From the inbox: Is it okay to love China?

I just got this email from a reader, and I wanted to share it, as well as my response.

Dear Richard,

This will seem like a strange email, but if you could answer my questions, then I would be extremely grateful.

How do you find a balance between liking China, for the good things you can find there, and hating China, for all the wrong things that are happening there?

I’m Chinese American. I was born in America, and grew up hearing toned-down, child-friendly, good, nice stories about China. So when I finally realized what was happening over there, I was shocked, and extremely conflicted between pride and disgust. On one hand, it’s where my family and culture came from. On the other hand, everything that happens over there conflicts with my values. I now read blogs about China, hoping to keep up to date about the country, to know everything about it, condemn it for what it does, hope for it’s future…but it seems there’s never anything good. China’s always getting worse, and by now, I’ve pretty much lost hope for the China.

It’s tempting to just hate the country and cut all my ties to it. Go to an extreme and wish for Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and maybe even Hong Kong and Macau to go independent when it can, and the blood of all its communist leaders. Call myself American and the only thing Chinese about me would be the cultural and traditional aspects of it. But I can’t do that, because that’s not really want I want or believe.

I’ve been reading your blog over two years now. You are disappointed at China, yet still happy whatever something positive happens. (Well, happy’s not the right word, but I can’t think of an appropriate word…) How do you do that? Keep hope that maybe one day, something would change, but for now, bear to watch the humiliation and horrible things China is going through and doing? (is it because you’re not Chinese, and if something happens, well, it’s not your country/group of people/identity that’s doing it? Forgive me if I’m wrong)

Thank you for your time. I eagerly await your reply.

[Name]

Interesting email. It’s always a challenge, reconciling your feelings toward China, reconciling your knowledge of some of the darker things that go one there with your love of living there, reconciling your complaints with your admiration. Then again, how different is that from the US? Sometime I think it’s just a matter of degree (mainly because rule of law and freedom of speech make such a huge difference).

Anyway, here’s my sentimental response.

I love China. I am going there on a trip in two weeks and plan to move back to Beijing within the next two months. [Note: That is not written in stone.]

It’s the Chinese government and its culture of corruption and propaganda I can’t stand. But I first moved to China in 2002 and over the past 9 years I have seen the country make huge strides, socially and politically. It is a dynamic, vibrant, inspiring culture and there is nowhere else I’d rather live, except maybe NYC if I were a millionaire.

It’s normal to be conflicted about China because it is such a complex and often unusual country, a country in the midst of incredibly rapid change. No one can figure it out and there’s no way to define what China actually is, because it’s a work in progress and a phenomenon in motion. Lots of bad things happen there, but lots of good things, too. People’s lives are generally much better than 30 years ago. So don’t be afraid to love China, while accepting its faults and problems and strangeness. It’s still one of the greatest countries on the planet.

Thanks for writing and I hope that helps.

Richard

Sentimental, and I can catalog all the cliches. but it’s still from the heart. And for the record, I can’t stand America’s government either, especially now. (My faith in the US government has been in a free-fall since the day Gore lost the 2000 election; Obama has boosted my faith only nominally – at least he’s not a Republican.) Who can say they’re not conflicted about America, and about China?

I’ll arrive in Beijing on April 7 and will be visiting several cities. If anyone wants to get together let me know.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 113 Comments

You have done a great service to all of us who are China Watchers and Friends of China publishing this letter. Thank you for all your fine publishing work, and bon voyage….enjoy your next visit to China!

March 26, 2011 @ 8:59 am | Comment

You can be sure that my view of China is not conflicted: I don’t like the country a lot. The bad things totally outweigh the good ones and I’m not surprised, that so many in Taiwan have developed their own identity. Besides, Chinese make it very hard for Taiwanese to like them, since they’re most brainwashed by their government and history books. I’m always amused to see, how they get upset over Japanese history books. I wonder who’s worse.

March 26, 2011 @ 9:53 am | Comment

Good post, it shows that one does not necessarily have to have a black and white based opinion. I wish the world would have a lot more of that.

Just one remark: the word propaganda is very tricky. In the west it has a strong pejorative connotation that it doesn’t have in China. In essence, (‘)propaganda(‘) happens both in China and in the western world, possibly even to the same extent if you ask me, the big difference lies in the fact that (‘)propaganda(‘) happens in a far more obvious way in China – perhaps due to the fact that the word lacks the pejorative connotation here (not to mention that it’s oficially a part of good journalistic practice).

I am saying this as a (former, graduated, experienced) journalist in the Netherlands, and as a student who took Journalism in a university in China as an exchange student.

March 26, 2011 @ 11:07 am | Comment

Not expecting that you’d pass through Hunan, but if so…

It reminds me of when I’m asked whether I like teaching, as I am still, at a university in China: When I focus on those students who do not learn anything and are not here to learn, only to get their bachelor’s certificate (because “you need it”), then I’m fed up and angry.
When I focus on those students who learn quickly, with whom it’s a pleasure to guide them through ever more use of the foreign language they are studying (and remembering that in many cases, they’ve only been learning it for a short time), I’m impressed and happy.

Same with my nationality: I don’t like my country much, there’s lots of problems – and those you hear about in the foreign media are only the very worst. When you attack it, though, I’ll point out the good sides.

Seems to me that such a dichotomy – as you point out – is just natural, at least for a person who actually gives a damn.

March 26, 2011 @ 11:25 am | Comment

Nice response. Pretty much mostly how I feel about the place.

Totally agree with you on the Corporate Rubber Stamp…uhh…I mean…American Government.

March 26, 2011 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

@ Richard. Keep in mind the firsy rule of global travel after you submit your boarding pass. Ask for a copy of every newspaper available, and then monster the business class to see if you have missed any.Even flying into a political sewer is better than living the 9 to 5 at home. Safe trip.

March 26, 2011 @ 3:11 pm | Comment

Two men sat in a bar. One said to the other, “Do you like Americans?” and the second man answered vigorously, “No.”
“Do you like Frenchmen?” asked the first.
“No,” came the answer with equal vigor.
“Englishmen?”
“No.”
“Russians?”
“No.”
“Germans?”
“No.”
There was a pause and the first man, raising his glass, asked, “Well, who do you like?”
Without hesitation the second man answered, “I like my friends.”

Louis Bromfield, “The Rains Came”, 1933 – 1937

March 26, 2011 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

China is much more than the current sociopolitical system.

March 26, 2011 @ 4:01 pm | Comment

And another shot in the foot by the CCP. By doing just a little they could woe chinese origin people in other countries to their advantage.

March 26, 2011 @ 4:05 pm | Comment

I’m surprised by the anti-China (that is, the country, not the government) rhetoric on this page. Of the places where I lived in China, I don’t have much to say about Longhua or Shenzhen, since one industrial area is much like another, but I genuinely miss Nanjing despite its crazed traffic (I lived there before the subway opened) and pollution. In all these places I made friends who I stay in touch with, and am quite capable of distinguishing between how I feel about the country (largely positive), the people (positive) and the system of government (negative).

However, if I had to say where I would most like to live in all the world, that would be Taiwan – Miaoli, Taidong, Yilan – I’m not too picky as to where. I am not one for large cities, not for the long-term, anyway.

March 26, 2011 @ 6:11 pm | Comment

No one should “hate” a country, just dislike its government. I can seriously see myself going back to China in the forseeable future, it’s just that I have so many other places to go back to/visit on my list at the moment!

March 26, 2011 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

I have very conflicting feelings about China too. When I first arrived in the country, in 2005, I was wooed by the excitement about the place, the feeling that anything is possible, and the lack of constraints. But, the more I got to know and understand the political and social system, its ruthlessness and hypocrisy, the more that optimism kind of turned in to a weary fatalism. I don’t want China to fail, but I can’t see much good in the picture that is emerging. But somehow, I can’t quite ever turn my attention away from the country for too long. If China was to collapse, life would just be made harder for all those regular, decent people, so I can’t hope for that.

