December 1, 2008
The European parliament awarded jailed Beijing dissident Hu Jia the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, despite warnings from the Chinese government. Sure enough, shortly after the announcement Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao denounced the decision as a “gross interference in China’s domestic affairs.” Activists had hoped that Hu, whose own domestic affairs had been strictly confined to his apartment prior to his incarceration, might be released as a byproduct of the award, but so far that possibility does not seem to be in the offing. Still, Hu has since been transported to a more hospitable facility in Beijing, where his family was allowed to visit him. Interestingly, just a week after the result came out, a Chinese official announced an unprecedented “human rights action plan” that will seek to improve the rights of Chinese citizens over the next two years.
Dissidents weren’t the only ones running afoul of the law this month. Bayunfeng Sichuan Restaurant is on trial for bribing customers to forego taxable receipts in exchange for goods. Ms. Hu, a writer who spent just over a hundred yuan in the restaurant in early October, has filed a suit for 10,000 yuan against the restaurant for emotional damages, claiming infringement of her right to monitor the collection of national taxes. The restaurant’s offense? Offering Hu a bottle of Sprite in lieu of a receipt, which the manager alleges Hu suggested in the first place. The offer of goods or discounts to keep a transaction off the books is fairly common practice in Beijing, despite the State Administration of Taxation’s efforts to promote taxation as an act of moral uprightness. The manager of the restaurant claims Hu is sensationalizing the issue, and sneers that if she wanted to do the right thing, she would have simply filed a complaint, rather than chase renminbi. The court has not yet announced a date for its decision.
The global financial crisis is beginning to reverberate through the capital city, if only in the form of meetings. The seventh Asia-Europe meeting, held in Beijing on October 24 and 25 amid the requisite event florascaping in Tian’anmen Square, centered on the unfolding financial crisis, though China’s role as one of the world’s largest economies remained undefined. “We swim together, or we sink together,” European Commision President Jose Manuel Barros declared at the summit. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who has declared the impact of the crisis on China “limited and controllable,” offered his agreement, but little in the way of advice. Chinese officials are expected to attend a meeting of world leaders on November 15 to further address the crisis.
Just a few steps away, at the Forbidden City, a new world is opening up – a virtual one. IBM and the Palace Museum recently launched “The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time,” a computer application in which avatars can don period costumes and wander around the pristine paths of the online palace. The stated purpose of the project is to give users unable to actually visit Beijing access to the world heritage site, but Beijing residents are likely to benefit more from it. Gone are the daunting crowds and limited descriptions. Forbidden City avatars – officials, eunuchs, and the like - can wander the grounds at leisure, without the threat of pesky vendors or sunstroke. Navigationally-challenged users can consult a handy map that also links to historical information, then visit the actual Forbidden City to test their new knowledge.
Participants at the World Health Organization Congress held Nov. 8 in Beijing called for the integration of acupuncture, cupping, and other forms of traditional medicine into national health care systems worldwide. This legitimization means practitioners would be accredited professionals responsible for keeping their skills up with the times. Traditional medicine has frequently been dismissed as “soft” medicine carried over from a less informed age, but that may soon change. Plans are currently underway to modernize traditional medicine through research and innovation under the accords of the Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property adopted earlier this year.
November 1, 2008
Sports fans in the capital city had one more opportunity to showcase their national pride after the close of the Paralympics. The first World Mind Sports Games, which include competitions in chess, bridge, checkers, Go and xiangqi (Chinese chess), brought together 3,000 mind athletes from more than 100 countries seeking WMS gold last month. Since doping controls are now de rigueur at any international sporting event, physical or otherwise, bridge and chess competitors underwent the same strict tests as Olympic and Paralympic athletes. It was a formality. No one has yet been caught cheating, and as one official said, performance-enhancing drugs couldn’t conceivably help a mind sports athlete. Still, WMS organizers have bigger aspirations — making it under the IOC umbrella — and if they want to play, they’ve got to comply. There’s no word yet on the possibility of a posthumous test on Bobby Fischer.
