homeaboutarchivepodcastnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivepodcastmembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

kottke.org posts about china

China and US agree to climate change plan

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2014

The US and China, the two largest carbon polluters in the world, have struck an accord on climate change.

As part of the agreement, Mr. Obama announced that the United States would emit 26 percent to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. That is double the pace of reduction it targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020.

China’s pledge to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, is even more remarkable. To reach that goal, Mr. Xi pledged that so-called clean energy sources, like solar power and windmills, would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.

Here’s the official statement from the White House. The NY Times calls the agreement “ambitious” and a “landmark”, but Tyler Cowen says:

People, the China emissions “deal” isn’t much more than a press release…

But James Fallows, who has written extensively on China recently, is more positive.

The United States and China have apparently agreed to do what anyone who has thought seriously about climate has been hoping for, for years. As the No. 1 (now China) and No. 2 carbon emitters in the world, and as the No. 1 (still the U.S.) and No. 2 economies, they’ve agreed to new carbon-reduction targets that are more ambitious than most people would have expected.

The Chinese black market iPhone trade

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2014

Casey Neistat visited several Apple Stores in NYC on the eve of the iPhone 6 launch to observe the folks standing in line. He found that many of those in line, particularly right in the front, were Chinese resellers.

The iPhone 6 won’t be available in China for several months, so a lively and lucrative black market has sprung up. The video shows several typical transactions: two phones (the maximum allowed per person) are purchased with cash and then the people sell those phones to men who presumably have them shipped to China for resale.

I remember last year, when the iPhone 5s came out, there was always a line of mostly Asian people outside the Soho store in the morning, even months after the launch. (via @fromedome)

Time zone offset map

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2014

Stefano Maggiolo made a map of how much the time zones of the world vary from solar time. The darker the color, the more the deviation.

Time zone offset map

Looking for other regions of the world having the same peculiarity of Spain, I edited a world map from Wikipedia to show the difference between solar and standard time. It turns out, there are many places where the sun rises and sets late in the day, like in Spain, but not a lot where it is very early (highlighted in red and green in the map, respectively). Most of Russia is heavily red, but mostly in zones with very scarce population; the exception is St. Petersburg, with a discrepancy of two hours, but the effect on time is mitigated by the high latitude. The most extreme example of Spain-like time is western China: the difference reaches three hours against solar time. For example, today the sun rises there at 10:15 and sets at 19:45, and solar noon is at 15:01.

Something to note: China is about as big across as the continental United States and has only one huge time zone. (via slate)

Modern Toilet

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2013

When I was just out of college, my dad and I went to Beijing. One of my anxieties about the trip concerned my left-handedness, specifically going against the custom of not using your left hand (aka your bathroom hand) to eat. It turned out fine; the semi-expected reprimand never came.

Times have changed. Now, in Shanghai, you can go to a restaurant called Modern Toilet, which is actually one in a chain of Taiwanese stores that are toilet themed.

Modern Toilet

We are a group of “muckrakers” following our dreams. It all started when one of us was reading the manga, Dr. Slump on the toilet — and the rest is history. In the beginning, we mainly sold ice cream — a big pile of chocolate ice cream sold in containers shaped like a squat toilet. This humorous spin became a great success.

Susannah Breslin visited the Shanghai Modern Toilet and offers this report.

Upstairs, I took a seat at a table. My seat was a toilet. The table had a glass top. Under it, there was a bowl. In the bowl, there was a plastic swirly turd. The place mats were decorated with smiling turds.

(via @claytoncubitt)

Leisure activites in China’s factory towns

posted by Aaron Cohen   Jul 17, 2013

In one of the most unlikely career moves of all time, Stefon has successfully made the jump from Weekend Update to the venerable pages of The Grey Lady. His first story is a look at leisure time activities in the towns outside of China’s tech factories.

The hottest nightclub in this factory town is a neon-encrusted dive down the road from the industrial park where iPhones are made 24 hours a day. Tucked behind an open construction site, “Through the Summer,” as the nightspot is known, had it all on a recent Saturday night — plastic whistles, fruit plates, a toddler with a mohawk, counterfeit light sabers and a bawdy comedian who imbibed beer through his nose.

