TheNanfang » Michael de Waal-Montgomery News & views about Guangzhou, Shenzhen & Dongguan Tue, 26 Aug 2014 07:50:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Guangzhou to host DTM racing championship in 2014 Mon, 25 Nov 2013 03:30:09 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

Another high-level sporting event is coming to the PRD, hot on the heels of ATP’s announcement that professional tennis will make a stop in Shenzhen.

Guangzhou has now beaten Shanghai in the battle to host the 2014 DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) racing championship, a popular racing car series originally based in Germany.

Series promoter ITR chairman Hans Werner Aufrecht was quoted in an AutoSport report as saying

I’m delighted that we succeeded in finding the suiting area for a spectacular street circuit that will host the DTM race in September 2014. In our previous races in China we didn’t deliver on the top level, and therefore it’s about time for us to provide top motor racing in China.

Bernd Schneider, five-time DTM champion, said:

I had a first look at the planned track and it looks impressive. With a combination of fast parts and slow corners it should be challenging for the drivers when they race there in 2014. I think Guangzhou is the right place for the DTM to return to China.

Maggie Ip, the DTM chairman, said:

We wanted to race in Guangdong province because the people there have a good understanding of, and have developed a passion for, motorsports. Guangdong is also close to Hong Kong, and motorsports fans there will come to Guangzhou to experience DTM.

Drivers for Mercedes-Benz and Audi have won all bar one of the annual tournaments since the new DTM was established in 2001. BMW, meanwhile, won in 2012 with driver Mike Rockenfeller, whilst Opel have yet to be champions.

As mentioned, it will be a street course, so expect road closures when the event takes place sometime next year.

Photo credit: Quattroholic

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Pro tennis coming to Shenzhen with new ATP World Tour stop Fri, 22 Nov 2013 09:15:33 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]> Tennis fans living in Shenzhen will welcome the recent announcement from ATP on Tuesday that approves the city as the new location for the APT World Tour 250.

ATP’s official press release has more:

“The tournament in Shenzhen will be played from September 22-28 at the Shenzhen Longgang Sports Center, a state-of-the-art facility with more than 20 outdoor match courts. The transfer means that, for the first time, China will play host to an ATP World Tour 250, 500 (Beijing) and Masters 1000 (Shanghai) event across three successive weeks during the Asia swing from 2014.”

The move sees previous tournament-holders Bangkok (Thailand) losing out to Shenzhen after 11 years of hosting. It is unclear how long the ATP plan for it to run in Shenzhen, but it added:

“The addition of the ATP World Tour 250 event in Shenzhen from 2014 means that China becomes the first country outside the United States to host tournaments across all three ATP World Tour tournament categories.”

This is a clear signal from ATP that it considers China a highly key region and market for men’s professional tennis, and fans of the sport can expect to see the tournaments Shenzhen presence cemented in the coming years.

Photo credit: APTWorldTour

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Is it worth visiting Dongguan? A Toronto-based designer says absolutely Thu, 21 Nov 2013 07:00:27 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

Nell Chitty is a Toronto-based designer who had just finished her Master of Design degree in Inclusive Design when she took her recent trip to China as a graduation present. She visited her childhood friend who now lives in Dongguan and teaches music at an international school there. “Ultimately, I was a tourist,” she says.

While there, Nell took a select few photographs of a temple in Qifeng Park, one of Dongguan’s best-known attractions that is ranked #4 of things to do in Dongguan by TripAdvisor, that will perhaps give readers a small window into the location. She also documented her visit to Dongguan and other cities in the PRD in her blog The Black Beret In China. Check out all Nell’s photos below (republished with Nell’s consent).

Nell, thanks for chatting with The Nanfang about your time in Dongguan. Would you tell us about your impressions of the Dongguan temple you visited?

I visited one temple in Dongguan. I believe it was in Qifeng Park, but unfortunately I do not remember its name. I have the ticket from admission, but I cannot read the Chinese characters.

I went to the temple for both a cultural experience and to take photographs as my friend said it was very beautiful. The temple was one of the most interesting places I’d been to in Dongguan. I loved the tiled roofs, the traditional architecture, and the signs of use and life it showed. It was my first time visiting a temple outside of North America, as I had been to Buddhist temples in Canada and the United States before. However, this one, as one would expect, was very different.

I found it fascinating how well attending this temple was in comparison to places of worship back home in Canada. The temple and its courtyard had a consistent trickle of people leaving offerings. Everywhere I went, there were people! I thought this was very interesting as I understood that China had gone through a strong anti-religion phase under Mao.

