Naked Government

The collonude

Since 1949 the workings of the Chinese government have been closed off to its citizens. The secretive barriers were strongest when it came to expenditure reports, what we call the national budget.

Well, according to the Asia Times it’s about to change.

Baimiao, a small town in the southern province ofSichuan, released its budget in January under what it calls principles of “naked government”. Like being the first to skinny dip, another budget followed suit and shed it’s burqa in March, this time Guandong province.

Perhaps the grossest misappropriation of funds in China is rumored to be flouted by party officials. Every large-scale business is mandated to house a party official to keep operations and message in line with the party. It’s a full time job. But what has occurred in recent years, is troupes of officials who show up to work at 10am, smoke and drink tea all day, and whenever they feel like it… play a bit of ping pong.

The principles of what the Chinese call, naked government, have proven that the subsidies for government officials take up a rididculous part of the pie.

In Baimiao, “65% of local government spending went to accommodating and entertaining officials,” said Asia Times.

65%!

In a strong turn, government officials are embarrassed and are expected to cut down on smokes and drinks in next year’s budget.

It might be a long time before the NATIONAL budget is submitted for public viewing, but like everywhere in China, it’s a start.

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BIG THINGS 2010!

China's new missile defence shield

The Shanghai Expo kicked off last week and what a ride we have ahead of us. Now you’re all thinking, “who gives a toss about the world Expo?” I know, I know, it’s no Olympics and frankly I liked it’s previous name: The World Fair.

The Expo is a product of a bygone era. An era of nationalism, imperialism, dialogism.

In recent years it looked like the Expo would fall the way of the International Friendship Games. But the Chinese have given the old and tired format a facelift. It’s if China saw the World Expo, lying dead and cold on the floor, and opened the barely breathing format’s trap and vomited cash into its mouth.

Consider the numbers (via Reuters)

–       The Shanghai Expo grounds are 20 times bigger than Zaragoza 2008 (Zaragoza?! Come on Spain, you can do better than that)

–       It has cost $4.2 billion to stage. Hold onto your knickers, that is, double the amount of money spent on the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

–       They are expecting 400,000 people per day through the gates

–       By October they hope 70 million people will have visited.

Now to the unofficial numbers (via numerable sources, The Atlantic, Danwei etc..)

–       18,000 houses bulldozed for the site

–       Estimated infrastructure facelift of $55 billion

–       People detained by police in pre-Expo raids 6,000

So this stunt expo is all about excess opening up to the world.

But politics and tense international relations play a big part. Just flicking through the pavilions and you get a real sense that like the UN General Assembly and the World Cup this is a chance to sit with your friends, and make sure Latin America sits up the front of the bus by themselves.

She sells Shanghai by the sea shore

Here you see the site. Now consider this map as if China just got the chance to redesign the geographic positions of the world. They were given a whiteboard and a sharpie and told to re-assign the positions reflecting who they think is hot or not.

The US is given the backwater area, penned in by Europe, and joined at the hip to Africa. Subtext: “Hey US, you deal with Africa in the next century, we’ll just grab some copper and develop over here. Thanks.”

The International Organisation pavilion is plonked right in the middle of no-man’s land. No strong countries buttressed up against it. No superpower willing to click the ‘like’ button for the UN and World Bank.

Special administrative pavilions

Oh hey there’s China’s gorgeous upside down pagoda/pyramid. STANDING OMINOUSLY OVER HONG KONG AND MACAU. It’s like a little child screaming, “they’re mine!”.

The Macau pavilion measures 19.99m high. Not very high, but want to know why the height restriction? It turns out 1999 was the year China regained control of Macau from Portugal. Who said art trumps politics?

Also, Hong Kong’s middle level is transparent. Because, they’re like, fully, transparent and all.

Shabbat nice dome

Israel sits here nice and pretty with what looks like one of my father’s cologne shaped bottles. It’s Israel’s first World Expo and their exhibit has trees that whisper greetings in English and Chinese when people pass them. It’s sweet and welcoming. The Israeli’s must have been pumped to send out this emissary. But wait, who’s that in that background? Pakistan. Nice seat allocation China, nice.

A couple of rogues

Perhaps the STUPIDEST and most inappropriate positioning of the entire Expo are these two bastions of global citizenship: North Korea and Iran. Yep, right next to each other. I’m going to safely assume that someone has already called this part of the grounds, “Axis Alley”.

