And then when we finally got to the hotel…had a bit of an episode. We booked two rooms for one night at a Hanting – booked online on Hanting’s snazzy website and got a reservation number. The idea was to stay at a quick and easy place not far from GZ East so we could check in right after arriving, drop off our bags and grab a late dinner. We finally get to the hotel. Tired, very hungry. As we walk in, we see two guys trying to get a room get turned down as the hotel has no vacancies. Nothing at all available. I get a bad feeling. We show our reservation number to the front desk lady.
Sorry, we have cancelled your reservations because you didn’t show up by 9 and when we called you there was no answer and you didn’t re-confirm. And sorry, we are completely out of rooms.
Mind you, this is 11 pm and we are tired and haven’t yet had dinner. This is not going to be a good situation for anybody. When we protested and said they definitely didn’t call the number we gave when making the on-line reservation – a HK number – they kept insisting up and down they had tried us multiple times but we didn’t pick up.
Where’s the duty manager?
You know, the lady who’s picture is on the wall right there? She’s supposed to be “on duty” right? The thing on the wall says she is working tonight and responsible. So where is she – we want to speak to her immediately.
Sorry. No more rooms.
Yes, right, we know. But this problem needs to be fixed and perhaps the manager can solve it.
(Nervous laughter) Sorry, what problem is that?
What problem? WHAT PROBLEM?!?!? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? You are joking. Ha ha. Very funny. Are you trying to be funny? Because you are making us very upset. We are tired. We booked rooms. You gave someone our rooms. Why? We have no idea. When you book rooms you expect them to be booked. Let’s start over and I will speak clearly – YOU KNOW WHAT OUR PROBLEM IS AND WE ARE NOT LEAVING UNTIL YOU FIGURE OUT HOW TO SOLVE IT.
Very sorry about this. But we called you and you didn’t answer.
That’s a lie. You’re a liar. We were on the train for the past few hours. Not a plane. A train. No missed calls. You didn’t call. You are clearly lying. Admit it and fix the problem.
Well, we can’t dial out to Hong Kong so we couldn’t call you.
Sorry – say again? Ok. Good. We are making progress. You just admitted your mistake. You lied. You acknowledge you didn’t call, yes? We can agree you lied. And, fine, you gave away our rooms and there are no rooms. So fix it.
Now. Now. Now.
Sorry. We couldn’t call a Hong Kong number.
(Staring blankly. Not blinking. Dumbfounded.)
Ok, please wait a moment. Very sorry about this. (Nervous laughter)
Eventually she found us two rooms at a Hanting about 10 mins away. She kept mentioning how this other Hanting was much better for us because of the free breakfast. That made me nuts. It was a real exercise in self-control not to just go absolutely Mike Tyson crazy as we wasted over an hour plus and this lady was going on about the great free breakfast we had in store for us the next day.
They agreed to a discount for our trouble (the new Hanting turned out to be 186/night rather than 279/night), which was nice though I would have eaten the 100 RMB to have been able to check in without hassle. We had her order a cab and take us to the other Hanting, pay for the cab, and then check us in. I wasn’t about to leave to the other Hanting, get there past midnight and roll the dice if they had a room. Wouldn’t it have just been easier to turn away the people that wanted our rooms rather than argue with us for 45 minutes, have to frantically arrange new rooms at another branch, escort us to the new hotel and have to pay for a round trip taxi?
Li Na lost in three sets to Kim Klijsters in the Australian Open Finals yesterday, and at least part of the blame goes to her own Chinese supporters:
MELBOURNE -Li Na told her coach and husband she would love him “forever” after she lost the Australian Open final Saturday, but she had little love for the “amateur coaches” in the stands who broke her rhythm against Kim Clijsters.
Fed up with boisterous shouts from Chinese fans during the tense second set, ninth seed Li marched to the chair umpire after being broken at 3-3 and asked her: “Can you tell the Chinese, don’t teach me how to play tennis?”
“There were a lot of people coaching me,” she told reporters. “It was really loud and it wasn’t just one direction, it was from all sides.
“I think Chinese people watching tennis can’t be polite … (saying) ‘Take her out!’ and other things.
When they were calling out things it was during returns, so I felt” — and here she inhaled sharply — “so tired!”
The outburst was reminiscent of her moment during her semifinal against Dinara Safina at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when she told the local crowd to “shut up.”
Flustered by the frenetic atmosphere at Rod Laver Arena, the 28-year-old from the Yangtze river port of Wuhan demanded British umpire Alison Lang order fans to quiet down and railed at flashing cameras as the third set slipped from her fingers.
