Category Archives: Shanghai

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 (http://www.chinashaoxing.com/english/), 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.

http://www.shaoxing.com.cn/news/content/2011-03/02/content_576433.htm

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

Accurate China Insight: China’s US$45 billion coming out party – Shanghai World Expo 2010

The marketing hype anticipates 70 million attendees (including 3.4 million from overseas!!! —that’s over 12,000 plane loadsSurprised).  Yet, we can’t honestly see where the value is for foreign businessmen/women already undertaking / or contemplating China business in attending the Shanghai World Expo which starts on May 1 and lasts six months through to October 31st. Should we all hop on a plane and head for Shanghai because the chances of closing deals during the six months that the Expo runs are better than ever?
Actually, the more we read about it the more the Expo seems so illogical, extravagant, and (given its intention promote the theme of “sustainability and better living”), uneconomical, except of course if looking at Expo from the perspective of what Shanghai and China stand to gain in terms of their global prestige.
All the Expo really appears to be is a global jamboree akin to a Culture Olympics in which each country grandstands its unique “innovative” approach to sustainability in an urban environment, in the process spending / wasting millions of US$ constructing incredibly expensive new pavilions (USA Pavilion a lavish US$60million+, Germany’s US$40.8 million, Saudi Arabia’s US$100million+, Norway’s a comparatively minor US$22 million. Even Ireland is spending millions of $$ >>although the authorities at this stage won’t be drawn on exactly how much<<) in downtown Shanghai, most, if not all, of which will be pulled down afterwards.
The party-line notes there will be plenty of scope for interaction, and innovative ideas…. Sure, but isn’t that always the case when doing business here. Moreover, there will be few if any opportunities for businesses to promote their products within their own national Expo pavilions since the emphasis is clearly on State related organisations…As such, there’s more value for international businessmen and women to be gained from attending the year round industry specific exhibitions which are more in tune with their businesses than flying to China specifically to visit the World Expo.
Anyway, the real story is the US$45 billion (45,000,000,000) Shanghai is spending on the upgrade of infrastructure and transportation links to be completed by May 1st, which is much more than Beijing spent on hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. All the more reason to visit Shanghai any time you want.

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Filed under China, Shanghai

China – Under The Hood: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment?

It’s 0.32 hrs, early Wednesday morning, on rattler K8427 and we’re rolling along towards Hangzhou East Station, having just pulled out of characterless SongJiang (I guess everywhere is inexpressive when its pitch black outside).

Two more stops to endure: Like time without end in this oppressively hot sardine can, stuffed to the gills with wilting, almost comatose, travellers.  In any manner whatever dishevelled bodies covered with sweat, are crushed, wedged, packed, and squeezed into seats and each other. Faces, compressed into table tops and plastic bags crammed full with life possessions, compete for space with those two standard trappings for such idle moments: melon seeds and screw-top jars.

Great China Railway Journey: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment Packed Train Shanghai Hangzhou

Great China Railway Journey: Night-train K8401- A Cheesy Moment Packed Train Shanghai Hangzhou

To rise above the tedium of the travel, passengers, those that are still of sound mind, delight in picking, cracking open and chewing melon seeds (now I know what the long pointed nails are for, working much more effectively than teeth), while another infallible remedy are the jars filled to the brim with tea, the fuel that drives China’s blue-collar classes.

The carriage is unventilated and airless, while the railway car attendant is swabbing the floor under my feet with a filthy black mop, the same one she has just used to clean the toilet.

The commuter across the way has his shirt rolled halfway up his chest, a nauseating waft of cigarette smoke permeates the space between us, and I find myself envisioning two very smelly French delicacies:

  • Vieux Boulogne, the foul-smelling ‘chou dofu’ of cheeses, the smelliest cheese known to man, is said to smell like a product from a cow’s ass, rather than its udders, which adequately describes the stench originating from the toilet.
  • Pont l’Eveque, the Durian of cheeses, is one of the world’s oldest cheeses and dating back a couple of hundred years actually smells that old, its pong bearing a very strong resemblance to the overpowering odour emanating from this gentleman’s sweat soaked, decaying socks.