From my own observations living in Canada, I feel that people have largely abandoned organized religion, while holding onto some traditions and absorbing other culture’s spirituality as a form of leisure and person work (yoga, meditation, etc). Thus, I was intrigued to see such devotion at a religious building in a modern city like Dongguan.

As I was unaware of the customs within this setting and I tried to be as respectful as possible: being quiet, not taking photos of the main area of worship, and not taking when people were in my field of view. The temple was both familiar and foreign. It was an interesting sensation being there.

Dongguan has recently been in the news regarding plans to finally complete many ‘ghost’ buildings which were started during the realty boom in the 1990s but never finished. Did you get any sense of this side of the city when you were there?

I didn’t notice the ghost buildings, which is too bad as I would have loved to photograph them! (I did notice ghost buildings in other parts of China though).

As a one-time visitor, how would you describe Dongguan as a whole to people back home, and why should anyone take the time to visit when they have perhaps prioritised other cities in the region such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou above the likes of Dongguan?

People were surprised when I said I was going to Dongguan, but there’s actually a lot to do there! There’s the gardens, the parks, the temple, shops — lots to interest a traveler like me for multiple days.

Dongguan is not a tourist trap yet, which makes it appealing to someone like me who doesn’t like crowds, aggressive merchants, and to feel like they have the words ‘TOURIST!’ in big, bold letters across their forehead. Dongguan was less crowded and quieter than other cities I went to. I feel like I got a good concept of ‘everyday urban life’ there (although this was expat focused).

As an expert in design, what strikes you as some of the biggest differences between traditional Chinese designs as you see at the temple in Dongguan, and the traditional designs in the West? Clearly the architects of China’s past thought very differently to those in Europe and America… Have you given any thought to why that might be?

I am not the best person to answer this question given my very recent introduction to West vs. East architecture, but to speculate on an answer, I’d say it has a lot to do with difference in spirituality, demonstration of power, and how that affects aesthetics.

Feng shui plays an important part in interior and exterior design of a home in China, while the West has never had (to my knowledge) any guiding principles used to that extent over so many years.

I feel that architecture in the West is largely used to express power, money through aesthetic taste, and a largely masculine feel about them (columns, boxy, heavy) while traditional Chinese architecture also expresses power, money, etc. but with the added feminine side (curves, light, etc.) of spirituality and nature.

Churches and cathedrals in the West express spirituality too, with stain glass windows to let in light, towering peaks that reach the heavens, etc., but I feel they work against nature rather than embrace elements of it. In summary, the East and West’s relation to nature and gender is shown in its ancient architecture.

Moving forward, Chinese architecture of the past and present have their similarities and their differences, depending on what type of building and where it is. If I’m going to be general, I’d say that the contemporary architecture in China lacks character, but that is largely the case across the world due to tight budgets and changing aesthetics.

On a side note, I was very pleased when I wondered down a residential alley to find rows of old houses to photograph. A man asked what we were doing and when we said that we thought they were beautiful, he laughed. “They’re not beautiful! They’re horrible!”

To someone like myself who had never seen or lived in anything like this before, the buildings were alluring and visually exciting, but to a resident they were dark, unsanitary abominations. I’m sure if I lived there, I would think the same. I can understand the appeal of contemporary buildings when one compares the living conditions of an old building to a new one.

On her second photography-based blog, The Black Beret, Nell introduces the photos:

During my two weeks in China, I surprisingly only visited one temple. The one I visited happened to be the city of Dongguan. It consisted of many buildings within a walled enclosure in a park. I found [the old] section the most interesting from a structural and aesthetic point of view — wish I knew more about it!

Throughout my travels through China, I found myself mesmerized by the residential doorways I passed. It is partly due to the colourful signs, but it is more than that. Doors separate the private from the public, the seen, the unseen, and one way of life to another. Here are photos I took of the doorways and living quarters of a temple in Dongguan, China.

On behalf of the team at The Nanfang, I thank Nell for sharing her thoughts and impressions on Dongguan and its temples.

Photo credit: Nell Chitty

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The Nanfang talks Evergrande and Chinese football with renowned blogger Tue, 19 Nov 2013 08:50:11 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

Cameron Wilson, a journalist by trade, is the Shanghai-based Founding Editor of WildEastFootball, a blog about Chinese football written in English. He has previously been interviewed by the likes of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Daily Telegraph, and others on the topic of football in China, quickly making him one of the go-to people for insights on the sport here.

