Some of you may have seen this headline already. Simply, state agencies in China have calculated that if the country did not have a one-child policy in place, it would have had 400 million more people.
Certainly the policy has borne fruit (just not of the baby variety!). China's economic growth could arguably have the policy to thank - and that growth would never have taken root if the large 4-7 children families of the past had continued to exist. Environmentally, if nothing else, it gives the world a bit more breathing room without that added consumption.
But surely now, as China begins to face up to its ageing population, exacerbated by illegal but nevertheless widespread sex-selective abortions, it will require a re-think on this strategy. Many seem to now be debating the wisdom of such a policy with these issues, particularly now in a China that is permissive about sex (but apparently not with the consequences!).
I do not want to get into that argument now. But I would say is this: I think the reason the CCP has not moved on this policy has to do with demographics. As I believe I've mentioned once before, the baby boom generation in America were born just after World War II, and came of age in the 1960s. There was probably a substantial correlation between the youth movements and protests of that era, and the demographic bulge in the 20-something age group. Does China perhaps fear the same? That if they allowed people to have more babies, and this would cause a youth surge that could potentially doom the Communist Party?
My apologies for not filling in for Simon of late, I too have been travelling a fair bit.
I am in fact just back from Thailand, and where I found people in great spirits despite (or more correctly, because of) the military coup. As I was departing on Thai Airways at the new Suvarnabhumi (pronounced Sue-wanna-poom) Airport, (the cab ride to Sukhumvit area should be under Bt 300)I found myself sitting next to a large rabble of mainland tourists. I found myself frequently embarrassed by the behavior of these johnny-come-lately Ugly Americans in one of the most hospitable foreign countries in the world - the less said about specifics the better. I did note though that all of them were wearing stickers that had the initials 'C.I.Q.'. Might this be a bit of Thai humor?
Eschewing more uncharitable acronym explanations, my money was on "Curious Inability to Queue'...
In newspapers the old adage says that "Dog bites man" isn't news but "Man bites dog" is. Apparently "Man bites panda" always qualifies. And lest you still think it a good idea to have a cuddle, remember:
A lawyer contacted by the reporter said that the Beijing Zoo bears no liability for the accident because a warning sign in front of the panda's playground informed tourists of the potential danger and Zhang is responsible for his own medical bills.
I am sure we are all aware of the massive friction that has arisen between the Vatican and China on the issue of the appointment of Bishops in China. Obviously, a 2,000 year old organization has always appointed its own bishops and metropolitans, and sees no reason to change. The Communist Party of China, although far younger but more confident and feeling the weight of 6,000 years of history on its side, sees no reason to budge and allow a foreign power outside of their control to choose leading members of an important non-governmental organization (the Catholic Church either).
Typical of comments from Beijing are those of Liu Bainian, whose quote below gives you some idea of my choice of title:
"The current prosperous development of the Chinese Catholic church owes totally to China's long-term practice of selecting and ordaining its own bishops and independently managing the churches, " said Liu Bainian, vice-president of the China Patriotic Catholic Association, during an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Tuesday.
"This is the arrangement of the Christ."
China now has a total of 5 million followers nationwide, in sharp comparison with 2.7 million in 1958, according to statistics released by the association.
"The development of the Chinese Catholic church in the past 20 years has greatly exceeded that of the 300 years before," said Liu.
In the history of the Catholic church, he said, a bishop can be selected by believers, appointed by an emperor and consecrated by the neighboring diocese.
"The practice for the pope to install a bishop started just about two centuries ago," he said.
But Mr. Liu is only partly correct. The Pope and the Vatican in Rome has always had control and some say in the appointment and approval of every bishop and archbishop. As flawed as the Catholic system has proven itself over the past two millennia, the idea is that the Popes represent an unbroken line of authority stretching back to St. Peter and to 'the Christ' Himself. Their approval is therefore a necessary part of a church that considers itself Catholic, rather than Anglican where Henry VIII of England, for instance, considered himself the head of the Church of England, and had to fully break with the Vatican as a result.
Naturally, this debate boils right down to control over Chinese civil society, and whether the Chinese government will tolerate any form of civil pluralism or alternate authority hierarchies in the country, or whether the corporatist model it has adopted will dominate social and even religious life in China, in all its aspects, for the forseeable future.
