The “World Park” in Beijing: Postmodern Fever in China

Postmodernism is featured as many: intertextuality, re-making, identity ambiguity, mocking and self-mocking, and lost of meaning. The idea of “all that could be created has already been created” is a display of desperation as well as confusion. The emergence of postmodernism, which resulted from human’s desire for an alternative to post-war trauma, . Assisted by advanced technologies, humans are able to create “fantasies” that could help them to face the imagined world, or simply representations of fantasies that carry the philosophical features.

An interesting instance of this matter is the “World Park” in Beijing. At cost of 150 million RMB (ca. 18.75 euro), the theme park was built from 1991-1993.9. It is a concentration of the simulations of the most famous architectures all over the world, such as small-sized replicas of Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Sphinxes and other landmarks. Just as animation movies, originally aimed at children, which started to serve for adult audience at the rise of the post-Second-World-War changes, the theme park “World Park” shows not only to children who do not have experiences into the “world”, but most importantly, it displays all the adult in the country who were not able to see the authentic ones with their own eyes. Although “fake”, these replicas in the park construct a simulation that satisfies the longing of people for the world that is totally different from theirs. But it is indeed a “fantasy”, as all the other postmodern works. Disney World is a fantasy. Although built based on real architecture, it represents a world not existing in this world; while the “World” park represents the places that actually exist in the world. However for the audience, it is still a “fantasy land”. Perhaps that is the most ironic point of this instance. Until the end of 20th century, travelling to another side of the border was still a upper-class privilege in China. Since the “open-up” of the country in 1970s and the introduction of free market and many other western economic and cultural concepts, the common Chinese people started to feel eager to know more about the outside world. High travelling expenses and visa restrictions (to clear up, “visa restriction” on citizens does not refer to they are not allowed to leave the country by their own government, rather the foreign countries only issue entering permission in this country in rare cases. It is a diplomatic matter, which means it is always mutual.) made it virtually impossible for the common. Thus, the theme parks like “World” park were built up to cater the needs of the Chinese people who eagerly wanted to see and to connect with the rest of the world.

Image

a replica of the “Golden Gate Bridge”

Image

 

A Simulation of The White House

Further, another question was raised on extension of this example: geographically the same distance between China and the western world, why didn’t the western countries also build such theme parks replicating eastern famous buildings as China did? The answer is less than obvious. The victory of capitalism decided the dominance of western culture since the end of the Cold War. On the opposite of the time of Marco Polo, western society in the late 20th century had not so much curiosity for eastern cultures other than judgments about them as “under-developed”, “oppressed” and “mysterious”. Even today it is still the same. As whom I can speak for, the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean people watch large amount of contemporary western movies and TV series, and to know more about the western modern life. How much do westerns watch eastern TVs? Apart from the culture dominance of western society the last question can also be answered to by different concepts of travelling and travel-expense-affordability.

ImagePeople experience a Arab camel ride in the World Park

 

The postmodern simulation creates nothing more but illusions. The illusion is created on the variable level of believability depending on the purpose of the simulations. The “World” park does not need to make visitors to feel as if they were really in the authentic places, but the technologies that enable to make alteration on a person’s identity needs to. Does the plastic surgery really alter who the person is? Or the same as all the other postmodern products, it only creates a fantasy for humanity to escape from the reality to dive into the illusion, which is also created by the humans, so that they can mock at the “imperfection” of reality, then mock at the mocking and finally at the existence of themselves.

ImageNew York and the Manhattan Skyline, of course before 9/11, 2011

 

A typical “ultimate question” of Postmodernism is no longer “Who am I?” and “Where I am going?” but rather “Who do I want to be?” and “Where do I want to go?” In a era that always emphasises “nothing is impossible”, the technology-advanced postmodern society virtually made everything possible by imagination and simulate imagination into reality. However, no matter how postmodern philosophy thrives, people are not living in any of the fantasy and will never be. The ironic feature of postmodern works could be critical so that humans would reflect themselves and try to make the reality better.

