Category Archives: China

Hello, Shanghai!

Shanghai, despite being hotter and more humid than Beijing, is far better. The air is relatively clean, I can see blue sky during the day, and the city is far more modern. During the day there is less congestion – both pedestrian and automobile. At night every street is like walking down the Strip in Vegas. Neon lights flicker on-and-off calling my attention in all directions.

It’s busy, yet I don’t feel rushed or scared the way I did in Beijing. It’s simply stimulating.

We made the mistake of starting our first day with a long walk to the metro, which left us momentarily cranky while we cursed the heat and wished to be back in the air conditioned hotel room watching HBO, CNN or ESPN. Yes, you heard me right. There are actual American TV stations here in Shanghai. A few of them at least, and we’ve been taking advantage of them.

We took the metro to the train station to buy our tickets back to Beijing. Flying to Shanghai wasn’t much less hassle than taking the train is. Our flight was delayed, the airport was busier than any I’ve ever traveled in, and the heat was unbearable when standing in line for the taxi in Shanghai. Thankfully, finding the hotel was easy. As was checking in and finding a good noodle place called “78 Noodles,” which we’ve eaten at twice now. (The BBQ pork noodle bowl is tasty.)

From the train station we headed over to Pudong, the modern part of Shanghai east of the Bund. We took a trip up the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, visited the Aquarium, and took a pointless trip up the Jin Bei Building. Both the Pearl Tower and the Jin Bei offer the same view from Pudong back over Shanghai. Beautiful in both instances, but too much overlap.

We saw Nanjing Lu, which was once the busiest street in Shanghai. They’ve since closed the street to cars and pedestrians are free to roam. We went down to the west side of the Bund, which is lined with buildings built in the 1930s and 40s. On top of the Peace Hotel South we had hugely overpriced drinks, but were able to take some nice pictures of Pudong at night.

The only downside to the day was that I lost about 1500 RMB. My backpack was open and someone either reached in and stole it or it fell out for the taking. I think I “Shanghai-ed” myself.

Forbidden City

We went to the Forbidden City today and got caught in the rain. What pictures I did take are up on Flickr. You can click here to see them or on the thumbnails to the right. There are also some more random pictures from around Beijing.

We’re off to Shanghai for our last week in China. The Bund is supposed to be beautiful at night, which sounds nice compared to what I’ve seen so far.

Chinese McDonald’s Sued

A Chinese lawyer sued Mcdonald’s in China for not using enough Chinese on their receipts, thus violating his right to information. We recently studied the right to information in our Intro to the Chinese legal system. It is a new concept to Chinese law, and the person seeking the information bears the burden of proving it is important to him.

Last Day of CHIPSI

Our last exam is over! and it’s time to enjoy China free of the burden of academic study. The Intro to Chinese IP exam was an open book copy-and-paste exercise that took most of the two hours. I don’t know how anyone could do poorly (knock on wood). After the exam, the Tsinghua students took us out for Hot Pot – an assortment of raw meat, fish balls, and vegetables that you dump in a hot pot of liquid to boil before eating.

Later, we went to the CCTV tower, which is like a small and dirty version of the CN tower in Toronto and the only things we could see from the top floor was haze, clouds, and smog. Huuuuge waste of time.

The last hooray for the majority of the CHIPSI group was going out last night. We migrated via many taxis from the hotel bar to the park where we hoped to hear music, but just missed it, to a very laid back bar that had great pizza called, “The Tree,” located in the Sun Lan Tin area.

Most of the other students are leaving today or tomorrow to fly back to the U.S. I’m a little jealous, but I’m also looking forward to seeing Shanghai. I’ve heard many good things about how clean and modern it is. And it is supposed to be a “photographer’s dream.”

There are new pictures up on flickr. Click here or on the thumbnails to the right.

Cart Food In China

Cart food typically costs less than 3 RMB, which is equal to 42 cents. I overheard the following conversation in class yesterday:

You got some cart food, eh?

