China · Taiwan

China links

Slowly but surely, Taiwan is opening up to China. Not only is it opening up, but Taiwan seems to be pinning a lot of hopes on China regarding economic growth and investment, with local property the latest sector. Go to the Financial Times for this story about the first apartments in Taiwan that were backed by a mainland developer. These aren’t going cheap, with the starting price being NT$20 million (around US$600,000). It’s interesting that most of the buyers aren’t locals, but Hong Kongers, Singaporeans, and mainland Chinese. The article gives a good explanation on the restrictions faced by mainlanders in buying property in Taiwan, with the most restrictive and ridiculous being they can only remain in Taiwan for four months in a year after they buy property. In general, mainlanders aren’t allowed to work or live in Taiwan, unless they marry locals. While the article talks about Taiwan being wary and taking gradual steps to handle mainland property sales, I think the opposite might be a concern, that local developers might put too much hopes on mainland buyers and end up being disappointed. Taiwan isn’t the most appealing place to move to live, but the biggest issue is that mainlanders are treated as second-class people here, not to mention perceived as such by many locals. If Taiwan can liberalize its laws regarding mainlanders living and working here, that’d be a great step. However there’d also be the issue of acceptance by locals, with Hong Kong proving a good example of what happens when you attract other people in to buy and invest in your society, but don’t accept them. I must say, the towers look great, though it’s not common to see high-profile highrise towers in and around Taipei. Incidentally there are two such ones near my neighborhood but those are the only ones.

This is a sad story in China with a few complicated and sinister twists and turns. Basically, a girl allegedly got raped by a wealthy coal mining magnate, and after going to the authorities, wasn’t able to get her case investigated, even after going all the way to Beijing to “petition” her case. What makes it interesting, is the girl’s parents are high-level officials (and party members) in their city in Guizhou province. While the girl was desperate enough to contact the journalist about her story, the magnate claims he’s innocent and that the sex was consensual. Connections are key and while the girl’s parents have some clout, the magnate has even more. The account of being “intercepted” in Beijing by people hired by provincial authorities to prevent her from going to the central authorities is especially disturbing – “Most black jails I went to were small, dirty houses in faraway and unknown places,” she says. “But I never stayed a night.”

Meanwhile, Chinese UFC fighter Zhang Tiequan lost another fight yesterday at UFC in Macau (the first ever UFC event in China), making it his third straight loss in the UFC. Zhang lost by judges’ decision, which was better than his last fight when he got knocked out by a smaller Japanese fighter.


Ugly side of MMA

A brutal but touching video about the crushing reality of MMA (mixed martial arts). It’s a good tribute to these fighters who put so much on the line for fans like us, and often end up getting their faces smashed, bones broken, and bodies battered.

China · Sports · Taiwan

The inevitable Lin post

Last week Thursday, basketball sensation Jeremy Lin suffered his worst game as a starter as the Miami Heat limited him to just 8 points and 3 assists and forced him into 8 turnovers. While this doesn’t mean he’s not as good as previously thought, it makes him a little more human and forces the hype to die down a little. I don’t have anything against him because he’s been so humble and decent and he’s been consistent enough to be more than just a flash in a pan. His rise in the past 2 weeks has been unbelievable, from putting up last-second game-winning threes,scoring 38 on the Lakers, regularly posting up 20 and 8, and playing well even when they lose, leading the Knicks to go 9-3 since his first breakout game Feb. 4 against the Nets. The few games when he didn’t score that much were ones when he got taken out in the 3rd quarter because the Knicks were up by 20-something. Granted some of those teams the Knicks played were weak, but are they really so weak a guy can come out of nowhere and make it look so easy, even amid a media spotlight so unrelenting and persistent and not even limited to his continent? And this isn’t even including the stupid media puns about his name, including the obvious and popular one which is kind of a ripoff of the nickname of a former Toronto Raptors star.

Here’s a few observations about Jeremy Lin:

-China has got to be wondering why for all the big men, the Yaos, the Wang Zhizhis, they’ve had play in the NBA, they have never had a guard anywhere as good as Lin. Can you imagine if China had a Jeremy Lin playing point guard alongside Yao in his prime? Now, not only is Lin blowing up the NBA, but his parents are Taiwanese, for goodness sake.

