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Have a great Christmas

2016 has been a very rough year, with a lot of tragedies and shocks globally. Even as we’re in December, it still doesn’t feel like such a festive time, at least for me. There’ve been distressing developments in Hong Kong in the past few months, while terror attacks in the West and conflicts in the Middle East still continue.

Nevertheless, we can still mark this special occasion, so to all of my fellow bloggers and readers, please have a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. Treat yourself and your loved ones nice, and be decent to people around you.
Enjoy the festive photos of Christmas scenes from Hong Kong and Guangzhou, where I did a weekend trip very recently.

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There’s no snow in Hong Kong but a giant snowman still looms over the entrance of 1881 Heritage, a 19th century colonial police headquarters that has been renovated into a luxury shopping center.

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The two photos above are of Hong Kong while the two below are from Guangzhou. While Christmas is not a holiday in China, it is becoming a major occasion, in the big cities at least, mostly for decorations as you can see below, and for shopping. It’s also like that in Taiwan, where Christmas is not a holiday but stores and malls are decked with Christmas banners, trees and decorations, while staff even wear Santa hats.

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China · Sports

Guangzhou Evergrande goes for Asian glory tonight

I know many people don’t care or know about Chinese football, but today is a big, big day. Guangzhou Evergrande will play the first leg of the finals of the Asian Champions League against FC Seoul tonight, the first time in 15 years that a Chinese team is in the finals. Evergrande (恆大) have already won the Chinese league this season, for the third time in a row. They reached the ACL finals in stunning manner, pounding Qatari and Japanese opposition by similar 6-1 and 8-1 aggregate scores. One can liken them to Bayern Munich in last year’s European Champions League. If you’re wondering if there’s anything special about Evergrande to have made them so formidable, it’s that they have three talented South Americans who just can’t stop scoring, a bunch of Chinese internationals, and are coached by Italian Marcello Lippi, who only won a World Cup in 2006 as manager of his country (in addition to the European Champions League and other honors). The first leg is in Seoul and the return leg will be in Guangzhou. i don’t regret coming to Beijing at all, but at least on that day I’ll wish I was in Guangzhou. I wrote about Evergrande and the ACL final earlier this week here. Here’s hoping for a good result tonight for Guangzhou. Hengda 恆大, jia you 加由!

China · Sports · Travel

China links galore- May 13

Chinese influence is spreading across the world, and contrary to what some say, it’s not all negative and in many cases, welcomed and perceived with a sense of optimism. In China’s Himalayan neighbor Nepal, more people are learning Chinese and China is becoming a more important neighbor, which the article tries to give a negative angle by highlighting that this worries India. In Uganda in East Africa, a former government minister runs a community library to help inform people about China, while speaking about the ways Chinese investment is helping her country, such as in the fishing and aquafarming industries.

It’s been five years since the massive 2008 earthquake in Sichuan (with a bad one having struck again just a few weeks ago), and this BBC feature shows just how destructive it was. It was one of the costliest earthquakes and forced the most people in history to be displaced.

This is a nice piece about two budding teen basketball giants, one from China, and one from India! It’d be easy to want to guess that this Chinese guy can be the next Yao Ming, but it’s premature and unfair to do that. Also, there’ve been other big Chinese ballers like Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian who’ve played in the NBA and had modest careers. Yao Ming was special and his solitary success among Chinese NBA players proves that size by itself is no guarantee. I wish this kid the best though he better bulk up, like his Indian counterpart.

Take a look and listen of the punk music scene in Beijing at the Guardian. A bunch of youngsters talk about why punk is so appealing, sounding similar to other youths around the world living with a lot of stress, angst and rebellion. Beijing is one of the main music scenes in China, and it’s encouraging to see different types of music growing there.

Moving from music to art, this article looks at how Chinese artists are trying to boost the visibility and creation of arts. There’s a big hunger for good art, no doubt, but modern Chinese art is still not very famous or popular. With time it’ll change and we’ll all know more modern Chinese painters, sculptors, dancers and so on.

One very famous Chinese artist who many of us do know, recently made a very reasonable personal appeal. Leave me alone, and just let me write, said Mo Yan. His views may disappoint some people, but he’s blunt and honest. He’s not pretending to be a savior of China, much less humanity, as he’s chosen to focus what he can influence, which is his writing.

Amazing pics and an even more amazing discovery. This is the remnants of a cityin a lake in Zhejiang province. It’s a fascinating sight, though it seems it was already known when it was flooded (the lake was artificially created from the construction of a dam). It seems a shame that more wasn’t done to preserve its ancient structures and artifacts when it was intact at that time.

Cantonese cuisine is widely known, but it’s not all just dim sum and fried rice, as this article about Guangzhou’s Lychee Bay illustrates. Yet even with a Cantonese heritage, I admit I don’t know about some of these foods but I’ll make sure to try some in future.

The 10 best Chinese cities for expats are headed by Shanghai, no surprise there. Beijing is number two and the rest are all major prosperous cities as well, though Tianjin is a bit of a surprise.

This historic Hangzhou scissors company has been in existence for over 350 years and is still going strong. I think my grandmother even owned a pair, with an all-iron frame, knife-shaped blades, and curved handles.