Shenzhou VII blasted off last month amid much hoopla, and Chinese around the world eagerly awaited word from the three men aboard the space shuttle. Xinhua jumped the gun in providing the news, printing a statement from the airborne taikonauts prior to liftoff. The state news agency immediately retracted the statement, chalking it up to technical problems. At least the glitch didn’t come at the expense of the actual mission, as was almost the case with China’s first moon exploration project in 1970. Sun Jiadong, who headed the project, said workers manufacturing the components let their patriotism interfere with the designs — with nearly disastrous consequences — when they etched Chairman Mao’s likeness on the surfaces of many of the components. The designs were so large and elaborate that they unevenly redistributed heat on the surfaces of the parts. Political currents at the time made it difficult for Sun to speak up, but he eventually steeled his nerves and approached then Premier Zhou Enlai about the problem. The Dong Fang satellite was thus saved from a fiery ending, and the Asian space race was officially on.
Wet nurses are raking in the dough in the wake of the melamine-tainted milk scandal. Chinese mothers unable to nurse, and with money to spare, are appealing to agencies for surrogate breasts from which to feed their infants. Wet nurses in Guangzhou were commanding 20,000 yuan a month, up from the previous rate of 6,000 yuan, in the weeks immediately following the revelations. Beijing’s own household management agencies have reported a surge in interest, despite the health risks that abound from the practice. Nutritionists warn that just any old breast milk won’t do, and advise mothers to breast feed their own babies if possible. Families of many of the potential wet nurses are also less than thrilled at the thought of their loved ones entering into this type of service, and some husbands have threatened to bar their wives from nursing infants other than their own. But if it was good enough for Puyi…
Milk wasn’t the only thing poisoning Beijingers in October. Air in the city returned to pre-Olympic pollution levels for three successive days at the beginning of the month, with the pollution index reaching 126 the day after National Day. City officials are working quickly to reverse this. Trial driving restrictions beginning on October 11 peeled a couple hundred thousand cars off the road each day. Under the new plan, a revised version of the popular even-odd system used during the Olympics and Paralympics, private cars are banned from the roads one day a week, depending on their license plate numbers. Cars with plates ending with 1 and 6 are banned on Mondays, 2 and 7 on Tuesdays, and so on. Government cars are also included in the ban this time, albeit under separate rules. The pilot ban, in place until mid-April next year, has not met with the same approval as the temporary restrictions in August and September, and the addition of new subway trains to ease the load on perpetually packed subway Line One has done little to ease the outcry.
Those who think the subway dauntingly crowded can now spend their unused metro card credits on taxi fare, thanks to the new card swipers with which every taxi is now supposed to be equipped. During the Paralympics, taxi options also expanded to include London taxis outfitted to pick up handicapped passengers. Only a handful of the iconic taxis are currently cruising the streets of Beijing, but this, too, could soon change. Geely and London taxi maker Manganese Bronze struck a deal early last year to set up a new manufacturing base in Fengjing, a city near Shanghai. Though the majority of the 40,000 LTI TX4 taxis to be produced annually are not destined for the Chinese markets, due to their prohibitively high cost, there’s no guarantee that more of the vehicles won’t find their way to the capital over the next few years. A ride in a roomy TX4 beats one in an exhaust-filled Citroen any day.
Stuffed Mao Zedong dolls and candy wrapper curtains beckon from the windows of the Grifted shop on Beijing's famed Nanluoguxiang. Inside, irreverence reigns. Barack Obama, decked out in a Superman suit (all the more fitting post-Nobel), nestles up against Fidel Castro and miniscule Napoleon dolls. (The little dictator doesn't come full-size.) Bedazzled Buddhas and reindeer pandas dot pre-cut squares of wrapping paper. If Warhol-style prints have been done to death in the West, in Beijing they're leading the new wave.
PP, the shop's graphic designer and co-owner, a former New Yorker displaced to Beijing a few years ago for her husband's job, stumbled upon the original shopfront back in 2007 and bought it without a clue as to what she would do with the space. Eager to return to her sculpting roots, she lined up a team of local craftspeople and began sketching designs. And in a typically Chinese twist of fate—business cards gone Chinglish—Grifted was born.
