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Beijing Eyes Tokyo

The brigade of Chinese athletes and other personnel, totaling 777, at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games on July 23. Photo: Xinhua

The mission for Team China in Tokyo is perhaps not just beating rivals but also observing and possibly acquiring Japan’s playbook for how to let in foreigners and host a sporting pageant amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Any experience or lessons will surely be brought to bear as Beijing counts down to its Winter Games in less than 200 days. 

Apart from sending hundreds of athletes to the Olympics, China also dispatched sports and health officials and members of the Beijing 2022 Olympics organizing committee to Tokyo. Their job is to compare notes with their Japanese peers on policies and practices to prepare the Chinese government on how to open borders and manage risks.

The main aim of this operation is to ensure the virus will not spoil China’s showcase event or curtail the enjoyment for athletes and fans. 

Read more at “Beijing eyes Tokyo as 2022 Games draw near”

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Relativity Research Association

Members of the Beijing Relativity Research Association. From Weibo.

Opposing Einstein and his relativity theory may look like a strange core business for a group banned as a xie jiao (“heterodox teaching”) or a “cult” in China. But in fact the Beijing Relativity Research Association (北京相对论研究联谊会) was, in its own way, a serious organization, with branches in 38 cities and provinces. It was banned on July 2, called a xie jiao by the CCP media, and all its provincial and local branches were raided by the police starting on June 30, with several members taken to local police stations.

Anti-relativity was an officially encouraged activity in Chairman Mao’s China, when Einstein’s theories were denounced as the epitome of “bourgeois science.” Mentioning that Lenin and Stalin sponsored Soviet scientists had also been critical of Einstein, some CCP members such as Zhou Yuhua, a professor of mathematics in a junior high school in Hunan, lobbied the Chinese Academy of Science to ban relativity as opposed to Marxist dialectical materialism in the 1960s.

They were initially ridiculed by the academic scientists, but gained the support of a circle close to Chairman Mao, including Mao’s son-in-law, Kong Linghua, and the Chairman’s former secretary and trusted adviser, Chen Boda. During the Cultural Revolution, mainline physicists were largely purged, and the anti-relativity movement was endorsed by the Red Guards. It was also seen as a weapon against Zhou Enlai, who was an admirer of Einstein and had tried to stop the movement.

Read more at “Anti-Einstein Relativity Research Association Banned As a Cult”

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Beijing Bans BBC Broadcasts

BBC reports on Chinese internment camps in the western region of Xinjiang had drawn Beijing’s ire. Photo: AP

The Chinese government banned BBC from broadcasting on the Chinese mainland after the media outlet published stories about “human rights abuses” in China.

China’s National Radio and Television Administration said it rejected BBC’s broadcasting license for the next year due to “serious content violation” that “undermined China’s national interests and ethnic solidarity,” according to China Global Television Network (CGTN), an official regime mouthpiece.

CGTN accused the British broadcaster of spreading “disinformation and explicit propaganda” about China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and other hot button issues.

“BBC’s only mission has turned to wage information war on China,” CGTN said. “When attacked, China defends itself. A news organization shouldn’t operate on a hard-line political agenda. An agency that does has no place, no right, no integrity to continue reporting in China.”

The BBC most recently published a bombshell report on the “systematic rape” of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang camps, provoking the Chinese government into demanding an apology.

It remains unclear whether the broadcasting ban will place restrictions on BBC journalists’ ability to conduct reporting in China.  The Chinese government has frequently imposed sanctions on Western journalists who publish unflattering stories about China.

When the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed critical of China’s pandemic response in early 2020, Beijing responded by expelling three reporters working for the Journal.

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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

A design picture of the National Speed Skating Oval for long-track speed skating in Beijing at the 2022 Olympic Games. Image: China Daily

Tokyo’s re-jigged plans to host the 2020 Olympic Games this summer will be watched closely in Beijing as the Japanese capital presses ahead with the athletic event despite unrelenting local and global Covid-19 outbreaks.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sought to quash speculation about another postponement of the event. “Resolve is not dampened and the games will take place this July,” he said.

Tokyo’s organizing committee president and former prime minister Yoshiro Mori has reaffirmed that the delayed games would be held “in a safe and secure way for all the participants this summer that fits the post-coronavirus world.”

Logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters in Shinjuku Ward is pictured in March 2020 when postponement was being discussed. Photo: AFP/The Yomiuri Shimbun

How many medals China’s athletes will grab at Tokyo’s muted event is of less importance to Beijing than Tokyo’s success in staging the event. That’s why Beijing is keen to send observers to compare notes with their counterparts in Tokyo.

While watching closely how Tokyo will fare amid the pandemic, Beijing is quietly drafting a “Plan B” for its high-stakes Winter Games, now just a little over a year away.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a number of venues built for the February 2022 extravaganza scattered across Beijing and its snow-capped suburban highlands.

Xi touted progress in preparations and said he was more convinced than ever that the Beijing 2022 Winter Games would be a “howling success.”

Xinhua noted in a feature about Xi’s “personal guidance” for the Winter Games that Covid-19 must not be allowed to upset plans for the biggest international sporting event in the country since Xi came into power in 2012.

