Guest Posting

“Baseball in China”   By: Paul Schifilliti

The Peoples Republic of China is the world’s most populous country and recently has become the world’s largest economy. Since the economic reforms of 1978, this land of 1.35 billion people has obtained an exceptionally quick growing economy. This has opened bottomless possibilities in a myriad of markets, ranging from construction to agriculture, and everything in between. Among all of the emerging markets in China today, one that stands out to me personally is baseball.

After its creation in 1839, baseball slowly spread to the rest of the world, increasingly towards the beginning of the 20th century. This is even true when considering the communist nation of China, where today baseball is understood by few. In 1873, government officials of the Qing dynasty had sent 30 students to study in the United States, in attempt to gain knowledge on the western learning style. However, they would return with much more than merely our learning style, they would return with America’s past time. During their time at Yale, three of the Chinese students established Yale’s Chinese Baseball team. Upon their return home, they brought the game with them.

Again in 1895, baseball had made more congress at the Huiwen Academy of Classical Learning in Beijing. However, the first official game wasn’t held in China until 1907. Yes, baseball has been of existence in this foreign land for over 100 years, yet if you were to ask a random local citizen about the game today, chances are you would receive a puzzled stare.

What went wrong? There are many ways to go about answering such a vague question, but one must first take into consideration the ideals of Mao Zedong. Prior to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, baseball was a part of the national games. Although the game showed potential for progress, it had not yet caught the baseball fever as America had.

With the reforms of the country underway, Mao Zedong lead the communist nation. Beloved by most of China’s people, Zedong’s words were very powerful. When the subject of baseball was brought up, Zedong declared it was a symbol of the imperialist west, and should not be played in China. His feelings for basketball were much more sympathetic, explaining how it has become one of the more popular sports in China. The communist leader should not be held entirely responsible for the decline of baseball in China; it does not help that the game requires more land than other sports.

Back in those times, many Chinese considered the game as imperialistic, but times have changed. With an economy growing as fast as theirs, China is no stranger to innovation. Big business is constantly looking for the next big thing, but what if the next big thing has been here all along. Baseball represents a world of opportunity for China, as it has for Japan and South Korea.

Some Americans have claimed that the talent simply isn’t there when considering Chinese ball players. That’s like handing the average American athlete a willow cricket bat and expecting them to be a superstar.

The game needs time to develop in China before players of the country can be comparable to that of a nation that has consistently played the game for over 150 years and turned the sport into a multi-billion dollar industry. That was done in a nation of 300 million people; imagine the potential in a nation of a whopping 1.3 billion people. I know this may sound cliché, but the possibilities are endless.

Mayhem

So a bunch of us went to Chongching in a rented bus, the rugby team, mostly UK and Aussie people, the rest Americans, mostly men but there were 7 women on the bus for their own team, also rowdy.

Our game was in an abandoned stadium that looked like the set of a zombie movie. But there were still some fans present, determined to enjoy the spectacle of foreign men, and then foreign women, pummeling each other. Of course, in a country 1.3 billion people, there are always just enough locals to join in whatever madness foreigners are up to. Our teams had 2 or 3 Chinese players on each side out of 15 and one scored a try.

Eventually, photos will appear here, if not of the last games then of the next ones.

We played the expats from Kunming, beat them, and then Chongching, losing to them barely. It was the first ever contact rugby game for me and a few other rugby virgins. An all out game, with uniforms, referees and the like, to put some order and respectability on the chaos that is rugby.

Compared to American football, rugby seems raw, more primitive, with groups of people chasing each other down, yelling, mauling each other, and of course a grounded ball is not dead. It’s an ongoing free for all, tribal warfare really. In rugby, absolutely everyone gets battered and bruised, but extreme injuries are rare, though a Kunming guy had to get 6 stitches.

