China – Under The Hood: China’s Unbearable Air Traffic Congestion and Flight Delays

Flight delay, delay, delay….The glamour of air travel is gone.

In China was it ever thus?

Unquestionably one can consider Laozi (a.k.a ‘ Lao Tzu), the ancient Chinese poet and philosopher who died in 531 BC, truly perceptive when he remarked:

“Yī wèi cōngmíng de lǚxíng zhě méiyǒu gùdìng de jì huà, érqiě bù yīdìng fēi yào dàodá mùdì de [一位聪明的旅行者没有固定的计画,而且不一定非要到达目的地]”, which roughly translates as

“A clever traveller has no fixed plans, and does not necessarily have to reach their purpose.”

For it seems this wise sage back in ‘BC’ times was privy to the staggering state of affairs that would by and large ensue by the end of 2015 when China will have built close to 220 fully operational airports (up from 175 airports in 2011) handling over 870 million passengers and serviced by 46 domestic airlines (exclusive of foreign airlines), with a fleet of just over 2,000 planes (to be expanded to 4,200 aircraft in 2020) vying for limited space overhead.  Add to this mélange the fact that China doesn’t have enough airspace (the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) controls all airspace, only allocating 20% of airspace to civil aviation), and China’s inclement weather (for example, if there is a thunderstorm impinging on a flight route between two cities, the flight will likely be delayed since it can’t divert through controlled airspace), and it is no wonder flight delays snarl China’s clogged and struggling civil aviation transportation system.

With the People’s Liberation Army Air Force blaming chronic air traffic congestion and flight delays on poor airline management and scheduling performance, “having no fixed plans” at least for the day of passage, as in “cancel all other appointments”, is sage advice indeed. China’s airlines have the world’s worst record for flight delays.”

And so to some of the tell-tale signs that all is not well regarding timely aircraft departure from Chinese airports as experienced by myself over the past 12 months almost 100% of the time.

1. The informative announcement

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - delay delay delay
Actually there is usually no information reflecting the cause of the flight delay problem, except to adopt the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) spin that the fault lies with the airline. It is not uncommon for passengers to have to wait for hours at the boarding gate without any information about how long the delay might last, while ground staff weary of being on the receiving of verbal and physical abuse usually scarper.

2. Queuing to board the aircraft?

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - Time to board - queuing for food 2
At last we’re off 🙂 Alas, wishful thinking… A queue for food handouts 😦

3. Hand-luggage?

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China - Time to board - queuing for food 3
…not quite… looks like this delay is more than a case of the pilot leaving his passport at home. Noting that the first line of defence in offsetting the bubbling rage of irritated Chinese passengers is to attempt to gratify their appetites, this airline came well prepared!

 4. Food Service

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China Serving meal before the plane moves
After the mad rush to get to the airport, dealing with queues at check-in, security inspection, and boarding, hungry stomachs pang just that bit more at the sight of the commencement of the on-board food service. Unless, as in this case, the aircraft hasn’t budged from its stand. Not a great omen! 😦  In China passengers can wait for hours inside a plane without any information from an equally clueless flight crew.

 5. In-flight Films

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China Staring at the runway - no movement
As last the aircraft is on the move, taxiing towards the runway. Slowly it dawns on us that we are no longer moving, instead being treated to a live 80 minute silent film about the concrete surface just below the plane’s belly.. Mind-numbing in-flight entertainment akin to watching paint dry.

6. Angry Passengers

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China -ready to take off and a demand for explanation why the plane is delayed
Air passengers in China are noted for adopting extreme measures to vent their anger and demand an explanation over why the plane is delayed. This really furious customer sprang up just as the plane was turning toward the runway ready for take-off!

7. The Hard Landing

China - Under The Hood -  The Joys Of Flying In China hard landing
Hard landing: Thump! Bounce! Bounce! Bounce! Swerve! Brake! “What the hell was…..?” as we bleary-eyed travellers are instantaneously brought to our senses. Seems the guys up in the cockpit are also worn out. At last, and at least, we’ve finally arrived at our destination. Now just get me off this aircraft!

