Tuesday, November 28, 2006

research snacks

Snacks laid out for a research group, lower tier China.

Classic Chinese focus group fare usually includes dry crackers, fruit, sweet preserved plums and dried meat snacks. No booze and crisps or sandwiches as might be expected for UK groups. Indian and Thai research houses sometimes provide a full buffet style meal before the groups (sometimes this also constitutes part of the respondents' payment).
Local variation in focus group food is one of my favourite things on the international research circuit; its an unintentional illustration of varying attitudes to hospitality as well as local food tastes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

weighed down

Shanghai schoolgirls wait for a bus.

Something I've just noticed recently; school bags designed like wheelie suitcases. Do students now need more help carrying the growing number of textbooks home perhaps? A sign of increasing educational pressure?

Friday, November 24, 2006

some techno with that waterfall perhaps?

This is a loud speaker in Shanghai's People's Park.

Is nature better natural? A debatable point in China where loud speakers blare out music in parks, nature reserves and scenic landmarks. Added value? Or noise pollution? Unspoilt nature or just boring countryside in need of livening up? All a matter of perspective...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

overly optimistic positioning

Hotel Breakfast buffet, Bao Ding, Hebei province

Bao Ding is famous for its donkey meat served in between bun-like pancakes. This is an attempt by my hotel to give the specialty a more western positioning but when does a hamburger analogy stop being useful? Perhaps when the meat patty is made out of donkey?

Ah, food, one of the greatest cultural dividers of them all.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

serious fun

Children being taught rollerhockey in a Shanghai park. Another example of China in transition - kit and tuition available but no formal space for it - this is just on a strip of pavement in the park just down from the elderly playing cards and the practising tai-chi masters. Entrepreneurial spirit meets with traditional notions of public spaces and sport.

Monday, November 06, 2006

post summit Beijing

The China-African Summit decorations are now deflated and the lanterns are looking a little knocked around by the wind but there's shiny new promises from the Chinese Government; increase in China-Africa trade, training African professionals, canceling more debts, China-Africa development fund of 5 Billion US, 3bln US dollar in preferential loans, a conference centre for the the African Union and doubling current to assistance to Africa. China is also to establish trade/economic cooperation zones in Africa.

But at the moment what does this mean to Chinese or Africans? From what I can see Beijingers seemed to be more concerned with the details of the traffic restriction over the conference days than anything else. And Africans? My only insight comes from Kenya's The East African and an article that touches on some of the on-ground realities for Chinese African business relationships, which suggests what life in the Special Economic Zones may be like...

"[China's] companies' prices for contracts are cheap because they pay their workers a pittance. The majority are Chinese, crammed into dormitories and sometimes paid less money than local companies pay casual labourers. Also, they don't mix with the community. As one Ugandan complained, they don't chase local women, so don't pay 'in-law levies'. "They take all the money back to China," he whined. Because they tend to import so many Chinese workers, they employ fewer local people than Western companies, the fact that they have a smaller wage differential between them and the 'native' hires notwithstanding.
Chinese companies, used to an environment riddled with corruption back home, are also known to have paid bribes in several instances, including to an African president who took a huge cut for a stadium contract. African Big Men, therefore, could continue to line their pockets with proceeds from trade with China. The masses of the people are unlikely to benefit."

(Full article here)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

chanting the crab

Autumn means hairy crab is here again. A delicacy of the crab world it's much in demand but many unscrupulous crab breeders pass off non-hairy crabs as the real thing.
Anti fake hairy crab measures include special licenses and tagging but each year there's a new warnings about fakes.

Today's lesson: nothing is safe from piracy.

(Hairy crab food article here in all its gory detail).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

shopping in Inner Mongolia

Was up in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia recently. While I was there I popped into one of the city's malls and saw some interesting fashion ad casting.
First off, the choice of brand spokesmen for the men's wear brands:

I would guess that these are local heroes (not at all implying that its not their dashing good looks getting them these gigs, of course).
Either way, an interesting take on the masculine ideal:

Also Grandsire - what a great name eh?

On the other extreme, the female mannequins were all uber-Aryan types. Row after row of them in fact, all standing outside the shops in the mall, like something out of Doctor Who:

I'm sure that China, as with most things, is the world's biggest producer of shop mannequins but I have yet to see one Asian or even Asianish style shop dummy. I'm sure this isn't a source of fierce racial debate in China but it must be re-enforcing the link between the west and fashion on some level...

Which leads me to Exhibit C.
First off, a classic copy-cat brand strategy, the sound alike:

How many Inner Mongolians recognise the difference between Gucci and Cuuci on a linguistic or product basis? But hey, its a Western model, must be kosher right?