Leftover Women

Leftover Women

“I feel like there is a monster chasing me. Each year I get older, each year I approach thirty; the monster gets closer and closer. If I am still not married by that time, it is like my life is over.”

Only after many late night conversations with female friends have I slowly begun to grasp the heavy and consuming burden that young women must face in metropolitan cities throughout China. What begins as idle chit chat inevitably grows into a serious discussion about marriage and partner compatibility. More striking than the content of these conversations is the regularity and cohesiveness of the message.

The concept of a shengnü or “leftover woman” is a fairly recent phenomenon in Chinese society. The term refers to single women, over thirty, who live in large cities and are often highly educated and well salaried. Some claim that these women have higher expectations of themselves and their partners or have chosen to put their career ahead of marriage. But this definition misses a key point in understanding such a loaded term, and that is the role of family.

Seventeen Guesses about Jeremy Lin

Photo © Angelmaker666 from deviantART

This past summer, I vaguely remember watching an NBA TV special about undrafted players that touched on the now ubiquitous Jeremy Lin. At the time he seemed vastly less pitiable than the other aspiring pros featured—his Harvard degree guaranteed that he would not be banished to Slovakian league if he didn’t make it in the majors.

Lin has since become Linsanity, a subject for Saturday Night Live skits, or 林书豪 in your Tudou search. He is the current, brief king of New York City, whose Giants just won the Super Bowl and whose favorite basketball team features two high-paid All-Stars in Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Less than a year ago the Knicks made the splashy signing of Anthony on the belief that he would become king of NYC if able to deliver a championship after years of disappointment. Basketball remains the only big four sport (basketball, baseball, hockey, football) in which a major New York team has not won a title over the past twenty years.

Visa Vis

Photo © Tom Bricker from Flickr

Last Thursday, just in time for Chinese new year, President Obama unveiled new directives that would make it easier for tourists from countries like China and Brazil to visit the United States.

In a speech delivered from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the President announced:

I’m directing the State Department to accelerate our ability to process visas by 40 percent in China and in Brazil this year.

The White House has also expressed hopes that 80% of non-immigrant visa applicants could be interviewed within three weeks of getting their application. According to China Daily:

Charles Bennett, minister counselor for consular affairs of the US embassy in Beijing, told China Daily earlier that 50 more American staff members will be deployed to the embassy and US consulates in China this year.

In addition, more interview windows and buildings will be built and the embassy is considering allowing people to arrange an interview date as early as two days after he applied, he said.

But don’t be fooled. Despite the bilateral enthusiasm surrounding these new initiates, the push to expedite visas for Chinese nationals has less to do with improving Sino-US relations than one thing: cold hard cash.

Chaos Talk

Photo © Ash-rly from Flickr

“You’ve hurt me. Do you know I’ve already folded three, four hundred stars for you? My friend tried to introduce me to some guy but I refused. I didn’t realize it before but I like you. I like only you. Will you be my boyfriend? I cannot just be a normal friend to you anymore. Either accept me or I will leave.”

This was the first time to my knowledge I had ever hurt a girl, and it was an experience I was not quite ready to take responsibility for. The Chinese place great emphasis on grand gestures and confessions. To many girls, you are not officially in a relationship until you make the ultimate confession and ask her formally, “I like you. Will you be my girlfriend?” It doesn’t matter if you’ve already had sex, or if you’ve never said a word to each other. The act of confessing, the grand, sweeping scale of expressing your feelings which have been so deeply bottled up, is the only way to consolidate a relationship.


Photo © Occupy Together

In a recent podcast comedian and celebrity personality Adam Corolla railed against the Occupy Movement generation as America’s new “fucking self-entitled monsters” who “think the world owes them a living.” Corolla bases his insults on the development and creation of a youth culture in America which leaves recent college graduates unprepared for the real world, sets up unrealistic expectations, and rewards the “losers” just for trying.

Corolla has a point. A book entitled Generation Me written by psychology professor Jean Twenge does a far better job of elucidating this trend and understanding it’s manifestations than Corolla’s crass bullying, but his attack and extrapolation that the Occupy Movement is simply about young people “throwing shit at another person’s car” is pervasively misguided.

Dire Straits

Republic of China

Editor’s Note: This article is a response to Paul V. Kane’s op-ed in The New York Times which suggested the United States reduce its budget deficit by ending military assistance and arms sales to Taiwan.

Few articles have riled me up as much as this one, which exemplifies the misguided conventional thinking regarding China. It is a microcosm of the wishful thinking that permeates the global community at the moment. Here are a few reasons why Paul Kane is wrong.

Taiwan is an old, old ally of the United States, with strong political and cultural ties. Taiwan sends a significant portion of its youth to be educated in the United States. To “ditch” them, as Kane suggests so casually, would severely damage U.S. credibility in Asia.

Back to September

Photo © idovermani from Flickr

Ten years ago I was sitting in a high school classroom conjugating Japanese verbs when there was a distant boom. Our teacher, Fujita sensei, a retired air force vet, remarked that it sounded like an explosion. We laughed it off and I wondered silently what in northern Virginia was worth bombing. Fifteen minutes later I found out.

Ten years ago, I knew nothing of politics. I knew nothing of the struggle for power and the insatiable human lust for domination and violence. But I knew, from the faces of my teachers, that the world had shifted; that there was no going back to September 10.

In the last decade, regardless of what politicians say in their memorial speeches, Americans have lived, more or less, in the shadow of 9/11. The heightened awareness—some might say fear—of terrorism led to a new government department, two intractable wars, and an ongoing Islamophobia. Words like “international terrorism,” “Islamic fundamentalism,” and “suicide bomber” are now common parlance. Only the death of Osama bin Laden offered some scant comfort to anxious Americans.

The State of American and Chinese New Media

Netflix and Apple TV

There is a battle raging in Hollywood, and it’s getting ugly. The explosive growth of the Netflix customer base, which now has more than 24 million subscribers (more than any individual cable channel), has seen the Los Gatos, CA based company morph, in last ten years, from an under-the-radar DVD rental service into the distributor of movies online.

80: Another Earth (2011)

Brit Marling in Another Earth

Like its contemporaries Tree of Life and Melancholia, Another Earth (written and directed by Mike Cahill) deploys astronomical imagery in order to provoke what the Catholic Church used to call the “fear of the Lord” but which now goes by the slightly more mundane “wonder and awe”:  the sense that the celestial body which dominates […]

79: Drive (LAFF 2011)

Ryan Gosling in Drive

The Stateside debut of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive (adapted by Hossein Amini from the James Sallis novel) is obsessed with the directionality of time. In a city like Los Angeles that’s built more for automobiles than for people, a slick driver with a fast car is an aspirational avatar that provides the promise of freedom, […]