March 26, 2011 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

I’ll have to go with “justrecently” and suggest that we are often blinded by labels that don’t really have much meaning in and of themselves. “China” is precisely such a label. Don’t ask me to describe, categorize or evaluate “China” because that’s pretty much just as pointless as asking me to describe “life”…

(On a personal note, I’ve had a very, very tough time over there, easily the worst years of my life. But then, what does that have to do with anything generalizable? It was just my experience…)

March 26, 2011 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

Thanks for the nice comments. I don’t disagree, Poet – I had a very rough time in China, too, but when I gave it more of a chance, improved my Chinese and stopped being so critical I was in for a big surprise, namely that China has more to offer than its government and that life there can be wonderful. I think it’s all about the people. When you get to know them and become involved in their lives and experience for yourself their hopes and dreams and heartaches, it’s almost impossible not to grow attached to the country, even with all the reservations. That’s what Hessler’s River Town is really all about. To “just a Taiwanese laowai” above, have you actually lived there? I wasn’t really addressing things like China’s relationship with Taiwan in this post. If I were approaching it from a political perspective the post would be very, very different.

March 27, 2011 @ 1:13 am | Comment

I’ve always been a critic of China’s police state, but one thing worth keeping in mind- over the past three decades hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Any appraisal of the current government is incomplete without that fact.

And Richard- you don’t have to be a millionaire to live in New York City! It would be nice to not have to eat noodles for three days because you splurged on a cab, though… :)

March 27, 2011 @ 1:40 am | Comment

As a fellow Chinese Americans who grew up in US, I have many issues with that original Chinese American’s letter.

1) There should be separation of Chinese government and Chinese people. Chinese government may have policies you don’t agree, but that’s nothing to do with ordinary people. Most Chinese worried about the same thing almost every other people worried about: inflation, better educate for their children, get a better job. For me, US government has so many horrible foreign policies does not means that I hate American people.

2) Use Richard’s blog as latest on China. Richard is one of better informed Westerner blog on the web, I must admitted. However, his view of China is still limited due to the fact that he is westerner and his own bias on China. If you want to learn about China, go read in Chinese or better go live in China for a while.

3) Go study Chinese American history in US and wonder if he/she still want to call proud American. Until only about twenty five years ago, Asian Americans were viewed as “yellow peril” and any other terms many Americans called Hispanic American today. Don’t forget not longer ago, Dr. Wen Ho Lee was convicted for his spy crime.

My advice to him/her is to develop critical thinking skills and don’t believe anything you read in the media.

March 27, 2011 @ 2:29 am | Comment

Here’s the thing: most people came here looking for the Ancient Chinese culture, only to find it wiped out (Mao FTW, apparently). So what’s left? Tons and tons of uneducated people. It’s a developing country with a massive income gap and the most repulsive environmental record the world has ever seen. Besides that, it’s pretty cool.

The reason so many expat bloggers are so Pro-China is because often they marry Chinese women. After a few years married, you feel less like you’re attacking the Chinese, and more like your attacking your own family…so you get white guys (eg. Danwei, ChinaGeeks) giving the Pro-China spin.

And the Pro-China spin (“we’re handling our finances now, we’ll get to ethics, morality and culture later”) is great, unless you cynically think the Chinese will never place an iota of priority on the last three, and just keep printing money.

And for the record, any mention of the ‘Chinese’ in this way IS a reference to the Govt, and not the average Old Zhang on the street. The Govt is doing everything, average people don’t have much of a say in the matter (you may have heard), so they deserve none of the blame, or criticism. They are the ones you should fight for, they are the ones who are unspoken for.

March 27, 2011 @ 3:01 am | Comment

Even worse than the government in America, are the banks and other megacorporations.

March 27, 2011 @ 6:36 am | Comment

Michael The reason so many expat bloggers are so Pro-China is because often they marry Chinese women.

I completely reject that. Most of the bloggers and friends I know who are by far the most critical of China are those with Chinese spouses. Right down the line. I consider this assertion completely false.

March 27, 2011 @ 6:47 am | Comment

Michael A. Robson
Here’s the thing: most people came here looking for the Ancient Chinese culture, only to find it wiped out (Mao FTW, apparently). So what’s left? Tons and tons of uneducated people. It’s a developing country with a massive income gap and the most repulsive environmental record the world has ever seen. Besides that, it’s pretty cool.

Mao wasn’t nearly as successful as many Westerners believe. Traditional culture has survived but many physical artifacts have not- though “important” objects like the Potala and Forbidden Palace were protected.

And you say tons and tons of uneducated people- as opposed to what major developing country with a similarly high literacy rate? Never mind that literacy in Chinese means recognizing several thousand characters.

As for the massive income gap, really it’s the most useless statistic ever- no wonder Western critics love it so much. It doesn’t do anything but reinforce a negative view of a list of target countries. “Income gap” does not take into account living costs nor taxation- it does not measure a difference in financial security or savings rates. In a “socialist” country like China, exempting tax is unfathomably shortsighted.

Wealth is what really matters in terms of living standards or social problems- not income, and especially not pre-tax income. It correlates far better to crime rates and life satisfaction than GDP per capita. GDP is merely a crude proxy that lazy reporters use. According to these measures a man who earns $25,000 in New York is “richer” than someone who earns $20,000 in the countryside, even though the former must pay 3x as much for food and maybe 4x as much for housing.

Take a look at this:

https://www.credit-suisse.com/news/doc/credit_suisse_global_wealth_databook.pdf

According to a UN study and Credit Suisse, China’s wealth gap is the second lowest in the world. The top 10% richest own roughly 40% of the nation’s aggregate net worth- as opposed to Switzerland’s 80%+. Even the poorest in Denmark own negative 15% or so of the wealth- a massive debt to be split among very few. And this is ignoring the fact that China’s “cheap labor migrants” are overwhelmingly citizens- whereas the 10-12 million illegals in America are simply not counted at all. These are people that Americans see and live by on a day to day basis.

All this has been accomplished not only as a developing country, but a massive developing country with the largest population of any polity in human history, divided among dozens of ethnic groups speaking hundreds of languages, with the most severe and imposing physical barriers to market access and wealth distribution in the world.

Even then an analysis of Chinese incomes by occupation suggest that the income gap comes largely from specialization, not some systematic bias. Not surprisingly people in commerce and banking earn more than subsistence farmers- before the wealth transfers of course.

As for pollution, have you ever heard of “clean industrialization”? It’s not possible in this century, and certainly was not possible in the West nor Japan when they were industrialization. For the speed at which they are industrializing, China pollutes very little- especially when you consider overseas pollution that foreign corporations create in pursuit of their inflated standard of living. This does, of course, include violent resource grabs and wars to legitimize the dollar.

Your assessment of why some “Westerners” are pro-China seems off by the way- if any “my Chinese wife” clones are pro-China, it’s because they’re dragged out of their Western colonial enclaves and away from corporate propaganda. Some of them eventually open their eyes, most do not.

March 27, 2011 @ 6:56 am | Comment

Dunno how one can hate a country on the basis of ones views of it’s government. China isn’t even like most countires – it’s more like an empire, meaning you really have to have a massive chip to hate it all.

I don’t love or hate China despite having a Chinese wife. I like visiting it but I wouldn’t live there. Nothing to do with China – I just like NZ. I am English but I wouldn’t want to live in England again.

What is corporate propaganda? Is it advertising or something? Are there still western colonial encalves in China? I know Howick here in Auckland is rather popular with the Chinese in NZ but I wouldn’t call it a Chinatown enclave. But hey, it’s all the white man’s fault, eh? I mean, everyone else is soooo squeaky clean ;-)

March 28, 2011 @ 7:14 am | Comment

To #20,
recognizing that “wealth gap” is a favorite metric of yours, possibly because it is one that allows you to draw your preferred conclusions, that report has several issues. One, it is not peer reviewed. Related, and two, it is impossible to know if the report is geared towards business rather than neutral perspectives. Third, as acknowledged by the authors, there are many assumptions and use of single source and extrapolated data upon which the analyses, and ultimately the conclusions, are based.

