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Thought on Theatre I

Theatre has filled part of my life. It came unexpected, and came as a water torrent crashing and carrying me somewhere far, and it came with irony.

The first time ever I got in a theatre has been on April the 24th, 2012, and I did it facing the audience, on the stage as an (amatorial) “actor”. The play was Midnight at Havana written by Yu Rongjun and it did opened my mind, all the experience: from the very beginning to the last performance.

Since then, it has been a love story, yet a quite sad. One of those love story you know that will soon expire, vanish as suddenly as it appeared. Though powerful and passionate, the real story comes after, in the everlasting search for it, in a hope to find it again and to meet it like the first time, with the same magic.

It’s difficult. Chances are we lose the reason, the faith, life asks for its debts to be repaid, and we’re called to answer forgetting what really matter.

48 Morto che parla, Naples 2014

I miss making theatre, I miss living it and watching it happening and I am still looking for it, somewhere, sometime. What for, I keep wondering: is it because it create new illusions, new lifes? Probably, but I do feel there is something deeper, something rooted in our primitive nature and in our need to express a total different world, an idea (or a non idea).

It’s maybe the act of creating (even in a deconstructionist way of acting) that gives birth to all the energy in a theatre, in a rehearsal room or between a watcher and a watched.

I am creating possibilities, and through them something might or might not happen.

Ritual, also like performance, is a liminal event. The word liminal comes from the Greek limnos, or threshold. A liminal space is a state in between, or a transition between different states. A liminal space is not useful or productive in any concrete or materialistic fashion. It is a transitional space, neither practical nor constructive, in the real of day-to-day living. Like the space of a doorway between rooms, it lacks concrete definition because even though it conveys something from its previous stage, it has not yet become the new one

Anne Bogart

Midnight at Havana, Naples 2012

In China there is a long theatre tradition, and contemporary productions offer interesting examples, for instance those of Meng Jinghui, Tian Qinxin and Lin Zhaohua. However, more than the quality of their theatre, the point that hit me most is the incredibly high prices of these productions.

Would be hypocritical to say that theatre, and all the art exhibitions, should be free. However, price should not be a high obstacle for people willing to enjoy it.

China Unsustainable

China is never easy.

I’ve learned it on my skin, living everyday along and among them, and my total impression is not quite good. After relatively few months, my feelings still suggest me that the actual Chinese way of life is not sustainable.

Many words have been written down, spoken out about the unsustainability of China’s economy and its lack of democracy. However, in my opinion the economical and political factors come well below the socio-cultural one.
Tightly bounded to their job, the Chinese I have watched till now experience quite few moments far from it, and it sounds absurd in a society where the government wants to make the cultural industry a pillar of its economy.

True, I’m watching through a western lens, but if not that, what? Would I be able to ever watch using a neutral eye? Maybe, yet the feeling is strong to not be embraced or analysed.

Chinese are not to be blamed though. I would say their own attachment to the work seems deeply rooted in their own culture. Obviously, they work hard in order to get rich, rapidly possibly. And they study mainly for the same reason.

Fastness, quickness, tirelessness, unsustainable key words of contemporary China, that soon or after will cause Chinese to blow up their mind or to suddenly bump against the short nature of time.

China is also the land of slowness and of the not environment-friendly bureaucracy. If on one side there is a population working at unsustainable levels, on the other side there is a bureaucracy class among slowest on Earth. The rate of paper consumption for almost everything is about 3 to up to 5 papers, full of marks and signatures, most time useless.
I happen to find empty offices or or free desks sometime, but its months that I have realised the reason: just giving up waiting. Not that Chinese are not good at waiting, in fact, armed with their smartphone, they pass many hours weekly just waiting for something, but sometimes the challenge is simply too tough.

These are just some impression, but I would really like a more relaxed China. In their crazy rush towards economic development and towards richness, Chinese are losing what still remain of Chineseness, that’s something quite different than rice, ducks and flying dragons.