The joys of flying in China, soon to get worse. “A clever traveler has no fixed plans, and does not necessarily have to reach their purpose.”

Read the somewhat related blog ‘China – Under The Hood: “Bu Hao Yisi” – The animated joys of everyday living in China’ https://nialljoreilly.com/2008/12/20/bu-hao-yisi-mei-banfa-mei-wenti-and-chinese-language-expressions-and-everyday-living/

A circuitous route to an Irish polling station

A circuitous route to an Irish polling station - local and european elections- 23 may 2014 - China Dubai Hong Kong Thailand dublin votingFrom China (where the masses only get to vote for one party) to Hong Kong (where despite promises of universal suffrage to be introduced in 2017, Hong Kong citizens’ hopes of electing their own Chief Executive by one man one vote is diametrically contrary to the principles of China’s one party authoritarian system. In other words the Chief Executive will always be a hand-picked puppet of Beijing) to Bangkok (at 2.00 am on the 22nd of May, as I was sitting on the airplane in Bangkok Airport during transit Thailand’s military was setting in motion the usurpation of an elected Government, its nineteenth Coup d’Etat) in Dubai (which like China has embraced unbridled capitalism without political freedom), before finally arriving on Tuesday 19th May in an Ireland on the home stretch in the local and European elections campaigns, with the majority of people due to vote three days later.

The last time I voted was in the February 2011 General Election. Following the abysmal mess created by the Fianna Fail / Green Party coalition, I had made a decision to join the Fine Gael Party (I still have the official welcome letter signed by local TD Sean Barrett the Ceann Comhairle, or the speaker of Dáil Éireann). I even met Enda Kenny on his whirlwind visit to Stradbrook Rugby Club to drum up the party faithful Over a cocktail sausage he took my business card, put it inside his breast pocket and said he would be in touch in a few weeks to talk about China (It didn’t register at the time that, although he was to become the next Taoiseach, he was merely just another politician focused on the corridors of power, taking the populist line on anything and everything to get into office).

Anyway, never heard from anyone in Fine Gael again.  So be it.

And so to 23rd May.

Should I vote?

Yes. All people have a right to have a say in what is happening in Ireland. The alternative is a China, Hong Kong, Thailand or Dubai. What would happen if everyone decided not to vote? Where would Ireland’s democracy go? Who would run the country? What type of political system would Ireland have?

Does it matter?

Take the France versus Ireland rugby match setting last 15th March in Paris where Ireland, up against a ferocious French onslaught, held on to win 22:20 and be crowned RBS Six Nations Champions.  One Irish voice cheering alone wouldn’t have been heard, but when all those Irish fans who travelled to Paris collectively stood and shouted “Come on Ireland!”, then it mattered!

Perhaps my vote on its own isn’t going to matter, but I choose to cast my vote because I support Ireland’s democracy, our ability to elect the people who govern us, our right to be free, and our right to show the Government what we think of them.  People power.

Almost 100 years ago, in 1916 a group of Irishmen, including my grandfather, Dr. Michael William O’Reilly, and women stood up to British rule in Ireland and declared an Irish Republic. They were opposed by many of their peers. Seven years later Ireland had a free state. Change can happen.

Around the world on a daily basis people risk their lives by fighting and struggling to earn the right a vote, something which many Irish people take for granted, while past generations of Irishmen and women suffered to get us such a right.

Indifference changes nothing.

A circuitous route to an Irish polling station - local and european elections- 23 may 2014 - China Dubai Hong Kong Thailand ireland

Who will I vote for?

It has been a fairly brutal three years since the 2011 general election. Sure after the shambolic financial mess created by the previous Fianna Fail / Green Party Coalition Government, austerity cuts needed to be made.

