don't buy me any private dances with trannies there, it should be a great laugh! (For the record, no strip clubs in Xi'an...)

I'd like to end up at either 1+1 or the grimier MGM, two of my favorite dance clubs, by the end of the night.

No matter what happens, it should be a legendary evening!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Help Wanted

Despite rising growth numbers and a booming stock market, China's jobs situation looks a lot like the rest of the world's.

From AFP:

Image from AFP of a jobs fair in Beijing

BEIJING — China Tuesday warned of a "grave" situation in the jobs market with millions of graduates and migrant workers yet to find work as companies continue to struggle with the effects of the global slump.

"China's current employment situation is still grave and the pressure for job creation remains large," said Wang Yadong, a senior official at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security's employment section.

"To make things worse, the impact of the international financial crisis has not yet bottomed out and a lot of companies are still facing business difficulties, posing big unemployment risks," he told reporters.

Wang said around 147 million migrant workers had moved to cities for jobs by June but more than four million had yet to find one.

Moreover, three million university graduates, including those who had left last year, were still unemployed, he said.

Read On
It's disconcerting to see that the non-elites of the world are the ones who are still feeling the brunt of tough times these days. While the people in the above article look for something to do with themselves, the wealthy and those who've gotten in on the stimulus money are bankin' it playing the stock market.

Funny how the world works.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Writer's Block

I'm still worn out from going to Guangzhou last week and then working all weekend. I can't seem to muster up the energy to actually write much of anything right now.

I found some good stuff, just can't produce anything of my own. So I'm just going to link up to some interesting articles and then will encourage any readers, if moved by the articles, to share their thoughts on them in the comments section.

First, from The New York Times:
HONG KONG — More than 13 million abortions are performed each year in China, according to statistics disclosed by Chinese health officials on Thursday, a marked increase from 2003, the most recent statistics available.

When unreported and medication-induced abortions are counted, the actual number is substantially higher, according to physicians and medical researchers quoted by the state-run newspaper China Daily on Thursday.

The rate of abortion in China — about 24 abortions for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 — is less than half that of the world’s highest rate. That is Russia’s, at 53.7 per 1,000, according to the United Nations Population Division. Some two million abortions are performed each year in Russia, which has a population of 142 million. China’s population is 1.3 billion.

But the rise in the numbers is significant. In a joint report, the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute put the number of abortions in China in 2003 at 9 million, out of a total of 42 million worldwide that year.

Chinese officials said a low level of sex education among young people was the reason for the widespread use of abortion.

More than 70 percent of callers to a pregnancy phone line at a Shanghai hospital knew almost nothing about contraception, China Daily reported. Only 17 percent were aware of venereal diseases, and less than 30 percent knew that HIV/AIDS could be transmitted sexually.

Read On
The second, from The Associated Press:
BEIJING — The crowd in the packed Guosen Securities office jostles around buzzing printers that spit out receipts for their share buys, hoping to cash in on China's stimulus-fueled stock market boom.

"The central government has to fulfill their promise of 8 percent economic growth," said Wu Jun, 62, a retired civil servant who has part of his life savings of 50,000 yuan ($7,300) in stocks and lives on a 2,000 yuan-a-month ($290 a month) pension. "They'll come up with measures to keep the market in good shape."

But while investors expect the market — up more than 80 percent this year — to keep rising, Chinese leaders are alarmed. They worry that too much of the $1 trillion lending binge by state banks that paid for China's nascent revival was diverted into stocks and real estate, raising the danger of a boom and bust cycle and higher inflation less than two years after an earlier stock market bubble burst.

Beijing is trying to tighten credit controls without derailing the economic revival or causing a market crash — a risky path at a time when Chinese leaders say a recovery is not firmly established.

"It's a very serious threat. The Chinese government is walking a tightrope," said Mark Williams, Asia economist for Capital Economics in London. "There is the question of what happens if they rein in lending, because there is really no strong evidence that private sector demand is picking up."

Read On
The third, from AFP:
BEIJING — Bad breath is enough to fail the test to enter China's manned space programme, state media said Sunday -- but the final green light for blast-off is given by the hopeful astronaut's wife.

China only wants to send the best of the best into orbit, meaning unfortunate personal smell is sufficient reason to get disqualified right away, the website reported.

"Bad body odour will affect the colleagues in the narrow confines of a space shuttle," said Shi Binbin, a doctor with the 454th Air Force Hospital in the east Chinese city of Nanjing.

A runny nose is also a definite obstacle to joining China's space race for much the same reason, according to the report.

The hospital recently completed a rigorous first screening of candidates, who had to satisfy 100 requirements, to eliminate those obviously unfit to serve China in space.

But the battery of tests were only the first of three aimed at selecting China's new breed of astronauts that will pick up from the pioneers chosen in 1997.

Discarded early in the process were those with scars -- as they may burst open in the extreme conditions in space, the report said. And candidates must also show they have no family history of serious illnesses going back three generations.

Read On
Hope to get something more substantial soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Sorry, don't really have anything to put on here right now. Will try my best over the coming weeks...

Am a little busy... Chinese wedding (party/ceremony) on August 10th, getting ready to leave China after being here for 3.5 years, leaving China, arriving in America, and then legal marriage on September 6th in Kansas City.

So we'll see what happens here on ol' Mark's China Blog...