Welcome to China

The airplane landed on a misty road in the Xianyang airport. Despite the early hour, men where driving working machines all around. Cold, smog and a flavour of something burning not far away gained access to my nose saying me “Welcome to Northwest China”.
We landed in China on February the 14th, Saint Valentine, as if I were to meet with a shy girl whom I was in love with but I had never seen before. I met her at morning, when she was still sleeping and I saw her eyes slowly opening announcing her that from that day on I would have been besides her.
I saw the China not already China as newspapers describes, as academics talks about or just as we imagine. I saw the real sleepy face of China, fifty minutes between 8 am and 9 am in which the sharper watchers might get some sparkles of the three thousand years history of the East Asia giant as we read in many reporting stories. More probably it is only my soul making joke of me.

We took a taxi using a smartphone app, in a way that for a half embarrasses me but on the other half makes me appreciating the course we’re taking – we as global civilisation.
With a headache we tried to understand what the driving tried to tell us, in the most polite way, yet most of the drive went on in silence. We payed.
Left all the luggages in my partner’s room, we left to look for my booked apartment. We found it, but no one seemed to know anything about my reservation.
At last I found a small flat, and with a huge headache I felt China, and its all problems, saying me “Welcome”.

US out of the TPP means new chances for China

The TPP Members before Trump

With the withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) signed by Trump on Monday 24th the Pacific area has been set open to new trade horizons and new balances.

Originally, the TPP was a multilateral trade deal involving many nations laying in the Asia-Pacific area, together totalling the 40% of the global GDP. The deal excluded China. It has to be put in the Obama’s strategy “Pivot to Asia”, outlined mainly to counter the ever increasing influence of China in the region and to gain a share and a profit from those markets. Unsurprisingly, Trump has retired the US from the TPP, and observers consider it a flaw, a hazardous choice.

Who benefits most from just the first week of Trump-as-president is China, that seems to be ready to step up as a leader, especially in the region – probably the most attractive in economical terms, or maybe just as a powerful guide.

“If anyone were to say China is playing a leadership role in the world I would say it’s not China rushing to the front but rather the front runners have stepped back leaving the place to China” said Zhang Jun, director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s international economics department, who made the comments during a briefing with foreign journalists to discuss President Xi Jinping’s visit to Switzerland last week.

In just a week, the world scenario has changed enormously, with President Xi Jinping preaching globalisation, market and climate change at the Davos’ World Economic Forum, and Trump smashing up all the efforts of the Obama administration in less than a week bringing up his “America First” idea.

Australia and New Zealand have shown their will to save the TPP by including China and other Asian countries in it, but they are also prepared to accept other paths. China has proposed a counter pact, the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) in 2014 at the APEC summit and has championed the Southeast Asian-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) launched in 2012. Moreover, China is already involved in the “One Belt One Road” project that will see the participation of several countries with massive investments in infrastructure and will prove China not only as an important global player but also as a more reliable power.
A guess of the changing scenario has also been the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), when many formally US allies joined it.

Providing the right circumstances, China may increase its influence worldwide and take probably the position of the United States, at least in the Asia Pacific area, becoming even a better partner than the US. China has everything in its favour, first of all its history and its position, then its economy dimension.
As United States seem to be retiring from the region and, partially, globally with Trump’s “America First” idea, China is ready to step up as a major trade partner in the Asia Pacific area, bringing up new opportunities and possibilities to whom is able to catch them. With the uncertainty of the Trump administration, China might try to set itself as a global guide/leader which other countries should be willing to follow.

Una delle prime mosse di Trump è stata tirare fuori gli Stati Uniti dal Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), una mossa che ha aperto nuovi orizzonti e nuovi equilibri nell’area del Pacifico.