"Gifted was so Hallmark-y - too clean, too nice for us. We needed something more edgy, so what began as an accident ended up working out really well for us," says PP. Grifted's affordable, Technicolor designs made an instant splash among the traditional clay teapots and silk qipao found in every other shop in the alley. Stores in Rome and London's Saatchi Saatchi Gallery in London now carry PP's designs. Nationalistic requests come with the international locations.
"People keep asking us to do a Sarkozy or a Berlusconi," says PP, who has plans to expand the line indefinitely. Carla Bruni might look fetching in violet plush, but Gordon Brown is probably best left in the flesh.
Prices range between about $1.20 for a square of wrapping paper to $17 for large dolls. Umbrellas, pillows, and select other items are available in-store only.
February 1, 2009
Virtual voyeurs in the capital would be wise to steer clear of seedy online sites for the next few weeks. The State Council and the Ministry of Public Security are out for blood with Web sites found to be hawking flesh. Google, Baidu, Sina and Sohu are among the 19 sites blacklisted for providing pornographic or otherwise obscene content. These photos go against China’s social morals and have a negative influence on the public, especially on younger people, Cai Mingzhao, deputy director of the State Council Information Office, said at a teleconference announcing the campaign. The crackdown is certainly good news for Beijing screen siren Zhang Ziyi, who was recently photographed topless on a private beach while sharing an – ahem – intimate moment with her fiance.
Many migrant laborers working in the capital were packed up and shipped back home ahead of the Spring Festival holiday as the global financial crisis began to reverberate through China, but the mass exodus did little to free up cash flow in the city. Seventy percent of Beijing residents said in a recent survey that they have been affected by the ongoing crisis, with freelancers and families earning less than 2,000 yuan per month reporting the most strain. The World Bank has forecast that in the new year, China’s heretofore breakneck economic growth will dip below 8 percent, to 7.5 percent, for the first time in two decades.
Prices of inbound tour packages bottomed out during the 2009 Spring Festival, but holiday makers weren’t kicking it at home. Beijing’s three major railway stations handled* almost 10 million passengers during the holiday period, an 18 percent rise, year on year. To encourage air travel, the Chinese government cut fuel surcharges on domestic flights to 20 yuan on short distances and 40 yuan for longer trips, down from 80 yuan and 150 yuan, respectively.
Millions of mobile subscribers ushered in the new year on the receiving end of a mass apology — via text message. Sanlu and the 21 other dairy companies implicated in last year’s melamine-contaminated milk scandal sent out the ** on New Year’s Day, saying “We are deeply sorry for the harm we have brought to children and to the society. We offer our sincere apology and plead for forgiveness.” The apology was issued almost immediately after four executives from the companies pleaded guilty to selling sub-standard products at a trial in Hebei province. Now it’s only a matter of time before we express our personal condolences through SMS: “It sux that ur mom died. Paninoteca at one?”
Would-be iPhone users in Beijing can stop holding their collective breath. The State Council agreed on Dec 31 to issue 3G network licenses to the three top Chinese telecom providers at the beginning of 2009. Li Yizhong, head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said China plans to invest 280 billion yuan in 3G networks within the next two years. The networks will meet European and U.S. technological standards, in addition to domestic ones.
Bird flu is back, and it’s in Beijing. Nineteen-year-old Huang Yanqing died in a Beijing hospital Jan 5 after a week-long battle with the H5N1 virus. A World Health Organization statement says she became infected while slaughtering and preparing ducks in a poultry market just outside Beijing. Inspectors are in the process of disinfecting or shutting down poultry markets in Hebei province, and China Daily reported that authorities have banned poultry from other parts of the country from entering the capital. Every person who came in contact with Huang just prior to her infection has been placed under medical surveillance, but no further cases have yet come to light. Avian flu has killed 248 people worldwide since 2003, but this is the first case in China in almost a year. Mao Qun’an, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, says despite the seemingly isolated nature of the case *(AS OF 1/06), officials are on the alert for additional infections. To play it safe in Beijing, don’t drink the water, and steer clear of the kaoya.