Unfortunately I didn’t see the match and can’t confirm what exactly the crowd was doing or saying, but still… Obnoxious Chinese fans? Distracting camera flashes? An argumentative Wuhaner? Nothing out of the ordinary there.
Despite her loss, Li’s ranking will rise to a new Chinese record of seven and she is guaranteed a hero’s reception when she returns home, where hundreds of millions tuned in to watch the match live.
I wouldn’t say guaranteed, now that she has made Chinese fans lose face on an internationally televised event. All internet flamers aside, it will be interesting to see the official reaction here. It could be an opportunity to scold Chinese audiences into being more “civilized”, similar to what Beijingers endured in the years preceding the 2008 Olympics. Less likely but still possible is a Wang Zhizhi Situation, in which Li is deemed a “traitor” by the motherland and forced to make a groveling public apology.
The latter is unlikely, as Wang’s was a much more serious offense involving breaking his contract, and it was made against the People’s Liberation Army. For Li, the best case scenario is that they do nothing and just let her play:
I witnessed my first authentic Chinese fire drill when riding out of my apartment complex this morning. The basic form was the same as I have seen back home: A white Volkswagen Jetta was stopped in the intersection where the street meets the side road of the Third Ring Road. The driver got out, followed by the front seat passenger and then a back seat passenger. Each of them walked around the car and re-entered in a different seat. The car then drove away.
But just like the “Chinese food” in America that bears little resemblance to the wide range of fare available here, a real Chinese drill is a far more nuanced and complex performance in its homeland:
A true Chinese fire drill should be performed not when stopped at a red light, but right in the middle of a crowded intersection, where one can block multiple directions of traffic instead of just a single lane.
Participants in an authentic Chinese fire drill should not run around the vehicle in a wacky, chaotic matter; instead, it is preferred to keep a slow and steady pace, and not to betray any sign of concern about possibly blocking other vehicles.
Expert Chinese fire drill practitioners prefer perform at the peak of rush hour; a weekend night out with friends would be unacceptable to the masters of this art.
The audience shows its appreciation for the performance not with a couple of short taps on the car horn, but instead with extended blasts lasting five seconds or more.
It seems the rest of the world is has barely scratched the surface in terms of understanding this part of Chinese culture.
ODB just passed along a great interview from the new English language edition of China’s Global Times newspaper. GT’s Lu Jingxian talks with Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress and American Council for World Jewry. (It’s unclear whether or not Mr. Rosen is related to the well-known Dr. Rosen in Los Angeles.)
The tone of the interview reminds me of countless conversations I have had on politics here in China. The Chinese interviewer gets right to the point with a blunt statement and question:
American Jews are known for their formidable lobbying power in the US. How is this accomplished?
I get in a Beijing taxi and tell the driver my destination. He puts the car in gear and looks at me in the rearview mirror as the car starts to move. “Which country are you from?”
“The United States.”
“You Americans love to start wars!”
GT: The AJC is a powerful political group in the US. China is also learning to build more lobbying power there. What stage are Chinese currently at? What are your suggestions?
Rosen: The primary objective of the Jewish lobby has been in keeping US values.
If you go back 40 years, the Jewish lobby was lobbying on behalf of individual rights and civil rights. And they did it for African Americans, they did it for Latin Americans, and they did it for Chinese.
Working hard for the rights of individuals is a core US value. The Jewish lobby gained that influence by lobbying on behalf of issues that 90 percent of Americans would agree with.
Then there is the issue of Israel. Why are Jewish groups so successful in lobbying for Israel? Again the American public is very supportive of the only democracy in the Middle East, the only country in the Middle East that gives equal rights and freedom to everyone. Woman have equal rights in Israel.
So it’s easy to lobby for Israel, because 90 percent of Americans believe in what you are lobbying for….
That sounds about right.
If you ask if the Chinese community has a strong lobby, I don’t believe so, because they don’t lobby for those kinds of issues. What do they lobby for? “Love us Chinese?” It’s a nice idea, but it has no substance.
We don’t say, “We are Jews, love us, and make us powerful.” We have specific issue that we fight for. And the result is we become the leadership. We are very active in government in very high positions.
Usually it’s someone over 40. I can tell at the beginning of the conversation if the question is coming or not. I can feel how bad he wants to ask it, but he doesn’t seem sure how to put it. “So….do you like China?”