Il TPP era un trattato commerciale multilaterale che includeva molti paesi dell’area Pacifico Asiatica e che, in termini economici, totalizzavano insieme il 40% del PIL mondiale. Il patto escludeva la Cina ed era da collegare alla strategia dell’amministrazione Obama del “Pivot to Asia”, concepita per fronteggiare la maggior influenza della Cina nell’area e per avere accesso ai dinamici mercati di quei paesi.
La decisione di Trump arriva senza troppa sorpresa, essendo stato un punto portato avanti nella sua campagna elettorale, ma molti osservatori la considerano una mossa azzardata.

A beneficiare della prima settimana di presidenza Trump è senza dubbio la Cina, che sembra essere pronta ad assumere il ruolo di leader, specialmente nella regione — sicuramente la più interessante in termini economici — o quantomeno ad assumere il ruolo di potente guida globale.

“Se tutti dicono che la Cina riveste un ruolo di leader nel mondo io direi che invece non è la Cina che si è precipitata ai vertici, piuttosto chi già c’era le ha lasciato il posto” ha commentato Zhang Jun, direttore generale del dipartimento di economia internazionale del Ministero degli Esteri cinese durante una conversazione sul World Economic Forum di Davos.

In una sola settimana lo scenario globale è totalmente cambiato, con il presidente Xi Jinping che porta avanti discorsi inerenti alla globalizzazione, ai cambiamenti climatici e mercato al WEF di Davos e Trump, dall’altra parte, che spazza via gli sforzi delle politiche dell’amministrazione Obama con la sua idea di “America First”, l’America prima di tutto.

Australia e Nuova Zelanda hanno comunicato le loro intenzioni di salvare il TPP, includendo la Cina e altri paesi asiatici, anche se si sono dette pronte a intraprendere nuove vie.
In anni recenti, la Cina ha messo in campo delle contro proposte come il Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) presentato al summit dell’APEC del 2014 e il Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) lanciato nel 2012. Inoltre, la Cina è impegnata nel suo progetto della “One Belt, One Road”, altrimenti chiamata come la “Nuova Via della Seta”, che abbraccia uno svariato numero di paesi dall’Estremo Oriente fino ad arrivare alle rive del Mediterraneo e prevederà grandi investimenti infrastrutturali. E’ un progetto che non solo metterà alla prova la Cina quale principale attore globale ma anche come potenza affidabile.
Un indizio del cambiamento c’è stato già con la fondazione della AIIB, che ha visto la partecipazione di importanti alleati Statunitensi, compresa l’Italia.

Con le giuste circostanze, la Cina potrebbe aumentare la sua influenza globalmente e di assumere il ruolo degli Stati Uniti, quantomeno nell’area Pacifico Asiatica, diventando un partner commerciale anche migliore. La Cina ha tutto in suo favore, prima di tutto la sua storia e la sua posizione, così come la sua potenza economica.
Con gli Stati Uniti in ritirata dalla regione e, forse, globalmente, la Cina è pronta a diventare il maggior partner economico dell’area, andando a costituire importanti opportunità e occasioni per chi è pronto a coglierle.

China’s 2016 Outcomes and their Clues

Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. Photo Credits Anna Botta.

The years beginning are always full of news and analysis about the possible outcomes of the year in question, and it is almost always a battle between optimists and pessimists. This year it’s the same.

China is coming out of a good year, according to the China National Bureau of Statistics its GDP grew of 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, quite more than expected with the tertiary industry adding the higher percentage. In fact, the value added of the tertiary industry is 7.8 percent on last year, followed by the secondary industry with 6.1 percent and the primary industry with a solely 3.3 percent.

The overwhelming percentage of the tertiary industry on the GDP lets us thinking that China is starting to foster up its economical shift from an export-driven economy to a domestic consumption trained economy, more stable and less dependent on the international goods demand.

The type of enterprises contributing most to the 2016’s GDP are the private owned, which grew up by 6.9 percent. However, in terms of industry sectors, the high-tech industry grew by 10.8 percent over the last year, 4.8 faster than other industrial enterprises and largely outperforming the manufacturing, increased by 6.8 percent. The rise of the high-tech industry percentage is probably another signal that suggests us China is on the brink to take a new path, changing not only what type of industry weighs more on the GDP, but also the sector in each industry.

