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I had the chance last night to record a podcast with Mike from the new website ChinaBlogcast.com. We talked a bit about my last few posts on life in rural China, and I shared a few other thoughts and anecdotes. You can download it or listen online here. Secondly, I’d just like to encourage you to check out Mike’s other episode and add China Blogcast to your podcast subscriptions (this is week 2, so it won’t take long to catch up). At the moment there is a real shortage of China related podcasts, and this is a very good addition to the others that already exist. Mike is planning on releasing a new ~30 minute episode every Thursday featuring chats with other China bloggers.


Yesterday we looked at a few of the pros and cons of rural life, today we’ll be looking at the development plan for this region. “China is a large country with a large population,” seemed to be the catch-all excuse for much of the poverty we saw as we traveled through rural parts of a central Chinese province.* While I generally find it an unconvincing dodge, the remoteness of this region lead me to contemplate how it could ever be prosperous. Many of China’s remote regions were settled exactly because they were so difficult to reach, offering minority groups and small clans protection from outsiders. But now that trade and manufacturing are the base of China’s growth, these rural places have been left behind. One […]


China’s rise has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, but has life really improved as much as that claim implies? As a recent study shows, life satisfaction in China has not increased over the past 20 years, which seems to suggest that increasing wealth has not brought about a correlating increase in happiness. Today we’ll be exploring why this might be the case in the countryside. A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit several remote villages in central China. As the van bumped along rocky roads that wound over steep mountains for nearly 10 hours I started wondering how much life had really changed in many of these places over the past 60 years and whether or not these survivors would say […]


We’re often presented with images of Beijing and Shanghai’s glittering skylines and are inundated with stories of economic success. We know that China has succeeded in bringing hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and that life in the countryside has never been better. But what does life actually look like in rural China for the nearly 700 million people that call it home? What kind of life does roughly $2.50 per day buy (this is the average rural income)? Today I’ll be sharing some of the best photos from People’s Daily as well as from my own travels. These images would be familiar to most Chinese people. In the countryside your school looks like this (more) Your parents are most likely farmers (more) Or work […]


The other week I had a chance to discuss nutrition with the doctors at my hospital. As we looked at beverages and snacks, many of them were surprised to see that the healthy choices they thought they had been making, weren’t so great. For example, every single one of the 30 doctors was shocked to learn that a bowl of instant noodles had twice as much sodium and much more fat than a grilled chicken sandwich from KFC. The general agreement was that if they were misinformed about nutrition, than the public would probably be even less informed. A large part of the problem was that nutritional information was either absent or not in a standard, easy to understand format. China’s urban areas are now facing […]


For the past few days we’ve been looking at migrant workers, and issues surrounding the hukou system, including left behind children, and forgotten grandparents and wives. In China’s medical system there are a number of drugs that treat chronic conditions (like TB and AIDs), that are given out to sick patients at little or no cost. While this in itself should be applauded, this program is unfortunately tied to one’s hukou and therefore restricts the person’s movement. If the person leaves their village, it will be incredibly difficult for them to receive their much needed medications. I believe that this policy was created with the intention of controlling the spread of diseases (which is a good intention), but that this has had some very troubling results. In the past this system […]


Yesterday we saw fist hand the condition of a single school in rural Guangxi, today we’ll be getting the bigger picture of the state of education in rural China, and some of the systemic problems. Even Global Times (a State run paper) says that “Knowledge no longer power for rural poor“. Facts and Figures Currently the majority of primary and secondary teachers in rural schools do not have 4-year degrees. These statistics though do not capture the full problem, as it does not account for the divide between rural areas in the east and west of China (the Eastern parts are much richer). For many of my students in Guangxi, none of their teachers prior to college would have attended a 4-year school. Primary school teachers […]


At this conference we’ve been discussing some of the recent studies about the massive gap between rural and urban education. For example: Urban children are 6.3 times more likely to attend college than their rural counterparts, and when rural children do go on for further studies it is usually a 2 or 3 year program. For us to get further into these problems, I think its important to take some time to review past posts about Education in China, since there is a lot of background information necessary to frame the topic of this conference. Then over these next few days we’ll be looking at just how serious this gap is, and why it is not as depressing as it might seem at first. Student […]


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