Tim Longhurst's Blog

White person orders chopped chili in china

August 27th, 2008 · 2 Comments

I like spicy food. In fact, sometimes if soups or other asian foods are not spicy enough, I order “fresh chopped chili”. My friend Anoop introduced me to chopped chili and a little soy sauce years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

In Beijing, restaurant staff I came across often couldn’t believe that I was ordering làjiāo. In fact, despite practicing my pronunciation, showing a hand-drawn picture of a chili and even pointing to the word in my dictionary, I was generally met with looks of confusion.

In one restaurant we went to, the chaos my chili-wanting created involved 4 or 5 staff questioning me (and each other) for several minutes, confident that what I said I wanted must have been wrong. As you’ll see below, even when the chili came, it was almost whisked away, so sure were staff that there was no way I was actually going to eat it.

I did put the chili in this video in my food, and it was very good.

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Category: Communication and connection

AC Neilson survey for Beijing 2008 Olympics

August 27th, 2008 · No Comments

Walking along the Olympic Green, Jigar and I were invited to complete a ‘quick survey’ for AC Neilson. We weren’t told who the survey was for or how it would be used, but I was interested in what questions were being asked, so I completed the survey.

It’ll only take a minute

There were only about 12 questions in the whole survey, and the theme was “How have you found Beijing?”.

I received a small gift – a Chinese fan – for my trouble.

The survey was conducted using a web-based survey on an EEE PC by ASUS. The tiny laptops are WIFI enabled so there were probably WIFI hotspots enabled near the venue for the purpose of the survey. Two operators were present – one manning the laptop and the other shielding me from the sun. Overall I give the experience a 4 out of ten. I suspect they would get more honest answers if the questions weren’t being asked by locals you feel like you’d be offending with low scores, but are the people commissioning the survey interested in honest answers or good numbers?


So here’s a part of the survey as shot by Jigar and uploaded to Youtube…

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Category: Communication and connection

Speaking Mandarin Chinese like a local – nciku edition

August 15th, 2008 · 3 Comments

It’s my second week in Beijing and my Mandarin skills are slowly improving… I can now cheer for China or Australia in Mandarin; take a cab home completely in Mandarin (as long as we don’t chat and the driver can handle my accent) and explain on the phone to a cab driver how to get to my apartment in Mandarin, if friends want to come over (this has only happened once, but it felt great!).

If I want to learn a particular word in Mandarin, I’ve found a great site to use – it’s called nciku (en-see-koo). You type the word in English, and it will give you the various meanings of the word and the Chinese equivalents. PLUS it will ‘pronounce’ the word for you at the click of a mouse.

Vocabulary building

Best of all, nciku will remember all the words you’ve searched in a ‘vocab’ area (free registration required), which means you can go back and practice later. You can track your progress by checking off the words you know.

Read conversations as they happen

If you check out the site, be sure to look at the conversations section, where you can listen to Chinese conversations and watch the pinyin. Pinyin, the not-at-all-phonetic roman character version of Chinese is used in phrasebooks, but is next to useless if you haven’t mastered the pronunciation.

Like an interactive phrasebook

The themes section of the site has plenty of basic words, along with stock photos and the pronunciation in bot English and Mandarin. Unfortunately, this section doesn’t feature Pinyin, which is a flaw I hope the developers address in a future iteration of the site.

All in all, it’s a great resource… Worthy of adding to the list of resources I mentioned back over here a week ago.

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Category: Communication and connection

Beijing Olympics: 21 edicts from the Chinese Government’s propaganda unit

August 14th, 2008 · 2 Comments

The Sydney Morning Herald has posted an article that purports to list 21 rules for covering the Olympics. Presumably these are written for Chinese journalists, but the article doesn’t actually explain the document, it just publishes it… The items (listed below) provide an insight into the international/domestic stories the Propaganda unit have anticipated in the lead-up to the Olympics.

I’ve added links to google searches for key terms, so you can familliarise yourself with the key themes of Chinese propaganda unit’s preoccupations:

1. The telecast of sports events will be live [but] in case of emergencies, no print is allowed to report on it.

2. From August 1, most of the previously accessible (sic) overseas websites will be unblocked. No coverage is allowed on this development. There’s also no need to use stories published overseas on this matter and [website] operators should not provide any superlinks on their pages.