January 1, 2009
Underpants vs. Wisdom Window
The time has come to christen the new CCTV Building – and like any proud parents, Beijingers are full of name ideas. To the chagrin of CCTV (and likely Rem Koolhaas), “Big Underpants” has taken hold, and seems likely to stick. The broadcaster, desperate to establish an official name to eradicate references to large undergarments, has launched an online promotion drive in which netizens are encouraged to send in name proposals. Submissions include “Magic Cube,” “New Angle,” and “Peak of the Ages.” Online news sites are reporting that thus far, zhichuang (智窗), or “Wisdom Window,” has emerged as a popular alternative to the abhorred “Underpants.” Unfortunately for CCTV, zhichuang is also a homophone for hemorrhoids (痔疮).
This just in: Use a condom when having sex with a sex worker
December 1 was World AIDS Day, and Chinese officials took notice this year. Premier Wen Jiabao traveled to Anhui to visit AIDS patients and workers, and vowed to increase state funding for disease prevention and control. Back in Beijing, the municipal public health bureau estimates that only 47 percent of the 90,000 sex workers frequently use condoms. This revelation is all the more disturbing because sexual acts, at 55 percent, have replaced intravenous drug use [currently what percent?] as the most common means of HIV transmission in the city, Xinhua reports.
Borrow a ride
Rental bicycles are also gaining momentum on the streets of Beijing these days. With the arrival of a new program sponsored by IBike Media, residents of the Maizidian community can now commute to work hassle-free. By the end of the year, 40,000-50,000 bikes will be available for free rental around Beijing at the swipe of an ID card or passport. Rental stations will be set up at supermarkets and transportation hubs all over the city, so those leery of purchasing yet another bike just to have it stolen again can pedal around town worry-free. Thanks to GPS tracking devices, as long as the bikes are parked in designated areas, renters won’t be held responsible for theft. Even the most determined thieves will find peddling their loot tricky, as the bikes are specially designed to stand out.
Traffic violation amnesty
There’s also good news for those who still insist on firing up the engine every morning. Beijing traffic authorities have finally put a cap on late fees for traffic violations, which previously accrued at a rate that rapidly outpaced the actual fines. The decision comes three years too late for the unfortunate migrant worker who inadvertently racked up 105 traffic violations to the tune of RMB 10,000, but savings could be substantial for other drivers in the capital city. The Ministry of Public Security is currently collecting opinions on other aspects of the traffic violation laws, particularly regarding the placement of surveillance cameras. Make your voice heard to save yourself a few kuai, and possibly a dent or two on your rear bumper. Send your suggestions to email@example.com.
June 27th, 2005
By Ashley Eldridge for The Daily Texan
AUSTIN, Texas – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit cast a death knell for student publications nationwide in a Monday ruling which applies a 1988 Supreme Court decision to a case regarding prior review in public universities.
The 7th Circuit, which encompasses Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, ruled in the case of Hosty v. Carter that public institutions of higher education can be subject to prior review, emphasising the role of the institution in funding the publication. Student representatives from The Innovator, the student newspaper of Governors State University in Illinois, filed a lawsuit against Patricia Carter, dean of student affairs and services in 2001.
When the editorial staff of the newspaper refused to retract factual statements deemed false by the university, Carter, about whom the paper had published criticism, threatened to cut funding from the printer unless she was able to review the articles prior to publication. The students saw this as a violation of their First Amendment rights and filed suit with a federal district court and a partial panel of the 7th Circuit. Carter appealed for immunity and was denied until Monday, when the case was heard before the full panel of the circuit court.
The court’s decision draws from the 1988 case of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, which sealed the fate of primary school publications on the basis that “the First Amendment rights of students in public schools are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings, and must be applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment.”
“Hazelwood’s framework applies to subsidised student newspapers at colleges as well as elementary and secondary schools,” wrote Judge Frank Easterbrook in the majority opinion.
Coupled with the 1988 statement that students’ First Amendment rights had not been violated, the Hosty decision raises the question of when a person becomes deserving of constitutionally protected adult rights.
“June 2005 will probably go down as one of the saddest months in the history of college student media,” said Kathy Lawrence, director of Texas Student Publications.