However, I don’t like the way the country is being fixed. Inflicting crippling austerity, property tax, and water charges, flawed cuts and knee-jerk decisions, instigated by an increasingly aloof Government / political elite, have had a huge negative bearing on the lives of so many ordinary citizens, particularly the middle classes.

I no longer trust the establishment parties and whips that have caused Ireland so much destruction, while Sinn Fein will never get my vote. This time I will have the pleasure of not putting a number beside the Fine Gael and Labour candidates. Instead, I intend to vote for those independent (and People Before Profit) candidates who can really irritate, by constantly nipping at the heels of, the establishment.

It’s time to overhaul what is a worn out political system, but nothing will change if people do not get off their backsides and vote.

A circuitous route to an Irish polling station - local and european elections- 23 may 2014 - China Dubai Hong Kong Thailand

From Excess to Aloofness – Ireland’s Tin Gods

'Spoilt for choice - Ireland's electorate
Spoilt for choice – Ireland’s electorate

Watching this Government’s growing sense of self-importance is quite amazing, in fact galling. 

It is appalling to see the way the political supporters of successful parties line up at the trough for governmental patronage. Yet, when asked hard-hitting questions the conceited body language of Kenny, Gilmore, Hogan, Reilly, Howlin, Shatter, and Varadkar says everything: Unapproachable and increasingly remote from anyone who does not toe their line – which is probably a clear majority of our ‘spoilt for choice’ (not!) electorate.

At the end of the day when all is said and done these condescending characters are no different to the Fianna Fail /Progressive Democrats cohort when they were in power: Had they been in power under the influence of ‘Celtic Tiger’ excess, in all probability they would have crafted the same runaway train.

Before these unfriendly Government ministers utterly lose the run of themselves it is worth remembering that the politicians that the public likes best are not the arrogant, big-headed, pompous ones, but the human ones, those politicians who understand the very real challenges that so many missing-in-action voters, young and old, face every day.

Without the electorate these people are just tin gods.

China – Under The Hood: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

Yesterday’s autumnal afternoon was typical of late: drizzling, murky and, if you found yourself in the middle of Hangzhou’s snarling traffic, chaotic. Thanks to a very impressive and convenient public bicycle system, I was cycling along minding my own business when, without warning, a real nasty piece of work, the local equivalent of a Hell’s Angel on an electric-bicycle, the ultimate street menace, tried to squeeze in front of the metre distance separating my pedal bicycle and the plastic bollard dividing our bicycle lane from the regular traffic lane. Unluckily for me his sudden, impulsive, totally devoid of conscience, maneuver was never going to work and I came off much worse in what was another surreal Hangzhou moment.

Within a flash there’s spread-eagled me and a mangled bicycle sprawled on the grimy black surface. The first thought to enter my mind was whether I should get up and strangle him? Meanwhile, the peloton of E-bikes and bicycles behind me had stopped. Waiting in readiness:

Urchin, with the jumpy smile, and everyone else from ‘rent a crowd’, was impassively staring at me waiting for me to pick myself up. Not one helping hand 漠不关心 (‘mo bu guan xin’ or “completely unmoved or indifferent) as I lay there.

Amid the spectators and the ‘raring to go’ din of more and more impatient bicycle bells, honking e-bike and motorised tricycle horns and blackboard screeching brakes no more than two or three metres behind me, I could hear the repeated words “你看他是老外!”, or simply “老外!” (‘ni kan ta shi lao wai’ a derogatory term for “foreigner”, “look he’s a foreigner!”).

As soon as I managed to shove the bicycle a few inches out of the way with my foot the horde was once again on the move, cautiously filing through the narrow gap I had created, all wearing the same sheepish gaze I have witnessed so many times while living in China: The ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ code of silence ― ‘Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.’ What happens to a stranger outside their immediate comfort zone of family and friends is none of their business, so best to flee rather than be blamed for any injuries the “老外” lao wai may have sustained.

