China · Sports · Travel

Assorted China links

Xi Jinping was officially confirmed last week as China’s president, and with that, here’re some photos of Xi in his early days, no doubt carefully selected but still worth a look. There’s a few photos of him as a young university student and with his family. I must say, he’s got some big smiles in most of them, which suggest he might truly be jollier and down-to-earth than other Chinese leaders such as his immediate predecessor.

BBC has a decent article about China’s departing leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, the ex-Premier. What did they do, it asks. On the surface, this might seem easy to say as the two didn’t exactly oversee any spectacular achievements. But they did oversee a growing economy that saw GDP per capita grow more than fourfold and weathered the 2008 financial crisis, a spectacular 2008 Beijing Olympics, and significant strides in ties with Taiwan. No doubt, there were some negatives as well, such as growing socioeconomic inequality and a reduction in personal freedoms. I do agree with the article’s conclusion- it is still too early to draw a conclusion as the results of their rule will be seen in the following years.

I’ve been steadily following MMA (mixed martial arts) for several years, mainly UFC because it’s by far the biggest league, and it’s cool to see it growing in popularity in North America, Europe, and East Asia. The Economist has a short piece about MMA in China. MMA has been surging in popularity for some time in the US, Canada and Europe, not to mention it used to be big in Japan, and there’s hope that it’ll grow in China too. China has had one fighter fight in the UFC, Zhang Tiequan, who unfortunately is on a three-fight losing streak. The Economist piece reports about a big MMA event in Inner Mongolia, where one of the champions won 1 million yuan, a significant amount of cash for a young sport in China. Yet one consequence of MMA’s popularity is the decrease in interest in traditional martial arts, specifically kung fu, claims the Economist article. The piece doesn’t go into much detail about this claim so it’s not for certain. The Global Times also has a good article about the obstacles in China facing growing MMA , with Zhang being interviewed in the article as well. Besides domestic promotions, Chinese MMA fighters also fight in Asian such as Legend FC and One FC.

For these youngsters in the famous Shaolin Temple in Henan province, kung fu is still definitely big.

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Burma used to be considered one of China’s allies. Diplomatically shunned and isolated by the West, Burma could usually rely on China as a steadfast economic and political partner. Now, with Burma’s opening up and the resurgence of ties to the world, it seems China is not considered such a good friend anymore. Apparently, this was a big shock to China, claims a Burmese official in this Atlantic piece.

China · Sports

This Sunday, Zhang Tiequan will take on Issei Tamura at UFC 144 in Japan. Coincidentally, while Zhang is Chinese, Tamura is Japanese. It would seem like a very fortuitous matchup given the location and the fact Zhang is the only Chinese fighter in the UFC or any other major MMA (mixed martial arts) promotions. However, his original opponent was an American, Leonard Garcia, who then pulled out due to injury.  Zhang hasn’t fared too well since fighting in the US, but his losses have come via decisions, meaning he fought to the end.  This is a decent breakdown of Zhang’s recent fortunes and the matchup with Tamura. Hope this Saturday Zhang will come out with a win. The main event of UFC 144 will be lightweight champion Frankie Edgar taking on Benson Henderson while Quinton “Rampage” Jackson fights Ryan Bader.

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.

China · Sports

Finally, some news about Zhang Tiequan. The first and only Chinese national in the UFC will fight Darren Elkins on October 8 at UFC 136. Zhang’s last fight was a victory this February when he submitted Jason Reinhardt. Zhang, who fights at featherweight (136-145 pounds), is 2-1 since coming to the US to fight and I’m backing him to get another win in October. I never heard about Elkins before but he has a decent record (12-2) though most of his opponents don’t seem too special (though neither does Zhang’s).

Unfortunately, Chinese sportsmanship suffered another black eye after one of its professional teams got involved in a mass brawl with the Georgetown Hoyas during a friendly. To make things worse, Georgetown is a college (they’re located in Washington, D.C.) so it means grown Chinese men, soldiers actually because it was the army team, were fighting American university athletes. It doesn’t matter which side started it or what happened beforehand, this just isn’t good, it’s downright pathetic.


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.