Homemade inventions from China

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2013

This is amazing: Alan Taylor rounds up some homemade inventions from China, including DIY submarines, giant motorcycles, home-built robots, and can’t-possibly-fly airplanes. I can’t pick a favorite, but this homemade welding mask is outstanding:

Homemade Welding Mask

Ok, and this giant motorcycle:

Giant Motorcycle

Oh, and this rickshaw-pulling robot:

Rickshaw Robot

And, and, and… (via @faketv)

How to prevent protests in China

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2013

Taking a page from Orwell, officials in Chengdu, China endeavored to prevent recent protests by moving the weekend and scheduling security exercises at the same time and place as the scheduled protest.

As text messages circulated calling for another protest, authorities decided to fiddle with the calendar: For many, Saturday became a workday, and the day of rest was moved to Monday, May 6. So as Saturday dawned, schoolchildren straggled reluctantly back to class, and employees at government-run work units discovered the day was taken up by urgent meetings.

See also how Georgia ended the country’s drug problem:

But the more radical steps involved brutalizing the addicts themselves. Saakashvili mandated as aggressive a drug policy as any country has attempted since Mao Zedong threatened to execute all Chinese opium fiends and “cured” about five million of them overnight. If you think New York’s stop-and-frisk rule is invasive, try Georgia’s: Cops can stop anyone at any time for no reason and force him to urinate into a cup. Fifty-three thousand people were stopped on the street in 2007, or about one in 20 of the young men in Georgia. About a third of those passed dirty urine; first-offenders were levied a fine of several hundred dollars. One more dirty test amounted to a criminal offense.

“There was such an unprecedented drug war,” Otiashvili says. “What was going on-and still goes on-in Georgia doesn’t happen anywhere. No country puts people in the prison for a positive urine test.”

(via @tylercowen)

Unbelievable photos of Beijing’s toxic sky

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2013

In Focus has an arresting series of the air pollution in Beijing and other parts of China…including a few photos you can click on to toggle between normal and supersmog.

Beijing Smog

Earlier in January, the air quality was literally off the charts for 18 hours in Beijing.

Draft of US climate assessment report released

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2013

On Friday afternoon, a government advisory committee released a draft of a federal climate assessment report, which pretty much meant that no one saw it, aside from the few journalists who were tasked, at that late hour of the week, with writing something about it. The upshot of the report? Bad news and there’s not much anyone is doing about it. From Mother Jones:

Say what you want about the Obama administration’s relative ignoring of climate issues: Many of his top scientists are paying rapt attention, and they think we’re about to get our butts kicked — although dumping the news at 4 p.m. on a Friday gives some indication of where it sits in federal priorities.

Anyway, what does the report say? From Nature:

Coming just days after news that the United States experienced its hottest year on record in 2012, the draft report says average US temperatures have increased by more than 0.8° Celsius since 1895, with a sharp spike since 1980. It also provides an update on the litany of impacts being analyzed by scientists. There is “strong evidence” that global warming has roughly doubled the likelihood of extreme heat events, contributing to droughts and wildfires, according to the report. Permafrost is melting in Alaska, while much of the country is experiencing more extreme rainfall and winter snowstorms.

And from Bloomberg:

The 60-member panel approved and released a draft report today that says many coastal areas face “potentially irreversible impacts” as warmer temperatures lead to flooding, storm surges and water shortages.

“The chances of record-breaking, high-temperature extremes will continue to increase as the climate continues to change,” the panel said in its report. Temperatures are predicted to increase, on average, by 2 degrees to 4 degrees in the next few decades, according to the report.

The panel of scientists from academia, industry, environmental groups and the government prepared the report, and its findings are the closest to a consensus about global warming in the U.S. Reports in 2000 and 2009 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program concluded carbon-dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution have led to a warming of the Earth’s temperature, which threatens to cause extreme weather, drought and floods.

The report also highlighted decreasing air quality as a side effect of the changing climate. This weekend, the air quality in Beijing was off the scale for about 18 hours. The scale goes from 0-500:

Good: 0-50
Moderate: 51-100
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups: 101-150
Unhealthy: 151-200
Very Unhealthy: 201-300
Hazardous: 301-500

The readings in Beijing topped out at 755. My friend Youngna is there and these two photos she took of the CCTV building two days apart shows how bad the pollution is there:

Beijing Pollution

The colorful Danxia mountains of China

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2012

Danxia refers to a “type of petrographic geomorphology” found in China. What that means is you get these mountains that look as though they were decorated with crayons by a five-year-old channelling Dalí.

