Two Women. One Country. Modern China from the Inside.
20 Years Later: How did Chinese students react to the News of 9/11?
31:422021 marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks carried out by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda against targets in the United States. Over 3000 people died as a result, and the world was forever changed. Since then, the United States has faced many challenges, including a long-running military occupation of Afghanistan, which ended only this year. The past two decades have also seen a steadily rising China seeking to challenge US hegemony and disrupt the existing international order. What did 9/11 mean for China and the US-China relationship? How did people in China understand and react to the news that the United States had been attacked? In this episode, Karoline and Yajun share their personal stories of hearing about 9/11 and how those experiences have affected their later careers as cultural intermediaries between the world and China. They also reflect on how their careers have been affected by the complicated US-China relationship and consider how they can contribute to improving mutual understanding between the world’s two largest economies.
Gombo's Prayers on the Plateau
32:44When most people think about China in the 21st century, they picture the big coastal megacities like Beijing or Shanghai. But that’s only a small part of the picture. For this episode, we traveled out west to Qinghai Province, which has an area the size of France but a population of just six million people. The region where Qinghai and southern Gansu Province meet has long been a frontier zone, a point of contact for many different ethnic groups, including people who still live a nomadic lifestyle. Today it is one of the poorest regions in China and has been the focus of intensive development even as many people who live there try and preserve their traditional lifestyle and distinctive culture. We talk to Gombo, who was raised in a Mongolian nomadic family and went on to be the first in his area to graduate from college. Gombo describes his life growing up in a nomad camp, how Tibetan Buddhism continues to be a significant part of his life, and how he pursued his education and career in modern China. Today, Gombo works in the travel industry with the company Elevated Trips based out of Xining. Gombo is also a very talented musician and he shared with us some of his songs which you can hear as part of the episode.
Downsizing in Dali
44:50Are you tired of big city life? Ever think of escaping the noise, dust, and exhausting pace of life for a slice of the country? For many young people in China, work means 12-hour days, six days a week, with a long and crowded commute to and from work. No wonder so many people are considering trading urban living for a rural lifestyle. In recent years, Dali has become a magnet for writers, musicians, artists, painters, and people looking to simplify their lives. In this episode, Karoline Kan talks to Feather, who moved to Dali from Beijing, about her lifestyle change.
The cost of beauty: Why is cosmetic surgery so popular in China?
23:40The Medical Aesthetics industry (what your grandmother calls “plastic surgery”) is booming in China. According to Deloitte, China's aesthetic medicine market grew from 65 billion yuan (US$10 billion) in 2015 to 175 billion yuan in 2019. That’s three times faster than the global industry average. Why are Chinese women -- and men -- so crazy about beauty treatments? Don’t they worry about the risks and possible side effects? Today we talked to Guli Ai, a consumer with ten years of experience using aesthetics treatment. Guli explains her journey in pursuit of beauty and why she’s not afraid to take advantage of the benefits of medical science in her quest for perfection.
Buzzing and Bubbling Business Start-ups for the Covid-19 Era
36:02While many companies have felt the impact of Covid-19, some courageous entrepreneurs in China are still willing to take risks and launch new ventures in this time of global economic fluctuations. Our guest today, Lysa Wei, is one of them. In 2020, Lysa started her own company bringing hard seltzer to the China market. Low-calories and sugar-free, hard seltzers have become one of the world’s hottest (or coldest, depending on how you like drinks served) alcoholic beverages in the world. In this episode, Lysa explains the opportunities and the challenges of starting a company in the Covid era. She also shares how to introduce a new alcoholic beverage to Chinese millennials who like to get their buzz differently from their parents or older siblings.