Another clue of this trend – or, probably, just a case, it is the growth of investment in fixed assets that has proven to be slightly slower than last year but stable.

The figures give us a situation in which the investments from the private sector are down in relative terms, 3.2 percent – even if not in absolutes’, compared to those from the State Owned Enterprises that in relative terms are up by 18.7 percent.

Considering the figures linked to the sectors, tertiary saw a rise of the investment up by 17.4 percent, mainly thanks to the infrastructures. All suggests that the main obstacle to the economical shift is to be seen in the State Owned Enterprises.

While a slow growth of the investment in fixed asset might be read as a clue of the economic reform, is still to be seen whether the figures shown are a truthfully trend-change or just a case.

Market sales results in fast growth, being led by a surge in online retail sales, up by 26.2 percent, giving us another reason to think positively about reforms and about the increasing of the domestic consumption. In fact, in the document released by the China National Bureau of Statistics we can read that “in 2016, the contribution of final consumption expenditure to GDP accounted for 64.6 percent”.

The economic environment seems to be very favourable to set up new start up enterprises, such as those in innovation-driven sectors. According to the figures, in 2016 have been registered 5.53 million new enterprises, up by 24.5 percent over the last year, an average of 15 thousand each day.

The Rural-Urban Income gap seems to be narrowing down, with the urban households per capita disposable income up by 7.8 percent, while the rural’s saw a rise of 8.2 percent. In my opinion, it’s quite soon to start stating that the whole gap is effectively narrowing down for at least two reasons: the figures might be uncertain and the urban household disposable income is still 2.72 times higher than the rural’s.

China is still kept down by the debt burden that this year has surged up. The debt to GDP ratio rose by 277 percent at the end of 2016, from 254 percent of the last year, as stated in a note released by UBS.

With a growth forecast of 6.5 percent for the 2017 we shouldn’t expect radical economic reforms, nor even meaningful movements since China is leading toward the 19th party congress to be held in October. As usually, when a so important event lures ahead in the Country agenda, Chinese economical and political situation stay freeze. The next party congress will be useful to president Xi Jinping to strengthen his power in the party and, probably, to overcome the party’s resistant factions.

Provided that president Xi Jinping manages to stabilise his position at the head of the Country, the party and the PLA, and with also a clearer perspective of the US global role and the new Trump administration, then the 2018 might be the right year to push ahead with reforms.

Obviously, this is a discourse born from statistics and numbers. However, as often happens, the real situation and people feelings might be quite different, and that would be one of my main goals as soon as I land in China, at the start of February. Observing people feelings, hopes and emotions could be a better indicator of where the future will point to, and where we are at the present.

All’inizio di ogni anno si è travolti quasi sempre da notizie di ogni: analisi economiche, politiche e sui  risultati per l’anno a venire. Quasi sempre è una battaglia tra chi è positivo e chi, invece, pessimista.

La Cina viene fuori da un anno relativamente buono. Secondo il China National Bureau of Statistic, il PIL cinese è cresciuto del 6.8% nel quarto trimestre, leggermente di più di quanto previsto, con il settore terziario a contribuire per la maggior parte. Infatti, il valore aggiunto del settore terziario al PIL cinese nel 2016 è cresciuto del 7.8%, mentre il settore secondario si è fermato al 6.1% e il settore primario al 3.3%.

L’alta percentuale del terziario sul PIL fa pensare che la Cina stia iniziando a dare un maggior impeto alle riforme economiche attese ormai da qualche anno, che prevedono una ristrutturazione dell’economia cinese da una trainata dalle esportazioni a un’economia trainata invece dal consumo interno, da un certo punto di vista più sostenibile e meno dipendente dalla domanda globale.

