China: April 2008 Archives

In between the site being up and down in a kind of ongoing ping-pong game - I managed to grab a screen grab. And here it is.

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It may seem an obscure point to 'attack' - but one thing is for sure, it's certainly drawing attention.

Tomorrow marks a very interesting time politically for one of China's most important regional partners. Australian President Kevin Rudd will arrive here tomorrow to meet with his Chinese counterparts, the last leg of his first major international tour. Rudd and Hu.jpg And while the western media here is going to be focused on Rudd's thoughts on the torch relay and the situation in Tibet and the Chinese media is going to be focused on Rudd's support for the Olympics in China and his reiteration of support for the 'one-China policy,' one of the key challenges for the new Prime Minister, which is highly likely to go untalked about, is going to be the unsexy, but highly critical issue of Chinese investment in his country's resource sector.

I suspect that politically speaking, Mr. Rudd finds himself in a somewhat precarious situation when it comes to China right now thanks to natural resources. As most people are quite likely aware, Mr. Rudd - though new on the international political stage - is considered to be an old China hand. Given that he was a former diplomat here in China and speaks fluent Mandarin, there was quite a bit of buzz in China surrounding his election. As such, I suspect many people inside and out of government here in China are expecting Mr. Rudd to be somewhat pan-sympathetic to China's concerns on both a political and business front. And while he'll undoubtedly put on an impressive display in front of the cameras, say the right things and wow the Chinese media with his ability to take questions in Mandarin, behind the scenes is going to be a different story.

One must not forget that first and foremost, Mr. Rudd is an Australian politician that has to put both his country's interests, and his supporter's interests, ahead of what the Chinese government may be expecting of him. Though Mr. Rudd is considered somewhat on the right-side of the spectrum when it comes to his political leanings within his own party, Mr. Rudd was elected as the leader of a party which has strong union support within Australia, and is generally left-of-center. As such, if he wants to maintain his core support in Australia through his term in office, he's going to have to be cognizant of their concerns. And, undoubtedly, one of the issues concerning the union movement in Australia has to be China's recent moves toward acquiring more interests in Australian-based resource firms.

Mining.jpg The most recent example is Chinalco's February move to acquire a 9-percent stake in mining giant Rio Tinto. While 9-perecent might not seem like much, Chinalco has been making rumblings about acquiring more stake in the company. Perhaps this is why Australia's Resource Minister was quoted earlier this week as saying that his government had a responsibility "to maximize returns for Australia as a nation."

Everyone knows that China is sucking up energy and natural resources faster than an Auzzie can go through a jar of Vegemite. But if Beijing is expecting Mr. Rudd to open the flood gates when it comes to plucking his country's natural resources because he knows China, it may be in for a bit of a rude awakening.

China Women Curling.jpgThis could well be the sign that the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse are saddling up and getting ready to ride! Well, that might be a bit dramatic. But still, I have to say that I'm rather taken aback by China's latest foray onto the world sporting stage. China took silver this weekend at the Women's World Curling Championships in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. Though the Chinese squad was defeated by Canada 7-4 in the final on Sunday, the Chinese team actually entered into the finals as the top seed, having defeated Canada twice in round robin action. This raises the obvious question: Huh???

I've lived here in China for over 2 1/2 years, and have never once seen a curling rink. Now granted, I've never been to any of the northeastern provinces that might cater to this sport, which is dominated - on the global stage - by Canada, Scotland (the country of origin of said sport) and the Nordic countries, but I'm guessing trying to find a sheet of ice to roll some rocks is about as easy as finding an advocate for western-style democracy on the Politburo. Perhaps this is why the Chinese national women's curling team lives and trains in Canada 8 months out of the year. And it's with this point in mind that I have wonder about the fairness of China's sports development program.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not taking anything away from the Chinese women's curling squad. Having been a competitive curler myself as a youngster, I can confidently say that it's a sport that requires a surprising amount of finesse and strategy, and is not that easy to master. People can curl all their lives and never come close to achieving any kind of notoriety in the sport. You really have to have a knack for the sport to do well at it. That said, the old adage of "practice makes perfect," does fit into the equation. Unlike the Canadian women's team that defeated the Chinese in Sunday's final, who all maintain full-time jobs and practice during their off hours, the Chinese squad receives enough funding to practice 10 hours a day, everyday, for nearly 8 months out of the year. As far as I am aware, no other international curling team is afforded that luxury. And, of course, the Chinese government's sports funding goes well beyond curling. Every year, millions upon millions of dollars are sunk into Chinese athletes to allow them to train full time to compete on the international level. China's support for its amateur athletes is unprecedented, and in some ways, quite laudable. Support for amateur sports on a global level is rather limp, and really should be a lot better. But that said, I would say that China's sports development program is coming very close to becoming like a pushy mother who forces her daughter into a beauty pageant to live out the glory she never achieved, and will stop at nothing to ensure that. A prime example of what I mean is Yao Ming.

