Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Restrictions on Who Gets to Handle Foreigners in China Hurt Small Business Owners

There is a little village in front of the famed Crescent Lake in the middle of the desert near the city of Dunhuang in Western China.  To take advantage of the convenient location to the famous tourist spot, the villagers have been busy setting up one home stay after another.  By the time the author rolled around in February of 2018, practically every house in the village operates an inn, a restaurant, a tourist-oriented supermarket, or a small tour agency. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Nation Incapable of Greeting Strangers

When one crosses a country as large as China by rail, there are many opportunities to interact with locals.  Three days and a couple of thousands of miles bring together many complete strangers in the public space that is the railway system.  In the interactions is commonly and conspicuously missing among the hundreds of railway staff, bunk mates on sleeper carriages, and all the people working and making their living around railway stations.  That is the complete absence of greetings exchanged.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

When National Pride Becomes Subtly Undermined by Behaviors of Common People

From those who may not know, the author is actually ethnic Mongol on his mother's side.  But as ethnic Mongols from the Chinese Northeast, his mother's family has very little connection to the Mongolian nation and culture.  They have not spoken the Mongolian language for a couple of generations and do not even know their proper Mongol names.  It is better get in touch with that little understood Mongolian heritage that the author decided to show up to Ulaanbaatar and meet with "real" Mongols who can at least superficially tell him what is it like to be really Mongol.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Is Blind Faith in the Crowd Reducing People's Ability to Think for Themselves?

In front of the massive dormitory complex that the author lives in seaside Tokyo, there is a pedestrian crossing that leads to the park connecting the complex with one of the nearest metro stations.  Given that relatively few people uses the pedestrian crossing, it is not automatically activated.  Only by pressing the button on a pole next to the crossing would the streetlight turn green, allowing people to cross.  Without pressing button, the light will remain red forever.  The bright red button is quite visible, located conveniently right next to the curbside below the pedestrian light itself, with a bright yellow box with a human drawing.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Does Economics Entrench Cheap Foreign Labor as the Easy Solution to Labor Needs?

One of the lectures the author took at the University of Tokyo makes a great point about the idea of rich countries hiring foreign laborers from poor countries to fulfill supposed shortages in labor. The lecture argues that the supposed shortages are socially constructed, where the mentality of the general populace changes to one of complete dependence after they taste the ease of paying relatively little money to foreigners to do their dirty unwanted jobs. Society has become used to having foreigners fill the very bottom of employment hierarchy.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Economics of Making a Sight Worth Seeing for the Second Time

Wulai is probably the easiest place to find a bit of nature outside the bustling metropolis that is Taipei.  The little aborigine hot spring town two hours south of the city has enough attractions to keep a traveler busy for most of the day.  Some nice shops, beautiful rivers and waterfall, as well as hot springs to soak in.  The air is cleaner than the city, and the ever-green mountains surrounding the town provide a beautiful background for some walks.  It is only unfortunate that not many foreign travelers know about the place, especially when compared to the famed day-trip sight Jiufen.