As China is faced with a WTO complaint alleging that the country is being deliberately lax in enforcing copyright and intellectual property rights, AsiaPundit knew that a crackdown was in the air.
And that was even before there were any noticeable toxic emissions:
China sets fire to pirated goods in latest crackdown
BEIJING (Reuters) - China launched a new nationwide crackdown on pornography and pirated tapes and DVDs on Saturday, setting fire to 42 million offending items, Xinhua news agency said. . .
Of the items destroyed, smuggled and pirated audio/video, software, electronic publications made up 30 million, and pirated and illegally published books and magazines totaled 11 million
If AsiaPundit were still a reporter he may ask: ‘Were any environmental impact studies done on the effect of burning 30 million discs?; ‘How toxic were the fumes for those unprotected officials and laborers in the ?’; ‘How will this adversely impact the achievement of Premier Wen’s emission reduction target?’
Torching 10 million books that could have been recycled is bad enough, but burning CDs is a spectacularly bad idea.
CDs and DVDs are made from mainly plastics and metals, such as aluminum, polycarbonate (a type of plastic made from crude oil and natural gas), lacquer made from acrylic, gold, chemical dyes partially made from petroleum products, and numerous other materials such as water, glass, silver and nickel. When they are manufactured and eventually disposed, they can release chemicals that contribute to global warming and create environmental and health problems.
We suspect that the WTO complaint is a deliberate attempt at making China an even more difficult place to live by simultaneously reducing entertainment options and worsening air quality.
The Colbert Report’s Chinese New Year special report is indeed some of the best television reporting we have seen on China in some time.:
Even though the official Asian launch date for the Apple iPhone is not until 2008, users of China’s Taobao auction site can already buy the ‘revolutionary’ phone. No wonder Taobao could beat eBay in the China market:
Meanwhile, Boing Boing report that those who cannot wait until June for an iPhone can buy an Apple classic model.
Confirming AsiaPundit’s own experience in Shanghai, Andrew Lih reports from Beijing that Mainland China’s international internet access is still exceptionally bad.:
International access to the Internet from Beijing has been poor since January 1, and seems to have gotten worse, likely due to folks returning from vacation and swamping existing links. Some friends mentioned that access to their corporate VPNs routed over the public Internet were virtually unusable from Beijing.
Google Mail is inaccessible half the time, or runs too slow to function. Skype is largely unusable. Downloading podcasts takes half a dozen tries through Apple iTunes, requiring a few different VPNs and SSH tunnels. I feel like I’m in the Internet Gulag.
Performance tends to be better in the early morning. I got a few hours of zippy performance from 4:30 am on, but by 7:00 am, the net was slowing again.
Meanwhile, Gemme finds the situation similar in Shanghai:
The Internet in China is still at snail speed and for some weird reason it gets worse in the evening.
Is everybody trying to play games after 18:00? Is the available bandwidth less in the evening to cut cost for China Telecom’s use of satellite back ups or is there another explanation for this?
The news is that it will take until the end of the month to make the great leap back to 2007 but it wouldn’t surprise me if we may linger a bit longer in 1997.
Our own Shanghai experience differs very little. At the office, access is painfully slow during the day. In the evenings access from home is near impossible. We had initially assumed that was because the corporate subscriber service had higher priority than our residential service. But it could be time-of-day related, as Andrew and Gemme suggest.
Several of the services we find vital at home — including Skype and BBC World Service streaming audio — have been almost completely inaccessible since the December 26 earthquake.
Although we have found office access moderately better, it remains unsatisfactory. Basic research takes far longer than it should and in some cases is impossible. And the economic tally of this must be vast. We know of newswires that have been unable to deliver services, merchants who are cut off from customers and have noticed that advertisements are not displaying on sites that are dependent on them.
Certainly, the Taiwan earthquake was an act of God for which China Telecom cannot be held responsible, However the length of time that it has taken to repair Mainland connectivity reeks of sheer incompetence. Apologies and compensation should be offered.
As a Mac zealot, AsiaPundit thinks punitive damages should be provided simply for causing us to miss the MacWorld keynote.
No, China has not yet decided to dump its Treasury bonds… but give it time.
AsiaPundit closely tracks both the Chinese currency and the US dollar. However, we don’t pay nearly as much attention to global prices for base metals. As such, we are a bit late in bringing you details of a global currency meltdown that is so severe that the United States is passing new capital control measures.:
WASHINGTON — People who melt pennies or nickels to profit from the jump in metals prices could face jail time and pay thousands of dollars in fines, according to new rules out Thursday.
Soaring metals prices mean that the value of the metal in pennies and nickels exceeds the face value of the coins. Based on current metals prices, the value of the metal in a nickel is now 6.99 cents, while the penny’s metal is worth 1.12 cents, according to the U.S. Mint.