Promoting LGBTQ rights in today's China
37:15The LGBTQ+ community in China is largely out of sight, and awareness of ideas relating to sexual equality is still very low. Ying, who calls herself Iron, is a feminist, activist, and director of the Beijing LGBT Center. She is one of the most prominent activists promoting LGBT rights in China and has played a vital role in arranging mental health services for the LGBTQ community. For the first time, a national survey has been conducted to look at the lives of the LGBTQ community in China. Ying joins our show today to discuss her personal experience as a member of this community and how she developed her passion into a career. She also shares with us her views on the progress – and remaining challenges – for activists promoting LGBTQ rights in the PRC.
Traveling for Change
39:01Many people have thought about quitting their 9-to-5 job to travel around the world, but few people carry out their plan. One couple made it happen and found a new career inspiration and life direction along the way. Faye and Celyn live in Beijing. Faye worked at a Chinese agricultural company. Celyn (celynbricker.com) was an artist who had always been interested in using art as a lens to look at social issues. They quit their jobs, left Beijing with just two backpacks, and arrived in Africa as the first stop. They planned to travel along the human migration route and record the highlights of their journey as a documentary. They didn’t have a clear agenda in terms of what stories they were going to collect, but it did not take them long before they found that climate change was a term that frequently appeared in conversations with local communities. Climate change interrupted people’s agricultural routines, caused conflicts between different groups of people, and threatened local religions' survival. It even contributed to the rise of the HIV infection rate in certain areas as climate change affected the kinds of economic opportunities that had previously been empowering women. Along the way, they also learned the wisdom to live harmoniously with nature. After returning to China, the couple decided to focus on climate-related art projects and founded Celu Studio to provide a public platform to learn more and take positive action. In this episode, Karoline Kan sits down with Faye and Celyn to learn more about their journey and their new platform for tackling one of the world’s most important and pressing issues.
49:31How do you do it? Where do you find the time? Women in leadership positions are frequently asked how they balance family life and their career. Which makes us wonder: why don’t we ask the same questions of male executives? Is it less of an issue for men, or are they just more reluctant to talk about work-life balance, fearing that it might not conform to the expectations of a strong boss focused on his work and leading his team? Perhaps what is needed is a safe space for male leaders to challenge these stereotypes and talk about their challenges juggling family, marriage, and a successful career. You wouldn’t think that the high-wattage conclave of World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos would provide that kind of cozy safe space, but that’s exactly where a group of “Davos Dads” gathers to share their family struggles and swap parenting tips. In this episode, we talked to David Aikman. David is the Chief Representative Officer of Greater China for WEF. This year, the annual meeting is hosted virtually, but David talks about organizing the “Dads group” at past meetings. David also shares with us his views on leadership and the experiences he has learned from nearly two decades working with some of the world’s top leaders.
Study, Study, Now What?
53:49Schools all over China have signs and banners exhorting students to hao hao xuexi, tiantian shang shang ("Study hard and make progress every day"). Being a kid -- or a parent! -- in China means a lot of pressure to compete and succeed and the educational system is built around the college entrance exams. Students sacrifice their childhood and freedom for hours and hours of homework and after-school programs to “win the game at the starting point” and secure a promising future. But are exams and homework the purpose of education? Quite a few people in China have been exploring alternative solutions and approaches. In this episode, we talked to Chen Zishu, a Harvard-educated student who brought her ideas and actions back to China. She tells us about her academic and professional journey and shares her observations about China’s education-industrial complex.
The Women Podcast "2021 can't possibly be worse, right?" Year in Review Episode
35:41It seems like every email we have received recently begins with “In this challenging year…” Well 2020, your time is almost up. You only have a few days left before we turn the page to 2021. Every year at this time, we look back on the year that was and talk about our plans for the future. In this episode, Yajun, Jingjing, and Karoline discuss surviving a global pandemic, their thoughts on a new global order while also talking about their personal highlights (and low-lights) of 2020, including new babies, family health emergencies, lockdown blues, and the challenge of staying motivated while the world seems to be falling apart. Finally, the ladies share their new year resolutions because 2021 has got to be an improvement over 2020, right? Right!?!?!?