My competitive advantage is that I don’t overly care about my physical safety and enjoy going into the rucks, binding into scrums, and sometimes (when I can pluck the ball from the rucks) running with it, just to see how far I can get before I’m slammed into the ground. Usually not very far, if I don’t pass it. I’m not fast, but I’m reckless, and that earned me a few toasts later that night from people half my age.

Last night it was hard to even roll over and sleep on my side. Every muscle ached. A bit later, walking to work in the sunshine, I felt strangely and unexpectedly renewed.

Results are In

Our class (US and Chinese students) deployed a survey (in Chinese) to over 100 people in public areas of Chengdu. Some of the questions are listed below.

The self-reporting was from 1 (minimum) to 5 (maximum), with the average responses (most aged 18 – 30) shown below for male and female respondents (of which there were more than 100 combined):

How important is it to care for parents in their old age?

Male     4.60             Female 4.54

How much pressure do (or did) parents place upon you to get married?

Male  3.53                Female 4.37

How much self pressure do (or did) you place upon yourself to get married?

Male  3.66                Female 3.86

How important is it for a couple to be romantically in love for marriage?

Male   4.38               Female 4.25

How important is it for children in China to learn English as a second language?

Male   3.86               Female 4.11

How present is western food and entertainment in your life?

Male   2.98               Female 2.98

Should the man be the breadwinner in a relationship?

Male  3.75                Female 2.89

How much say or power should a family have over a person’s career?

Male  2.75                Female 2.63

Remember the Code

There is a reason that the response to the Ebola virus is so frenzied, so driven by fear-mongering. There are profits to be had. More importantly, there is power to be siphoned.

With origins in the mass conditioning campaign that was the swine flu hoax, the present Ebola outbreak represents a “crisis” (read “opportunity”) for some governments and corporations to roll out mandatory vaccination campaigns. Perhaps certain NATO countries will even decide that the “international community” requires that Senegal, for example, be vaccinated – at gunpoint, if need be.

Hollywood has certainly played its part preparing the public for contingencies. It’s good entertainment, but on a deeper level, the half dozen pandemic movies of recent years tend to legitimize top-down and centralized responses to pandemics (simply bad medicine). In reality, localized and flexible responses provide the complexity  - the adaptability – that defeats disease.

Arguably, any vaccine or medicine less than a generation old is “experimental.” Certainly, an Ebola vaccine that is rolled out in these times would be “experimental,” and likely to produce harmful effects (or lethal ones, should such a vaccination program become a vector for more nefarious but long-standing interests).

Fortunately, humanity has on its side the Nuremberg Code of 1947, the first point of which is this:

“The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.”

Simply put, there can be NO mandatory medical treatment when it comes to the Ebola virus. Politicians, generals and pharmaceutical executives might contemplate otherwise, but perhaps they should think twice before engaging in these “crimes against humanity.”

After all, it would not be the first time that people pretending to save the human race would find themselves, a few short years later, handcuffed into the defendant’s booth, exposed as the criminals that they truly are.

The Long Way Home

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Heaps of Photographs

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I took a ton of pictures yesterday and today, so might as well put them up: If being a tourist is worth doing, then it’s also worth overdoing.

Fortunately, in Old Manila I met two Chinese women, like-minded goofballs. Automatic common ground, with my living in China…

Someday will spend five years writing a history of the Manila Galleon, the Spanish colonial shipping line that ran across the Pacific Ocean between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico, from about 1510 to 1810 (that’s dedication).

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Manila

So, my visa for China is good for 1 year, but I have to leave and return every 120 days. Otherwise I’d have to change from the F visa to a residency visa, which is more complicated.

Most people in my position go to Hong Kong for a few days and return – which, oddly, is for these visa purposes considered a separate country, as in not the mainland. Hong Kong has its own immigration process and its own money, so the situation is obviously complex. Going to Taiwan does not count, as it is considered the same country under these circumstances, a renegade province.

Some people fly from China to Bangkok to maintain their visas. Many Chinese tourists also go to Thailand, since there are no real visa requirements. Few Chinese tourists come to the Philippines, although I did see a group of determined women shoppers at the mall, which is accessible after going through metal detectors and a gender-specific pat down.