No doubt I’d be the topic of conversation amid the cacophony of slurps over their next bowl of noodles. Now looking back, I am rather surprised that for added conversational embellishment one of the quick thinking onlookers didn’t have the ‘cop on’ to take out her iPhone and snap a photo of me sprawled on roadside with wrecked bicycle. On second thoughts such an exercise would have risked losing the Teacup Poodle peeking out of her designer handbag. In any case, I seriously doubt that any conversation about me would have decried the pathetic apathy or laziness of the renmin who left me on the ground, not bothering to offer any assistance: 漠不关心.

China Under The Hood - Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil - Something like 1,000,000 electric bicycles stalk the streets of Hangzhou
Something like 1,000,000 electric bicycles stalk the streets of Hangzhou

As for me I finally made my way to the hospital.

I couldn’t wrap up this exposé from the harmonious society of Hangzhou without a special mention about local hospitality as witnessed yesterday: Mind numbing, really touching indeed. It certainly gives a special resonance to the recent incident down in Foshan City where little Wang Yue was run over by two vans and ignored by 18 passers-by http://wp.me/p15Yzr-jJ.

The ethic of the jungle ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,’ looking out for yourself, may have been expedient in the dark days of Mao Zedong’s revolution. However, here in a China subjected to dramatic economic and social changes in nearly all aspects of life on an unprecedented scale, the gazes of indifference and lack of compassion for a fellow human being, as witnessed yesterday, patently reveal a public engulfed by a great moral vacuum, empty of imagination, hope and of any future… not really the hallmarks of a harmonious society.

China – Under The Hood: Time for ‘Wang Yue’s Law’ – the criminality of indifference

The tragic death of little Wang Yue  (“Yue Yue”) from Foshan, who died days after being hit by vans and ignored by witnesses (source:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15398332) is truly a dreadful story that will likely (in addition to the Wenzhou subprime crisis and the horrible child kidnapping stories of late) be used as a political weapon by power struggling leaders in Beijing who have gathered to focus on “proposing new ideas for reform and development culture into the 21st century”, basically planning the future cultural direction of China. That’s for sure. And the quickest assumption they’ll come to? Blame all the nastiness on negative western influences…they use the word “destructive“. Well  these troubles have nothing to do with destructive western influences. At the heart of these stories is the thinking “I don’t give a damn about anyone else except me“, and that, I’m afraid, is both an educational issue and SYSTEM issue…. A system that doesn’t observe basic human values is a broken system.

"Mo Bu Guan Xin" means "indifferent"
“Mo Bu Guan Xin” means “indifferent”

Yet, from such a tragedy there has to be a positive, something constructive… and there is: the massive outpouring of anger in China at the indifference. The vast majority of Chinese people care. Like the rubbish collector, they have a heart and a conscience. Right? Otherwise how can a society function? In every country in the world, including my own, equal horrors arise followed by plenty of brow-beating and introspection.

Readers in the USA and UK will be familiar with Megan’s Law and Sarah’s Law respectively. Both girls were murdered by child killers, and following campaigns by their families the laws were changed to protect children. While the Wang Yue tragedy is under a different set of circumstances, nonetheless let’s hope a Wang Yue Law will punish the indifference to helping a fellow human-being in distress. China is waking up not just in an economic sense, but more importantly, social sense.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

Martin Luther King

Wang Yue Foshan China Hit and Run

Source / read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-15398332

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?”

Source:

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.

http://chinageeks.org/2011/07/han-han-the-derailed-country/

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China – Under The Hood: When there is no will they have ‘Ah Way’ – The fowl art of domesticating a wild chicken in 81 days

 “The critic educates the public. The artist educates the critic”

评论家教育公众。艺术家教导评论家

(Oscar Wilde (Irish Poet, Novelist, Dramatist and Critic, 1854-1900))

When there is no will they have 'A Way' - The fowl art of domesticating a wild chicken in 81 days

They declare that chickens, after thousands of years of domestication, now finally enjoy roosting in branches.

