Monthly Archives: February 2009

Spring Festival fireworks

The Spring Festival– or lunar New Year–in China took place a week after I got to Beijing.  By far the highlight was watching the fireworks:

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • These are set of by everday people, not a publicly sponsored presentation
  • The fireworks were being set off from just about everywhere as far as the eye could see
  • When you’re down on the street walking around it sounds like a war zone
  • This clip is the couple minutes surrounding midnight, which was the peak
  • This is from the window in my apartment in Chaoyang district looking north

Economic condition in China

A friend recently asked me how the economy in China is doing.  He had recently read an article that projected the situation as quite grave with more vacancies than not, failing vendors, etc.

I thought my reply was worth posting here:

On a purely anecdotal level, I don’t see that it has reached the level of saturation the article would have you believe. This is based simply on my own experience in Shanghai and Beijing. I don’t think a true reckoning has happened yet; my educated guess is that worse is coming.

I have seen new buildings that are entirely vacant. Having been in both Shanghai and Beijing, it’s not quite so extreme as the 3:1 ratio, in fact it ostensibly seems like at most 1 in 10 is unocupied.

At the market vendors do mention they are having a slow day. There is quite a bit of foot traffic and sales are happening. They are not offering desperately low prices. While the deals are cheaper than what I would pay in the U.S., I am well above their own cost basis.

In Seattle, Northwest Air has chosen to delay indefinitely opening up a Beijing flight they had bid for and secured. Hainan Airlines, which has a direct Seattle/Beijing flight, has mostly empty seats I hear.

It makes sense that China would be lagging behind the U.S. economy, since we import so much from them.  And even in the U.S. the worst has not come yet.

Useless, but telling Chinese words

I had my first Chinese lesson tonight.  There is a lot to take in, and I am not really good at memorization.  One of the things that confused me right away is the words for siblings.  Rather than just brother and sister, there is a separate word to indicate if they are older or younger:

didi younger brother
gege older brother
meimei younger sister
jiejie older sister

This is telling and indicates just how much seniority in the family matters.

In practice though, I have found talking about siblings is a fruitless conversation topic, because all my coworkers have no siblings.  The family plan limits parents to a single child.  This is only now starting to loosen.  For example if both wife and husband come from families with only one child, then they can have two kids.  Or if you have three years salary laying around, you can buy rights to have a second kid.

In the meantime, memorizing these four words is low on my priority list.