An Amazing Collection of Mao Badges

Mao Badges

There are many different types of badges collected by people dating back many years. Many of these are campaign buttons used during election years dating as far back as George Washington.  The first mass produced photographic images on badges were used in 1896 by the William McKinley campaign for president of the United States.  The largest production of badges in history was in China.  A Mao badge was a symbol of communism in China during the early period of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1971. Several billion Mao badges were produced.

A friend of mine made frequent business trips to China from 1969 – 1972. He was a Danish businessman with a passport from one of the few countries allowed Chinese visas.  During every meeting he was given a Mao badge. He was also given badges collected by others traveling with him.  He eventually collected an incredible 250 Mao badges.  He now has his collection of Mao badges displayed in frames.  Interestingly he points out that although they all look similar each of the Mao badges in his collection is unique and slightly different.  What an amazing collection!

Photo by Zu Zu the Pig of friend’s actual Mao badge collection

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Zongzi Is A Special Food for The Dragon Boat Festival


Many Chinese families are eating Zongzi (Sticky Rice Dumplings) this week in honor of the Dragon Boat Festival which in China is celebrated from June 9 to June 11 this year. This festival is of great significance because has been held annually for more than 2,000 years.  Zongzi is a special food related to this festival.  The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the patriotic poet Qu Yuan who was exiled by the King and then wrote many poems to show his love for his country.  After finishing his last masterpiece he drowned himself in the river rather than see his country occupied by the State of Qin.  On hearing of his death many people threw Zongzi into the river to keep the fish from destroying his body.

Zongzi is made with sticky rice typically wrapped in bamboo leaves. It has different shapes and fillings depending on the customs of different parts of China.  In the North, for example, people tend to flavor the fillings with jujube whereas in the South the filling is sweetened with bean paste, fresh meat or egg yolk.  These tasty rice dumplings are cooked by steaming or boiling.  Although Zongzi was originally a seasonal food often reserved for the Dragon Boat Festival it is now available year round in most major cities with a significant Chinese population.

Photo by Tolbxela – 

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Japan and China Have World’s Oldest Populations

Old Japanese Man

In China the number of citizens age 65 or older is growing 4% a year. This makes China the most rapidly graying population in world history.  It is predicted that China’s working-age population will contract by about 100 million by 2035.  This is significant because China is the world’s most populous country and the second largest economy.  A decrease in the number of working-age people could result in a decline of China’s economic rise.  This is happening as the long-term effects of China’s one-child policy kick in and as healthcare advances reduce mortality rates.

Japan currently has the world’s oldest population. The average age in Japan is 46.  This is mostly due to low fertility rates and long life expectancies.  The average life expectancy in Japan is 84. Japan’s total population fell by a record amount last year, and the pace of decline is expected to accelerate until 2060. As with China, Japan’s working-age population has been declining and is expected to shrink by more than a third by 2035.  The reason for this is a combination of a low birth rate and a lack of immigration.  This also has economic implications because Japan is the world’s third largest economy and a lower number of workers could have a negative on their economic growth.

In contrast to Japan and China, the United States is projected to have modest overall population and working age population growth over the next 20 years. The United States has a higher fertility rate than Japan or China and the population is augmented by continued immigration.  Many of those immigrating to the United States are highly educated.  The growth and quality of the working age population in the United States  will likely have positive economic implications as the United States is the world’s largest economy and the third most populous country.

Photo by Jon Rawlinson –

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Ride Hailing Company Uber Competes with Didi in China

Beijing Traffic

If you have been to China recently you know that there is a major demand for transportation services. Ride-hailing smartphone apps from Internet-based transportation service companies Uber and Didi have moved in big time to help fill this demand.  Uber is not as popular in China as Didi but it is growing fast.  Uber is now available in 22 mainland Chinese cities and will soon expand to 55 cities. Didi is now in 400 cities and completes more than 11 million rides a day.  Didi completed a total of 1.4 billion rides in 2015.  As with Uber, Didi connects rides in private cars.  Didi also connects riders with taxis and shuttle buses.  In addition, Didi provides a carpooling option which allows riders to share a car with a random person to reduce the cost of the fare.

Didi has been so successful in China it is now planning global expansion. The Chinese company has plans to expand its transportation services by investing in Uber’s rivals in markets ranging from Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and India to even in the United States.  Didi is very well capitalized to fund its expansion plans.  It is backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba and social network firm Tencent Holdings Ltd.  In addition, Apple has just invested a billion dollars in Didi. Whether you are going somewhere local or to the Beijing international airport Uber or Didi can connect you with a reliable ride.  In minutes, a few clicks on your cell phone will bring a car directly to you and your driver will know exactly where to take you.  The payment is completely cashless.

Photo by Narralakes –

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Teenage Brides in Rural China

Rural China

In China, the legal age for marriage is 22 for men and 20 for women and currently the actual marriage age is typically 26 for men and 24 for women. There is, however, no specific penalty for breaching the legal marriage age and in rural areas brides often marry at a much younger age.  Often in villages girls get married before they are 18 and some of these girls are much younger.  In these villages a marriage is recognized as long as a couple holds a ceremony and a banquet.  Often the official marriage registration takes place when the couple reaches the legal age.