China · Sports

Chinese football update

In good news for Chinese football, China will have four clubs compete in next season’s AFC Champions League, Asia’s premier continental club competition. The four include champions Guangzhou Evergrande, Beijing Guoan, and debutants Jiangsu Sainty and Guizhou Renhe. Guangzhou did well in this season’s Champions League, reaching the quarters before falling to Saudi powerhouse Al-Ittihad.

Also, look out for this documentary on Chinese football that will come out mid-2013. Wild East Football has an interview with the director and a sneak peek. It looks like it will be heavily focused on Shanghai which raises mixed feelings, since that’s where several of the biggest names (Drogba, Anelka) play but it’s also not the biggest football-mad city in China. Hopefully there’ll be scenes done in Beijing and Guangzhou, home of the 2-time and current champions Evergrande.

China

The future will be all urban China

The future is going to be bright and dynamic for urban China, says Foreign Policy’s August Cities issue. Cities issue- actually it’s more like the China issue. There’s articles and slideshows galore of Chinese cities. The articles include one apiece on Beijing and Shanghai, one on Guangzhou, Shenyang and Kashgar as cities with unique characters, and even one damning Chinese cities. The last one slams Chinese cities as plain, uniformly ugly, and bad to live in, and it  kind of goes against the article on Guangzhou and the 2 other cities. On a negative note, I have to say this collection of articles represents the two extremes of China reporting- deeming China as the next superpower, as the country of the future, the one with the world’s most dynamic cities, – and conversely, blasting China for being crude, ungainly, and dirty. I can’t quite agree with his general criticism. I haven’t spent much time in China but I felt that Beijing and Nanjing and Hangzhou and Shanghai all have their different charms and character. It’s true there’s a tremendous lot of massive, gray, concrete buildings, but then modern Chinese architecture and city planning is slowly progressing.

Don’t get me wrong, I think in general the articles are pretty good, so go read the articles because they’re quite interesting and will probably stimulate your brain a bit. To top it off, there’s even an interview with everybody’s favorite Chinese scamp, Ai Weiwei. To be honest I’m not totally sold on this man. I do think he speaks some sense, and his bluntness and directness is good, but then he also seems a bit full of himself and he’s a bit on the hyperbolic side. I can understand that after all he’s gone through, even having his head cracked, why he’s a bit bitter and cynical on his country though.

The articles aren’t actually all about China of course, though the China presence is overwhelming. The reason why I wrote the headline and the first sentence is that the magazine lists 75 cities as the most dynamic of 2025, and 29 of them, over 40 percent, are in China. The 29 are led by Shanghai and Beijing, predictably, with Guangzhou, Tianjin, and Nanjing also there. However even provincial cities like Wuxi and Dongguan make the list, as did lowprofile provincial capitals like Hefei (capital of Anhui province) and Jinan (Shandong).

Nothing would make me happier if predictions like these came true and Chinese cities would be the most dynamic in the world (as Shanghai is right now), but I still think these kinds of articles are too optimistic and it’s necessary to keep grounded.

China · Sports

Guangzhou destroys Korean champions 5-1 in Asia

Good news in Chinese football surprisingly as Guangzhou mauled Korean champions Jeonbuk 5-1 in their opening Asian Champions League clash on Wednesday. Guangzhou Evergrande, the defending Chinese champions, are expected to do well given a (relatively) star-studded side featuring pricy and skilled Brazilians and Argentinians and veteran Chinese national team players like Zheng Zhi and Gao Lin. Even still, the rampant scoring that occurred, on Korean soil no less, was a pleasant shock and hopefully will be a definite sign of things to come for Guangzhou. The other sides flying the flag for China in Asian, Beijing Guoan and Tianjin Teda, lost and drew respectively against Korean and Australian opposition. For now, Guangzhou leads the way for China.

China’s top league also started this past weekend. Beijing Guoan followed up their Champions League disappointment with another loss to newly promoted Guangzhou Fuli, the second Guangzhou club, while Shanghai Shenhua battled it out with Jiangsu (based in Nanjing) 1-1. Nicholas Anelka, the man whose joining Shenhua earlier this year made big news around the world, was out with an injury. Guangzhou Evergrande start off their season on March 16th against city rivals, the aforementioned Fuli.

China · Sports

China are Asian champions again

This is just a small sports update about China- there was good news in men’s basketball as China won the Asian Championship on home soil in Wuhan. China will thus be at the 2012 Olympics as Asia’s basketball champions, their first since 2005 but 15th overall. I think this is their first major championships without Yao Ming, who retired earlier this year, but with Yi Jianlian leading the way, they went all the way to the final where China overcame Jordan. Yi plays in the NBA for the Washington Wizards and was a first-round draft pick. His NBA career hasn’t quite reached the level expected of his high draft status, but at least in the international arena, he’s playing great.

Meanwhile in the top Chinese football league CSL (Chinese Super League), Guangzhou Evergrande clinched the title with four games still to play, having led the league from basically the start of the season. Despite being a newly promoted team, they dominated thanks to a roster loaded with local and foreign talent, thanks mainly to a wealthy owner, a property developer. Among their star players are Chinese international players Zheng Zhi, Gao Lin, and Sun Xiang, and Argentinian Dario Conca, who won numerous league MVP awards playing for the top Brazilian league and was signed at an astoundingly high fee in midseason. The real test for Guangzhou will be the Asian Champions League next year. Givne how dominant they were this season in China, let’s hope they transfer that form to Asia. Gao Lin certainly hopes too.