Cracker by Damian Christie

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Cracker: Weapons of Mass Production

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  • Idiot Savant,

    However I couldn’t help thinking that the guy whose job it was to test-fire a volley from each massive fluorescent green foam pellet gun didn’t realise he had the best job on the whole conveyor belt.

    As the proud owner of a pair of those foam pellet guns, I can only agree.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1704 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    A very interesting article. One consequence of the hard labour of parents and grandparents supporting the one child family, is that it can result in a double whammy: such children sometimes are horribly spoilt and self-centred (the ‘little emperor’ syndrome), and simultaneously have very expectations placed on them, to succeed at all costs. I see this played out in a number of my students for we do have a considerable number of Chinese students, who often are ill-equipped to cope with the NZ education system, especially we privilege independent thinking and critical analysis (also applies to NZ students, of course).

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2496 posts Report Reply

  • artig,

    Those 3 kiwis in Guangzhou sound familiar. Was there a documentary on TV some months ago where they were interviewed?

    BoP • Since Oct 2010 • 40 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    spinning, spinning, spinning...
    in regards to the last photo,
    are there topless women in Guangzhou, too?
    [ ; - )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7426 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    And like modern China, Vietnam has become Communist in name only.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5283 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Great story, Damien. Thanks for that. Amazing country.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10477 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    @Artig - Yes, there was a documentary of sorts, that would be my show 'Hindsight', and an episode around the history of the concept of Buy Kiwi Made:

    @Ben - thanks!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1162 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    Those days [of sweatshops] are far gone.

    Or moved inland, perhaps, as recent reports of unrest at Foxconn plants in Taiyuan and Zhengzhou may suggest.

    Question for the lawyers: Does New Zealand have an equivalent of the US's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? If not, is one in the works?

    I think China sees any new business as a good thing for the country as a whole, so they try and make it as easy as possible

    Better be careful with that, things are changing.

    Better hurry, got a class to run off to... What Geoff said about the students.

    And I'm with Ben: Great story. Could we have the NZ media clone you, Damien? Because we need a lot more reporting like this.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2380 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Yeah, fascinating, Damien. And, notwithstanding what Ian says, without any celebrity nipple.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3884 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Great article! Always wanted to go to China…. and with Damian (and Chris W!) I almost feel like I have :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2040 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Guangzhou was the first Chinese city I visited on a memorable trip in April/May 1976. It was usually called Canton then by New Zealanders and many of the local NZ Chinese had family links to the region. I remember heat and humidity as I had never experienced before, also crowds and noise, and locals approaching us to practice their English. We had to enter China from Hong Kong by walking across the border.

    Chou En Lai (not sure about modern spelling) had recently died and we were unaware of the political upheavals happening which erupted into riots in Tien an Mien square when we got to Beijing (at the same time as Muldoon). All tourists were rushed out to a huge fireworks display at a stadium outside the city so they wouldn’t notice. (I have probably mentioned this before). Anyhow our trip was all due to the wonderful work of the New Zealand China Society and the enthusiasm of Nancy and George Goddard, and I was sad to read that Nancy died recently.
    They were the pioneers of today’s NZ-China relationships.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3092 posts Report Reply

  • artig,

    Thanks Damian. That's the one.

    BoP • Since Oct 2010 • 40 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Guangzhou was the first Chinese city I visited on a memorable trip in April/May 1976.

    Wow, Hilary, that trip must've been amazing. I was too busy being a newborn baby about that time to visit China. The changes I've seen since I was first blown away by the sheer size of the Xiang River back in 1999 are incredible. Reading Mark Salzman's Iron and Silk was a bit of a mind-bender because his descriptions of Changsha in the early 80s had enough that was familiar to me from Changsha in '99/2000 for it to be really familiar, but enough of a bygone era for it to be completely foreign.

    Chou En Lai (not sure about modern spelling)

    Zhōu Ēnlái

    Tien an Mien


    Tone markers are generally considered optional in hànyǔ pīnyīn, but really should be included. Though your spellings aren't any less modern, considering that various forms of Yale, Wade-Giles, and other competing systems of romanisation are still in use in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and the diaspora as well as historical contexts, adapted to Cantonese and Hokkien/Fujian and I imagine also Hakka languages and dialects as well as Mandarin.