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According to former Newsweek journalist and author Brook Larmer, who wrote the book Operation Yao Ming, the basketball phenom from Shanghai was the product of a Chinese sports breeding program which paired his 6-foot-9 inch father with his 6-foot-2 inch mother in a somewhat creepy eugenics experiment to create the ultimate basketballer. Larmer's book also claims that Yao was essentially forced to play basketball, even though he hated it.

It's examples like these that make me wonder whether or not China is going too far to create a sense of national pride through sport. And, to be fair, I don't know if there's a right answer. Is China not playing fair when it comes to its athletes? Or is China setting a higher benchmark that other countries should be trying to attain if they want to compete with this country when it comes to athletics? I leave it to the masses to debate. The one thing I do know is that it's nice to see Canada come up against some new competition on the curling sheet! And kudos to the Chinese women's team for putting on an exemplary performance. From all reports, the Chinese women were the stars of the show in Canada this past week and carried themselves (minus one slightly controversial incident, which was highly overblown in my mind) well in what is a somewhat cliquey curling community.

The Beijing municipal authorities may well be acting in the interests of public health (or rather the millions of visitors that will be coming to Beijing before, during and after the Olympic games) by implementing 'smoking restrictions' -- but it seems that another health time-bomb could just be around the corner. And it's one that China knows, and loves all too well.

Amongst the cacophony of noises that contribute to the soundscape that living in a city brings -- there is one thing that is ultimately clear -- cellphones are everywhere in China. From the teenage schoolchildren blaring out the latest pop music as their ring-tone, to the old folks walking along shouting into their handsets in the Beijing hutongs, everyone it seems, has one.

In February alone of this year according to some reports, China's cellphone users grew by a record 9.36 million -- bringing in the total number of cellphone users in China to an estimated 565 million.

While this figure may well see cellphone manufacturers rubbing their hands together with glee as the number of users rise exponentially, it seems that a top neurosurgeon has an entirely different viewpoint. And one that has some startling possibilities.

Brain expert warns of huge rise in tumours and calls on industry to take immediate steps to reduce radiation

Mobile phones could kill far more people than smoking or asbestos, a study by an award-winning cancer expert has concluded. He says people should avoid using them wherever possible and that governments and the mobile phone industry must take "immediate steps" to reduce exposure to their radiation.

The study, by Dr Vini Khurana, is the most devastating indictment yet published of the health risks.'

It draws on growing evidence - exclusively reported in the IoS (Independent On Sunday) in October - that using handsets for 10 years or more can double the risk of brain cancer. Cancers take at least a decade to develop, invalidating official safety assurances based on earlier studies which included few, if any, people who had used the phones for that long.

This report is not without it's detractors though; unsurprisingly from the Mobile Operators Association.

Late last week, the Mobile Operators Association dismissed Khurana's study as "a selective discussion of scientific literature by one individual". It believes he "does not present a balanced analysis" of the published science, and "reaches opposite conclusions to the WHO and more than 30 other independent expert scientific reviews".

For many of us, a cellphone is something that we cannot do without -- and messaging at the dinner table is not an uncommon sight here in China. One thing is clear though, cellphones here in China are not going to go away anytime soon, nor are the number of users likely to decline -- with or without this report.

You can read the full article here.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the China category from April 2008.

China: March 2008 is the previous archive.

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