Rebranding China

Rebranding China

The People’s Republic of China has kept its name but the unelected government has been busy changing China’s image in the world. It doesn’t make economic sense to be regarded as a hard-line Communist country keen to demonstrate the fairness of a workers’ paradise, and keen to agitate a world revolution.

The cult of personality that surrounded Mao Tse Tung and to a lesser extent Deng Shao Ping has gone. Instead the leadership of the country changes hands every few years. Not democratically, of course, but the illusion of a popular choice and accountability is fostered by this policy. The leaders no longer wear utilitarian worker’s suits; rather they don smart suits and ties.

The ideologues controlling the policy of the country have been replaced by technocrats who are more focused on the bottom line than on following the dictates of Marxism, Stalinism or Maoism. Officially, there is very little mention of communism.

Now there is private ownership. Even foreigners can buy land in China. There is a stock market that is partly opened to the world. The currency is still artificially pegged but this is advantageous in keeping the Yuan cheap enough to keep the all-important exporting sector going.

Not only are the people of China allowed more freedom of movement within China but they are also issued passports. If you go to Khao Lak, Koh Samui, London, Tokyo, Los Angles, Rio de Janeiro and many other places in the world you might be surprised at how many Chinese tourists and business men you will see. While the rest of the world feels the pinch from the 2008 financial meltdown, China has been largely unaffected.

The 1 child policy is still in place, with notable exceptions for a few ethnic minorities and for Han Chinese colonizing Tibet. However, the official line has softened. The posters focus on the benefits of the small family rather than threatening fines, eviction etc. (See Guardian 27th Feb. 2012).

The poster boy of the revolution used to be Lei Feng. He was a soldier who tirelessly worked for the revolution, for the party and for his fellow comrades, Mao famously said, “Learn from Lei Feng.” The new images of Lei Feng show him with a floppy haircut looking far from the man of stone he used to be portrayed as.

While at home economic reforms have been hailed as a form of liberalism, and the creation of a thriving middle class as a good thing, foreign policy has never been more aggressive. The Chinese are stepping up their actions in their claims for disputed waters with Japan and Korea. Recently Chinese fishing boats in a military fashion clashed with Korean coast guards resulting in one Korean official being bludgeoned to death. The Chinese have broken an agreement with Japan and started searching for oil on the very edge of their territorial waters.

The Beijing Olympics saw China exert the full extent of its political power to get people arrested all over Europe who protested China’s occupation of Tibet.

In Taiwan there is a large move away from the independence stance of Chen Shui Bian to the pro-China Ma Ying Jeou.

All over the developing world China are buying friends and natural resources. They are the only country with the funds to do so. America is weakened and distracted by two foolish wars that are simultaneously winding down in what looks like defeat. America needs China’s money as well, and has no stomach to sling mud at its new superpower rival. After all, China has rebranded itself and the old fear of communism just doesn’t seem to work when it comes to China. Besides, compared to North Korea, China seems like a model state.

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Shih Tzu Fleas

Shih Tzu

The Chinese Lion Dog and the Flea

My Shih Tzu, Chan, has had a problem with fleas recently. Being a dog of Chinese descent, I wanted to give traditional Chinese medicine a try, so I began to look into the different options for treatment.

Shih Tzu means “Lion Dog” in Chinese because they were bred to look like lions. In fact they feature in a lot of ancient Chinese art, like the porcelain statue of a Shih Tzu that my mother keeps on her mantlepiece. It’s not quite my cup of tea but I have to admit the quality of the craftsmanship is exceptional.

Dogs and Fleas

It came as a bit of a shock to me when I noticed the first flea on Chan’s body. I always thought of myself as a very diligent pet owner, always keeping up to date with his worming and flea prevention treatments.

But when I saw the flea crawling around on his stomach I realised I’d been too complacent by giving him regular baths and thinking that would take care of any fleas that might be lurking.

If you want to keep the fleas at bay you need to use some proper control methods as prevention.

Natural Dog Flea Treatment

I had experimented with various natural Chinese Medicine treatments in the past for a number of ailments on my dogs, but came to realise that they were of limited use in the treatment of fleas.

Garlic is usually quoted as the best Chinese Medicine treatment for fleas. It does seem to help with, “digestive accumulations”, but against fleas it seems to have almost no effect whatsoever.

Lavender is a good deodorant for a smelly animal and can help to soothe stressed pets, but its use as an insect repellent is vastly exaggerated if you ask me. It did nothing to reduce the flea infestation that Chan was suffering from.

Somebody had mentioned teatree oil to me in the past, too. This had no effect on the number of fleas present on my itchy pooch but did seem to soothe the irritation caused by the bites somewhat.

Best Flea and Tick Treatment for Dogs

After a lot of searching around and asking for advice from the vet, I ended up using a spot on treatment called Frontline for Dogs, which had the problem under control very quickly indeed.

I also used a flea shampoo but my vet has since told me that there was really no need because the Frontline was more than enough to see the fleas off.

I also had to vacuum the whole house, paying special attention to the areas where my dog sleeps. This was to suck up any stray fleas that might have been waiting to re-infest poor Chan after the initial treatment. I also washed his bedding; some people said I should have treated the patio area out back as well but I thought that was overkill and I haven’t noticed any re-infestation problems.

I continue to use regular treatments of Frontline each month and Chan’s itches have become a thing of the past.

So, if your pet gets unwanted guests setting up home in his coat, you know what to do. Get hold of some Frontline and say goodbye to the little horrors.

If it works on Chinese fleas, it’s bound to work on fleas where you are.

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Studies Starting To Show E Cigarettes Might Be Effective

I recently learned, thanks to an article in the Huffington Post, that there are now more former smokers in the USA than there are current smokers. This is absolutely fantastic news and shows just how determined many nicotine addicts are to kick the habit. After all, giving up using this drug is just about the hardest thing you can do and most people needing several attempts in order to be successful.

Although it’s great news that more smokers are now managing to quit, there are still a depressing 46 million people who light up on a regular basis. It’s not that these addicts are happy to be using cigarettes, most of them would do just about anything to quit if they thought it would work. Indeed, this is the very reason that nicotine replacement therapies, hypnosis sessions, and stop smoking books are so popular.

What if there was a way for the smokers who can’t quit to get that regular nicotine fix their bodies crave without doing so much damage to their health? That’s the promise of a new device which was the subject of the Huffington Post article mentioned above. It’s called the electronic cigarette, and it’s coming to a shopping mall near you, if it hasn’t already.

