Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Posts Tagged ‘Life in China’

Love Story China Style- Not Gonna happen

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 21, 2009

This weekend I was watching some sappy love story on TV (like a re-re-rerun of something like Pretty Woman). Funny thing was that it was in English, that in and of itself is not funny but telling. Not telling in terms of the fact that my Chinese sucks and thus I cannot do this in Chinese, but telling in terms of it has to be in English, in China they don’t make them.
Dont get me wrong, they do have them, but nothing like back in the west. The secret or secrets are that here in China, they don’t sponsor this type of activity. This was actually told to me by my Chinese colleagues.
“It would never happen, here in China they don’t want to promote this type of thing, especially with younger people.” -her
wtf?- me
So I guess it is like this:
1-due to the fact that social security does not exist in China, the children must work to support their parents get older, thus anything, such as love that could derail those plans are to be nixed-apparently there is a fear that by showing/promoting this type of show, China will be filled with billions of love children…
2-the notion of marrying under your class is a definite no-no. They love the romanticism of this type of flick, but here, there is no official ‘class structure-or caste system, but it is alive and kicking here. The notion of true love is not promoted but issues of practicality are.
I wonder just how much of that type of movie can they truly understand…

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Shanghai Ugly- Life in Shanghai

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 18, 2009

Still here in Shanghai, people are quite polite, much better than my first time here. The European feeling comes through if you are in the downtown Puxi area. In general, however I disagree with the notion that it is sooo international, a good city, but not a Sao Paolo.

As for the saying that the women are more beautiful, havent seen that, still think Chongqing or the northeast have that honor. There they have better skin and facial structures.

Missing Beijing

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Now I Remember

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 14, 2009

You remember that Chinese Olympic logo from 2008, it was odd. I you don’t, then here it is…

Yeah it is quite odd, the design seems like an afterthought, like a child’s rendering of his parents. Anyway. I had this feeling that I had seen this image elsewhere. I knew I didn’t like the Olympic logo, looked cheesy, struck me as queer or funny, and then it hit me, I remembered a cartoon I had once seen and the images were remarkably similar…Check out this out. Busted, now we know how they came up that odd ‘running man’ Olympic symbol.

Yeah, eerily similar isn’t it, I mean look at the symmetry, the stride, if I didnt know better, I would think they copied one of these guys for their logo…

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That’s a lot of Money- The World Fair and Such

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 12, 2009

“Maybe U$ 60 billion, could be U$ 50 billion”- that is how much the Chinese are saying that China is pouring into the world fair next year. Now fist off, wtf is the world fair, is that thing still around…

Disregarding my ignorance or yours about just what the world fair is, next year it is coming to China, and like the olympics, they are pouring tons of cash into it. The figures cited above (no one really knows as this is not the most transparent country), are impressive. What they are doing, is spending the equivalent of the GDP’s in 2008 dollars, of more than 125 countries, just to prepare for the World fair. Yeah, that means just like with the olympics, China invested an equivalent amount of cash that the 58th largest country etc. will make in a whole year!

The reason I bring this up is that many of my Chinese colleagues have pointed out the wasteful nature of this and the fact that over the past 3 years, China has had some help in her growth. Between the Olympics and the Fair, they invested 100 Billion, which due to the multiplier effect could have a practical impact of almost a trillion dollars on her economy.  The first issue, that of wasteful spending irks many Chinese who say that the funds could be used to fund pensions, or clean air initiatives- that is not happening. They point out the facilities in Beijing and Qingdao that go unused, the people kicked out of their homes to make way for the new stadiums, and the lack of compassion or the rights of humanity from the government (a good piece from the Economist here). The second issue, that of this being a relative gift to China-well they take that in stride. They just see the juggernaut rising, and don’t know how far she will go.

As for me, I don’t know, I live here-know it is booming but really have seen first hand some of her weaknesses. I sleep well at night.