In this brief question and answer session with The Nanfang, Cameron shares some of his observations on the state of Chinese football following the historic Guangzhou Evergrande win over FC Seoul at the Asian Champion’s League final last week, and makes some interesting observations on the future of the sport.

Cameron, thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts with readers of The Nanfang. I’d like to start broadly by asking what you think is the significance of the Evergrande win for the future of Chinese football?

Guangzhou Evergrande’s Asian Champions League victory is a big morale booster for China and is very significant because it proves what can be done with football in China with big investment in playing staff and top coaches like Lippi who bring much needed professionalism to coaching and other aspects of football.

The downside is that it’s far too early to tell if there will be any lasting effects and questions exist over how sustainable Evergrande’s model is. It’s clear they make a loss from their football side, so what happens if they pull out in a few years when owning a football club no longer suits them?

What obstacles still stand between China and its path to becoming a serious player on the world football stage?

The obstacles to China becoming a serious player on the international stage are many. Corruption is rife in all aspects of Chinese society and football can never fully escape from this so the most talented players may never make it or, more importantly, be allowed to make it if parents see the game as something they don’t want their kids involved in.

The lack of kids playing is probably the biggest issue. A lack of a creative and individualistic mindset instilled in kids by the Chinese education system is another problem preventing China from producing creative players who make the difference between a solid and fit well-drilled team to one that has the spark necessary to beat challenging opponents.

You’re based in Shanghai. How did you gauge the reaction to the Evergrande win there?

A lot of Shanghai Shenhua fans were ambivalent to their victory. “I’m from Shanghai, I only love Shenhua,” was a typical kind of response, along with a lot of scoffing about the amount of money Evergrande spent. It’s certainly not everyone behind “China Evergrande” as the media were putting it. But that’s obvious when you think about it.

I think the hardcore fans of Shanghai Shenhua and other clubs in other Chinese cities aren’t that bothered about Guangzhou’s victory, but casual fans and people who don’t normally go anywhere near a Chinese football stadium are much more likely to be right behind it no matter where they are based.

Since the win, there have been calls for Lippi to take reigns of the Chinese national team. I wonder if you had heard about that, and what your reasoning would be for or against him eventually going down that road?

There are very strong rumours in the Chinese press that Lippi is their first choice to take over the national team. He is aparently going to take over in 2014 which would mean the end of next season. But China face some really crucial qualifiers for the Asian Cup in the coming week which will go a long way to deciding if they qualify for the tournament which is in Australia in 2015.

So it’s a complicated situation at present. If China doesn’t make it to the Asian Cup there will be no tournament to aim for until Russia 2018 World Cup which is an awful long way off at present. Lippi taking over the national team would be a great move, the question would be could he leave a permanent legacy of improvement in the national side so that China wouldn’t need to continually splash out on big name coaches.

You said one of the biggest obstacles for the future of Chinese football is the lack of children playing it. Do you think the growing profile of Evergrande can help rectify this on a national level, or will it take more? What, in your mind, is the solution to this very serious problem for the sport going forward?

Evergrande’s victory is definitely a positive development in terms of convincing the public at large that Chinese football isn’t the cesspit of embarrassment, under-achievement, corruption, scandal and poor playing standards that it’s erroneously believed to be. It has given the game a very rare and much-needed feel good factor and it’s a timely reminder of just how powerful a sport football is when it comes to inspiring passion and a sense of shared victory on a large scale, especially in a country like China.

But this is just one step in the right direction, there are numerous pitfalls awaiting Chinese football just around the corner. Another big scandal, another result like the excruciatingly embarrassing 5-1 defeat to lowly Thailand, and Evergrande’s achievement will be badly undermined. So this great achievement has to be learned from and held up as an example of what can be achieved.

There are concerns about Evergrande’s long term commitment to the game, but for now the victory should be celebrated for what it is and for the Chinese football world to enjoy the bit of face it’s given them in the hope that it will inspire a general raising of standards across the board.

As for the solution of how to get more kids involved, there really is no simple or easy way and there are a lot of issues to be faced which Guangzhou Evergrande’s victory will not change. The central reason, and I’ve made this point before a few times but it’s worth repeating, is that Chinese football is a microcosm of Chinese society.

As long as there is corruption, a lack of rule of law, a lack of faith in the rule of law and a general lack of trust except within ones own immediate clan in the wider society, football cannot ever fully escape these phenomena. So the Chinese football authorities need to focus strongly on factors which are under their control, such as doing more to encourage all Chinese league clubs to have a proper youth system (for example, Shanghai Shenhua has no youth side).