Maybe China should just break with the Vatican officially and form its own 'Sinican' (as opposed to Anglican Church) since it appoints its own bishops anyway. Or should we call it the Cynical Church?
"the idea is that the Popes represent an unbroken line of authority stretching back to St. Peter and to 'the Christ' Himself."
Thats the idea, but the Vatican is essentially trying to maintain a myth. There have been numerous instances where mundane authorities have inject themselves into the perogatives of the Church. In one case, raising their own pontiff and having multiple popes excommunicate one another. Maybe China should try that. Create their own college of cardinals, elect their own pope, and excommunicate the one in Rome. It would be carrying on a fine French tradition. :P
Anyways, I'm not too partial to "Sinican" church. I think they would should simply be Episcopalians, the quasi-papists. :D
Yes Jing, I quite agree that the Papal system is far from infallible, but I would actually argue that it is less fallible today in an era where there are 1 billion devotees (in large part thanks to the ban on rubbers etc) and more public scrutiny exists of the church from media, society, and both believers and outsiders. Even with the evidence of widespread pedophilia in the American Catholic church, as you mention the amount of abuse in the past was far greater.
But as you also seem to have rightly noted, my support for the institutions of the church itself, as a deist, are never much more than tepid. Episcopalians are basically Anglicans that got a divorce from the Church of England in the American Revolution. I would like it if Chinese Catholics became Episcopalian too - the trouble seems to be that the CCP would simply not tolerate any outgrowth of civil society free from their control. That is, really, my main point with the comment...
The family planning policy has helped China prevent 400 million births in the past three decades, Zhang Weiqing, minister in charge of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, said Tuesday.
That's from Xinhua, where Mr Zhang also said that China's people have a more "comfortable" life because these 400 million people don't exist. While crowing about this "success", Mr Zhang also noted that China's population is projected to peak in the mid 2030s and the country is preparing for another baby boom, although demographically this echo can only be a shadow of former booms. And it's desperately needed - China will get old before it gets rich. It is a demographic truth, universally acknowledged, that as people get richer they have fewer kids.
The policy is being made irrelevant while still extacting too high a cost. In that regard, it's not unique in China.
Universally acknowledged but somehow forgotten by Philippines. Decades of (uneven) growth, and still the babies keep popping. Blame the church, perhaps. Does culture trump development economics?
Good blog, btw.
I would put the blame for the Philippines at the hands of incompetent and corrupt politicians and officials (not to mention kleptomaniacs)who have run the place. The country had many advantages, especially its English speaking, it strategic location. Despite the worst efforts of its politicians, it can still become a richer country. But I do agree the Catholic Church doesn't help mattersm especially amongst the rural poor.
A rather interesting article in the Independent about the Chinese 'restaurants' in Kabul. They cater more to the diplomatic and NGO corps, and in addition to serving food, the skimpily-clad Chinese ladies in the restaurants also offer themselves as prostitutes. The Afghan Interior Ministry has arrested 46 of them. Presumably they were deported, shipped north to Afghanistan's very short 76km border with China, or flown back.
There is an uproar, of course, with the blame predictably going to the West. Let us set aside queries of how prostitution can be so widespread in China, a country which is starting to have a significant male-female imbalance. Prostitution, while underground, has always existed in Afghanistan. And allow me to disabuse anyone who believes that a highly religious Islamic society Afghanistan's could not also contain the world's oldest profession. I remember while I was travelling in Iran, there was an article in the Iranian English daily about how in Iran's holiest city, Mashad, two dozen local prostitutes were arrested. One dubious fellow, I remember, in Kerman, actually offered me his sister. I demurred. When I was in Pakistan, one chuffed local gent told me about his exploits with dancing girls in, this instance, the amusingly-named city of Lahore.
But really this is an economic issue. What makes Afghanistan different from Iran or a city like Lahore, is that there are probably far fewer people that can afford such 'luxuries' (and certainly compared to Kabul before the Russian revolution), or, in the case of women, earn a living off of the profession. That there are wealthy men in Kabul is evidenced by the 'steady stream' of local clientele. It's just a shame that asking for the nearest Chinese restaurant in Afghanistan takes on an entirely dodgy new meaning.
FYI, the narrow strip of Afghanistan that borders China is known as the Wakhan corridor. It is a result of 19th century geopolitics when the British established it (only a few miles wide in some places) as a buffer zone between British India and Russian territories to the North.