The electronic cig is a hi-tech alternative to the regular cigarette which delivers a cleaner form of nicotine in a vapor which feels very similar to real smoke. Although it might sound like the perfect answer to the health problems of the world’s smokers it has been at the center of a lot of controversy since it was released just a few short years ago. Many stop smoking groups have attacked the device because they contend that it keeps users addicted to the nicotine they are trying to get off, much in the way that traditional NRTs do. Agencies such as the FDA on the other hand say that it shouldn’t be allowed to be sold until it has been proved to be completely safe and we know that it can really help people quit.

Pleasingly studies have started to come out over the last year or so which show this device can actually help some people to quit, while many doctors are agreeing that it is almost certainly far healthier than using tobacco.

Perhaps the most promising study released so far is the “Effect of an Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (e-Cigarette) on Smoking Reduction and Cessation” by Riccardo Polosa. The results showed there was a 50% reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked per day in over 30% of participants who started using an e cigarette, while an amazing 22.5% had managed to quit altogether. The incredible thing about this study was that the participants were chosen from smokers who weren’t even motivated to quit in the first place.

In my opinion we are going to see a lot more positive studies coming out in favor of the use of these electronic cigarette products as an alternative to tobacco. Whether this will bring stop smoking groups and the FDA onside remains to be seen, as many of them have a financial interest in the status quo. It will also be interesting to see if the E cigarette catches on in China where the typical male smokes.

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What the Tai Chi Masters Can Teach You About Mastering the Guitar

Tai Chi in ChinaI’ve been playing guitar since my teens and have loved every minute of it. It’s given me the opportunity to meet new friends, to make cool music as part of various bands or alone in the comfort of my front room. Playing music is one of those life-affirming activities that gives me a huge buzz each and every time I pick up my guitar.

A few years ago, I took up Tai Chi, specifically Practical Tai Chi Chuan, which as its name suggests is a very practical martial art, focused on self defence techniques. Part of the training involves the performance of the slow, graceful actions that most people think of when Tai Chi is mentioned. You know the kind of thing, the exercises that you’ve seen people doing in Chinese parks as part of a large group, all moving in perfect synchronization.

After studying Tai Chi for a little while, I began to notice certain things that it has to teach anyone wishing to learn guitar. Things that practitioners of both arts need to develop in order to achieve the highest level of skill.

It Takes 10,000 Hours to Master the Guitar

It is a widely accepted fact that the time it takes for a person to develop a skill to the point where they can be considered an expert, is 10,000 hours. Whether the skill is playing a guitar, flying an airplane or using a spear in Tai Chi, all of these skills require 10,000 hours worth of practice before they are mastered. I think this is a useful thing to bear in mind when embarking on the learning journey. If your expectations are too high, you can easily become disheartened and give up. Whereas if you go into it with your eyes open you’ll stand a much better chance of seeing it through and mastering your chosen skill.

Relaxation is Key

Everyone knows that relaxation is important in Tai Chi; it’s famous for being the martial art that people take up partly as a form of meditation and relaxation. Apart from the very real health benefits that relaxed exercise brings, the martial side of Tai Chi demands relaxation so that the practitioner can respond quickly to any attack and feel the nature of the threat through the forces being generated by the attacker. If one is not in a state of relaxation then one cannot “listen” in this way and will not feel the nature of the attack. Maintaining a relaxed body during the highly stressful scenario of a fight also preserves energy and increases the endurance of the fighter.

The parallels with playing the guitar are less immediately obvious here but if you pause to think for a moment, it makes perfect sense. How many times did your guitar teacher tell you to relax? Do you remember when you first began playing and the effort with which you had to press the strings down against the fretboard? It seemed impossible to keep the effort up for a whole song, never mind an entire live performance.

Well, the reason that you now find this so much easier is that your technique has improved and you are much more relaxed when playing. It is possible that your muscles have become stronger and have increased stamina but I think this is a relatively minor factor compared to having a properly relaxed technique. I know this because a few years ago I took an extended break from playing the guitar. Any advantage I might have gained from building up my playing muscles would have been completely lost, but when I picked up my guitar again I found that I could play almost for as long as before without having to stop through fatigue. Solid technique wins over brute force most of the time. Relaxed fingers also move faster than tense ones, which means you can play faster when relaxed.

Practise Slowly to Improve Muscle Memory

In Tai Chi, one practises the movements very slowly and precisely in order to ensure the muscle memory is built up in a correct and accurate way. If practice is rushed, mistakes can easily creep in to the movements and the techniques, when executed at full speed in a fight situation, would not be effective.

This is exactly the same for the guitar. Practise at a higher speed before you are entirely comfortable with a particular piece at a slower speed and you’ll be locking in the little mistakes and imperfections in your playing forever, or at least make it a real pain to “unlearn” them later on. Always practise at a speed you are comfortable with until you’ve absolutely nailed whatever you’re learning. Then, and only then, should you increase the speed.

So, applying the principles of Tai Chi to your guitar playing will yield big rewards in the future. And you’ll be able to use the title of Tai Chi Guitar Master in your Stage Name, which is no bad thing.

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International Grad Students and Vaporizer Research

Lately, lots of folks on campus have been coming by the Institute. This is probably due to the increased interest in studying abroad in China. Traditionally, the most popular destinations for exchange students have been in Europe. Among the most popular countries were England, France, and Italy. For most of the eighties and nineties, governmental policies in China prevented many American students from spending a semester at one of China’s prestigious universities.

The creation of the China Institute was a response to changing policies in the 2000s. China began to emerge as a global superpower on the world stage, and a more open exchange of culture began to take place. Thus, our Institute was quite popular from the beginning. Originally we sent four students to Peking University and accepted four in return. Now, we send dozens of students per year. The Institute has grown along with increased cultural ties between the two countries.

Peking University

Here in the US, hundreds of graduate students from China study the natural sciences. There are hundreds of inventions that have been discovered with the help of international graduate students. For example, some groundbreaking work in the development of the vaporizer was done at CalTech with the help of three postdocs from Beijing. Vaporizers have been in use for many years, but their popularity has greatly increased recently due to improved technology. At the China Institute, we believe that we helped contribute to this large and growing market.

Another way in which we try to improve cross-cultural lines of communication is through Chinese language classes. Mandarin can be among the most difficult languages to learn, and some methods of studying are certainly better than others. At the Institute, we have pioneered innovative teaching methods that help develop language skills rapidly and accurately. One can always use Google translate, but that software still has many flaws and doesn’t always give the best translation.

If you are interested in visiting China, we certainly recommend you pay us a visit. Even if you are just traveling there for a week, we have many resources that can help you plan your trip. There are numerous tips that could prove beneficial for the aspiring traveler, and there are many sights to see including the Great Wall. For instance, do you know the best airline to take from Los Angeles, and how long the flight will take? If you’d like to get in touch, we’ll be happy to let you know.