They also need to do more to make the CSL more appealing to fans, such as making it as hard as possible for clubs to relocate to other cities and thus prevent the development of community-focused football culture.

They need to learn that football is a sport which is best developed from the bottom up – a concept in top-heavy China the powers-that-be obviously find hard to grasp. Halting the league for weeks on end so the national team can train is counter-productive and is not something any successful football nations do. It impacts too heavily on the momentum of the vast majority of other players in the league who are not in the national team but still need to play regularly to keep their development.

Without a strong league for China’s best talents to develop in, there can be no strong national team. South Korean and Japan, two countries whom China is so fond of comparing itself to learned this long ago, both countries have strong domestic leagues and they are now World Cup regulars.

These are just some of the issues, generally it tends to come down to parental influence and Chinese football faces a tough task convincing people that football is worthy pastime for kids when there is so much pressure to do well at school, get a good job and look after the parents. That is the bottom line in China and a tough reality for football to deal with.

On behalf of the team at The Nanfang, I thank Cameron for his time and insights on the topic of football in China. You can contact him directly by email at or leave a comment below, and be sure to check out WildEastFootball to get the latest on the sport here from Cameron and his dedicated team.

Photo credit: The Telegraph

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“Unprecedented” Shenzhen smog blamed on Hong Kong landfills Mon, 18 Nov 2013 06:50:36 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

Shenzhen was hit by “choking smog” this month that Shenzhen authorities have blamed on Hong Kong’s landfill sites near the Chinese border, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.

Strong odours were apparently reported in Luohu, Futian, and Nanshan districts. Now, the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Congress want action taken on the matter.

“Data from the Shenzhen official meteorological bureau’s website showed a surge in levels of small inhalable particles PM2.5 that are hazardous to health shortly after the fire broke out in Hong Kong,” SCMP said in its report.

“Shenzhen [government] should have clear acknowledgment and counter-measures regarding these pollution sources,” one of the delegates, surnamed Yang, from the Shenzhen Municipal told Southern Metropolis Daily (in a translation by SCMP).

“The fire incident is an alarm for Shenzhen. [We] urge Hong Kong government to re-evaluate the future impact of landfill locations to Shenzhen and call upon [Hong Kong] to shut all of its landfill sites along the border,” he added.

Photo credit: SCMP

Story via: SCMP

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Check this out: giant goldfish, named Bruce, found in Dongguan Thu, 14 Nov 2013 08:34:46 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

A photo of a giant 15-inch goldfish lifted from a fish farm in Dongguan in 2002 has been making the rounds on many tumblr blogs over the past couple of days. Apparently it was named ‘Bruce’!

The size of this fish is impressive considering goldfish are traditionally considered relatively small members of the carp family (which include the beautiful Koi variety, so beloved in China).

It is worth pointing out that only a handful of similarly large goldfish have been reported.

In 2008, the BBC reported on a 19-inch goldfish in the Netherlands and a 15-inch one in England. Later, in 2010, a 16-incher was found in a pond in England, thought to have been abandoned after outgrowing its tank (also reported by the BBC).

It looks like Dongguan has another claim to its name: giant goldfish.

I just can’t help wondering if they ate it.

Photo credit: Bobby Yip / Reuters

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Guangdong’s Dong River is cleaner than ever, but beware of jellyfish Wed, 13 Nov 2013 09:35:52 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

Once regarded as one of the most polluted rivers in the world, the Dong River (also called Dongjiang), which flows through Guangdong and provides most of the drinking water in Hong Kong, is now significantly cleaner than it was 10 years ago.

“A water improvement project that was commissioned by Hong Kong and provincial governments in 2003,” is apparently to thank, according to a report by the South China Morning Post last week.

However, one of the interesting side effects of a cleaner Dong River has been an increase in freshwater peach blossom jellyfish. So, if you’re feeling like going for a dip in the nice clean water, perhaps you ought to think again.

Does that mean you’re better off swimming in China’s dirty rivers? No, that would just be madness. Asides from all the toxins and pollutants (and probably sewage) in unclean, smelly rivers, there may well be jellyfish floating around in there too.

Bloomberg reported over the weekend that jellyfish can tolerate warm and polluted rivers:

“If anyone is to blame for recent destructive jellyfish “blooms,” as their regional population explosions are called, it is not them, but us. That’s because jellyfish can tolerate waters that are warm and polluted — conditions that human activity promotes. And as people have fished predators and competitors from their midst, jellyfish reign.”