Under the new rules, it is illegal to melt pennies and nickels. It is also illegal to export the coins for melting. Travelers may legally carry up to $5 in 1- and 5-cent coins out of the USA or ship $100 of the coins abroad “for legitimate coinage and numismatic purposes.”
For those who, like ourselves, are deficient in mathematics that means that a US nickel is worth almost 40 percent more melted down than it based on its denomination. Chinese demand for base metals is generally cited as a prime reason for rising prices.
And it is not just the US. This is indeed a global currency meltdown. As this 2003 article notes China has been seeking European coins for melting. Within Asia, there is massive smuggling of the Philippine peso to buyers in China.:
MANILA : With a face value of less than two US cents the humble Philippine one peso coin may be worth next to nothing at home but in metal-hungry China it spells big bucks.
So much so that smuggling of the coins has become something of a growth industry in the Philippines and a major headache for the central bank.
According to local media reports, the coins are sold in China for 1,000 pesos (US$20) per kilogramme and the metal derived from melting them down is used in the manufacture of electronics goods like mobile phones.
As we have not heard any reports of the melting of the Chinese yuan, we assume that either the nickel-plated steel material is worth more in coin rather than base-metal form or that owners of blast furnaces in China are betting on further appreciation of the local currency.
However, if anyone knows differently please comment — AP may yet consider requesting that our employer pay us in coins.
If you are going to crack down on graft and abuse of public funds, what better way to illustrate that you are serious than by renting out an entire mansion… where deluxe suites cost US$905 per night. Via the CSM:
SHANGHAI, CHINA – With its rooftop turrets and fancy brickwork, the Moller Villa is a throwback to the Roaring ’20s, when the treaty port of Shanghai, China, was a byword for speculative excess. Built by an Englishman, the Norwegian-style hotel now rents luxury suites to foreign bankers lured by the promise of China’s new bull market.
But since August, when it abruptly closed its doors to the public for “refurbishment,” a different kind of drama has unfolded behind its high walls. Investigators from the Communist Party’s disciplinary committee have turned the hotel into their temporary headquarters as they probe a blossoming financial scandal that has already snared Shanghai’s political boss and some of his closest business allies.
Room rates are here.
We were tempted to link to Despair Inc’s Motivational Poster Generator in our daily links, but decided against it as it was not really Asian content.
We hope the below posters rectify that problem.
There is a debate on whether or not the Lonely Planet China and Taiwan editions of the popular travel guide are banned from the mainland. Bingfeng notes that he has several LP editions that were purchased in China.
AsiaPundit will note that the state-owned bookstore that is across from his office does sell the Lonely Planet Shanghai city guide, and several other editions of the guide for other Asian locations. However, there are no editions for Taiwan, China or Greater China.
Marc Van der Chij’s, in an item linked to here earlier, noted a conversation he had with a clerk at Shanghai’s best English-language bookstore.:
I could not find the China guide, so I assumed it was sold out. Then I looked for the Beijing guide, and did not find it either. The Tibet guide maybe, as as preparation for next year’s bike trip? No luck. I asked the shop assistant, and he explained to me that in China it is not allowed to sell the Lonely Planet guides for China, Beijing and Tibet.
Fons describes the ban as an “urban myth.” AsiaPundit does not believe that to be the case. Mainland authorities are very sensitive to maps that depict Taiwan as a separate state, and there is a general ban on maps that do so. This is old news.
If there is an urban myth, it is the myth that that the CPC Censorship Machine is efficient.
There are massive gaps in the Great Firewall of China through which ’sensitive’ information is available on the internet (even without the use of proxy servers). AsiaPundit has picked up locally published expat magazines that have addressed the ‘question of Tibet.’ We expect that more than 90 percent of satellite receivers are illegal. And, of course, none of those pirated DVDs that can be picked up at the neighborhood shops or street-stall vendors are state-approved (though some may be made by state-owned enterprises).
Most of this, it should be said, happens in the margins and in the black-market economy. But even in the heavily regulated world of state-run bookstores things will get through. The state-run SBT Bookstore near AsiaPundit global headquarters, and various other outlets throughout the city, are still selling copies of Jung Chang’s Wild Swans.
China does ban maps that display an independent Taiwan. And if the Lonely Planet does display such maps it would be included under such a ban. However, the CPC Censorship Machine is a rickety and incompetent beast and it misses more material than it catches.
We are incredibly thankful for this.
AsiaPundit has been known to criticize the reform of China’s banking sector. For instance, many of the bad assets held by state banks have been shifted to state-held asset management companies (AMCs) and still remain liabilities for the central government. Still, even in our criticism, we have been guilty of paying too much attention to the major state lenders and AMCs.
