Beijing (Jan. 2015)

I got the chance to visit Beijing earlier this month. My uncle’s family is currently living in Beijing, and it’s always nice to visit a foreign country when you know people there.

I won’t get into all the details here, but I visited both the historic parts of Beijing as well as the modern parts. My only regret is not seeing the Great Wall of China. It was too cold and icy, so it would have been unsafe to go up there.

I arrived at Beijing in time for the sunset on January 1st.

Sunset at Beijing Airport

Sunset at Beijing Airport

Here’s a look at the different faces of Beijing:

Old Beijing

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square

Forbidden City

Forbidden City

More of the Forbidden City - it feels like going back in time

More of the Forbidden City – it feels like going back in time

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Nanluoguxiang (South Gong and Drum Lane) – entrance

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Inside Nanluoguxiang (there were people everywhere…)

Yan Dai Xie Jie (Slanted Tobacco Pipe Street) - Entrance

Yan Dai Xie Jie (Slanted Tobacco Pipe Street) – Entrance

Yan Dai Xie Jie (inside)

Yan Dai Xie Jie (inside)

Tanghulu (candied fruit)

Tanghulu (candied fruit)

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A hutong in Yan Dai Xie Jie

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Houhai (Rear Sea) - People were ice-skating and playing hockey on the surface of the lake

Houhai (Rear Sea) – People were ice-skating and playing hockey on the surface of the lake

Jiumen Snack Street (at Houhai)

Jiumen Snack Street (at Houhai)

Jiumen Snack Street

Jiumen Snack Street

This stand was selling skewered scorpions, centipede, etc... And no, I did not try it.

This stand was selling skewered scorpions, centipede, etc… And no, I did not try it.

Some traditional Beijing street snacks (from Jiumen Snack Street)

Some traditional Beijing street snacks (from Jiumen Snack Street)

New Beijing

Tai Gu Li mall

Tai Gu Li mall

Inside Parkview Green Mall

Inside Parkview Green Mall

Beijing 798 Art Zone

Beijing 798 Art Zone

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Overall, it was a fun albeit exhausting trip. It was my first time to China, and I must say that it was quite an eye-opening experience. There were other places that I saw but did not get pictures of such as the commercial district in Beijing with the skyscrapers and highrises, and Beijing’s traditional markets. Beijing is a prosperous city, and larger than Taipei beyond comparison. It’s no surprise that many companies are setting up shop in China. Their population continues to grow, and their economy is booming. I hope to visit the Great Wall next time. Thanks for your hospitality in Beijing, Uncle!

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Trade Agreement between Taiwan and China

I’m not sure if you’ve seen it in the news, but Taiwan recently made headlines in international news for protests against a trade deal with China.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief update:
– President Ma of Taiwan is planning to sign a trade alliance with China, which would open Taiwan to Chinese trades
– This signing was to be signed without first fully informing the people of Taiwan, which infuriated many people
– Last Tuesday, university students stormed the legislative building and took over so the signing couldn’t happen
– The argument was that Taiwanese people did not want Taiwan to be sold to China; they feel like this agreement will lead to more job competition.

I applaud the people of Taiwan for standing up for what they believe is right, and for doing all this in a non-violent way. I think it’s great that Taiwan has a voice, which is quite unlike China and North Korea. So although Taiwan is technically a part of China, Taiwan is a democracy.

After some discussion with others on this topic, I realized that people were worried about this agreement because it would mean more Chinese people coming into Taiwan, taking over more jobs, and Taiwan would eventually become ruled by Chinese. A lot of political talk. Also, Chinese students would actually get scholarships if they choose to study in Taiwan. And whose money is that? Of course the Taiwanese taxpayers! However, I also learned that banks want the agreement to be signed, because China would grant a large sum of money towards Taiwan banks for trading purposes, so Taiwan would not have to depend on Hong Kong for international trade.

Mic brought up some very good point though, that I’d like to express here:
He said there was a lot of political involvement, and it wasn’t so simple.
Also, Taiwanese should not feel like they’ve already lost even before the battle has even started. Who says that the Chinese will take over? It all depends on how the agreement is written. Take Singapore for example. It is extremely successful on the international platform, but they also open job openings to foreigners. However, there are strict and narrow laws governing these foreign workers. Taiwan has to make sure that this agreement benefits Taiwan, rather than tipping one-sided towards China!
Lastly, he said that instead of occupying the legislature, the students should hold their own meeting and write their own version of the trade agreement. Apparently the students did do that by hosting a meeting marking their 100th hour of protest, and had a debate for and against the trade agreement.

An Economics Professor at National Taiwan University said that this trade agreement went against everything that the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz expressed about free trade:
1. Any trade agreement should be symmetrical
2. No trade agreement should put commercial interests ahead of broader national interests
3. Finally, there must be a commitment to transparency

Let’s see how this unfolds now; the government cannot continue to stand by for much longer. Something’s gotta give.