There are more Expo posts on the way, relating to politics, art and genuine badass quality, but for now I will leave you with this example of bad pairings…

Awkward family photos

A flats-clad Carla Bruni still stands taller than two of the world’s most biggest leaders. Whoever said that the Napoleonic complex doesn’t live on! Actually no one, but who knew Hu was so short and his first lady was such a midg.

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Strawberry Music Festival

So you thought, “hey Mark can get away from festivals for a couple of months… this will be good for is health, his hip pocket and most notably the stress level of his mother and father”… YAY! wrong.

This weekend was May Day – one of two of China’s long weekends commemorating the workers on their decision to adopt the eight hour day. Therefore everyone converges on Beijing to get drunk on Union-pride and celebrate. It saw Beijing for the first time hold two competing festivals.

That would be a win for capitalism and competition if it weren’t for the fact there are only three festivals in the calendar year. So dumb! I say. Spread them out, let the high last longer.

NOT MY PHOTO - Curtsy to cfensi.wordpress.com

Between MIDI Music Festival and Strawberry Music Festival, I chose the one with fruit in its title. Unfortunately, a friend bailed  at the last minute so I had to brave the hordes alone. A festival by my lonesome? a tough task. A festival in a foreign country, by my lonesome? a tougher task.

Let’s tell the journey in pictures, it’s more fun that way.

Firstly it was a gorgeous 30 degrees (where the f*ck this weather came from, I have NO idea). The site was gorgeous – lush rolling hills. But the organisation was beyond shit. Like I mentioned in a previous post, China not so strong on the operations. And this failure translated to a huge scale, a festival scale if you will. HUGE lines. Bad positioning of stages and, the cardinal sin: the drinks ran out.

You know what they say: There is nothing sadder than the festival with no beer.

Umbrellas in the Sun - Violent Femmes

But it was a packed day anyway, and everyone was in great form.

Among highlights –

– Getting interviewed by MTV China and making significant shout-outs to everyone back home

– Realising China has more hipsters than Australia and New York combined. This will be it’s own post later, but you should have seen the scenesters.

That douchebag

I apologise I also had to take self-shot to confirm I am indeed alive, and have converted.

There is one band I want to alert you to…

AV Okubo. They played an incredible set of synth-infused indie. The best mix of ArtVsScience and The Presets. Lead singer was jumping around like no ones business. A band tipped to travel to Europe next year.

Well there was another band. A heavy metal band I have no idea the name of. All I know is that they made everyone lose their marbles.

Like the composition of this shot? the guards, the rock, the dark, the light, the totalitarian, the x-generation. Yellow men in vests? pfffft. Let’s get military guys in here.

Fight the Power - Rage Against the Party

So it all got a bit fuzzy after that. I found the DJ tent and some other fans of some cheap electro.

But a great effort Beijing. Room for improvement, but a start and definitely on your way to holding your very own Parklife next year.

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Miss Bikini China

奶酪! (Cheese!)

These girls are brave. Three reasons:

1. It’s currently 10 degrees in China

2. Those swimming costumes are hideous. (Reminds me of a primary school girl’s swimming cozzie… but someone has taken scissors to it)

3. They’re in China. Public showing of the flesh is highly highly frowned on.

These are the winners of the 2010 Miss Bikini International China. Now if you look at the winners a fact becomes abundantly clear. All these girls have a similar look: Slim to the point of skinny sans breasts and butt.

This look is very Taiwanese. The beauties from Taipei are venerated among Chinese and foreign men because of their porcelain skin and dainty features. More on the Taiwanese obsession later.

Would like to know everyone’s opinion on this celebration of beauty. China’s hottest bikini babes.. hot or not?

(Courtesy People’s Daily Online… cheers)

It's because my hands go there...

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Welcome

Kissy kissy Mao baby

Hello there,

My name is Mark. I currently work in a job where I write all day. Unfortunately I don’t get to write what I want. Therefore, I have resorted to daily updates via this blog.

The posts will be daily updates on everything that is happening in my sphere in Beijing. You’re probably not going to get anything really Western here.

But I should be clear: THIS SITE IS MAINLY FOR WESTERNERS WHO WANT TO KNOW A BIT ABOUT CHINA. I am under no illusion to the fact that Beijing’s blog scene is fierce and its bloggers are brilliant. Hence, the tone much more cordial and introductory.

Along with the words, you can expect a whole lots of pics, music, videos that accompany text, and if you like something please tell me. Comment below!

Fuck this first post. Let’s get started.

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