There is a fascinating article today in Xinhua, with the irresistable title, "Rich Guy Seeks Girl, Must Be Virgin" (not your father's Xinhua!). It talks about how a newly-minted, and newly-divorced RMB billionaire in China was looking for a new wife. Speaking to a friend, he came upon a solution: place an ad, to the effect of wanting a charming, hot virgin. His lawyer received 600 applications, shortlisted 100, then got 20 for his client friend to interview. One was successfully selected. Oh, and the lawyer took one of the rejects for himself. The lawyer now does a roaring business in matchmaking billionaires with virgins.
What was particularly interesting about this story though, is the aside Xinhua's editorial board deemed necessary to fit into the final stages of the story. Allow me to quote:
For centuries, Chinese practiced arranged marriages complete with dowries, leaving little place for Western-style notions of romance.
Only recently has the idea of living together unmarried gained limited social acceptance in China.
In a breathtakingly short period of time, though, sexual and romantic opportunity has sprung up everywhere in a society that still thinks of itself as conservative in such matters.
Prostitutes work openly in almost every hotel in China. The Internet has made possible everything from online dating to nude Web cam dancing, sprouting a vocabulary all its own, like MBA, or married but available. Unsurprisingly, divorce rates in cities like Shanghai are skyrocketing.
Aside from the surprisingly candid acknowledgement of the prevalence of prostitution in China, it made me wonder - what was the motive of putting this last bit into the story? I can only conclude that the message to girls is: save your virginity - you might be able to use it to land a tycoon. And guys, oh boy, but money sure can buy you love.
Eric (you have great photos on your site); the kudos though properly belong to the founder of this site, Simon M.
Green LA Girl, it was pretty obvious in the early 90s, before the Internet, that prostitution was already quite prevalent. As I travelled around the country in mid-decade I could hardly fail to notice the trucker whorehouses on the side of the road with their garish redlights, eerie phantasms splitting the darkness of the unlit China road.
By all accounts, though, for all the tragic, cruel failings of Maoist China, prostitution had almost been entirely been eliminated - at least in the sense of punters paying cash for sex [as opposed to trading sex for influence or a greater food ration].
Shay, thanks for the fillip. I guess if you have money in China a depressingly high proportion of things are for sale. Things are like that even in developed countries though (e.g. TV shows with ladies offering themselves to putative millionaires), so in a state that has existed in a de facto moral vacuum for the last quarter-century, and where the average person's annual salary is still under US$1,000, it is inevitable and, I would argue, largely culturally unspecific.
The answer to your final question is: no. Money is not final bastion of public morality. While this one, rather bizarre, story suggests that money might create an incentive to do the "right thing" sexually (let's just put aside for a moment if virginity is necessarily the "right thing"), even the briefest consideration of the crushing effects of greed (see: Dongzhou, Taishi, Panlong, etc., etc. etc.) suggest that the immoral effects of money far outweigh the moral effects (Perhaps you did not mean for us to take the question seriously. But it is a good question, and ought to be seriously considered).
Ah yes, I failed to notice the article continued onto the second page in a similar vein. It was interesting though that Xinhua put their own billing before the New York Times (indeed the excellent Howard French was the author).
In which case the tone makes much more sense, a bit of irony that seemed totally at odds with the official Organ of the CCP.
The question does remain though, whether money has become China's de facto state religion. I suppose the recent noises about Marxism are meant to be a palliative... Sam, please note I am not suggesting that money and morality tend to go together. I am merely pointing out that in a country denuded of absolutes, the Renminbi may also be the only 'hard currency' in terms of dictating public morality. But as the observer notes on the second page of the article, this phenomenon is likely to be a passing phase (I certainly hope so!).
There are no shortages of people in this world who pity themselves and seek the sympathy of their fellow man for the misfortunes that burden their lives. There are also those who find the strength to rise up and silently endure those burdens while trying to make a difference in someone else's life. However, I doubt many of them are 12 years old.
Hong Zhanhui, a 23-year-old college student, struck a chord in China with the story about his adoption of his sister and support of his troubled family...