Danxia Mountains

That shot was taken by Melinda ^..^ on Flickr…you can find dozens of her Danxia photos here. A kottke.org reader suggests that Tiny Wings creator Andreas Illiger was influenced by the Danxia landforms in developing the iconic scenery for the game.

Tiny Wings Danxia

Not a bad theory. (thx, christopher)

Chinese firm to build world’s tallest building in only 90 days

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2012

Chinese construction company Broad Sustainable Building has announced plans to build the world’s tallest buildingin just 90 days. When finished, it will be 220 stories high, 10 meters taller than Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

This may sound impossible, but BSB has been constructing buildings quickly by making parts ahead of time and then just putting them together on site. Prefab skyscrapers. In the past two years, the company has built a 15-story building in 6 days and a 30-story hotel in just 15 days:

(via @daveg)

More views of the Tiananmen Tank Man

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 06, 2012

Tank Man Uncropped

I’ve seen several versions of the iconic Tank Man photo but here’s a little-known wider view that shows just how many tanks the guy was holding up. Larger version here. There is also, amazingly, video of the incident:

You’ll note at the end that the man is hustled off by a group of people. See also the Tank Man of Tiananmen (via @polarben)

Update: There is also this view of Tank Man, taken from the ground level:

Tank Man Ground View

You can see how long he was standing there waiting for the arrival of the tanks.

If it’s not Scottish, it’s carp

posted by Aaron Cohen   Mar 19, 2012

Asian carp were imported decades ago by catfish farmers to clean out the catfish pens. These carp escaped in the great catfish escape of 1983 (previous clause is more “truth” than “fact”), and don’t have enough natural predators to prevent them from multiplying rapidly. The carp are spreading so quickly, President Obama recently allocated over $50 million to eradicate them. No one in the US really noticed this move. Chinese internet users, on the other hand, memed the story out in a variety of different ways.

To understand why Chinese netizens have taken such an interest in the story, it’s absolutely essential to know that the most popular dinner-table fish in seafood-crazy China is carp, bar none…Add the fact that Chinese covet wild carp — an expensive treat compared to cheaper, more common farmed carp — and poetry ensues.

I like the use of the word ‘poetry’ to describe Internet explosions.

(via @moetkacik)

Chinese Oreos are tube-shaped

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2012

Well some of them are. The plain old American Oreo didn’t sell so well in China, so Kraft had to rethink everything about the cookie.

It turns out that if you didn’t grow up with Oreos and develop an emotional attachment to the cookie, it can be a weird-tasting little thing. And this started a whole process in the Chinese division of Kraft of rethinking what the essence of an Oreo really is.

Key terms in this article include “the essence of Oreoness” and “Twist, Lick, Dunk”.

What are young Chinese thinking?

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2011

Adrian Fisk recently traveled through China asking the young people there to write anything they wanted down on a piece of paper. The results are interesting.

“After watching television I have many ideas, but am unable to realize them.” Yunnan, Luo Zheng Chui, 30 years old, farmer.

“I’d like to see any supernatural thing such as alien, UFO, mysterious thing.” Chan Jie Fang, 28 years old, supervisor in bag making company in Guangdong province but learning English in Guangxi province.

“We are the lost generation. I’m confused about the world.” Guangxi, Avril Lui, 22-years-old, post-grad student.

More are available on Fisk’s site (click on New Stories and then Ispeak China). (via @bryce)

Fake Apple Store in China

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2011

Not content to knock-off simple iPhones and iPads, some enterprising Chinese have built an entire fake Apple Store in Kunming, China. It’s an actual store selling actual products but is obviously not affiliated with Apple in any way.

Fake Apple Store

Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple.

Even if it’s fake, it’s real. (via stellar)

Permanent traffic jam

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 24, 2010

A traffic jam in China’s Heibei Province has been going on for nine days now and may last a month.

The traffic jam has sparked some entrepreneurial spirit for local residents, which has added to traffic-hostages’ annoyance. One truck driver complained that vendors were selling instant noodles for “four times the original price while I wait in the congestion.”

Tom Vanderbuilt, who wrote the book on traffic, notes that the jam is on its way to becoming a small settlement. (via mr)

Sticky rice mortar

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2010

Chinese masons used to make mortar using sticky rice. The practice originated at least 1500 years ago.

