Sunday, February 13, 2011


Oh, China Daily. If there's one thing you do well, it's being stultifyingly dull. If there are two things you do well, it's being stultifyingly dull and providing unintentional comedy.
More than 70 percent of urban Chinese singles getting nearer to their "expiry date" for marriage are in the grip of depression, according to China's first survey of their mental health.
"Many women who have reached a certain age like me need to make a lot of effort to ward off marriage pressure from our parents, as they keep bringing up the topic," said a 29-year-old woman surnamed Qi in Shanghai.
Qi, who has a good job in a foreign-invested enterprise, said she has seen an increased incidence of depression among the unmarried people around her. "I admit that I want a husband, but I won't get married only for marriage's sake," she said.
These "leftover" men and women, as they are called in Chinese, are defined by the All-China Women's Federation as single women above the age of 27 and single men older than 30.
Tip o' the hat to Tania Branigan, the Guardian's China correspondent, for the link. While I wouldn't normally suggest anyone read the China Daily, I would recommend clicking on the link, if only for the graphic. (Hi, Xan!)

What's the answer, you ask? Simple -- turn to the government!
Leftover women and men face greater risks of mental and physical problems, said Han Xiaohong, president of Beijing-based Ciming Health Checkup Management Group, which carried out the survey with the Chinese Medical Doctor Association.
According to the survey, 21.6 percent of the leftover women and men are subject to long-term sexual repression, while only 17.6 percent have regular sex partners. Visiting prostitutes and having multiple sex partners have become two main causes of sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS.
"The government should invest money to hold more matchmaking activities for these leftover people," said Wang Zhiguo, an expert with the marriage research center of, one of the most popular matchmaking websites in China.
Government-sponsored matchmaking? Hey, it's worked a treat in Singapore. More after the jump.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Religion ruins everything: Indonesia edition

Every so often, I call home to touch base with the folks, get updates on the family and stay in the will keep them updated on the goings-on out here. I'm pretty much an open book, but as with most conversations between children (regardless of age) and their parents, there is a fair bit of editing. While I don't have to hide nights of drinking, doing drugs or cavorting with women of flexible moral fiber — I lack the expendable income to fund the debauched lifestyle of the stereotypical expat journalist in Southeast Asia — there are some aspects of life in Indonesia that are best left unmentioned.

The founding philosophy of this country is Pancasila, or five principles. It includes all the usual stuff — justice, unity, democracy, etc. — with one glaring exception. It also enshrines monotheism as one of the inseparable, interrelated principles of the nation. Indonesians are required by the law of the land to believe in the "one and only God." It doesn't say which god, happily enough, but make no mistake: this is a religious country.

That can be a bit of a bugaboo when your beliefs don't align with the majority — or when you don't believe at all.

Welcome to your dream job?

"Just make me the ambassador to Samoa or something. I'll call in every day with surf reports." I remember that line from Jesse Ventura's autobiography, "I Ain't Got Time to Bleed." Wouldn't it be great, having minimal duties while lounging away the years on the government payroll in some South Pacific paradise?

Maybe. Then again, maybe not:
Away from the high-profile embassies, the longer, untold narrative of the Wikileaks cables is often one of triviality, inconsequence, and moments of wry, Beckettian humour. The US runs 292 diplomatic missions across 175 countries, and many of them lie within a kind of diplomatic hinterland. Cables sent from the islands of the Pacific, or the steppes of Mongolia, generally reveal not the fast-paced interaction of a global superpower, but the loneliness of the long-distance diplomat.
Some busy embassies churn out hundreds of cables a year. But since 2007, successive US ambassadors to Samoa (pop: 179,000) have compiled just nine – all of them odes to banality. The post's only two dispatches in 2007 noted little more than the embassy's inability "to provide 'meet-and-greet' service at the airport" to state department officials.
It's a year before they have anything further to report. This time, though, the stakes are at least briefly higher: horror of horrors, some protesters have delivered a petition to embassy officials. "This is the first protest against the embassy since it opened 20 years ago," reports a breathless US chargĂ© d'affaires, who must have been sorely tempted to add an exclamation mark. But we soon discover why he didn't: "Despite our lack of practice … all went well."
Still, if the government is watching (and odds are good they are), I'd happily give it a try.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Well, damn

The best-laid plans of mice and men don't amount to a hill of beans when saving face is on the line. What should have been one of the highlights of my visit to Japan is no more:
Japan's sumo association said today it had cancelled a major tournament due to be held next month as the sport battles the most serious corruption allegations in its modern history.
The decision comes days after three wrestlers admitted they had fixed bouts via mobile phone – the first time an active wrestler has confirmed the long-standing suspicion that some matches are rigged. Eleven others have been implicated in the scandal, but reportedly deny any involvement.
The association conceded that it would be impossible to go ahead with the 15-day tournament in the western city of Osaka from 13 March – the first tournament cancellation in over 50 years.

Is that enough to consider possibly not going? I don't know. I would still have the splendor of hanami and Kyoto, not to mention the start of baseball and the J-League. If anything, it would remove any need to hang around Osaka and allow more time in Kyoto and Nara. Tough to say, but whatever I do, I need to pull the trigger soon.

Oh, and just to drive home the way Japan works:
Those found to have fixed matches could be expelled, and their pension allowances withdrawn, reports said.
But it seems unlikely that police will launch a criminal investigation: match-fixing is not illegal, and so far there is no evidence that anyone placed bets on suspect bouts.
I'm sure it's all just too much for my feeble, gaijin mind to absorb, though.