Hong Kong Returns to China: Part 1 of 2

Lloyd explains the Hong Kong “democracy” claims very well here…read on.

iLook China

On July 1, 1997, The British returned Hong Kong to Mainland China. How many people around the world know Hong Kong’s history?

To understand, it helps to learn that negotiations to return Hong Kong to China started in 1979, but what happened in 1839 is also important.

Imagine if Russia had invaded the United States in the 19th century and after crushing America’s military, they occupied the area where New York City is located and kept it for 156 years while using it as a trading hub to export cocaine and heroin without restrictions into the United States until every American family has one or more members that were addicted to these horrible drugs. That is what happened to China.

The video is included to learn what happened to Hong Kong and not as an indictment of China.

History dot com reports, “In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition…

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Chinese Universities become competitive

Long term Readers will notice its been quite some time since our last Spaceship China post. The posts here will probably continue to appear at random, and certainly not as regular as they used to. In the meantime, thought you all might enjoy reading about the growth in credibility in Chinese Universities!

In the latest World University ratings, recently published, 11 Chinese universities appear in the top 100. Tsinghua University in Beijing is one of China’s most famous universities. It is now Number 17 in the world rankings.

Tsing Hua university

Tsinghua University ( the name would know by phoneticised as Qing Hua) was established early in the 20th Century. In the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion and the 8-allied powers invasion of China, western countries agreed to pay China millions of dollars in indemnity for illegal invasion.

The United States was one of the few countries to pay. Amounting to tens of millions of dollars, the repatriation included the establishment of Tsinghua University.

School of Architecture, Tsing Hua university.

Primarily a research University, it also boosts a growing Mandarin language school for foreigners to study Chinese language. It’s also been recognised as a global leader in Engineering and Computer science, named as the world’s best in those disciplines in 2017.

Alumini include a number of China’s highest level politicians – current Prime Minister Xi Jinping, previous PM Hu Jintao and his Premier Zhu Rongji. Graduates also include two nobel prize winners ( physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Yang Chen Ning), co-inventor of the combined contraceptive pill Min Chueh Chang, poet Mu Dan and famous Qing dynasty reformist Liang Qichaoti

Tsinghua University’s ratings have been growing – it was global Number 25 last year. It even has it’s own Facebook page!

The times, they are a-changing!


Do women still hold up half the sky?

Post-revolution,  the very first law promulgated by the new communist regime under Mao Zedong in China was the Marriage Law of the PRC, abolishing the feudal system of  arranged and coerced marriages.

Mao Zedong proclaimed that  men and women are equal  and famously said “women hold up half the sky”.

A lot has changed since the heady post-revolution days. The cultural revolution, for one, which affected the lives of nearly everyone alive in China at the time.

With the growth of the market economy, what are the opportunities for women? Whilst Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, often attributes the success of his company to the number of women he employs, the truth is somewhat different.

Advertisements targeted at employing men in tech companies use women as the bait to attract men. From benign ads showing women listing the attributes they like in men (“must be a techie”) to extremely misogynist advertisments which are not simply ‘borderline’ sexual harrassment – some of these ads are blatantly and deliberating identifying women working in tech companies, not as the intelligent, hard-working and brilliant IT specialists that they are, but valuable only as someone being available for sex. Such ads would be cause for legal action in many countries in the world.

In fact, more than 55 % of Chinese tech start-ups are driven by women. Jean -Liu is one of those women. After gaining a Bachelor of Computer Science at  Bejing University, she worked for Goldman Sachs for a decade and then joined Didi, a Uber-like company she made global and is now one of the world’s most successful start-ups, thanks to Liu.

Ellen Pao was an enormously talented IT specialist – a degree in engineering, a degree in law, experience with high-level start-ups – the list goes on – working fora silicon valley company. She sued the company for sexist practices, sexual harassment and discrimination, and lost, at great personal expense. After leaving the company she started her own company to promote diversity in IT and has written a book. about her experiences. Now women and minorities in IT suing for discrimination as become known as “the Pao effect”.

Ellen Pao, photo courtesy of https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/09/19/ellen-pao-asian-women-tech-glass-ceiling-bamboo-ceiling/665822001/


If women hold up half the sky, and are so talented in the IT field, why then, do advertisements like the ones seen in the following video-blog by commentator and novelist Lijia Zhang still exist?











Dragon Raises its head

The Lunar New Year period is officially over. Today, the second day of the second month on the Chinese lunar calendar ( really a solar-lunar calendar, but let’s not get too technical). 二月二  er yue er – is the date of the Long Tai Tou 龙抬头  Festival。

Traditionally this was the day that farming and fishing work began for the year, believed to be that the Dragon King woke from his long winter sleep, lifted up his head, and brought rain to fishers and farming folk.