I live in a filthy cage so small I cannot stretch my wings. They wish I were dead: A dead battery chicken. “Useless alive”, They say, and.. I don’t know, soon perhaps I will be dead. Blood pressure and diabetes have an impact on chickens too.

I am a battery chicken. They say “a mentally conflicted chicken”. I say “a battery chicken with a conscience”.

Chinese battery chickens

Even my discourse is more articulate than theirs can ever be….

“…. Despite twenty-two years of harsh domestication, we battery chickens are in actual fact still the wild fowl of our ancestry, with the same passions for openness, free will, candor, and lack of restrictions suited to the tropical surroundings they originated in. June is International Respect for Wild Fowl Month.  Let the earth know how beautiful and essential we battery chickens truly can be..”

“…. Release the battery chickens from their cages

“…. Stop debeaking chickens

“…. Yes chickens are no longer starving, but they still suffer

Thought Reform: The Coercive Art of Passive Persuasion

They don’t like my intense mode of individualism, which, unimaginatively, They perceive as seeking to incite the masses of outwardly blissful chickens. “The illusion of a unique temperament is unbecoming of a chicken”, They ridicule, “too outspoken”.

That’s why They grabbed me and my little brothers: Thrown into trash bags: Welcome to the machine.

They want to strike off my beak with a hot iron.

They scowl they are resolute in their determination to extract my compliance. Oh, we battery chickens know all too well the wide variety of  intimidating methods They employ orchestrating self-indicting and self-reproaching confessions of wrong-doing:

Sleep deprivation and semi starvation.  I am forced to stand night and day for very long periods in conditions of bitter cold on a freezing floor that eventually deadens my feet.  The cage walls continually bruise the elbows of my wings, forming swelling that never seems to mend.  In this trash bag, the air is so full of the choking stench of decay my lungs hurt and my eyes are on fire.

Reducing my mental and physical ability to resist, They want me spent, broken, no fuel to carry on, reduced back to simple ‘battery chicken level’, a nervous gibbering wreck.

Now wholly reliant on my interrogator, my declaration of guilt is merely a feeling of liberation over the endless onslaught.  Next comes their very consistent and very public:

“Because of this chicken’s good attitude in confessing his crimes….”.

Even so, my mind remains observant and my body is aware of a natural desire so strong: The freedom to socialise, even in a farmyard, with my like-minded flock, practicing my critical spirit, expressing my nature, looking at the stars.

I am not a spent chicken. I want to be richly feathered.

Say I am wonderful.

Don’t let me be misunderstood.

China – Under The Hood: The Curious Incident Of The Dissolving Peach

No, I’m not being self-absorbed, and it’s not as if loads of locals around me are succumbing to nasty, mysterious illnesses (anyway the local tabloids always tone down the numbers). Nevertheless, of late in conversations with Hangzhouers I’ve noticed three questions coming up again and again in a tone verging on alarm.

-What are we eating?

-What are we drinking?

-and…. What the hell are we breathing?

-and I’ll toss in another issue…. How can one of the two peaches I bought in the local fruit shop last Sunday turn from unripe into a liquefied mush within 36 hours of purchase? That toxic peach dissolved right before my eyes!

[Anecdote:  A couple of weeks ago having enjoyed a second Kelloggs Nutri-Grain bar (courtesy of a Red-Cross parcel from my mother back home in Ireland, also filled with a critical supply of Barry’s Tea bags) I found myself checking out the nutritional label on the back of the wrapper. Clueless as to what I was reading, it suddenly dawned on me what I was reading wasn’t anything about food.  Why did I just eat a load of preservatives which are of zero benefit to my body? Why indeed..]

If you want to participate in a live laboratory in which the food – [and air-we-breath] – chain(s) are “unintentionally” (yeah right! the expressions of innocence on the faces of those perpetrators regularly showcased to the media are as fake as the vile products they have been caught tainting) exposed to poisonous industrial chemicals with the potential to totally wreck our bodily processes, then all roads lead to China.