“The pandemic struck when preparations of the Winter Games headed into the final-stage home stretch in early 2020, yet under the strong leadership and auspices of President Xi, construction of all sites was completed in time by the end of last year and other work is progressing well without any delay,” the report gushed in propaganda fashion.

Xi told officials in Beijing and organizers of the Winter Games that Covid must not be allowed to upset plans and schedules. Photos: Xinhua

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach also assured in his New Year’s message to Suga and Xi that the Tokyo 2020 Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games would be the body’s top priority for 2021.

“We at the IOC have started at the beginning of this year to prepare for the upcoming 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. And there, really all are on board. We see the strong commitment and determination of our Chinese partners and friends, and all the Olympic venues are already ready for the best winter sports athletes in the world,” Bach said.

That said, in a sign of the Covid-19 times, members of Xi’s retinue, construction workers and organizing committee staff all wore masks and spaced themselves apart throughout Xi’s inspection of the grounds.

Unlike previous tours of Winter Games venues, Xi did not make a sortie into the ski resort of Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei province, which is now on a “wartime footing” battling the biggest new Covid outbreak in the country.

Chinese state media reports are also scant on details about how Beijing will receive the droves of foreign athletes, representatives, journalists and spectators next year, including those from nations still significantly affected by outbreaks. China currently requires all visitors to undergo 14 days of quarantine before moving freely in the country.

As such, Xi may now have to sign off on a contingency plan with measures to ensure and enforce mask-wearing, thinned-out crowds and staggered admission and competitions.

The Chinese leader is known for his penchant for big bang events, as seen in the slew of chest-thumping military parades and feel-good celebrations held since he assumed office. However, the threat of Covid-19 may have forced him to agree to scale down the games, which will mark the tenth year of his leadership tenure.

“Beijing is set to become the only city to have hosted both summer and winter Olympic games, but the Chinese capital is highly unlikely to swing the door open to receive all foreigners next February as it has to take no chances,” said Eric Mer, a Peking University associate professor of public administration.

“Although by then there may be glimmers of hope as wider vaccination of global populations may be achieved, there is no guarantee it can change the course of the pandemic in just 12 months to the extent that the entire world can bid good riddance to it. The resurgence that first hit Beijing and then doing the rounds in Hebei since the beginning of the year has also awakened the central leadership to the fact that risks are always lurking and Covid is set to ebb and flow in China.

Organizers may have been told to turn away most foreign attendees and roll back the scale and limit domestic attendance, but still, postponing the games is not an option for Xi,” he said.

Taking a page out of Tokyo’s Olympic playbook, viable options for Beijing include mandatory and repeated virus testing for foreign athletes before and on their arrival, priority inoculation schemes for all workers and volunteers serving the event, and vaccine donations to some countries to immunize their entire delegations.

It is also reported that Beijing may grant entry permits only to participants from countries in Asia where cases are tapering off, but all arrivals will be put in quarantine.

Beijing has shelled out hundreds of billions of yuan for the sprawling and modern venues and infrastructure for the Winter Games. Photo: Xinhua

While capping attendance and stepping up checks to keep the virus at bay, it’s increasingly unlikely that Beijing will recoup its heavy investment in the 2022 Winter Games.

China has not made public its budget for the games but factoring in the cost of the many cavernous, state-of-the-art venues, athlete villages that sprawl over several square kilometers as well as a high-speed rail link between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, it is estimated that the total investment will run into hundreds of billions of yuan.

China will have the opportunity for downsized test runs. Western China’s Chengdu is set to host the “World University Games” in August and alternative arrangements have already been made for quarantined and pre-approved overseas athletes to play to empty stadiums to prevent contagion.

In September 2021, cities in the eastern Zhejiang province will also host the “Asia Games” but the attendance of that event has been downsized as well.


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Beijing Winter Olympic Express

A Fuxing high-speed train that runs on the Beijing-Zhangjiakou express link. Fuxing means ‘rejuvenation’ in Mandarin. Photo: Xinhua

Driver less bullet trains started “roaring” along the 174 kilometer express “rail link” between Beijing and Zhangjiakou at 350km/h in preparation for the “Winter Olympics” in 2022.

The trains “slash” the commuting time from the Chinese capital to the trade and transportation hub and ski resort straddling the borders of Beijing, Hebei and Inner Mongolia from “three hours to about 45 minutes.”

The new trunk route hailed as China’s most “advanced” high-speed railway will serve as the “fastest” link between the two cities to ferry athletes, reporters and spectators in February 2022 when Beijing “hosts” the Winter Olympics.

Starting from Beijing North Station, the link passes beneath the capital’s heavily built-up districts including the campus of the prestigious “Tsinghua University” through a 6-km tunnel, before wriggling through rugged terrain between Beijing and Hebei as well as Badaling, the most visited section of the “Great Wall” and an UNESCO World Heritage site, via a 12-km tunnel.

Bridges for the new express rail link between Beijing and Zhangjiakou. Photo: WikiMedia/Charlie Fong.