Born to a poor peasant farmer's family at Hongzhuang, an outlying village in Xihua County, central China's Henan Province, Hong led a relatively peaceful life until an accident tore apart his five-member family 11 years ago. During one day in August 1994, Hong's father, Hong Xinqing, suddenly began smashing the furniture in their tile-roofed house. His crying mother was kicked to the ground and his one-year-old sister was grabbed by his father and lifted above his head.
"My full sister died, my dad went crazy and my mom was fractured," Hong, now 23, recalled as his eyes reddened at Huaihua Institute, a quiet university campus in central-south China's Hunan Province, where he studies. "It was such a nightmare."
His father was diagnosed with mental illness and then 12-year-old Hong felt like the sky had fallen. Deeply affected by his family's misfortune, Hong first encounter with wide-eyed Chenchen in an abandoned swaddle under a tree outside his village made him believe he was destined to adopt the child.
"You don't raise the baby, I'll take her," Hong told his mother,who considered finding another guardian for the infant. "Whatever happens, I won't leave her."
To add to his hardship, Hong's mother fled their home one day as she could no long stand the violence and pressure brought on by her mentally ill husband. The family collapsed and Hong had to bear the burden of looking after his sick father, his young brother and his new adopted sister. The nights were long as the hungry Chenchen wailed in wee hours and Hong couldn't find anything at their destitute home for her to suckle.
"All I could do is to take her in my arms, walk back and forth and rock her gently," Hong said. To keep the baby away from his insane father, Hong committed Chenchen to a relative's care after he begged nearby woman to feed her every morning before going to school. In the eyes of Hong's neighbors, he was a pathetic kid who had to bring up another one, work in the fields and earn money to buy ataractic for his sick father and support the family.
"At his age, other kids are usually naughty but Hong can handle adult problems," said Sun Liuzhuang, a village doctor and Hong's neighbor. Hong never complained to others about the pressures he endured."He rarely talked about his family and just stayed home, reading and studying," villagers said...Hong sold ball-point pens, books and tapes for learning English. "Many people looked down upon me for the peddling then," Hong recalled. "But I didn't care."
To take good care of his adopted sister, Hong first took her around with him in the county, then to his college about a thousand kilometers away from their home.
I hate to quote so much text from an article, but with all the bad news coming out of China that many of us tend to focus on, it's reassuring to know that not everyone in this world, and especially China, is caught up in selfish materialism.
I'm sure there are more people like Hong in China, but unfortunately their stories usually take a back burner to all the reports of riots and corruption that plague the country.
Only a few weeks ago it seemed the Hukou system of household registration would be abolished. This system registers people as "urban" or "rural" residents, regardless of where they actually live. Those classified as rural do not qualify for numerous benefits including health care, housing and social security. It means, for example, that Shenzhen, a city of several million, is mostly comprised of "rural" residents (exceptions are made for babes). An added advantage is cities can wash their hands of being responsible for rural residents, so these residents work for peanuts in (sometimes) attrocious conditions.
So reports of the abolition of this system was met with glee. Yet today's Standard reports the Hukou system is to remain and the reforms shelved thanks to pressure from regional and city governments (who are baulking at the cost of actually servicing the people living in their cities) and companies (who are baulking at the potential increased costs of their rural slaves). Another key factor:
The simple fact is that large numbers of newly officially registered residents artificially dilute per-capita GDP, the single statistic on which local officials make their careers.
While President Hu and those in Beijing prattle on about closing the rural-urban divide, the reality on the ground and in the provinces is that large vested interests want that gap to remain. In this case, those vested interests have won.
Kind of makes this "rising power" look more like Puff the Magic Dragon.
Some of the readership may already be familiar with Wang Lei, the pleasantly proportioned girl from Harbin crowned Miss Asia 2005. Those fans from Hong Kong will be pleased to know she has moved to the booming bordertown just north of us. But the granting of permanent residency to her immediately has created a rather large outcry from many migrants from other provinces that have been slogging away in Shenzhen factories without becoming eligible for official residency.
Official residency confers many benefits, including healthcare, social services and education for children. While China is in the process of scrapping these residency laws, they are very much still in place. Given that Shenzhen was just a fishing village 25 years ago, about 90% of the population don't have that official status, which you can apply for only if you've paid RMB80,000 in taxes, or are sponsored by a big company. Or it seems, if you're really hot. They acted immediately after she let it slip that: "Shenzhen is my second hometown and I wish I could become a real Shenzhen citizen."