So it is one metric, pushed by some people who have some vested interest in that metric. Is it the best metric? More importantly, is it the only metric that should be looked at? For the first question, I don’t know. But for the second question, almost certainly not.

Besides, how do you accumulate wealth without first having income? If it follows that income comes before wealth, then it seems to stand to reason that the wealth gap will simply follow the income gap, albeit trailing it by a number of years. China has an income gap now. The wealth gap may well emerge down the road.

Literacy is but a small portion of “educated”. Although you can’t be educated if you aren’t literate, the opposite can certainly occur. That Chinese might be harder to learn than some other language is neither here nor there. Part of Mao’s legacy is that he left a large portion of his people without literacy, and his policies factored into that. If Chinese is hard to learn, well, he should have remembered that.

I think when you say “china pollutes very little”, you must be using the per capita metric favoured by some. That metric might be true, strictly speaking. However, mother earth doesn’t care about per capita, I wouldn’t think. So to focus on per capita without looking at total amounts again denies the whole picture.

March 28, 2011 @ 9:15 am | Comment

“Part of Mao’s legacy is that he left a large portion of his people without literacy, and his policies factored into that. If Chinese is hard to learn, well, he should have remembered that.”

I’m not a big fan of Mao (anything good that happened during the Mao period happened because China was stabilized and united under a strong authority for the first time in over a century, not because of Mao’s genius), but he’s certainly not to blame for the country’s literacy rate. The literacy rate doubled between 1950 and 1980, from around 20% to 40%.

That, and mandating simplified characters, pinyin and a standard putonghua was the party’s attempt at dealing with the issue of the difficulty of Chinese. Whether these approaches were as harmful as they were helpful is worthy of question (and I’ve heard linguists argue about it), but it’s specious to say that Mao “should have remembered that”- as it’s obvious he did, otherwise there would have been no simplification and standardization drive.

March 28, 2011 @ 12:02 pm | Comment

About literacy rates. There is a difference between teaching to read so you can read all,and teaching to read you can read only what they want. One is enlightenment the other is indoctrination.

March 28, 2011 @ 9:05 pm | Comment

Some sociopolitical systems have and interest in the illiteracy of the masses, others have interest in mass literacy, but only in the literacy they are interested in. But the aim is the same, keep the masses dumb and controlled.

March 28, 2011 @ 9:10 pm | Comment

Yes, but even controlled literacy is better than illiteracy, as a literate population is more productive and educable than an illiterate one.

March 28, 2011 @ 9:59 pm | Comment

Not completely agree with you.

The written word is a powerful tool. Some of its uses can be very destructive.

And an indoctrinated mind, can be very difficult to open, no matter how literate.

You only has to see the religious wars of old, the ravages of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century, fundamentalist Islam (very much based in a book+hadith)…. and some trolls that lurk here ;-)

I have seen illiterate minds more open than some literate ones.

I give praise to literacy success programs when its aim is education, elightment, not something else.

In one PBS there was a comparison between two education models. Candles to be lit or jars to be filled.

March 28, 2011 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

@Richard: I haven’t lived in China, but I have visited several times. I live in Taiwan and here you can’t see China without the arrogance of their government and also normal people towards Taiwan and Taiwanese people. And then there are missiles pointed at us, which makes it even harder to see our neighbors as friends. If you’re a foreigner in China that has nothing to do with Taiwan it’s a completely different thing than if you find love here, settle, start a family and observe what’s going on there on the other side of the strait. I don’t hate Chinese people, but I do hope they would have more respect for the people of my new home country.

March 29, 2011 @ 1:07 am | Comment

I lived in Taiwan, too (loved it). While I disliked the mainland’s rather crazed attitude toward Taiwan, I also understood the history and indoctrination behind it. Obviously the two countries are moving toward some kind of reconciliation, which is a good thing.

March 29, 2011 @ 1:52 am | Comment

Numerous UN or other internaitonal organizations’ surveys have found that China is more popular than the USA globally. So it doesn’t matter that all the westeners hates China since there are more people on this planet like China more than the USA, of course unless you discount non westeners as being “less human”.

I have lived in and outside of China. The difference between China and West in so called “human rights” and “free speech” issues isn’t nearly as big as being made out to be in the western media.

China is a developing Country and has its own issues. Most of the westeners don’t give a shit about China until they were told their jobs were stolen by Chinese. So you think they would love China?

March 29, 2011 @ 5:29 am | Comment

1) Just a Taiwanese laowai’s view is rather simplistic and is heavily influenced by Taiwanese media. China-Taiwan issue is rather complicate and there are a lot of “brainwash” if you want to call that on both sides. Since I have families in both Taiwan and mainland, I can understand arguments from both sides.

2) For all those complains from expats living in China, keep in mind, you are now MINORITY in another country. Of course, that comes will be adjustment being minority in another country. In general, in my belief, foreigners are treated way better in big city China than even Chinese from other smaller cities. Of course, it may also help you understand how other minorities being treated in the US or Europe everyday. Sad but true that racism and preference treatment are parts of all human natures.

3) For comment about critical thinking. The skill is lacking every country. Most people are too busy to work. They don’t think themselves but follow whatever government or some elites tell them. You can argue that US education system foster better critical thinking, yet vast majority of Americans just don’t have that skill, specially comes to foreign events.

March 29, 2011 @ 5:54 am | Comment

@JIM

That you can not reach the grapes, doesn’t mean they are not ripe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fox_and_the_Grapes

By the way. I am not (US) American.

March 29, 2011 @ 6:24 am | Comment

To nick #23,
you’re right, simplified does constitute Mao’s recognition that traditional Chinese is hard ( or at least harder).

March 29, 2011 @ 8:21 am | Comment

@33,

I do not attribute simplified Chinese to Mao or CCP. In fact, all these started well before 1949 by the nationalist government. They just didn’t want to push it when they realized that CCP are pushing that.

Putonghua is declared as national tone in 1910′s by the Nationalist party. It is not coincidence that people in Taiwan speak that.

March 29, 2011 @ 8:40 am | Comment

@NotFQ: I don’t recognize them for developing it, but I do recognize them for mandating it and getting the standard spread across the country.

March 29, 2011 @ 9:03 am | Comment

“So it doesn’t matter that all the westeners hates China since there are more people on this planet like China more than the USA”
You’ll find a lot of these westerners are some of the more people on this planet who prefer China to the US.
Please make the distinction – do you mean westerners or do you mean Americans?

I personally know more Chinese who prefer the west than prefer China. What does that tell one? Answers on a postcard please ;-)

March 29, 2011 @ 10:22 am | Comment

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/us/29babies.html?_r=1&hp
More Chinese who prefer the west. Guess it’s easy to say one thing and do another, eh?

March 29, 2011 @ 11:36 am | Comment

@ecodelta, I am Chinese American. That’s why I talk American since that’s what I know. You are being too sensitive. I have no idea nor care your nationalities.

March 29, 2011 @ 12:24 pm | Comment

Mike, you are joking or just don’t know the situation. Most Chinese parents did baby birth travel thing because it is easier to get into US universities if your kid is US citizen. In fact, it was South Koreans who originally comes out with this idea then Taiwanese. Only recently in last couple years, Chinese parents start this trend. This nothing to do with prefer for US living. In fact, I know several couples did this then move back Shanghai after having baby.

March 29, 2011 @ 12:48 pm | Comment

“hate”. “like”. “prefer”. Potentially emotionally charged terms (especially the first one) that a certain subset of commentators likes to throw around carelessly. But upon what bases are such terms used? Is there a basis in peoples’ sentiments? More importantly, is any such sentiment sufficiently powerful to drive their actions?

For instance, a subset of commentators “loves” china, and far “prefers” her system of governance to any alternative, american or otherwise. But where do many of these good folks live? You guessed it, the good ol U S of A. So do such proclamations of “love” and “preference ” amount to a hill of beans?

