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Politics & Society

You’ll never be Chinese

Once upon a time, the United States didn’t want to lead.  It didn’t want to participate in world affairs; it just wanted to focus on its Manifest Destiny.  But at least the US had a strong government that pushed economic and political openness.  The democratic foundation made it an easier transition to carry the baton on the world stage.  

China is in trouble if it’s to lead the world within the next decade, at least as the global economic hegemon.  Currently, China shows no signs of leadership.  It can’t even control its own people.  

The government is so scared of the people it prefers not to lead them.

While there may be an emerging middle class that lives a Westernized lifestyle, the establishment is weakened by a lack of foundational leadership which starts at the top.  

China needs to step and be more responsible.  It’ll fumble as a world leader if it doesn’t commit to fairness and equality of life starting with its own people.  China should start with this:  All politics is local. 

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Social media in China: What you need to know

Traditional media marginalized by social media. 

China may have the most advanced censorship system but where there’s a will, there’s a way, especially with Internet technology.  

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Skilled Work, Without the Worker

We’re so busy complaining about foreign workers taking American manufacturing jobs when more efficient robots work 24/7 shifts are about to replace us all.  

At $250k a robot such transformation won’t happen fast.  But it’s definitely coming and as we saw with the Starbucks-Square deal, all it takes it one large company to make something mainstream.  

Prepare for automation.  

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HONGKONG One of my favorite cities in the world, although it’s probably changed a bit since the Chinese took it over. 
HONGKONG One of my favorite cities in the world, although it’s probably changed a bit since the Chinese took it over. 

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New York was not designed by architects, it was designed by time.

Wang Shu

You can’t implant design culture.  It has to bloom gradually.  

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Chinese Medicine Skateboards by Zhan Wei

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China’s Rising Soft Power

Back in college I learned about “soft power,” the term Joseph Nye coined to describe the way America uses its cultural products (movies, music, sports, etc.) to expand its power overseas.  Soft power is an alternative to hard power, whereby America flexes its muscles with military might.

American preeminence shows that it takes a combination of both hard and soft power to retain hegemony.  So it makes sense for a rising nation like China to follow the same model.

China is funding a Hollywood film for 2014 anchored by a Chinese superhero that saves the world.  Concurrently, China is building up its military and roaming the Asia Pacific to compete with the United States.

China is therefore building up the might to fight America on two fronts.  But it won’t win the culture marketing battle.

For one, China is not a cultural hodgepodge like the US.  American diversity allows it to tell a multitude of stories that can relate to anyone the world.  China is too uniform with non-existent enclaves.

Secondly, there’s no entertainment business foundation in China.  Hollywood and even Bollywood in India are the results of intense investment in monetizing cultural enrichment.  Chinese actors are rare and few, musicians more so.

Lastly, China is doing itself a disservice by keeping tight control of the Internet.  The Internet is the fulcrum for word of mouth marketing.  Even a negative tweet review about a new release is spreading awareness, something the great Chinese Firewall might block.

Remember America too resisted internationalism before it found itself with the global responsibility to save and entertain the world.

Cultural packaging and export will be a tough sell for China.  The market is already crowded with good stories and quality content from the West.  Not too mention the glut of user generated content.  If China is going to all of a sudden make hits to spread its power it should get the backing of its own people first.

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Ko Siu Lan
Ko Siu Lan

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China turns its firewall into a points system

China is now running its microblogs on a point structure, rewarding points to good sentiment about the state and decreasing points for state criticism. Zero points equals a dead account.

By controlling the Internet, China is creating the type of closed environment that will lead to a rise in modern Chinese Muckrakers. And Ai Weiwei will be the face of the movement.

When Twitter broke a censorship deal with the Chinese government this January Weiwei responded “If Twitter Censors I’ll Leave.”

Just yesterday a Chinese man killed himself to protest his son’s death in Tiananmen Square while the former mayor of Beijing denied responsibility for the massacre.

China now has 1 billion mobile users, double than the US and Japan combined.  In the age of hackers and IP workarounds, dissent seems uncontrollable.

Undoubtedly, the Chinese people will get louder with China’s policy of Internet containment.

Categories
Arts Politics & Society

Ai Weiwei: Art through suffering

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You can push a creative man into silence but all this does is fuel his creative output.

China held artist and “dissident” Ai Weiwei in captivity for 81 days. He nearly died.

Weiwei is now turning his jail time experience into a piece of art. For Weiwei, creative expression is more about storytelling than profit.

“Very few people know why art sells so high,” Mr. Ai replied. “I don’t even know.”

Still, his art sells for hundreds of thousands at Sotheby’s in New York.

Weiwei lived in New York for 11 years before heading back to China. The creative freedom he learned in New York shines through WeiWei’s work.

Weiwei teaches us to make something lasting, in good times or bad. As Neil Gaiman said in his commencement speech this week:

“When things get tough, make good art. Make it on the bad days. Make it the good days too.”


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