How did the Shenzhen government justify the quick turnaround on her application? It was because of her "special expertise" in the "cultural industry." Xinhua provides the beefs from migrant workers up in arms about this, but then concludes the article in its signature bland, understated way:
However, some who call the city home supported the decision to make Wang a registered Shenzhener, believing her example will encourage young people that excellence in any industry can bring success.
I mean, I have heard from everyone that's been there that the city is an ugly place, but I do find it strange that the city government would declare open season on its own women for legions of domestic tourists, many with a penchant for whoring. Allow me to quote in closing for the city's explanation of why their women are the hottest:
The city's climate and migrant background have made it a place famous for beautiful women, the paper said. High humidity and cloudy skies are good for their skin, while the bumpy roads and spicy food help to shape their slim figures, it said.
CQ was the temporaty capital in the "anti-japanese war" 1937-45. KMT bureacrats and rich businessmen brought their mistresses from all over China to CQ.
When the war ended, these mistresses each got 8 more years in age, and most were conveniently left behind. They stayed and passed their beauty genes there.
Indeed, we will note the reports of your visit with interest, Lord Curzon! As Simon alludes, with his previous post, it does seem an extraordinary place. Unfortunately, the shortage of women vis-a-vis men does not seem to have improved the lot of women in the short-term...
Now Sun Bin, that theory to me is more plausible than bumpy roads! I hadn't thought of that angle. But then on the other hand, there must have either been a LOT of mistresses to affect the aggregate gene pool to such an extent in just 3 generations, or the mistresses and their KMT paramours were EXTREMELY prolific...
Forget cosmetics. Let's start marketing Sichuan hotpot at Harvey Nichols and Lane Crawford!
Not long ago, in Beihai Park, in Beijing, my friends and I were corralled by two incredibly cute little Chinese girls, say 9 or 10 years old. They were actually little human advertisements for Sichuan. They had memorized a two-minute, rhyming English soliloquy about Sichuan. I don't remember much of it, swooning as I was with a systemic cuteness shock, but I do remember the line..."and the girls are hot! Just like our Chengdu hot pot!"
China's rapid economic change can drive social and political change. For example the system of hukou or residency permits have for a long time restricted rural residents from claiming benefits when they move to cities. But the massive and ongoing migration from poor farms to richer cities has put pressure on this anarchonism. These migrants have made a mockery of the idea of residency permits, with conservative estimates of 87 million people living in areas with permits. And now the growing shortage of cheap migrant labour has forced cities and provinces to concede the system is broken.
Up to 11 provinces are contemplating abolishing hukou. This would allow rural migrants access to the same health, education and social security benefits as city dwellers. It will also end distinctions based on where you are from rather than where you live. The move is also considered part of the effort to close potential unrest over China's income gap between the rural poor and richer cities. Given the new 5 year plan's obsession with stability, more of these measures recognising economic reality are likely going forward. Another example was the recent doubling of the income tax threshhold.
But a key question remains. Are the cities ready for this change? Suddenly recognising the rights of 87 million (and likely more) people will put incredible strain on city resources. The China Daily report notes a previous effort to abolish hukou in failed:
In November 2001, Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan Province, offered free permanent registration permits to people with relatives already living in the city. Increased pressure on transport, education, healthcare and a rise in crime forced the city to cancel the measure three years later.
The same report has a comment from the Beijing Public Security Bureau which notes that most large cities are similarly unprepared for a rapid transfer. Such a change will only happen gradually. Joseph Kahn's IHT story notes this change has been coming since 2002:
The central government first declared that it intended to do away with the hukou system at the 16th Communist Party Congress in 2002, and has been making incremental changes since then. The overhaul got a major boost in 2003 after a college-educated migrant in Guangdong Province, named Sun Zhigang, was beaten to death in police custody after being detained for vagrancy. His death brought nationwide outrage and led to the abolition of vagrancy laws.
"We knew it was a dead duck after they abolished the custody and repatriation system," or vagrancy law, said Nicolas Becquelin, a researcher for Human Rights in China based in Hong Kong. "The police had no power to enforce the hukou laws."
The key point is this: facts on the ground can push governments into changes they may not want to make. Even if they don't realise it, changes like this bolster those of us who believe China's economic changes will eventually force the collapse of the CCP and lead to democracy. Either way, this is a significant turning point in realising the old system is broken and a new one is growing before our eyes.
