How To Stay Out Of Trouble During China’s Transfer Of Power

The internet is simultaneously my best friend and worst enemy. I’ve furiously delaying packing , planning , and getting ready for my Hong Kong trip.

Thanks Web!

Here is an interesting little article I found on

How To Stay Out Of Trouble During China’s Transfer of Power
By Jan Cao

For starters, you might want to avoid taking taxis.
zzzTLN sparta.jpg
Chinese Caption: This is the 18th Congress. (Weibo, via Tea Leaf Nation>

As Beijing enters extreme lock-down prior to the 18th National Party Congress (十八大 or “shi ba da” in Chinese), social media users have invented a new coded reference-“Sparta”-to talk about this otherwise censored topic on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter. A search for Sparta (斯巴达) yielded more than 3.2 million results on Sina Weibo.

To help those visiting China’s capital on the eve of this once-in-a-decade change in leadership, Tea Leaf Nation has compiled a survival guide in this alternate universe known as “Spartan” Beijing:

1. Don’t Roll Down the Windows in Your Taxi

Social media users have reported that handles used to roll down the rear seat windows in many taxis have been removed, apparently in an attempt to prevent passengers from distributing leaflets from the backseat.

Lin Chufang (@林楚方), editor-in-chief of iRead magazine, verified this: “Just took a cab home. I asked the driver, did your company really ask you to close the windows at all times? He said yes. Did they ask to remove the rear window handles? He said yes. What if the windows are automatic? He said the driver can lock them from the front. What if the car goes near sensitive areas? He said he would lock the door. But who would know if you don’t lock it? He said there are special personnel in charge of checking this. Looks like that post on the Internet wasn’t rumor, it’s just me lacking imagination. Too naive!”

2. Sign on the Dotted Line If You Take a Taxi

Some taxi companies have also asked passengers to sign an agreement that details the passenger’s point of origin, destination, name, phone number, and the route, as well as guarantee that the passenger will:

a. Fasten the seat belt;

b. Try to avoid important locations such as Tian’anmen Square. If the route is necessary, the passenger must close the windows and lock the doors;

c. Acknowledge that the route is taken at the passenger’s direction and take full responsibility for any related consequences.

3. Don’t Buy Anything that Can Fly

A local supermarket posted a “gentle reminder” that customers who want to purchase remote-controlled toy airplanes need to register with their real names and IDs, due to a request from a local police station. Apparently, flying balloons is also forbidden.

4. Show Your ID If You Want to Bathe

A local spa or bath house also sent a warm short message to customers to let them know that anyone using the bathing facility (including children) needs to register with effective ID.

5. Out of Knives? Tough Luck

Be extra careful when using your kitchen knife in the next two weeks, because it would be hard to replace it in a “Spartan” Beijing. Some supermarkets have suspended the sales of all knives during the 18th Party Congress. The same goes for scissors and screwdrivers.

6. Obey the Old Ladies

See that old lady with a red sleeve cover? Don’t mess with her. She is probably one of 110,000 “volunteers” in Beijing keeping an eye on the street.

Journalist Qi Jie (@coldair) reports, “There are many young and innocent faces in the [Beijing] subway, wearing red sleeve covers. Their job is to ride the subway non-stop and take note of bad people. I asked one, ‘Why do you do this?’ He said, ‘It pays. 40 RMB (approximately US$7) a day. We are volunteers.'” Yao Bo (@五岳散人), a well-known social commentator, tweeted on Sina Weibo: “The people in charge of People’s Daily and CCTV [China Central Television] are afraid of leaflets. The people in charge of the military, para-military, local police and urban law enforcement are afraid of kitchen knives. The people in charge of armed vehicles are afraid of taxis driving near political centers. The people in charge of stealth fighter jets are afraid of toy planes and balloons. Bro, am I living in Alice’s Wonderland?”

Probably explains why my google and gmail connections have been so shit lately.

One good thing about the CCP is that we don’t have to constantly listen to ads bashing the other opponent. Things are already decided for us!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Geometry. Awesome.

After studying it so many years ago , who knew I’d be photo blogging about it?

The city is an environment rife with geometry with the sharp lines of towering skyscrapers , swirls of freeway bridges , and the funky stuff that happens at night. Ancient China is steeped in geometry as well. The most popular examples being the revolutionary (at the time) use of half circles to construct the largest , sturdiest bridges at the time, and the traditional archway doors in the ancient gardens and homes.

Shanghai World Financial Center in all its glory.

Xuhui Rd buildings showing off at night.

Graceful looping action of the elevated highways.

Interior of the 瓷房子 Ci Fangzi / Porcelain House in Tianjin. Try to throw coins from the top into the bottom!