    Damian's 4th photo reminds me very much of both a generic Chinese city and my first experience of Guangzhou. That first experience of Guangzhou was July 3, 2000, on a China Southern flight from Changsha. The plane zigzagged lower and lower, the buildings (exactly like in that photo) getting ever more uncomfortably closer, and the rivers such a thick brown colour I started to think that if the pilot couldn't find the airport we could just land on one of the rivers. Judging by Damian's photos, although the buildings have got higher and the people more, the colours of the city haven't changed.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2380 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Am I the only one who's been given godlike powers to close threads and make posts sticky? Russell?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6241 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Kyle Matthews,


    ...godlike powers to close threads and make posts sticky?

    as it's the web, surely the threads should be sticky?

    But yeah? what's the lowdown on these jargonised buttons
    what esoteric new infomanagement function do they fulfil?

    more complexity for everyday life?
    will they free me up (like the computer)
    for hours of extra productive toil?

    meanwhile I ain't pushing nothin'....
    (basic fear of the unknown)

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7426 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    meanwhile I ain't pushing nothin'


    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19382 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Thanks Chris. I should have checked correct spellings and tones (after all I try and be careful with macrons). This was when places were known to NZers as Canton, Peking etc. There were two of us young ones on the NZ-China Society tour bringing the average age down to about 50 - so an interesting bunch of old China hands. Three of us were vegetarians which meant we got wonderful fresh veges from the markets, while the others, being seen as guests of the country, were served assorted animal parts three times a day. This was soon after Kirk had 'recognised' the Chinese government, and NZers were seen as esteemed friends. We even got invited to a banquet in the great hall of the people in Beijing. Mao died later that year and things got even more politically fraught. We met Rewi Alley at his house in Beijing but didn't realise that he couldn't really talk freely with us - he was never alone and under virtual house arrest at the time. But he sent us books of his poems for many years after that.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3092 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    One other impression from that trip, which probably never happens to tourists now, is that experience of being stared at as fascinating aliens. In one city (Loyang?) when we got off our tour bus huge crowds gathered to stare at the strange people alighting. Not friendly or unfriendly, just stares as far as you could see.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3092 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Am I the only one who’s been given godlike powers to close threads and make posts sticky? Russell?

    Not just you! Thanks to Sacha for the heads-up. There was a site upgrade last night and a little permissions problem as a result. Thanks for your restraint :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22182 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Thanks to Sacha for the heads-up.


    I recommend us all using the 'Report' link that shows up when you point to the bottom left corner of any comment. Otherwise might take a while before Russell happens to read about it.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19382 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I hope they weren't implementing "Public Address Auctions"

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5523 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Oh, the staring still happens. Not so much in the big cities, although there is a certain subset of Beijingers who have a lazy "another foreigner" stare, but certainly even in the suburban and rural regions of Beijing and, of course, the smaller cities obvious foreigners are enough of a rarity for people to stop and stare.

    I have a book that has a photo of Rewi Alley sitting with Zhou Enlai in Workers' Stadium here in Beijing in the middle of the Cultural Revolution, acres of empty space around them. His book Yo Banfa! is fascinating in its cheerful optimism that China was just about to overturn everything and build some kind of utopia - which seems to have been a pretty common attitude in the early 50s. I would've loved to have heard his stories of 60 years in China - in freer times than when you met him, naturally.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2380 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    Just a little thing for the author, but if you are going to include the 'greater city area' in the population then you need to do that for every other mega city in the world.

    Including the population of greater Seoul for example would bump it's number up to 24 million as well.

    Since Nov 2006 • 901 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    Fascinating article. The type of growth that has gone on in China and other parts of the region is astonishing. Mind blowing by comparison to our type of growth speeds which sees us fretting about Auckland reaching 2 million in 20 years and where are we going to put them all.

    Even in Korea they'll say something like "we need to build a new city somewhere strategic, let's chuck one there", and in ten years time there will be a city with several hundred thousand and counting built from scratch with all the infrastructure surrounding it. it's like something from Simcity or one of those other build your own city games.

    Since Nov 2006 • 901 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report Reply

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