How do you Define Freedom: Part 1 of 2

April 24, 2019

I do not think a country has to be a copycat of the United States to improve the quality of life and freedom of its citizens, and China is proving that I am right.

But first, let us ignore China’s limits on freedom of speech and focus on what has changed in China since 1949. The reason I want to ignore freedom-of-speech in China is because that one issue is arguably the major criticism by China haters in the United States who ignore everything else that has happened in China since 1949, except for the alleged 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident and Tibet.

Dramatic Improvements in Reducing Poverty

According to the World Bank, more than 500 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty as China’s poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 6.5-percent in 2012, as measured by the percentage of people living on the equivalent of US$1.90 or less per day in 2011 purchasing price parity terms. Compare that to the democracy next door to China, India. In 2012, the Indian government stated 22% of its population is below its official poverty limit. The World Bank, in 2011 based on 2005’s PPPs International Comparison Program, estimated 23.6% of Indian population, or about 276 million people, and lived below $1.25 per day on purchasing power parity.

Dramatic Improvements in Life Expectancy

When Mao and the CCP became that country’s government, the average lifespan in China in 1950 was 41. In 1976, when Mao died, life expectancy had climbed to about 64.5 years, and by 2018, the average lifespan had reached 76.4.

Meanwhile, Smithsonian Magazine.com reports, “U.S. Life Expectancy Drops for Third Year in a Row. On average, life expectancy across the globe is steadily ticking upward—but the same can’t be said for the United States.” Does anyone think Donald Trump will brag about that number while he is asking Congress to dramatically increase military spending while cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

Dramatic Increase in Population

In 1950, China’s population was almost 552-million. When Mao died in 1976, the population had reached more than 930-million in spite of the wild allegations of twenty-to-sixty million deaths caused by Mao’s Great Famine. How does a country lose that many people to a famine and increase its population by almost 400-million?

If you click on this China Today.com link, you will discover that since the CCP has ruled China, the death rate per thousand has never reached (20 per 1,000) what it was in 1949, the year Mao became China’s leader. Even during Mao’s Great Famine, the death rate per thousand did not reach that level. The closest it came to that rate was in 1960 when it reached 17.91 during the high point of China’s last famine.

Continued with Part 2 on April 25, 2019

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 Great Fire-Wall and China’s Social Media Giants

April 17, 2019

When you read that China’s government monitors and censors that country’s social media, you might think the Chinese Communist Party is dealing mostly with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Google. If that’s what you think, you would be mostly wrong.

China’s version of YouTube is YouKu Tudou that serves about 500-million users a month, half of YouTube’s reach. “YouTube says more than 1-billion unique visitors visit its site each month, but don’t forget, YouKu Tudou caters to a much smaller net of Chinese-speaking audiences only.”

However, few if any of YouTube’s billion visitors are in China since YouTube is banned/blocked in China along with popular websites such as Google, Gmail, and Facebook.  If you live in China and you want to use those sites, you have to find a way to bypass the internet blocking by the GFW by using a web proxy or VPN, but in spite of the ban, Alexa ranks YouTube as the 11th most visited website in China.

Twitter is also banned in China and if you have had your fill of the Twitter maniac in the U.S. White House, who can blame the CCP? Twitter’s equal in China is called Weibo.  Nearly 25-percent of China’s population uses Weibo, and they are free of Donald Trump’s Twitter trolling, endless lies, and rants. Recently Trump has been bullying and insulting John McCain, a man that’s been dead for months. With more than 1.4 billion people in China, that means Weibo has more than 354.6 million users.

“Weibo has evolved into an entertainment platform that encompasses the features of Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, reddit and YouTube rolled into one,” eMarketer forecasting analyst Shelleen Shum said.

China’s Google is Baidu. Once a popular search engine, most services offered by Google China were blocked by the Great Firewall in the People’s Republic of China. In 2010, searching via all Google search sites, including Google Mobile, were moved from mainland China to Hong Kong.  Baidu remains focused on the local Chinese market while Google is global and continues to expand. While Google has long been the market leader in search in most countries, when it exited China, it was the runner-up. It held roughly 30% of the sector, with domestic rival Baidu capturing most of the remainder.

China’s Facebook is Tencent with almost one billion users mostly in China.  According to CNN Business, “This Chinese tech giant could soon be worth more than Facebook. … But it isn’t just social networking that has gotten investors excited about Tencent. The company has been expanding deeper into other areas including smartphone games, mobile payments and streaming music. All that has helped fuel record profits this year.”

Alibaba is China’s Amazon and India, Australia, and Singapore are becoming key battlegrounds for Amazon and Alibaba, says, cbinsights.com. According to a February 2018 SEC filing, Alibaba had 617 million monthly mobile users and 552 million active users on its China retail marketplaces, and Forbes says, “For Brands, Alibaba is The Gateway to China and Chinese Customers. … Amazon’s market cap is about 70% larger than Alibaba’s yet China’s e-commerce market alone is going to be larger than the rest of the world… by 2020, Asia is projected to account for 66% of global e-commerce sales with China accounting for 58%.”

