Nachrichten aus der Reich der Mitte: German Reportage from the PRC

Der Spiegel has been simply plundering all kinds of topics lately in its coverage of China which are worth noting.  The global nuclear summit has the Hamburg magazine focused intently on the issue of proliferation and arms races, leading to excellent (and lengthy) articles by the Peking correspondent Andreas Lorenz about what China calls its “second line of artillery” and a pretty standard article “North Korea: For Atomic Tests, the Regime Has Money.”

QINGDAO, CHINA - APRIL 23: A Chinese Navy submarine attends an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy on April 23, 2009 in Qingdao of Shandong Province, China. Chinese warships and nuclear submarines were paraded as China holds an international fleet review, attended by 14 other nations including the United States and Russia, in the northern Chinese Navy port of Qingdao to mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. (Photo by Guang Niu/Getty Images) -- via Der Spiegel

I have no idea how American manufacturers are doing in China, but by Jove, Volkswagen is climbing ever higher in the Chinese automobile market.  It is, moreover, a testament to the extent of the recovery of consumer demand in China that sales of VW cars are up in the PRC:

Volkswagen Chart zeigen verkaufte in China 53 Prozent mehr VWs und 77 Prozent mehr Audis als im ersten Quartal 2009. Marktneuling Skoda meldet sogar einen Anstieg um 121 Prozent. Nach dem ungewöhnlich erfolgreichen ersten Quartal zeigen sich die Wolfsburger zuversichtlich, dass der Automarkt in China in diesem Jahr stärker als bisher erwartet wachsen wird. Volkswagen will mindestens so schnell zulegen wie der Gesamtmarkt, der sich nach Schätzungen chinesischer Experten um 25 Prozent ausweiten soll.


Compared to the first quarter of fiscal year 2009, this year VW sold 53 percent more autos in China, and Audi sold 77 percent more autos….In the wake of this unimaginably rich first quarter, the Wolfsburgers (e.g., the leadership of VW, akin to the idiom “Detroit”) are now aware that the automobile market in China will be much stronger than previously anticipated.  VW will, at the very least, exceed the cherished estimates of Chinese experts by 25%.

Der VW Vorstandsvorsitzende Martin Winterkorn steht am Donnerstag, 3.Dezember 2009, auf der Buehne zu Beginn der Ausserordentlichen Hauptversammlung von Volkswagen in Hamburg. (AP Photo/Heribert Proepper) ---VW chairman of the board Martin Winterkorn is seen prior to the beginning of the Volkswagen extraordinary general meeting in Hamburg, northern Germany, on Thursday, Dec.3, 2009. (AP Photo/Heribert Proepper) -- via Der Spiegel

Because of these and other huge opportunities, perhaps we in the Anglophone West need a few more articles entitled “Keine Angst vor der neuen Supermacht [No Fear of the New Superpower].”   Because China has a trade deficit.  And, as the photo galleries argue, some serious industrial pollution and Wanderarbeiter (mobile population looking for work).

Most of all, I recommend this 9-photo gallery of people looking for work in Chinese cities.  If you aren’t in Beijing and need a fix, or if you’re looking for work yourself, or if you (like me) just love big plastic bags that can carry all manner of God knows what, this is the gallery for you.

You Say It’s Your Birthday: North Korea Imports Chinese Automobiles as Gifts

The Huanqiu Shibao reports that North Korea has purchased more than 100 Chinese automobiles as gifts to be given by Kim Jong Il (during the three-day period that marks his father’s birthday).  According to the report, Kim spent more than 5 million US dollars on the automobiles, and plans to give them to mid-level cadre, particularly in the security sectors, who are disgruntled as a result of having lost their savings in the disastrous December currency revaluation.  They (the cars, not the cadre) moved through the Chinese city of Dandong a few days ago.

And speaking of Sino-North Korean relations and father-son duos, the Huanqiu has been running some interesting stories of late dealing with (son of Mao Zedong) Mao Anying’s time behind the lines of the Korean War battlefields (not to mention more info on Lin Biao during the Cultural Revolution).   Apparently the young Mao was, according to this story, skillful enough in English to interrogate an American POW captured by the Chinese armies.

Cogitating Schumann

Here are a couple of glimpses into the rehearsal room for an as-yet-unannounced performance I have planned of music by the great German romantic master, Robert Schumann.  It’s certainly labored in spots, and far from flawless, but the general outlines of something hopefully worthwhile are emerging.  Rehearsing with a pianist, it seems, is a bit like writing drafts with your editor sitting next to you.  Fortunately this pianist — Claudia Pendleton, of Seattle via Maine and Boston and Romania — is an incredible coach and collaborator.

Here is the opening of the concerto and the lyrical second theme:

and then the jutting cadenza, quirky detour into g minor, and explosive coda of the piece.  For some reason YouTube seems to have swallowed the last eight seconds of the piece, but if faster playing is your thing, you might enjoy this rehearsal fragment:

Finally, for some smooth playing and an explanation of the Schumann concerto’s themes by an old (young) friend of mine from Seattle, please meet the phenom Joshua Roman:

Readers in Seattle: On April 30, I’ll be performing at the Seattle Art Museum in a concert which includes the Brahms Clarinet Quintet as well as the Brahms Serenade in A.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more information on time (7 p.m.), tickets (cheap), and venue (gorgeous).

And just as Mozart improves Mahler, so too does cogitating Schumann allow one to penetrate slightly further into the wooded glens of Brahms’ mental world.  But what a vast gulf exists between perceived understanding and the ability to render thoughts into a kind of sensitive sound world; e.g. execution! That’s the gulf between Roman and Cathcart.  Must narrow the clef to Rome!