Category Archives: What to know about China

Tuesdays with Alyssa: bathrooms, pollution and divorce in China today.

Here’s what I learned from my Chinese tutor today.

–First up, there are two different words for bathroom: 1. xi shou jian literally means “wash” “hand “room” and is for any public bathroom. 2. wei sheng jian means “hygenic” “room” and is for your home bathroom. I like this. One for ‘seat covers neccessary.’ One for not.

–Alyssa asked about my recent trip to the US and asked if the pollution there really bothered me. I said, ‘no, no it’s so much clearer than it is here.’ And she was shocked! Shocked that such an advanced nation would have no pollution. I pointed to my iPhone and said that’s because they make all of these here! Incredible.

–She suggested I go to work for the Mr.’s company so I can make sure he doesn’t leave me for a younger woman. Apparently, it’s very common in China for a wife to go work at her husband’s company to keep an eye “on things.” Then she went onto tell me about her cousin’s colleague who was about 30 and went to work at her husband’s company after they married. And then he proceeded to have an affair with one of their mutual co-workers. The horror! Not that he would have an affair but that he would do it right in front of her!!! I think the message here is mistresses are okay, just don’t do it in a way that humiliates your wife.

–Sidenote: I don’t think she actually believes that it’s possible that I work from home for Minted and often asks me why I don’t go down to Central to have lunch with the Mr. every day. Then I try to explain that the Mr. often has lunch meetings or can’t get away from his desk and she looks very concerned…

There has been a recent change in property laws after several rulings from recent high-profile divorces. It used to be that when you divorced, assets were split evenly. But now property will go to whomever it was registered to before the marriage, rather than be considered part of the joint estate. It’s somewhat similar to what California has where property from before the marriage is considered non-community property, but because American law looks at a lot more details and nuance Alyssa and others are super worried that it’s injurious to women.

I asked a lawyer of mind to explain how this works in the States–not that this Housewife believes in divorce!):

In community property states, property acquired during marriage is presumptively community property, and is divided equally upon divorce, regardless of title. Also, all income earned and debts incurred are generally shared 50/50 upon divorce. Community property states classify “separate property” as (1) gifts given to one spouse, (2) property owned before the marriage and kept separate during the marriage, and (3) inheritance. Separate property is not divided amongst spouses upon divorce in a community property states. I think only CA, AZ, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin are community property states… mostly Western, which is kind of interesting.

All other states apply “common law” rules for distribution of property upon divorce. In these states, it’s usually easy to tell which spouse owns what based on title, registration, etc.  If both spouse’s share title, each own a half interest in the property unless the title document says otherwise. If an item doesn’t have a title document, the spouse who pays, owns.

So let’s say a bride marries a wealthy man and raises his children for 20 years in “their” home. If he had bought that home before their marriage, then she would get no part of it. This had Alyssa up in arms! She pointed out that even if say the Bride’s parents gave a house upon marriage to the couple that the polite and manly thing to do would be for the husband, who is the head of the household, to register the home under his name — in good faith. But then if the couple divorced, the house would go to the husband because it was registered to him. This apparently makes divorce even more appealing to many men… and China is already facing a massive increase in recent divorces, up 7 percent annually over the past five years according to a Ministry of Civil Affairs report.

The nuance is that “the court should give reasonable consideration and compensation for the other party’s contribution to mortgage payments and to the appreciation of the house.” However it does seem like nuance is often lost in Chinese legal proceedings.

Ironically, marriage traditionally in China has been a very strong institution even though mistresses were completely permissible. Traditionally, a wife in Chinese is called a “qi zi” and a mistress is called a “qie.” A “qie” is a slave and has no legal rights, whereas the “qi zi” or wife is a free citizen and has all power over the mistresses… if her husband dies she decides the fate of all the mistresses.

Given that there are now 6 men to every 5 women in China, it follows that women tend to marry up and are most likely to get screwed by this law. Wealthy Chinese men have literally hordes of mistresses and this law lets him divorce his first wife and leave her with next to nothing to marry a mistress… I’m not sure I completely have my head around this but it seems that perhaps given China’s cultural background moving towards a more Western legal view of marriage is actually eroding women’s rights.

