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Showing posts from July, 2015

Rua Da Felicidade - Macau's "Street of Happiness"

Located in the historic centre of Macau, only a few minutes’ walk from Senado Square, there is a street whose traditional Chinese-style buildings and romantic name seem to take one back to a long-gone colonial era, in which the society of old China mingled with the cosmopolitan, busy lifestyle of the former European enclaves in the Far East. Lined with two-storey, grey brick Chinese houses with conspicuous red windows and doors, decorations and inscriptions that recount old legends, the street is a remarkable example of the mix of traditional Chinese architecture and Western patterns. Here the visitor feels as if time had stood still, and is finally able to imagine, far away from the modern casinos and shopping malls, how life might have looked like for ordinary people in old Macau.

Why Macau Is Much More Than Just A City Of Gambling

Last Friday I travelled again to Macau, and I have to say that I am more and more intrigued by this city. Unfortunately, the former Portuguese colony is mainly known to the outside world for its casinos. But in fact, it is a place with a surprisingly rich history and culture.
A few weeks ago I heard a German guy talking on the phone with his parents. They asked him how he liked Macau, and he said something like, "Macau is famous for its casinos. Someone told us that there are many old buildings, but we were tired of old buildings, we've already seen enough of them in China, so we just went gambling." 
A Malaysian guy I talked to last week, said something similar: "There is nothing to see in Macau, only casinos."

Once Again, China Proves Neoliberals Wrong

A few days ago everyone talked about China's stock market collapse. "Xi Jinping has run into the one thing in China he can't control", wrote news website Quartz, implying that the all-powerful Communist Party finally had to acknowledge that it couldn't rein in the "free market". No sooner had the Chinese government stepped in to save the stock market than Western media dismissed Beijing's policies, predicting they would not work. "China markets plunge as government measures fail", wrote Yahoo News. These are only two examples of what the South China Morning Post called "Western media's callous delight at China's stock market crash". According to The Telegraph, China's stock market crash would cause a "more worrying financial crisis" than the one happening in Greece.
But, as has often been the case over the past four decades, the West's neoliberal-minded analysts have failed to understand the strength of C…

Saving The Souls Of The Ancestors - 'Qianshuichezang': Taiwan's Unique Religious Festival

Every year between the 1st and the 9th day of the 6th month of the Lunar Calendar (July 16 - July 24) a traditional folk festival takes place in Kouhu Township, in Taiwan's Yunlin County, to commemorate the souls of people who died over a century and a half ago.
The festival is called 'Qianshuichezang' (牽水車藏), which literally means 'leading along water containers'. The name refers to traditional lantern-like, three-level cylinders made of bamboo sticks and paper. The ceremony is held at Wanshan Shrine (萬善祠), near Jinhu harbour, and Wanshanye Temple (萬善爺廟) in Jinhu. The three levels represent the division between water, sky and underworld. Each side of the cylinder is painted with images of humans and benign spirits.
In the temples, people offer foodstuffs and paper money to the deities. The offerings are carried from the villages to the temples by women on traditional bamboo poles. The food and money are placed on round tables in front of the statues of the gods.

Sleeping At Taiwan's Eslite Bookstore

Before I went to Taiwan for the first time, a friend of mine told me that if I ever wanted to date a classy, clever and pretty girl I should visit Eslite Bookstore in Taipei. It was not until I arrived on the island that I realised what he was talking about. 
Eslite stands out for its stylish design, wide range of English and Chinese books, and its customer-oriented service. Many people spend hours there reading books, sitting on chairs and armchairs, and even on the floor. The staff will leave you alone, no matter whether you buy something or not. Basically, Eslite is half public library half bookstore. 
Some Eslite branches are open 24-hours and have their own cafes and tea houses. They have turned into actual entertainment centres for people who like to read, need to read, or pretend to like to read. There are all kinds of customers: you see families, couples, groups of friends, people who are absorbed in a book and those who stroll around leisurely and, most importantly, there are w…

How a Single Sentence Caused a Gang War in New Taipei City

On June 30 the residents of New Taipei City witnessed scenes of chaos as street fights broke out between rival gangs in the districts of Luzhou, Sanchong, Zhonghe and Yonghe. The feuds, which involved members of two Taiwanese triads, the Bamboo Gang and the Heavenly Way Alliance, were  triggered by a single sentence: "The girls of Luzhou and Sanchong are shameful."


