About johnsiwek

2nd Year Graphic Design student in Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee

Haggling in Britain and China


During today’s lecture Jonathan brought up the topic of haggling. Normally tourists are not used to the idea of haggling over prices for products and are often embarrassed to attempt it. Venders in China put up their price up to 5 times over the normal price offered.

Britain uses a fixed price system in retail even though the prices are actually just the companies suggested price. We are happy to search around for offers or spend that little bit more for new possessions. A shop with an item on sale can retract any sale price and charge more for it because the sale price is just a low price for the customer to haggle with. It doesn’t normally happen like this. There are people who haggle for prices in independent retailers. Many independent stores are happy with this because it means you get a returning customer who is willing to pay more for the higher model then they would normally go for because they can get money off it.

All this reminded me of a day when I was working in a small camera shop in Portree on The Isle of Skye. A Chinese man came in looking to buy a camera. He saw a Sony Alpha 300 in the window and indicated that that was the one he wanted. I quickly became aware as he started passing me an iphone that he couldn’t speak English. On the phone was his friend in Hong Kong who spoke some English, he explained his friend in the shop wanted to buy the camera but wanted me to explain what it came with and the price to him so he could act as translator. After all the translation and a few more questions he started to haggle the price down. I told him that the camera was at a fixed price but he carried on to explain he didn’t have enough money on him to buy it at full price. The price was haggled up until he was £10 away from the set price. His friend explained he would have to digitally transfer the money to the man in the stores account.

The camera shop was owned buy a family friend who was a freelance photographer on the island. The shop was mainly just an extra source of income which before the domination of digital cameras had been very successful developing and printing film. The price mark up was very high on SLR cameras because we were the only place within 100miles that sold SLR’s. During tourist season we would sell out our stock of high range camera within a week so we could easily afford to put the price up.

After checking with my boss I sold the camera to the man for £10 under the asking price. He was very polite and shook my hand afterwards. I came to me that a British person trying to haggle would most likely come across rude and dismissive. I worked in Comet over the Christmas period and the people who tried to haggle were all like this. Perhaps its the culture of spending money at large retail businesses where you know everything is not marked at a realistic value that makes people behave like this.

Is a fixed price created by the retailers better then a haggling system?

Here’s a link I found about how to haggle in China for anybody thinking of traveling there.


Do we know where our products are made?

We all know that most of our clothes aren’t made in the UK. The vast majority are produced in Asia and the Middle East where textile-manufacturing costs are cheep. Everyone buys clothes made worldwide but few bother to find out where their new clothes are manufactured.

It is hard for the average buyer to take an interest in whether we buy them from an ethical, fair trade company or from a “sweatshop” factory employing children when all we’re given is “Made in …”. It is hard to find out where the products are actually manufactured and what the company policy is for workers. Often the brand will sub-contract textile factories in the Middle- East and Asia. The problem for the brand is they have to carry out consistent checks on these companies to ensure they haven’t contracted another factory that doesn’t abide the workers rights and working conditions.

In 2009, TNS Knitwear, who produced clothes for Primark, were found by a undercover BBC investigation, to be employing illegal workers who were working 12 hour days and receiving £3.50 an hour. The Manchester based company denied the claim and Primark carried out its own investigation. Primark is best known for its cheap fashion clothing and has risen in popularity through the recession. How much has this affected peoples spending in budget shops?

We asked the public on the street of Dundee if they know where their products come from and whether they would pay more for something more ethically manufactured then ones that were maybe a bigger brand but have vague ethical code. The majority of the people we asked assumed that their clothes were made in the Middle-East and Asia. They didn’t have much interest in finding where their clothes came from and it didn’t effect their choice of purchase. We asked if they would pay more for products produced in factories with better working conditions and pay. They said they would be more inclined to buy even if it meant paying a bit more for them. One woman had already heard about the scandal with Primark and had stopped shopping there because of it.

We we’re interested whether anyone knew if Apple products are actually being made in China. They all assumed that Apple built its products in America where they were designed. This shows how unaware we can be about our material possessions and the journey they took into creation. Perhaps brands should promote the journey of their clothes and make information about their ethics more available for the public.

I asked the staff at Superdry if they knew where the clothes that they sell are manufactured. The first person I asked said they were made in the E.U until I pointed out that the shirt next to me said “Made in China.” She left to get her manager who told me that the clothes were designed in England and manufactured abroad but she couldn’t tell me much more then that. She said that Superdry check all their factories for illegal workers and bad conditions. I found it interesting how the company don’t inform their staff of exact factories where maybe it could add a selling point for brands who have high prices to make their customers feel that it was ok to spend £50 on a pair of jeans if they knew it was of the best quality and made by workers who were well paid.

In a recession it is hard for people not to go for the good deals. They are normal happy that their new clothes might be lacking slightly in quality and will have a shorter life span then a high quality piece of clothing. When the global economy beings to rise then maybe there will be more focus on the manufacture of clothes within the general public.

Chinese Photography

The use of photography as an art form and as photojournalism in China has an interesting history and its future potential is bright. Photography as an art was slow to develop early on due to its isolation from the west and photographic technology. Political change from the 1930s to 1980s meant photography was used as a political and social aid for the government. The images from China heavily portrayed the cultural ideas of the political movements. Today work from `Chinese photographers mirror the expansion of China’s international relations, so new styles and applications of photography are helping shape China’s image.