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Cat Diabetes and Caring for your Cat

Many of us suffer from diabetes or have loved ones or friends that have diabetes, and so a lot of us are aware of its negative impact, and living life requires extra effort to manage the disease. While it is quite saddening to know that pets can develop diabetes, on the bright side, cat diabetes can be managed and treated.

Symptoms of Cat Diabetes

It is good to be proactive by monitoring cat health if you suspect that your cat might be at risk for diabetes. Perhaps your cat is:

  • overweight
  • suddenly lost a great deal of weight
  • always thirsty
  • uses the cat litter box a lot to urinate

If so, it is possible that your cat is exhibiting symptoms of cat diabetes. More advanced symptoms of cat diabetes are:

  • weakness or tiredness
  • breath smells like acetone (a substance used for removing nail polish)
  • lack of appetite
  • frequent drinking
  • vomiting

Once you start noticing these symptoms – and these are symptoms that your vet will probably not notice since your cat will only be at the vet for several minutes – it is important to take your cat to the vet to get tested. Your cat’s urine and blood glucose levels will be tested for ketones.

The Good News

As mentioned, the good news is that diabetes in cats can in fact be treated and managed, if the proper measures are employed. Get the opinion of your vet with regards to how you can take care of your cat, if your cat has diabetes. There are times when drugs that are taken orally can be used to control diabetes, and in some cases, insulin shots will be required. It depends on the type and severity of your cat’s diabetes.

What Causes Feline Diabetes?

While the exact causes of feline diabetes are unknown, statistics tell us that genetics plays a big role, and statistics also show that male cats are more prone to diabetes than female cats. Feline diabetes is also seen in most cats that are obese.

How You Can Help Your Cat

Since cat diabetes is more common among obese cats, you can help your cat by creating an environment that will encourage him to lead a more active lifestyle. Get your cat some cat furniture that will allow him to get some exercise. Even in humans, exercise has proven to be a key factor in the management and prevention of diabetes. Consider some cat furniture like scratching posts, cat trees, cat exercise wheels and other toys like feather danglers, and mice cat toys, to keep your cat preoccupied and physically active. As for your cat’s diet, ask your vet to recommend some good brands of diabetic cat food.

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Fruits from all over the World

What may be seen as one of the benefits of globalization is that in many countries we’re now able to purchase a variety of fruits and vegetables that were grown outside that country. This ensures a disconnect for many of us regarding the optimal growing conditions for the produce that we eat. It’s only when we go to visit tropical climates such as Thailand, China, the Philippines, Ecuador and so on that we discover that fruits grown tropically and picked and eaten locally taste so much better than what we can find in Western supermarkets. It is not always the case that local fruits and vegetables are going to be better. However, one of the benefits of buying local produce is that there should be a shorter period of time between when it is picked and when you can eat it. Also, the fruits and vegetables are more likely to be picked when they are ready rather than long before they become ripe. This is one of the big problems with mass production of fruits today – they’re picked for the way they look rather than the way that they taste.

Living in Western countries, there are loads of fruits and vegetables that are grown domestically. However due to consumer demand or perhaps supermarket dictat we now have year round access to “year round” produce. The result being that many of us simply don’t know what a good mango tastes like.

Image from Stock Food

There are so many impediments to good taste that our fruits have to deal with. Some of these include, washing, waxing and irradiation. These are much more to do with preserving the way the fruit looks so that it looks more attractive to the eye and will have a longer shelf life.

The point is that it’s simply quite a challenge for us to start to find out about the seasonality of fruits from our own country. Why must we have year round availability? Is it what we really want?

On one hand, the choice that it gives us is amazing. Being about to get hold of berries in the winter is great. Then again, there is a world of difference between bland out of season supermarket fruit and the real deal, hand picked at the height of its ripeness. On a personal level, I’d prefer less choice and more taste!

Fruit that we can purchase in the supermarket works pretty well when it comes to juicing though. It’s cheap and perhaps not as sweet as it could be. The thing is, for making juice, perhaps being really sweet isn’t what’s required. This could make the juice “too sweet”. Choose from low cost through to high end models depending on how much you’re willing to spend. The best juicer reviews are to be had online. Reading the internet is free and it’s a wonderful source of information.

A CBS report Pomegranate Ranked Healthiest Fruit Juice talks about the nutritional benefits of drinking fresh fruit juice as part of your diet.

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Koh Samui

Chaweng Beach in Koh SamuiLife is not all work, work, work or indeed studying about China all the time. It is necessary to take time out from the hectic nature of our everyday lives. What better way to relax and rejuvenate than on the tropical Thai island of Koh Samui? Read below to find the essential information concerning the popular island of Koh Samui.


Koh Samui is located in the southern part of the Gulf of Thailand. It belongs to a group of islands known as the Samui Archipelago. This archipelago also contains the popular islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao as well as Ang Thong National Marine Park.

Koh Samui is Thailand’s second biggest island. It has an area of 228.7 km2 and a population of about 50,000 people. The principal town of the island is Nathon. The island enjoys sunny, hot weather all year round except during the month long rainy season which usually occurs between October and November.

Koh Samui is easily reached from either the mainland of China or from Hong Kong. There are both direct flights to Koh Samui as well as connecting flights via Bangkok. It is worth mentioning that there re often some great air flight deals available between Bangkok and Hong Kong.

History of Koh Samui

Koh Samui is found on Chinese maps dating back to 1687. A prehistoric drum from the Stone Age was found on Koh Samui in 1977 which has lead archeologists to surmise that the island was first used by fishermen over 15 centuries. The island is rich in tin so it is also assumed that the island was mined in the Middle Bronze Age.

In the Twentieth Century few people outside of Thailand had heard of Koh Samui. That is until 1972 when 2 backpackers managed to catch local transport to the island. They returned to Bangkok declaring they had discovered paradise. From that point tourism in Koh Samui quickly took off.

Facilities and Amenities on Koh Samui

Koh Samui is second only to Phuket in terms of development for a tourist beach destination. In the Northeast there is an airport. There are big supermarkets including Tesco Lotus. There are modern hospitals, a decompression chamber for divers, several excellent dentists and a good road system that covers most of the island. There are ferry ports at Maenam, Big Buddha, Bophut, Lipa Noi (car ferry) and Nathon. The popular beaches of Chaweng and Lamai have small towns next to the beach that contain nearly everything needed for a holiday such as ATM machines, post offices, gyms, shops, restaurants, bars etc. The best markets for food and souvenirs are located in Nathon. This is also the place where you should go to renew your visa.

Beaches in Koh Samui

You can draw a diagonal line from the Northwest of the island to the Southeast of the island. The upper section contains the most popular and developed beaches, the lower half the quieter and less developed beach areas.