The other thing I enjoy is when “evidence” is offered in the order of magnitude of “I know a guy”, or perhaps even several guys. Wow, well, count me as being convinced in the face of such overwhelming and statistically vigorous evidence.

It seems that pregnancy/delivery tourism from china to the us is picking of steam. What does it mean? Who knows. What specifically is driving individual couples to make the decision to deliver in the US? Who knows. But it seems undeniable that a growing number of Chinese parents are “preferring” that their children have US citizenship as a birthright. While we can’t say with any certainty why they are doing it, we can at least say with certainty that they are acting on those preferences.

March 29, 2011 @ 2:59 pm | Comment

@Richard: It may appear as a reconciliation on the other side of the strait, but here we see it as a big country trying to annex us and destroy our freedoms and democracy. I am aware of the complexity of the issue and I know about all kinds of propaganda on both sides, believe me. I don’t want to turn this thread into China-Taiwan debate. But isn’t it telling, that Taiwanese, who speak Chinese, have such a poor image of China and Chinese people in general? Especially, when Chinese tourists come to Taiwan and get involved in all kinds of incidents or don’t behave according to the local norms, people think: Thank god we’re not part of them. I think Taiwanese are smart people, I wouldn’t dismiss their opinion and say it’s based on propaganda, after all information here is free, people write blogs, share their experience, do business with Chinese companies. You would not believe how many negative things I have heard from my colleagues and friends, who had some China related experiences to share. But who knows, maybe Chinese treat Taiwanese differently than Western or White foreigners or Chinese Born Americans.

March 29, 2011 @ 5:18 pm | Comment

@S.K.:
“For instance, a subset of commentators “loves” china, and far “prefers” her system of governance to any alternative, american or otherwise. But where do many of these good folks live? You guessed it, the good ol U S of A. So do such proclamations of “love” and “preference ” amount to a hill of beans?”

Yes, and many western expats who live in China have negative feelings about the place. Many Chinese go abroad to live, and when they find out that the countries they imagined to be lands of opportunity aren’t too keen on them, pine to return. There is nothing strange about this.

The most anti-American Shanghainese man that I know lived in Detroit for 3 years. Imagine an overweight, geeky Chinese engineer in Detroit- not exactly the friendliest city- for three years. He has little social life outside of his internet connection. Women are uninterested in him. He’s not exactly welcomed.

He returns to Shanghai. Gets an excellent job and marries a fine young woman. He has a social life again, and he’s back with his family. Is it any wonder that he prefers the country where he can succeed to the one where he feels alienated? No.

Many of these Chinese abroad- unless they live in a heavily Chinese enclave, like the Bay Area or Vancouver, feel as isolated as an incommunicado laowai in Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou or Hefei. They don’t understand their new society, one that is far less welcoming to foreign guests- oddly enough- than the one they come from. They’re simply unhappy… and take it out by arguing on blogs. Sound familiar? (Present company excluded, of course. ;) )

If I had a dollar for every returned Chinese man or woman I’ve met who is happy to be back after becoming disillusioned with being abroad, and every miserable expat I’ve met who will be happy to finally return to their country of origin (or depart for shores they find more hospitable, if they’re particularly itinerant), I could take my girlfriend out to M on the Bund every night for the next week. There are some of us who enjoy it here… and there are some Chinese expatriates and immigrants that love their new home. But they’re not whining about it on blogs.

March 29, 2011 @ 9:39 pm | Comment

As I said, laowai, I lived in Taiwan for nearly two years. Some people, some of them quite extreme, saw China as a looming, imminent threat. I understand that. Others welcomed closer ties to China, while maintaining the status quo. None wanted Taiwan to be subsumed by China, and I believe we’ll see the status quo continue, Most accepted this situation and went on pretty happily with their lives, without biting their nails over the missile that have been pointed at Taiwan for many decades.

I never, ever said the Taiwanese people’s views on China were based on propaganda. Most are realistic and clear-headed about China. The extreme independence-at-any-cost Taiwanese tended to be the most unrealistic, but they’re entitled to their opinions, too, and I even attended many of their get-togethers. I just think they’re in dreamland, as are the mainlanders who believe it’s just a matter of time that Taiwan “returns to its mother’s arms.” The status quo will continue, with Taiwan continuing to strengthen ties with the PRC, mainly for economic reasons.

March 30, 2011 @ 12:20 am | Comment

Taiwanese laowai

We are coming and will eat your babies like crackers! Wet your diaper yet?

March 30, 2011 @ 1:22 am | Comment

“But isn’t it telling, that Taiwanese, who speak Chinese, have such a poor image of China and Chinese people in general? Especially, when Chinese tourists come to Taiwan and get involved in all kinds of incidents or don’t behave according to the local norms, people think: Thank god we’re not part of them.”

That’s truly unfortunately comments by Taiwanese if that’s true. Ironically, those were same thing Japanese and South Koreans said about Taiwanese about fifteen or twenty years ago when many of them traveled aboard for first time. Also, many Europeans said about Americans when Americans travel aboard in the 90s (i.e. the term “ugly American”). I guess that human being just don’t learn.

March 30, 2011 @ 1:34 am | Comment

SK Cheung, you oversimplify things as usual- but here it is. People would rather be rich than poor. America is rich because it exploits other nations. Don’t even argue. it’s not debatable. I can provide sources, but I refuse to do so until the anti-Chinese trolls actually read them- which will be never.

There is a grey area here- those who know the truth understand that they can go to America and enjoy some of the money, land, resources, and labor America strong-armed from them and their countrymen- be it Latin Americans who had their governments destabilized with American sponsored corruption and “regime-change” action, Africans and Arabs who had their natural resources stolen, or “Asians” who are making little good on the countless trillions America has “borrowed” indefinitely.

They are smart enough to know that America has no moral right to the vast majority of the resources it takes from everyone else. But if America has a brain drain system to suck the world dry of talent, why not make use of it? It doesn’t mean you have to lie to yourself and pretend the West is benevolent or even decent. American foreign policy is vicious and Machiavellian. For weaker people the appeal of easy wealth is strong.

March 30, 2011 @ 2:13 am | Comment

SK Cheung
recognizing that “wealth gap” is a favorite metric of yours,

Rather, it’s a favorite of trendy anti-China types who are primarily journalists, and not economists or financiers. I wouldn’t even mention it if it wasn’t. The common refrain is “wealth gaps, pollution, and politics, oh my!”. In case you missed the last 30 years, go look at the Egypt/China nonsense for starters and nearly every single “professional” “report” will mention “gap between rich and poor”. Or google “China” and “wealth gap/inequality”.

One, it is not peer reviewed.

Unlike the vast body of sources every single “China expert” brings up when they scream about the wealth gap? So you think anecdotes and sob stories are more reliable than UN-Wider and Credit Suisse? I think that explains the West’s view of China quite succinctly. In fact I don’t recall you ever satisfactorily backing any of your criticisms of the CCP with reliable sources, or any sources at all.

Related, and two, it is impossible to know if the report is geared towards business rather than neutral perspectives.

What are you even trying to say? That Credit Suisse has a vested interest in using data derived from a UN study to imply China’s wealth gap is relatively low? If anything, this will harm prospects in China- the most “dynamic” economies (all other things equal) and desirable markets are the ones where 1% the nation’s population spends 80% of its money, which creates massive waste and long-term malaise.

Third, as acknowledged by the authors, there are many assumptions and use of single source and extrapolated data upon which the analyses, and ultimately the conclusions, are based.

Single source > zero sources. Anyway if you look at China’s wealth per capita (or GDP, since that’s about as far as most ever go) and compare it to their numbers of billionaires, it should be striking that India and Russia have nearly as many super rich despite having much lower aggregate GDPs, or better yet per capita net worth (China’s is nearly 3x India’s, about the same as Russia’s)

March 30, 2011 @ 2:43 am | Comment

To nick #42,
it’s certainly understandable that people who go abroad get culture shock and become homesick, yearning for that which is familiar. But ” preferring” china out of homesickness wasn’t what I thought we were talking about. Perhaps I misunderstood.

