Policy wonk digest – China


  • In Chinese culture some numbers are auspicious, especially the number eight. The government therefore sells street numbers that are especially auspicious, like eighty eight to whomever pays their price rather than the eighty eighth property on the street. This is not a policy that we are especially fond of when trying to find a restaurant that’s supposed to have especially good dumplings.
  • Similarly cell phone SIM cards for numbers with auspicious numbers cost more than ones with negative numbers.

Transforming Chinese cinema

  • In an effort to encourage Chinese culture and fight of the imperialism of Hollywood there is a limit on the number of Western films that can be shown in China. From the advertising we’ve seen, seems like Transformers Four is about the only Hollywood flick on offer at the moment.

An almost familiar housing crisis

  • China is in the middle of a housing crisis. There are a range of contributing factors including demographic change and mass migration to cities.
  • Like New Zealand there is only a small long term rental market and many Chinese are especially driven to own their own property. But, unlike New Zealand a major motivation for this is the inadequate protection of tenants. Laws, or at least their enforcement, massively favour landlords here, enough so to make renting fundamentally unattractive.
  • When I say ‘own property’ that’s not in quite the same sense we understand it at home. What the government gives you is a seventy year ownership right, not a permanent one. It’s effectively a long term lease. This causes problems when, like in New Zealand, Chinese use a mortgage as a way to structure investment, but can’t actually pass on their assets. It must also be harder to liquify as the time limit approaches.

Karaoke and corruption

  • Corruption is a major issue and there’s a lot of talk about how it is holding back economic growth. The government has recently passed laws which prohibits Police accepting gifts in kind (cash payments were already banned). That seems like a pretty sensible idea.
  • The government has gone one step further. Police have also been banned from visiting Karaoke Television bars (KTV). Apparently KTV bars have historically been the place you take the cop you want to ‘entertain’ and have hosted a lot of bribery as a result.
  • Even more inexplicable karaoke regulation, one province banned 37 songs and bureaucrats refused to explain why.

Preferential parking for women

  • A mall in Dalian has created women only parking spaces. They’re painted pink, and extra large, to accommodate what they consider to be womens’ special parking needs.

Crash test dummies

  • In a novel take on safe driving propaganda, there are smashed up cars sitting on pedestals alongside highways. We’re not sure whether they’re from actual crashes or not, nor whether they actually reduce China’s road toll. One bus we traveled on sounded an unpleasant noise whenever the driver went over 80km/h, which was often. Knowing we can get a car to beep when it’s going to fast just further raises my curiosity about another question: why don’t we just build cars that cannot or will not go above the speed limit?

2 thoughts on “Policy wonk digest – China

  1. Preferential parking for women – an excellent idea.
    Nikau and I enjoyed your pics of signs. Nikau also has an amusing collection.
    I liked the rubbish tin :)
    Take care and travel safely x

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