Great post, Simon. I totally agree that the authorities are doing it as a a way to relieve pressure on local, rural government ill-equipped to handle the rapid pace of change in China. For too long China has ignored the rights of the thousands of migrants who have made the imperium en imperio of China's major cities run properly by doing jobs the city-dwellers would not perform - effectively, the illegal Mexicans of China. This legitimizes their residency and makes official what is already fact - that million of Chinese have left the countryside for the opportunities in urban areas.
I mention the Mexican parallel because in a sense it poses as many issues as a similar legitimization would cause in America. China's social safety net, as hole-ridden and as dreadful as it is, will have to be extended to these migrants. They will have the opportunity (unlikely though it may be for most of them) to officially climb the socioeconomic ladder without having to pay bribes, and yes, as you say, they will have a voice that may make them a political force.
Some readers of this blog seemed mystified as to why Chinese would want to send Taikonauts into space 40 years after Russia and the US did so, and without the threat of a technology race or a Cold War. This article in the Telegraph seems to show that same tendency mirrored in China's nouveau riche elite. Just look at the self-satisfied smirk of Mr. Zhang Yuchun (via the Telegraph link), who appears to be suffering from some sort of alcohol excess. The French palace Mr. Zhang Yuchun has built for himself in the dusty suburbs of Beijing is modelled on 1642 Chateau Maisons-Lafitte, but he thought the wings were too small and he added two bigger wings based on Fontainebleu, one of the Ancien Regime's summer palaces.
I remember thinking when I visited Versailles and Fontainbleu over a decade ago, that I understood why the French Revolution and the beheadings took place. But now, what is happening in China is completely different. Ever watch one of those movies that happens in reverse, where the baby gets sucked back into the womb, or the messy red paste on the streets miraculously reforms itself into a sack of tomatoes and deposits istelf neatly on a skyscraper window ledge? That seems to be what is happening, in some gross perversion of the Hegelian dialectic - we are going from dictatorship of the proletariat to crass capitalistic binges of the most embarrassing kind.
I can't help but hear Hong Kong's favorite ABBA song in the background: "Money, money, money - it's a rich man's world."
Back in April I had a post about racism in China after the controversial comments made on Sina about Condi Rice. A reader has sent the following thoughts on the issue:
I don't think scientifically justified racism is special to Chinese people but, as I understand it, it is is still taught in schools.
As I understand it the education system in China teaches that the Chinese 'race' evolved from "Peking Man" (Homo Erectus) an ancestral hominid. The overhwelming evidence is that all of us are derived from Homo Sapiens who evolved in Africa and migrated from there around a 100,000 years ago. We may look different but, under the skin (as it were), we are all the same. I guess the Peking Man view taught in China reinforces the racism described. It's a worry and it would help if the syllabi in Chinese schools and universities could be brought up-to-date. The "monkey" taunts probably come from stupid stereotypes but it's likely that these is reinforced by tainted 'science'.
not really, while chinese have an "instinct" to ascribe many good things to chinese inventions, there is nothing in the textbook to hint that chinese is superior to other races.
the discrimination of certain races/countries in china is more based on their economic status, calling that a "racism" is mere ignorance.
a few years ago the AWSJ introduced a book written by a western scientist, in which eastern asians (chinese, japanese, etc) are ranked above whites and blacks in terms of IQ and some other attributes. most of my chinese friends and colleagues regard such a "theory" a bullshit.
that may be true, although i do think China still is widely tolerates discussions based fundamentally on racial Darwinism and social eugenics popular in the West during the 1920s and 1930s. I need not remind anyone of the consequences of the popularity of that movement in Germany.
Of course, I think beliefs about race in China are significantly more mild compared to anything Huxley or Goebbels wrote down. But it is definitely there among the 'lao bai xing', although bingfeng and his friends may be more enlightened.
Next year being a World Cup year, get ready for another tiresome discussion (in China) of why the Brazilians are going to win it because the have the benefit in their gene pool of African athleticism and white intelligence...
bingfeng, I'm not saying no one outside of China has ever made racial slurs against Chinese people. They certainly have. I take issue with you overgeneralizing and saying that it's usually other people treating Chinese people as a different species - blood of the Yellow Emperor ring a bell? China has a rich tradition of believing they come from better stock than the rest of humanity, same as everybody else. So please get out of your glass house and come talk to me in the garden.
