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I recently finished Dan Ariely’s book, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, and realized that I’ve been thinking about corruption in the wrong way. While I’m not about to argue that there are “acceptable levels” of it, in the way Global Times tried, I do think we are overlooking a few key points. For one, as Ariely argues, cases of embezzlement and fraud are not made up largely of Madoff’s (or Liu Zhijun’s), but of small daily acts by very ordinary people. He shows through his research that for the most part everyone is willing to cheat a little, and that massive cheats are actually far more rare than they should be (if one assumes that a person would cheat as much as is possible without repercussions), […]

On return from more than a week on the road, I caught up with my China news and found it all to be a bit…predictable. In response I’ve created the following template that seems to exist somewhere to save all of you time. A gov’t official (or family member of an official) was caught abusing their power by murdering/embezzling/forcing farmers off their land/covering up a scandal for a company in X province. The story first appeared on Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, late last week and built to a crescendo over the weekend. SomeGuyWithACamera posted pictures of an angry crowd ranging between dozens and thousands, which were deleted within 24 hours by censors. Calls to the local gov’t went unanswered. A man from the […]

As I prepare to head back to the US, I want to share a few of my favorite memories from my five years in China. Late 2007 was a fantastic time to arrive in China. It was the perfect chance to get wrapped up in all of the Olympic hype, and even in the remote county of Longzhou the students could hardly contain their excitement. In October I was asked to fill out a survey from the provincial gov’t to gauge my enthusiasm, and while it seemed odd to ask someone who couldn’t have ended up much further from Beijing, I was pretty excited too. As the Olympics grew closer China’s gov’t faced two huge challenges, the widespread Tibetan uprising, and the devastating Wenchuan Earthquake. […]

As we looked at yesterday, China may not be as welcomed in Africa as some authors might argue. My friends told me a few stories after reflecting on our first discussion that I thought should be shared, but didn’t quite fit into yesterday’s post.* Friend from Zambia You know, it’s probably not fair to think that the Chinese are only bad for Zambia. If they weren’t there many of the mines would have closed. Any job is better than no job. The people working in the mines just consider how much better things were for them when the mines were operated by the gov’t, rather than thinking about what it would be like without any job at all. If we were rational we’d probably be […]

…Continued Ushering in a new era of development in the cause of socialism 5.1 The Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee was a significant transition in the history of the party and the state since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. the CPC central collective leadership with Comrade Deng Xiaoping as its core throroughly reviewed the lessons from its experience in socialist construction, emancipated their minds, sought truth from facts, made the historic decision to shift the focus of the Party and country’s work to economic development and to implement reform and opening up, laid out the Party’s basic line for the primary stage of socialism and the three-step strategy for modernizing the country, created Deng Xiaoping Theory and blazed […]

For some reason, I’ve been brought to a number of business meetings even though I am in no way a businessman. Yet, I’ve been a part of making decisions related to hiring and forging partnerships. Today I thought I’d share a few cases that may prove of some use to those of you looking to succeed in China. The case of the effusive businessman An older white man sits down at a table full of Chinese faces. With a strong Aussie accent he manages to say in Chinese, “Hello, I’m very happy to be here with you today.” The meeting begins with laughter, and whispers of how good his Chinese is (even though it really isn’t). Over the course of the meetings and meals he […]

It would be easy to write a post about the difference between Malaysia and China and point to the joys of multiculturalism and  democracy. However it wasn’t these things that jumped out most at me during my travels, instead it was the simple joy of being reminded of the abundance of life outside of the human race. Even though Malaysian Borneo is home to orangutans, sea turtles, and hosts of other intriguing creatures, it was the little birds that could be heard in every city that made me saddest to leave. China’s urban areas have stray cats and dogs, rats, and surprisingly large cockroaches, but very few birds (outside of the ones old men bring to the parks in cages). Even though my apartment exits […]

“I don’t like Chinese people. When I visited Guangzhou a few years ago everyone was cutting in line. They would use their elbows just to push past you. They didn’t even care if you had been standing there a long time, they always had to go first. In Malaysia people always line up, even when they are in a hurry. China has too many people and none of them have any manners. Like when you go into the bathroom and nobody has even bothered to shut the door. You see everything and I just can’t stand it. I don’t want to see your penis and I definitely don’t want to watch you poop; it’s disgusting. Furthermore, China doesn’t even have any traditional culture. Everything has […]

This past weekend I had the chance to go to a nearby resort with my co-worker’s family. It was a great opportunity to see how China’s newly wealthy spend their money, and I was reminded of what priorities they have when it comes time for vacation. Value To me, the urge to get the most use of the money spent, was surprising. For instance, we had many places that we wanted to visit after we checked out, but our friends insisted on waiting until noon to leave the hotel. When noon did finally roll around, there was a giant mob of people checking out as well. It seemed as if everyone had whiled away their morning in an effort to get their full allotment of hotel room time. […]

This week has seen renewed effort by netizens to visit Linyi, on what they call “group dating”, and instead of Dong Shi Gu, the destination was the People’s Square downtown. Three visitors were charged of “illegal gathering” and detained; a few more have been reported missing. And more are going. As for this week’s Weibo translation, we offer items about the citizen humanitarian effort in Beijing, the still unseen report about the high-speed train collision, what judiciary with Chinese character is like, Taiwan’s presidential debate, and more. Links to a couple of the items have been severed since I culled them, and you can join me to wonder why, but otherwise, click on date below item for link to the original. 翁涛yt:/Weng Tao/(investment executive associated […]