A thousand thoughts pass through my mind from the last fifteen years of study, life, work, travel, and thought about China. This question will take another fifteen years to answer properly. I suspect my face is betraying panic and confusion and try to maintain a casual expression. I take the easy way out. “Ummm…Yes? Yes, sure.”
GT: For Chinese to lobby in the US, obviously we have ideological clashes. How can Chinese remove that barrier and win the hearts and minds of American public?
Rosen: You have to understand there are differences. The US people understand you have something to offer, and they accept the differences. They disagree with you publicly sometimes, but we have to find things in common.
We do have ideological differences, but they don’t matter compared with things we cooperate on. They won’t affect Chinese investment in US and US investment in China. They won’t affect economic policies, and they won’t matter where we support each other over issues of concern.
They will matter if there is an issue. Regarding Sudan, Americans care about humanitarian issues. You need to take the time, make the effort, and get the American people to understand you.
China’s position on Sudan aside, Rosen has a point. A couple of recent Global Times articles (one from September 30 and one from November 10) on Sino-Sudanese relations rely almost solely on official (and generally positive) Sudanese government statements; comments from the Chinese side, whether from the government or the reporter, are conspicuous in their absence.
GT: Inside the US, what is the general attitude of the Jewish population toward China?
Rosen: It’s a positive one. We know China has no anti-Semitism. We are always thankful of Chinese people for that and for those Chinese who saved Jews in World War II.
No anti-Semitism? Not so sure about that. At the very least there’s a tortured mix of admiration and envy — a less negative version of common Chinese attitudes toward the US and Japan.
GT: Last year, several Jewish groups in the US called for boycotting the Beijing Olympics. How should we see this?
Rosen: They probably didn’t call for boycotting Beijing Olympics because of Jewish issues, but for some other issues….
The Jewish community tends to be very liberal and they may disagree with certain issues in your country or countries you support. American people and some in the world oppose that, and some of them are Jewish.
The taxi driver again: “Why are you wearing that uniform?”
“I’m going to play soccer.”
“But you’re American!”
(neither of us knows what to say next)
GT: There are some Jewish politicians in the US who take a strong stance against China. What’s their influence on US policy toward China?
Rosen: The fact that they are Jewish is not relevant. They are politicians, American politicians, and they represent Americans. They may happen to be Jewish, and they may disagree with some Chinese issues, but connecting the two is not correct…
At this point the reporter seems to be trying hard to restrain himself from shouting, “Why don’t you Jews love us Chinese?!?”
GT: Chinese companies may meet local resistance when they try to expand in the US market. How should they work to avoid that?
I don’t think Chinese companies are particularly anticipating these problems, working through them, and doing the right public relations campaigns.
Rosen: I don’t think Chinese companies have problems in the US. Some Chinese companies have problems entering into the US market. It depends on the industrial sector they operate in. Chinese entrepreneurs are quite welcome in the US and they shouldn’t be fearful of that.
But on some sensitive business, China has to be thoughtful of what the reaction would be. They have to anticipate the reaction and work to limit the damage of that reaction.
Chinese business can’t just parachute into America. They have to anticipate the problems involved. The technology sector is probably problematic.
That’s good advice for both sides.
Bonus link 1: Here’s a “foreign view” published in the Global Times in August that discusses the lingering stereotype of the Wealthy Jew in China.
No not from me. I was just there to buy a step down transformer, in hopes that the Bose Companion 5 computer speakers that I just brought back from the States (110v) will work in Shanghai. While waiting for the staff girl to box the transformer, some Chinese guy was throwing a fit at the counter. He was in a total fury – he yelled 15 times at the salesgirl 随便我吗？ (I’m assuming that before I took note of the situation, whatever it was about, the salesgirl had said 随便你.) The irate guy’s girlfriend stood stoic at his side, as did a male Best Buy employee (he was looking on, not intervening or saying anything). The fury man turned around, and upon seeing me, said “damn”, followed by – for good measure of course – “bitch”. The salesgirl disappeared into the back room; 90 seconds later the fury man kicked the counter hard (in his flimsy sandals, ha ha), yelling 人呢 . To my interest, but not surprise, no other Best Buy employee intervened to quell the situation. The salesgirl reemerged with my transformer, and out the door I went.
SHTig’s takeaways — Shanghai is a real pressure cooker, everyone is angry here. And thus, I don’t accept any argument from Chinese friends that the way to handle tough situations is through gentle and retreating words. Chinese people in this city can get harsh in a hurry.
However following the final whistle, an Australia player fell to the ground while remonstrating with the Chinese, prompting captain Tameka Butt to charge across the pitch and grab the perceived offender.