The “World Park” and Some Thoughts on Postmodernism

Postmodernism is featured as many: intertextuality, re-making, identity ambiguity, mocking and self-mocking, and lost of meaning. The idea of “all that could be created has already been created” is a display of desperation as well as confusion. The emergence of postmodernism, which resulted from human’s desire for an alternative to post-war trauma, . Assisted by advanced technologies, humans are able to create “fantasies” that could help them to face the imagined world, or simply representations of fantasies that carry the philosophical features.

An interesting instance of this matter is “World” park in Beijing, as a simulation of the concentration of most famous architectures all over the world, which is consisted of small-sized replicas of Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Sphinxes and other landmarks. Just as animation movies, originally aimed at children, which started to serve for adult audience at the rise of the post-Second-World-War changes, the theme park “World” shows not only to children who do not have experiences into the “world”, but most importantly, it displays all the people in the country who were not able to see the authentic ones with their own eyes. Although “fake”, these replicas in the park construct a simulation that satisfies the longing of people for the world that is totally different from theirs. But it is indeed a “fantasy”, as all the other postmodern works. Disney World is a fantasy. Although built based on real architecture, it represents a world not existing in this world; while the “World” park represents the places that actually exist in the world. However for the audience, it is still a “fantasy land”. Perhaps that is the most ironic point of this instance. Until the end of 20th century, travelling to another side of the border was still a upper-class privilege in China. Since the “open-up” of the country in 1970s and the introduction of free market and many other western economic and cultural concepts, the common Chinese people started to feel eager to know more about the outside world. High travelling expenses and visa restrictions (to clear up, “visa restriction” on citizens does not refer to they are not allowed to leave the country by their own government, rather the foreign countries only issue entering permission in this country in rare cases. It is a diplomatic matter, which means it is always mutual.) made it virtually impossible for the common. Thus, the theme parks like “World” park were built up to cater the needs of the Chinese people who eagerly wanted to see and to connect with the rest of the world.

Image

a replica of the “Golden Gate Bridge”

Image

A Simulation of The White House

Further, another question was raised on extension of this example: geographically the same distance between China and the western world, why didn’t the western countries also build such theme parks replicating eastern famous buildings as China did? The answer is less than obvious. The victory of capitalism decided the dominance of western culture since the end of the Cold War. On the opposite of the time of Marco Polo, western society in the late 20th century had not so much curiosity for eastern cultures other than judgments about them as “under-developed”, “oppressed” and “mysterious”. Even today it is still the same. As whom I can speak for, the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean people watch large amount of contemporary western movies and TV series, and to know more about the western modern life. How much do westerns watch eastern TVs? Apart from the culture dominance of western society the last question can also be answered to by different concepts of travelling and travel-expense-affordability.

ImagePeople experience a Arab camel ride in the World Park

The postmodern simulation creates nothing more but illusions. The illusion is created on the variable level of believability depending on the purpose of the simulations. The “World” park does not need to make visitors to feel as if they were really in the authentic places, but the technologies that enable to make alteration on a person’s identity needs to. Does the plastic surgery really alter who the person is? Or the same as all the other postmodern products, it only creates a fantasy for humanity to escape from the reality to dive into the illusion, which is also created by the humans, so that they can mock at the “imperfection” of reality, then mock at the mocking and finally at the existence of themselves.

ImageNew York and the Manhattan Skyline, of course before 9/11, 2011

A typical “ultimate question” of Postmodernism is no longer “Who am I?” and “Where I am?” but rather “Who do I want to be?” and “Where do I want to go?” In a era that always emphasises “nothing is impossible”, the technology-advanced postmodern society virtually made everything possible by imagination and simulate imagination into reality. However, no matter how postmodern philosophy thrives, people are not living in any of the fantasy and will never be. The ironic feature of postmodern works could be critical so that humans would reflect themselves and try to make the reality better.