Why Taiwanese Media Are Talking About McDonald's Doll-like Waitress

On June 27 Taiwanese blogger RainDog posted pictures of a cute waitress who works at a McDonald's in Taipei. The images soon went viral and were shared on Taiwan's media.   
【吸睛!麥當勞店員酷似洋娃娃 超夢幻】 http://t.co/PSE9pSKwVbpic.twitter.com/pPlSzptCo1 — 中時電子報 (@tw_chinatimes) July 9, 2015
The girl's name is Xu Weihan and her Facebook page has over 60,000 likes. 
Xu's media notoriety is another manifestation of some phenomena I already described in previous posts. 
First of all, her 'cute' looks correspond to a popular beauty ideal: girls have to be child-like, feminine, gentle and innocent; on the other hand, they have to be pretty and sexually attractive. 
Read: 'Pretty, Innocent Asian Girls': The Cult of Cuteness in East Asian Societies
Secondly, this 'Lolita-like' appearance is used in the context of a competitive market economy, in which beauty attracts customers and publicity. Therefore, the right behaviour and looks mean, simply put, money. Another exa…

Hong Kong - Water Floods Tanner Road After Water Pipe Bursts

On July 8 between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., a pipe burst on Tanner Road, near North Point MTR Station, causing severe flooding. Traffic was disrupted and shops were flooded.

What Greece Wants

As a European, I am just a detached observer of Asian affairs. But when it comes to the destiny of the European Union, I feel I am personally involved. Although this is a blog about Asia, I cannot ignore what is happening in Europe, and I want to write a few words about it. 
On the statement he published this morning on his own blog, Greece's former Minister of Finance, Jiannis Varoufakis, explained that what the Greek government wants is simply:
an agreement that involves debt restructuring, less austerity, redistribution in favour of the needy, and real reforms
They are not asking for their debt to be written off, as some media has argued; they just want their debt to be sustainable. As Varoufakis said in one interview (as I can speak Greek, I am following the actual debates in Greece), he thinks that the austerity policies of the troika are not viable for Greece, because they hinder growth and create a situation of instability that makes the recovery of Greece impossible. 

Without …

Treason, Secession, Armed Rebellion, Subversion And State Secrets – China’s Paranoia Takes Hold Of Hong Kong

On its 18th birthday, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) received an unwelcome gift from the Beijing authorities: a new sweeping national security law which, despite not applying directly to Hong Kong, is likely to raise pressure on the government of the former British colony to enact its own national security legislation. According to the controversial Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, the HKSAR "shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets". When the first Chief Executive of the HKSAR, the pro-Beijing magnate Tung Chee-hwa, tried to enact such laws, about half a million Hongkongers took to the streets. Popular anger ultimately led to his resignation in 2005.
On July 1st, 1997, the British colony of Hong Kong was handed over to the People's Republic of China. The televised ceremony was watched by millions of people all over the world…

While Europe Destroys Itself, China Hopes That Greece Will Stay In The Eurozone

In a speech delivered at the University of Zurich on September 19, 1946, Winston Churchill called for the rebirth of the pan-European idea. This "noble continent”, he said, was “the home of all the great parent races of the Western world, the foundation of Christian faith and ethics, the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy and science both of ancient and modern times”; and yet, it was from this great continent that a series of nationalistic movements had originated, which had plunged the whole world into the most catastrophic wars. 
Europe, however glorious its past, lay now in ruins. Its economy had been devastated. Millions of displaced men and women marched homewards from battlefields, concentration and labour camps. Prisoners of war languished in captivity. Fallen soldiers left widows and orphans behind. Divided by hatred, impoverished by war, shocked by the unprecedented cruelty it had unleashed upon itself, Europe's prospects were bleak. Was it ever going to …