Fried beans are a popular food on Dragon Raises its Head Festival.They are said to resemble dragon seeds. Photo courtesy of chinadaily.cn

As the dragon’s raising his head, it’s good to eat dragon-type food, like pig’s feet and shrimp. Special dishes even have the word “dragon” added to their names, to make them auspicious. Noodles become dragon’s beards, dumplings become dragon’s ears, spring rolls are dragon’s scales and popcorn becomes dragon seeds!

Getting a haircut to ride the dragon’s luck this year! Photo courtesy of chinadaily.cn

It’s considered lucky to get your haircut on this date, so you can ride on the dragon’s luck in the coming year. If you haven’t already had your hair cut, today, quick, there is still time! It’s one of the busiest days for hairdressers in China!

The Dragon Raises its Head festival is also sometimes called the Blue Dragon Festival, and dates from the Tang and Song dynasties. Oddly enough, a few years back a real blue dragon landed in Australia. Maybe it swam over from the South China Sea.

This Blue Dragon ( related to jellyfish) can fit in the palm of your hand!
Image courtesy of shandongdaily.com

Here, people in the Shandong city of Weifang ( famous as the home of kites) come to pay their respects to the Dragon King on Longtaitou.

Seeing China through Chinese eyes – leadership questions and the future

For those of us living in Western countries, or reading Western media, one would imagine that the recent removal of terms for the Chinese leader was all doom and gloom.

Western media, especially in trends following the USA, tends to focus on personalities and their personal style, taking the emphasis off policies. The colour of Trumps hair, the clothes worn by Clinton (H), etc.

But how is the leadership of China question viewed from Chinese eyes?

Jim O”Neill, is a former Goldman Sachs Asset Management and former Commercial Secretary to the UK Treasury. Oh, and an economics professor. He makes some very valid and interesting points. Firstly, about average income.

“In fact, a young Beijing-based entrepreneur I met recently estimates that at least 20% of Chinese – over 250 million people – are now making $40,000 per year. Besides the United States, no other country in the world has that many people generating that much individual wealth. Whether Westerners like to admit it or not, that is a remarkable achievement.”

he continues…

“But even more remarkable is the fact that it has happened under a non-democratic system, and that Chinese citizens appear to be rather content. Although small-scale protests are not uncommon, even among those in the top 20%, they tend to be scattered and fleeting”

and the future? O”Neill assesses it is the hukou system which has the potential to bring down China. This is the system of “household registration” where each citizen is registered as belonging to a particular town. When domestic migrants move to the bigger cities looking for work, this brings problems with their children’s education. Children of migrant workers do not have a hukou for the big cities, and thus cannot access education. It’s a huge problem which has been substantially addressed in recent years, but remains a problem.

Futhermore, it brings in issues of Statelessness.

O’Neill claims this is the big problem facing the Chinese government now, not personality politiics.

“Although the CPC has experimented with scrapping the hukous ystem in smaller cities where it wants to promote growth, it has refrained from doing so in the big cities. Based on private discussions I have had with Chinese policymakers, I know that they see the current arrangement as a major problem. But they do not want to confront it. Their reasoning is that abandoning the system altogether would impose an unsustainable burden on megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai.”

Seeing China with Chinese eyes means understanding what it might be like to live in a country with an ancient, rich civilisation, a country where contrary to western media’s approach is a country which puts the good of the whole nation before individual rights. it’s quite simply, a different philosophical outlook. With this philosophical outlook, it lifted a whole nation of billions of people out of poverty in decades. That is a rare economic achievement in anyone’s books.

O”Neill’s overall analysis regarding the future of China

“Still, my hunch is that something will have to change eventually. A two-tier system in which almost half the population enjoys Western levels of wealth while the rest have no right to health care or social security cannot survive another 15 years. And if this is obvious to me, then it must be obvious to the Chinese leadership, too.”

President Xi, is, above all, a Confucianist. To understand his motives for lifting the time barrier on the leadership positions one must understand the Confucian ethic. The western media could well do with reading The Analects to fully understand Xi, instead of analysing a country and  a leader’s motives based on philosophies which are foreign to that nation. One has to understand the internal logic.

Bejing Professor Yu Dan has written a popularised version of Confucian thinking, Confucius from the heart. It has received a lot of academic criticism, but it’s become a best-seller in a nation trying to recover it’s roots. It’s a good place to start to explore Confucian thought.