Yeah, right by the subway.

What’s in it?

Pork, I think.

You know you can get that for 1 RMB across the street.

Faced with the decision of whether to pay 3 RMB on your side of the street or 1 RMB on the other side, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth crossing the street to save twenty-eight cents.

Can you think of any 14 cent meals in the US? I can’t think of anything bigger than a single stick of gum that I could get for 14 cents.

Haidian District Court

We took a field trip to the Haidian District Court in Beijing, China a few days ago to view a criminal proceeding. Despite being labeled a field trip, it wasn’t that exciting.

The court room was large and had an abundance of comfortable audience seating. The judge sat behind the bench and two men who I’m told are like jurors sat on either side of him. To the left and right of the judges bench were desks for the respective councils. The defendant sat alone, facing the judge.

Before I get into the details of the trial, here is the link to the pictures I took outside and inside of the court.

The young woman on trial had worked as a cleaning lady for an electronics company and was accused of stealing 46,000 RMB from her employer. She had taken the keys and opened a safe with 60,000 RMB in it. She may have taken rings worth about 80,000 RMB, but I’m not sure because the translation device wasn’t working very well.

The prosecution put forth evidence such as a bank deposit slip showing that the defendant made a deposit of 41,000 RMB, a receipt for the purchase of a plane ticket, and a cell phone bill.

The defense council, who was appointed by the Court, basically argued that her 23-year old client had lived a tough life. Her father had left at a very young age. The girl was cared for by her grandmother after her mother ran off with another man, and the girl had to start working at the age of 13.

We were asked to leave when the proceedings took a recess, so I don’t know the outcome. The experience was interesting despite the technical difficulties of not hearing well through the translation device. There definitely seemed like there was less respect for the defendant and less advocacy. The defendant was situated in a very vulnerable position – on display in from of all council and the judge. Perhaps this is more common than I think, I don’t know. But it seemed biased.

Me in China Lately

Well, I’ve taken four one-hour exams in two days and they have been a blast. Not really.

The first exam yesterday was Intro to Chinese Law, which would be better named Intro to Chaos. It asked us to briefly describe the Chinese legal system and then talk about a case that pertained to the Chinese Constitution. The main thing you need to know about the Chinese Constitution is that it does not carry a great deal of weight. It’s more of a supplementary document than a preemptive one.

The second exam yesterday was Technology Licensing & IP Management. This was my favorite class, and taking the exam wasn’t so bad. Our first fact pattern prompted us with a patent licensing issue in which we were to play the licensing expert and guide our clients, Gina and Sam, through the negotiation and licensing process. I don’t remember the other questions.

I was least looking forward to today’s first exam, World Trade. The course was difficult to follow and covered more material than should be covered in a ten-course class. While the material was potentially interesting, it is difficult to convince myself I got anything from it.

This afternoon’s Contemporary Issues in Copyright exam was almost enjoyable. The first question asked if we thought a court would find that Google’s use of copyrighted wroks for its Book Search Project would be found to be fair use under §107 of the U.S. Copyright Act. I say yes, I think so. The second question asked us to differentiate between the principles of two major cases regarding contributory infringement of online service providers. This wasn’t bad, either.

The lask exam tomorrow morning is Intro to Chinese IP. Can’t wait to be done.

Other than studying a bunch, I’ve managed to watch all of Clark and Michael – a ten-episode series about and by Clark Duke and Michael Cera trying to get a show picked up. Michael Cera played George Michael on the hilarious “Arrested Development,” which was unfortunately canceled after just three years. Clark is his best friend.

I’ve also joined Pownce, which is like the Twitter service I already use, but has more features I don’t really like.

And I’m looking forward to having time to watch the cheap DVDs I’ve bought over here, including Transformers.

CHIPSI Classes Over

Summer CHIPSI classes ended today, which is a good thing. I wasn’t as pleased with them as I had hoped to be. The subjects had potential, and some came through. But there is / was definitely room for improvement.