Occasionally, we are reminded that problems are even worse for the rural banking sector.:
BEIJING: A village cashier in west China lost 12,500 US dollars of public money after it was eaten by goats.
The incident occurred last May, when the village cashier surnamed Zhang and his wife in Linjiawan village in West China’s Shaanxi province were stunned by the scene when they saw their ten goats chewing the money, the state media reported on Wednesday.
The couple immediately slaughtered the goats and put together the cash debris taken out from the animal’s stomach, saving 297 pieces of notes worth 12.5 US dollars each, reported the Xi’an Daily on Tuesday.
“We are considering exchanging more damaged cash for Zhang and will treat it as a special case after reporting the incident to superiors, in view of reducing farmers’ economic burden,” director of the currency issuance section of the apex bank, People’s Bank of China, Hengshan County branch, Li Shengyang said.
Question: What was a “village cashier” doing hiding money by burying it in a goat pen? Does this strike anyone else as suspicious behavior? If I was thiking about secure places to store public money I don’t think “goat pen” would be the location that leaps to mind. I might consider “banks”, or “enormous steel safe” or even “locked trunk guarded by my shotgun-toting henchman, ah qiang and a brace of rottweilers”. But probably not “goat pen”.
Per “banks” as an option, that seems particularly useful to me. If Hengshan county has a branch of the People’s Bank of China, they probably have retail baking too. Could banks in Shaanxi be so hopelessly corrupt that they can’t even be trusted with deposits? If so, China’s banking system has further to go than I thought.
While this an incident of concern, we do note with relief that the PBoC does seem to have some deposit insurance in place. This should help prevent a full-blown systemic crisis should any individual animal pen be declared insolvent.
(Above image of 2003 goat coins stolen from here.)
AsiaPundit is pleased to report that government-blocked websites such as the BBC’s news portal and HRI China can be accessed on mobile devices in China with the installation of the Opera Mini browser.
While phones with WAP capabilities have built-in browsers, these have to go through the same firewalls that plague China’s conventional internet. The Opera Mini, however, “uses a remote server to pre-process Web pages before sending them to your phone.”
From the Opera Mini Wikipedia entry:
Unlike normal web browsers, Opera Mini fetches all content through a proxy that runs the layout engine of the Opera desktop browser. The engine on the proxy server reformats webpages into a width that is suitable for small screens using Opera’s Small Screen Rendering. The content is compressed, then delivered to the phone in a markup language called OBML (Opera Binary Markup Language). When the content reaches the phone it has been reduced in size by typically 70-90%.
This was designed to improve loading speed and rendering of content for the small screen. However, the end effect is the same as what can be achieved using proxy servers or web-based services such as Anonymouse and Virtual-Browser. Unlike the Anonymouse service, which is disabled by the Great Firewall’s keyword filtering, the Opera Mini was able to load one particular banned website without any time-out errors.
Viewing web pages through a WAP connection is a slow and expensive process, so this will not bring freedom of information to the masses. The government could also mandate a block on Opera’s server should use of the service become widespread enough to be considered a problem.
Still, AsiaPundit expects that in a few short years more Chinese will be accessing the internet through mobile devices than through PCs (the organic evolution of mobile technologies is a more important revolution than the $100 PC). With that, the discovery of a small chink in the armor should be welcome.
Last week was the anniversary of the US lunar landing. While nothing in the subsequent 37 years has come close to capturing our coollective imagination as much as Neil Armstrong’s immortal words, mankind continues to look to the stars.
And space no longer just the domain of the US and Russia.
China is planning to put a red flag on the red planet.:
China will start planning Mars probes in 5 years, state media reported. “China will, on the basis of its moon probes, plan deep-space exploration, focusing on lunar and Martian exploration,” said Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration.
A senior scientist at the Chinese Academy of Engineering said Chinese rockets are capable of sending a satellite to orbit Mars, adding that if the government made up its mind to start planning now, a Martian probe could be sent in three to five years. The Chang’e 1 probe will be launched in 2007 with plans for it to orbit the moon for a year. Plans are also for China to send a vehicle to “soft land” on the moon and explore the surface around 2012.
(image stolen from NASA.)
BEIJING, July 22 (Xinhua) — A newly-developed space cookie made of silkworm pupa powder is set to add more taste to astronauts’ diet.
Masamichi Yamashita, a researcher with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), released a recipe for the pupa cookies during the 36th scientific assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).
The recipe comprises three to six grams of silkworm pupa powder,200 grams of rice powder, 50 grams of soy powder and 300 cubic centimeters of soymilk, with soy sauce and salt.
All these ingredients will be available in space as soybeans and wheat have been grown successfully in simulated space chambers and methods of raising silkworms in space are under development, said Yamashita.