So what does O”Neill think?

“So, my third and final point for consideration is that the CPC elites do not want a permanent Xi presidency so much as they want to avoid a forced change of leadership in 2023. My recommendation for Western commentators, then, is to focus on how the Chinese economy evolves in the meantime”

China is focused on the long-term. It is not ruled by a parliamentary democracy whereby countries change political and economic direction with every election. Like O’Neill, I’m not saying one system is better than another. I’m simply saying that political systems emerge out of culture, and it’s impossible to judge one system by the rules of another. It must resonate with it’s own internal logic.

For anyone seriously interested in – or even slightly concerned with – China’s place in the coming global reality,  t’s well worth reading Jim O’Neill’s entire article, Missing the Forest For the Xi.


Happy Reading!

Xi’s vision.

Much of the news about China in the last few days has been about the change in terms for leadership. What do China watchers think about this? Beyond the predictable news headlines, what’s really going on? What has President Xi contributed to Chinese society to date and what does he hope to achieve?

William Jones, Washington Bureau chief of the U.S. publication Executive Intelligence Review, claimed that traditional politics sees countries compete with each other forming “winners and losers” but President Xi’s vision is to create a new form of geopolitics.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi talked about “major-country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics,” which has been a hallmark of Xi Jinping’s leadership. According to the Foreign Minister China is aiming for a “shared humanity” based on peace, stability and economic growth.

Peter Mandelson, ex British government Minister and European Commissioner, is a long time China watcher. Regarding the current leadership, Mandelson says “It is said of China’s best-known post war leaders that Mao saved the country, Deng saved the economy and the present leader, Xi Jinping, is saving the Party. There is truth in this.” Mandelson claims the West underestimates Xi by categorising  him as ” someone who is simply engaged in a giant power grab inside China’s administrative and doctrinal structure”.

He suggests that Xi is attempting to rejuvenate the Chinese economy and he may well be the leader who will “carry China over the threshold into the new era”. For those interested in Mandelson’s analysis, its well worth reading. He speaks with authority as someone who has been engaged in high-level diplomacy with the Chinese. The full article, from which the above quotes are taken, can be found here. 

Foreign Minister Wang’s comments can be found at this link.

Finally, Stephen Perry, from China Global Impact and longtime China watcher, has this to say about Xi’s leadership into the future.

“President Xi has the brief to deliver the next period of change through to 2035. I expect him to do that by the second half of the next decade, provided the world develops stability. I do not think this has anything to do with personal ambition. It is to do with what leadership form will be needed to navigate the rocks of a big change in China.

China is only a threat to us if we make it one.  They have more than enough to do. We need to help take them at their word and create a world of shared future together.”

Stephen Perry’s full article, also well worth reading, can be found here.

Happy Reading!

The featured image is taken from http://xinhua.net and shows delegates to the 13th National People’s Congress.

Shanghai’s finest Xiao Long Bao dumplings

It’s New Year   – the fourth day of the New Year of the Dog, in fact. Around New Year – and especially at midnight on New Year’s Eve – it’s compulsory to eat dumplings.

There’s all sorts of dumplings, but one of the finest is Shanghai’s traditional xiao long bao. Xiao long bao  differ from other dumplings because of the delicious liquid inside them.

Shanghai Xiao long bao. Photograph courtesy of goodfood.com.au

There’s a right way – and a wrong way – to consume the delicious broth inside the dumpling. London’s Time Out recently caused a stir by showing a video purporting to be a ‘how-to-eat” guide to these saucy treats – but the sauce exploded everywhere. They took down the video.

The video on this page  will show you how to eat xiao long bao, and also the chefs at the restaurant where they were invented making them. You should make a little whole in the pastry with your chopsticks and sip the steaming soup. (I’ve burnt my mouth numerous times as the liquid is piping hot!)


A shorter video showing the dumplings being made.

I’ve tried these delicious dumplings in many places – the taste and texture of the meat vary. I had some Xiao long Bao at a restaurant in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley yesterday. They were made by a chef from Shandong. Although the pork filling was delicious, sacrilegiously, almost, there was no liquid meat broth inside!

xiao long bao小笼包 means little basket parcels . 包  bao, means wrap, and 包子 baozi  are a common breakfast dish, bigger than dumplings or 饺子jiaozi.

Since  笼 long, sounds like  龙 long, dragon, you’d be forgiven if you thought these delights were called Little Dragon baozi – I did for a long time. You’d be in good company if you did. The famous Emperor Qian Long of the Qing dynasty visited Wuxi, a town not far from Shanghai, sometime in the 18th Century, and became quite fond of xiao long bao.  As Qian Long’s nickname was “Little Dragon”, many people started referring to the dumplings as Little Dragon Dumplings ( still pronounced Xiao Long Bao)!