I’d never even heard of most of these chemicals by name. Sure I can hardly pronounce them:

  • Watermelons overdosing (exploding melons of mass destruction) on forchlorfenuron growth hormones (May 2011)

  • Sports and fruit drinks laced with “particularly damaging to a young male’s fertility” dioctyl phthalate (imported from Taiwan, June 2011)
  • The “high blood pressure” yielding heavy metal cadmium in rice (February 2011); toxic “kidney failure” conducive melamine in milk (ongoing?)
  • Arsenic in soy sauce (ongoing?)
  • Copper in coffee (imported from Japan, 2008)
  • Bleach in mushrooms (December 2010)
  • The detergent borax in pork (added to make it resemble beef, April 2011)
  • and a whole host of fruit and vegetables smeared in deltamethrin, a synthetic insecticide, and preservatives with extremely long names!

Sure it only seems like yesterday when my buddy Umberto, who being Italian takes his cooking very seriously, watched a pot of fresh tomatoes turn white in a boiling confusion of red artificial colouring (2006).

Here in Hangzhou, affectionately known as “The Pond”, on account of its scenic West Lake,  so far (and counting…)we have:

  • Lead in the air (a lot of it apparently, courtesy of the local battery manufacturing industry)
  • Phenol in the water (courtesy of a tanker driver whose load tipped into the water supply, June 2011)… anyway phenol only causes severe eye damage, and sure what’s 25 tons of the stuff?

Spare a thought for those Harbiners up north whose Songhua River water supply was  contaminated with at least 80 tons of the carcinogen Benzine (ok, so that was back  in 2005 –‘water under the bridge’…so the local officials will tell you, long-term cancer risks notwithstanding).  No doubt, these same faceless apparatchiks will point to Germany’s e-coli cucumbers and bean sprouts (last week), the UK’s Mad Cows (hmmm) and Ireland’s contaminated pig meat (2008) as symptomatic of a global problem not just a China problem   – I’ve noticed they don’t really like talking about the “far worse than governments are revealing to the public” Fukushima nucleur disaster.

The Good News

Yes there is. Multiple the uproar each food scandal outside China receives by 1,000 times and you’ll get a sense of the disgust local Chinese feel about the continuing government incompetence and cynical manipulation of consumers by devious producers. China’s ‘You Are What You Eat’ sensitive generation is becoming increasingly aware of potential hazards of almost everything they eat and drink. What they see all around them are poor public hygiene surveillance and low standards of food quality all of which are cultivated by official incompetence, slapdash law enforcement, corruption and a corner-cutting culture among some businesses. It’s common knowledge that corrupt manufacturers and growers still use bribery and corruption to escape scrutiny.

Which brings me back to the bad news – that peach.

Eat The Peach? Certainly Not!

The facts:

  • Sunday evening in the neighbourhood fruit store

A shop widely considered to trade in Hangzhou’s finest selection of fruits. A large store, open 24×7, all year round, I supposed its popularity was simply down to the fact you are given what you pay for: natural fruit, preservative and pesticide free, as in normal fruit, grown locally… generating visions of suppliers being meticulously selected by a resident ‘Man from Del Monte’, giving his nod of approval to the perfect pineapple or apple… Well not quite, clearly a figment of my imagination.

The shop has a large imported section, offering exotic fruits from all over the world to their bàofā hù (nouveau riche) patrons mad for anything deemed exotic, to know off their knowledge and sophistication.  In my mind best to avoid this part of the shop for the same reason I’d avoid purchasing any ‘fresh’ consumable products from outside China, knowing the length it took to get from source to shelf (Kiwi from New Zealand, Apples from the USA? Bananas from South America? Hmm, imported fruit just looks too perfect and do we really believe they’re all air-freighted in?).

So the local fruit section it is.

  • Discerning shoppers everywhere like pawing their fruit for ripeness and the masses here are no different

However, in a big fruit shop that can make for a lot of grubby paws feeling up the goods: ‘The greener the fruit, the less manhandled its likely to be; let it ripen at home’, so the prevailing wisdom goes.