Il tipo di imprese che hanno contribuito di più al PIL del 2016 sembrano essere quelle private, il cui contributo è cresciuto del 6.9%. Per quanto riguarda invece il settore in cui operano queste imprese, quello High-Tech è cresciuto più di tutti, il 10.8%, del 4.8% più veloce degli altri settori e lasciando indietro anche quello manifatturiero, fermo al 6.8%. Questa crescita può essere interpretata come l’attuazione di questa nuova strategia economica della Cina che prevede inoltre lo sviluppo e l’incentivo dei settori industriali tendenti all’innovazione e alle tecnologie avanzate, o comunque verso una produzione ad alto contenuto tecnologico.

Un altro indizio di questa tendenza – o probabilmente solo un caso – lo si ritrova nei dati relativi alla crescita degli investimenti fissi che risulta essere leggermente più lenta rispetto all’anno precedente sebbene stabile. In particolare, i dati ci mostrano una situazione in cui gli investimenti fissi intrapresi dal settore privato sono bassi in termini relativi, circa del 3.2%, mentre invece il tasso di crescita degli investimenti fissi delle imprese di Stato (SOEs) si attesta al 18.7% rispetto all’anno precedente. Il tasso di investimento fisso più alto lo si ritrova nel terziario con un 17.4%, grazie soprattutto agli investimenti nelle infrastrutture. Tutto sembra suggerire che le imprese di Stato rappresentino un ostacolo all’attuazione delle riforme e alla ristrutturazione economica cinese.

Se un rallentamento della crescita del tasso degli investimenti fissi può essere considerato come un passo verso le riforme economiche, resta da vedere se in realtà i valori forniti dall’ufficio statistico rappresentino un vero e proprio fenomeno verso quella direzione oppure semplicemente il frutto del caso.

Le vendite al dettaglio sono cresciute del 26.2%, per lo più guidate dagli acquisti online. Nella nota rilasciata dal China National Bureau of Statistic si legge che “nel 2016, il contributo dei consumi al PIL è stato del 64.6%”, e questo è un dato da non sottovalutare.

Il 2016 è stato inoltre un anno abbastanza favorevole per la nascita delle nuove imprese: si stima che stiano state fondate 5.53 milioni di nuove imprese, in media quindi mila al giorno. Un dato a indicare che, nonostante le circostanze globali non siano state delle migliori, in Cina milioni di imprese hanno comunque trovato terreno fertile per mettere radici, probabilmente favorite ancora da un certa disponibilità di credito.

Il rapporto debito-PIL rappresenta ancora una piaga per la Cina. Secondo analisti della UBS, al quarto trimestre del 2016 si attesterebbe al 277%, mentre nel 2015 era del 254%. Così come il divario tra reddito pro capite urbano e rurale che, anche se mostra qualche segno di recupero, è tuttavia ancora enorme. Infatti, il reddito pro capite di una famiglia urbana risulta essere ancora, mediamente, 2.72 volte più alto di quello di un nucleo familiare delle aree rurali.

Con una crescita prevista del 6.5% per il 2017, non dovremmo aspettarci riforme economiche radicali, anche in prospettiva del diciannovesimo congresso del Partito Comunista Cinese che si terrà a ottobre. Ci si aspetta che il presidente Xi Jinping rinforzi il suo potere e la sua posizione come guida e nucleo del partito, cercando di superare anche le resistenze di alcune fazioni intra-partitiche. Con la fine del congresso, e con una prospettiva migliore sul ruolo globale che assumeranno gli Stati Uniti e sull’operato dell’amministrazione Trump, nel 2018 la Cina potrebbe dare man forte alle tanto attese riforme economiche e sociali.

Sebbene questo sia un discorso nato da numeri e statistiche, molto spesso i sentimenti e i presentimenti delle persone possono essere molto differenti. Appurare le sensazioni dei cittadini cinesi sarà senza dubbio uno dei miei obiettivi non appena atterrerò in Cina. L’osservazione delle sensazioni, delle speranze e delle emozioni delle persone può spesso suggerirci verso che tipo di futuro ci si dirige e può darci una prospettiva completa sul presente.