Whatever you want to call them, they are one of the most delicious dumplings you are ever likely to taste!

Happy New Year of the Dog to all Spaceship China readers – and may dumplings visit your menu often!


China’s Ancient Capital that Served Twelve Dynasties

China is so vast, and the history so long, there’s always something to learn. Here Lloyd Lofthouse gives us some of the amazing history of Xian (famed for the entombed warriors). Read on ….

iLook China

Most people outside China only know of Beijing (once called Peking) as the capital of China. However, another city was China’s capital for more than a thousand years, and there were others. The top five are: Xi’an (called Chang’an in ancient times), Beijing, Nanjing, Luoyang, and Kaifeng.

Chang’an (Xi’an) served as the capital for twelve dynasties, including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui and Tang dynasties, spanning more than eleven-hundred years. It was also the cultural center of the Silk Road.

To discover Chang’an’s long history also teaches us much about China’s civilization. Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford said, “It (Han Chang’an) was more powerful than Rome. If any Roman army had actually gone there, they would have been absolutely annihilated.”

Han Chang’an was larger than Constantinople and richer than Egypt’s Alexandria. It was a fortress so powerful that even 20th-century artillery could not knock its…

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The Thucydides Trap.

The what? Whats a Thucydides Trap?

Aussie readers will have heard of Kevin Rudd, former Australian Prime Minister, Mandarin speaker and China watcher. Mr Rudd recently alluded to the “Thucysdes  trap” when discussing China-USA relations.

Thucydides, it turns out, was an Athenian statesman and thinker who lived around the time when Confucius was born. His “trap” was refering to rising states who are gaining power and confronting the existing ‘world order’. The dominant state resists the power of the rising state, and to do so, often turns to war. Avoiding the Thucydides trap means to renegotiate world order in peaceful ways, without resorting to war.

What do we know about China’s future plans? The 2016 5-year-plan aims to develop  ” innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development in the coming years, ”

Along with eradicating internal poverty and continuing the development of renewable energy, China is taking on board global responsibilities and supporting 120 countries to implement the United Nations 2030 plan for sustainable development. Supporting countries to strengthen their infrastucture is a key part of this agenda.

The “Belt and Road” development in Euroasia is China’s recipe for peace through development.

Only the future will tell if our world walks into the “Thucydides Trap” and descends to more global wars – the outcome of which would be terrifying – or heads towards peaceful solutions.

There’s another kind of trap, however – the Kindleburger trap – when rising and falling nation states create a vaccuum where there is no real leader. Rudd refers to this also. Kevin Rudd’s assessment of international relations can be found here:




Spaceship China has been off-air and out of cyberspace for some time. Apologies to regular readers who have been asking me when the Spaceship will relaunch! The Spaceship has been undergoing extensive repairs and is out for a test-drive. More soon!


on the high speed trains

If you’ve ever been to China, one of the highlights is travelling on the fast speed trains. Cities which once took a day, a night, or a few days and nights to reach now take a matter of hours.

Live in Shanghai, want to head up to Beijing for the weekend? No problem. Take the fast speed train and be there in five hours.

Like most railways in the world, you can head down to the dining car if you feel like a full meal, but if it’s snacks you are after, train stewards wheeling trolleys full of snack food, from tea eggs, instant noodles to dried meat,  dried fruit and potato crisps.

The stewards are always polite and helpful, even if you don’t speak Chinese. There’s always someone on the train who can speak English, and will be happy to support you. Does this helpfulness come naturally? Probably – but as part of the focus on service industries, these stewards are receiving training in deportment and etiquette.

Chinese train stewards in training. photo courtesy of http://www.xinhua.

Travelling by train is more convenient – and more comfortable – than flying, especially if your seat gets upgraded to business class.

Business class seat on China’s fast speed trains. Plenty of leg room here.

I used to travel a lot for work. My daughter was young at the time, so to assure her that Mum was being looked after on the trains, I bought her this cute pencil.

My daughter was assured that the train jiejies (big sisters) were looking after me!

China has exported fast speed train technologoy to 102 countries and regions   and has recently launched a freight service from Beijing to London. It’s an 18 day journey involving swapping many different rail gauges crossing through Kazakhstan, Russia, France, Germany and Belgium. There’s talk of building a direct, high speed train from China to Britain – the journey would take only 2 days!


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