As obvious by now, I booked a cheap flight to Manila, the Philippines. First, I took a train from Chengdu to Chongching, to catch the flight. Being October 1, the start of national holiday, masses of people were at the train station. It was a sea of humanity.

Second, I took a long metro from Chongching (the next day) to the airport for a flight to Shanghai. But then I had to change airports, about an hour apart on the shuttle bus.

Third, I got on the flight from Shanghai to Manila, landing in the Philippines at 3 am. No wonder it was a cheap flight. It’s too late to get a hotel, in terms of wasting money for a few hours, and too early to check in. So I slept on some chairs in the airport until the day really started.

At last, I am in the tropical land of mango rum and pleasant scenery, and natural surroundings are also nice.

I’ll be uploading photos of Manila, probably Old Manila, the Spanish headquarters for their almost 400 years of colonial rule.

Gesundheit

As Webmd notes, it is extremely, extremely difficult to become infected with ebola:

“You can’t get Ebola from air, water, or food. A person who has Ebola but has no symptoms can’t spread the disease, either.”

Basically, in order to catch the ebola virus, someone has to bleed into your mouth, vomit in your face (sorry), or have the virus passed from a bedpan or something for the few moments it even lives in that condition.

Not too many people outside of West African villages are eating partially-barbecued fruit bats, which is never a good idea, and should be added to humanity’s list of taboos right along with cannibalism and incest.

Despite all this, both the powers that be, national and international, and the supposedly alternative media, are in full blown alarmism and hysteria. Just as with the AIDS virus in the 1980s, the media is telling us that it only a matter of time before we will all die of this new plague.

As usual, the proposed solutions – that include medieval quarantines and so forth – would worsen any outbreak if one evolves, either naturally or through an enhanced weaponization program, challenging the human species, to see the response. Extermination programs have already been exposed, and they keep on, breaking the rules.

In order to attenuate any virus, people need to maintain intense interaction and flow. It is too easy to forget that only isolated and concentrated populations make viruses go rogue: cruise ships, army barracks, wartime trenches and prisons.

So let’s all gather the neighbors and start sneezing on each other.

Pics

Conducting a survey of pedestrians, regarding family life, marriage expectations, etc…

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Sports on the Mind

Still another excellent Master’s thesis being rolled out here concerns how the Chinese Basketball League (CNBA) rolled out in China. This is looking at the money side of basketball in China. The commercialization of it. How it is marketed.

It set me to wondering why basketball – presumably invented in Indiana – caught on in China and baseball did not, as it did in Japan and South Korea. In fact, the few chances I’ve had to sling a ball around attracted curious stares.

An exchange student here from New Jersey is a pitcher on a university team, and I played catcher and egged him on to hurl his 88 mph fastballs (without a mask on my face, smart).

He had tried that at a different field and was politely asked to leave, told that throwing baseballs was “too dangerous.” Maybe it is. Never really thought about it from an outsider’s point of view. Plus there is that wooden bat, a stand in for mankind’s oldest weapon, the club, and simply handed to young people to swing around.

Baseball is alien to China, but the younger people who watch western media have seen Moneyball, which is a great movie with great acting, especially by Brad Pitt, and will ultimately go down as the best baseball movie ever made. Historically, directors have struggled with baseball movies.

Chinese television shows lots of soccer and volleyball – maybe more volleyball than soccer, and usually these endless tournaments between Chinese and Japanese women, trying to settle old scores and a few new ones. What a great substitute for war: the Amazon women on each side can take turns smashing the ball into their rivals, shouting out and high fiving. They are extremely tall, and some of them extremely beautiful. It’s easy to set down the remote control and just watch.

Badminton and Ping-pong are also on television sometimes, as is golf. But the most popular sports here in China all involve nets: basketball, soccer, volleyball, badminton and ping pong.  Is that significant?