Peaceful Hangzhou Westlake bridge.

Shanghai Zhujiajiao Water Town bridge.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

Whoa. Foreign. Where to start? The last 2 years and 7 months have been exclusively “foreign” photos for me. Horses in the Inner Mongolian grasslands? Yea , not my life before. Towering neon-lit skyscrapers? Couldn’t be further from Mentor , Ohio.

After leaving Tianjin with it’s miniscule foreign population , I would stare at the fellow 老外 (laowai = foreigner) upon arrival in Shanghai.

The most foreign thing become a White Man. Or a Black Man. Whoa ,a White and a Black Man walking together! (I’m totally not saying this in a racist way , in case anyone wants to read that out of context.) I would have a huge shit-eating grin on my face , jaw hanging down to almost the ground , while trying to talk to anybody and everybody about those crazy foreigners! And if they were eating hamburgers , forget about it! I’m floating in the sky!

I’m seriously going to have one huge case of reverse culture shock when I go back.

I’ve tried to pick out a few “foreign” photos from my stack of 10,000 or so.

Here goes.

Upon arrival , ignoring the game changers of language culture , there were some things in China that looked kinda familiar but something was off….

I couldn’t put my finger on it while eating my blueberry chips washed down with a WW2 American army edition Pabst.

Stepping outside though , it hit me.

Is that frickin’ worm?!?

Even my beloved graffiti wasn’t the same.

Slowly though these things became normal. I even started to look back at the States differently.

My thanksgiving feast morphed into this.

Yup , I’ve absorbed China. I live , breathe, and speak China. (Though as a non-Asian you can never truly assimiliate into China.)

Now it takes things like this to me to see foreign.

Hey that barstool in Vang Vieng , Laos kind of looks like Ohio.

*Looks closely* OMG IT IS OHIO! I should probably visit home sometime. Right? Mom and Dad , right?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

China has a propensity for building BIG things. From ancient pagodas towering above the countryside to new shiny neon-lit skycrapers looming above the city.

Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’An

The Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square in Beijing

Forbidden City in Beijing

Temple of Heaven in Beijing

Jinma Plaza Arches in Kunming

World Financial Center aka “The Bottle Opener” all lit-up at night in Shanghai.

Building Up a Superiority Complex

With China’s changing economic situation and the influx of wealth that has hit the country like a bomb in the last thirty years has come a steadily building superiority complex.

With Monday’s departure for Vietnam looming ahead , various people have asked me about my plans for the Communist party’s week-long bash. My answer like usual is to get out of China. The sheer brilliance of giving almost everyone in the nation’s most populous country time off equals an insane migration of people and massive crowds. However , when I tell them where I’m going , they seem to be less than impressed. Keep in mind that these people aren’t China’s wealthy. They make around a little less than $500 USD a month.

My Co-workers.
Me – I’m going to Vietnam!
C (Co-workers) Vietnam? It’s too dirty!
IMH ( In my head) And China isn’t dirty? The newly found wealth in the country is pretty much the direct result of the sacrifice of the environment.

My girlfriend’s brother.

GFB – You’re going to Vietnam? Vietnam doesn’t have any fun places!
Me- Hanoi’s eclectic old french quarter , Halong Bay , hiking in Sapa , beautiful remote beaches , the upcoming Phu Quoc island resort center.
GFB – China has beaches too! Go to Sanya ( on China’s tropical Hainan island)
Me- What ? With the 5,000,000 rich people who descend on the island every year? With the full hotels and the quadrupled prices? Anyways, I enjoy the experience of going to a different country with different languages , architecture , and culture.

(Chinese beach courtesy of

My girlfriend’s co-workers.

While my co-workers are nice to me for the most part , my girlfriend works in an extremely competitive office and she is on the low ranking side of things. These people are mean to her.

GF- I’m going to Vietnam!
GF (Angry but trying not to show it) – Well ,where are you going?
GFC – Staying in Shanghai .

Now China , it’s best to remember that you have more peasants than the entire population of Europe. Just because there is an (admittedly) strong elite with vast amounts of wealth , and you have a huge military doesn’t make you number 1.Living in a relatively expensive city like Shanghai with a relatively low wage doesn’t make you superior to the Vietnamese who have a low wage but live in relatively cheap Hanoi.

Let’s quit with the superiority and enjoy the holiday!

Photo of the Day- Lanterns

I’ve had this photo sitting around for a while on my computer. I have a whole series but no room left on wordpress. I need to do something about that.

This photo is from the lantern festival at Yu Gardens during February. It was cold as a Roo cat’s heart but totally worth braving the elements.

This photo really illustrates the kind of “Where the hell am I?” ” Oh it’s Asia” situation that can sometimes hit travelers in this land .