Category Archives: China Under The Hood

China – Under The Hood: Tinder box – China’s long hot summer

It’s the height of summer here in Hangzhou and it’s extremely hot…. Like sizzling! However, the degree of how hot varies between what is official and what the common man and woman on the street knows and feels.

Official hot (government offices, factories, etc are mandated to close if the official temperature hits 40 degrees Celsius) versus unofficial hot: Mary, who runs the GoMax tea and fruit drink outlet near my apartment, insists her thermometer showed an outside temperature reading of 42 degrees Celsius, but officially it was still 37 degrees Celsius.

People like Mary are increasingly aware of the alternative perspective: The truth uniquely experienced and the massive amount of shared beliefs gleaned from micro-blogging websites such as Sina Weibo.   Worn out by the never-ending official pronouncements, a tinder box situation of growing antipathy towards the way Official China is being run and directed is palpable.

Today, China’s rising prices, ever increasing income disparities, a mode of governance that pursues rapid economic growth and infrastructue development above all else, unrelenting corruption scandals, and a lack of transparency and accountability are testing this populace like never before.

And the spark?

Translation: “The Derailed Country

You ask, why are they acting like a bunch of lunatics?

They think they’re the picture of restraint.

You ask, why can’t they tell black from white, fact from fiction?

They think they’re straight shooters, telling it like it is.

You ask, why are they running interference for murders?

They think they’ve thrown their friends under the bus. And they’re ashamed.

You ask, why all the cover-ups?

They think they’re letting it all hang out.

You ask, why are they so irretrievably corrupt?

They think they’re hardworking and plain-living.

You ask, why are they so infuriatingly arrogant?

They think they’re the picture of humility.

You feel like you’re the victim. So do they.

They think: “During the Qing Dynasty, no one had television. Now everyone has a television. Progress!”

They think: “We’re building you all this stuff, what do you care what happens in the process? Why should you care who it’s really for, so long as you get to use it? The train from Shanghai to Beijing used to take a whole day. Now you’re there in five hours (as long as there’s no lightning). Why aren’t you grateful? What’s with all the questions?

“Every now and then, there’s an accident. The top leaders all show how worried they are. We make someone available to answer journalists’ questions. First we say we’ll give the victims 170,000 kuai apiece. Then we say we’ll give them 500,000. We fire a buddy of ours. We’ve done all that, and you still want to nitpick? How could you all be so close-minded? You’re not thinking of the big picture! Why do you want us to apologize when we haven’t done anything wrong? It’s the price of development.

“Taking care of the bodies quickly is just the way we do things. The earlier we start signing things, the more we’ll have to pay out in the end. The later we sign, the smaller the damages. Our pals in the other departments—the ones who knock down all the houses—taught us that one. Burying the train car was a bonehead move, true, but the folks upstairs told us to do it. That’s how they think: if there’s something that could give you trouble, just bury it. Anyway, the real mistake was trying to dig such a huge hole in broad daylight. And not talking it over with the Propaganda Department beforehand. And not getting a handle on all the photographers at the site. We were busy, ok? If there’s anything we’ve learned from all this, it’s that when you need to bury something, make sure you think about how big it is, and make sure you keep the whole thing quiet. We underestimated all that.”

They think that, on the whole, it was a textbook rescue operation—well planned, promptly executed, and well managed. It’s a shame public opinion’s gotten a little out of hand, but they think, “That part’s not our responsibility. We don’t do public opinion.”

They’re thinking: “Look at the big picture: We had the Olympics, we canceled the agricultural tax, and you guys still won’t cut us a break. You’re always glomming on to these piddling little details. No can-do spirit. We could be more authoritarian than North Korea. We could make this place poorer than the Sudan. We could be more evil than the Khmer Rouge. Our army’s bigger than any of theirs, but we don’t do any of that. And not only are you not thankful, but you want us to apologize! As if we’ve done something wrong?”

Society has people of means, and those without. There’s people with power, and those that have none. And they all think they’re the victim. In a country where everyone’s the victim, where the classes have started to decouple from one another, where it’s every man for himself, in this huge country whose constituent parts slide forward on inertia alone—in this country, if there’s no further reform, even tiny decouplings make the derailings hard to put right.