What does the message seem to be? You’re better of just staying out of China’s rivers altogether.

Photo credit: Bloomberg

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Visual translation app Waygo now helps with Chinese pronunciation Wed, 13 Nov 2013 02:00:03 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

The smartphone app market is full of Chinese translation apps, but not all of them do it well — and not all of them offer a differentiating feature that stands out from the crowd.

Now Waygo, a freemium iOS app on the iPhone, has added a useful new feature with its 3.0 update (along with a design overhaul). As well as translating Chinese characters when you hover your smartphone above them, Wagyo will now also show you the pinyin to help with pronunciation.

Waygo secured $900,000 in funding in July to launch an Android app and continue building out its product. Before that, in June, it won the “Most Promising Startup” award at Echelon in Singapore. It certainly looks like one to keep an eye on if you’re living in China.

You can trial Waygo for free on a basis of 10 translation per day, but if you want to do more than that you’re going to have to pay $6.99. However, with of so many free high-quality translation apps available, would you hand over your hard-earned cash for this feature? Let us know in the comments.

In other Chinese language app news, highly-regarded Pleco has recently updated its iOS app. It’s a complete revamp, and also includes optical character recognition.

At the end of October, The Nanfang reported on a pair of augmented reality glasses that can translate a Chinese menu into English.

Photo credit: Lee Yiu Tung
Story via: TheNextWeb 

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Guangzhou wife for sale: only 300,000 yuan Tue, 12 Nov 2013 10:00:29 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

It seems that in China today money can buy anything. But can it buy love? That’s a hard question to answer. It will, however, buy you a 20-year-old Chinese wife — assuming you have a spare 300,000 yuan (US$49,200) lying around.

A 20-year-old Guangzhou woman, only identified as Li, posted an offer on her microblog at the end of October stating that she would marry the man who covered her father’s enormous medical bills: he has been diagnosed with leukemia and requires a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

An elementary school teacher and Art graduate, Li has so far managed to find a rather impressive 200,000 yuan (partly thanks to loans from relatives), leaving her 100,000 yuan short of the total sum.

“I have no other way to turn. I hope it can raise awareness and bring help,” Li said, according to a report by Want China Times yesterday.

In reply to her plea, a man claiming to be a “professor” essentially told her to sell sex instead, because he would “rather pay for sex services” than a wife.

Good luck with that, prof.

Photo credit:

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Calls for Evergrande’s Lippi to take over the national team Tue, 12 Nov 2013 03:44:05 +0000 Michael de Waal-Montgomery Continue reading ]]>

Following Guangzhou Evergrande’s historic victory over FC Seoul in the final of the Asian Champions League on Saturday, there has been a growing number in China calling on Marcello Lippi to “take the reins of the national team,” according to a report by Reuters yesterday.

Such a move, however, seems unlikely. For one, Lippi is already an relatively old manager at 65. Does he really have the years left in him as a coach to take on yet another team? And what would that mean for his commitment to Evergrande? It seems to raise more questions than answers.

Surely Lippi will want to seal his legacy at Evergrande and go on to record many more wins. I think it’s safe to say that there are no such cards on the table unless we hear otherwise from Lippi himself.

Nonetheless, it goes to show just how much trust the Chinese people now place in the Italian hero, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is approached privately with such an offer at some future time (if he has not been already).

Of the victory on Saturday, the first for a Chinese club in 23 years, Lippi said after the match at a press conference:

“An important international trophy like this one is certainly a prize for all Chinese football. The team has grown a lot… and many of those players are in the national team. The hope is that this is also growth for Chinese football.”

Zhang Jilong, AFC senior vice-president, was quoted by Xinhua as saying:

“The triumph of Evergrande in the Asian Football Confederation shows there’s hope for China’s soccer. The big investment from the club contributed a lot to China’s soccer in recent years, but we can’t say it’s the only pattern of development for Chinese soccer.”

Zhou Sui’an, Evergrande’s 1994 league season coach who saw them place second, told China Daily on Sunday:

Guangzhou Evergrande’s success comes from a professional operation, including a scientific training system, after bringing in a coaching squad from Italy and a series of incentives to boost players’ motivation. Other Chinese clubs cannot buy big stars as Evergrande did in the past few years, but they can follow the professional management style.

Clearly this is not the last we will be hearing of Lippi, the toast of China.

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