If commentators are extolling the virtues of china because they are homesick, then that is certainly a very personal decision. But the sense I had gotten was that many of these commentators were long timers who were extolling the virtues of china ( the system) out of ” preference” in every sense of the word, yet failing to act upon it. As you said with the shanghaiese gentleman, he “preferred” shanghai over Detroit, and he walked the talk.

It is certainly true that people who are content are less likely to be vocal about it, such that the complainers tend to constitute a disproportionately large fraction of the voices on blogs like this.

March 30, 2011 @ 2:49 am | Comment

The solution is simple, if you want a pure democracy move to India or Haiti. If you like countries raised and developed in authoritarian or “flawed democracy” climates, pick South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, or Hong Kong.

Or try America or Europe if you don’t belong.

March 30, 2011 @ 2:55 am | Comment

“But the sense I had gotten was that many of these commentators were long timers who were extolling the virtues of china ( the system) out of ” preference” in every sense of the word, yet failing to act upon it. As you said with the shanghaiese gentleman, he “preferred” shanghai over Detroit, and he walked the talk.

This is sad commentary by S. K. Cheung. It reminds me a lot of neocons favorite comebacks for anybody who don’t agree with them “if you don’t like US (whether that’s true or not), you can always leave US”.

March 30, 2011 @ 6:03 am | Comment

S.K. Cheung:

Even if they are long-timers, there are plenty of extenuating circumstances for that. Family that they can’t leave. A job they can’t leave. A Ph.D. to finish. Not everyone can board the next plane out. There are similar cases among China expats- why the hell is MyLaowai still in this country… why spend 14 years in a place you claim to hate? It makes little sense to me, but there it is. Obligations, connections, inertia…

March 30, 2011 @ 7:15 am | Comment

“In fact, I know several couples did this then move back Shanghai after having baby.”
Yeah…but they went back with a US baby, not a Chinese baby.

“I have no idea nor care your nationalities”
You Japanese are all the same, eh?

March 30, 2011 @ 7:57 am | Comment

“This is sad commentary by S. K. Cheung. It reminds me a lot of neocons favorite comebacks for anybody who don’t agree with them “if you don’t like US (whether that’s true or not), you can always leave US”.”
—why is it sad? Especially if it is true? It might be sad if you have no response to it. Like I say, talk is cheap. Walking the talk is far more respectable. Kinda like that shanghaiese gentleman. I happen to like the system in which I live, which is why I live here.

To nick,
I agree that life is complicated. Which is why, when I say ” preference”, I am referring to the sum total that accounts for all of those extenuating circumstances. And it’s also a statement of how one ranks one’s “preferences”. If one really preferred the Ccp system of governance above all else, then one should really act on that. On the other hand, most commentators seem to ” love” the Ccp system of governance, so long as they don’t have to live under it themselves. That to me suggests a far weaker conviction. Kinda like Jim, for instance.

March 30, 2011 @ 8:53 am | Comment

1) I take back comment #47. Richard, please delete it if you want. I think that statement is a bit too harsh. I hope S. K. Cheung is truly trying to understand other people’s prospective.

2) “I have no idea nor care your nationalities”
You Japanese are all the same, eh?

Mike clearly didn’t understand my point in other posts or mix up with somebody’s post.

March 30, 2011 @ 9:15 am | Comment

No Jim, I think I understood your point. Westerners are Americans. Britons, French, Germans, Australians, Russians, Kazakhs, Turks, Arabs, every western nation….is American.
There are no other western viewpoints other than American.
The nationality does not matter – if it is western, it obviously is American. We other westerners don’t have our own opinions, foreign policies, cultures, preferences because we are all…..Anerican.

March 30, 2011 @ 9:30 am | Comment

And of course, every American is a white Anglo-Saxon, pick-up driving, gun-owning, right wing China hater ;-)

Three weeks to go before I go back to China (Shanghai and Nantong). Should be fun – apparently the itinarary is shopping, shopping, eating, shopping. I’ll try and slip a drinky-poo in there somewhere ;-)
I don’t hate China – it’s just different and takes me a while to get used to it. Same with my wife now – we’re both glad to get back home to NZ though we enjoy our time in China. No one can hate a country – you get out of it what you put into it

March 30, 2011 @ 9:38 am | Comment

Mike Goldthorpe,

No, you are wrong. That’s not my point. Ecodelta think that I use American as an example because I think he/she is American. So I explain him/her. I use American because I am Chinese American. So I only understand Chinese and American prospective. That’s why I cite Americans in my example. That’s all.

March 30, 2011 @ 9:45 am | Comment

“that to me suggests a far weaker conviction. Kinda like Jim, for instance.”

S. K. Cheung definitely like to jump to conclusion and like to think he know what people think. He does not even know my position on many issues, yet he still call me out and say that I have weaker conviction. How strange?

March 30, 2011 @ 10:01 am | Comment

Looking back, Jim, I see there was a case of mistaken identity. I aimed my comments at CNLST. Oops! Red face here….I blame the Coriolis effect ;-) Makes my eyes swivel funny…or something.

However, I have found even ethnic Asians have this black-white view with regards to westerners (ethnic in that they are western, just like me). Can I ask if you are US born, or immigrant (like me)? Not that that makes too much difference – I do correct many NZ-Asians about their use of “westerner” (and by Asians, I include all from Iran and India eastwards).

Human nature, as nurtured at home…

March 30, 2011 @ 10:02 am | Comment

Mike Goldthorpe said: “no one can hate a country – you get out of it what you put into it”

I would personally estimate the number of humans who hate this or that country in the billions, but ok…

March 30, 2011 @ 10:24 am | Comment

@Resident Poet
Yeah…but of those billions, how many actually know anything of the country they “hate”? Most, I’ll wager, hate a country because of propaganda (western and eastern), either from the media, the family or society or some other reason. Aparently a lot of Britons hate the French because…ummm..well, they do. And we beat them in Agincourt…and stuff…

;-)

However, that doesn’t stop millions of Britons living in France and loving the life (OK, thousands…lots of thousands, mind). Some even learn French…

March 30, 2011 @ 10:32 am | Comment

It’s understandable, even many Chinese do not want to be Chinese.

March 30, 2011 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

To 55,
take it easy. I’m not calling you out as having a “weaker conviction” in all aspects of your life. Just that within the context of what I was alluding to in #50. Again, not complicated.

March 30, 2011 @ 4:26 pm | Comment

About those post of laowais married with ROC/PROC girls, an interesting read.

http://tinyurl.com/6k4rs6y

March 30, 2011 @ 5:24 pm | Comment

“If one really preferred the Ccp system of governance above all else, then one should really act on that. On the other hand, most commentators seem to ” love” the Ccp system of governance, so long as they don’t have to live under it themselves.”

“take it easy. I’m not calling you out as having a “weaker conviction” in all aspects of your life. Just that within the context of what I was alluding to in #50. Again, not complicated.”

Yes. For somebody who always like to jump to conclusion and like to stereotype people in a box. Of course, nothing is complicated. That’s your problem.

March 30, 2011 @ 6:59 pm | Comment

ecodelta, your article is truly sad if it is true. Hopefully, with China rising economically in the future, those stories become less and less common in the future.

It has something to do with economic situation, in my opinion. I know it has happened in the past in Japan, Korea and Philippine quite a bit as well. Since US has military base in those places one time or another, there were quite a few military brides in the US. As those countries become wealthier, those military brides are less and less common.
Hopefully it will happen in the China as well.

March 30, 2011 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

@jim

I don’t consider it so sad, but I understand it may hurt Chinese self esteem. On the positive side it is a way to extend China’s soft power ( although I consider wife power anything but soft…). Besides, marriage was one of the foreign policy of many Chinese dynasties, at least with nomadic tribes beyond the wall.

But Not all is lost. There are also some marriages the other way around. For example.

http://tinyurl.com/6h2japd

On the other hand, it seems there is an import of Vietnamese/Lao/Cambodian woman to China. Forced and unforced. For affluent and not so affluent locals.