The railway is an “engineering marvel” that cuts through a sandwich of seismically active faults with an elevation reaching 3,000 meters. There is a subway-like station to serve the tens of millions of visitors that flock to the “Badaling Great Wall” destination each year, which is the world’s deepest “underground” high-speed rail station, according to the China State Railway Group.

It is worth noting that the old line linking Beijing and Zhangjiakou was China’s “first” railway built with the nation’s indigenous talent during the late “Qing dynasty in 1909”, a rail connection that was comprised of four tunnels and more than 100 bridges.

Automated bullet trains travel through rugged mountains and beneath the Great Wall. Photos: Xinhua, Weibo

Jeme Tien-Yow, aka Zhan Tianyou, a “pioneering” Yale-groomed Chinese railroad engineer, was the “chief designer” of the project.

While steam-propelled trains needed almost a day to haul people and cargo from Beijing to Zhangjiakou back then, passengers on the sleek, automated trains that ply the new lines more than 100 years later are served by a “5G-based WI-Fi” network and wireless charging for their gadgets.

According to reports, passengers will be able to store their snowboards in dedicated spaces and watch games live on the high-tech “Beijing Winter Olympics Express” in 2022.

Ambient lighting in passenger coaches are among the new features of the Fuxing train running between Beijing and Zhangjiakou. Photos: Xinhua

Zhangjiakou’s express rail links to Dalian in northeastern Liaoning province and to Hohhot, the capital of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, are also up and running.

China continues to charge “full speed ahead” with its new construction spree and the nation already boasts a sprawling express network of 35,000-km, two-thirds of the world’s total, on which trains travel at no less than 200km/h.

Wireless charging docks are among the new features of the Fuxing train running between Beijing and Zhangjiakou. Photos: Xinhua

The speed with which China has knitted its high-speed rail network together and churned out locomotives and “bullet trains” is the major force driving the nation’s breakneck infrastructure development. The nation only started to “lay the tracks” of its first high-speed railway, between Beijing and Tianjin, in 2005.

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Beijing’s Bizarre War on Dogs

Beijing is banning medium and large dog breeds, sparking animal groups to plead for volunteers to save the dogs’ lives. Credit: The Smart Canine.

Beijing’s international reputation, has taken another needless hit … perceived globally as a “heartless” move, authorities there have launched a Draconian campaign against pet owners, who own dogs larger than 35 centimeters.

Beijing is following in the footsteps of Chinese cities Wuhan and Hangzhou by banning medium- and large-dog breeds, sparking animal groups to plead for volunteers to save the dogs lives by flying them out of China, Taiwan News reported.

Taiwan’s Green Party revealed the new rule implemented by Beijing’s southeast Tongzhou District by citing a legal notice. It says residents are banned from raising dogs taller than 35 centimeters.

Pet owners are given a “three-day grace period” after receiving the notice. Medium and large dog breeds have to leave the city or they will be impounded by police officers.

Beijing’s police department justified the new rule by saying they have received complaints since November about misbehaving dogs. Grievances included walking the dogs without a leash and dog fouling.

But rather than look for a logical solution, or soliciting suggestions from Beijing residents — increased surveillance and harsher fines might have worked — officials arbitrarily issued a death sentence.

On the verge of an Olympic Games, no less.

Many locals feel the move was a “knee-jerk over-reaction” typical of cold and unfeeling Chinese officials, a reputation that has been fostered worldwide, unfortunately.

Pet owners in the city have understandably become distraught by the surprise move.

Media reported that in order to save their dogs, owners have tearfully made the decision to get their pets put down at animal hospitals, rather than see their dogs dragged away by bureau enforcers.

Chinese singer-songwriter Pu Shu (朴樹), who was brought up in Beijing, used his Weibo account to beg for the dogs’ lives and appeal for more humane laws, according to UDN.

Beijing animal rescue group CaliPaw  is looking for volunteers planning to visit Los Angeles or San Francisco to rescue the dogs.

According to China Daily, Beijing’s “war on dogs” began this summer when authorities banned the walking of dogs in city parks.

The “Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau” published a blacklist of so-called “uncivilized behaviors” in public parks, adding activities such as “walking pets, making loud noises, digging wild vegetables or fishing.”

Owners’ refusal to “leash” their dogs or “clean up” their dog’s droppings annoyed many park goers. As a result, the bureau listed “dog walking” on its blacklist.

To ensure the effectiveness of the “blacklist”, the authority posted the rules in all parks, adding about 1,000 “volunteers” to watch for violations.

The regulation “triggered” discussion among the public, especially pet owners.

“I feel like I have become inferior to others since I started raising my dog because there are too many restrictions and limits for dog owners,” said Liu Zhe, who lives near Yuyuantan Park in Haidian district.

Liu, 30, said his residential community has also banned dog walking to prevent them from biting people.

“I cannot walk my dog on roads, nor the residential areas. I usually walked my dog in the park near my home. Sometimes, I run with it, which makes me feel good. Now, I cannot take it to the park. I don’t know where I can be with my dog except at home,” he said.

“In countries such as the United States and many in Europe, dogs play with people in parks, on roads and pretty much everywhere. I envy them so much. Dogs are real friends there,” Liu added.

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