“…foul smelling French cheese…”

Durian

Durian

Chou Dofu

And for all this entertainment only RMB 25 (Euro 2.60), the price of the ticket from Shanghai South Station.

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Filed under China, Culture, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Smell, Train, Travel

China – Under The Hood: Sounds of Hangzhou – Tweet, beep, toot, honk, screech

Shanghai banned the honking of the horn in its commercial districts last month. Apparently, even police sirens are banned in all but emergencies… I hear that car owners are now paying to have their horns tuned with music or a human-voiced warning instead of a honk. Will noisy Hangzhou follow suit?

I seriously doubt such a ban would ever be effective here in The Pond where the taxi, bus, police and (the worst of them all) ‘official’ car drivers are a law on to their own.  Here they honk at everyone who’s in their way, and who they think is in their way, and who they are passing, and who they think is trying to pass them.  Every bicycle needs a honk in case the driver can’t see them. Every pedestrian, most definitely, because they’re not looking at anything except their feet as they float out in front of a car!

The constant cacophony of horn noise is such that everybody tunes it out in order to function, so the horns are pointless.  Nobody is listening to the horns.  But honking them is a habit the Chinese driver / rider can’t break.

Okay, now here comes a legitimate reason to honk the horn, an emergency, perhaps someone walking right out in front of a car. What does the Hangzhou driver do? He flicks his headlights. Just how stupid is that? If the pedestrian can’t hear your horn, he sure as hell can’t hear your headlights. Of course he can’t see your headlights, because he’s not looking at you. Plus, it’s daytime.

On the subject of street noise…. Wonder if Hangzhou’s apparatchik is actively measuring the city’s decibel levels. Would be interesting to see a reading.

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Filed under China, Damage, Hangzhou, Pollution, Shanghai, tolerance, Travel

Words matter: Mentally retarded or human gift? Looking back at the 12th Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai

Growing up in 1970s and early 1980s Ireland I remember the labels “mentally retarded”, “mongolian”, “mongol” and “mongoloid” being used in casual conversations when referring to people with intellectual disabilities, or Down Syndrome. I plead guilty to pronouncing such stereotypes. By condoning or even saying such humiliating remarks, unknowingly I was in effect robbing people with intellectual disabilities of their individuality and dignity.

Such degrading descriptions of people with intellectual disabilities have been cultivated over many years:

  • P.M. Duncan noted in 1866 a girl “with a small round head, Chinese looking eyes, projecting a large tongue who only knew a few words” in ‘A manual for the classification, training and education of the feeble-minded, imbecile and idiotic. London: Longmans, Green & Co.
  • John Langdon H. Down (1828-1896), an Edinburgh physician, published in 1866 the first clinical description of individuals with Down Syndrome that bears his name in the landmark paper, ‘Observations on ethnic classifications of idiots’.
  • Benjamin Spock suggests in ‘Baby and Child Care (1946)’ that babies born mongoloid should immediately be institutionalized based on the premise that “If (the infant) merely exists at a level that is hardly human, it is much better for the other children and the parents to have him cared for elsewhere“.
  • The theologian Joseph Fletcher attempting to comfort a bereaved parent, concludes in 1968 that there is “no reason to feel guilty about putting a Down syndrome baby away, whether it’s ‘put away’ in the sense of hidden in a sanitarium or in a more responsible lethal sense. It is sad, yes. Dreadful. But it carries no guilt. True guilt arises only from an offense against a person, and a Down’s is not a person.

Words matter!

Imbecile, idiotic, hardly human, retarded, not a person..?  No way!

Why the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games contestant will never match the spirit, resolve and strength of mind of the Shanghai 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games athlete?