The longest and best beach on Koh Samui is Chaweng. This is the main tourist hub of the island. The beach has fine, white sand and is good for swimming. Off the coast at Chaweng there are coral reefs and a couple of small islands to explore. The nightlife of Chaweng varies from simple Thai restaurants to fine dining to Brazilian samba shows to tacky ‘beer bars’.

Lamai is just south of Chaweng and offers more of the same but on a slightly smaller scale.

In the north is Bophut. The entrance to the area contains the trendy and boutique area called Fisherman’s Village. This is a street where many of the bars and cafes have retained the original Chinese wooden architecture. Next to Fisherman’s Village is the relaxed beach of Bophut. It has several mid-range and luxury resorts.

To the West of Bophut is Maenam. It has a 7 km long stretch of white sand beach. The sea gets deep quickly at Maenam. There is extensive palm and tree cover. Most of the accommodation in Maenam is along the beach. There are lots of budget places to stay in Maenam. As a consequence the area has more of a backpacker vibe. There are only a few bars and restaurants in Maenam.

South of the diagonal line there are a number of quiet beaches such as Laem Set, Bang Kao, Taling Ngam, Phangka and Thong Tanote. They tend to have coral in the sand and the sea bed. They also have large tidal differences. Swimming at these beaches is generally better between April and September.

Accommodation in Koh Samui

Koh Samui accommodation varies from small bungalows with air-con, fridge and TV or rooms in small locally owned hotels for as little as $30 a night. There are plenty of cheap places to stay in Koh Samui. There are lots of mid-range resorts with communal pools, air-con rooms with hot water, TV and fridge that cost in the region of $50 to $70 a night.

Hilton, Marriot and Amari all have luxury resorts in Koh Samui. Stand out luxury resorts include The Library at Chaweng, Amari Palm Reef Hotel in Chaweng and the Conrad Koh Samui in Taling Ngam.

The beach of Laem Set is home to the Kamalaya. This is a luxury wellness center that has a host of experts to teach yoga, Pilates, tai chi and a lot more. They also have saunas and a far infrared ray sauna. There’s also a fitness center with private trainers.

Activities / Places to visit in Koh Samui

The icon of Koh Samui is undoubtedly the Golden Buddha at Bang Rak. It is a 12 golden Buddha at the top of a staircase that goes out over a lake. In the south at Wat Khunaram there is a 30 year old mummified monk wearing saffron robes and sunglasses. It is one of the very few Buddhist mummies in the world.

There are plenty of dive spots around the coast of Koh Samui as well as farther afield at Sail Rock, Chumphon Pinnacles and Koh Tao. The sea is warm and there are few better places to learn how to scuba dive than in the Gulf of Thailand.

There are a few waterfalls to visit. There’s also Canopy Adventures who have tree houses with zip lines to allow guests to see the forest of Koh Samui. There’s also a go cart track, a full size golf course, sail boats to hire, kite boarding lessons, Muay Thai gyms and lots of spas. For those with the ethical stomach there is a tiger show on Laem Set beach. In short there’s plenty to see and do on Koh Samui.

Koh Samui – Conclusion

Koh Samui is a developed island. Although the south is much quieter you are never far away from all the amenities you could want. The better beaches tend to crowded and the less popular beaches in the south are not great for swimming. For some the nightlife on Koh Samui is the reason to visit. For others the brazenness of it all is off-putting. You can spend a lot of money in Koh Samui and you can also get by on a limited budget. Koh Samui is still paradise, but very much a paradise in the mainstream.

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Chinese Authorities Ban Wordplay

The edicts of the Chinese communist party can be a strange mix of the frightening and the absurd. Despite the window dressing of democracy and lip service given to the 55 ethnic minorities of China, the ‘party’ makes the rules, changes the rules and enforces the rules. The latest rule change is that Chinese media and other sources are not allowed to make puns or indulge in the venerable tradition of wordplay using popular idioms.

For thousands of years Chinese people have been playing with their language. Thanks to a large amount of homophones it is possible to take common phrases and idioms and substitute characters with homophones to make a pun. This is an integral part of Chinese rhetoric and poetry. It shows wit and can be used to make a joke, sell a product or make a political point. The puns stick in the mind and soon go viral in the Zeitgeist.

It is no doubt this last use of wordplay that the authorities object to. The potential for making memorable slogans using a clever wordplay worries the party. In a bid to fend off any threat to their authority and their tight grip on the minds of the people the party has banned wordplay. This takes censorship to another level and risks making the totalitarian regime look plain ridiculous.

It is hard to listen and read every utterance both private and public. It is hard to read every news article, forum post and blog post. Indeed it is impossible. But it is another stick to keep public comment under control; another excuse to stop political dissent. One is immediately reminded of the Nazis burning books and the Soviets declaring certain art ‘unsuitable’.

Language is a rich resource of expression and communication. Literalism is the death of the creative element of language use. If the limits of the world are the limits of language as Wittgenstein claims then the world for the Chinese will be drastically shrunk by this new law. At the same time the law smacks of desperation.

A related topic is the curtain of censorship that the Chinese authorities have attempted to bridle the internet. Certain words and phrases are banned, and sites that are flagged are blocked by internet providers. One way around this obstacle for those wanting to declare their opinions has been to use wordplay and substitute characters. The richness of Mandarin allows people plenty of room to avoid censorship.

While the party knows the value of propaganda it doesn’t realise that history teaches us that draconian measures of self-preservation only serve to speed up the inevitable fall from power.

The example of wordplay below using the ‘zhou’ in the place name Whenzhou and replacing it with a homophone that means porridge. Thus, the sign sounds like ‘people from Zhenzhou’ but actually says ‘warm porridge people’.

warm porridge people

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China and Tourism

China has over 2,000 years of continuous history. Along with India it has the oldest surviving civilization and history in the world. And along with India, China is the cultural heavyweight of Asia. For this reason alone, China will always be a place that appeals to a certain type of tourist.

Moreover, the country is blessed with places of special significance and beauty such as the Forbidden City, The Great Wall and Lhasa. These places vie for status as belonging to the modern wonders of the world.

For many, the transition of China from being a rural and insular economy to being a modern, hi-tech state with a vast pool of young and talented people makes for an exciting destination. There are the bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to discover. The countryside is also becoming more accessible thanks to a vastly improved public transport system which now includes high speed railway links.

China has economically exploded since the 1990s. At the same time foreign visitor numbers have shot up. The dual money system of foreign exchange credits has been dropped. More hotels now accept foreign guests. The central authorities have lost some of their suspicion and paranoia of foreign ideas and people. As a consequence, fewer places are off bounds. Even Tibet has largely been opened up. This is all good news for tourism in China.

The other side of the coin is that the Chinese economic miracle has created a large middle and upper middle class with plenty of spare cash. These intelligent young people now look outside of China’s borders for their recreation, fashion and to inform their world view. China now has millions of young Western-influenced professionals who want to see Europe, America, Canada and other parts of Asia.

