Al Jazeera English has a really great channel on Youtube called 101 East that I recommend to anyone who shows an interest in learning about Asia. It features a variety of investigative journalism, from the music ban in Pakistan, to the the problems of widespread teenage pregnancies in the Philippines, to gang rape in India, to children working as maids in Myanmar. All of it is well-written, well-produced, and absolutely worth your time.
But my favorite in this series however is on China, of course I'm also partial. Hosted by Canadian journalist Steve Chao, this series is illuminating of a country that is often misunderstood by the west. Even for me, watching 101 East confirms just how little I know of my own birth place.
So here's a list of the "Top 5," in no particular order, as subjectively curated by yours truly. As with all modern journalism, I do ask my readers to keep in mind the kinds of subjects that are deemed by our media as "newsworthy." Often times, they are the sensational ones. Even with Al Jazeera English, they are at the end of the day a business, with a somewhat subjective lens, probably with viewers who are measured in click throughs, that bring in ad revenue, and so on. This is not to discredit, but to remind us that 101 East is only scratching the surface of a real China - there are after all, 1.3 billion Chinese with 1.3 billion differing views of the country in which they live. For every one negative story, I bet there is a positive story that go untold. And the only way to find the truth is to go to China for yourself, spend time there, get to know people there - and I hope this channel will help inspire that curiosity.
1. Left-Behind Generation - With stagnant wages and the rising costs of living, millions from the rural regions are forced to migrate to the cities to find work. But China also has strict policies towards these migrants which won't allow their sons or daughters to go to schools in the cities. So millions of children are left behind without parents, in remote villages, some by even themselves.
2. The End of China Inc - For the past few decades, China has been building massive projects to transform itself into a modern nation. But was the country ready for it? Today, it has 5.7 trillion in debt and two billion square meters of empty residential space. Where is everyone? And what does its economy mean for the rest of the world?
3. Faking It - More than 90% of the Chinese antiques on today's market are fakes. Acquired by private collections, galleries, auction houses, and even museums, these fakes are so well-made that even experts can't tell the difference. How is it possible that within three months after an object is excavated a fake shows up on an auction house catalog? This story takes you to the village where these high-level potters and craftsman make their imitations, and to the bigger story behind it on how they get their hands on the original. As someone who studied art history, I find this an interesting debate because at what point, does the knock-offs, which are so well-made, become a piece of art itself?
4. Food for Thought - Fakes are not just relegated to expensive art. Even your local wonton noodle soup dealer is making fakes., using toxic ingredients with deadly effect. What does that look like? And most importantly, why? This episode asks why ordinary citizens would want to hurt each other for the sake of profits.
5. Super Moms - "Zuo yue zi" is the Chinese custom that new mothers spend the first month after child birth in bed. Three meals a day prepared for her, her infant bathed and fed for her, her home cleaned for her, even her hair is washed for her. Traditionally a duty of her own mother or mother-in-law, now is a booming industry in China.
Bits & Pieces
A place for experimentation, a place for pieces unpolished and unpublished, a place to work out thoughts and ideas for larger collections. Typos aplenty. Enjoy (or not).