A Look at the State of Chinese Design Development


A lovely critical tone on V&A’s curation of a design exhibition.

Design Altruism Project » Blog Archive » Losing In Translation? A Look at the State of Chinese Design Development

Until recently, a positive view on the state of modern Chinese graphic design was difficult to find in the Western trade press. Hong Kong, under the rule of the British Empire up until 1997, was seen as simply mimicking and copying Euro-American works. The Mainland’s designs, under the Communist regime and economy since the 1950s, were dismissed as solely propagandistic and emulating the former Soviet Union’s visual mannerisms. It is as the New China, with its new market economy and powerful global presence, that Western design professions have begun to take notice that they have powerful design competition to face. Yet the Euro-American typecasting of Chinese design still lingers on, as evidenced in London’s current Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition, called China Design Now.1

Women of the Long March

I loved this book when I read it.

Women of the Long March

I read it before my first trip to China – bok in hand, head phones plugged in (I even had audio cassettes of the book); Bliss. It took an enormous amount of time – this dwelling upon stories and going to the internet to look at the pictures of these women. My family was thoroughly sick of the book and possibly China by the end of it. My children learn Mandarin at school – so it may have given them some context to their second language.

I was full of it when I visited a year later. I was constantly regaling my Chinese hosts with stories of the women – and they would sit and listen. Humouring me no doubt – just another romantic or orientalist. For I was a massive orientalist – I was dissappointed in the China I was looking at. I wanted to see the China of deprivation and meagerness.

Then I wandered down into Donghua alley in Foshan. Its an old street with houses preserved from times gone by. You can see my images from that walk in this archive.

So check it out. If it doesn’t work for you – dont tell me about it.

Women of the Long March by Lily Xiao Hong Lee and Sue Wiles – Reviewed by Ann Skea – Eclectica Magazine v3n2

Of the three women whose lives Lee and Wiles follow, He Zizhen’s story is perhaps the saddest. She came from a peasant family but after joining the Communist Youth League she rose to local importance in the Party. She was seventeen when she met and married Mao Zedong. Mao divorced his first wife, Yang Kaihui (by whom he had three sons), to marry her and she was pregnant when she began the Long March with him.

At least three other women were pregnant when the they left Ruijin, but their relationships with the Communist leaders made it too dangerous for them to be left behind. All of these women gave birth during the march, sometimes in horrific circumstances, and all were obliged to leave their newborn babies behind, hoping that strangers would find and care for them. For He Zizhen, this was the second child she had to leave and, of her other four children, three died and one was brought up in Mao’s extended family. It is possible that these losses caused the mental disturbance she was later widely believed to suffer. But it is also possible that Mao’s powerful third wife, Jiang Qing arranged for her extended exile in Russia and her incarceration in a sanatorium. He Zizhen spent her last years in relative obscurity in China and died in Shanghai in 1984.

Wang Quanyuan was also of peasant origin. She joined the Communist Youth League and left an arranged marriage when her husband tried to stop her doing Communist work. She worked her way up in the Youth League and was admitted to the Party when she was twenty-one. She was one of the few women chosen to join the Long March who were not wives of the leaders. Her capture by Moslem anti-communists towards the end of the march was disastrous for her, automatically discrediting her with the Party. It took her years of hard work and a lucky meeting with Kang Keqing before she was reinstated. She is believed to be still living in Beijing.

Universal Health Care for China

Thats a 100$ per person. Will this build a health care system I wonder. It is a lot of money – and will produce some spectacular hospitals and infrastructure – like what we saw for the Olympics. If however they go down the path of service design, and community health – which then addresses both clinical care ( as emergency) and chronic care – they would have something quite world class. Just focussing upon ehealth, telemedicine and a medicare system – would be another way to go. Option 1 is the sexy looking stuff – 2 and 3 are the truly transformative approaches which will touch the lives of the poor and marginalised.

EzraKlein Archive | The American Prospect

China just decided to spend $123 billion by 2011 to build a universal health care system for its $1.3 billion people. So they’ll likely have universal health care before we will. This American exceptionalism thing is getting out of hand.

But it’s worth zooming in on why the Chinese are making this a priority right now: Chinese economists see universal health care as a way to induce consumption and economic dynamism. The Chinese have a high savings rate — indeed, an absurdly high savings rate, between 30 percent and 40 percent of income — and one of the reasons is fear of medical expenses. China lacks a safety net, and so people spend less because they need to plan for catastrophe. And if catastrophe doesn’t befall, then they’ve simply spent less. Which is a problem when you’re facing down a potentially long recession. And so China is trying to make it safe for its citizens to spend, which means making future expenses more predictable, which means offering health care coverage.

The American situation is, of course, somewhat different. We spend, or at least spent, plenty. But if the Chinese save because they’re worried about paying for medical care in the future, Americans yoke themselves to bad jobs or dying industries or hollowed-out regions because they’re afraid of losing their health care coverage in the present. That’s never exactly been a good thing, but it’s more worrying now. We’re about to have to adjust to an economy that’s not powered by bubble-charged consumption. That’s going to force a number of unpleasant changes in our standard of living. But one way to mitigate the harm is to free workers from the more useless drags on their productivity, and the instability of our health care system certainly counts.

Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money

This is a gorgeous piece. Okay I am in love with China – and cry for its faults. But I have to admit I smile every time I hear a bit of muscle flexing – and so very graciously done. Very cat to the American mouse. Come on I say to my Indian counterparts – start lending money to the Americans – and gently push them around. This is a multi-polar world after all.

“Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money” – The Atlantic (December 2008)

I grew up during the Cultural Revolution, when people really treated other people like enemies. I grew up in an environment where our friends, our relatives, people I called Uncle or Auntie, could turn around and put a nasty face to me as a small child. One time, Vladimir Lenin told Gorky, after reading Gorky’s autobiography, “Oh my god! You could have become a very nasty person!” Those are exactly the words one of my dear professors told me after hearing what I went through.

But over the years, I believe I learned to be humble. To treat other people nicely. I learned that, from a social point of view, no matter how lowly statured a person you are talking to, as a person, they are the same human being as you are. You have to respect them. You have to apologize if you inadvertently hurt them. And often you have to go out of your way to be nice to them, because they will not like you simply because of the difference in social structure.

Americans are not sensitive in that regard. I mean, as a whole. The simple truth today is that your economy is built on the global economy. And it’s built on the support, the gratuitous support, of a lot of countries. So why don’t you come over and … I won’t say kowtow [with a laugh], but at least, be nice to the countries that lend you money.