The country’s not moving forward because a lot of them judge themselves as if Stalin and Mao were still alive. So they’ll always feel like the victim. They’ll always feel like they’re the enlightened ones, the impartial ones, the merciful ones, the humble ones, the put-upon ones. They think the technological drumbeat of historical progress is a dream of their own making.
The more you criticize him, the more he longs for autocracy. The more you gaomao him (piss him off), the more he misses Mao.

A friend in the state apparatus told me, “You’re all too greedy. Forty years ago, writers like you would’ve been shot. So you tell me, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?”

I said, “No, you’re all too greedy. Ninety years ago, that kind of thinking would have gotten you laughed out of the room. So you tell me: after all that, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?”


Attributed to China blogger Han Han and posted on Sina Weibo 27th July 2011 (it was subsequently deleted). 23 July 2011, two high-speed CRH ‘Harmony’ trains collided on a viaduct in the suburbs of Wenzhou, in southern Zhejiang province killing at least 40 people. Inept officials reacted to the accident by hurriedly finishing rescue operations and ordering the burial of the derailed cars. Result: Uproar.

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Filed under Accidents, China, China Under The Hood, Corruption, Damage, Economy, Hangzhou, Indifference, Poetry, Scandal, Security, Thought control, writing

China – Under The Hood: The Curious Case of the Ireland Pavilion at Shanghai World Expo 2010: Rebuilt in Zhejiang Province or Tianjin?

According to a local Chinese language newspaper, the Ireland Pavilion is to be demolished by end of April and then moved to Keqiao (, a non-descript city in Shaoxing County, Zhejiang Province, which is not far from Hangzhou.

The cost of demolition and reconstruction is estimated at about RMB 10 million (or Euro 1.1 million at today’s rate), and compares to the reported Euro 9 million cost of building and running the Ireland Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Chen Qimiao, respected local bigshot, a.k.a. Secretary-General, Shaoxing County Textile Services Designers Association is behind the move, which will see the Ireland Pavilion reconstructed as a fashion culture landmark in Keqiao, highlighting the innovative side of Shaoxing‘s traditional textile industry.

The outcome, according to the article, was negotiated directly with the Irish Government.

And yet there are others who claim to have inside knowledge the Ireland Pavilion was gifted by the Department of Taoiseach (the one from Offaly) to Tianjin city for an ‘Ireland village project‘. “…Don’t believe the Keqiao scam” says ZWQ (Patrick) of the Ireland China Business Network (ICBN) … “the Irish government owes money to the builder of the pavilion in China and has agreed to use the building material (after it’s demolished) to offset against the outstanding balance. The (Irish) government has never authorised anybody other than Tianjin city government to rebuild the pavilion. The officials from Tianjin came to Ireland to sign the memorandum. The builder might have sold the material to this guy in Keqiao“.

An Irish solution to an Irish problem? No matter who and where, the curious case of the Ireland Pavilion can certainly be explained by someone in the Department of Taoiseach.

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Filed under China, China Ireland, China Under The Hood, Ireland, Shanghai, Tianjin, World

China – Under The Hood: Condom Branding and Fuzzy Logic in China

Was in the local “xiao mai bu” (or local quintessential neighbourhood grocery store… like the ones throughout Ireland that have been driven out of business by the mega-stores …anyway I digress)… so I was in the local grocery buying my usual milk, water, soap and ice lollies (everything else was the big “mei you” (as in “don’t have, now feck off and leave me to me own devices”…. Actually, most shopkeepers are not that unfriendly…. it’s the heat, and it is very very hot) when I notice a box with packaging art showing a loving foreign couple.

Sure isn’t that an odd couple, your one and what’s ‘er name from Four Weddings and a Funeral?”

I asked no one in particular.

Certainly the shopkeeper didn’t take a blind bit of notice, or at least pretended not to..

Yeah that’s Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell entangled on the front“. .

But what really caught my eye was the word DAMAGE emblazoned as a brand of………………CONDOMS!

China - Under The Hood: The evolution of condom branding in China - 'Damage' Starring Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell

Who, I ask, in their right mind would buy a box of DAMAGE branded condoms? Ok, so this is China, but hold on!

Can you imagine the scene in an English-speaking country, for instance, Ireland?

Impatient, embarrassed fella (girlfriend waiting outside) to shop assistant (first day on the job):

“I need a box of DAMAGE”

Shop assistant:

Yah wha?