Also, given the rise of Chinese billionaires, old and young, I wonder how successful they would be caching western/Caucasian beauties in the near future.

March 30, 2011 @ 8:44 pm | Comment

By the way. We have A LOT of adopted Chinese girls here. But a Spanish raised girl, even or Chinese origin, is a fiery thing to handle…

March 30, 2011 @ 9:13 pm | Comment

Interesting post…something most of us struggle with, I think.

Drop me a line when you’re in Beijing, would love grab a beer or something.

March 30, 2011 @ 11:07 pm | Comment

To YF #46:
as usual, it’s America, America, and more America. The same old rant.

To #47:
I referred to the wealth gap as a favourite metric of yours because it happens to put the CCP system in a somewhat more positive light, unlike, say, income gap. But as I suggested, it takes income to accumulate wealth, and it takes an income gap to develop a wealth gap. The income gap is already there, so a wealth gap in China will be there sometime down the road.

As for appraisal of that Credit Suisse report, at no point did I say other reports were better or worse. I am merely pointing out some of the methodological limitations of the particular report you offered. You are (as is the norm for you folks) arguing against something I didn’t say.

Credit Suisse (like any other business) is in the business of making money. Will they commission a 128 page report out of the goodness of their heart? Or will they do so because it might be helpful to them in some way or other? You decide.

When I pointed out “single source”, I was merely reiterating what the authors themselves acknowledge. If you were versed in the process of critical appraisal, you would realize that the most important part of any report is not the results or conclusions, but the methodology upon which those results and conclusions are derived or based. Conclusions based on flawed methodology are…well…flawed. It might be the best that’s out there, but I wouldn’t take it to the bank (pun intended).

To Jim:
if you want to make things more complicated than they need to be, be my guest. You’re doing a good job of it already.

March 31, 2011 @ 2:01 am | Comment

@Eco
from your link
“If I remember correctly, an overseas student once told me, “When living abroad, you would find, as time passes by that those foreign men are not as good as people always say. They have many habits which are not suitable for Chinese women in terms of culture, diet, communication and other areas.”
What I was talking about – you get out what you put in ;-) These poor Chinese girls are missing out of the reason for travelling – bradening the mind as well as learning academic stuff.
Can’t think what habits this person is referring too, mind. Her western bloke doesn’t like chicken feet and she doesn’t like him drinking beer? Hardly a relationship breaker ;-) as for communication and this mysterious “other areas” – isn’t that an international man vs woman thing?

March 31, 2011 @ 5:50 am | Comment

Like most Asians, Chinese views on politics tend to be extremely polarized. There are not a lot of people who see things both ways, or hold eclectic views on “good parts” vs “bad parts”. There is a lot of emotional investment in it. If you hate someone, you hate him completely to the end. I must say few Chinese-Americans would view things the way that reader does, probably more one-sided.

March 31, 2011 @ 10:17 am | Comment

To quote rappers 50 Cent and The Game:

“Hate it or love it the under dog’s on top
And I’m gon shine homie until my heart stop

Go’head’n envy me
I’m rap’s MVP
And I ain’t going no where
So you can get to know me”

Like 50, China is here to stay, either we love it or hate it, the most important thing is to get to know it. It’s rare to find a balanced rational view point nowadays in the China debate, that’s why this website is so special.

March 31, 2011 @ 11:58 pm | Comment

I have a modest blog for which I seldom, if ever, write anything. I’m not a writer and prefer to quote (copy and paste) the work(s) of professionals.

The exception to my reluctance to write my opinions is the paragraph beneath the masthead of Reflections In A Chinese Eye. It is my view of China:

Often, I think I know China well. However, just as often, it occurs to me that I don’t really know what I thought I knew. The visions and experiences collected and stored in my mind while I am awake are gone after I have slept. Reasoning and understanding seem to last only for a few hours before becoming illusory: the images and meanings disappear one by one, stolen from me by apparitions and secreted away, never to be returned in their original form. The understandings that I have assiduously acquired are nothing more than banal when bound together to try and shape the oldest continuous civilization on earth. Experience, learning and proudly possessed knowledge, gained from many sources and from interaction with its people, are taken from everyone who thinks they know China and passed on to others who share them smugly, use them with confidence, reverently broadcast them as Gospel for a few praiseworthy moments. “I know China.” Then, time and circumstance mangle them until they are beyond comprehension. These too will be passed on and shared as truth, only to be proved wrong again. The enigma is this: China never changes, but China is always changing. Its people beset by burden, affected with melancholy, inured to bewilderment, and suckled on uninterrupted millennia of incalculable hopelessness and sorrow. “There is chaos under heaven and things could not be better”, said Mao Zedong. This is the real truth: “China is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese” – Charles De Gaulle. China: don’t ask, it is what it is…

April 1, 2011 @ 1:21 am | Comment

SK Cheung
But as I suggested, it takes income to accumulate wealth, and it takes an income gap to develop a wealth gap.

Did you miss the 20 times that I explained how pre-tax income is not income? That’s not even counting living costs.

The past 30 years of wealth accumulation has more or less rendered its verdict.

April 1, 2011 @ 11:41 am | Comment

“Did you miss the 20 times that I explained how pre-tax income is not income?”
—oh no, did not miss it at all. I have given it all the due consideration it deserves, as I do with all your points.

Pre-tax income IS income…otherwise it wouldn’t be called income. But absolutely, it is not the entire story. Just as “wealth gap” is not the entire story either.

April 1, 2011 @ 4:07 pm | Comment

It’s the Chinese government and its culture of corruption and propaganda I
can’t stand. But I first moved to China in 2002 and over the past 9 years I
have seen the country make huge strides, socially and politically. It is a
dynamic, vibrant, inspiring culture and there is nowhere else I’d rather live,
except maybe NYC if I were a millionaire.

The only reason, why anybody would go back to a place is that if they know it.
They would rather pretend everything is Sunny Delight, rather realize the truth.
However the homish exprience keeps everybody with high hopes and prosperity.
Unlike Richard who would not live in NYC, in a five hundred dollar apartment and
do public or immigrant work, surounded by people who can barely speak english.
Instead believe in a nation that is “filter prosperity” where every one US citizen is like 100 to their citizens. Unlike Samurai, who would give they would try, and keep trying even into old age like the Tubby Detroit man. Speaking of inspiring, dynamic, vibrant, and inspiring culture. Why not USA where their is variety? You don’t believe the nation is no longer of any use, and the commercialism is just rampidt with the consumer race?

April 1, 2011 @ 8:22 pm | Comment

SK Cheung
Pre-tax income IS income…otherwise it wouldn’t be called income. But absolutely, it is not the entire story. Just as “wealth gap” is not the entire story either.

Wealth gap is merely income gap refined through living costs and wealth transfers (gifts, taxes). Wealth gap is essentially what everyone WANTS to know but usually don’t have the tools to measure.

The only thing that can be added is “hidden” money stashed away, but even then there are a few things we know besides the UNU-Wider studies

1) The concentration of billionaires in China vs. other countries- China only has around 100 (give or take) billionaires with a population of 1.3 billion and an aggregate net worth of approximately $20 trillion USD

2) The poorest of the poor in China are very, very rarely heavily indebted

3) China’s crime rates match those of low-inequality countries somewhat closely

Income inequality is merely a poor proxy for a much more meaningful statistic- the problem is that the statistics are not perfect so you will have standard error. But for the sake of comparison it is hard to argue that China’s “wealth” gap is much lower than almost every country on the planet. This is unheard of for developing countries.

April 2, 2011 @ 1:31 am | Comment

is not much lower*

April 2, 2011 @ 4:13 am | Comment

On the one hand, you are referring to “wealth” as a surrogate for “disposable income” (ie. gross income minus taxes and cost of living adjustments). But then you reference billionaires, which is a metric for net worth. So it is unclear to me as to what exactly you are referring to.