As yet Chinese tourism abroad is still in its infancy. I say this because most Chinese still travel in tour groups. They are as yet still lacking in the confidence to travel independently. This is something of an ‘Asian’ trait, as the Japanese and the Koreans also tend to travel in groups, use package tours and interpreters. Those hotels that have staff that can speak Chinese and that have connections with Chinese tour operators do a very brisk trade.

Thailand is a good example of a popular Asian destination for Chinese tourists. As yet most Chinese visitors only make it to the main tourist areas of Phuket and Bangkok. However, with the level of demand it is only a matter of time before other tourist areas come on to the radar for Chinese such as Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Already Santhiya on Koh Phangan does a brisk trade with Korean guests. It is an ideal resort with its own beach, large pool, spa services, gym and glamorous restaurant.

It is only a matter of marketing back in China combined with media stories and word of mouth recommendations and many new Thai, Cambodian, Malaysian and Indonesian destinations will be welcoming Chinese visitors.

Also the level of English will improve among the Chinese middle class as well as confidence to use it. They will be less worried about eating Chinese food and having Chinese speaking tour guides. These people will look to rent a holiday villa in Thailand and elsewhere as they represent better value for families and groups of friends.

As Europe and America continues to suffer from the consequences of the financial meltdown of 2008, it is to other emerging economies that countries that rely heavily on tourism for income will have to turn. Moreover, rising prices in Thailand combined with high flight prices are keeping many tourists away. South East Asia is not such an exotic destination anymore. For those Europeans who do have the money, it is probably less well trodden locales that entice.

It is the Chinese and the Russians who are filling in the holes left by a receding European market as far as tourism goes. These nations are used to getting value for money and so the future looks bright for those tourist destinations that can offer this. There is always a tendency in the tourism business to charge as much as the market will bear until a location becomes as expensive as Paris or Rome. This is a huge mistake since Paris and Rome will always have a massive appeal to tourists.


Koh Phangan Reviews:
Sunrise Villa in Koh Phangan:

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Shanghai Mansion

We have mentioned elsewhere in this site the strong cultural connections between Thailand and China. It should not come as a surprise that Chinatown in Bangkok has one of the best Chinese themed hotels in the world. It is called Shanghai Mansion.

The hotel re-creates the feeling of Shanghai in the 1930s. The city at the time was the hub of commerce and culture for the South Pacific region. Many immigrants had fled from Russia in the 1920s to Shanghai. The architecture and design of Shanghai in the 1930s reflected both Chinese and Western sensibilities, as is apparent in the art deco pieces of the time made there.

Shanghai Mansion recreates the style and ease of this period. It has plenty of authentic furniture pieces, a strong color motif of Chinese red and art deco flourishes. There are two room choices – Chinese and contemporary. The Chinese rooms feature four-poster beds, dark wood and paper lanterns. The ground floor features an indoor water garden, a restaurant and bar featuring regular jazz performances. As you can imagine they serve some great Chinese food in the restaurant.

The hotel has been mentioned in countless travel publications and in 2010 won the Sunday Times Travel Award. Shanghai Mansion doesn’t have a swimming pool or spa and an indoor shopping mall, but it does provide a boutique holiday experience. Rooms start at just $80.

The hotel is in a busy area of Chinatown in Bangkok. It is near plenty of shopping, eating and drinking options as well as Hualamphong Train Station and the adjacent metro line.

To read more check out

Other articles looking at the relationship between Thailand and China:
Chinese Temples in Thailand
Chinese Culture in Thailand

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Chinese Temples in Thailand

Chinese temple in Koh Phangan

Chinese temple in Koh Phangan

Thailand has the largest community of ethnic Chinese people in the world. For over 400 years the Chinese have moved to Thailand. King Rama VI (1910 – 1925) decided to fully integrate the large Chinese community into his Kingdom by making all those who wished to stay to adopt Thai surnames. King Rama VI was from the present Chakri dynasty that itself has Chinese ancestry.

There are plenty of examples of Chinese culture in Thailand. There are China towns in cities and towns; you can see Chinese characters on shop signs; and many of the dishes served to foreigners in Thailand. Another more obvious example of Chinese culture is the prevalence of Chinese Temples.

Chinese temple in Koh Samui

Chinese temple in Koh Samui

They are noticeably different to Thai wats in many respects. For a start iconography and the form of Buddhism worshipped is different. The aesthetic of Thai and Chinese temples are very different. From an architectural point of view Thai wats depend on their high, steep roofs often cleverly overlapping. Gold leaf is used to create the awe in the statutes and building flourishes of ornamentation. The interiors use high ceilings and windows to create large spaces and light.

A Chinese temple has a roof with gentle slopes. The impression in a Chinese temple is created by a rich embroidery of dragons, lions, Buddhas and other images found wound around pillars, over arches and in standing statues. A wider palette of colors is used. Inside a Chinese temple it feels darker and more enclosed. A different but still appropriate way to reinforce faith.

Thai wat in Bantai, Koh Phangan

Thai wat in Bantai, Koh Phangan

You can find big Chinese temples in Bangkok and Changmai, indeed all over mainland Thailand. More surprising are Chinese temples in small isolated communities such as Koh Samui and Koh Phangan used to until the second half of the Twentieth Century. The Chinese temple in Koh Samui is located in the main town of Nathon. It is an imposing building and well worth a visit.

The Chinese temple in Koh Phangan is near the popular beach resort areas of Mae Haad, Haad Yao and Chaloklum. Although there is an old tradition of Hainan fishermen visiting the southern islands there was no major Chinese temple in Koh Phangan until a woman had a dream while visiting Koh Phangan. In her dream she was told to build a temple in Koh Phangan. It might be considered a divinely sanctioned temple.

To find out more about Haad Yao in Koh Phangan visit:

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Liuzhou City in the People’s Republic of China is in north central Guangxi Province. It has a population of 3.7 million and covers an area of 18,700 square kilometers. The city is on the banks of the Liu River. It is the second biggest city in Guangxi Province.

Among the main industries of the city are LiuGong, a construction machinery company and SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile, a Joint Venture whose partners include General Motors and Wuling Motors.

Liuzhou as well as being a hub for industry and wealth creation is also a popular tourist destination thanks to its mountains, caves and karst scenery. Just north of the city is Sanjiang. It is an area of pretty villages where the ethnic Dong minority live.

There is a famous saying in China:

“Born in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, eat in Guangzhou, die in Liuzhou”
(sheng zài su zhou, zhù zài háng zhou, chi zài guang zhou, si zài liu zhou).

The reference to Liuzhou is because the city was traditionally famous for its coffins made of fir wood, camphor and sandalwood.