Texas lies within the jurisdiction of the 5th Circuit, which according to Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, has been traditionally more supportive of student publications’ freedoms. While this does mean that no immediate repercussions will be felt here, it does not guarantee that a court could not make a future ruling in keeping with the precedent set by the 7th Circuit. This could mean future trouble for not only Texas Student Publications, but the entire umbrella of student organisations.
“The impact will most quickly be felt by other student organisations that invoke expressive elements, such as groups bringing speakers and films to campus,” Goodman said.
A major factor in the court’s decision was the role of subsidies in the publication of the paper, a fact which Hosty found debatable.
“Although the money used to publish the student paper was derived exclusively from the students, the school refused to allow the student editors access to the paper’s funds,” Hosty said in a written statement.
“[This] is comparable to a bank holding an account-holder’s money, but refusing to let the account-holder have a say in what the money can be used for or when it will be made available for withdrawal, only permitting checks to be written to whom and at what time the bank decides is appropriate.”
The U.S. Supreme Court hears approximately 10 per cent of the cases appealed to it. Hosty and her former colleagues plan to push for an appeal. Hosty said she remains hopeful.
“At this point in time, I think, if we are permitted the stay to file petition, and the petition might be granted because there is a question of exceptional significance being addressed, which is to say, do adults have no more rights than do children, simply because they set foot on a public campus?” Hosty said in a written statement.
Representatives from Governors State University were unavailable for comment.
To the casual concert-goer, China's capital city may seem uncharted musical territory, but photographer Matthew Niederhauser's new book "Sound Kapital: Beijing's Music Underground" places it as a powerful voice among the indie scene.
In a country where sickly sweet Cantopop rules the airwaves, Niederhauser chronicles a small but significant collection of performers that have found their way to D-22, a cramped, grungy hole in the wall in Beijing's university district that serves as the home of the Maybe Mars record label.
For those unfamiliar with the Beijing music scene, Sound Kapital serves as catalog of who's who among the Chinese underground. The spare settings in the photos enhance the raw energy of the musicians and like the performers themselves, the no-frills book keeps it focused. "At the heart, it's really about creating more acknowledgment for the bands," says Niederhauser, who paired it with a compilation CD soundtrack for the retrospective.
Musicians and tunes found within the book and album include the amplified chaos of Carsick Cars, the throaty Mongolian folksters Hang Gai, the rebel rockers Joyside and P.K. 14, the new originals. A recent interview with Maybe Mars founder Michael Pettis, Yang Haisong of P.K. 14 and Zhang Shouwang of Carsick Cars shows the musicians as a refreshing new generation of performers, devoid of motivation driven purely by profit. In it for the rush, the music reflects that purity.
Oct. 8, 2004
By Ashley Eldridge
Austin, TX -- Each year, thousands of fans from Austin and Norman, Okla., trek to Dallas for the Red River Shootout. Tickets to the game are highly coveted, and if you get one, you better hold on tight; 35-yard line tickets are currently selling on eBay for $550 apiece. For the 59th consecutive year, the venue is sold out.
So, what makes this game worth the hundreds, or thousands, of dollars shelled out by poor college students each year?
"I think college students spend the money because they're afraid of missing out," said Kelly McCord, one of the UT mascots. "They're living on tradition, and in this day and age, we're losing traditions right and left."
The tradition McCord referred to began 99 years ago and moved to the neutral Dallas location in the 1920s. This makes the Red River Shootout one of the longest-running rivalries in college football played on a neutral field. It also makes it stand out from the in-state rivalry of Texas and Texas A&M.
In the early days of the Shootout, the winning team supposedly got ownership of the Red River until the next year's game.
"Team rivalry is steeped in tradition," said UT sociology associate professor Dan Powers. "It's such a long-standing rivalry [between Texas and OU] ... both teams are striving for that same position ... that spot in the rankings."
Many UT students who grew up in small towns across Texas undoubtedly heard the same lines come football season. "TU is gonna get killed this year." "T-sippers; what do they know about football?" And of course, "Saw 'em off."
The big rival was perceived to be Texas A&M, students said.
However, in Austin the tune is a little different. At least this time around.
"I don't think the A&M rivalry will ever go away, but for right now, Oklahoma is on a winning streak, so they are a bigger threat," said Bill Little, the assistant athletic director. "If A&M had been beating us the past few years and OU had been losing, then the focus would shift to the A&M game."
