Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Posts Tagged ‘china life’

Whats in a Name- Money in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on March 20, 2010


The official name of money in China is “Zhong guo renmin bi” or center country people’s money. You can call it RMB, or Qian (chen), or kuai, all of these names are acceptable.
The money that is burned for old people’s funerals, is called ming bi (pronounced ming beee). This is not to be confused with ming bi (pronounced ming buy) which means ‘I understand.’

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How Much Does That Cost?- Pricing in China

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 20, 2009


Many developing countries do not post prices on goods, there are historical and practical reasons for this. In a country like Brazil, who battled with hyper inflation in the past, it just made no sense. The prices changed so often that it was impractical to do so. During the hyperinflation of the 80’s, prices had to updated every hour, so the consumer constantly had to ask about the price.
China is like that, no real hyperinflation, but no prices posted either. In a country like China, or Mexico, they dont price goods. The reason is to analyze you before you make a purchase- good Chinese, you probably know the score, they elevate the price maybe 50%. Shoddy Chinese- raise it 100%, no Chinese 1000%. What they do here, is ingenious, instead of calling out a quote, they merely tap it on a calculator and show you. The result is although you are surrounded by customers, they don’t know just how much you are paying.
It goes like this, foreigner comes in, charge him 20x the amount and in dollars. Lets take a ‘repilica Rolex’. The item probably cost the store 25 RMB, and sell to locals for 60 RMB. They will quote you around 450US, but they just say 450, you act surprised and say dollars, then they shoot you a distance, but have anchored the price at this elevated level ( oh yeah, most of the shops, especially in the silk market are owned by the same people so the lowest prices are relatively fixed (upper prices have no limits). You then dicker and they will stick around 400-600 RMB. The result is that although we expect this, it further instills in us, the notion that equity and justice are non existent in this country. Your best bet, tell them you live here, talk to almost all of them, in a loud voice tell them that you have a limit, and then eventually the most desperate will accept you offer (they all basically have the same goods.)

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Improving Quality Education…- or Well Just Forget That

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 13, 2009


This is rich. Under the auspices of closing some gap in opportunities in chinese education, the government in  connection with Peking University has implemented a new master plan. It purports to start a ” a pilot program aimed at improving the country’s university entrance system.”

The article from the China Daily states that under the new and improved system, Headmasters of schools (Principals) have the ability to recommend students to study at University of Peking, without taking entrance exams, but just on the word of the school headmaster! And this will improve education how…(just to explain, entry into Chinese universities is fierce, the parents begin preparing them from the age of 4 or so. They are taught special skills all in the hopes of being able to attend Tshinghua, PKU, or Remnin University).

Not to belittle the country, but I have a few observations. One is that entrance exams are set up to ensure that the most intellectually talented actually enter the top-notch schools.  Schmidt, Hunter and Ones, have campaigned about the veracity of using such measures. In the states we have taken to using other factors that supposedly narrow some gaps that exist in entrance procedures, but just allowing students to waltz in all on the word of a high school principal, doesn’t makes sense even in an alternate universe. At least some schools would say they are attempting to narrow some divide in minority groups, but China already gives ten points to all minorities in college entrance exams-this doesn’t add up.  I get the premise but just have to shake my head about this one.

In a country so rife with corruption, doesnt this seem to be actually taking that to the next level, as if to say ‘hey we don’t really need to hide this anymore, we will do things our way’.

The really sad part of this is my second point and that is that this type of sponsorship by some supposed expert just does not work in this country. It actually reminds me of the milk scandal just around the time of the olympics. The company that produced the tainted milk, Sanlu Group, was actually on a list of ‘trusted companies’ that didn’t have to undergo quality inspections as other ‘less trusted’ companies did. Let me reiterate, Sanlu Group, the company that produced toxic milk was freed from that pesky need to be subjected to routine tests for product quality as it was put on a governmental list of most trusted companies. See hwere I am going here…

Tests, rules, regulations serve a purpose, we don’t always care for them, but as we have learned or should have learned with Sanlu, they are a necessary evil. I just wonder what the situation will be in academia here if this sort of thing will be allowed to continue.

Posted in Counterfeits and such, Cultural oddities, Let me educate you..., Product Quality, Ranting in general | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

That’s a lot of Money- The World Fair and Such

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 12, 2009


“Maybe U$ 60 billion, could be U$ 50 billion”- that is how much the Chinese are saying that China is pouring into the world fair next year. Now fist off, wtf is the world fair, is that thing still around…

Disregarding my ignorance or yours about just what the world fair is, next year it is coming to China, and like the olympics, they are pouring tons of cash into it. The figures cited above (no one really knows as this is not the most transparent country), are impressive. What they are doing, is spending the equivalent of the GDP’s in 2008 dollars, of more than 125 countries, just to prepare for the World fair. Yeah, that means just like with the olympics, China invested an equivalent amount of cash that the 58th largest country etc. will make in a whole year!

The reason I bring this up is that many of my Chinese colleagues have pointed out the wasteful nature of this and the fact that over the past 3 years, China has had some help in her growth. Between the Olympics and the Fair, they invested 100 Billion, which due to the multiplier effect could have a practical impact of almost a trillion dollars on her economy.  The first issue, that of wasteful spending irks many Chinese who say that the funds could be used to fund pensions, or clean air initiatives- that is not happening. They point out the facilities in Beijing and Qingdao that go unused, the people kicked out of their homes to make way for the new stadiums, and the lack of compassion or the rights of humanity from the government (a good piece from the Economist here). The second issue, that of this being a relative gift to China-well they take that in stride. They just see the juggernaut rising, and don’t know how far she will go.

As for me, I don’t know, I live here-know it is booming but really have seen first hand some of her weaknesses. I sleep well at night.

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Youtube- Where for Art Thou

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 12, 2009


Quick rant. Ok, so the government blocks social networking sites as they don’t want people to use them to riot… sounds weak but their house their rules. But Youtube…wtf… I mean what, are a bunch of Uy*ghur people going to use YouTube to incite a rebellion (that was the party line on the reason for pulling social networking sites- as in not Chinese ones).

I actually think this is nothing more than protectionism. Yeah,the Chinese government can make baidu pull off any offensive information about tian**men or Ti**t, or anything for that matter, but they claim Google is slow to do so. Well, what about YouTube? Think, right now in China each year they need 10million jobs just for the recent college grads- that is a lot of new jobs. In addition, while they are not innovating at a rapid pace, they are merely following, which actually inhibits them in big bang sites like youtube or google. Thus, it would appear that the blocking of these sites would serve to force the locals to utilize home-grown (copycat) sites of arguably inferior quality all under the auspices of protecting the masses.

whew, glad to get that off my chest… but still loving Beijing

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