Astronauts may blend these materials with water and divide the mixture into small pieces. “They will be flavor some cookies after being fried for 15 minutes in a 600-watt inductive heating machine,” Naomi Katayama, a renowned Japanese nutritionist and member of Yamashita’s group, told Xinhua.
(Silkworm image stolen from Ron Morris.)
AsiaPundit carefully monitors China’s state news agencies. However, the China Daily and Xinhua only contain a partial view of the thoughts of the Communist Party.
For instance, those who are reliant on the official media will not have received the notice that the Communist Youth League considers USB-powered interactive sex toys as “one sided” devices that do “not consider the welfare of the majority”
You would have to read the not-worksafe Asian-Sirens to know that.:
Where was I when they held the Sexual Culture Fair here in Guangzhou, China last year and designated this cyber-toy as an AIDS prevention product?
The rage of the show, these are sets of latex organs that can be plugged into a USB port and controlled remotely by your partner at the other end of the firewall. Interactive gaming just got interesting. It was intended for couples separated geographically by work or circumstance. Right!
The National Sex Studies Institute loved this item, but the The Communist Youth League (who also has it in for Voodoo dolls) considers the gizmo “one-sided” (I am not sure they measured the impact of that phrase,) and says it “does not consider the welfare of the majority” (Imagine that!) and that it is a “betrayal of thousands of years of traditional Chinese morality.”
The Korea Liberator (TKL) offers a sympathetic interview with Gordon G Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World and The Coming Collapse of China. Naturally, TKL focuses on events relating to the peninsula, although Chang also briefly reaffirms his belief that the Chinese Communist Party is collapsing.:
Chang: Or all of the above [laughter].
I don’t believe that the communist party will be ruling China very much longer. I think it will fall from power by the end of this decade. But my crystal ball is not clear enough to provide a specific answer as to what happens next. Over the long term, China will develop representative institutions and a free economy, but perhaps not in the time frame you mention.
I don’t think China will fragment, but I do see Taiwan becoming recognized as the independent state that it actually is today. But apart from that, China won’t fragment. There will be a great period of uncertainty and turbulence in China, but 10 years are not enough to produce a democracy and the free market.
AsiaPundit has both of Chang’s books and would recommend them. While AP does not fully subscribe to to Chang’s view that the CCP will collapse — particularly in such a short timeframe — a deep economic correction would not be a surprise. Although there is hyperbole, even six years after publication Chang’s text still well illustrates the fragility of the modern Chinese state and, moreover, offers a welcome antidote to China hype.
There is only one decent English-language bookstore in Shanghai. It’s backed by Hong Kong money. There are numerous state-owned places but these have selections that are limited to language-training materials, photography books, travel guides and a handful of paperbacks. These are usually avoided by your correspondent.
Nevertheless, a lapsed subscription to the Economist prompted AsiaPundit to seek the newest issue from his local little-red bookshop. Upon entry to the small red-brick store on Hongqiao Lu, AP was shocked by what he discovered.
As shown in the bottom-left corner, Jung Chang’s Wild Swans was on prominent display at the bookstore. By prominent, we imply that it was face up and there were multiple copies (staff are not really trained at promotion, so that’s about as prominent as you will get for a state-owned bookstore).
Why the shock? Here’s a passage from Jung Chang’s introduction to the book itself (pages xxiv-xxv):
…Wild Swans is not allowed to be published in Mainland China. The regime seems to regard the book as a threat to the Communist party’s power. Wild Swans is a personal story but it reflects the history of twentieth-century China from which the party does not come out well. To justify its rule, the party has dictated an official version of history, but Wild Swans does not toe that line. In particular, Wild Swans shows Mao to have criminally misruled the Chinese people, rather than being basically a good and great leader, as Peking decrees.
. . .
That is why publication of Wild Swans is banned in China. So is any mention of the book of me in the media. Although over the years many Chinese journalists have interviewed me or written about Wild Swans, all write-ups except a couple have bitten the dust as few editors dare to break the ban. The ban is particularly deterring because the toughly worded, top-secret injunction was co-signed by the Foreign Ministry, which, for a book, is most unusual, if not unique.
As noted, AsiaPundit would not have wandered into the Little Red Bookshop were it not for an expired Economist subscription. That’s mildly ironic, given that the two magazines subscribed to by AP both had issues banned in China simply because they contained reviews of Chang’s most-recent work.
Good news at Global Voices:
Following nearly five months in prison, blogger, documentary maker and American permanent resident Wu Hao has been released, as noted in a July 11 post on his sister Nina’s blog:
刚刚得到家里电话, 被告知皓子出来了.谢谢大家的关心,但他需要清静一阵子. 如果还有什么消息,将更新在这个BLOG.
Just got a call at home and informed that Wu Hao is out. Thank you everyone for your concern, but he needs some silence for now. If there is any new information it will be posted on this blog.