Despite Texas' current four-year losing streak, the Longhorns still lead the series 55-38-5.
According to "Tracking Mack," a UT-sponsored online journal with Brown, the rivalry between the two teams is the reason Brown came to Texas, although he added that when he arrived in 1998, the game had lost a bit of its luster.
Little scoffed at the rumors of Mack Brown's job riding on the outcome of this year's game.
"What people miss is that Texas has a three-year record of 32-4. Oklahoma's is 32-6. We lost one regular-season game to a team other than OU in the past three years, so Mack is in no danger of losing his job," Little said.
According to Little, while the rivalry between Texas and A&M is based on respect, the rivalry between Texas and OU is more about anger.
"For Oklahoma, this is a holy war, and they enjoy the fact that they win," Little said.
McCord, who has worn the fuzzy Hook 'Em costume at games all over the country, agreed.
"The Texas and OU fans feed off each other. OU fans have really been pushing the Texans hard, so I expect there will be fights right and left downtown this weekend," McCord said.
Chase Hamilton, a law student, just laughs.
"What I tell myself after we lose is this: No matter how much they beat us, they still can't be us," Hamilton said.
Longhorn fans shouldn't be discouraged by the recent loss record in the game.
"Historically, this goes in streaks. Texas won 12 out of 13 earlier on, and now Oklahoma is on [a streak]," Little said.
This means that sooner or later, things are going to swing back around, and in the words of Hamilton, "Oklahoma will again be Texas' neglected little brother."
(C) 2004 Daily Texan via U-WIRE
Students would object to group's anti-illegal immigrant activity
By Ashley Eldridge
A cake lay smashed on the marble tile in front of the Undergraduate Library, its fluffy white guts a sign of the tumult that occurred in the early afternoon Wednesday.
Last week, a posting on the UT Young Conservatives of Texas Web site and a discussion at a YCT meeting led some members of the UT community to believe that a "Capture an Illegal Immigrant Day" would be held, said Marcus Ceniceros, the president of the University Democrats.
On Jan. 26, the YCT Denton Chapter held a similar event in which members dressed up in orange T-shirts to represent illegal immigrants and ran around campus. Students who "captured" a YCT member and returned him to the YCT booth were rewarded with a candy bar. This event was staged to protest President George W. Bush's immigration policies, but many viewed it as bigoted.
Despite the rumors, when protestors turned out Wednesday, all that could be found was a YCT Texas Independence Day celebration.
"The only reason they didn't do it is because we found out; they lost shock value," said Missy Chavez Quintela, a government sophomore. "And we're a university that's supposed to be progressive."
"YCT does not support bigotry and hatred - we never have, and we never will," said Lauren Conner, chairperson of UT YCT. While she acknowledged the UNT chapter's inflammatory stunt, Conner maintained that the Texas branch of YCT was hosting a booth only to celebrate Texas Independence Day.
"We had discussed the idea because another chapter had done it. After we realized the numerous consequences and how the event could be misconstrued, we as an organization decided not to go through with it," said Michelle Putman, YCT treasurer. "I would like to apologize to those who were given incorrect information about our intentions today."
The information, incorrect or not, encited anger in more than 200 protestors of all races.
"YCT, come get me!" the crowd shouted. They surged toward the booth set up at the southeast corner of UGL. "Racist, sexist, anti-gay! YCT bigots, go away!" chanted the group. "YCT - KKK!
Members of YCT, who declined to identify themselves, responded to the crowd with offers to cut them slices of cake.
From street slang, "Your mom's an immigrant," to historical, "Give us your tired, your poor..." and multilingual, "Hass ist aklerimus nicht," meaning "Hate is not activism," the protestors made their point known.
Members of Teatro Liberacion, a guerilla theater group, presented an impromptu "Immigrant Auction," in which Lady Liberty was sold into slavery to Superman for $25,000, the message came across loud and clear.
The Latino Leadership Council sent out mass e-mails after discovering, through an LLC member who attends YCT meetings, that the UT chapter had been celebrating the Denton event and were planning a similar one. Groups banded together at a meeting on Monday to decide which action to take. They decided to take a silent, vigil-like approach and to wear black T-shirts to demonstrate their unity.