-There’s no doubt that Lin has become incredibly popular with Asian-Americans and Asians. It’s not surprising. There are hardly any popular full Asian-American athletes (so sorry, Hines Ward, Tiger Woods, Johnny Damon et al don’t count though Dat Nyugen would), especially in team sports. The NBA is one of the most popular leagues in North America, and the world. Then Lin’s success itself is a good story, whether he was white, black or Latino. But what strikes me is that the enormous pride in Lin by his fellow ethnic Asian-Americans also demonstrates that there’s a kind of insecurity among this community. I’m not American but I can understand why they would feel pride in Lin. But I find it hard to believe that Asian-Americans still haven’t been able to overcome barriers in sports or other forms of pop culture like movies and music in America. I’m sure that Asian/Chinese people elsewhere such as in Trinidad probably harbor this insecurity but in North America, Asians have definitely got the numbers to break out and be successful in many areas.

-Despite both of his parents being from Taiwan and his Taiwan relatives boldly proclaiming his “Taiwaness” as opposed to being “Chinese”, Lin has wisely sidestepped this political and sociocultural minefield. I believe he’s even said that he’s from Taiwan but he’s proud of being Chinese. I know he’s not claiming to be from China, but at the same time, it means he’s not willing to disclaim any association with China. It’s kind of hilarious how obsessive Taiwan, and China to a lesser degree, has been over claiming Lin. Which brings me to my next point.

-One of the really great things about Jeremy Lin is how humble and decent seems. Even from his high school photos, he doesn’t seem like the ultracool jock athlete who feels he’s better than everybody around him. He’s this gawky, slightly nerdy-looking guy who just happens to be a great ball player. It’s ironic because his humble and down-to-earth nature very likely would not help him fit in in a Taiwan where style is much valued over substance.

Switching to a Chinese ahtlete, UFC 144 wasn’t very good for Zhang Tiequan as he was knocked out by a great right overhand punch from his Japanese opponent Issei Tamura in the second round. It wasn’t going well for him before that. This is Zhang’s first loss by knockout but he is now 2-3 since fighting in the US. It also wasn’t a good event for Japanese fighters as big names like Yushin Okami, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto all suffered losses.

China · Sports

The UFC is setting its sights on China, traveling the same path trod by other sports leagues like the NBA, NFL, European soccer leagues, and even US college football. No doubt, China is an enticing prize, with a potential market of hundreds of millions of viewers, if not a billion, and countless revenue. Yet, in some ways this is a mirage because one, those hundreds of millions of customers may not materialize especially if your product is not captivating or attractive enough, two, even if there are, there’s no guarantee of their disposable income being adequate. Anyways, here’s another take on the UFC camps in China and its goal to establish a presence in China. And speaking of China and MMA, Zhang Tiequan is set to fight in UFC 144 on Feb. 26 against Leonard Garcia. I know the news is old, but somehow I missed it. Zhang, who had a disappointing decision loss in his last fight last October 8, hopefully will get back on the right track.

However, Chinese MMA isn’t only Zhang. I only recently heard of Legend Fighting Championship, a Hong Kong-based MMA league that features Asian fighters, and their next event in February will indeed, feature Chinese fighters in a championship fight– the interestingly named Jumabieke Tuerxun (he’s Chinese but ethnic Kazakh) versus bantamweight champion Yao Honggang.

China · Sports

It’s obvious to anyone who knows a lot about or has visited China that despite its status as the no. 2 economy in the world and its reputation as a future superpower, it’s far from being a rich or developed nation. Its giant population and various problems make this a difficult challenge to achieve in the near future. However what it has managed to achieved in socioeconomic outcomes, is to be far ahead of fellow Asian giant India in many regards, which is shown here in a very clear manner. In things like adult literacy rates or Internet users or GDP per capita, China not only has higher levels, but are literally years or even decades ahead.

Unfortunately China’s lone MMA fighter in the UFC Zhang Tiequan lost on Saturday at UFC 136. Taking on American Darren Elkins, Zhang was dominated and while he avoided getting knocked out or submitted, wound up losing by unanimous decision.


Chinese MMA fighter Zhang wins UFC debut

Zhang Tiequan, China’s first ever fighter in the UFC didn’t take long to trap and submit his opponent to get his first UFC win. Zhang, who won his first match in America last September but had lost in his last fight in December, is now 13-1 in Mixed Martial Arts. I had earlier mentioned him here and it’s good to see him doing well. For those who don’t know, the US-based UFC (Ultimate Fighting League) is the biggest MMA organization in the world, but that isn’t the only notable reason why Zhang’s victory is so special. You don’t normally see Chinese fighters competing in MMA outside of China, because of lack of interest, better options (China’s got its own form of MMA, Sanshou, which is very popular) and inexperience. Of course, Japan is the other major stage for MMA, besides the US, in terms of organizations and fighters, and yet you don’t see too many Japanese fighters fighting or doing well in the US or UFC, Yushin Okami being a rare exception.