In rural areas often parents leave villages and go to work in factory towns. Many of these parents want their children to get married before they leave.  For young boys getting married early is a way to make sure they have a mate.  The one-child policy in China has caused a shortage of females and finding a wife for an older male can be difficult.  Right now there are over 33 million more men than women in China.

Photo by Andy Siitonen –

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Sales of Pure EVs are Booming in China

Chinese Electric Car II

Driving an electric vehicle in China can be affordable, highly accessible and potentially a lot of fun. If you are looking for economy, you can purchase a China-brand electric vehicle for around $18,000 after subsidies. This basic electric car typically has a range of about 124 miles on a charge.  A car like this is also accessible because of special incentives by the Chinese government.  For example, Beijing’s competitive license plate lottery can delay car ownership for years for ordinary consumers.  The buyer of an EV, however, can bypass this lottery. At the other end of the spectrum the auto industry in China has plans to make driving an EV a lot of fun.  The BAIC Arcfox, for example, is a Chinese EV supercar that will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds on the way to its top speed of 186 mph. Although this is currently only a concept car it shows the direction of electric vehicles in China.

With huge pollution problems and limited oil reserves, China has made the sales of electric vehicles a top priority. Sales of pure EVs and plug-in hybrids in China more than quadrupled last year to over 331,000 vehicles, making China the biggest market for electrified vehicles.  Virtually all EV sales in China are spurred by government subsidies and few customers can afford to ignore them.  The Chinese government is providing a subsidy of up to $8,475 per vehicle.

Photo by V.T. Polywoda – 

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China’s High Speed Trains

China's High Speed Train

Riding on one of China’s high speed trains is truly an amazing experience. The first thing you notice is the appearance of the train.  With its bullet shape, the front of the train looks more like a fighter plane than a train.  When you step on the train you are greeted by a female attendant dressed in an attractive uniform that looks like those of flight attendants back in the glory days of airline travel.  What really gets your attention, however, is the huge speedometer mounted on the bulkhead in the front of each car.  All eyes are fixed on this gauge waiting for it to reach 300 kilometers per hour.  You also can’t miss the difference in sound level between these high speed trains and the old fashion trains.  There is no sound.  Because I live in the Northeastern section of the United States I am used to riding in trains but I have never seen anything like this.

China has the longest high-speed railway network in the world. At the end of 2015 the length of high-speed railway lines in China exceeded 19,000 kilometers and there are plans to increase this to 30,000 kilometers by the year 2030.  I was with a group of friends traveling from Beijing to Zhengzhou.  We were planning to travel by airline but an experienced Chinese traveler suggested that it would be easier and faster to go by high-speed train.  It turns out he was correct.  One of the reasons is that getting to the train is easier than getting to the airport.  The high-speed train network in China is so closely integrated with the urban public transport systems that we had no problem quickly transferring to and from the train.  In China they call it “zero-distance transfer”.

Photo by Dunhilaryu – 

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Western World Becoming Curious About Chinese Culture


As China continues to develop into an economic and political superpower more and more people in the Western world are becoming curious about Chinese traditions. This curiosity includes interest in business opportunities, language and even cultural traditions such as art and philosophy.  I have asked many non-Asians why they are interested in China and have received a variety of answers.  Most feel that the Chinese culture is interesting because it is so different from the Western culture.  They find the more formal structure fascinating.  Others see a practical reason for learning about Chinese culture because they are interested in doing business in China or they have adopted a Chinese baby.

Chinese language learning is booming all across America at all levels. The number of students taking Chinese classes more than doubled over a 10 year period to more than 60,000 students.  Hundreds of high schools and a growing number of elementary schools all across the country have also added Chinese to their curriculum.  Interest in China is so intense to some Americans that they are actually moving to China and staying there.  The latest figures show that there are over 600,000 foreigners living in China who have received the equivalent of a Chinese “green card”, making them legal permanent residents of the world’s number two economy.

Photo by Thomas Depenbusch – 

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Middle Class in China Versus in the United States

Chinese Income

It is interesting to compare a breakdown of the consumers in China with those in the United States. The definition of middle class individual income in the United States varies from $25,000 to $100,000 a year depending on where you live. The national median for individual income in the United States is $32,000. This compares with an average middle class income in China of $11,733.

A report from Bloomberg Business shows that the working population in China is 770 million compared with 146 million in the United States. Of those, 19% of the population in China is considered to be middle class.  Only 0.2% of the Chinese population is considered “wealthy” with an average annual income of $500,000.  Approximately 50% of the workers in China are rural workers with an average annual income of $2,000.  Migrant workers with an annual income of $5,858 make up 30.6% of the population.  Interestingly these migrant workers spend an average of $7 per day on food and clothing.

Where Was The Movie Avatar Filmed?

Movie Avatar

Have you ever wondered where the amazing scenery was shot in the movie Avatar?  I went to the location in China where much of the Avatar scenery was filmed. Wow, what an experience.  Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, in the northwestern part of the Hunan province in China, is where James Cameron drew his inspiration for Avatar. The area has approximately 3,000 tall quartzite sandstone pillars that resemble the ones seen in the movie.  They are totally awesome.  I have to report that standing on one of those mountain peaks I felt like I was on a moon in the Alpha Centaui star system in the mid-22nd century when humans are colonizing Pandora.  If you have a chance, you should try to visit this unbelievable location.