Dunking with the Ducks?
Aug 23, 2019 (WiC 463)

Back in 2012 Chinese basketball fans succumbed to a bout of “Linsanity” (see WiC139). The reason was Jeremy Lin, the Chinese-American basketballer of Taiwanese heritage, who soared to superstar status after leading the New York Knicks to seven straight wins as point guard.

In retrospect the season would prove the high-point of Lin’s career and he has been without a team since leaving the Toronto Raptors earlier this year.

However, the Beijing Youth Daily now reports that the free agent may be about to end his playing days in China. The newspaper reckons Lin has been offered $3 million a year to join the Beijing Shougang Ducks. Lin has not confirmed the news but told media last week “I’ve always known my journey in some ways would end in China.”

Lin wouldn’t be the first former Knicks player to don a Ducks vest. Stephon Marbury played for the team between 2011 and 2017, winning two CBA titles.

In further sports news, China’s national football team made history this week when it called up its first player of non-Chinese heritage. Brazilian-born Elkeson – a star forward with top Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande – has been selected for the squad to play in the World Cup qualifier against the Maldives. Elkeson has been resident in China for five years making him eligible under FIFA rules to play for the national side. The move to select him looks to have been pushed by China’s coach, Marcello Lippi, a former manager of Guangzhou Evergrande.

Open and shut case
Aug 2, 2019 (WiC 462)

The luggage of a diplomatic passport holder is generally not checked by law enforcement officers. However, for Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen a breach in this protocol – in Taipei itself – has provoked unwanted controversy.

Tsai made an overseas trip last month to visit the island’s four remaining diplomatic allies in the Caribbean, also making stops in the United States. The tour was designed to rally support as she seeks a second term in the island’s presidential election in January.

However, a scandal broke shortly after she returned home: agents of the National Security Bureau (NSB) accompanying her on the visit were caught attempting to smuggle nearly 10,000 cartons of cigarettes back into Taiwan.

According to Taipei Times, NSB official Wu Tsung-hsien ordered the cigarettes (worth about $200,000) and hid them in a China Airlines duty-free storage area. Returning from the trip with Tsai, Wu tried to use his diplomatic passport to bypass customs but was arrested at the airport’s VIP lane.

The embarrassing revelation completely overshadowed Tsai’s tour and led to the NSB boss tendering his resignation. Tsai has tried to shift the public’s scorn by blaming the opposition KMT Party. “The improper conduct of National Security Bureau agents’ mass purchase of duty-free cigarettes reveals long-term bad practice,” shei wrote in a Facebook post, suggesting that smuggling cigarettes had become an illicit trade for NSB agents when the KMT was in office.

However, that strategy may not have worked: the gap in approval ratings between Tsai and her most likely challenger, the KMT’s Kaohsiung mayor, has widened to a 12-point deficit in one recent poll. Adding to Tsai’s woes, Beijing announced on Wednesday that it will stop issuing individual travel permits to people from 47 mainland Chinese cities to visit Taiwan – a move that will hurt tourism and the struggling Taiwanese economy.

“In view of the current cross-strait situation, such visits will be temporarily restricted until further notice,” the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said.

Chips with everything
Jul 26, 2019 (WiC 461)

Everyone now wants to make semiconductor chips in China, it seems. But in Wuhan a laundry firm called Kunteng Washing is taking a different approach by sewing RFID minichips into the corners of the towels and sheets that it washes for hotels, Xinhua reported this month. Waterproof and resistant to high-temperatures, each chip registers when, where and how the item to which it is attached was last cleaned.

“It automatically records the entire sanitisation process – from washing, sterilisation, eliminating alkali and ironing – all of which is monitored by cameras,” explained Pu Jinyong, manager of Beijing-based Bluesky TRS, which supplies the technology to Kunteng.

“By scanning the QR code on the chip with their mobile phones, hotel guests can access the timestamp of each and every step.”

The innovation follows a series of hygiene scandals at luxury hotels, including a widely publicised case in 2017 when a much-followed blogger discovered that some of the five-star chains weren’t changing their bed sheets for days at a time.

Last November an undercover video by an internet celebrity revealed that maids at other hotels were using the same dirty towel to clean every corner of the guestroom – from mirror, basin and toilet, through to the tumblers in the room’s fridge.

So the reaction to Kunteng’s laundry tracing system was generally upbeat, with three quarters of the 438,000 respondents to a survey by National Business Daily applauding the idea.

“I hope it can be launched nationwide,” proclaimed a weibo user.

Of course, there were sceptics as well. “Now the hotel can simply feign it by editing the QR code,” one netizen warned.

“Is a QR code what China is lacking in this situation? What we are really lacking is trust,” another chimed in.