When I first talked to Xiao Zhang he was packing his bag in a tiny, shabby room near a construction site where he worked. He has lived there with his wife and other fellow workers since he came to this city.
“I fled from a remote village in Guangxi province to Shenzhen to change my life three years ago.” He said. “But now I realise it is much harder than I expected. I could never actually become part of this city, so I am planning to leave.”
Announced in 2013, China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) economic blueprint has been heralded by some as ‘the number one project under heaven’. The mega-plan sees the construction of an infrastructure project at sea, connecting both South East Asia and East Africa to China, and a revival of the ancient Silk Road- a trade route that lead the way for Chinese geoeconomic and geopolitical expansion. The ambitious initiative stretches across Central and Western Asia, East Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Although described as having ‘trade relations, financial cooperation and coordinated development policies’ in his sights, Xi Jinping has faced considerable regional headwinds, begging for the question: is OBOR becoming the new realm for regional contestation, despite being framed as a way to transcend popular geopolitical issues?
When the earthquake in April 2016 hit Kumamoto City, the internet lit up with a very peculiar question: “Is Kumamon okay?”
At 1.5 metres tall, the cuddly black bear from Kyushu with rosy cheeks is arguably Japan’s most famous mascot. After the bear’s 2011 win at the Yuru-Kyara Grand Prix that saw him voted in as number one mascot in Japan, his popularity sky rocketed. Kumamon is now more than just a tourism ploy for Kumamoto Prefecture. His popularity has changed his position as a spokesperson for local Kumamoto goods .
In late November-2016, the French Polynesian Présidence at Papeete played host to an important, and well-attended, exhibition titled Makatea: Past, Present, Future.
From its opening, the exhibition transformed from a site of historical memory into a site of heated debate. Landowners, office-holders, young job seekers and environmentalists came together to articulate their visions and concerns over Australian engineer Colin Randall’s proposals to re-open mining industry on Makatea for its phosphate reserves.
“Seeing the elephant” is a 19th century American saying, meaning the gaining of world experience at a significant cost. It originated from travelling circuses, where curious people would pay exorbitant sums to literally, see the elephant.
Today there is an altogether different sort of elephant, one for which the cost is incurred when it is not seen. The identity of this pachyderm is, of course, India.
The unofficial lotteries and clandestine casinos of China are the source of many tales of instant wealth and dramatic financial loss. But in Yunnan province, you’re more likely to see amateur gamblers pin their hopes, and their savings, on lumps of rock as they hunt for precious jade.
Jade is big business in China. In Yunnan province alone, the industry employs more than 500,000 people and annual sales of the precious stone have reached nearly US $2.5 billion. The prized stones flow across the border from Myanmar, and most find their way to counters in cavernous showrooms and glittering jewellery emporiums in Ruili, a small city near the frontier.