"We realize that the event did not happen, but the fact that it was even considered was reason enough to come together," Ceniceros said.
Julio Vela, a business junior, was outraged to discover that props such as a "Wetbacks, go home" poster used by members of Teatro Liberacion in their satirical skits had been redistributed with malicious intent to kiosks across the South Mall. "It's wrong, it's immoral, on so many levels," he said after shredding the poster into tiny pieces.
Back in front of the Tower, a tired-looking Felipe Aramburu, a Latin-American studies senior, was peacefully ensconced in an aqua tent decorated with flags from all over the globe.
"Today was about asking questions and hoping to get answers. We're not going to allow these things to happen without our voices being heard - and as strongly as we feel about it, we're going to say it a lot louder and with a lot more people," Aramburu said.
March 11, 2009
Toward the end of 2008, the Chinese government issued by way of Xinhua, the official state news agency, a directive that college students uneasy about the tight employment market should try starting their own businesses. At the time, urging naive, inexperienced kids to take on massive debt straight out of school when even established enterprises are tanking seemed like the CPC leading lambs to the slaughter to temporarily save its own hide. But a new effort by students in Zhejiang province has since come to light, and seems to hold promise for the scrappiest of the students here.
According to the Beijing Morning Post, nearly 1,800 students at Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College have opened online businesses on Taobao.com, the Chinese answer to Ebay. Some of these e-shops have really taken off, and the most successful student among them, a boy named Yang Fugang, is now bringing in 30,000 to 40,000 yuan a month (roughly 4,500 to 5,800 USD), more than many Chinese make in a year.
Yiwu College has encouraged this entrepreneurial spirit through the establishment of a self-employment school, which only accepts students with monthly profits exceeding 8,000 yuan. Students can earn credits by reaching profit benchmarks instead of taking courses, and with professors’ guidance, share practical knowledge and advice with new retailers. Marketing, pricing, and bargaining with suppliers are common discussion topics.
Online shops are profiting as cash-strapped consumers turn to the Web in search of better deals. The trade volume from online shopping in China increased by 128.5 percent to 120 billion yuan (17.56 billion USD) in 2008, according to a report released by iResearch and Taobao.
This is promising news for savvy business students, but doesn’t really solve the wider problem of job creation. The unemployment rate here is growing by the day, though it’s almost impossible to measure given the vast number of unregistered migrant workers.
Fresh college graduates are among the groups most affected by the dearth of job opportunities. An estimated six million* new graduates will enter the job market this spring, adding to the 1.2 million leftover from last year who are still unable to find jobs. This can be attributed to a number of factors, but the bottom line is Beijing must find a way to placate the growing number of agitated grads and their parents. The government announced in February that all Beijing students would receive at least one suitable job offer within three months of graduation, though the spokesman declined to specify what constitutes a “suitable” offer.
I had a few years left — or so I thought.
My doctor called me into her office in April 2010 and uttered the words no one wants to hear, especially not a 25-year-old girl still elated at finally landing in New York. I had a tumor the size of a Ping-Pong ball, and it was trying to kill me.
En route to my treatments, I was bombarded by commercials for a massive volunteer umbrella organization. Possibilities within the city opened up in front of me, and as I began dabbling in the projects, I discovered that even the most mundane nursing home chats had become the bright spots in my days.
Instead of spending a year pursuing my own whims, I instead came up with a volunteering bucket list of sorts, chronicling it on my blog, The Bright Spot, to keep up my writing and by extension, my sanity. Then, in a worst-case scenario, my mourners would be forced to discuss my generosity of time and spirit, and I might learn a little about my place in the world before I expired in my prime.
So there we were.
Thankfully, I have been in remission since a second, precautionary surgery in early 2011, but the project has left a deep impact on me and continues to shape my worldview and career targets for the future. Now that my energies are fully focused on work once more, volunteering has become more of a biweekly treat, rather than my daily sustenance. Even still, I look forward to every minute spent trying to make sense of these heartbreaking, beautiful, complicated aspects of modern life.