Shao Xiaoshan, a Chinese woman who claims to have done nude scenes for Zhang Ziyi in the upcoming martial arts Hamlet adaption ‘the Banquet,’ has uncloaked herself.:
Shao Xiaoshan says that she was one of three Zhang Ziyi stand-ins and that her job was to do Zhang’s nude scenes. She’s miffed that she has received no credit in the movie and, further, that her work is going unnoticed. Speaking on her blog:
“I gave my body to the audience. I don’t care whether my name is on the credits but I just want to tell the public that I did the nude scenes.”
The Chongqing Evening News said that someone from the Huayi Brothers production company called Shao and threatened her after her statement went public and told her she had to tell people she wasn’t Zhang’s body double. But the chairman of the Huayi Brothers denies the phone call and says that Shao is promoting herself on the back of the movie and how could she know she’s not in the credits anyways since the movie hasn’t been shown to the public?
The reports do not state how well-matched the bodies of the three stand-ins are to Zhang, who has a very renowned figure on the mainland. The state-controlled Xinhua news agency has noted that the Oscar-nominated actress is well known for her flat bosom and fat bottom,
Although this item has been featured elsewhere, AsiaPundit is recommending that all readers take a look at this 1942 US Army Pocket Guide to China for its insightful lessons on “How To Spot a Jap.”:
After a review of the manual, you should have no excuse if you score poorly on AllLookSame.
After endless demands from Western embassies and industry groups, China is seriously cracking down on film pirates…
Oops, our mistake, China is actually cracking down on a pirate film. “Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s’ Chest” has been banned from the big screen due to depictions of cannibalism.:
SHANGHAI (XFN-ASIA) - The Walt Disney Co movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest’ has been banned from cinemas in China because it depicts people eating human flesh, the Shanghai Daily reported citing a cinema company official.
‘The movie didn’t get the approval of the state authority,’ an official from Shanghai United Cinema Lines, the city’s movie chain, told the newspaper.
The official, who declined to be named, told the paper the main reason it failed to secure approval was the scenes of cannibalism in the movie.
The scenes are a key part of the movie’s plot and cannot be easily changed or cut, the paper said.
In spite of the ‘Arrr’ rating, pirated copies of the film should still be widely available.
With North Korea’s missile launch yesterday, debate has emerged as to whether China was either unwilling or unable to stop the launch. AsiaPundit believes there is some truth to both arguments, but the former is more probable.
Pyongyang cannot be prevented from doing anything — even something that goes against its own interest. As dependent as North Korea is on Beijing and Seoul, it is not a client state.
That said, if this Strategy Page report is to be believed, China’s influence over the rogue state is even less than AP had previously imagined.
…(Chinese) food and fuel supplies sent to North Korea have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It’s no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart, after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical loony-tune North Korean solution to the problem.
If the North Koreans appear to make no sense, that’s because they don’t. Put simply, when their unworkable economic policies don’t work, the North Koreans just conjure up new, and equally unworkable, plans. The Chinese have tried to talk the North Koreans out of these pointless fantasies, and for their trouble they have their trains stolen. How do you negotiate under these conditions? No one knows. The South Koreans believe that if they just keep the North Korean leaders from doing anything too destructive (especially to South Korea), eventually the tragicomic house of cards up north will just collapse. Not much of a plan, but so far, no one’s come up with anything better.
(via the Marmot, who notes that he has not seen any news stories corroborating this.)
In order to contribute to AIDS education and improved treatment for people living with AIDs, AsiaPundit offers the following as a public service announcement. You can not get AIDS through, talking, insects, holding hands, or eating Linquan-county watermelons.:
..the watermelon farmers of Linquan county … had earlier this year registered a trademark for their watermelons and established an association to promote them. The Linquan watermelons became “the top sellers, even though their price was much higher than watermelons from other regions.”
Sales of Linquan watermelons recently plunged amid rumors they had been injected with HIV tainted blood. The local government held a news conference to try to quash the rumor. According to the article, after a “thorough investigation, no HIV carriers were found in Fanji town…, Linquan County, which is well-known for its watermelons crops.” The police are investigating the source of the rumor, which is having a devastating impact on sales:
“Li Huadong, a Linquan farmer, also the vice director of the local watermelon association, said he planted more than 6.7 hectares of watermelon this year, which topped the farmers in Linquan. Before the rumor spread, the watermelons that he harvested earlier this year sold out. However, he only sold a very small fraction of the watermelons in recent days. A large amount of watermelons were left to rot in the fields, he said.
Image of the menacing Viking watermelon stolen from a photoset of Matthew Keller’s Caribbean vacation (full size here). While watermelons are safe to eat, AsiaPundit discourages readers from having unprotected sex with Vikings.
As regular readers know, AsiaPundit was recently redesigned.
