January 28, 2023

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Asian Food and Travel Chronicles

Your Monday Briefing: A Lunar New Year Shooting

4 min read

Police in California are on the hunt for a gunman who killed 10 people in the city of Monterey Park in Los Angeles County on Saturday. The mass shooting happened hours after a celebration for the eve of the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in many Asian countries. Thousands had attended the event. (Follow our live coverage.)

The sheriff of Los Angeles County said yesterday that the authorities were looking for an Asian man between 30 and 50 years old. He opened fire at a dance hall, and witnesses said he seemed to shoot indiscriminately. At least 10 others were injured. The authorities offered no motive for the attack.

The mass shooting is the latest tragedy to strike Asian Americans, who have faced rising violence throughout the pandemic. Monterey Park is about 65 percent Asian American, and has been called “the first suburban Chinatown.” It is perhaps best known as the first city in the continental U.S. where a majority of inhabitants have ethnically Asian ancestry.

A pattern: This mass shooting is the deadliest in the U.S. since the Uvalde massacre last May, when a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in Texas. There have been 33 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2023, according to a nonprofit research group.

Chris Hipkins, who oversaw the country’s unique pandemic approach, is set to become New Zealand’s new prime minister next month.

Hipkins, 44, was a clear front-runner to become the leader of the Labour Party after Jacinda Ardern’s surprise resignation last week. As the health minister, and then the minister for New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, he was the face of the country’s stringent, but widely applauded, response to the pandemic.

The incoming leader faces a number of major challenges. Voters are looking for respite from inflation, a continuing housing crisis and other entrenched social problems such as crime and child poverty. He could struggle to get beyond his association with pandemic policy, which tainted Ardern’s leadership.

Up ahead: In a national election in October, Hipkins will face Christopher Luxon, the leader of the center-right National Party.

Analysis: Leaders often resign in parliamentary systems. But Ardern’s departure stands out, my colleague Max Fisher writes: “It was particularly striking to see a leader voluntarily relinquish power at a moment when the world’s strongmen — and even some elected presidents — are clinging ferociously to theirs.”

For many Chinese people traveling for Lunar New Year, the joy of finally seeing loved ones for the holiday without the risk of a lockdown is laced with anxiety. Many are traveling from cities to rural areas, where health care services are woefully underdeveloped. They fear spreading the virus to older relatives.

They’re also on the move just weeks after the government lifted its “zero Covid” restrictions. One official said it was “the most challenging spring festival in recent years,” as outbreaks continue to spread. “It’s precisely because we’ve opened up that I feel so tense,” one villager said.

But after years of muted celebrations, hundreds of millions of people are aching for reunions. In one sign of national relief, some people on social media are celebrating congestion at travel hubs as a sign of a return to normal — or at least to a new normal.

Details: Before the pandemic, the travel rush was the world’s largest annual migration. This year, China expects traffic to nearly double compared with 2022, exceeding two billion passenger trips over the holiday period.

Zero Covid fallout: Some Chinese entrepreneurs have left the country, my colleague Li Yuan writes in an analysis. They moved to Singapore, and took their wealth with them.

Americans in Paris think “Emily in Paris” is giving them a bad name.

“We try so hard not to be the ugly American,” one woman lamented. “Being an American expat in Paris is all about trying to seem vaguely French or invisibly American, and Emily is the opposite of that.”

India’s film industry puts about 1,500 stories on the screen annually. But every day, audiences in Mumbai line up for “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,” a movie still on the screen after 27 years.

The film, known as “D.D.L.J.,” is a boy-meets-girl story set in India in the 1990s, a moment of unbridled optimism when the economy had just opened up. In many ways, the India of today is similar to the one reflected in the movie. The economy is still on the rise. Women are still seeking more freedom. Modernity and conservatism remain in tension.

But some of the sense of unlimited possibility has waned since the movie’s 1995 premiere. As the early rewards of liberalization peaked and economic inequities deepened, aspirations of mobility have diminished. Some on Mumbai’s margins buy a ticket to escape into a rosier past, while others still seek inspiration.

“I come every day,” said one regular, who goes by Simran, the name of the female lead. She is a prostitute in the waning red-light district nearby. “I like it every day.”