That sparked a mass brawl as both sets of players and backroom staff charged onto the pitch, with punches thrown.
Shocking enough, but it gets worse:
Once order was restored, several plastic water bottles were thrown from the crowd in the direction of the Australian team – whose ages range from 15 to 19 – as they made their way down the tunnel with local police imploring fans to stop the behaviour.
Soccer players fighting in China? Women arguing in Wuhan? Fans throwing bottles at teenage girls? The reporter unwittingly gets it right: “Order was restored”, at least in China’s soccer universe.
Wuhan made headlines a couple of months ago when the chengguan, “urban management” officers in charge of enforcing public order, simply surrounded and stared at an illegal street vendor until he was shamed into leaving. This was news because chengguan are typically expected to use more forceful methods to clear out the riffraff.
Now Wuhan’s chengguan are taking it a step further and deputizing a foreigner to put help save Wuhan from utter chaos by forcing shopkeepers to move boxes of bottled water off the sidewalk:
In the second half of the competition, head referee He Zhibiao gave three successive red cards to Tianjin players Liu Qing, Liang Jie and Ma Leilei, causing intense dissatisfaction and resentment amongst the Tianjin team, who felt that the referee’s decisions were unfair. Prior to the overtime, Tianjin goalkeeper Li Gen walked over to the stands for the Tianjin team and proposed that they refused to play any further. The team’s head coach refused, however, and the match continued. In the second minute of overtime, Tianjin player Geng Yin scored an own-goal, giving the Beijing team a 3:1 lead.
Once the whistle blew to signal the end of the match, Tianjin goal keeper Li Gen rushed over to head referee He Zhibiao and began to verbally abuse him…He Zhibiao attempted to avoid Li Gen, and walked towards the stadium exit. At this point, Tianjin team member, Hao Tanjiao, rushed over the rushed past security guards, and Tianjin players began to attack the head referee on the field. He Zhibiao, after falling to the ground, crawl up again and rushed towards the exit, while Tianjin players were prevented from pursuing him by security guards.
The inflammatory words and unruly behavior of football fans caused the spectator stands to fall into chaos, and after the match fans from both sides threw water bottles at each other. Three female fans from Tianjin in particular drew a great deal of attention. After Tianjin players were penalized with a red card, they became especially agitated, stood up, began waving their arms and shouting “fake foul”. Security guards repeatedly asked these three fans to leave the stands, but were ignored. After the conclusion of the game, just after the agitation in the stands had subsided, these female fans resumed their conflict with Beijing fans on the stands, and began throwing water bottles. The Tianjin female friends were escorted by security guards from the stadium.”
The cameras caught all 20 minutes of chaos; so far, “Beat Referee Incident” and “ViolenceGate” (video and pictures at both links) are the two most popular names for the event. Tianjin’s team has been banned from the upcoming National Games as a result.
All this excitement reminds me of several years ago, when ODB and I started going to soccer matches at Workers’ Stadium. I remember watching China beat Qatar in the 2004 Asian Cup, but missed Japan’s victory over China, when the Chinese fans were so famously gracious in defeat. Most of the time, though, we would just watch Beijing’s professional club, Beijing Guoan (sometimes Beijing Guo’an). Back then they were known as Beijing Xiandai. (Xiandai is Chinese for “modern”; in Korean the word is Hyundai, the team’s former sponsor), and the matches were always fun, though not always for the skill of play on the field:
Dirt-cheap tickets, as little as 10-20 RMB–far less than the hundreds of RMB charged for tickets when the international clubs come to town, even if it’s a relatively obscure side like Hull City (who beat Guoan in penalties last night).
Perhaps twenty thousand fans, all packed around the center of the pitch, would keep up a constant stream of “[so-and-so], shabi!” chants for most of the match. The obvious targets were the opposing players and refs, but occasionally non-soccer figures that were making the people mad would be cursed as well. Whenever they got too loud, white noise or the Guo’an fight song would blast from the speakers at full volume in an attempt to drown out the cursing for the TV audience.
Although police lined the edge of the field, fans were more or less allowed to throw whatever they wanted onto the field. Many brought toilet paper, and many others threw plastic water bottles–often full. The Gongti stadium has a track around the soccer pitch, so most of the missiles couldn’t reach the players. But anytime the opposing team lined up for a corner, objected rained down on the kicker.
Fans shouted insults and jokes about the refs and the other team, as if they were performing for the crowds around them. Many fans also brought signs with funny, offensive, and risque rhymes on them. Plenty of people got kicked out, but the police were never too rough, and no one seemed to mind getting kicked out.