Two curvy, still hard, peaches caught my attention. I reckoned after being stored at an average room temperature of about 22 Celsius they’d be perfect to eat in three days. Back in the apartment, I left them on the table in their open plastic bag and went about my business, as in business trip to another city.

36 hours later I noticed a damp blot on the table cloth under the plastic bag and lifted it up. Liquid is seeping right through the plastic bag, and while one of the peaches looks exactly like it did when purchased, the other has simply dissolved into a gooey toxic mush.

  • And the upshot of this morbid tale about defiled peaches?

Yesterday, still incredulous, I recounted the story to the wife of Umberto, who, Umberto often complains, is overly preoccupied by a fear of preservatives, toxic chemicals, phony foods, and corrupt practices. Mother of three, Wu Bei wasn’t in the least bit surprised offering me the following prudent advice the next time I go fruit hunting in China:

“.. pick the fruit that’s looks somewhat chewed  and scarred by insects, because if  it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for you…. The most flawless delicious looking fruit is the most dangerous of all”.

A slightly more resigned Umberto quips that perhaps the best rule of thumb is to keep changing your poisons.

Seeing is believing…

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Fast forward to March 2013

– Rivers of blood: the dead pigs rotting in China’s water supply

“Shanghai’s drinking water is under threat after 16,000 diseased pig carcasses are found in tributaries of the Huangpu river…” Source / read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/29/dead-pigs-china-water-supply?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

The reason why 16,000 pigs ended up in the Huangpu River was never fully explained by the authorities.

Fast forward to April 2013

– Bottled water scandal highlights food safety challenges

“The quality “..criteria Zhejiang’s Nongfu Spring uses are looser than national tap water standards in terms of the amount of arsenic and cadmium allowed in its products…. Nongfu Spring uses criteria that were set by the government of east China’s Zhejiang Province in 2005. National standards were upgraded in 2007…. Nongfu Spring was the only drinking water company to participate in drafting the Zhejiang provincial standards….. enterprises are only allowed to adopt local standards in exceptional cases when there are no relevant national standards….Nongfu Spring’s products do not meet the requirements for such an exception… China has formulated nearly 5,000 compulsory food safety criteria due to its excessive number of government departments….”

” Source / read more: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2013-04/12/c_132304484.htm

Fast forward to May 2013

– Forget mutton: in China, it’s rat, fox and mink dressed as lamb

Sold in thinly sliced rolls for consumption in hotpots  the “…”lamb” was mixed with rat, fox and mink with additives including gelatin. The meat was sold to farmers’ markets in the two cities…” Source / read more: http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20130505000018&cid=1103

Fast forward to October 2013

– China’s Gutter Oil Scandal: 1/10 Of China’s Cooking Oil May Be Recycled From Garbage

“… In our current society everybody tries to swindle everybody else there’s nothing we can do about it.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kne4PL5uH7c

….. and this food scandal concerning the cat meat trade…

“.. selling cat meat to butchers who then repackaged it and sold it as rabbit…” Source / read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10417032/Chinese-police-find-slaughterhouse-selling-cat-meat.html

Ireland, a baNAMA Republic?

This Great Little Nation [a tongue in cheek term coined during the heady days of over-indulgence, or credit splurge, marking the Celtic Tiger, Ireland’s 1995-2007 economic miracle] is almost broke: Europe’s economic basket case. People are hurting big time, and are justifiably peeved that their jobs, 430,000 of them, are being lost at an alarming rate. 

It really is stunning how the short-term greed, mismanagement, and incompetence of the Cabal that is Fianna Fail (the majority government political party, or ‘Party of Corrupt Gougers’), the banks and the builders have ruined the country. And now these gangsters are holding a gun to the head of every taxpayer, or every man, woman and child in Ireland to add an additional €15,000 each, on top of their own personal debt, to bail the banks out of their bad loans to the tune of €54,000,000,000….Billions…

This huge amount of ‘toxic debt’ will be handed over to the new National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), thus, we are told, freeing up the banks to get on with the everyday business of being good bankers, giving out loans to the real businesses that so desperately need them.