Yesterday’s review of “Reconsidering the Campaign to Suppress Counterrevolutionaries,” is important reading not only to better understand the terror and hysteria of the Mao years, but to understand the way in which the past effects the psyche of Chinese people today. Three bits from the article have been cycling through my mind since yesterday: that in some areas nearly 80% of the people accused were later exonerated, 30% of those whose death sentences were not absolutely necessary were executed anyway, and that even in my former home of Longzhou, which is tiny by Chinese standards, at least 40  people were executed. These three pieces show that the campaign was largely used as a source of revenge against otherwise innocent people, and that this campaign reached […]

When talking with Chinese friends and co-workers about the pollution levels in Nanjing (awful compared to developed countries, but decent for Chinese cities), they are quick to point out that foreign companies in China are the ones that should be blamed for the filthy air. While it is absolutely true that foreign companies are adding to China’s environmental woes, I’m not convinced they should shoulder all the blame. Today, I’d like to start by discussing three points related to this statement, and I hope you’ll continue the discussion in the comment section below. Production for the West This factor is undeniable. Western consumers have benefited from the destruction of China’s environment by purchasing cheap goods. If all of our environmental standards were enforced globally (and […]

The top story this week was the Shanghai metro crash which I covered in a recent post. The accident reignited the debate about the speed with which China is building infrastructure. Adam Minter reflected on the greater meaning of the crash for Shanghai residents who have no choice but to commute to work on the subway in his piece “Shanghai rail commuters get onboard with a prayer“. China also launched the first components of its new space station, which should be fully operational around the time the International Space Station is decommissioned. This great technological accomplishment coming on the heels of a needless crash creates an interesting contrast between technical achievements, and the ability to manage and maintain these systems. The cost of development was also […]

Continued from yesterday In the week before his new girlfriend arrived, there was a flurry of emails. He told us that he was spending hours each night writing and reading her emails. She was kind enough to accept them in English and would reply in English, all with the help of Google translate. They would even talk on the phone, but that was just a few very simple phrases. My friend seemed genuinely happy with this new-found love. They were able to communicate well enough, and he thought that with her determination she’d be able to learn enough English to handle living in the US. For now though he had a simple solution. He bought two pocket translators, and ever so slowly they could “talk” […]

Tim and Yan Jiang were married this weekend. A few weeks ago Yan Jiang took the time to write out the story of how they met, and I think it is a wonderful way to begin our look at inter-cultural marriages. I picked this story because too often people assume that these marriages are not based on true love, and I think this is a good reminder that this is not always the case. You can read more about them at My soon-to-be husband, Tim, and I met in October, 2008 in the college that I attended and he taught at. Before that, I wasn’t sure I would ever have any foreign friends, so dating a foreigner was never even a thought. Tim is […]

I’m back in the USA this week to attend my twin brother’s wedding (Congratulations Alex and Erin). So this week we’ll be looking at marriage in China again, this time focusing on Chinese-Foreigner relationships. We have a couple of guests posts to look forward to as well as a fairly crazy look at online dating. So now would be a good time to re-visit our look at marriage in China: The Boss’s Speech and Other Oddities at Chinese Weddings What Happened to Traditional Chinese Weddings? Chinese Wedding Days and Wedding Nights Guest Post: I Hate the Chinese Ideas About Marriage Expired Women and Family Obligations

So far we’ve looked at speaking Chinese, and the basics of forming characters (which are complete words themselves), so today we’re wrapping up the series and looking at compound words. Compound words are formed by putting two characters together to create a single, new meaning. For example 中国zhongguo (China) separately they mean “middle” and “kingdom,” but by putting them together they take on a new meaning. We can take it a step further and say 中国人zhongguoren(Chinese person), or 中国菜zhongguocai (Chinese food). Now the vocabulary is growing, for 7 words we’ve had to learn 4  characters. Now I can teach you one more character 美mei(beautiful), but we can make 美国meiguo(America), 美国人meiguoren(American person), and 美国菜meiguocai(American food). So now we are at 5 characters, but 11 words. This […]

One of the first thing people ask me when I tell them I live in China is whether or not it’s a difficult language. The short answer is: yes. Like any language it is tricky, but I promise it’s not as bad as it seems. So for the next couple days I’m going to try to explain the basics of how Chinese works, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Fear #1 – Tones:The first day of Chinese class I was shown something like the picture above showing the 4 tones of Mandarin. The teacher then explained the importance of tones, and how the slightest inflection could completely change the meaning. Ex. 1 妈妈骂马 (mother scolds the horse) or 马骂妈妈 (The horse scolds mother) However […]

The other day my wife and I were walking through a kind of upscale mall when we heard (in English) “Hey foreigner! Come here! Foreigner buy things!” This isn’t unusual for me. There is a joke in my organization that being a foreigner in China is like being an animal in the zoo (it is for this reason that we honestly do not sit near windows while we eat). People treat you like you are famous, but you really wish you weren’t. Kyle and I used to play pool in the very back of the dingiest, darkest pool hall in Longzhou because it was the only public place we could go and only be mildly bothered by gawkers. Imagine if every time you went shopping […]

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