Can anyone shed a little light on how this new ruling will effect the institution of marriage in China–please chime in!

–Also of note in this new explanation which piqued my interest: “courts will rule against the party who refuses a court-ordered paternity test, and the claim of the oppositional party will be considered as true and legitimate.” Does anyone know if this is true in the US?

–To further complicate things, other couples are actually faking divorces to skirt recent laws that the goverment has passed to try to curb the crazy real estate bubble: “China this year raised the minimum down payment for second- home purchases, and about 40 Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai started limiting the number of apartments to two for each family, and one for non-locals.” By divorcing, couples then can buy up to four houses together.

–I think most of the above boils down to this simple fact: “China’s home ownership mania stems in part from the fact that a private residential property market has only existed for 13 years and has coincided with surging incomes.”

–Sources: China’s New Wealth Spurs Market for Mistresses, Legal Clarification of Marriage Law, Courts Get Property Guidance, China Home Sales Skirt Policies with Divorce

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Doubling down on SIM cards.

Yep, there’s not one, but two SIM cards in this phone. Why you ask?

  • The Chinese didn’t want to pay lots of royalties on the existing mobile technology standards so they created their own — called TD-CDMA — and then had their largest carrier (by far) China Mobile adopt it so that it could be guaranteed to have a market
  • The problem is that the technology sucks and doesn’t work well for 3G so you can only get crap internet data access on China Mobile
  • But EVERYONE is on China Mobile, it has ridiculously good and widespread 2G coverage for voice calls, and there is no number portability in China so no one wants to give up their china mobile phone/number
  • As a result, now people are either carrying two phones and/or getting these new phones that can use two SIM cards…one for China Mobile voice and one for China Unicom or Telecom data service

It’s interesting how government interference can result in an inferior consumer product. Don’t you think it would be super annoying to have two phone bills? On the other hand, AT&T seems to drop so many calls state-side maybe it’s an option people wish they had. We’re quite fortunate in the US to be able to take our number with us when we switch carriers.

Coming next week: a very cool *free* downloadable chart to help you know when to call your loved ones abroad. Stay tuned! And don’t forget to enter our blocks giveaway.

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Everything but the kitchen sink, part five.

Oh my goodness!! There is just so much going on right now–this will be a long post!

  • Chinese Billionaire Tells Wife Via Twitter He Is Leaving Her. Chinese billionaire Wang Gongquan announced on the social media website that he was leaving his wife for his mistress, according to the Daily Mail. “I am giving up everything and eloping with Wang Qin. I feel ashamed and so am leaving without saying goodbye. I kneel down and beg forgiveness,” he Tweeted. The scandal has left the billionaire a laughingstock in China, according to the Daily Mail. The Wall Street Journal reports that Gongquan’s Twitter post was re-tweeted 60,000 times in 24 hours.
  • My Hong Kong. This gorgeous woodblock print book would make a great gift for kids here and back home. I love how it captures so many iconic Hong Kong scenes. Mention Yummy Mummy and buy 5 copies of the book at the regular price (HK$180 per book) and get one book free.  Each book is signed by the author, and you’ll get free local delivery in Hong Kong. Total cost for six signed books delivered to your door: HK$900 (17% off the retail price).

  • New restaurant gimmick. Like the rest of the yuppies of the world, I appreciate a “new” restaurant concept as at this point, they’re hard to come by. A Conflict Restaurant in Pittsburg that only serves food from whatever country we’re at blows with at that moment. They switch the country every four months. Discovered on the always lovely and inspiring StephModo. Currently being served: cuisine from Afghanistan. Next up: North Korea + Venezuela. I love how much you learn about a culture from its food and I love the way this makes current events a little more accessible.

  • Patterned curtains. I love these curtains! They remind me of my mother-in-law’s in her dining room, which I love. Grosgrain Fabulous has a whole tutorial on how to make them yourself.

  • DVF does maternity. She’s got a few nice pieces–the wrap dress seems to make a lot of sense with an expanding tummy. Can’t imagine a newly pregnant lady would turn one of these down!

  • Get your grill on. Yummy Mummy did a nice round-up of places to grill outdoors in Hong Kong–a great idea for people who want to entertain but don’t have the space to host people at home.