AP would recommend that others seeking design work do consider approaching our designer Phin and Apothegm Designs. However, after reading the below Reuters report we now regret that no specific instructions were given for improving this site’s Feng Shui.:
A Web site where the colors hurt your eyes, the music offends your ears or has too much information is probably too cluttered and does not give a positive flow of ch’i,” says Vikram Narayan, a Mumbai-based feng shui practitioner.
The trick, Narayan said, is to remove things in your life or on your Web site that serve no purpose, and keep those things that serve you well.
But how does this apply to your Web site?
Experts say using a combination of astrology and numerology, the ancient sciences will help you choose the right colors, font, placement of graphics and navigation bar to make the perfect Web site.
Brijesh Agarwal of Indiamart, a company offering business solutions to small and medium-sized enterprises, says he has had mixed results on the five sites that his company has designed according to vaastu principles.
“We have found that on three sites the number of hits has increased by 60 percent but the other two sites have not been affected,” said Agarwal.
Until this site’s feng shui is improved, AsiaPundit recommends that readers take their own steps to address deficiencies. For instance, if you have not already done so please reposition your monitor so that all windows open facing either east or south (the directions of warmth and good fortune).
(Article via IndianRaj)
As AsiaPundit has a soft spot for underdogs, he was hoping for strong 2006 World Cup showings from ‘New World’ nations Australia and the US and Asian nations Japan and South Korea. While pleased that the Socceroos have advanced, he is a touch disappointed that the US and Japan have been eliminated.
Still soccer has never been a big sport for either Japan or the US, so the losses aren’t that big a deal. It would have been an embarrassment if the teams lost at events in which their nations are known to excel.
Iran the new robot super-power challenges Japan
RoboCup 2006 Results
I4U - June 18, 2006 Japan is only 3rd with 6 wins after China who won in 9 categories. Surprisingly Iran is fourth with 5 wins. Iran the new robot super-power
Simon yesterday offered some commentary on the Motion Picture Association’s latest report on DVD piracy, and specifically its claims about piracy in China.:
“Piracy cost filmmakers US$2.7 billion (HK$21.06 billion) last year, with domestic firms shouldering more than half those losses, according to a study commissioned by a trade group representing the major Hollywood studios. China’s film industry lost US$1.5 billion in revenue to piracy, while US studios lost US$565 million, according to data released Monday by the Motion Picture Association…Some 93 percent of all movie sales in China were of pirated versions of films, according to the latest study.”
Who’s to blame here? Is it the average Chinese worker, who earns maybe 5,000 yuan a year and can either buy a copy for 5 yuan or the original for 10 times as much? Is it China’s government, who’s domestic industry and creativity suffers far more from piracy than Hollywood? Or is it the outdated business and pricing models of foreign companies in the Chinese market?
AsiaPundit is less inclined to support the thesis that movie piracy in China is price driven and would argue that the problem is based on censorship, heavy regulation and a lack of legal channels for distribution. Pirates are on every street corner, but the only legal outlets for sales are inefficient state-owned shops or big-box retailers such as Carrefour. While the pirates can carry everything, the legitimate outlets can only sell the very slim selection of Chinese Communist Party-approved content that is available.
For that reason, AsiaPundit generally welcomes piracy in China. It would challenge a person’s sanity to only have access to CCP-approved material for viewing.
AP expects that many of the most-heard voices complaining about China’s piracy problems are also consumers of pirated products. AP would wager that the vast majority of local American and European chambers of commerce members, Western journalists, local employees of MPAA-affilated companies and even CCP party cadres all buy pirated DVDs or rob television signals trough illegal sattelite dishes and descramblers.
If the MPAA wanted to see less piracy in China it should be challenging the state’s restrictive policies on content. There are many Chinese and expatriates who would buy quality original DVDs if they were easily available, even if they were significantly more expensive than pirated product.
Variety’s Asian cinema blog, Kaiju Shakedown, offers a post today that makes the same point.
“But, as we all know, these numbers regarding China are completely bogus anyways. Because most MPAA member movies can’t be sold in China so they have no loss. China only allows 20 foreign films to be imported each year, and usually 14 - 16 of these are from MPAA members. So what the MPA is talking about in this report isn’t “profits lost to pirates in China” but “profits lost to closed markets in China”.
AsiaPundit apologies for the past week of inactivity. The lapse was partly due to technical issues, partly due to Asia Blog Award-related administration and partly related to the World Cup.
In regards to the latter excuse, AP is not alone. While there has not been much data on the tournament’s economic impact on Asia, from experience he will note that in 2002 trading on several regional securities exchanges was essentially halted (resulting in some very odd movements as a result of low volumes). Truck and Barter alerts us to reports on the costs to the US and US economies.:
In the US;
“The World Cup will likely cost American companies 10 minutes of productivity a day for 21 days, according to the outplacement company of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That comes to about $121.7 million in lost productivity in the US, a large figure, particularly painful for any company dominated by Englishmen, Germans or Brazilians perhaps.”