The secret ingredient that makes the mortar so strong and durable is amylopectin, a type of polysaccharide, or complex carbohydrate, found in rice and other starchy foods, the scientists determined. The mortar’s potency is so impressive that it can still be used today as a suitable restoration mortar for ancient masonry.

(via history blog)

Rent a white guy

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2010

Chinese companies are temporarily hiring white men to pose as fake businessmen.

One friend, an American who works in film, was paid to represent a Canadian company and give a speech espousing a low-carbon future. Another was flown to Shanghai to act as a seasonal-gifts buyer. Recruiting fake businessmen is one way to create the image — particularly, the image of connection — that Chinese companies crave. My Chinese-language tutor, at first aghast about how much we were getting paid, put it this way: “Having foreigners in nice suits gives the company face.”

(thx, goob)

The flipper bridge

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2010

In Hong Kong, cars drive on the left while in the rest of China, they drive on the right. If you’re building a bridge between the two, you’ve got to come up with a clever way to switch lanes without disruption or accident. Behold, the flipper:

Flipper bridge

The only way that could be more cool is if one of the lanes went into a tunnel under the water or corkscrewed over the other lane in a rollercoaster/Mario Kart fashion. Lots more on the NL Architects site.

The Four Great Inventions of ancient China

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2010

They are as follows:

the compass
gunpowder
papermaking
printing

There are also many other inventions, including fermented drink, forks, and the noodle.

Pollution in China

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 05, 2009

How bad is the pollution in China? James Fallows reports.

The Chinese government does not report, and may not even measure, what other countries consider the most dangerous form of air pollution: PM2.5, the smallest particulate matter, tiny enough to work its way deep into the alveoli. Instead, Chinese reports cover only the grosser PM10 particulates, which are less dangerous but more unsightly, because they make the air dark and turn your handkerchief black if you blow your nose. (Spitting on the street: routine in China. Blowing your nose into a handkerchief: something no cultured person would do.) These unauthorized PM2.5 readings, sent out on a Twitter stream (BeijingAir), show the pollution in Beijing routinely to be in the “Very Unhealthy” or “Hazardous” range, not seen in U.S. cities in decades. I’ve heard from friends about persistent coughs and blood tests that show traces of heavy metals. “I encourage people with children not to consider extended tours in China,” a Western-trained doctor said. “Those little lungs.”

Update: Here are some pretty compelling photos of Chinese pollution. (thx, kurt)

Update: Stephen Voss has a set of Chinese pollution photos along with an accompanying story.

Ikea as tourist attraction

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 25, 2009

For many Chinese, the Ikea in Beijing is not just a store, it’s a lifestyle amusement park with free admission.

Bai mapped out a five-hour outing. First, they had hot dogs and soft ice cream cones at noon. Then they enjoyed a long rest lounging on the beds. Bai kicked off her sandals and sprawled out on a Tromso bunk bed. The 36-year-old homemaker made herself comfortable and even answered passing shoppers’ questions about the quality of the mattress. “It’s soft and a great buy at this price,” she told a young woman, pointing to a dangling price tag. After that, Bai and her family took group pictures. By 5 p.m., it was time for another meal, so they headed to the cafeteria and ate braised mushrooms with rice.

Nail houses

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2009

Nail Houses

Inspired by Carl Fredricksen’s house in Up, which was holding up construction of a massive building complex, deputydog uncovers some more such houses, which are actually called nail houses.

Another nail house is actually a nail church. Citicorp Center was built without corner columns to accommodate St. Peter’s Church, which occupied one corner of the block on which the skyscraper was built. The engineer who built Citicorp Center made a mistake related to the church’s accommodation and famously corrected it after the building was built.

Update: The original link is dead, but In Focus has collected 20+ photos of nail houses in China, where development is happening quickly.

The tank man of Tiananmen

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2009

The NY Times Lens blog, which has been really good right from the start, has a great story today about the photographers who took the pictures of the man in the white shirt staring down the tanks in Tiananmen twenty years ago.

As the tanks neared the Beijing Hotel, the lone young man walked toward the middle of the avenue waving his jacket and shopping bag to stop the tanks. I kept shooting in anticipation of what I felt was his certain doom. But to my amazement, the lead tank stopped, then tried to move around him. But the young man cut it off again. Finally, the PSB (Public Security Bureau) grabbed him and ran away with him. Stuart and I looked at each other somewhat in disbelief at what we had just seen and photographed.