Loading the people with an extra €15,000 each to pay for the sins of a few is high-handed, dictatorial and undemocratic. It’s also shamefully generous to the bankers. Why aren’t the people of Ireland out in their thousands on the streets demanding that the fat cat bankers and ineffectual politicians who created the mess in the first place are held accountable? They together with the property tycoons, who built the optical illusion, destroyed this country’s economy. So there is no way they should be allowed to dig us out of the mess, especially when the long-term economic prosperity of Ireland is at stake.

But that is exactly what’s happening: the people, baying like sheep let them get away with it.

And when it comes to Ireland Inc’s future economic well-being, what is the game-plan of the uncompromising, pig-headed gang that runs it?  Cut wages, by sucking more money out of the pockets of its citizens in taxes and levies and leaving its people all considerably less well off so they can compete once again in the world’s export markets.  That’s not an economic stimulus. That’s not going to speed up a national recovery.

There are fairer options to the financial crisis that can be implemented. With the Government now claiming NAMA will bring the taxpayer profits within 10 years, it’s fair to scratch your head and ask the question: If the bad loans are so potentially profitable, what’s the point in having NAMA?

Greed for power. Greed for wealth. Power corrupts rational thought and creates a false sense of control, self-esteem and confidence. Ireland’s Government, with its air of self-righteousness has clearly lost the run of itself.


China – Under the Hood: China style retrenchment – How to lose friends and make enemies

On St Patrick’s Day afternoon a friend of mine, MS, the only foreign employee working for a local software services company was telling me, in no uncertain terms, how much he really liked his job. And, from first hand experience, I can affirm MS was pretty bloody good at it as well.. So I was really astonished when about six hours later I receive an email from him telling me his job / his department have been discontinued with immediate effect. No warning whatsoever.
Yep, slash (churn) and burn is occurring in China at a frenetic pace, it’s not just an Irish, European or American phenomenon. Here, however, there is no safety net, no right of appeal, nothing. You’re gone, fired, lucky if you’re paid any compensation (if you’re a foreigner your work-permit is cancelled with immediate effect) and that’s it. It’s an approach that’s ruthless and wholly tactless, while the consequences are invariably devastating.Now MS is a guy I could put my hand on my heart and say”hire him!”. I imagine he would be gutted to read the email below, which arrived in my Inbox tonight and was probably sent to everyone MS has ever done business with. Absolutely no need for such a humiliating email, which if anything, has shown up his former employer for what they are: Parasites

“From: hr [mailto:hr@XXX.com]
Sent: 19 March 2009 17:14
To: hr
Subject: The declaration from XXX Company

 Dear all,

 

This is the declaration from XXX Company.

 

I hereby declare that MS, former Business Development Manager of XXX, is going through the procedure of leaving XXX from 17 Mar, 2009. Any of his comments, business activities are purely his individual behavior, and would not present XXX from 17 Mar, 2009.

 

Besides, for any future enquiries on IT service, please contact our Marketing Director whose details as follows…..

The corporate autocrats who make such crass decisions, who treat their staff like fodder, who have zero respect for anything other than their own personal gain would do well to remember “what goes around comes around”. In life the decisions we all make and the way we treat people around us will someday come back to stare us in the face. If you’re good and kind to people they will treat you kindly. If you’re cruel to people and make bad decisions then life will not be so kind to you. However you act in your life expect the same to come back to you. It may not happen right away, but at some point in your life you will face the rewards, or, as is the case in this particular situation, the consequences.

I would imagine this email will completely backfire on MS’s former employer. Its distasteful, offensive tone will likely discourage recepients who know MS well from ever again wanting to do business with them.

Chinese company culture churn and burn