To Get Around, take the Bullet Trains and Use the Subways in China

July 26, 2017

Believe me when I suggest avoiding driving or taking a taxi in Beijing unless it is midnight and the city is sort-of sleeping. Beijing is one of the worst cities in the world to drive in. This is probably true for most of China’s crowded cities.

To give you an idea of what I mean by crowded, New York City has a population of about 8.5 million and is ranked #1 in the United States with Los Angeles #2 with less than 4 million people. There are 160 cities in China with a population of over 1 million vs only 10 in the United States.

Here are China’s top five cities ranked by population.

Shanghai – 22 million

Beijing – 10 million

Guangzhou – 11 million

Tianjin – 11 million

Shenzhen – 10 million

I have been to Shanghai and Beijing several times between 1999 – 2008, and have been stuck in Beijing traffic breathing toxic fumes and watching the taxi’s meter adding numbers to the cost of the trip when we could have walked faster for free.

The other choice is Beijing’s subway system built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (and it’s still expanding), which I prefer using. It’s fast and efficient, but wear a money belt because it can become sardine-can crowded creating a perfect environment for pickpockets. I didn’t even wear my backpack on my back. I put it on my chest where I could keep an eye on it. To be fair, Smarter Travel.com warns us of the dangers of pickpockets in New York City. The same advice will help in any major city you visit.


This video was filmed in 2013 when only one subway line was open. Today, Xian has three subway lines with sixty-six stations and an average of 1.5 million people riding the subway daily. Last time I was in Xian in 2008, the subway system was still under construction.

Then there is China’s high-speed rail. It didn’t exist in 2008, and I haven’t been back to China since. Why fly when you can see China from a bullet train moving at 120 – 160 mph (or faster). The Economist reports, “Less than a decade ago China had yet to connect any of its cities by bullet train. Today, it has 20,000km (12,500 miles) of high-speed rail lines, more than the rest of the world combined. It is planning to lay another 15,000km by 2025.”


“China’s high speed trains make travelling the country easy and quick but there are certain things you should know that’ll make using the high speed trains in China a painless process!” – Learn how to ride high-speed rail in China from The Adventurer

Then Manufacturing.net asks, “Why is There No High-Speed Rail Network in America?”

Here is the simple answer. Since World War II, the U.S. has spent about $33-Trillion on its military budgets and fighting endless wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan causing millions to be killed and/or maimed. Without those wars, there would probably be no ISIS. Then there is the fact that since President Reagan in the 1980s, the focus in the United States has been on cutting taxes mostly for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. That has led to about $20 trillion in debt for the federal government. During this time, the U.S. has not kept its infrastructure up-to-date – improvements that would have provided millions of new jobs and benefited the American people.

If the United States had avoided starting so many wars and had a military budget equal to China (ranked #2 in the world), it would have saved about $32-Trillion since World War II. There would be no national debt and the U.S. might even have its own bullet trains speeding from coast to coast.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Caverns of Southeast China

November 15, 2016

National Geographic reports on the Empire or Rock and says, “Beneath southern China’s cone-shaped peaks, arches, and spires lie some of the largest caverns in the world.


China’s Miao Cave

Back in 2008, after checking into a Guilin hotel in Southeast China, we hired a taxi and visited Reed Flute Cave (Ludi Cave) in Northwest Guilin.

Reed Flute Cave was named during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) due to reeds (Ludi Cao) growing near the cave’s entrance  still used to make flutes.

There are historical stone ink inscriptions inside the cave dated to 792 AD.


Lucky Turtle Photo taken by Lloyd Lofthouse

Millions have walked these paved pathways. Reed Flute Cave has been an attraction for over a thousand years, and the tour lasts about an hour.

During Times of war, the local people would hide in the cave. One grotto, the Crystal Palace of the Dragon King, has room for a thousand people.

