The Plough at Shanghai
Dec 9, 2016 (WiC 349)

The locals at the Plough at Cadsden have had to get used to the bar filling up with Chinese tourists seeking out fish and chips and English ale. The reason is that it was the pub that hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping last October, when the then UK leader David Cameron took him to his local and Xi ordered just those things. The event was broadcast on China’s national TV news, and showed Xi talking with some of the Plough’s regulars and knocking back two pints of Greene King’s India Pale Ale with considerable ease. (Sales of that beer surged in China as a consequence.)

The establishment’s landlord has called it “the most famous pub in the world” and according to the Morning Advertiser, it has become “an attraction for Chinese tourists”. And this week Xi’s visit was to have even bigger consequences for the pub, with Christie’s brokering its sale to Chinese investors. Its new owner is SinoFortune Investment which plans to export the “English pub concept” to China and open replica Ploughs in major cities. It may be onto something. As we noted in issue 346, Chinese drinkers have been turning away from mass-produced local lagers to more premium foreign brews – much like the stuff on tap at the Plough.

WiC has a suggestion: now that he’s out of a job, maybe SinoFortune could hire Cameron to take on the role of chirpy publican at the ‘Plough at Shanghai’.

Patently ahead?
Dec 2, 2016 (WiC 348)

Last week the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) released statistics on last year’s global patent applications. For the fifth year running, China came out on top. According to the WIPO, there were over 1.1 million patent applications filed in the Chinese market. NBD, a local newspaper, reports that this is more than all the applications in America, Japan and South Korea combined. The number of approved patents in China ranked first as well, at 359,000.

But despite their domestic triumph, companies from China are far behind in cross-border patents, accounting for just 4% of international applications. Some netizens doubt whether the topline numbers mean much too, speculating that the majority of Chinese applications were for knock-off inventions. “Highest in number, lowest in quality,” one netizen lambasted.

“So many patent applications are just other people’s work, altered slightly and claimed by someone else. We have the Four Great Inventions [papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass] of the ancient world, but in the modern era what was invented by China?” he asked.

Mahjong masters
Nov 25, 2016 (WiC 347)

There’s something embarrassing about losing a game on your home ground. So it must have been particularly humbling when the world’s first Sichuan-style Mahjong Championship, held in Sichuan, was won by a woman from Beijing.

The event was organised by the Mahjong International League (which was, surprisingly, founded in Switzerland) and brought together almost 10,000 players from over 30 countries.

After two months of qualifying rounds conducted online the competitors were whittled down to 200 finalists, who battled it out in person over a three-day event in Chengdu.

Sichuanese mahjong is played in a more simplified style, although the cash prizes were still substantial. The winner, Wen Yao, took home Rmb200,000 ($29,000) and even the players who finished in some of the minor places made some money. Gambling on the outcome of mahjong games is illegal in China, of course. And as the Mahjong International League has been keen to point out, the best players at the tournament in Sichuan triumphed as a result of their skill rather than their good fortune.