We have a day off before exams start on Wednesday and end on Friday. After that, we’re free for the rest of our stay here in China. And free to enjoy the remaining few weeks of summer back in the U.S.

Closing dinner tonight. Despite the difficulties of getting situated over here, I feel like it was just yesterday that we were trudging through the rain to the opening dinner.

The 2007 British Open

I didn’t get to see a second of coverage of this years British Open (thanks to CCTV’s unwillingness to cover something worth watching), but from what I’ve read the finish was as exhilarating and sloppy as the final round eight years ago when it was last played at Carnoustie. I remember watching Jean Van de Velde crumple on the 18th hole and the following playoff between Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie. For a high school kid obsessed with golf, this was an exciting finish and one I could empathize with. (I have both won a playoff and lost by one shot after double-bogeying the final hole. One is a good feeling, the other is what people refer to as a “learning experience.”)

I’m hoping the golf channel will rebroadcast this years Open sometime soon when I’m back in the U.S. so I can see how truly disappointed Sergio was and how elated Harrington was when he hoisted the Claret Jug after the four hole playoff.

Harry Potter 7

Something doesn’t seem right about the following headline from today’s China Daily:

Chinese bookworms going potty bout Potter

I bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows today for RMB 208 at the Foreign Languages bookstore in Wang Fu Jing, Beijing, China. I bought the kids cover version and Skye bought the adult version. We’re waiting to read them on the plane ride home.

50,000 copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were imported into China. Typically, about 100 copies of English language best-sellers are imported.

Cardboard Buns in China

A week ago it was reported that dumplings (aka – steamed buns) filled with cardboard were being sold in Beijing. Here’s a clip from a recent article rebuking the earlier news:

Beijing police have detained a television reporter for allegedly fabricating an investigative story about steamed buns stuffed with cardboard at a time when China’s food safety is under intense international scrutiny.

Now, presented with both stories and with rudimentary knowledge and insight into China’s gastronomical scene, I have the difficult decision of choosing to either believe that the buns actually did have cardboard in them and the Chinese government is spinning propaganda or to believe the Chinese government.

I think I’ll stay away from the street food either way – I have been in the mood for starfish and scorpions lately.

Giffen Goods Study in China

Giffen goods are “goods for which a lower price decreases the quantity demanded. This occurs when a negative income effect (the good is inferior) exceeds the substitution effect.”

Greg Mankiw, who authored the textbook I used for my introductory microeconomics class while at the University of Michigan, asks the following question:

Do giffen goods exist?

He links to a study of two provinces in China.

We conducted a field experiment in which for five months, randomly selected households were given vouchers that subsidized their purchases of their primary dietary staple. Building on the insights of our earlier analysis, we studied two provinces of China: Hunan in the south, where rice is the staple good, and Gansu in the north, where wheat is the staple. Using consumption surveys gathered before, during and after the subsidy was imposed, we find strong evidence that poor households in Hunan exhibit Giffen behavior with respect to rice. That is, lowering the price of rice via the experimental subsidy caused households to reduce their demand for rice, and removing the subsidy had the opposite effect. This finding is robust to a range of alternative specifications and methods of parsing the data. In Gansu, the evidence is somewhat weaker, and relies to a greater extent on segregating households that are poor from those that are too poor or not poor enough. We attribute the relative weakness of the case for Giffen behavior in Gansu to the partial failure of two of the basic conditions under which Giffen behavior is expected; namely that the staple good have limited substitution possibilities, and that households are not so poor that they consume only staple foods. Focusing our analysis on those whom the theory identifies as most likely to exhibit Giffen behavior, we find stronger evidence of its existence….

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first rigorous empirical evidence of Giffen behavior. It is ironic that despite a long search, in sometimes unusual settings, we found examples in the most widely consumed foods for the most populous nation in the history of humanity.