Crown Cave and Seven-Star Cave were other underground attractions, but it was late and the next day we were on our way to cruise the Li River.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Giant Pandas Are No Longer Endangered but still face Serious Threats

October 19, 2016

The giant panda is popular.  I just Googled “Giant Panda” and there were almost 5 million hits, and a Google Blog search resulted in 4.27 million hits.

But China isn’t happy about the Panda’s success because recently this cuddly bear was removed from the IUCN’s Endangered List. Nature World News.com reports, “According to the World Wide Fund (WWF), the IUCN announced that a nationwide census counted 2,060 giant pandas (1,864 of which are adults) in the wild, which means that there has been a 17 percent rise in its population in China since 2014.”

Is the Panda really safe? The Los Angeles Times reports, “Pandas   removed from international endangered list, but China says they still face serious threat.”

The giant panda, because it’s so cute with its black-and-white coloring, is considered by many of the bear’s fans as docile, but it has been known to attack humans. In fact, The Daily Mail in the UK reported “They’re not all cuddley!”

On the other hand, China Highlights.com says, “Because of their low-energy diet they avoid stressful situation and exertion, preferring shallow slopes and solitary living.”… “In addition to eating for about half a day, the giant pandas spend the rest of their time in sleeping.”

China’s giant pandas are considered a living treasure. Although the dragon has historically served as China’s national emblem, recently the giant panda has also served as an emblem for the country.

To discover more, I suggest reading what the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute has to say about the Giant Panda.

Discover Anna May Wong, the woman that died a thousand times.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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U.S. Per Capita Pollution is more than 2x that of China

September 27, 2016

If the population of the United States was the same size as China, America would be pumping out 22,722,840 kilotons of CO2 emissions – more than twice the carbon dioxide emissions of China. A kiloton is equal to 1,000 tons, and one ton is 2,000 pounds. Do the math.  But because the U.S. has about 319 million people to China’s 1.36 billion, China looks worse than the U.S. when the total CO2 emissions are compared: 10,540,000 (kt) versus 5,335,000 (kt) for the U.S.

To me, this is mind boggling. The U.S. calls itself a democracy and many of its citizens never miss a chance to brag about their country’s power and the freedom offered to its citizens. Then why is China, an alleged totalitarian country without much freedom, as critics such as Liu Xiaobo’s claim, allowing Greenpeace to operate there without harassment from China’s central government?

Greenpeace is the leading non-governmental organization working in East Asia to fight climate change. Greenpeace has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei and Seoul and is serving the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.

And if democracies are so desirable, why did Japan send two Greenpeace activists to jail for one year after exposing widespread corruption in the Japanese government’s Southern Ocean whaling programme?

In fact, in China, efforts to combat climate change demonstrate that China’s government acknowledges the challenge as well as the responsibility of China to tackle them. In addition, if China’s Communist Party didn’t want Greenpeace, they wouldn’t be there.


Listen to Greenpeace China’s Tom Wang in Tianjin calmly being honest about China’s pollution challenges.

In 2006, Greenpeace China was the only NGO to be consulted on an early draft of renewable energy law by China’s National People’s Congress.

Has the US government consulted with Greenpeace? I’ll let Greenpeace answer that question.

China has also allowed two Greenpeace expeditions to China’s Himalayan region in 2006 and 2007 where evidence was discovered of the dramatic retreat of glaciers, which was reported in National Geographic Magazine.

One Greenpeace China campaign focused on stopping Monsanto, a US-headquartered biotechnology giant, from patenting a Chinese indigenous soybean variety. Discover what Monsanto is doing to contaminate the world’s food supply?

How has China reacted to Monsanto GMO soybeans? Sustainable Pulse.com reports, “According to a statement last week by Beijing Food Safety Volunteers the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed to them that Monsanto’s RR2 Xtend GMO soybeans have not been approved for import, despite the company’s claims earlier in 2016.”

Greenpeace campaigns in China have also focused on food, agriculture and electronic waste while highlighting the dangers of PVC in children’s toys.