“Based on an average hourly wage of £12.50, the law firm Brabners Chaffe Street calculated that during the tournament, if half of British workers surf the net for an hour a day, it will cost Britain nearly £4 billion in lost time”
In spite of the lost productivity, bosses are generally understanding and there are few sackings. In Indonesia, however, there has been one Cup-related firing and it was deserved.:
A vain attempt by former dictator Suharto’s middle daughter Siti ‘Titiek’ Hediati Hariyadi to improve her super-rich family’s bad image by presenting the World Cup soccer tournament on her SCTV television network backfired after she was pulled off the air following a deluge of complaints about her ineptitude.
Titiek, whose company is the majority shareholder of SCTV, was at the helm of a three-member panel of hosts for each night’s opening game over the first three days of the World Cup. Her dire lack of knowledge and passion for soccer were painfully obvious as she was seated alongside Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) vice president Dali Taher and former national soccer coach Danurwindo.
Her incompetence was perhaps best demonstrated during the opening game between Germany and Costa Rica, when she erroneously referred to Germany as “Jerman Barat [West Germany]” – apparently forgetting that West and East Germany had reunited back in 1990.
Soccer fans, forced to watch SCTV because it is the exclusive Indonesian broadcaster of this year’s World Cup, lambasted Titiek’s ignorance, inexperience and awkward performance. They demanded she be replaced by someone more professional.
(Image stolen from Indcoup)
While the Suharto clan isn’t making any gains some Indonesian retailers are hoping to capitalize on the event, as are retailers everywhere. Although one French retailer is having trouble in China (again).:
Carrefour has fallen into trouble again with its Fangzhuang Store in Beijing selling fake Adidas footballs promoting the 2006 World Cup.
The ball with the sign of “Teamgeist” and price of RMB59.90 sold in the store has a similar appearance as that of real official ball of the World Cup. An unnamed staff from Carrefour Fangzhuang store quoted in local media says that he has no idea whether the ball has anything to do with the World Cup.
In response to this, Zhu Chenye, a manager from Adidas China, says that the football found in Carrefour is certainly a fake product for they have never produced footballs of that price. According to Adidas, the football used for the World Cup usually costs about RMB900.
For those disappointed that they won’t be able to buy fake balls at Carrefour, Malaysia’s Kenny Sia has a DIY solution.:
Yes, that’s right. For a fraction of the cost of an authentic adidas Teamgeist, I could make my very own official FIFA World Cup 2006 soccer ball. And I’m gonna show you how.
First, you’d need a regular soccer ball. Any one will do. Get a “Made In China” one at your local sports store for a cheap RM40.
Sure, it won’t last as long and the specs aren’t as good, but the improvements in the Teamgeist ball are minimal in practice you probably won’t notice it anyway.
Use spray paint of ICI Dulux, whichever you prefer. Gotta have a white background before you paint the designs on later ya know?
Now comes the difficult part.
You know how the Teamgeist ball features the signature World Cup trophy-inspired ’rounded propellers’? That’s important. That’s the whole reason why so many wanted the ball in the first place.
But how do you do it?
You get a box of Kotex.
In neighboring Singapore, which is unlikely to soon produce a World Cup Team, a scandal is developing based upon the pay scale the city state offers to African imports playing in the S-League.:
A story that has been running here in Singapore concerns the working conditions of a group of footballers from Africa (Kenya, Cameroon and Nigeria). In stark contrast to the wages earned by those competing at the world cup these players moved to play in the Singapore S league. All had signed contracts with the club, promising them $1,600 a month in salaries. But the club also deducted $1,500 of that money for food and accommodation, as the players had signed a separate contract with the club authorising the deductions. It is now reported that the issue has been resolved - after a meeting over the weekend between the Football Association of Singapore, the players and club management, the players have accepted a new deal, which will now increase their monthly take-home salary from S$100 (US$62) to about S$600 (US$375) a month
When AP suggested that Singapore will not soon have a World Cup team that assumption was based solely on economics and demographics. The city state cannot compete with any of the regional behemoths in either population or resources. However, if one sociologist is to believed Singapore may also be at a disadvantage because it is majority Chinese and the Chinese can’t play football.:
“A lot of people are pained by the fact that Chinese football did not makes it way to the World Cup. Many people make it a point of patriotism and blame the systems or institutions involved. I feel that Chinese people being bad at football is related to the character of our culture.
Chinese people, especially the Han, are a elegant and scholary people, who were never a proponent of reckless bravey and battle, preferring softer and more elegant methods. Football is not like this, it is an attack-intensive sport, with a violent character. American football is even more violent. These sports are not suited to the character of our culture.