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Add’ing in China… or Chinese Ritalin

Posted by w_thames_the_d on December 6, 2009

ADD’ing in China… or Chinese Ritalin

Having spent most of my time in the USA and the Americas, one of the first things I noticed here, at least in the adult aged population, is the lack of ADD. Attention Deficit Disorder may be on of the most misunderstood diseases ever, but if anyone has ever spent time in Mexico, Brazil, USA, or any one of countless other countries can attest to, it is quite easy to find. .

probably one of the charming aspects of Mexico, Colombia, Brasil whatever is their add, often seen as a friendly demeanor, or devil may care attitude. To me the manifestation of that is when you, for instance, take a cab, you tell the cabbie where you wish to go and take off. In mexico or brazil, the guy will tell you about mariachis tequila, anything that strikes his fancy, you in kind can respond as you wish, can talk about baseball, football, and they will not miss a beat. In mid sentence they will transition marvelously into the topic that you suggest. You can be driving to the zocolo and ask the guy about Teotihuacan, and off he will go on a 7 minute rant, never losing his way and without pause.

Try this in china. DONT EVER change the subject with a chinese taxi, they dont get it. They have a singularity of purpose that Kim Jung Il would admire. You ask to go to the airport, inquire about the Guangzhou tv tower (which is in the opposite direction), and he becomes nervous. The guy will shoot you about ten looks trying to decide if you are being chinese and hinting that you want ot go to that place. Inevitably, they will assume that any inquiry is not of mere curiosity or ADD, but that it is incumbent upon him to actually take you there, as if by being curious, in true chinese fashion, you are telling him that this is your new destination.

This phenomenon is not due to language barriers, happens even when a native speaker is with you. Chinese in general dont seem to have the habit of changing the mental channels on the slightest whim. To them, if one is going to the airport, one can only discuss airplanes, runways and such, its like being on Ritalin, you must focus ad nauseum on the task at hand till its utter completion. For if you are in the taxi and state that you want to go to location A, the driver is thinking why in the hell does one want to know where the Beijing opera is if one is going the other directing, it totally fouls up his mental operating mechanisms, doesnt compute.

Why indeed! Uh, well I do, and really those that I term ADD countries do… actually gives them a charm or mystique, allows you to relax, take it easy. The road is long the possibilities are endless…

hey taxis lighten up, have some fun….

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Beijing Hutongs

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 25, 2009

This is a shot of Beijing’s famous hutongs, or alley’s. Basically hutongs are one of Beijing’s ways of not losing its cultural heritage. The hutongs are near the Lama Temple, and are in stark contrast to the sky scrapers that pollute the sky in the Central Business District. This area offers a taste of Beijing’s history as the streets are lined with stores and houses, the construction of which has remained unchanged for over a half-century. The place is charming, has great food, tons of foreigners and angry locals who resent being the constant flood of foreigners. This area is a must see if you ever come.

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Hu-hum Sunday

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 22, 2009

Just sitting here, trying to deal with all of the issues of accessing my website and such (blogging via email). And wanted to pass on my observations of Sundays here in China.

I have lived in other countries, all of which have been Christian. As such, there is always this Sunday phenomena that I have come to love. Sundays in Christian countries always seem special. You see the happy faces of people entering or leaving churches, the air has a generally pure quality, it seems like Thanksgiving Day, when we are willing to forgive all. The Cracker Barrel is filled with joyous worshipers who didn’t make it to Denny’s on time. And in general it seems we as a people are in a better mood.

Here in china, however there is no real religious observance in general. yes they do have a Church or two and yes we can worship (we foreigners) if we wish. but the day just doesn’t have the same pop. It seems that here, this is another day, just a day to rest, nothing else.

I miss you Sunday….

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Just to clarify…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 22, 2009

OK, here is a little more about the blocked website. yeah I know I shouldn’t bitch, I have chosen to live here and all. Its just that coming from the west where we take such things as freedom of speech and expression for granted that it just burns me to have that right taken away. For instance, I have a twitter account: wtdevflnt on twitter, now having it and using it are two different things entirely. I may have been impulsive and posted maybe 40 times, but when I found out that my access to it was blocked, it cut me to the quick.

The fundamental issue here is that we expect to be treated as capable adults who, in general make wise decisions. When we don’t, we can expect to be punished in a reasonable manner (is kicking me out of china for blogging reasonable). But anyway, we typically weigh the pros and cons of an event and decide. After taking those measurements, I like tens of thousands of others have decided that blogging is of value, and will continue to do so.

The problem, as stated below, is that we are prohibited. If we get creative and use www dot piingus dot info or any of the others (this one seems to work exceptionally well) (lets see if I haven’t doomed it with these posts). Yes we can utilize these sites to access the blogs or youtube, but typically we cannot enter the management screen of the sites, thus make corrections etc. This is mostly cosmetic, but presents a real pain in the keester, I mean after all, who is going to enter my site and make adjustments in the event that in one of my posts I make a mistrake..