I admit finding this information about Greenpeace China surprised me because all I’ve heard in the Western media of Greenpeace is that they are a gang of dangerous activists doing crazy things to get attention.

Until reading about Greenpeace in China, I didn’t know what a positive force it was for cleaning the environment.

Now I want to know why the US isn’t doing more. But I already know the answer: big oil and the Koch brothers, who fund ALEC, the climate change denial effort, and own many members  of the U.S. Congress and state legislature are doing all they can to block ridding our environment of carbon emissions. Source Watch.org lists as many of these bought and paid for elected representatives as possible, because ALEC is cloaked in secrecy, and that is not how a democracy and/or a republic works.

Discover Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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China’s challenge to preserve its arable land

September 7, 2016

Arable land is where countries grow the food people eat. According to Nation Master, the U.S. has 174.5 million hectares (one hectare is almost 2.5 acres) of arable land, India has almost 160 million hectares, Russia almost 122 million, but China has less than 105 million (almost 40 percent less than the U.S). The trouble with that is that China has more than 1.3 billion people to feed compared to America’s 320 million.

Then there’s the water. Live Science.com reports that after 3 days, you’ll need water or you’ll die, but you can survive for 3 weeks without food.

To make China’s challenge more daunting, it almost has the same amount of total renewable water that the U.S. has at 2,813 billion cubic meters vs. 2,818 for the U.S.

Don’t forget that China has more than four times the people to feed.

That’s why it is vital that China protects as much arable land as possible while conserving water. That challenge is tough because almost one third of China’s land is desert — a process that has accelerated due to development and human activities. The deserts of China have also become a tourist attraction and that doesn’t help.

In addition, another third of China is mountainous with an additional 10% covered with hills. Combine deserts, mountains and hills and that accounts for about 70% of the country’s land surface.

One strategy to slow the spread of the deserts has been to create a grid of plant growth that will hold the sand in place. The Economist reported that since 1978, 66-billion trees have been planted by Chinese citizens with the goal that by 2050, there will be a forest stretching 2,800 miles along the edges of China’s northern deserts that will increase the world’s forest cover by more than a tenth.

However, due to the natural resources needed to fuel China’s growth and a huge population, northern China has become a boomtown and is attracting millions of people because of the opportunities to earn better money. At the same time herders have also been restricted from allowing their animals to graze on the areas that are being reclaimed from the desert.

This has caused a reduction in the size of herds, for instance, sheep and goats.

Yet, even with these challenges, China still produces more food than any other country on the planet. Agriculture is a vital industry in China, employing over 300 million farmers. China ranks first in worldwide farm output, primarily producing rice, wheat, tomato, sorghum, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton, oilseed and soybeans. Although accounting for only 10 percent of arable land worldwide, it produces food for 20 percent of the world’s population.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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China’s water race to beat Disaster

July 26, 2016

A man or woman can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water. Knowing that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Tibet will stay in China for some time and water is one of the most important reasons why.

The Yellow River and Yangtze start in Tibet serving more than a third of China’s population—more than 400 million people. It’s possible that Mao realized the importance of water from Tibet when he sent 40,000 PRC troops to reoccupy the former troublesome province/tributary that at the urging of the British Empire’s broke from China in 1913 and declared its independence as a theocracy ruled by a Dalai Lama known as a living god.

Tibet has an area of about 1.3 million square kilometers (about 5 million square miles) and it is estimated that there are less than 3 million people living in Tibet. China, on the other hand, serves more than 1.3 billion people, so who benefits the most from water that starts its journey in Tibet?

Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, said, “At least 500 million people in Asia and 250 million people in China are at risk from declining glacial flows on the Tibetan Plateau.” – Circle of Blue Waternews

If Tibet’s water were in the hands of anyone else like a free Tibet that might favor other nations over China, China’s future would be dim at best and dire in a worst-case scenario. As it is, China is one of the earth’s driest areas and the challenge to supply more than 1.3 billion people with water is a daunting task. In fact, China is racing to beat a disaster, and the end of that race will be reached in a few decades.