There is a lot more to Liuzhou. The experience of living in the city, especially for a foreigner is one that is hard to imagine. In 1997 I met Ken. We were both new to China at the time. While I opted to move out of the Middle Kingdom he chose to stay.  He has made an impressive record of his experiences living in Liuzhou. It is well worth reading both and the blog to find out more about this fascinating part of China. The blog is particularly amusing. It covers such stories as the man who had his shoes stolen while in hospital and Chinese olives. It is a fascinating insight into a city undergoing the transformations caused by the so-called Chinese economic miracle: a culture firmly planted in tradition and yet trying to embrace modernity, only with Chinese characteristics. In short these websites are compulsive reading for those wanting to know about life behind the iron rice bowl.

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The Population Conundrum

It is China’s one child policy that is perhaps the mostly widely known of the communist party’s many political directives. It is a policy that produces an extreme reaction among foreign observers. There are libertarians and pro-lifers who view the population control strategy with moral abhorrence. Some environmentalists laud the idea as the only practical way to curb the danger of rampant population growth that would lead to massive environmental degradation and resource loss. These things are already a problem in China, thanks mainly to its aggressive economic expansionism, but would be worse without any control on the numbers of new children born.

There is a further political grievance with this policy – it is only applied selectively: Han Chinese in Tibet and other so called ‘autonomous regions’ are given license to have as many children as they want. This is leading to what the 14th Dalai Lamai has called ‘cultural genocide’ where local populations are becoming the minority in their own land.

What the mandarins of the Chinese communist party did not envision was the long term social consequences of the one child policy. It is a radical policy and it is beginning to have alarming consequences.

Population imbalance

The first is selective progeny. As with India and other Asian countries having a son is traditionally viewed as paramount to a family’s success. A first son must take over the family business. A first son must place offerings at the shrine of his ancestors. A first son carries forward a name and a cultural and genetic inheritance in a way that a daughter is perceived not to.

What this means is that women have been having multiple abortions until they conceive a boy. Today there are 119 boys for every 100 girls in China (  This is an imbalance that is going to get worse.

In terms of society it means that parents save more money than ever. They need to give their son every advantage possible such as college education and a car to attract a female partner. The bargaining position of parents with a daughter has never been stronger. They can demand large sums for their daughter’s hand. Independent Chinese women are now not shunned, but courted. It is empowering in some ways. In others, it is just a reminder of how traditional attitudes prevail – women are inferior and parents will do anything to get a grandchild. Communism was meant to free humanity of superstition and gender prejudice. The experiment, if it was ever really applied, has failed. Human nature with all its warts has prevailed.

For the economy it means a reduction of consumer growth. The Chinese have become ‘savers’ not ‘spenders’ – a grandchild is more important than a new car. Naturally, lack of rampant growth in consumer demand at home has to be made up for by looking for markets abroad. This is fine as long as the world economy is not ailing as it is now. Already we are seeing huge stock piles of raw resources piling up in China. Its massive manufacturing sector has created more supply than there is demand.

Ageing society

The other alarming social impact of the one child policy is a rapidly ageing society. China now has the fastest ageing population in the world. A widespread improvement in living standards accompanied by better medical facilities has increased life expectancy in China to levels approaching the developed world.

At present there are 6 workers to support 1 pensioner. The one child policy means that in 20 years time this ratio will drop to 2 workers to every pensioner ( That is a swift and paradigm changing scenario that will impact Chinese economics, politics and society. The Chinese economic miracle has been largely driven by a young workforce ready to travel great distances and work for small remuneration. In 20 years time such a workforce will not exist. Employees will have the upper hand and will be able to demand higher wages. This will corrode any competitive advantage China had in the world market place. India and Indonesia with an abundance of young and poor citizens will be well placed to become the ‘New China’.

The Chinese Communist Party has a major re-shuffle every 10 years. Now in 2012 it is about to have another. This is one of the most pressing problems to solve for the new technocrats at the helm. Luckily, the party ditched any real pretense to ideological integrity many years ago and so nearly all options are on the table. What they cannot afford to do is to aggravate the citizenry too much. If anything too calamitous happened to China even the brainwashed army might turn on its master. That is the ‘mandate from heaven’ factor.

At present the Chinese government has avoided excessive taxation and set up only a bare bones welfare state; very much following an example long set by the USA. The idea is that the state should not burden business with excessive red tape or tax demands. The lessons of capitalism have been studied just as Western technology was studied and then copied. In countries like Thailand it is simply not possible for the government to collect large tax revenues and institute a major welfare state undertaking. In contrast the Chinese communist party has the political might and the logistical resources to collect more tax if it chose to create better facilities for pensioners.

It is going against the grain of current economic thinking but higher taxes might be inevitable in China in the next 20 years. As for solving the problem of halting a society moving further into old age there are a number of suggestions on the table. We know these because Japan has been wrestling with the problem for the last 30 years.

Mass immigration

The Japanese pay lip service to this idea but covertly reject it as the Chinese will do. Both countries are obsessed with racial identity and cannot brook the notion of their population becoming watered down by ‘foreigners’ or ‘outsiders’. Itinerant foreign workers that are regulated and made to leave are expedient but mass immigration policies are political suicide for the Chinese and Japanese polity. So much so that the Japanese are now even suggesting they can build millions of robots to look after the old rather than have millions of foreigners come in as carers.

Encourage population growth

This is what the Japanese government is doing. They are giving lots of money out for those who have children. China already has 1.3 billion people; despite the one child policy China’s population is still a runaway train. To go back to the old ways of big families with lots of children is suicide for everyone in the country.

Japan doesn’t see this. They see it as a viable solution. Really it is just pushing the problem back a few generations: when the new baby boomers grow old the problem will be worse than before. Nobody seriously imagines China will follow this path.

Technological fix and outsourcing

The new economic ethos is to think beyond borders. Just because it is a problem in your country doesn’t mean it has to be regarded as a purely domestic problem. Just as the great potato famine of 1740 drove the Irish out of their homes so a lack of good facilities for old people will drive a lot of rich Chinese out of China. They will go to the Philippines, they will take long term villa rentals in Thong Nai Pan and other holiday destinations, they will move to Europe, and they will move to North America. Anywhere that is cheap and / or has good medical facilities. In effect, the Chinese will start to outsource their ageing population problem.

Chinese government policy has been heavily influenced by technocratic thinking over the last 20 years. They may well try some type of Japanese style crusade to bring in a technological fix to the problem. For a start shrinking numbers in the factories can be compensated for by robots. It is a front-ended investment but the RMB is strong and the country has massive reserves of cash.