Yer man, by now perspiring profusely (confidently winking back at the impatient girlfriend):

Giv us a box of DAMAGEd condoms. Will yah hurry up for feck sake!

Shop assistant, sussing out the scene, having only recently viewed Bonnie and Clyde film trailer on Youtube, swiftly hits the alarm button.

But, seriously, what kind of branding gurus came up with this gem? What is the fuzzy logic thinking here? Because this packet of Hugh and Andies has me reflecting deeply on the fundamentally non-rational nature of Chinese thought processes. Yes, Chinese can hear the same words but interpret things completely differently, but come on. Did the creative team actually make a conscious effort to survey consumer preferences and subsequently report back to HQ that what members of the public really wanted to see next time they purchased a box of condoms was…

“DAMAGE”. Brilliant, that’s it! We have a winner!” (Another great moment in China-style product branding!)

… and then, after further brainstorming, decide that the best way to package the DAMAGE brand was to feature a picture of Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell in the throes of passion?  Sure, that’s like marketing a bottle of beer branded as POISON.

Mr. Branding and Product Marketing Gurus here are two definitions of “damage” I just found in the Collins Dictionary that you may have missed and hopefully will find useful when you’re undertaking your next annual sales review and wondering why your sales performance has been a little.. let’s say… limp:

 Damage (损坏):

    • Harm or injury to property or a person
    • To suffer or be susceptible to harm

Plenty of Damage done here and not just to the reputations of Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell (who I’d expect were consulted beforehand, bought into the concept, and were handsomely rewarded…Not!)…..

Oh, and what happens if the merchandise doesn’t perform its key task, as in protect against unplanned pregnancy? Well, that would be some serious “damage” …. So maybe these bi yun tao  (the direct Chinese translation of condom being “avoid pregnancy sheath” or 避孕套) aren’t meant to work in the first place!  

Ahh…  the mind boggles. Nevertheless, I still can’t figure out the ‘creative work’ behind the branding ….DAMAGE? It’s so weird.

And then there’s that “surely not / God forbid” question:

Do you think Hugh and Andie are still getting a bit on the side? If you know what I mean. Obviously you haven’t a clue what I mean.

Of course,  I am referring to “money”, or “royalties”, for such a public (performance) endorsement of the “DAMAGE” brand? After all it’s this endorsement that will soon have DAMAGE challenging Durex’s grip on the global market, right?

In truth, Fuji Condom’s product marketing team (if such a team exists outside the realm of ‘factory boss’ decision-making –influenced by ‘Er Nai’ wife #2) likely thinks all foreigners look the same, and if we don’t than we all look like Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell, especially when we’re stark naked.

Wonder if Hugh and Andie would be libel for any of the above damage?

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Filed under Branding, Character, China, China Under The Hood, Chinese, Innovation, Marketing

China – Under The Hood: Is Ireland in danger of becoming too dependent on China?

A wake up call.
Ah the miracle of the global economy. Having just flicked through several online Irish newspapers, trawled through the websites of well-known Irish hardware stores, clothes retailers, and a host of other outlets selling furniture, garden, indoor, outdoor is very clear that:
Everyone in Ireland is coming to depend on what is happening in China…
Look around you… What are you sitting on? Typing on? Looking at? Talking into? They’re all very likely Made in China, right?
Go around your house and get rid of everything that is Made in China. Take it all away and for the next twelve months don’t buy anything from China, even if it has a Made In China component, just don’t buy it.
What would you have left? Scary isn’t it. Life would be pretty damn awkward.  
China makes around 80% of the world’s photocopiers, 65% of the world’s mobile phonesMobile Phone, 60% of its digital camerasCamera, 50% of its computers,Computer 60% of all its bicycles, 45% of its microwaves, 70% of all its toys, and 50% of all its textiles They are all produded for little cost by low-paid Chinese labourers.
This has huge consequences. Surely Chinese-made products are saving you the average shopper in Ireland hundreds if not thousands of euro a year. Chinese production and Chinese spending mean that you in Ireland get cheap goods and low interest rates.
And there is no way out…. There’s a recession, with all its belt-tightening implications, and you need to save all the money you can. So keep buying Made in China (so long as the same product is not still being made in Ireland), and if you see something from China you like but can’t find in Ireland give Accurate Group a tinkleTelephone receiver and we’ll have you sorted in a jig.Sun
Oh, and a final thought……………. for those of you who enjoy the savings and yet complain about the poor quality of Made in China products, China’s sweat-shop labour conditions, and the loss of Ireland’s manufacturing base to China to be blunt: ‘You can’t eat your cake and have it too’, meaning keep slamming China for its numerous inconsistencies, whether pollution, safety, quality or autocratic abuse of power-related and all those annual savings at the check-out counter of hundreds or thousands of euro will disappear. You know, killing the goose that laid the golden egg and all that…………… Ok enough. I’ll stop here and have a mug of Barry’s Tea, one taste that China can’t replicate, even if the mug, water and milk is from China, the tea from Sri Lanka, and the bag itself is from God knows where.