Talking about Evolution of McDonald’s and Some Stuff

When talking about McDonald’s, you might say: yeah that’s whom millions of obese kids and adults in American  should sue. Well, to be honest, I almost said this in class one time. But there was some Americans sitting around me, so I refrained myself to avoid being beaten up.

Not going to talk much about it, I’m just going to write down some of my thoughts on this brand, or to be more precise, the “McDonalds’ phenomenon.”

There are never lacking of criticisms against it, from its founding. Old McDonald’s commercials are nowadays put online. Through our sight some of them are particularly questionable, like the one where a small boy runs into Ronald McDonald and tells him “Mom told me not to talk to strangers.” and then the weird-looking clown said “I’m Ronald McDonald and I will prove myself.” Then he just magically gives three hamburgers to the kid. Finally this kid believes the clown and goes to a McDonald’s restaurant with him, saying that “You are no stranger! You are McDonald!” Needless to say how much would moms worry about their kids taken away by bad guys who would dressing up like Roland McDonald. However, no complaint from this heard, so it might have turned out just fine.

Ronald McDonald

Running from 1940s till today, McDonald’s has been always there, an example of successful business. Although it has been, as much as its success, hard and constantly criticised. Taking a more recent example, the “going green” of McDonald’s is absolutely not a voluntarily move. Vegetarianism spreads wold-widely. Anti-gene-manipulationism (especially in Europe) influences on the society and the market. McDonald’s needed to take a chance to change, for no noble reasons but just survival.

I don’t believe as a company McDonald’s could care less than anything about “going green.” One plays as one’s role. Being a free-market player means changing along with the prevailing ideas (or dynamic social philosophies) as a crucial way to survive in this fiercely competitive environment.

But, my point is, McDonald’s is indeed a very successful business. A business that is always so controversial that you always would think “ok this time McDonald’s really screwed.” But it could always survive from any kind of criticism bomb. Why?

mcdonalds-Speedee Service System

 

1948-Speedee Service System

 

To answer this question, we would have to go back to some dull history of the prevailing ideas throughout (mainly American) the world, or “the globe”, which is more appropriate to present era. At the beginning of its founding in 1940s until 1990 (“Food, folks and fun”), McDonald’s, which was named “Speedee Service System” at that time emphasising its fast-food feature, used to build up its image as a place where people can have fast but delicious food, gather together with friends and family and have a relaxing time (“You deserve a break today” 1971, “Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun”1975, “Good time, great taste” 1988, “Food, folks and fun” 1990). Afterwards its slogans appeared to turn into a individualistic direction. (“What you want is what you get at McDonald’s today.”1991-92, “We love to see/make you smile” 2000, “i’m lovin’ it” which the Justin Timberlake made the slogan song, quite catchy, in 2003 till now.) It started as a fast-food service restaurant since in the mid-20th century vastly built highways and ubiquitously used automobiles gave it a very smart entrance to America. Later, realising their food were most attractive to kids, needless to mention kid is the centre for a nuclear family, McDonald’s put their main marketing focus on children. But not to mention too much fun for kids to scare off the adults and to also attract parents, McDonald’s promoted itself as a place for family and friends bonding restaurant, where all of them can have fun and “smile”. McDonald’s achieved to be a global player in various cultures. McFalafel burger in Egypt, The-McFalafel-served-in-M-007

McTurco – a flat bread burger in Turkey,

mcturco

McEgg in McDonald’s Sabah

McEgg

and Maharaja Mac in India Maharaja Mac

— these are only some of many examples. Adapting to the rise of sense of “self” and individualism, McDonald’s had Justin Timberlake sing a theme song. You can watch the music video here. As it enters the 21th century, more and more people started to pay attention on environmental issues, food sources and safety, and the production procedure of products. Complaints flooded the brand with ethnical and even legal issues. What should the company do is what it has been doing for over 70 years — sensing the alterations of the rule and playing within it. McDonald’s is “somewhere can be TRUST.” This has to be protected.

mcdonald_green_logo

 

I’m not approving every food on McDonald’s menu. I definitely would  not allow my kids to eat too much fried stuff there, no matter their oil is organic or not, no matter their chicken was happy before being butchered or not. But it is indeed a good business which endures through a long time. Its model has been adapted by different other enterprises and takes a place in a business school text book. I have to admit, that is something pretty cool.