The level of technology needed to solve the many problems of an ageing society in China has not been reached. Will the Chinese leadership preserve with reverse engineering or will it invest in Japanese technology? This would be a moot point if it were not for the fact that a technological fix is clearly not enough. The number of old people in the equation makes a technological solution unrealistic.

Do nothing

This is the real Asian solution. To please the masses the politicians claim to be tackling the problem –whether it is a democracy or an oligarchy. Really the political actions are cosmetic. They can see no solution. Better to leave the problem for the next generation of leaders.

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China and Carbon

The cost of a carbon based economy

China opens a new coal burning power plant every week. It has overtaken the USA as the single largest emitter of the green house carbon dioxide. William Chandler of the Energy Transition Research Institute has gone on record saying:

“The most important thing in the world for meeting carbon goals is what China does in its overall energy policy in the next 10 years.”

Just prior to the failed 2009 Climate Change Summit China promised to decrease its carbon emissions to at least 40% of 2005 levels, and at the same time switching 15% of energy generation to non-fossil fuels within the next 20 years.

Experts point out that China is behind schedule in this endeavor. Part of the problem at the 2009 Copenhagen summit was that China refused to have independent monitoring of its energy policy.

However, a new development has left America looking like the bad guys and China like the newly reformed eco-kid on the block. Authorities are going to roll out a pilot carbon emissions trading scheme by 2013 in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Hubei and Guangdong.  These 7 cities represent a combined population of 250 million people.

The pilot scheme if successful will lead to a nationwide carbon trading scheme by 2015. The scheme will be based on the already existing European model. Recently Quebec in Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Australia and California have all passed legislation to start carbon trading.

It is an audacious move that will see a wider Asia-Pacific carbon trading area that will be worth billions of dollars. The lure of such a big market will force the ever recalcitrant American central government to begin carbon trading. When the world’s number one and number two biggest carbon emitters start to properly count carbon emissions and trade in the right to pollute we will have a much better framework for dealing with the ever more pressing problem of global warming.

Despite the inherent deficiencies of a Chinese economy that is heavily carbon based that is also quickly consuming the world’s natural resources it is one that can be manipulated from the totalitarian strength of its government. The question will be how open and transparent will China’s carbon trading scheme be? Will companies be apt to fiddle the figures to reduce the extra costs of buying carbon quotas from other companies? The money involved in buying carbon will be huge and where huge money is corruption soon follows.

Another point to make is that the issue of moving to alternative sources of energy is connected to carbon emissions. It takes a large input of electricity to extract silicon from silica. This silicon is needed to make photovoltaic panels. China is the leading manufacturer of photovoltaic panels and the energy needed to makes these panels comes mostly from burning coal.

Despite life being based on carbon, it is tempting to see carbon as the enemy. In our efforts to fight global warming we are using more carbon to make solar panels, wind turbines etc. It can only be hoped that making a carbon based economy unattractive through policing and trading emission quotas has the desired effect. This hoped outcome is not an economy based on financial services. We have already seen the disaster in America and Europe that such a vision can produce. Of course we should not blame China in isolation -they are after all performing the role of being the factory for the world’s consumer goods.

Further reading
More about carbon
Cost of solar panels

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Chinese Reverse Engineering



It is no accident that China is stealing a march on the rest of the world in many manufacturing sectors. It is not just enough to have a cheap and plentiful supply of factory workers. Nor is it enough to have a currency that isn’t floated. There is a history that explains China’s growing world dominance in producing TVs, radios, engineering tools, home ware, factory machines, office supplies, electrical equipment and so on. A big part of this history is to do with reverse engineering.

The story goes back to the Sino-Soviet Alliance that started shortly after the end of World War Two. Stalin and Mao were initially on good relations and Russia was prepared to be China’s only friend in the world. During this time the Red Army relied on military equipment from Russia. In many sectors Russian technology was used to secure China as a viable state and continuing ally against the capitalist West.

By 1958 it became clear to the leaders of China that the Sino-Soviet Alliance was destined to soon fall apart. It was then that the leaders made the important decision to make every effort to ‘stand alone’. This meant copying Russian machine guns, rockets, fighter jets etc.

By the time the inevitable split between Russia and China occurred in 1960 Chinese engineers were already busy pursuing a policy of reverse engineering or guochanhua. Virtually from scratch engineers figured out methods for taking soviet technology apart and replicating it.

It was a long process, no doubt partly because the Cultural Revolution had destroyed the intelligentsia of the country. Historians studying military parade footage and other sources estimate that the Chinese army did not reach the 1960s levels of soviet military hardware until 1984. This capability included jet fighters and warships.

Now that Chinese engineers and scientists understood reverse engineering Deng Xiao Ping issued directives to import foreign goods to China such as machinery, electronics and other hi-tech products with the aim of copying them.

The rest really is history. In a very short time TVs, washing machines, tape recorders etc. were being made entirely in China without any foreign imports. Chinese factories helped by authorities that turned a blind eye to copyright issues and that actively promoted overseas trade soon started to take a huge market share in several areas of consumer products.

By the early 1990s China could make everything itself bar integrated circuits and engines for passenger carrying aircraft. Computers, helicopters, cars, solar panels, large generators were all well within China’s manufacturing capability.

The gap now between the West and China in terms of technology is very small. In certain fields they lag slightly behind, but in others they are leading the way. China is now the world leader in new engineering patents.

It is perhaps possible in the future that Chinese companies will innovate important new technologies that emerging economies like Indonesia will effectively ‘steal’ through reverse engineering. No doubt they will hypocritically complain about this and initiate legal proceedings.

For the time being the real challenge for the Chinese manufacturing economy that is progressing at a blistering pace thanks to guochanhua is to secure enough natural resources to keep going, and also to keep wages low and costs down.

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Options for Studying for the GMAT

Many people around the institute are interested in studying for the GMAT exam. Business is one of the most common areas of study for international students. Students from all over the world are interested in attending American business schools. In order to do so, they have to take the GMAT exam. This also applies for Chinese students wishing to study in the USA.

A frequently asked question is how to study for the GMAT. Well, the most common way is to take a full length course from a major test prep company. A typical syllabus for one of these is seven 3-hour classes, for a total of 21 hours of instruction. The advantage of this is that you have to show up and concentrate for the whole class. Since you’re paying a decent amount of money, you should be motivated to pay attention. The test prep companies hire skilled instructors. Usually the teacher has taken the exam and scored in the ninetieth percentile or higher. Some companies have even higher requirements for their teachers.

Another option is to purchase a GMAT self-study course. Looking around online, one of the options for this is the GMAT Pill. It’s basically a full-length online video course for the GMAT. According to a GMAT Pill review on the web, the length of the whole videos series is 30 hours. To make the most of a program like this, you’d have to really sit down and concentrate. It would be important to block out distractions.