However, as the gross income gap increases, unless any unit increase is completely eroded by incremental taxes and incremental cost-of-living increases, there will by definition be an increase in the “disposable income” gap as well. Though it is true, as I acknowledged earlier, that the latter will trail the former. Furthermore, the more disposable income you have that is saved/invested will also gradually and incrementally increase the net worth gap over time. Either way, regardless of how you’re defining “wealth”, the gap will increase with an increasing gross income gap, albeit trailing it by a number of years. As I said, what China has now is a gross income gap. What she can expect is a wealth gap to come, however-defined.

April 2, 2011 @ 7:18 am | Comment

SK, I am referring to wealth as you put it, net worth. Disposable income only serves to accumulate wealth and net worth.

What she can expect is a wealth gap to come, however-defined.

Well, at least you aren’t saying that a wealth gap already exists. Beyond increasing living costs and taxes is artificially depressed prices (government housing, government incentives and price controls).

As you can see China has a progressive tax like most nations, and as more people move up in the bracket they pay more in taxes. They have higher estate taxes and capital gain taxes than most countries.

So in other words yes, taxes are technically being shifted more and more to higher income individuals. Unless you mean to say all wealth should be appropriated by the government and redistributed.

April 2, 2011 @ 7:37 am | Comment

“Unless you mean to say all wealth should be appropriated by the government and redistributed.”
—no, not what I am trying to say at all. Is that “communism” in all its glory? Hasn’t that been tried, and failed? I don’t think too many people would refer to CCP China these days as “communist”, despite the party’s name.

What I am saying is that, for any given gross income gap today, there will be a resultant wealth gap tomorrow. China has the former now. Regardless of the status of the “wealth gap” now, that is bound to increase in the future. And since China’s economic awakening only occurred 30 years ago, there may not have been the time yet for the wealth gap to truly materialize. But it’s only a matter of time.

April 2, 2011 @ 8:21 am | Comment

SK Cheung
What I am saying is that, for any given gross income gap today, there will be a resultant wealth gap tomorrow.

Again, this is not true. China already does more wealth transfers than could ever be politically acceptable in really, any other country on the face of the planet. There is a wealth gap everywhere, China’s is just among the lowest, and it has stayed that way because the government places almost 100% of the tax burden on top earners and the (relatively) wealthy. So yes, even if it does grow it has a long way to go before it reaches even “socialist” levels in most developed nations.

And since China’s economic awakening only occurred 30 years ago, there may not have been the time yet for the wealth gap to truly materialize. But it’s only a matter of time.

Then why is it that democratic India, who had a slightly later “economic awakening”, has such an obscene wealth gap?

April 2, 2011 @ 8:36 am | Comment

“Again, this is not true.”
—you do realize, when I say “there will be a resultant wealth gap tomorrow”, I am speaking figuratively, and that I don’t literally mean tomorrow, right?

Unless you are suggesting that all disposable income above a certain (and fairly meager) level is siphoned off to taxes and “transfers” (which, as I said earlier, looks a lot like “communism”), and unless you deny that a gross income gap exists today, then by definition, the wealth gap will increase over time. A person who makes more gross income than another will have more disposable income at the end of the day, despite higher taxes. That difference will accrue over time, even if it is stuffed into the mattress rather than invested. At some future point, that difference will manifest itself as a wealth gap on national terms. I don’t know how you plan to dispute that the wealth gap will grow. The only real question is how fast, and to what extent, it will grow. That I cannot answer.

I don’t know India’s situation. But as I suggested, income gap predates wealth gap. If India has a more dramatic wealth gap than China, then I would wonder if an income gap manifested in India far earlier than it did in China.

Also, a “wealth gap” is only a measure of the difference. A gap of x means the range of wealth could be from having nothing to having “x”. A different society could have a similar gap with a range of wealth from x to 2x. A poor person in one society might be able to live on x. But it would likely be more difficult for a poor person in another society to live on next to nothing. And China still has many in the latter category. As I say, net worth is a metric, but certainly not the only relevant one.

April 2, 2011 @ 9:22 am | Comment

SK Cheung
Unless you are suggesting that all disposable income above a certain (and fairly meager) level is siphoned off to taxes and “transfers” (which, as I said earlier, looks a lot like “communism”), and unless you deny that a gross income gap exists today, then by definition, the wealth gap will increase over time.

Taxes are a wealth transfer, no matter how you look at it. Yes, an income gap exists- but analysis has revealed that this is due to specialization, not systemic bias. Or more relevantly, as people in the countryside move into cities their incomes will increase. America’s income gini is nearly the same as China’s, but with tax laws far more favorable to the rich. Their living costs are also much higher.

Therefore even if you merely take a nominal pre-tax income gap and extrapolate over 10 years China will *still* be more evenly “distributed” than India or America. Another point, India’s income gap is less than China’s. But there is next to no upward mobility, and commodity prices are generally speaking unstable and excessively high.

As for absolute poverty, again, most of these studies are based on $/day income. They ignore the fact that housing, food and other necessities in China are subsidized far more than would ever be acceptable in other countries.

April 2, 2011 @ 9:34 am | Comment

I am not sure what “due to specialization, not systemic bias” means. In general, people with more education/desirable skills and/or experience will make more money than those with less. Is that “specialization” (of education/skills/experience), or is that a “systemic bias” against those with less education/skills/experience?

At the same time, you suggest that peoples’ income will increase by moving into cities. No doubt that is the motivation for them to make such a move (although more recently there seems to be a trend that things aren’t working out and more are moving back into the countryside). However, how does merely moving into the city constitute “specialization”? If anything, it smacks of systemic bias against rural workers (and I’m not even referring to that hukou business).

It seems you are not disputing the presence of an income gap, with caveats about the surrogate nature of that data. I am not disputing the apparently small current wealth gap, with caveats about the methodological limitations of studies like the one you linked. My contention is that the persistence of an income gap will eventually result in a widening of the wealth gap. Your contention is that it won’t. And then we’ll have to wait and see.

April 2, 2011 @ 1:24 pm | Comment

Bias would be corruption or bad policy favoring the rich. Yes, most of China’s income gap apparently comes from the wide variation of occupations that span most developing countries.

Cities produce higher GDP because they are more “efficient” at output, generally. An income gap may or may not widen a wealth gap depending on other factors. If they haven’t since the last 30 years there’s no reason to believe even more aggressive egalitarian policies will worsen things significantly.

April 2, 2011 @ 4:54 pm | Comment

I can’t say if ccp policies favour the rich or not. But in terms of corruption, to say nothing of guanxi and nepotism, the ccp is certainly not lacking. If that is a virtue, then it is one shared by many countries. If it is a vice, which is more likely, I don’t see china and the ccp being particularly immune to it. China has had, for a long time, plenty of people who are dirt poor, and a relative few who are filthy rich. What she is developing now is a middle class that didn’t exist before.

Dent said some people have to get rich first. That has already happened. What was unsaid was the assumption that the masses would eventually follow in getting, if not rich, at least out of abject poverty. For that to happen, the income gap has to close and the wealth gap will eventually as well. But if the former does not happen, neither will the latter.

April 3, 2011 @ 2:04 am | Comment

It’s complex- on the one hand those playing “catch up” will do so much more quickly as the $ value of subsidies they are given for economic/income growth is unprecedented in developing nations.

Those who are ahead, i.e with better jobs, skills and training, generally do not see their incomes rise as fast.

For all intents and purposes corruption in terms of sheer volume of court cases (or what would qualify for one) is one thing, but the amount of money illegally transferred is in my opinion probably the best way to measure the impact of said corruption. The CCP needs to improve greatly, but I’m glad to say there is nothing like the legalized corruption and corporatist ownership of the state as you see in Anglo-American influenced nations.

April 3, 2011 @ 4:43 am | Comment

If the income gap closes, all else will follow. I certainly agree with that. If the rich get richer, but more slowly, while the poor get richer more quickly, that would be a pretty good scenario (except for things like inflation). Whether China is truly on such a path…time will tell.