The Critical Whisperer for Intellectuals

Criticised for being the voice of the Communist Party, China Central Television (CCTV) starts to lose viewership in- and outside of the country. The 90s of 20th century was considered as the booming period of Chinese media. Many current distinguishing figures in Chinese news TV embarked their career during that time. Bai Yansong, one of the most influential, well-known news reporters and commentators in China, learnt his first lesson in college in the department of journalism — bottom line of being a journalist: always telling the truth. After the first decade of the 21th century, some left CCTV for various reasons, from “inappropriate behaviour on air” to “less freedom in personal performance”. Bai is still there, doing current news report and commentary in a professional style.

Bai Yansong teaches in Class

Bai sees journalism as a marathon. “It has no ending, down the road. But when you got to know what’s down there so just stopping trying? Giving up is always easier than carrying on.” he said.

Confronting with the harsh media restriction environment, many choose to leave, while others stay and try to dance with chains. Bai is one of the latter. “Up till today, CCTV is still the best platform in the whole country to conduct press supervision.” Bai believes. Questioning and interrogating local government in misconducted political and social cases, Bai said that he has already come to a time in his journalist career when he stands at the opposite side to the powerful. He has to keep his critics within certain level in order to hold the right to the microphone. “It’s like walking on thin ice.” he said.

Founding “East-West United University” (东西联大) fulfilled one of Bai’s life-long dream. Born into a family with 3 teachers, “I always wanted to be a teacher since I was little.” Bai said. 11 students from 4 of most prestigious universities in Beijing are selected every year to Bai’s private “university”. Twice a month, class locates once on the east side of Beijing and the next time at some place on the west side. Reading list is assigned for each week, and reading report is compulsory. Every time, Bai sits down with his student, discuss various topics from rural workers in urban area to social changes in terms of time periods of the 70s, 80s and 90s. “Most of journalism majors at our universities do not cover practical interview training.” For Bai, how to conduct an interview is one of the crucial skills of a journalist. On practical interview class, students raise their topics which display their different focuses in the society. Many of the topics are inspiring.

Nonetheless, some of the topics from students also represent certain left-behind features of this particular society. One popular topic was “If I was a Homosexual”. The topic itself implies discrimination against the homosexual community to a certain degree that the students might not be able to realise it. This sentence pre-set the discussion from a perspective that “I” am not a homosexual. But what if “I am”? What if one of the students were a gay or a lesbian who was too frightened to come out? This topic puts every participants to the position that is definitely NOT a homosexual , which indicates that a homosexual is one of “THEM” but not one of “US”. This is a subtle discrimination which is unintended, and in the social context of China, understandable.

Anyway, for the world community, even in some “advanced countries” like Germany or US, it is still a long way to achieve their full understanding of homosexuality and embrace the fact that is supposed to be natural and universal. And it is even a longer way for societies like China. Bai’s classes represent the advancing step by young intellectuals. Social change goes gradually. What matters the most is some one is on the way.

Bai’s career as a journalist and a news commentator inspires Chinese young people to take the society with more serious attitude. He described himself as a “most optimistic pessimist” who has hope for the future and believes in people, although “there will be nothing in the future”. He is loved because he is critical, skeptical but never cynical. The endeavour to nurture young people to take more responsibilities like he does will not be in vain. “When I pass on the torch, I will just forget about all this.” Bai talked about retirement one day. But who knows? Not only as a committed journalist, a voicer of intellectuals, but also as a citizen with strong sense of responsibility, could he never stop caring.

 

related sources: http://ent.ifeng.com/a/20140523/40081125_0.shtml