When the first images of China started appearing in the 19th Century they were a window into what had been a mysterious, closely guarded nation to the rest of the world. Photographs of China were highly interesting to the western world and the photographer explorers that journeyed to China were held in high regard in the art world. The majority of photographers capturing images of China were foreigners. From 1846 to 1912 in Imperial China there were 84 recorded photographers, only 24 of them were Chinese and only 2 of them weren’t from Hong Kong. Chinese photographers weren’t held in the same status as foreign photographers regardless of how good the images were.

Felix Beato, a British photographer, was the first to record the vast variety of China’s culture in each region. He was often the only westerner that the locals had seen and the camera was not common in China either at this time. The reaction to his presence was not always as welcoming as he’d hoped. He photographed in a very journalistic style, recording day to day life in rural areas as well as busy city life.

In the 1930s a Dutch photographer Ellen Thorbacke also documented China but in a way that hadn’t been done before. She took portraits of the Chinese people, often with experimental techniques, and made “micro-stories” written as a short biography of each subject composing a macro view of Chinese society.

Up until 1937 photography of China was most taken by westerners but after the rise of the communist government photography was used as political and cultural motivation. 5 themes were retained as “model dramas” and were used to depict China. They showed the spirit and industrial glories of the new nation.

Photography as an art form was limited but many photographers preserved their work as a record of history. Photographer Li Zhenshen compiled his works in a book named Red-color news soldier: A Chinese odyssey through the Cultural Revolution. He was a pupil of Wu Yinxian who photographed Mao in the 30s in Yanan. He taught Li to be a witness to history. The preface on Red-colour news soldier was “Let history inform the future.”

At the end of the cultural revolution in 1976 photography opened up as an art form. It was a new art form and techniques and development of style had to be learned. The China Photographic Publishing House introduced the China Modern Photo Salon by the book entitled Contemporary Chinese Photographs. The organization decleared;

“As we are young and inexperienced, there is still much we must learn. But it is our intention to keep in tune with the march of our time and we are filled with confidence. … We are aware, however, that this is only the beginning.”

We see the one side of China in photographs, the historic monuments, the culture and people. The tourist view. Some photographers decided to be social critics and photograph the side of China that isn’t normally in the worlds view. They record modern China’s history and development. As an art form, contemporary photography is not was widely collected as traditional art forms.

China’s photographers are become more successful in the world market as the country continues to develop and form strong international relations. Due to the late start in photography it will be a while until they are thought of in the same light as other established photographers by critics. Often the style of calligraphy featured on a photograph is not widely liked. However it is part of artists tradition to include a story or poem to make for a more complete piece. At the moment China is developing a national identity. The photojournalists are gaining international interest for their documentation of new China. In the next 20 years as the country develops the creative industries international connections will bring Chinese artists and journalist to the fore front and help portray the China of the future.

Development of Chinese Music

Chinese music has been documented since 1122BC and is a big part of Chinese culture and politics.

Emperors recognized the significance of music in their culture and would choose folk music songs that reflected the image that they wanted to portray of their empire. These became their national songs and the first Imperial Music Bereau was created in the Qin Dynasty (221–07 BC) and was developed to supervise the court music and that of the military.

Traditional Chinese instruments are a variety of Plucked or bowed string instruments, flutes and percussion such as gongs and drums. Vocalists often accompanied the instruments. The music was based off melodic patterns using pentatonic scales rather then harmonic or rhythmic.

The New Culture Movement of the 1910s- 1920s brought in music from the west and Orchestral music began to become popular. Chinese musicians travelled to Europe to learn how to compose western music. There was an orchestra in most cities and musicians began adopting new instruments such as saxophones and violins. The Chinese national anthem was written during the Second World War and has a western style, it was only adopted as the national anthem after 1997.

They were influenced by jazz that was coming from the states and traditional folk songs were giving harmonies and bass lines. Communists made revolution songs the were meant to education people in more rural areas of the parties policies. Music was highly restricted and it was unthinkable to play songs that weren’t praising China or the government.

Modern Chinese music is a mixture of genres with new styles becoming more and more popular. It is mainly classical and pop that is the favourite. The music is mainly state-owned. Rock has had less support but is still has a growing fan base in Beijing and Shanghai. The annual Midi Modern Music Festival and The Snow Mountain Music Festival have been described as the Chinese Woodstock by western reviewers.

Modern mixing techniques and notations have recorder traditional music by improving the instrument quality and progressions. This has helped preserve traditional music and brings it to a wider audience. The band Hei Bao used western ballade influences using the English song Don’t Break My Heart.

With the Beijing Olympics Pop music was used to promote the event. State restrictions still apply to commercially produced music. Majority of music is released in Beijing and Shanghai before it is released to the rest of china through fear of CD piracy that is a major problem to the Chinese music industry. Hip Hop and Heavy Metal bands such as Chao Zai (Overlord) are also gaining popularity.

Modern Chinese music is not usually thought of when you think about China. In the west it is the traditional music that is thought of, especially orchestrated pieces from films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. With its emotional soundtrack it mirrors the traditional style in a modern format.

With the industrial boom and more international links, China will have more genres being produced and the smaller genres will grow and be refined. What subject matters the music will cover is hard to say but we are sure see china becoming a bigger music producer in the future.