Cartoons

Beaten to the punch
Jul 7, 2017 (WiC 373)

One of the most anticipated clashes in China this year has ended in anti-climax. As regular readers will recall, the brash Mixed Martial Arts fighter Xu Xiaodong grabbed headlines in May when he beat to the ground a tai chi master in just 10 seconds (see WiC365).

Having knocked his opponent to the floor and slapped him liberally around the head, ‘Madman’ Xu then trashed tai chi as an outdated fighting form, enraging proponents of China’s ancient martial arts styles in the process.

Xu said he was prepared to fight all challengers and so this month another tai chi master stepped up and said he would take on the 37 year-old in Shanghai.

This time the media showed up in force to see whether 65 year-old Shandong native Ma Baoguo could do any better against Xu. However, 10 minutes before the fight was due to start, Xu was told by staff at the venue that the bout would not go ahead because the police were outside.

The police then came into the hall and announced that the event was an illegal gathering. As they tried to escort the enraged Xu from the scene, he shouted “Don’t you push me. You’re too weak to make me move” but he was taken to the police station and released later in the evening.

A furious Xu now insists that it was a relative of Ma’s who tipped off the police in a bid to “entrap” him and that the cancelled contest was a “shameful day for martial arts”, the media has reported.

Locked out
Jun 30, 2017 (WiC 372)

China’s bike-sharing boom has had its first casualty, with Chongqing-based firm Wukong announcing it has gone bust just six months after launch. Wukong says it burned through Rmb3 million in that period and that 90% of its rental bikes are missing.

For entrepreneur Lei Houyi it was a brutal experience. The founder told China Entrepreneur that he had started his bike-sharing firm after finding it hard to get taxis at his previous job. In December his team began work on an app which was finished in 20 days and then they released a first batch of 300 bikes into Chongqing’s university district. At the end of February this was followed by a second batch of 1,000 bicycles.

Lei admits things went wrong from the outset, with the bikes scattered across the city, and hard to collect. There were problems with the mechanical locks, so a costly switch to smart locks was made. However, there were problems getting these manufactured by suppliers, and it was soon discovered that Chongqing’s extremely wet climate meant that many of the smart locks became defective after a few weeks. Large numbers of the bikes (each costing about Rmb750) also disappeared. This month Lei gave up, joking to China Entrepreneur that he viewed his ‘donation’ of the bikes to the city as a public service.

The lesson learned: in order to compete with market leaders ofo and Mobike, bike rental firms need a deep pool of capital and close ties to suppliers.

Lei doesn’t think that any of the smaller players will be able to catch up with the two biggest players. And the task looked even harder last week when Mobike announced a Tencent-led round of financing which saw the company add a further $600 million to its warchest.

Chickens on the run
Jun 23, 2017 (WiC 371)

Food safety and poverty alleviation are hot topics in the Chinese media so Alibaba’s rival JD.com has hit the public relations jackpot by combining the two in a programme that is part philanthropy and part profit.

The e-commerce giant has started a scheme known as Jindong’s Running Chickens (JD stands for Jingdong) in an impoverished part of Wuyi County in Hebei province. It’s working with 700 farming households that keep chickens, with the aim of helping them to sell free-range poultry to more affluent urban consumers.

There is a tech element too with each chicken fitted with a special pedometer that signals when the bird has taken a million steps and thus becomes eligible for sale.

After its millionth step the chicken is sold for up to Rmb188 ($27.51) on JD.com which takes the order online and uses its cold chain distribution network to get the bird to the purchaser.

From the farmer’s point of view, this end-to-end process ensures they get a much higher income from each bird reared than if they sold in local markets. The scheme has won plaudits from consumers too, though this being China, there are plenty of sceptics as well. Sohu Finance wonders if there might be a scandal down the road when some of the wilier farmers work out how to scam JD.com’s poultry pedometers and fake the million steps. But for the moment city-dwellers keen to dine on a truly free range chicken are delighted with JD.com’s innovative approach.