3. Be careful with religious and ethnic subjects.

4. Don’t make fuss about foreign leaders at the opening ceremony, especially in relation to seat arrangements or their private lives.

5. We have to put special emphasis on ethnic equality. Any perceived racist terms as “black athlete” or “white athlete” is not allowed. During the official telecast, we can refer to Taiwan as “Chinese Taipei”. In ordinary times, refer to Taiwanese athletes as “those from the precious island Taiwan…..” In case of any pro Taiwan-independence related incident inside the venue, you shall follow restrictions listed in item 1.

6. For those ethnic Chinese coaches and athletes who come back to Beijing to compete on behalf of other countries, don’t play up their “patriotism” since that could backfire with their adopted countries.

7. As for the Pro-Tibetan independence and East Turkistan movements, no coverage is allowed. There’s also no need to make fuss about our anti-terrorism efforts.

8. All food saftey issues, such as cancer-causing mineral water, is off-limits.

9. In regard to the three protest parks, no interviews and coverage is allowed.

10. No fuss about the rehearsals on August 2,5. No negative comments about the opening ceremony.

11.No mention of the Lai Changxing case.

12.No mention of those who illegally enter China.

13.On international matters, follow the official line. For instance, follow the official propaganda line on the North Korean nuclear issue; be objective when it comes to the Middle East issue and play it down as much as possible; no fuss about the Darfur question; No fuss about UN reform; be careful with Cuba. If any emergency occurs, please report to the foreign ministry.

14. If anything related to territorial dispute happens, make no fuss about it. Play down the Myanmar issue; play down the Takeshima island dispute.

15. Regarding diplomatic ties between China and certain nations, don’t do interviews on your own and don’t use online stories. Instead, adopt Xinhua stories only. Particularly on the Doha round negotiation, US elections, China-Iran co-operation, China-Aussie co-operation, China-Zimbabwe co-operation, China-Paraguay co-operation.

16.Be very careful with TV ratings, only use domestic body’s figures. Play it down when  rating goes down.

17. In case of an emergency involving foreign tourists, please follow the official line. If there’s no official line, stay away from it.

18. Re possible subway accidents in the capital, please follow the official line.

19.Be positive on security measures.

20. Be very careful with stock market coverage during the Games.

21.Properly handle coverage of the Chinese sports delegation:

A.don’t criticise the selection process

B.don’t overhype gold medals; don’t issue predictions on gold medal numbers; don’t make fuss about  cash rewards for athletes.

C.don’t make a fuss about isolated misconducts by athletes.

D.enforce the publicity of our anti-doping measures.

E. put emphasis on  government efforts to secure the retirement life of atheletes.

F. keep a cool head on the Chinese performance. Be prepared for possible fluctations in the medal race.

G. refrain from publishing opinion pieces at odds with the official propangada line of the Chinese delegation.

Will be interesting to see how many of the above issues are covered by foreign media while China is on the world stage for 17 days. It’s hard for me to gauge what’s being covered back in Australia from here, but I’m wondering if sports results are drowning out any political coverage; I suspect is the hope of the people who prepared the above list.

Thanks to Laura F-P for posting the article on this blog’s wall!

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Category: Media Mayhem

China’s mix of authoritarianism and capitalism with Naomi Klein

August 13th, 2008 · 7 Comments

China’s leaders might be called the “Communist Party”, but if Beijing is anything to go by, this nation is a celebration of a capitalism. So this is what happens when you mix market-minded capitalism with the heavy handed control of authoritarianism?

In the video below, Naomi Klein attempts to answer this question. She suggests that the millions of landless, homeless peasants act as the ‘Mexicans of China’, providing the unpleasant manual labour at a price that makes large scale projects possible. Also, the government can put money ahead of people by ensuring relaxed environmental/labour laws and barely policing the ones they’ve got. It’s the kind of thinking that’s made China the economic envy of many in the West, and the perfect partner for some of the world’s most successful businesses. Is the Chinese government providing the ultimate cocoon of capitalism, with the Olympics a crowning award from global capitalism’s heavyweights (ie. Olympic sponsors)?

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Category: Things that make you go hmmm