There are other options as well. You could also simply buy a few GMAT prep books. There’s many available. At the minimum, you would want to purchase the Official Guide to the GMAT, as well as the separate Official Guides for the Quant and Verbal sections. These books have hundreds of retired questions. This makes them the best source for learning the question types on the exam.

If you are wondering about the score distribution on the GMAT, the median score is currently 540. In order to get a score in the ninetieth percentile, you would have to score a 700 on the exam.

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Chinese Culture in Thailand

There is a cultural connection between China and Thailand that stretches over many centuries. A large percent of Thais have Chinese ancestry. You can see Chinese characters, Chinese architecture and Chinese temples all over Thailand. Even the present royal dynasty, the Chakri Dynasty has connections to China. This does not mean, however, that there is any type of cultural clash in Thailand between the two influences. The Chinese-Thais are some of the most integrated and respected overseas Chinese communities in the world. Rather it is a case that Chinese culture has become part of Thai culture, enriching it and the people as a whole.

Chinese culture in ThailandChinese immigration to Thailand began as early as the Thirteenth Century. It began  mostly with traders from Fujian and Guangdong arriving in the then capital, Ayutthaya. The King at the time welcomed foreigners as a source of income for his kingdom. By the 1700s Burmese military might was growing and was threatening to over-run Thailand. The Qing Emperor of China sent armies to protect Thailand. These efforts ultimately failed but it had the result of greatly increasing the number of Chinese settling in Thailand. By 1910 720,000 Chinese had moved to Thailand. Today Chinese ancestry is claimed by 15% of Thais.

It is interesting to note that King Rama VI (1910-1925) who himself had Chinese ancestry cleverly realized the need to properly integrate the Chinese community into Thailand. He passed an edict that made all Chinese adopt Thai surnames. It also became compulsory to learn the Thai language at school. That is why today even though many people in Thailand can trace their ancestors back to China they do not speak Chinese or feel like foreigners in a foreign land. Famous Thais with Chinese roots include Rama V, Thailand’s most beloved former King and Thaksin Shinawatra.

Aspects of Chinese culture can be found all over Thailand and in many aspects of Thai life. When I first went to Bangkok I was shocked to find Chinese characters, Hanzi, on so many shop signs all over the city. In China town in Bangkok a few traders still speak the Teochew dialect. Ancestor worship is prevalent in Thailand. There are Chinese temples all over Thailand. The island of Koh Samui appears on Chinese maps dating back to 1687. Both Koh Phangan and Koh Samui retain many of the old Chinese wooden fishermen’s houses. Much of the food that tourists eat in Thailand is actually based on Chinese ideas of cuisine. It was only when a friend on the beautiful Koh Phangan beach of Thong Nai Pan introduced me to Thai cooking that I realized how different it was to the fare offered to tourists in restaurants.

Today Thailand and China have important trading links. They are both members of ASEAN. Thailand is a net exporter of food. South East Asia is the rice bowl of the world. It is also rich in timber and rubber. These are vital for the continued growth of China’s industrial base. At the same time while European and American tourism and investment in Thailand has slowed down due to the 2008 financial crash Chinese tourism to Thailand has increased. In places like Koh Samui, Phuket and Koh Phangan the number of Chinese visitors is increasing year upon year.

The Thais are rightly proud of their independence and their culture. This culture includes Chinese culture and people of Chinese ancestry. It is very much a success story that shows how one culture can enrich another.

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The Importance of Sustainable Design

The pressing problems of our age are environmental ones. The environment underpins all our lives. If environmental conditions change rapidly then all our efforts are reduced to nothing. One of the major ideas to emerge from the environmental movement is sustainable design. In essence this is an attempt to create consumerism that does not alter the overall quantity of resources available to us. These resources include not only hardwood, fossil fuels, metal ores but also biodiversity, marine resources and clean soil.

In the developed world people spend 90% of their lives indoors. This is a shocking fact. It is also a fact that points to the need for a code of design for buildings that is environmentally friendly. Such a code has been developed by LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). LEED was set up the US Green Building Council. It identifies 5 areas by which to assess the ‘greenness’ of a building. These 5 metrics are also the keystones of green interior design. They are:

1)    CO2 Reduction
2)    Water conservation
3)    Husbandry of natural resources
4)    Energy efficiency
5)    Improved indoor air quality

Carbon Reduction

Only a few skeptics hold out against the overwhelming evidence that carbon levels in the atmosphere are increasing because of (but not exclusively) human industry. This increase is causing climate change, increased species extinction rates and threatens to destroy the quality of life for future generations.

It is necessary to look at the carbon history of the materials used in construction: the carbon released in mining, in transport and in manufacture. Methods to reduce the carbon footprint of a building include recycling, using local materials and improving the energy efficiency of a building

Water Conservation

The world population has hit 7 billion. Fresh water makes up less than 1% of the total water on the planet. Already 66% of water use goes on agriculture. At present rates water demand will soon outstrip supply.

To reduce water consumption in a home it is imperative to instill better habits in people. It is also vital to install low flow showers and faucet aerators. It is also important to collect rain water.

Husbandry of Natural Resources

The world is not limitless. At the present rate of deforestation all the forests in the world will disappear in 40 years. Already fossil fuel supplies are running out and these shortages are leading energy companies to take more risks in extraction with the inevitable polluting catastrophes that result. The alternative of nuclear energy has perhaps the worst power to pollute and reduce biological life spans. A building construction must be sensitive to these problems. The solutions lie in using renewable resources such as bamboo, coconut, rattan and water hyacinth; and in using clean energy sources such as solar and wind that do not deplete natural resources.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency in the home helps to reduce bills, reduce pollution, reduce C02 emissions and conserve natural resources. Making homes and interiors as energy efficient as possible is an important project. In Northern Europe they have developed the Passive House that through superinsulation and careful design have reduced heating and cooling costs by 90%.

As well as improved insulation important aspects to energy efficiency is avoiding waste by using digital programmable thermostats, Energy Star approved devices and by getting rid of ‘stand by’ in home electronics that drains electricity for no appreciable reason. Using photovoltaic panels is another part of energy efficiency in the home; as are green roofs.

Improved Indoor Air Quality

Human health is just as important as environmental health. It is a saving ethos for the world when humanity fully understands the implications of this idea. Green interior design is very much about replacing materials that give off dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The discipline is also concerned with using flooring and window treatments that reduce the chances of causing allergic rhinitis attacks. There is a lot we can do to make our interiors healthy places to live.

It is very hard to overestimate the importance of sustainable design and green interior design. If we and our children are going to be happy and prosper in the future these are things we must address now. It is blatantly clear that we cannot shift responsibility to governmental leaders or ‘market forces’. The success of sustainable design will be through a grass roots movement that starts with the people, with the everyman.

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