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


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?











The latest in Live Streaming, China style

In a world populated by terms that should not even exist – like “fake news” and our screens are increasingly full of horrible events, its nice to read some good news which puts a smile on your face.

I must say I’m not big on live streaming. But today I discovered a pair of unlikely live- – astreamers who brought a smile to my face.

76 year-old Cao XueMei’s husband Cui Jingli has Alzheimer’s disease. In order to brighten up her husband’s life, their daughter helped them make their own livestreaming channel, Kaixin Nainai,  or Happy Grandma.

The couple take to the airwaves for three hours each day, singing, dancing, and generally chatting to their followers – all 27,000 of them. Cao happily dispenses advise to younger people who form the biggest section of Kaixin Nainai’s  followers.

Happily, with all the chatting, singing and dancing, Cao has found her husband’s condition has improved and he is able to speak more clearly and his memory is improving.

The couple have become China’s latest internet sensations, with their moving story touching the hearts of many.

water synchroninity

I went down to the local shop today, to stock up on some organic food. Walking back – and letting the local shop helper deliver my bag of goodies on his motor bike ( gee its great to be back home…. ) I noticed a pavement stall , selling bottled water. They offered be a free sample – and I took it, as you do, asking where the water came from.

Tibet, they said.

I came home and as I slowly went through literally thousands of mails ( many of them blog subsriptions – I deleted them – I can’t possibly catch up) I found one of Lloyd Lofthouse‘s. Turned out to be a piece about why China needs Tibet.

brochure advertising tibetan glacial water

Why does China need Tibet? Well, water of course, duh.

The glacial lakes in Tibet are depleting, as China bottles and pipes said water to keep its million’s alive. You can read all the detail on


more brochures for Tibetan water

I guess me being given a bottle of Tibetan glacian water and stumbling into Lloyd’s blog was synchronic.

Synchronitity, in chinese, 同步, tong bu, same step. Jung coined the term ‘synchronitiy’ to describe two events which had no apparent causal relationship, but were obviously joined together. Like you dream of your sister and she rings you when you wake. A psychic universe. Jung said, in his introduction to the Yi Jing, that synchroninity to the Chinese mind deals with ‘the coincidence of events’

It’s a bit like the principle of 道 dao and   道德 dao de whereby to have 德 de, or ‘virtue’ is simply to be in tune with ones own 道 dao or essential nature.

So today someone hands me a complementary bottle of Tibetan glacial water, I get home and find that now my mails have been deleted from over 1000 to 288, I have the space to read some of the blog notifications I’ve saved and it turns out one of those was about Tibetan water and it’s importance to China.

Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

Or rather, I’ve been stone fortressed.


diaobao le

 Chinese internet slang for I’m amazed and surprised, (literally stone fortress with a verb particle at the end.)

It’s great to be home. 🙂

917753 – the numbers of Chinese digital slang

Chinese is a tonal language, made up of monosyllabic words. Thus, there are numerous homphones, and words which sound almost like other words.

Chinese users of digital technologies have developed a creative and quick method to convey common sentiments – using a series of numbers, which sound like other words/phrases.

917753 is pronounced  jiu yi qi qi wu san

which sounds like 叫你去吃午餐 -jiao ni qu chi wu fan –  or I’m calling you to have lunch together.

The texter might add

246 – e si liu  is code for 饿死了 - e si le or I’m starving to death

729 – qi er jiu –  sounds like  去喝酒 qu he jiu  or let’s go and have a drink

to which you might reply 5791 – wu qi jiu yi -我去找你 – wo qu zhao ni – I’ll come and pick you up.

Pleased about the respondent’s reply, the first texter might then type

21475 er yi si qu wu –  meaning 爱你是幸福 ai ni shi xing fu -to love you is happiness.

Gratified, Texter 1 answers

14517 –yi si wu yi qi –  which means 你是我洋气 ni shi wo yang qi –You are my oxygen!

So here’s the conversation:

Texter 1: 917753

Texter 2: 246

Texter 1: 729

Texter 2:  5791

Texter 1: 21475

Texter 2 : 14517

Got it? Even if you don’t speak Mandarin, you are now able to text your way, numerically, to love and romance in China.