We're *were* talking about Chinese textbooks, as the link I gave above indicates, teaching Chinese people they come from an original ancestor different from that of the rest of humanity. That would, in effect, make Chinese people a different species. I just chatted with a friend in Xinjiang who basically said yeah, she kinda believes that (she hadn't thought too much about it before).
i think the sina article on dave's post is pretty accurate.
(replace dot with a real dot - was censored by simon )
this is a guide for teachers (in chinese)
it has made the careful distinction of location vs genetic linkage, with texts such as "ancient human kinds living inside the border of our country"
it also said,
"china is one of the area where human kind originates" -- note the definition of human kind included all homo-xxxx (i.e. homo erectus). the east african valley is now widely regarded as the source of homo sapien. but we have no conclusion on other homo species yet, AFAIK.
that teachers guide link is giving me some kind of Microsoft database error. Let me know if there's another place to read it.
The homo-xxxxx point is well taken. The sina.com article I link to, and your teachers guide presumably, show that there is certainly awareness on the Mainland of competing theories here. And you're right that the most robust theory for single origin, the mitochondrial Eve hypothesis, is only little more than a decade old.
Part of what Simon's reader has raised here, however, is also the social and racial ideas at play in China as well. Social Darwinism had a significant impact on the development of Chinese nationalism, and clearly Peking Man does link to these issues - if not in reality, then certainly in the minds of many Mainlanders, for example my friend I just talked to. As you mentioned, we're all cousins. Chinese are certainly cousins to, say, Ecuadorians. But my friend, who is by no means uneducated, couldn't say whether she thought we are or not, and I suspect that will not be an uncommon reaction among many Chinese mainlanders.
I think there are several things at play with this issue: that the average person in any country is probably going to express a poor understanding of evolution; 20th century China certainly had some less than stellar ideas of race tied to major revolutionary movements (in the US eugenics and social darwinism was tied to standardized testing - remember that the next time you run into the SAT, GRE or MCAT); and as my friend said, the teacher told them what the textbook said - then moved on without discussion.
there seems to be some activex/flash control on that site. i couldn't even do copy/paste. (consider using firefox to view)
here is another site
the official tone (as i see from almost all searches) is that they are call "ancient humans living within borders of our country". i think this heading is given by Ministry of Education (listed as Chapter 1 history for 7th grade)
The 'glory' is claimed by the statement that "we have the highest number of such sites found within our countries among all countries in the world" :)
Some older history texts (historians do not understand evolution thoery) were confused to call them 'our ancestors'. I think this incorrect depiction has been replaced in recent years.
Cecilie Gamst Berg in today's SCMP has an article on racism in China. At first I was going to use it as a talking point on this little discussed side of Chinese life and suggest the more homogenous a population the more likely it is to be racist. I have reproduced the full article below the fold. But, and you know there was a but, there were two parts that stand out...for the wrong reasons.
Firstly, discussing the racist outpourings when Condi Rice recently visited China:
Dr Rice deserves to be attacked for her country's foreign policy and for her own questionable taste in employer. Why would a black woman want to get mixed up with the Republicans at all? But devoting an entire rant to the two things she cannot help - her appearance and her sex - is just scoring easy points.
Wowsers. Talk about slipping in a kidney punch. How does this help an article discussing the racist comments made during her visit. The implication is the author thinks Condi is a fool and betraying her sex and race, but that calling her an "ugly black bitch" is wrong. Ms Berg concludes:
Meanwhile, Dr Rice is a woman of many accomplishments. Let us hope that the ability to read Chinese is not one of them.
Does Ms Berg think the US Embassy and Consular staff in China didn't report these things back to State? Sticks and stones and all of that, but to think that Rice isn't aware of this is naive.
Convenient channel for public fury
The first political discussion I had in Putonghua was in Shanghai, in 1989. I was having lunch with some money changers when some Africans walked past the restaurant. The money changers started making strange animal noises and grimaces. Seeing my puzzled expression, they explained: "They are black devils." In broken Chinese, I asked the head money changer why he did not like blacks. "They are dirty. Their skin is black because they don't wash."
