Chinese Olympics, pole aerobics and fish pedicurists

  The Beijing Olympics are in the center of the world's attention, exemplifying what the Chinese leadership has deemed the "peaceful rise". We take a quick look at smaller consumerist happenings in and from China. There is no question that the "peaceful rise" doctrine is mostly a PR exercise. But although there are significant nationalist overtones, there can be no question that China occupies a much smaller role than it could, especially when compared to the mighty US of A, which is being left behind, as China will very soon surpass it as the world's foremost manufacturing power. For years, China has been mocked for the decrepitude of its leadership, as they used to have some of the oldest leaders in the world. Yet these leaders managed to steer it on an ascending course. By contrast, the American leadership post Clinton has been intensely polarizing and has set the country up for what some see as the steepest decline in a very long time, if not ever. Bush has undoubtedly attracted far more attention from late night comedy shows than the Chinese leaders could ever hope to see.

We'll try to correct this oversight by looking at some recent Chinese trends.

(1) Pole Aerobics

One recent meme that is catching on in China is pole aerobics. China does not have as many strip clubs as North America, and as such, these aerobics come without the negative conotations.

Xiao, 26, who works as a supermarket manager, is one of a growing number of women experimenting with China's newest, and most controversial, fitness activity: pole dancing. "I used to take a normal aerobics class, but it was boring and monotonous," Xiao said. "So I tried out pole dancing. It's a really social activity. I've met a lot of girls here who I'm now close friends with. And I like that it makes me feel sexy."

The woman who brought this to China, Luo Lan, has parents in the academia and struggled with more than 20 jobs before starting this school. Some think that this meme is emblematic for transformations happening in the Chinese society.

(2) Fish Pedicures

Another new trend, this time brought by a Chinese family business to the USA, involves getting rid of dead skin using garra rufa, a special kind of fish. This treatment was first used in Turkey and from there was adopted in several Asian countries.

Ho said the hot water in which the fish thrive doesn't support much plant or aquatic life, so they learned to feed on whatever food sources were available — including dead, flaking skin. They leave live skin alone because, without teeth, they can't bite it off.

Ho, the owner, hopes to start an American franchise for his idea.

(3) China manipulates weather

Those who played Red Alert 2, might recall some of the superweapons of that real-time strategy (RTS) game, including the ability to cause a devasting storm over the opponent's base, equal in destructive power with a nuclear attack. That ability was equivalent to a strange premonition, as other "features" of that game transgressed reality as well. And yet, although weather manipulation was given to the Western Allies in the game, it seems that it's being used the most by the former communist countries. According to Xinhua, China used it for the Games' Opening:
We fired a total of 1,104 rain dispersal rockets from 21 sites in the city between 4 p.m. and 11:39 p.m. on Friday, which successfully intercepted a stretch of rain belt from moving towards the stadium,' said Guo Hu, head of the Beijing Municipal Meteorological Bureau (BMB). While there wasn't a single drop of rain over the National Stadium — also known as the Bird's Nest — during the opening ceremony from 8:00pm-12:00am on August 8, the weather services said that Baoding City of Hebei Province, to the southwest of Beijing, received the biggest rainfall of 100 millimeters Friday night, and Beijing's Fangshan District recorded a rainfall of 25 millimeters.

Weather manipulation was previously in the news when Russia used it for its own purposes. Pravda.ru stated a while back:

The weather in Moscow depends on the financial capacity of a client Specialists, who study the influence of changing weather on the natural environment and people's health, have a different attitude to man's interference in the Earth's atmosphere. Moscow authorities often order sunny weather on important days, when the city holds important holidays or international summits. A group of airplanes disperses clouds above Moscow to guarantee sunshine when the black sky is not desirable at all. Ecologists say, however, that such interventions bring more bad than good. They result in the fall-out of harmful chemicals and affect weather conditions not only on the required territory, but on its outskirts too. Such an influence usually lasts for quite a long period of time. The so-called weather unit of the Moscow aviation uses iodic silver, frozen carbon dioxide, cement and liquid nitrogen in its weather activities. Doctor of chemical sciences, Lev Fyodorov, said that the weather-changing group of airplanes was used in Moscow during the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of Victory over Nazim on May 9th, and on June 12, Russia's Day. "The entire operation has only one goal - to make a cloud rain. Rain will definitely occur, sooner or later, although people often wish to have it sooner. When airplanes fly above the clouds, they drop hard particles in the center of cloudiness. The particles attract water and it starts raining. The chemicals simply speed up the process," the specialist said. Carbonic acid snow, or dry ice, is a form of carbonic acid, an inseparable constituent of the planet's atmosphere. Nitrogen is present in the air too: small portions of chemical reagents cannot change the gas structure of the atmosphere. The amount of cement, which is also used in cloud-dispersing reagents, is extremely small in comparison with the dirt that people walk on in streets of a city. "When parents take their children outdoors, they subject their kids to the harmful influence of car exhausts. The smoke of the exhaust is heavy: it floats along the ground surface and children breathe the emissions in. As a matter of fact, parents do not even think about such a harmful influence. If tiny cement particles fall down on the city with rain, no one will notice it, for it will be equivalent to conventional atmospheric dust," Lev Fyodorov said. Silver acids were used for similar purposes during the Soviet era, when Stalin or Brezhnev were at power. Silver acids condense moisture and precipitate better, although the method was not used in practice much because of the high cost. Russian news programs often report about intentions of Moscow or St.Petersburg governments to improve weather on the threshold of an important event. Russian meteorologists say that such practice is used presumably in Russia, whereas weather services of foreign states do not send their aircrafts to bomb rainy clouds with cement and acids. Lev Fyodorov is certain, however, that Russia is not the only state that uses weather-affecting technologies. The USA fights for sunny weather too, when the US government prefers to clear the sky above Washington, for example. "Rain can ruin holidays in the States too. When Putin or Bush step up on a tribune outdoors, it stops raining, if it was raining, of course," the expert said. Russian meteorologists were going to change weather for defense purposes decades ago. The Central Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party issued special decrees on the scientific research of the matter. A special institute for experimental meteorology was established in the city of Obninsk to study the objectives of using weather changes in the national defense system. Nowadays, specialists change weather with the only one goal: to clean the sky to create festive atmosphere in large cities. One may say that the weather in Moscow depends on the financial capacity of a client.

More recently, a homeowner decided to sue the government when an unexploded bag of cement fell through his roof, nearly demolishing his property.

(4) Olympic condoms

The best ads on Chinese TV promote these days the swimming suit that made so many records fell, but also yet another marker of a new era: condoms. Here is a slideshow of these ads:

And really, who can resist Elasun (the condom maker)'s slogan: "Sports make you health"?!?

Sources

1. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/25/asia/25pole.php

2. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/07/21/america/NA-US-Fish-Pedicures.php

3. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-08/09/content_9079637.htm http://english.pravda.ru/science/19/94/379/15693_weather.html

4. http://inventorspot.com/articles/cheeky_olympic_condoms_16765

5. Photos: first by Getty, second by Reuters

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