Tag Archives: Travel

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.

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.


The only TV channels legally available in China are via China Central Television (CCTV). Every single channel is CCTV. I’ve heard rumors of people with satellite dishes that can get channels from all over, but these are illegal. Who knows what would happen if you were caught with one.

I find it mildly amusing that China Central Television (CCTV) has the same acronym as closed-circuit television. A great big national closed-circuit TV system. That’s what they offer over here, and that’s what I have to watch.

Its news reporting follows parameters directed by the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China.

I’m hoping that I can see just a little bit of the British Open golf tournament, which starts on Thursday (tomorrow).

Walk to School

This is my walk from Xi Jiao Hotel to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. These videos are about ten minutes each and nothing exciting happens. There is no sound because I was talking throughout and have no idea what I’m saying. I’ll try to fix that sometime. For now, just feast your eyes on lovely Beijing.

Update 2009: Video offline.

Houses in China

If you ever ask me if I’ve seen a house in China I’ll say no. I’ve been here three weeks, traveled via train from Beijing to Xi’an and have yet to see a proper house. I have seen what I would term shacks just outside of Beijing. These are decaying brick structures that look filthy and dangerous.

Inside of the cities that I’ve visited, all I’ve seen are apartments of varying quality. The worst are smaller versions of the shack I just described. The nicest look like dirty versions of condo housing at a theme park like Disney World. Generally, the apartments have bars or windows enclosing back rooms filled with laundry drying, stacks of cardboard, and what looks like garbage to me.

I’ve heard the apartments are OK inside, but I’m skeptical. There are some pictures up of some of the housing and I’ll post more sometime soon.

3D Chinese Scroll Painting

I’ve seen Chinese scroll art at most of the markets in Beijing and Xi’an. I’ve always thought it was kind of tacky, but would make a good gift – the kind of gift you give someone and they say thanks, but it’s kind-of an awkward moment. Then years later while visiting their house for fondue or something you go downstairs and see it hanging, tattered and abused, on their basement wall. It’s basement art – appropriately kitschy.

Silk Market Facts

I’ve been studying intellectual property in China for a few weeks and have already highlighted the complete failure to enforce IP rights effectively. The most egregious example being the Silk Market, which has seven floors of counterfeit goods. Anywhere you look you can spot a dozen trademark violations. Yet, apparently the market continues to thrive.

Here is some data from the People’s Daily Online:

  • In 2005, the Silk Market moved into its current building from outdoor stalls.
  • It once drew 100,000 shoppers a day.
  • It once had sales in excess of RMB 100,000,000 per year.

What baffles me is that the article says,

The Beijing Xiushui Clothing Co. Ltd. was planning to cooperate with Taiwan businesses to set up a new Xiushui Market in Taipei

How can the government sanction such activities when they know the market sells what it sells?

Recent Chinese News

OK, here’s a quick list of China news stories I’ve come across in the last couple of days:

“Who wants a Hover Wingle?” – Could China have picked a better name for the first Chinese-made car? I think not. The cars are selling very well in Europe, not for their horrendous safety record, but because they’re so damn cheap.

“Beijing Censors Silence Influential Newsletter” – The headline should read, NPC doesn’t like idea of free media. With only CCTV, I don’t like the NPC.

“Billions of Rats Invade China” – This isn’t that new, but it’s gross. I can’t imagine what a billion rats would be like. It makes me want to leave the country.

“Cardboard Chinese Food” – Great, I heard about this eight hours after eating dumplings twice in one day.

“Chinese Internet Usage Rivals U.S.” – Yeah, and they only have a billion more people than us.

“China Executes Former Watchdog Chief” – So, this is what happens when you take bribes for food.

“A Virgin Mary-themed Urinal? Online in China” – Forget Summer Palace, forget Terracotta Warriors, forget Forbidden City – seeing stuff like this is what makes a trip to China worth while. However, I don’t think I’ll be down that way.

(This post makes me realize that I get most of my news – especially while traveling – from blogs. And it all seems credible. That’s kind of weird.)

Food Is Cheap In China

Today, we found the Muslim quarter in Xi’an, which is located just northwest of the Bell Tower. The Muslim quarter is several blocks long and lined with many street-food vendors and market-type shops hawking imitation terracotta warriors, tea sets, Chinese clothing, etc. We bought some Chinese sweets for 5RMB (less than $1US) and then had steamed lamb dumplings and spicy cold noodles. Lunch cost 18RMB (less than $3US for two people) and we were stuffed.

Depending on where you eat here, food is very very cheap from an American perspective. We’ve had Mexican food in Beijing and paid 193RMB. That was the most expensive meal to date, which is probably equal to a reasonably priced meal at a sit-down restaurant in the US. A large Pizza Hut pizza and two soft drinks cost 100RMB (about $15US). McDonald’s was not as cheap as I would have anticipated. For a cheeseburger meal and a McNugget meal, it cost about 47RMB (about $7US). Still not bad.

Today, we had Tall Iced Chocolate drinks at Starbucks after lunch, which cost 42RMB. This seemed shockingly expensive after only paying 18RMB for lunch. But… but… but… in the 95* heat and humidity and without a proper dessert in site for weeks, they were very good.