"How about Mike Tyson, do you like him?" I asked. "Oh yes," came the reply. "But he's black." "Yes, but he is American black." The whole table erupted in laughter.
That episode and many similar experiences have led me to believe that racism in China is not so much about skin colour as about what people perceive to be the haves and the have-nots.
I was, therefore, surprised by the vitriolic attacks on US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, posted on the popular mainland website Sina.com, before her state visit to China. Reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, the rants were full of racist terms like "black devil", "black pig" and "black bitch". Another word frequently used was "ugly".
To my knowledge, Colin Powell - who is also of African origin - never got the same treatment. But then, he is a man. Interestingly, most of the racist slurs on the website had to do with Dr Rice being a woman. Indeed, it seemed that users of the website had the biggest problem with her being a woman and "ugly" - her colour was thrown in almost as an afterthought. And, inevitably, because a woman was the target, the word "whore" was trotted out.
Dr Rice deserves to be attacked for her country's foreign policy and for her own questionable taste in employer. Why would a black woman want to get mixed up with the Republicans at all? But devoting an entire rant to the two things she cannot help - her appearance and her sex - is just scoring easy points.
I do not think the Chinese are any more or less racist than other people. I believe the attacks on Dr Rice - supposedly carried out by members of China's "elite" - have everything to do with a repressed population's need to lash out at someone, to shout out some kind of protest, knowing that there will be no repercussions from the government.
In a country where mature political discussion is not only discouraged, but can be downright dangerous, hurling insults at people for reasons that bear no relevance to what they do or stand for has always been a safe way to vent built-up anger.
Indeed, it is tempting to suggest that Beijing secretly encourages this kind of "letting off steam" - as it has been doing with the anti-Japanese protests and violence, and as it did after the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
The Chinese government is busy enough keeping an eye on everything that goes on in the country. I do not think, as some have suggested, that officials should interfere with this kind of cyber-nonsense, even if they did find it offensive. Whoever posted the messages will one day look in the mirror and start pondering the word "ugly".
Meanwhile, Dr Rice is a woman of many accomplishments. Let us hope that the ability to read Chinese is not one of them.
i should point out that there is a lack of proportion about what happened at sina.com. this story was originally noted by the president of the Chinese Independent PEN, Liu Xiaobo. over the course of five days during ms. rice's trip, he counted 70 racist posts on the topic. sina.com has 20 to 30 million visitors per day, and the racist comments are a tiny minority.
i accept that one is too many, but the writer should not leave the impression that the majority of the chinese people are raging racists.for most of them, the race of ms. rice is of no interest, one way or the other.
I spoke to an American black man in China awhile back and he left this country believing that the majority of the population was racist.
You see, unlike many foreigners, Calvin is fluent in Chinese so he was able to hear and understand the racist comments that were directed at him every day as he walked the streets of China.
He mentioned that life could be difficult at times for a black man in America, but that is almost non-existent compared to China. At least people don't call him a "monkey" to his face when he walks past.
Most of the time he would brush it off and ignore the ignorance, but occasionally he would comment back to the offender in Chinese and once they managed to get over the fact that he could understand what they were saying, they would pretend not to understand his Chinese in hopes of saving whatever little face they could while scurrying away.
I don't know what it's like to be a black man in China, but I do not know what it is like to a Caucasian married to a Chinese in China and it can get pretty ugly at times. When my wife and I walk down the streets holding hands we get some of the nastiest looks you could ever imagine. Once some jerk in a pub actually had the audacity to shake my hand and speak to me in English while telling my wife that she was polluting the Chinese blood by marrying a foreigner.
That was the first time I've actually came close to getting into a physical confrontation with someone in China. Luckily, he was promptly escorted out of the pub by the waiter.
Racism is rampant in China, but hopefully that will change over time as more and more Chinese are exposed to foreigners and able to travel abroad.
Let's hope that Mark Twain was correct.
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
As I mentioned on my blog when I posted on this topic, I'm sure their racist comments and small-mindedness do not bother Dr. Rice because she is better educated than most Chinese and she weilds more power in her little black pinky than any man in all of Asia, let alone China.
This is very interesting! I have been going back and forth regarding traveling to China. I'm a African-American woman. I decided not to add China to my travel itinerary because I'm not passionate about it therefore it wasn't worth the headache. I am going to Hong Kong which should be chocked full of interesting experiences.