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Filed under Business, China Ireland, China Under The Hood, Development

China Under The Hood: Nothing to My Name………

The father of Chinese rock

The father of Chinese rock

Nothing to my name: A clever atypical portrayal of impatience in a love relationship to the words of the L’Internationale that became rallying anthem for the Tiananmen Square student protesters of 1989 [Read more at:]. For the have nothing have nots, the disillusioned young and old feeling left behind by the staggering pace of communal change in today’s Middle Country, those without access to economic opportunity, or even a critical minimum of fairness and justice, “I have nothing” is as appropriate now as it was when originally scribed in 1985. Perhaps more so.

Nothing to my name, by Cui Jian 최건 (1985)

I have asked you endlessly,

When will you go with me?

But you always laugh at me with,

Nothing to my name

I want to give you my dreams,

And give you my freedom.

But you always laugh at me with,

Nothing to my name.


When will you go with me?


The earth beneath my feet is moving.

The river beside me is flowing.

But you always laugh at me with,

Nothing to my name.

Why do you always laugh at me so?

Why don’t I give up?

Why do you see me as,

Forever having nothing to my name?


Just go with me now!


Listen – I’ve waited so long,

So I’ll make my final request.

I want to grab you by the hands,

And take you with me.

Now your hands are trembling,

Now your tears are falling.

Perhaps you are saying,

You love me with nothing to my name


Just go with me now.”

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Filed under China, China Under The Hood, Poetry, tolerance

China – Under the Hood: On the rights of China’s ethnic minorities

07-May-07 at 10:13pm

“Seriously lads this ethnic minority malarkey is a load cobblers… Sure aren’t we all human beings?

I want to classify the Irish as an ethnic minority in Hangzhou. I feel our traditions are being encroached upon here… Cheap anti-freeze tainted Chivas Whisky, a pseudo-Irish bar serving way too expensive Plain, dribble measures of Jameson, and no interest in Rugby Union. I could go on and on and on. But I’ll stop here.

Which Government department do I go to for the purpose of presenting our case for ethnic minority recognition? “

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Filed under China Under The Hood, Culture, Hangzhou

China – Under The Hood: A Chinese man has married himself…

… to express his “dissatisfaction with reality”.

Liu Ye, 39, from Zhuhai City, married a life-sized foam cut-out of himself wearing a woman’s bridal dress.

“There are many reasons for marrying myself, but mainly to express my dissatisfaction with reality,” he said.

“This marriage makes me whole again. My definition of marriage is different from others.”

The ceremony was held at a traditional courtyard packed with more than 100 guests.  The ‘couple’ were led out by a bridesmaid and a groomsman and bowed to ancestors and senior guests for blessings.

Liu says he is not gay, but admits he’s “maybe a bit narcissistic”, reported the New Express Newspaper. (Source:

China Under The Hood -  A Chinese man Liu Ye has married himself 001

The picture of the happy couple features one board looking housewife.. Wonder what the bridesmaids looked like? Equally plain no doubt.

Liu Ye is probably is one of those people you hear interviewed on the nightly news being described by his neighbours as “very quiet, keeps to himself”. Or perhaps this a clever manoeuvre by local democracy dissidents trying to attract publicity.

Geez, it’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it?

China Under The Hood -  A Chinese man Liu Ye has married himself 002

Weird marriages update: In 2010 a Korean man married a pillow (Source:

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Filed under Art, China, China Under The Hood, Chinese, Culture, Love, Wedding, weird