Thursday, July 10, 2014

Interview with tycoon Lui Che-woo

As I am officially a freelancer now, I've started dipping my toe into the waters outside The New York Times. 
My first assignment for The Peak Magazine (run by The South China Morning Post) was a cover story on Lui Che-woo, one of that generation of elderly self-made Hong Kong tycoons in the mold of Li Ka-shing. Lui is the third-richest man in Hong Kong with a net worth of US $17.3 billion. And he took me out for dim sum!
The story is not posted online -- you have to buy an actual magazine to read the entire 2,000-word feature. But there's a brief summary here. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sanrio wins the war on terror

I thought I was biased as the mother of two young girls.
But now I am convinced. Hello Kitty has achieved world domination. Every single person -- even gun-toting tough guys -- at some point has used a Hello Kitty notebook.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Irony meter broken

So People's Daily used Twitter (which is banned in China) to report that China Daily reported that Facebook (which is also banned in China) is opening an office in Beijing.

See that sentence? This is why we journalists all drink.

I tweeted it and it went unexpectedly viral. It's been retweeted 519 times and counting. Though some of my followers, particularly Americans, seem to mis-read it with the optimism that some Chinese media are breaking through the Great Firewall.

So just let me clarify. Unfortunately, this is not indicative of any opening up. The Chinese government is perfectly happy to deny its citizens the right to use common online tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube -- and then use those same tools for its own purposes. Partly they want to reach a foreign audience. 

More importantly, they want to put up a facade that they are less censorious than they actually are. That is why they are cagey when they deny visas to foreign correspondents. This is also why they allow more access to major foreign TV networks / websites to selected people at selected times and locations. If you're a Western businessman in a five-star hotel in a major city -- and you turn on CNN, or manage to log into your Facebook from right across the Hong Kong border -- don't assume that everyone else can, too.

Many netizens commented about the irony of this - or China's apparently lack of irony. Personally, I think they don't care. In general, the Chinese rank practical considerations over theoretical or ethical ones. And the Chinese government really is not bothered that its state media is allowed to do things that most of 1.3 billion people are not.

On a side note, it is curious what goes viral and what does not. I tweet quite a lot (to the detriment to the Joyceyland blog). But nothing's ever been picked up like this. Is it because of the prominence of two major U.S. tech companies? Who knows.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hong Kong's democracy march on video

Of all the media I've seen on the estimated half-million Hong Kongers who marched for free elections on July 1, this time-lapse video of crowds streaming in and out of Victoria Park gives the best sense of how enormous they really were.
As always, I am proud of this city for standing up to the behemoth of Beijing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My NYT art articles

Once a very long time ago, this blog was meant to be a place to store all my professional writing -- a sort of online portfolio. That didn't happen, as Joyceyland became more of a personal writing space. Also, I've been very lazy recently about posting.

I am still writing quite a bit for the International New York Times, even though I am now a freelancer and not full-time staff. Here are my recent articles.

Preview of the Shanghai International Film Festival - June 16.
(OK, I realize the festival is now over. But still...)

Q&A with the Chinese author Chan Koonchung - May 25

A look at new, alternative creative spaces in Hong Kong, from PMQ to Chai Wan -- May 16

A tycoon's personal treasure at the quirky Liang Yi Museum - April 30

M+'s dilemma - How do you build a museum collection without a museum? March 21