“Many see China’s rise in political, economic and military terms. But the Chinese renaissance is in its essence a moral and intellectual challenge to the modern world.”

“Ordinary Chinese people enjoy as wide a range of personal liberties as those anywhere in the Western world. But those with political aspirations contrary to the collective objectives of the state and society are severely constrained, even repressed.”

  • Read: The War Against Girls. Since the late 1970s, 163 million female babies have been aborted by parents seeking sons. Today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. In her new book, Mara. Hvistendahl argues that, not surprisingly, these imbalances lead to very unstable and highly violent societies–men need us ladies to keep them both happy and in line. I really appreciate her initial premise, but it seems like her reasoning gets quite skewed when she starts making political arguments, like making it illegal to find out the sex of your baby beforehand, while allowing abortion to remain legal.

“The dual-career issue remains the No. 1 reason for refusing assignments.”

“Some 20 years ago, financial compensation packages for expatriate families were more robust, with higher salaries and other perks like drivers, club memberships and first-class airfare for home leave so a spouse could afford not to work. Today, while packages are lower over all, “companies are being more proactive” in helping spouses find work, Ms. McNulty said.”

“More than 80 percent of those not working wanted to work, and those who worked were found to be more likely to report a positive impact on adjustment, family relationships, and general heath and well being. They were also more willing to complete or extend current assignments or to go on new assignments than nonworking spouses.”

“A failed relocation or early return can cost about $1 million. That figure is multiplied with group moves, which are on the rise, Ms. Marshall said.”

  • Golden Gate Proposal. If you made it to the end of the post, I feel the need to reward you with these awesome pics. How in the world did he get permission to do this?

He was smart enough to tie the ring to a string! San Fran I do miss you! Discovered on Cup of Jo.

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High-speed rail in China.

Lots has been made of the “moral” differences between our culture and that of the Chinese. So it goes, we make moral distinctions when working towards a goal and they’ll do whatever it takes. The classic example always given is of a manager asking an employee to hit a certain sales number; he’ll hit the number, but only by giving out crazy kick-backs and getting his family to buy and return the goods. I certainly don’t want to generalize, but this model seems to be extremely true with the much lauded high-speed rail in China.
It all sounds amazing… being somewhat afraid of flying, remembering how cool it sounded when the high-speed train was approved by California voters  in 2008 (despite the fact that it is now further bankrupting the state), bopping all over the massive country of China at half the speed of a plane for much less hassle and expense. Riding the Shinkansen in Japan is such a comfortable thrill. But, I’m not getting on a Chinese high-speed train anytime soon. From the NYTimes:

“As expensive as it is ($85 billion), China’s high-speed rail network has been built far more cheaply than similar projects in the West and in Japan. A mile of rail here costs roughly $15 million; in the United States, estimates peg the price at anywhere between $40 million to $80 million. Japanese officials have already made an issue of the potential safety problems in the Chinese high-speed rail network. Yoshiyuki Kasai, the chairman of the Central Japan Railway Company, which runs Japan’s fastest bullet train, told The Financial Times last year that the Chinese were running trains based on Japan’s designs, but at speeds 25 percent faster.”

And, actually they’re not even running that fast because of major safety concerns. China’s beleaguered Railway Ministry announced Monday that their flagship Beijing to Shanghai route will be running not at 236 mph, but between 186 and 155. That’s as much as 35% slower. It was supposed to cut the train time between the two most visited cities in China from 10 to 5 hours.

It turns out that they cut every corner they could was cut in the building of this train. The biggest problem being with fly ash:

“The problem lies in the use of high-quality fly ash, a fine powder chemically identical to volcanic ash, collected from the chimneys of coal-fired power plants. When mixed with cement and gravel, it can give the tracks’ concrete base a lifespan of 100 years.

According to a study by the First Survey and Design Institute of China Railways in 2008, coal-fired power plants on the mainland could produce enough high-quality fly ash for the construction of 100 kilometres of high-speed railway tracks a year.