 

A New Path

On the brink to make big changes, people usually decide to make promises to theirselves, or at least to who they care of. Not repeating again mistakes made in the past, not eating something or doing something else.

I am leaving the city and the life I’ve been pursuing for twenty years and now I feel it is my turn to make promises, commitments.

Naples has been very kind to me. The city where I chose to build the premises of my future life, the city where, in one of its once numerous book shops, I made my first encounters with Asia, through books by Tiziano Terzani, Edgar Snow, Lu Xun and many others that would make this article quite boring.

From Naples I will soon move to Xi’an, where I can finally meet the China and Asia. To celebrate it, I have decided to open this blog, as I way to channel my experiences, my understanding of that part of the world that, even though the evilly westernisation of the last thirty years, still preserve something of inexplicable in its hidden soul.

This blog would mean for me a try to make other people understand what really means China and Asia, what is on the surface and what, much deeply, beneath it. I’ll write on Literature, Economy, Politics and Personal Experiences, in a mix that I hope will not confuse, but make a wide and clear paint of Asia, particularly of China.

A blog born from a failure. A project has been parked in my minds and in my friends’ for many years till it drowned away: its name was Project Asia. The goal was to create a news site full of high quality news about Asia and China, yet it lacked the right amount of fortune and we were forced to leave this path.

My hope is that following this personal path I would one day find it again.

This blog is my commitment, it’s a way to share my passions with whoever would like to receive it, passions that are not limited to just Asia and Cina.

A blog to all the life adventurers out there.

Quando si accingono a fare grandi cambiamenti, le persone di solito si lasciano andare a promesse, impegni, per lo più con se stessi o con le persone che più hanno a cuore. Non ripetere gli stessi errori del passato, non magiare qualcosa o fare qualcos’altro.

Sto per lasciare la vita e la città che ho avuto per vent’anni, e sento che è il mio momento di fare promesse, prendere impegni.

Napoli è stata buona con me. E’ la città che ho scelto per costruire le premesse per il mio futuro, è la città dove, in una delle sue numerose librerie – una volta numerosissime, ho fatto i miei primi incontri con la Cina e l’Asia, attraverso i libri di Terzani, Edgar Snow, Lu Xun e molti altri che, a elencarli tutti, finirebbero per rendere noioso questo articolo.

Presto lascerò Napoli per Xi’an, dove finalmente incontrerò la Cina e la sua parte di Asia. Per celebrare questo grande traguardo ho deciso di aprire questo blog, inteso come un canale delle mie esperienze, di ciò che riesco a carpire di questa parte di mondo che, nonostante abbia subito più di trent’anni di occidentalizzazione, ancora preserva qualcosa di inesplicabile nascosto nella sua anima.

Per me questo blog è un modo per far comprendere per davvero l’Asia e la Cina alle persone, cosa c’è in superficie e cosa, molto più profondo, c’è al di sotto di essa. Scriverò di letteratura, economia, politica e di esperienze mie personali, in un misto che spero non confonda ma, al contrario, contribuisca a rendere un quadro più ampio e chiaro dell’Asia e in particolare della Cina.

E’ un blog che tuttavia nasce anche dal fallimento. Da alcuni anni si pensava di creare una piattaforma dove si potessero ottenere informazioni di qualità sulla Cina e sull’Asia, naturalmente di stampo giornalistico ma, come tante cose buone a questo mondo, non ha ricevuto la giusta dose di fortuna. Dalle ceneri di questo progetto, che portava il nome di Project Asia, ho deciso di convergere i miei passi su questa strada più personale.

La speranza è che, seguendo per questa strada, ci si possa ritrovare sullo stesso percorso lasciato dietro.

Questo blog è il mio impegno, è un modo per condividere la mia passione con chiunque sia disposto a riceverla, passioni che non sono limitate al solo amore per un continente.

Un blog per tutti gli avventurieri della vita.

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