Monday, February 2, 2009
The Rough Road Begins
The Spring Festival holidays have come to a close.
For some of us who work in State-owned enterprises (SOEs), we actually returned to the grind yesterday. A Sunday? you ask.
In China, it's decreed staff of SOEs must return to work after 7 days' holiday even if it is a Sunday.
And as you'd think, there wasn't much to do.
But in the evenings, the festive mood hasn't disappeared yet.
As soon as it gets dark, the booms from fireworks are still in force, albeit the volume gets smaller and smaller as the days go by.
When I returned to Beijing on Thursday, the firecrackers and fireworks were going strong, particularly on Friday night with a giant explosion of colourful sparks right in front of my window on the 18th floor.
Other lingering aspects of the Lunar New Year festivities include showing highlights of the CCTV New Year show on TV screens in the subway carriages and buses.
On January 25 I did admit being one of the millions watching the show on TV more for curiosity than as a traditional ritual like most, who then later pan the performances.
This year there were Peking Opera performances, choreographed dancing and singing, cross talk shows and of course kung fu demonstrations.
In the cross talk performances, there was one featuring Da Shan or Mark Roswell, the well-known Canadian who speaks flawless Mandarin.
He was up on stage with four other Chinese guys, teasing each other with their (scripted) witty jokes. The others constantly referred to him as da bizi or "big nose".
Unfortunately my Mandarin isn't quite up to par with Roswell's so I could only barely make out what was going on...
There was also an updated kung fu performance that was comical as well as interesting to watch. Men and women fought each other and it seemed the females had the upperhand, with one woman punching her fist through what looked like an iron wok, or easily beating the men at their own game.
Interspersed through the act were young boys with half shaved heads and doing their own kung fu demonstrations that were admirable.
At the end Bruce Lee lookalike Danny Chan who also portrayed the martial arts legend in a TV series, appears on stage. Dressed in a yellow suit, he does a quick demo with nunchuks before everyone else gathers around him at the end.
A sombre part of the show was when the survivors of the Sichuan earthquake in May were remembered.
And CCTV got some of the memorable characters to come to Beijing. They included the young boy who saved some of his classmates, a school principal, and Coke boy, the young teen who survived hoping to have the soft drink once he was taken out of the debris. He stood there, minus his right hand.
It was a good reminder for the public that these people are still around and still need our help.
I had read an article about how some survivors were understandably still having psychological problems, but also that they were tired of being used by companies who wanted to look like they were doing a good deed.
They cited getting clothing that didn't fit them at all, or things were donated to them that didn't have much use, but the companies got good PR exposure from it.
Nevertheless it was sobering to see these heroes on stage, wishing everyone all the best in the Year of the Ox, inspiring people to jia you, or keep going.
And we'll need to keep going now that the government has come out saying that some 20 million migrant workers, 15.3 percent of the 130 million are unemployed, far higher than earlier estimates.
We'll have a better picture of the depressing economic situation when some of them will try their luck in the cities, or stay put in their hometowns.
They are stuck either way -- not much work in the cities or they won't have land to till at home due to recent land reforms where they can transfer their land to agricultural companies.
The government is trying to encourage people, both migrants and fresh graduates to start businesses, but what can they do? What to they know about being entrepreneurs?
Another plan is to get fresh graduates to work in villages all over the country in the hopes of implementing new ideas, but in the end they turn out to be glorified assistants carrying out local party boss' orders.
It seems things haven't been thought out carefully and Beijing is just trying to put bandaid solutions on things and hoping the plaster won't come off.
This will be the leadership's biggest test ever and the Year of the Ox won't be easy for them to manage. Let's hope for everyone's sake they can tame the bull...