The Internet Economy is about experiencing….

Alibaba is an internet giant in China, and Jack Ma, its founder, believes in sharing his success. He has supported many of his staff to open their own startups, and last month he hosted a global conference for women entrepreneurs.

“The Internet economy is about experiencing, and women have a natural edge in feeling the world,” Jack Ma said.

Famous female entrepreneurs like Arianna Huffington ( founder of the Huffington Post) and Jessica Alba addressed the all-woman conference.


Ma said that  men had more opportunies to succeed in business before the internet explosion, but  that “in the era of Internet and the Experience Economy, where user experience, emotions and communication are emphasized, the work happens to be very suitable to the special talents of women”.

The Internet economy is about experiencing, and women have a natural edge in feeling the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jack Ma, who went from being a poorly paid English teacher to leading one of the biggest internet companies in the world, is planning on opening an internet bank this month. Stay tuned.

Very Smart Televisions….

For those of you with myopia – or just fading vision – and you can’t read all those messages you are getting on your very quite smart phone – Xiao Mi, a China electronics company has just the thing for you.

Mobile Phone talks to TV – you look on the big screen!

Yes, that’s right, a very very smart TV, that interfaces with your phone, your tablet, your – well anything that accesses your wifi router, really.

It’s also a very very high ( yep, there we go again, the double very’s) pixel resolution,  AND  3-D enabled.

Watch a dead actor in a movie about dead poets, or just head here to see a Chinese dead poet…. all on your new very smart TV!

It will automatically connect to an endless stream of available movies ( legal or otherwise, hey, let’s not quibble, much of the world has pirated dvds available.. this is just one step up from that.)

What else does the Xiao Mi very very very smart TV do? Well, it’s got games, radio, and apps.

Oh, and I think it’s got an actual TV in there somewhere too…. you know, that very very oldfashioned thing that you check your TV guide to see what’s showing on your local station tonight?

The Dancing Aunties

Anyone who has been to China will be familiar with the 阿姨 aunties and 奶奶 nainais (grandma)who regularly gather in plazas, apartment complexes, and parks each night to dancersize…. dance exercise.
Loud, often pumping music reverberating from a portable sound system blasts into the night as armies of aunts dance in rhythm.
Recently, there’s been much talk on the Chinese internet about this – some see it as great, some as a problem when the  奶奶 nainais take over  a space and residents can’t sleep, or shoppers can’t park!
These women are of an age that has been through China’s great social upheavals – the Cultural Revolution amongst them, and they view public spaces as just that – public spaces.
Some of them have a social conscience –
Dancing Aunties and Grandmas caution against consumerism

– in Sichuan a group held up placards and advised viewers to be careful about the new iPhone 6, whilst dancing to popular children’s song Little Apple.


Others prefer to use their organised power to go shopping and drive hard bargains, whilst for some, “Plaza dancing” has been taken to a new level. recently in Sichuan, whilst waiting for hours in a traffic jam, a group of aunties and grandmothers got out of their car for an impromptu dance meeting.

Aunties dancing during traffic jam
The Aunties – or 大妈 da ma  – Big Mother – as they are also called in Chinese – have used their buying power to drive hard bargains when they shop, and have begun to travel together.
Dancing Aunties travel to Russia, dance in Red Square, and get ushered away by Russian police!
Netizens are talking about the phenomena – though it should be noted that the likely demographic of people commenting about this on the internet are  likely to be under 30 somethings. So the comments about the annoying older generation should be seen in that context.
Here’s a taste:
” damn, it looks like a cult”
“children, take your mothers home”
“the universe can no longer stop the dance steps of the aunties”
The Chinese Ministry of Sports probably thinks its a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, as they have recently announced standardised moves to a very popular children’s song , “Little Apple”. Yes – its a song which the aunties dance to.
Fitness Trainer Wang Guangcheng with a dancing Grandma
Netizens comments are mostly supportive, noting that the standardized movements aren’t compulsory, and that they have been devised by professionals to assist calisthenics and to improve health
Dancing Aunties on a sleep train to Dalian take over the aisle until Railway officials come into stop them – other passengers wanted to sleep.
The Universe can no longer stop the power of the Dancing Aunties!
Photographs care of China Daily online, China News online.
Grammatical Note:  In China, addressing other people – whether known or strangers – relational words are used. Thus, an older woman would be addressed as Auntie, whereas a very older woman would be addressed as Grandma. They are terms of respect.