Monetary corruption is one aspect. But corruption in terms of unfair access to opportunity (where those who are connected get better jobs, and those who aren’t, don’t) also serves to keep the disadvantaged down. It might be a less prominent problem on a national level, but seems to be a much more prominent problem at local levels in China. There is no justification whatsoever for suggesting that “legalized corruption” and “corporate ownership of the state” exist in “western” states, and I don’t think most people would share your enthusiasm about CCP China having a better track record in regards to corruption.

April 3, 2011 @ 11:29 am | Comment

Compared to when they were developing, I’d say China compares very, very favorably.

April 3, 2011 @ 12:40 pm | Comment

Hello – My family and I are living just outside of Chengdu. My husband and I are teaching and rabble-rousing (insofar as one can) at Xihua university; our kids attend local schools. Just found your blog via feedly.com – love it.

If you’ll be passing through Chengdu, feel free to send us an e-mail via our website.

Jane

April 3, 2011 @ 6:17 pm | Comment

To YF:
it again boils down to what exactly it is that you’re comparing. If you compare China today with “the west” today, there are many more checks and balances in place to guard against “legalized corruption” in the west than there are in China. China hardly compares favourably in that regard.

But if you say “China is a developing nation”, then you are comparing China today with (for argument’s sake) the US circa 1806 or circa 1836 (depending on whether you want to take it as 60 years of CCP rule, or 30 years of more prosperous CCP rule, in choosing the time frame). Is there more legal prohibition against corruption in China today than there was in the early 1800′s US? I don’t know. But whereas “corporate ownership of the state” is hardly justified today, it was certainly a non-entity back then.

April 4, 2011 @ 2:59 am | Comment

It is absolutely justified. The government in America and other Anglophone nations serve only the interests of the rich. Not the other 90%.

April 4, 2011 @ 6:09 am | Comment

“The government in America and other Anglophone nations serve only the interests of the rich. Not the other 90%.”
—oh brother, here we go again. Regardless of whether you are talking today, or early 1800′s, that’s just another typical load from the typical list of talking points.

April 4, 2011 @ 8:40 am | Comment

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/04/world/asia/04museum.html?ref=global-home
“Many countries do not present their history in terms independent historians consider fully credible. American museums have been under pressure to account more fully for slavery. American Indians won a long battle to open their own museum on the Mall in Washington; other museums celebrate the westward expansion of the United States but give short shrift to the displacement and killing of American Indians.

Even so, few countries can compete with China in so completely suppressing the shades of gray about their past. One result is that the Chinese public rarely has access, even on the Internet, to versions of history that differ from party propaganda, and popular support for some nationalist causes is sometimes even stronger than the party’s own stances. Many Chinese are bewildered, for example, that some Tibetans or Uighurs are dissatisfied with Chinese rule or that Japanese and Taiwanese might have differing views of China’s claims on their territory.”

April 4, 2011 @ 12:34 pm | Comment

“Even so, few countries can compete with China in so completely suppressing the shades of gray about their past. One result is that the Chinese public rarely has access, even on the Internet, to versions of history that differ from party propaganda, and popular support for some nationalist causes is sometimes even stronger than the party’s own stances.”

Remedying this, even in the relatively half-hearted way Japan has done it, would begin to drain the fenqing swamp. Might a CCP more confident in China’s international position take this risk someday?

April 4, 2011 @ 3:50 pm | Comment

The Fengqing are CCP’s useful idiots.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot

“The implication is that though the person in question naïvely thinks themselves an ally (deleted) they are actually held in contempt by them, and were being cynically used.”

April 4, 2011 @ 6:08 pm | Comment

I think that many fenqings understand that they are cynically used by the CCP – but that they are also feared or reckoned with in Zhongnanhai. Nationalist righteousness is hard to censor, even for the CCP. It spells a bit of personal importance, in an environment which ignores them, or shuts them up on most other counts.

That’s why they have so many happy gatherings on international blogs. People even react to them.

April 4, 2011 @ 11:38 pm | Comment

It does look like the fenqing are having an effect. Just look at #96, even the New York Times now feels obligated to have a “yes this is not unique to China, yes the US does it” paragraph.

April 5, 2011 @ 3:33 am | Comment

“Useful idiots” refers to foreigners supporting an enemy or malign cause, often unwittingly, and being used by said cause. My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong here) is that “fenqing” are homegrown Patriotic Education products. Some may be expats or overseas students, like the Hidden Harmony team, HongXing, Jason or pug_ster.

By the Wikipedia definition, people like Shaun Rein and those who claim to be of other nationalities like Charles Liu, Merp/Ferrin, Wei, Mongol Warrior and Yourfriend qualify as useful idiots (assuming they are actually useful to the CCP as apologists).

April 5, 2011 @ 9:28 am | Comment

The concept has become generic enough that it can also be applied independent of country or origin.

April 5, 2011 @ 5:40 pm | Comment

There seems to be a factor of perspective though, ecodelta. A laowai can be a useful idiot (for any country’s authorities). A dangwai can be a useful idiot for a ruling party. And maybe party membership candidates can be useful idiots, too, especially if they are really keen on joining.

Can a party member or a party elder be a useful idiot, too? I don’t know.

April 5, 2011 @ 8:58 pm | Comment

“Can a party member or a party elder be a useful idiot, too? I don’t know.”

Why not? Can be duped, like anyone else, by an opponent power family within the party with an agenda quite different to what he thinks.

The term could also be used to the red guards during the cultural revolution. A tool for Mao’s revenge to the party that wanted to reduce its power, and accordingly dumped when no longer necessary.

Power struggles, as older as humanity, can take many twists and turns.

April 5, 2011 @ 11:22 pm | Comment

Jim 1980, reference you #16, specifically: “Don’t forget not longer ago, Dr. Wen Ho Lee was convicted for his spy crime.”

Actually, Dr.Lee pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of improper storage of classified documents, or some such. Then he turned around and sued the government for releasing his name to the public, and collected over a million in his civil suit. So he was never convicted of spying, though a more competent prosecutor may have been able to get a conviction. The bottom line is that he was not convicted of spying, he admitted to having committed a lesser crime, and he obtained civil redress for having his name prematurely leaked to the public.

April 6, 2011 @ 1:24 am | Comment

It looks like they are picking on ai weiwei again. They just arrested him for god-knows-what, which could also be described as same old same old.

April 6, 2011 @ 6:55 am | Comment

Traces of evil.

April 6, 2011 @ 8:09 am | Comment

I wonder if they’ll find such traces in the Bird’s Nest. That would be a shame. Such a nice stadium…

April 6, 2011 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

I wonder what is the real dynamic behind the recent crcakdown.

Power shifts within CCP?

Perceived real risk of Jasmine tea intoxication?

Big bang on the table (look guys, the cage is now a little bigger but just not make to much noise. Ok?)

Incoming power transfer in the government?

April 6, 2011 @ 4:06 pm | Comment

Re #104, sounds convincing to me, ecodelta.
Re #109, it seems to me that many people are surprisingly sure that the CCP’s top priorities would have fundamentally changed since 1978. All issues from power shifts within the CCP to the power transfer in the pipeline may play a role right now, but it would seem to me that every step the CCP has taken towards more civil liberties in the past three decades have been modernization technicalities, rather than ends in themselves. Therefore, to revoke all or many of those steps would be equally justifiable from their point of view, provided that they help to maintain one-party rule.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

April 6, 2011 @ 9:46 pm | Comment

Agree

Priority one, hold incontestable power.

Civil liberties?
Simply a collateral effect of necessary reforms to improve (dire) economy/technology/industrial/living standards situation left after 30 years of (mis)rule.

Choose between reforms and endangering our power grasp? Even at the cost of jeopardizing progress and country status abroad?
The answer is clear. Power first.

April 6, 2011 @ 10:23 pm | Comment

I retired some time ago the benefit of doubt to the CCP.

There are no doubts now.

April 6, 2011 @ 10:26 pm | Comment

I’m closing this thread. Please use the one at the top of the page.

April 7, 2011 @ 12:57 am | Comment

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