Yeah, just a real pain in the hindquarters this is, but I am sure it will get better, you know it was probably just the olympics, but wait, that was a year ago, well maybe it was the riots in xinjiang, oh that was also months ago. Well… yeah it will probably never change.

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And another thing…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 22, 2009

Hey just took a look at my site on
www.unlockkey.info decided not to use www.piingus.info both of which seem to avoid the great firewall very well. But, as I checked I noticed typos etc. Please do not worry, when I get my tech assistance back, I will clean all of that up, or maybe not, really depends on how I feel, if i remember etc.

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Hukou, where for art thou…

Posted by w_thames_the_d on November 20, 2009

In China due to the overabundance of people and centrally planned nature of things, controlling the masses is of paramount importance.

One of the most common yet lethal forms of control is via the Hukou method. I will, based on my scattered process of assimilation and dissemination of information try to explain this phenomenon to you.

Basically Hukou is like citizenship, but at a state level. For instance, in the states you are born in Iowa, so you are an Iowan, move to Florida, and you become a Floridian. No real problem there as freedom of movement cannot be impeded.

China, however has a Hukou system. Think of it as being declared a citizen of a state. Once one is declared a citizen of a state/province it is very very difficult to change ones ‘citizenship’ to another province. You may be thinking ‘so what?’ The issue is that in China, Hukou determines one’s rights in terms of health care, education, retirement, ability to work, etc. Thus, if you have Houkou from Chongqing, you must obtain permission to work in Beijing! In addition, if you come to Beijing ‘illegally’ without the proper credentials, you can work, but cannot receive an education, be serviced at state hospitals etc.

So let me summarize: Your mom is born in province A, but moves to province B ‘illegally’ or is undocumented (think illegal alien) and gives birth to you in province B, you now have province A Hukou just like your mother (that is how Hukou is determined). Your mother works in province B. You live with your mother in province B and as illegal/unwanted as she. You as her child can be denied education, health care, the right to work legally etc. (this supposedly is being changed, especially regarding education offered to ‘undocumented workers’ – discussion in Shanghai here) So basically, it is about as difficult for me a foreigner to work and study in Shanghai as it is for a Chinese from a different province. -crazy right?

The rationale as far as i can tell has two aspects, one historical and one central planning and big brother. Historically Hukou  was utilized to document families, their movements,  and make it easier to levy taxes etc, (full explanation here). That idea may have been useful 700 to 1000 years ago, but are seen by most citizens today as oppressive.

This begs the question as to why they are still utilized and brings up point number two, the Big Brother aspect. China, as in the USA  over the last decade they successfully utilize fear tactics when implementing public policy. Create fear and then create a policy to ‘protect’ the populace. The governmental line since the inception of the PRC, is that China has too many people, and these people must be controlled with a firm hand. Just imagine if they allowed all the citizens to make decisions, to roam will-nilly throughout their homeland unchecked- it would be pure chaos. The party line is that if these masses, these poor peasant farmers (actually Hukou has a further subdivision of urban and rural residents- read an excerpt here) were to be left to their own devices, there would be mass chaos, starvation and probably looting of the cities. So, starting in the 60’s with the failure of a plan called ‘the great leap forward’, China sought to enforce the Hukou system aggressively and deported millions of ‘illegal’ migrant workers ( Bear in mind the term ‘illegal’ refers to Chinese citizens who are illegal due to Hukou only). The failure of the plan left the cities overpopulated and a control mechanism was sought.  So, the aggressive usage of Hukou in the 60’s was maintained and utilized as it was seen as way to preserve peace and harmony in this large country.

Today of course , they are not as strict in the usage of Hukou in everyday life, and only utilize the enforcement of Hukou when need be. For instance I was here during the Olympics and suffice it to say that if you were not in possession of Beijing Hukou, you were persona non grata around here. In addition, it has been said that this is a tool for controlling those who are less than thrilled with the governance of the country. Thus, when the newest president of the USA came to Shanghai and Beijing one had to make sure to have the appropriate documentation.

The  upshot, it is amazing to see such an extreme measure being utilized in modern times. It is also amazing to see the other end of the spectrum as in Europe and the USA and the rights of undocumented aliens- there has to be a more equitable solution for all.

One man’s story on this

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