Death of a Benevolent Principal

We hear a lot of ‘bad news’ all the time – from everywhere.

Yet there are so many stories of the good side of human nature, like this unassuming principal from Guangxi, in China’s south-west.

High school principal Mo Zhengao helped impoverished students to attend school. He was 59 years old when he died on March 9th, 2015.


Funeral for Principal Mo in Guangxi

Unlike many western countries, teachers are highly respected in China. Yet this principal went above and beyond the call of duty. One student recalled wanting to treat his principal to a dinner in gratitude for his help, but Principal Mo refused, saying the money could be better spent helping other students. Others recalled  that he would personally walk to the villages of students who left school due to poverty, and bring them back to complete their education, at his own cost.

Principal Mo was known as “Principal Dad” by many of his students, due to his caring nature. He took poor students from the countryside under his care, paid for their education, and supported them till they graduated and went off to university ( which is not easy in China, due to the steep competition, and even harder for people from the countryside). Wreaths in the entire county were sold out on the day of his funeral. People (his ex-students and their families) came from as far away as Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou to attend.

Mourners at Principal Mo Zhengao’s funeral.

On Sina Weibo and Wechat, internet and popular mobile apps, this story became one of the most viewed. This man’s generosity has touched a nation. Netizens made comments such as Principal Mo, may you rest in peace.


Under the Dome – Chai Jing’s environmental documentary

Chai Jing is a famous CCTV ( China Central Television) newsreader. She resigned when her daughter developed a tumour. Prompted by her daughter’s questions – “Mummy, what is a blue sky?” and “Mummy, why do you keep me indoors all the time?” she funded her own investigation about China’s pollution.

“Mummy, what’s a blue sky?”

The result is a documentary called “Under the Dome“.It can be seen on Youtube  here. It’s a hard-hitting commentary on just how bad the pollution can be, and the serious effects it has on people’s health.

Chai Jing bravely interviews officials, government workers, oil industry officials across China. She also interviews people severely affected by the smog: an elderly lady too sick to shoo flies, so she asks her family to stick fly paper to her stomach. An old man who holds many pictures of his family – all dead from lung cancer.

She talks about the polluting influence of coal, especially low -grade coal which causes extreme pollution and little energy. Oil, another major polluter.

The good news is, there ARE environmental standards – the bad news is – they are often not followed. Not when profit is the motive.

It’s not a pretty report. If you are not up to watching the whole movie, you can find it summarised here


Chai Jing’s documentary has gone viral in China. A week ago, when it was first released,  tens of millions of people watched it online in just 24 hours. Now the figure is estimated to be hundreds of millions of people who have watched the video.

Athe end of the video Chai Jing is hopeful, and encourages people to take action.  People online have been inspired: one commentator, who runs a fast-food shop, said he did not realise that fumes were emitted so has ordered  a filter to be installed. Others have said they will not drive their cars to work but will ride bicycles instead.

Whilst some netizens questioned her motives, most agreed she was admirable in funding and producing this movie herself.

Chai Jing reminds us that after the Great London Smog of 1952, Britain destroyed it’s coal plants and blue skies returned. China has gone through a massive industrialisation period, as other countries have done earlier. Regulations exist to counter environmental hazards – but are hampered by corruption. Chai Jing also shows how pollution would be cut substantially if the current regulations were enforced.

China’s current president Xi Jiping is known for his strict clampdown on corruption. Let’s hope the regulations become enforced.

Since winter is now over, the coal-burning heating systems in the north are no longer in operation. Outside my window, the effect is visible. The mornings are clear and crisp – well, clearer and crisper than they’ve been in a long time.

Chai Jing
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