But more than 1,500 kilometres of track have been laid annually for the past five years. This year 4,500 kilometres of track will be laid with the completion of the world’s longest high-speed railway line, between Beijing and Shanghai. Fly ash required for that 1,318-kilometre line would be more than that produced by all the coal-fired power plants in the world.”

So as you can imagine, this means they were using fillers instead of the real stuff. After this came out in January, the rails minister, Liu Zhijun (one of the biggest government posting’s), was fired on corruption and mismanagement charges.

Other issues with the train is that it is too expensive for the average Chinese person. One trip from Beijing to Shanghai costs $63 US, which is the monthly average wage in China.

Despite how wrong things have gone with their high-speed rail, China announced yesterday that it is still planning to take its rail abroad, most recently to Laos.

By the numbers:

150mph: Speed of the Acela Express, although it averages half that
186mph: Shinkansen top speed
199mph: Speed of France’s TGV
230mph: Formula One car record
268mph: World record for conventional rail (held by the Japanese experimental MLX01)
268mph: Commercial speed world record (on the Shanghai Maglev, thanks to ‘Magnetic Levitation’
311mph: Non-commercial speed world record (also on the Maglev)
511mph: crusing speed AB320
537 mph: max speed AB320
550mph: 747 cruising speed
570mph: 747 max speed
587mph: A380 cruising
634mph: A380 max

By the way, I think the trains are strangely beautiful. What do you think?

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Notre Dame bans ‘Made in China’ gear.

You’ve gotta imagine that Notre Dame, my alma mater, sells a lot of Fighting Irish T’s and keychains so I was interested when my friend NYFiancé tipped me off to this Bloomberg story excerpted below.

“Ten years after adopting the policy, Notre Dame remains the only major U.S. university that forbids license holders such as Adidas AG (ADS) to put the school logo on any product from China, according to groups that track college merchandising.

Notre Dame prohibits the goods because China, the top source of U.S. imports, doesn’t permit independent labor unions, according to a college policy document. The ban is attracting fresh attention from Washington lawmakers who say China has begun a renewed crackdown on dissidents.

“What Notre Dame is doing is very, very important,” Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the Appropriations Committee panel that oversees trade, said in an interview. “China is a particularly bad place to do outsourcing, and the American people are totally opposed to it.”

College-branded products are a $4.3 billion-a-year business, according to Collegiate Licensing Co., which helps schools manage their trademarks. In its most recent rankings, Notre Dame was 11th in licensing revenue among almost 200 colleges tracked by the Atlanta-based unit of sports agency IMG Worldwide Inc.

The University of Texas tops the list with $10.15 million in revenue from licensing in the last fiscal year. Notre Dame doesn’t disclose how much it makes. Among leading suppliers are Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS), the video-game publisher, and Nike Inc. (NKE), the largest maker of athletic shoes.

Under pressure from students protesting conditions for workers sewing shirts or stitching soccer balls in nations such as Honduras and the Dominican Republic, about half of major universities in the past decade have adopted codes of conduct for suppliers of companies that license their brands, including Texas and Notre Dame, according to Collegiate Licensing.

Chinese-made products dominate U.S. consumer goods such as sports equipment, shoes and clothing. The nation sent $26.9 billion of toys and sports items, $16.7 billion of footwear and $33.5 billion of apparel to the U.S. in 2010, according to Commerce Department data.

Notre Dame said its policy on Chinese products is tied to workers’ conditions in the world’s most populous nation. A standards code adopted by the Catholic university in 1997 requires freedom of association and the “right for workers to organize and form independent labor unions of their own choosing.” It implemented the ban on Chinese products four years later.

Notre Dame’s requirements slow the introduction of products by about a year or result in higher prices because of steeper shipping costs or more convoluted transport channels, said Brian Finegan, manager for licensing and business development at a subsidiary of Jarden Corp. (JAH), a Rye, New York-based company that sells canopies, footballs and other sporting goods under brands such as Coleman and Rawlings.

Adidas signed a 10-year contract with Notre Dame in 2005, which the university said at the time would be valued at more than $60 million. Adidas, which provides the varsity teams with jerseys and footwear, complies with the prohibition on Chinese- made goods, said Lauren Lamkin, a company spokeswoman.”

A big thanks to NYFiancé for this lede.

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