Today, water and waste pollution is the single most serious issue facing China.

While replacing thousands of older, coal-burning power plants with cleaner technologies, building more hydroelectric dams, and constructing nuclear reactors, China is also adding desalinations plants to ease the growing water crises. In 2005, a desalination facility south of Shanghai started producing about 375,000 gallons of fresh water an hour, with a goal to build more plants and produce 250 million gallons of water per day by 2010. – Environmental News Network

In fact, to achieve this, China contracted with IDE Technologies in Kadima, Israel to build four new desalination units and the first went on line near Beijing in 2010. These plants are designed to provide desalinated seawater for a power plant’s steam boilers as well as drinking water for local residents.

Bloomberg reports, “Home to 20 percent of the world’s population but only 7 percent of its fresh water, China has embraced desalination. The central government’s Special Plan for Seawater Utilization calls for producing 3 million tons (807 million gallons) a day of purified seawater by 2020—roughly quadruple the country’s current capacity. Of China’s 668 largest cities, at least 400 already suffer from water scarcity.”

And this isn’t all that China is doing to deal with its water woes. China is building an aqueduct—some of it running underground and it is known as the South-North Water Transfer Project—that may rival China’s Great Wall as a construction project that will cost twice as much as the Three Gorges Dam. The completed aqueduct will be slightly over 716 miles long.

China also plans to build 100 dams in Tibet—not only to generate electricity but to store much needed water for its more than 1.3 billion people. Both projects are controversial, but can China afford to do nothing?

Meanwhile, the United States with the 3rd largest population in the world is facing its own challenges with water. Business Insider reports, “Americans tend to take it for granted that when we open a tap, water will come out. … (but) Many states — 40 out of 50 according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office — have at least one region that’s expected to face some kind of water shortage in the next 10 years.”

In addition, India, with the 2nd largest population in the world, has an even larger challenge than China or the U.S. when it comes to water. The Water Project reports, “India’s water crisis is often attributed to lack of government planning, increased corporate privatization, industrial and human waste and government corruption. In addition, water scarcity in India is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by year 2050. To that end, global water scarcity is expected to become a leading cause of national political conflict in the future, and the prognosis for India is no different.”

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

A1 on June 22 - 2016 Cover Image with BLurbs to promote novel

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Trekking Sky High in China

May 4, 2016

The Daily Mail says, “Don’t look down!” In the first two videos, you will see tourists walking on glass attached to the side of a cliff 4,700 feet above sea level.

Another perilous site may be found on the slopes of China’s Shifou Mountain. Thousands of feet above sea level, and the Chinese workers building another cliff-walkway are using little or no safety gear.

When finished, the wooden ‘road’ – that’s the width of a dinner table – will stretch for 1.8 miles making it China’s longest sightseeing path.

Then there is walking on air at Huang Shan in the Yellow Mountains.

Next to last but not least, the Hua Han plank walk.  At my age, I’d rather walk on glass. Huckberry.com says, “This is no pirate’s plank walk. Located 7,000 feet above sea level on China’s Hua Shan Mountain, the Huashan Plank Walk embodies peril of a different kind.

The ascent begins with a short set of steps carved into the side of a mountain. Soon after, the steps turn into a “ladder” of iron rods. Both require extremely careful steps to compensate for precarious footing. Then comes the notorious plank walk.

Hua Shan has also been named the “Most Dangerous Hiking Trail in the World” by tourists.

Last, we join trekkers on their way to the top of Huangshan. Is that a hiker wearing high heels—the one that’s sitting down? You may notice that these hikers are not letting go of the rope. Would you?

China Mike offers wise advice for domestic and foreign tourists: “Since Huangshan is a top tourist attraction and popular travel destination for the Chinese, book ahead, especially on summer weekends.” The photographs on Mike’s site are worth seeing.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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