Held in Shanghai from October 2nd to October 11th, my colleague and I attended the Games as volunteers hoping to be of some assistance to the 151 member Irish team, their euphoric family members and the 200 volunteers who had fund-raised over €1,000,000 for Special Olympics Ireland.

Looking back on that week I can honestly express it as one of the most heartening, and touching experiences of my life.

Vivid memories:

  • … The ‘Team Ireland’ hotel, the Equatorial. If I hadn’t of known about the Special Olympics I would be forgiven for thinking I had by chance walked into the Shanghai leg of the world’s most famous rock group on tour. The atmosphere in the lobby was electric, noisy and very cheery. And who was making all the clatter? The families of the Irish athletes. Hundreds of family members and volunteers had flown in from all over Ireland, Australia, New Zealand to support their Ruth Gribbon and Pauline Rush in Bocce, James in the Basketball, and Sarah in the Athletics.
  •   … The spectacular Opening Ceremony wasn’t just about huge fireworks displays, and appearances by celebrities Jackie Chan, Colm Farrell, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as Shanghai, with the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games less than twelve months away, sought to display its organisational prowess. The true symbolism of the night was the picture beamed to almost every household in China of President Hu Jintao hugging and playing with Down Syndrome children. 
  • … The scenes of jubilation after Ireland’s basketball team at 4 points versus India’s 18 slam dunked to go to 7…. It was as if they’d just scored the winning point in the world cup final. Spine chilling and poignant indeed…. Such jubilation… Yep, that’s what sport is all about. They were having fun no matter what the score was.
  • … The barefooted 1,500 metres athlete #9, running in the yellow colours of Tanzania, who literally danced around the outside lane of Shanghai’s Olympic Stadium and then stopped to wait for his fellow competitors to catch up with him. When he finally crossed the line in first he just kept running, enjoying himself immensely as stewards and minders tried to catch up with him…
  •  …“I know I can”. First or last it didn’t matter, all the athletes finished walking or running around this 400 metres Olympics track. Their single-minded focusr on crossing the finish line, and competitive it was. Team Ireland’s Sarah, #4 in the women’s 1,500 metre walk, briskly walked around the track as if she was going for a breath of air with her dog such was her look of she enjoyment. Not one of the athletes dropped out.  It was a sight to behold, never to be forgotten.
  • … Making friends: A Danish athlete swapping badge pins with her Irish athlete counterpart, spur-of-the-moment stuff. This was their stage and they were thoroughly enjoying it.
  • … The devotion and enthusiasm of each Chinese volunteer assigned to an athlete as a minder. The clearly genuine amity between the two for me really captured the power of the Special Olympics spirit. Despite the enormous challenge of convincing China’s populace at large that the intellectually disabled are able to lead a happy life and contribute to society these volunteers in my mind have really shown the way.

And so much more…..

For anyone who has never been to one of these momentous events, it is worth the time and effort to appreciate the extent of human potential and to recognise that each unique human gift has a place in society.

Words matter!

Witnessing the social and cultural transformation of the underserved and often marginalised intellectually disabled as I did at the Games in Shanghai certainly made me feel ashamed, very ashamed.

Imbecile, idiotic, hardly human, retarded, not a person..?  No way!

Appreciating the value and importance of including people with intellectual disabilities into all aspects of life, I look forward to the next Special Olympics World Summer Games, which will be held in Athens in 2011.

[Note: The previous 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2003 was mired in controversy even before the Opening Ceremony following the Irish Government’s banning of the Team Hong Kong’s participation due to worries about SARS. An outraged Niall O’Reilly decides to write two letters highlighting the Irish Government irrational and hypocritical decision…. To read more click: https://nialljoreilly.com/2007/09/21/special-olympics-world-summer-games-shanghai-october-2-11-2007/ ]

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Filed under 2007, Ability, Character, China, Inspirational, Ireland, Love, Shanghai, tolerance