There is lots of evidence for this:
Look at the historically famous men, from 梁山伯 to 贾宝玉. They are all bookish people.
Until a few years ago, the Chinese language did not have the word 性感 (sexy). Chinese people historically did not value ferocious images of men.
The Chinese don’t understand aggressive sports or sexiness??? AP is pleased to have some evidence to the contrary… for instance this local Esquire pictorial.:
Continuing with China, while AP has never envied local reporters, he does presently wish he was a sports reporter for a local Chinese outlet. It seems that all you have to do is show up to the games and make stuff up.:
Since the beginning of the FIFA World Cup in Germany, something strange is happening in Chinese journalism. Xinhua, CCTV and other official media sent huge teams to Germany, but their news reports are unexciting. Instead, the local or Internet media have scooped some amazing exclusives. For example, when Brazil beat Croatia at 5am on June 14, the Sohu sports page immediately had an exclusive interview with Brazilian star Kaka.
Finally, Xinhua could not stand it anymore and published an article titled “People who are even more awesome (full of shit) than Parreira) to expose the massive fabrications from certain Chinese reporters. The report pointed out that the extent to which Chinese reporters have gone must have astonished even Brazilian trainer Carlos Alberto Parreira.
For example, Franz Beckenbauer must be very busy going from one game to another, but he seems to be interviewed by mainland Chinese media every few days. He does not speak Chinese, but in the Sports Weekly exclusive interview, he can name the individual players on China’s national team. Even better yet is the exclusive interview with FIFA chairman Sepp Blatter in Shanghai Youth Daily, in which he came over after the reporter called out his name in a hotel lobby.
The tournament has been relatively free of violence this year, although there has been one unfortunate incident in an unlikely place.:
Thai gunman kills two noisy World Cup fans
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Thai police are searching for a gunman who shot and killed two soccer fans at a beach resort after complaining they were cheering too loud.
The two men, both Thais, were watching Italy’s 2-0 win over Ghana at a restaurant Monday at the Thai beach resort town of Pattaya, and erupted in roars when Italy scored its first goal, said Panipha Wattakul, a girlfriend of one of the victims.
A man seated at a nearby table asked them to quiet down, prompting a heated argument during which the man pulled out a handgun and shot the soccer fans at point-blank range, said Police Col. Somnuek Chanket. The victims were identified as Chamlong Rongsaeng, 30, and Somnuek Sonkun, 41.
Also in the Mekong region, Magnoy’s notes a Reuters item in which Cambodian strongman Hun Sen warns citizens not to bet the farm… literally.:
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen urged his impoverished people on Thursday not to sell their possessions to place bets on the soccer World Cup, saying it was probably a bad idea. “Go ahead and watch it, but do not sell your cows, motorcycles, cars, homes and land to bet on the games,” Hun Sen, a one-eyed former Khmer Rouge soldier, told farmers at a provincial hospital opening.
“Just bet verbally, for fun. Don’t sell your cows to bet on games of football,” he told the several hundred villagers and foreign diplomats at the ceremony.
World Cup fever has gripped the war-scarred southeast Asian nation, with Cambodians from every walk of life staying up into the small hours of the night to catch their favourite teams in action.
Hun Sen himself confessed to backing Japan — his government’s largest donor
AsiaPundit does not have a national team this year — and being Canadian likely never will — but he does have hopes for Korea, Japan, the US and Australia. For those who are also without a national team to root for, Owen offers a tool for making an ethical decision.:
The World Development Movement has a handy tool to help the ethical football supporter decide which team to support.
As I type, Tunisia is beating Saudi Arabia - according to the WDM, this is good news as it means that the 3rd most supportable team is beating the 29th most supportable, on measures such as carbon emmissions, corruption and military spending.
Finally, the Nomad notes with some disbelief a report that the South Korean cheering section has become a tourist attraction.:
Surely it can’t be so, but if I read it in a Korean paper, and it has something to do with Korea, then that’s the way it is. According to an article in the Korea Times, people from other countries are paying money (I know, unbelievable, ain’t it?) to come over here to take part in the outdoor cheering for the South Korean soccer team. Yes, you read that correctly, nothing wrong with your monitor or your eyeglasses.
“South Korea’s victory against Togo at the 2006 German World Cup on Tuesday put the country back into the world spotlight again after its achievement in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. The soccer match, however, was not the only thing that caught people’s eyes _ what really made people excited was the outdoor cheering in the streets, plazas and other public places filled with people in red shirts, just like during the 2002 World Cup.”
While the Nomad is doubtful, AsiaPundit is more inclined to support that thesis. There is something appealing about South Korean fans. Some of them in particular.
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