Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Football (aka "soccer" or zu qiu) and VW

Getting ready to set out to Qingdao on vacation this Friday. After that, I embark on the energy trip. You will start to see a flurry of posts.

Last Saturday night, I attended my first Changchun Yatai soccer game. They played their first ever exhibition (friendly) game against a European team. That team was Vfl Wolfsburg--a club that grew out of a multi-sports club for Volkswagen workers in the city of Wolfsburg. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen Group.

As you may recall from previous posts, Changchun is the "Detroit of China." This city builds most of the world's high-speed trains and a large number of the millions of cars that China produces each year. One of the biggest car companies in the city to have a joint venture with FAW is VW.

FAW company is currently one of the "top 4" Chinese automakers along with Chang'an Motors, Dongfeng Motor, and SAIC Motor. As of 2011, its production of more than 2,372,700 units allowed the company to round out the top three Chinese vehicle manufacturers.

One of my cynical compadres suggested this game was a junket for the VW executives. Perhaps. This game came at interesting time for FAW-VW, which shipped in hundreds of workers on buses to fill the stands. Last week an important story broke in the German business daily Handelsblatt. The Wall Street Journal picked up on the story and then Sam Blackstone wrote a sensational piece for Businessweek:
Chinese piracy is nothing new. Chinese piracy of entire car engines is, however.
In what's turning into a warning for all car companies hoping to capitalize on the Chinese market, China's First Automotive Works (FAW) is allegedly copying Volkswagen's Golf and Polo model transmissions, then putting them into their own cars, reports German newspaper Handelsblatt
To manufacture cars in China, foreign car makers must join in partnerships with one of China's domestic, state-run car companies. While opening the door for opportunities at piracy, many foreign car companies see it as a necessary risk, given the huge opportunity in sales China presents. In April, VW took this risk when it extended its joint venture contract with FAW, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and German Chancellor Angela Merkel there to witness the occasion.
But is the risk worth the reward? For VW, it appears so. Last year, VW sold 2.26 million cars in China, 27% of total sales for the German car maker. In the first half of this year, the number grew 17% to 1.3 million.
Given this fact, VW doesn't really want to burn any bridges. In addition, even if the allegations are true, they can't legally do much until FAW comes out with its Besturn B50 in 2013, FAW's small car model believed to be the model in question.
FAW seems to recognize their chance, too. According to engineering firms whom work with VW, FAW has built a manufacturing factory in Changchun where it plans to start churning out the Bestrun B50.

Nicholas, Naseema, and Jingjing are my colleagues at Perfect English who attended the game. (Yes, we had green and red noisemakers!) The seats around us were filled with factory workers wearing white, pre-printed T-shirts specifically for this game.
I would not learn the result of the game until morning. We left ten minutes before the game was over when it was tied 2-2. In the 85th minute (soccer games are 90 minutes, my American readers) Iranian national team winger and Vfl Wolfsburg fan favorite Ashkan Dejagah scored the winning point. We left early in hopes of finding a cab, but that was a nearly impossible venture and we spent close to an hour--long after the game ended--flagging down taxis. Eventually, we split into two groups and some of us (not me!) allowed ourselves to be hustled for by the cabbies for an extra 20RMB.

The game itself cost 100 RMB (cheapest tickets were at 80RMB). It was section seating with no assigned seats and we were in Section 10. You can see from this action shot early in the game that the bleachers were quite full on both sides of the stadium.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chancghun Car Show

I am not particularly interested in cars. Are you? For me, they are symbols of the fragmentation of society. If I was trying to determine whether I lived in a developed and civilized country, I would not measure it with cars per capita or miles of road per family. I liked to play soldiers much more than with cars as a boy. It is true that I am having a great time teaching David Macaulay's The Way Things Work to my students. Windscreen wipers (he retains some British English despite having moved to America at age 11) and the brakes are fascinating applications of science and technology. Especially, the brakes in a hybrid car.

These are the brakes and the inner-workings of a new Chinese-produced, hybrid Toyota:

This week, I went to the Changchun Auto Show. It was not really about cars. It was about making cars sexy. My friend told me matter-of-factly that one certain red sports car was the favorite of government officials for their mistresses. I wondered if somebody wrote an exposé or if the car company kept such statistics as a point of pride. Most of the news coming out of the show this week has been about China's flagging demand for new cars, but a few Chinese companies seem to have done all right, according to China Daily.

There were also big trucks and the poshest school buses that I have ever seen.

Some of the displays were captivating even without human models. (I am not sure how you suspend a car in mid-air like that at a place where people are walking around underneath.

All of the fancy brands seemed to have a display (and Disney!):

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Goose and the Dander

When I was little, my sister took to calling me, her brother Alexander, "Dander." This is a short tale of Dander's visit to see the ganders.

Nature is not everywhere in Changchun. You have to take the #13 bus and then a taxi to get to Goose Island, but I went with my Chinese teacher and a beautiful girl, who took the photos of the geese, the dove, and the rainbow-bedecked fountain spray below.

This dove will be eaten before too long.

I took a couple photographs myself. This is my Chinese teacher eating goose, mushroom soup, and a variety of mushrooms sizzling above a Sterno. The goose liver plate is out of sight. He is sitting on a swinging chair. We drank copious amounts of bai jiu, as well.

