Dan Wu

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

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Geopolitics

Sebastian Kurz: Victim Of Pandemic, And His Own Ego

The rise and fall of 35-year-old Sebastian Kurz was breathtaking in any context. Yet the resignation of the Austrian chancellor offers unique insights into a political scenario that was very much of our COVID times.

VIENNA — Sebastian Kurz is used to being popular. When he was re-elected as Federal Chairman of his party's youth organization in 2012, he received 100% of the votes. And that was exactly the bar against which he, along with all those who basked in his glow, have measured success in the decade since.

Kurz won 99.4% of the votes at the conservative ÖVP party congress this past August. Such a phenomenon might be common in authoritarian regimes, but is rare in a European democracy.

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Society

Hong Kong's International Food Scene Gets Political

In its diaspora around Asia and the rest of the world, Hong Kong's identity is closely tied to its food and tea. Now with the pressures from the mainland, the stakes are suddenly multiplied.

HONG KONG — Hot wonton soup, a cup of milk tea: These are among the dishes Hong Kongers around the world long for when they want a taste of their hometown. Leaving Hong Kong is a challenge for some, less so for others, but virtually all expats eventually grow tired of dishes from their adopted countries, and seek familiar flavors. But more and more, this desire has developed beyond nostalgia to become a question with much more at stake.

The evolution of Hong Kong food culture has, in retrospect, become a construction of the city's identity, from the internationalized food scene in the early years of the last century, which gathered regional cuisines from around the globe, to exportation, which has brought about a new generation of Hon Kong-style tea restaurants in China, Taiwan and even Japan.

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China

In China, Women Still Have To Fight For Their Right To Be Single

A stand-up comedian in China recently used the term "single panic" to describe fears among women about being alone, and the words have since resonated in online discussions.

The "panic" is a product, the female comedian pointed out, of pressure and prejudices in Chinese society against single women. The only way for single women to be regarded as "not that miserable," the entertainer joked, is to live a more glamorous life than a married woman. "But even then, people will still say, 'look, she lives in such a big house and there's not even a man in it.'"

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Sources

Diversity Efforts in Opera Fall Flat

BERLIN - Now, in the opera, there are Black people portraying Germanic gods, Russians appearing as Chinese people, and Don Giovanni may even be played by a trans woman. If ethnically correct casts are required to be politically correct, this would mean the end for many classics and several would become unemployed.

Trinidadian-born soprano Jeanine De Bique just starred as a forester's daughter at the 200th anniversary performance of "Der Freischütz" ("The Freeshooter") at the Berlin Konzerthaus, just as South African Golda Schultz did earlier this year in a similarly touching and powerful way. She will sing again soon at the Munich Opera Festival. Two people of color sang in "new German," the soprano was remarked as "so German and genuine" that Richard Wagner would probably have praised.

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Society

For Chinese Adoptees In The U.S., Identity Comes In Layers

Over the past 30 years, more than 170,000 Chinese-born children have been raised by U.S. families. Most of the parents are white and many live in areas where Asians are almost nonexistent.

WASHINGTON D.C. — Yang Chunju was born 20 years ago in Guangdong, China, and was abandoned at birth. A year later she was adopted by a couple from Pennsylvania, in the United States, and along with a new family, she got a new name, Mary Ruth Tomko, though most people call her Mei.

The young woman grew up in the small town of York — "the American countryside," as she describes it. And in the schools she attended, there were no other Asians. In other words, no one else looked like her, and Mei recalls being very lonely throughout her childhood.

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Sources

Are The Olympics More Trouble Than They're Worth? The View From Asia

From global politics to the pandemic, problems abound for the Tokyo Games. Next year, when Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, things could get messier still.

-Analysis-

BEIJING — After a five-year wait, the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, but the challenges remain palpable. Delayed for a full year, the event has been agony for Japan, audience ratings are down to all all-time low, and politics continue to cast a shadow over what is supposed to be the world's premiere sporting event.

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STAND NEWS

''Seditious'' Sheep? Inside Hong Kong's Crackdown On Children's Books

Hong Kong’s national security police recently arrested five people over the publication of children’s books featuring sheep, which it says represent Hong Kongers, attacking wolves, allegedly standing for mainlanders.

The Hong Kong National Security Police was on the move again last week, although this time the surprising target was a series of children's stories.

On July 22, authorities arrested five people over conspiring to publish seditious publications. The accused, all relatively young (between the ages of 25 and 28), are members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, as Hong Kong-based media The Initium reports. The operation against them marks the first time the National Security Law has been used to target stories directed at children.

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China 2.0

Why Chinese Youth Are Still So Eager To Join The Communist Party

BEIJING — "Ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to join the party..." Yanru, a 22-year-old university student studying at a well-known university in northern China, just became a CCP member last year. For her and her peers, joining the Chinese Communist Party is something that just seems natural: "It has led us to victories, fought back the foreign colonists, and built up the strong and prosperous new China today."

For Yanru, the purpose of joining the party is to serve the society, and to be useful for the country. "There is only one correct motive for joining the party, that is to serve the people with full hearts, and to eventually fully achieve communism," she wrote in her membership application letter.

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China 2.0

For Chinese Regime, Suicide In Hong Kong Is An Act Of Terrorism

If someone is unhappy, that's one thing. But if a city is unhappy, that means something very different.

-Analysis-

HONG KONG — On the evening of July 1, outside the Sogo Department Store in Hong Kong, Leung Kin-fai stabbed a police officer from behind with a knife and later killed himself. The incident was described as a "local lone wolf terrorist attack" by authorities. According to Ming Pao, a local newspaper, Leung, a man in his 50s, had no accomplices and wrote a suicide note before the murder, mentioning his dissatisfaction with society and criticizing the brutality of police, who he said harbor criminals and are not subject to checks and balances. Further, he expressed his belief that "freedom has been lost" after the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law. The police have not yet released the full contents of the suicide note.

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Society

China's New Crackdown Against LGBTQ Activists At Universities

Reports have come in from LGBTQ activists around the country that the government has shut down the organizations pages on WeChat, the top Chinese platform.

SHANGHAI — On July 6th, when the day was finishing for most Chinese university students, a pop-up notification began to appear on the phones of certain campus LGBTQ activists: "The Wechat account that you are managing is permanently blocked."

He Zhang is the founder of Z Society, a Shanghai-based student academic hub that focuses on gender issues, with more than 70,000 followers on its official account. Suddenly, the page was all blank. " I knew this day would come sooner or later, but I never thought it was going to be so soon."

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China 2.0

Regional Disparity Trap: Why China’s Economy Resembles Europe

The Northeast is the Chinese equivalent to Greece ...

Professor Lu Ming of Shanghai Jiaotong University was the first to refer to the sharp differences within China as the "Europeanization" (or Eurozoneization) of the Chinese economy.

The Eurozone consists of 19 European countries with a unified market and a single currency, but with large differences in productivity between them. This, of course, has many advantages, such as promoting the internal common market, reducing transaction costs and so on. However, the smooth operation of the Eurozone depends on whether its members have similar levels of productivity or public debt. If they aren't, it will create a divergence in interests between the "core" countries with high productivity and low debt and the "peripheral" countries with low productivity and high debt.

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