I think his action captured peoples’ hearts everywhere, and when the moment came, his character defined the moment, rather than the moment defining him. He made the image. I was just one of the photographers. And I felt honored to be there.

Update: The Lens story prompted photographer Terril Jones to share a previously unpublished photo he’d taken of the tank man from a unique angle.

Update: From Lawyers, Guns, and Money:

The thing is, Tank Commander is far more dangerous than Tank Man. Tank Man can simply be shot; most seem to believe that Tank Man was later executed, far out of sight of the international media. The regime survives if Tank Man dies, even if the death of Tank Man isn’t the optimal outcome. The regime dies, however, if Tank Commander refuses to run over Tank Man. Eisenstein used the Odessa Steps to demonstrate the corruption of the Czarist regime, but the regime didn’t die until the soldiers refused to shoot the demonstrators. The successor regime didn’t die until Boris Yeltsin climbed on a tank in August 1991. While there’s some mystery as to the fate of Tank Man, I don’t doubt that the CCP found Tank Commander and put a bullet in the back of his head at the first opportunity.

China’s success at erasing history

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2009

James Fallows reports that China has been very successful in erasing the Tiananmen Square protests from the official record.

I have spent a lot of time over the past three years with Chinese university students. They know a lot about the world, and about American history, and about certain periods in their own country’s past. Virtually everyone can recite chapter and verse of the Japanese cruelties in China from the 1930s onward, or the 100 Years of Humiliation, or the long background of Chinese engagement with Tibet. Through their own family’s experiences, many have heard of the trauma of the Cultural Revolution years and the starvation and hardship of the Great Leap Forward. But you can’t assume they will ever have heard of what happened in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago. For a minority of people in China, the upcoming date of June 4 has tremendous significance. For most young people, it’s just another day.

As the June 4 anniversary of the crackdown approaches, the Great Firewall of China has been strengthened by adding Twitter, Flickr, Hotmail, and Bing to the list of sites that are unavailable by China’s internet users. (via snarkmarket)

Harrowing commute

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 24, 2009

Locals in Beichuan county in China’s Sichuan province, including children commuting daily to school, have to use a zip line to get across a river because the bridge that collapsed during the May 2008 earthquake has never been rebuilt. (via wsj)

Update: The residents of Los Pinos, Colombia use a zip line to get across a 1200-foot-deep gorge every day. Each rider brings her own pulley, rope, and piece of wood to act as a brake. (thx, noah)

Building bridges with rockets

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 25, 2008

The world’s highest bridge, the Siduhe Grand Bridge, is nearing completion in China’s Hubei province. The bridge is so high off the ground that the Empire State Building could fit under it with over 350 feet to spare. To get the initial cable from one tower to the next, the builders used precisely aimed rockets!

so you’ve erected the enormous towers on each side of the deep valley, deeper than any valley previously bridged. how do you get a pilot cable from one tower to the next? previous solutions have included: attaching the cable to a kite and flying it over (e.g. niagara falls suspension bridge), carrying one end by helicopter (e.g. akashi kaikyo bridge) and floating one end on a boat (e.g. brooklyn bridge). the brains behind the siduhe bridge decided to ignore all those options and break another record instead. they attached the 3200ft cables to rockets and accurately fired them over the valley, becoming the first people to do so.

Illegal toilet seats

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 29, 2008

As a companion to an offline article about illegal logging, the New Yorker has a video that traces illegally cut wood in Russia to distribution and manufacturing centers in China and eventually a finished toilet seat is shipped to Wal-Mart in the US.

The Walls of China

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 04, 2008

Great Wall of China

Name: The Great Wall of China
Date of construction: 6th century B.C. through 16th century
Built to keep out: Invaders from the north
Status: Tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Site
Little known fact: You actually can’t see it from space.
 

Green Wall of China

Name: The Green Wall of China
Date of construction: 2002 through ~2050
Built to keep out: The Gobi Desert
Status: Mixed
Little known fact: Prior to the Wall’s erection, the Gobi was advancing south at 3 km per year.
 

Great Firewall of China

Name: The Great Firewall of China
Date of construction: 2002 (and even earlier) to present
Built to keep out: Ideas
Status: Trivial to circumvent but still annoying
Little known fact: Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Skype, and MySpace all self-censor their services for use in China.

Great Wall photo by mooney47.