Around 2006, Workers’ Stadium was closed for renovations before the Olympics, and we didn’t care the follow the team as they moved south to a stadium in Fengtai for the matches. But now it’s 2009, the Olympics are over, and Guoan is back in Gongti. We didn’t really have our act together for the spring matches, and they haven’t had a home match in the CSL, China’s top professional league, since July 2.
Last night I heard the familiar strains of Guoan’s fight song from my new office near Gongti:
喔噢…… 北京国安 我们永远支持你
噢…… 北京国安 我们永远热爱你
Oh-ohhh, Beijing Guoan, we will always support you!
Ohhh, Beijing Guoan, we will always love you!
Guoan plays six matches at home in August and September, and it will enter the second half of the season at the top of the CSL table. ODB and I will be there. And given that Sunday’s incident was between under-20 teams, we are confident that the next generation of football in China will bring the same spirit of friendship onto the field that today’s fans show in the stands.
Below is a blackberry message I sent to a friend following a trip on Friday 29 May to Carrefour in Zhongshan Park. The context is we are noticing that Shanghai is becoming more crude and insensitive than even a couple years ago. Editing slightly and posting. “xy” is my girlfriend:
Just the typical shit. I was looking at blenders and the sales kid stood there blocking them, totally oblivious that I was straining to see and purchase the model he was blocking (I had to walk away and come back later to buy it). Was looking at scales w xy and people kept stepping in front of us outta no where to try the scales (not even considering purchasing, just playing around), crowding us out from selecting one to purchase until they left. Women hitting xy w their bags to nudge her out of the way. Girl shoving my cart out of her way even while I was moving with it. Running into an acquaintance who cut in front of us in check out line (no one was behind us, so that was ok), but then jumped back to another line because her friend had already reached the register, and then acquaintance offers for us to cut up to the front of that long line with our stuffed cart. Of course we didn’t go, and it was embarassing that this acquaintance thought she was being kind to us by being so inconsiderate to others. A stray cart came flying down an escalator ramp and nearly hit me. No one said sorry or yelled “hey watch out”. A taxi driver stopped for me and others jumped in. I said in driver window “hey”, he just totally ignored and drove away. Coming into our apt complex plenty of people milling around at entrance, no one helped us w door that requires keying in a passcode from outside or elevator button, just gawked or ignored as our bags were breaking (there were 10 people doing essentially nothing on either side of the security door). That’s just in the last 2 hours.
chinaSMACK is one of my favorite new China blogs. It translates some of the hot topics in China’s online forums and bulletin boards, complete with pictures, video, and numerous reader comments translated from the original Chinese posts. The author seems to favor the more lurid stories, such as a confrontation in Wuhan between a Wuhan bus driver and several passengers. Check out the video (the attack begins at about 1m25s):
There is a follow-up post which examines the possibility that the bus driver insulted the girls in the video:
Last week, video footage from Wuhan bus line 519 showed two Northeastern men from Heilongjiang Province ruthlessly beating and kicking the female bus driver. Chinese across the country were outraged, many calling Northeastern Chinese violent animals. But, some Chinese wondered if the video showed the whole truth, noticing that parts of the video recording was cut out.
Soon, other posters claiming to have been on the bus when the beating happened told a different story about what really happened that day between the Wuhan bus driver, the two Northeastern girls, and the two Northeastern young men who eventually beat her.
A couple things from the translated user comments struck me. First, they reveal the strong regional attitudes and stereotypes (Wuhanese as rude; Northeastern girls in other cities as prostitutes) that rarely are reported in English language news about China. Second, many of the users quoted seem to think that, if the bus driver did insult the girls, then it was either acceptable or at least understandable that she was repeatedly and viciously kicked in the head.
Finally, some commenters argued that the attacked must have been justified because no one else stepped in to stop it:
If it was really like how it was reported, that the female bus driver was completely justified and in the weaker position, that the young men attacked her, why did none of the many people on the bus come out and prevent/stop it? Not even anyone to say a word? The answer is obvious, that although the driver was weaker, she was unreasonable, and even her words and performance made the other passengers on the bus feel dissatisfied, such as being tough or viciously cursing people. Of course, it also possible the other passengers were just different and wanted to avoid causing trouble for themselves.
Personally, I think the final sentence is closer to the truth. In eight years of observing fights in China, I have seen crowds gather to watch even the hint of a fight, but I have never seen anyone step in and try to break up a seriously violent fight.