As we walked about the premises, I peered over the wall and across a corn field at the new government building for Changchun.

This is a lamb and the grills on which they are roasted.

There was a petting zoo of dogs and a couple rams and ewes. This husky had beautiful eyes, don't you think? Especially for being locked in a cage!

This is my Chinese teacher crawling across the little pond on a rope bridge.

He forbid me from using the zip-line, but I don't take such advice sitting down and did exactly what this man is doing and zipped across the small pond.

The weather was perfect and here I atop an elephant at the gate.

Unfortunately, I am sick from some food that I may have eaten there. I have been taking Imodium and hoping that life will return to normal. I have had two IV drips and must take Chinese herbal medicine for at least a month!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Water on the Knee and Appeal

The Friday before last, I got to the Chinese-Japanese Union Hospital of Jilin University (sometimes called Number 3) at 8:30AM. It is reputedly the best hospital in the city. I have, quite obviously, water on the knee and one of my dearest friends here works in the Rheumatology Department. She was off on a Beijing-Xi'an-Shanghai trip with her sister, but was a tremendous help by text.

I checked in at the Outpatient window and paid 3RMB (50 cents). I went to see a doctor who told me that I should get an X-ray and an ultrasound. I went back to the window where I had waited to get the piece of paper that allowed me to see the doctor and got two more receipts that entitled me to the tests (100RMB each or about $31.28). I decided after the ultrasound that I would return to the Outpatient Rheumatology doctor without fulfilling the X-ray order. She was fine with that decision and sent me to Orthopedics. (We spent some time trying to get a refund for the unfulfilled order.) I was not touched by the Orthopedic doctor or, I am quite sure, even looked at by him. He simply looked at the ultrasound and said that within three weeks my knee should return to normal. It has been a week and it has barely changed at all.

Have you ever had or known anybody with prepatellar bursitis or "water on the knee"? It is very strange!

The mechanism of injury was almost certainly yoga. I am afraid if I post this photo, it may be the very last time that any of you ever look at this blog. I will take the risk. If you like it (or even if you don't care), please make a donation to support the blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Toyota to Exhibit New Hybrid Vehicle in Changchun

CHANGCHUN -- Toyota Motor Corp will display its new hybrid concept car, the Yundong Shuangqing, at the upcoming Changchun auto show slated for July 13-22 in Northeast China's Jilin province, sources with the company said on Tuesday.

The concept vehicle is equipped with a system of multiple power sources designed by Toyota's Chinese research and development center in Changshu, Jiangsu province, according to the sources.

The vehicle is an outcome of Toyota's Cloud Action plan, which was initiated on March 1 in Beijing to promote environmentally friendly products in China.

A production version of the Yundong Shuangqing, literally meaning Cloud Action Dual-Engine, will be available in 2015, according to the plan.

The vehicle made its debut at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in April this year.
China became the first country outside Japan to produce Toyota's Prius hybrid, when Sichuan FAW Toyota Motor Co Ltd started making the third-generation model in 2005.

In 2010, GAC Toyota Motor Co Ltd in South China's Guangdong province began making the Camry hybrid, the second hybrid vehicle manufactured by Toyota in China.

Source: China Daily

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On the Heat Wave, El Nino and Real Consequences

Despite Bill McKibben's change of heart, the evidence that climate change is not a hoax seems to be rising.

Biman Mukerji and Diksha Sahni report from New Dehli for the Wall Street Journal, "Swaths of northern India are facing water shortages due to the late arrival of monsoon rains, deepening already acute power shortages and disrupting the sowing season of staple food crops at a time when India's economy is fragile."

The "Father of Hybrid Rice" is somebody that Chinese students learn about in their English textbook during the first year in senior middle school (aka high school). He made dramatic predictions about the potential for increased grain outputs in a speech in Changchun on Thursday, but sizzling weather may interfere with this. In Changchun, we have received uncharacteristically large quantities of thunderstorms and the temperatures have hovered around 90F for the last few days.

Codi Yeager reports for Circle of Blue:
A drought in China has also impeded crop production. Arable land totaling 5.17 million hectares (12.8 million acres) in Henan, Anhui, Shandong, and Inner Mongolia is being affected by the dry spell. Furthermore, 4.28 million people and 4.85 million heads of livestock in Yunnan, Hubei, and Inner Mongolia are short of drinking water, Xinhua reported. The Chinese government called for a Level IV emergency response plan to deal with the drought in Hubei Province, where city and county governments have allocated $US 1.2 million (7.72 million RMB) to ease shortages of drinking water and food.

The return of El Niño weather conditions could further parch China and the Korean Peninsula. The weather phenomenon, part of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) weather cycle that includes La Niña, is caused by warmer than normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. El Niño generally brings droughts to Asia and Australia, while dumping rain on North and South America. 
Phoebe Sedgman and Elizabeth Campbell report for Bloomberg, "Goldman Sachs Group Inc. says this may be the first time in five years that New Zealand, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, produces less milk, at a time when surging corn prices are raising costs for U.S. farmers.... The heat wave wilting corn in the US Midwest is raising feed costs for farmers and may curb milk yields."

"Gone are the days that people in Suriname considered their country blessed by the gods against disastrous weather." (AlertNet, 28 Jun 2012)

N.B. It is quite difficult to find English articles in China about weather patterns and recent monthly weather data.