“Alibaba has a more dominant e-commerce business than Amazon … though Amazon claims about 40-50% of all online US retail sales, Alibaba claims about 80% of all online Chinese retail sales.”

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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What Makes China Different?

April 3, 2019

China is one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world. In fact, while older civilizations around the world crashed, burned and vanished, every time a Chinese dynasty collapsed, China picked itself up, started a new dynasty and continued on. Some have argued that the Chinese Communist Party and its republic is just another dynasty with a twist.

Bloomberg even said, “This Chinese Dynasty Needs a Name. This Communist Party of China, it is frequently asserted, is a misnamed organization. That’s because, since the party began experimenting with private enterprise in the 1970s, it has shed much of the intellectual baggage associated with Marx, Lenin and that ilk.”

The Chinese culture features an abundance of values, unchanged over millennia. In spite of the influence from outside of China and numerous invasions, the Chinese culture preserved its unique identity.

Rebecca Graf points out 13 of the major cultural differences between China and the world.

Graf says, “These differences do not make either culture better or worse than the other one. It just shows their differences which has been created through centuries of history and development. China can trace its traditions and customs for thousands of years. America is still a small babe of a nation that has had very few traditions of its own but has become such a melting pot of cultures that there is almost no specific American culture that can be said is applied across the board. This makes both cultures unique and worthy of study and respect.”

Three of the 13 differences Graf mentions in her piece on Owlcation are: Respect for Elders, Humility, and Collectivism. She says, “The Chinese looks more at the group collective than at individualism. … A person from China is more prone to look at how their acts affect the whole instead of how it affects them personally. They are more willing to give up and sacrifice for the greater good. For the Chinese, each person fits into the greater body of the nation, so individual accomplishments are downplayed.”

To hold on to those unique differences, during the Ming Dynasty, China experienced isolationism motivated by a desire to prevent foreign influences from undermining Chinese values. Study.com reported, “After being ruled by Mongol emperors for almost 100 years, Ming society was obsessed with restoring a sense of absolute Chinese culture. Chinese arts rejected foreign influences, and the emperors restricted trade with foreign nations for much of the 14th and 15th centuries.”

However, the BBC reports, “In the 19th Century, European nations used military power to pry open China’s market. To earn hard currency from China, the British and Americans even smuggled opium into China and basically drugged its people.”

The result was two Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860). When China lost those two wars that eventually led to the Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901, another failed attempt by the Chinese people to rid China of foreign influence.

Even the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) was a result of foreign meddling in China’s affairs, and Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was another attempt to rid China of foreign influences that had been forced on the country starting in 1839 with the first Opium War.  In fact, it was under Mao that China ended illegal drug use in 24 hours. The People’s Liberation Army rounded up and executed about a million drug dealers and forced more than 20-million Chinese addicts into compulsory treatment with a warning that if they were caught using again, they would suffer the same fate the dealers did.

China stayed fairly drug free until Deng Xiaoping opened China to foreign trade again even with China’s existing strict laws concerning illegal drug use. Today, sentencing for drug trafficking could include capital punishment.  For example, the seizure of 50 grams or more of heroin or crystal methamphetamine might result in the use of the death penalty by the Chinese government.

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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GUANXI

March 13, 2019

The more China changes, the more it stays the same.

Just because China has a one-party political system that calls itself the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), that doesn’t mean the government is not Chinese. In fact, the CCP maintains that despite the co-existence of private capitalists and entrepreneurs with public and collective enterprises, China is not a capitalist country because the party retains control over the direction of the country, maintaining its course of socialist development.

In China, Guanxi is a complex system of social networks and influential relationships which facilitate business and other dealings. Because Guanxi is built into social networks and influential relationships, it also runs deep through the CCP like threads through a complex interwoven, handmade tapestry.

Sir Robert Hart (1835 – 1911), the godfather of China’s modernization and the main character in my historical fiction novel, My Splendid Concubine, discovered the importance of Guanxi soon after he arrived in China and eventually went to work for China’s Emperor. Hart quickly learned that a ‘supreme value of loyalty glued together China’s structure of personal relationships.’

In addition, Robert Hart wrote in a letter in 1891, “These people (referring to the Chinese) never act too soon, and, so far, I have not known of their losing anything by being late. To glide naturally, easily and seasonably into the safe position sequence as circumstances make, is probably a sounder though less heroic policy for a state than to be forever experimenting …”

To translate, it takes time to develop Guanxi through relationships, friendships, and trust where everyone benefits. In China, one must prove they can be trusted before being accepted into a Guanxi social and/or business network.

There are several elements and layers to Guanxi. First, Guanxi is based on a Confucian hierarchy of familial relationships, long-term friendships, classmates, and schoolmates that no stranger, Chinese or foreign, will ever have access to.

Guanxi developed over millennia because China did not have a stable and effective legal system similar to the one that developed in western countries.

And thanks to the greed, insanity, and incompetence of President Donald Trump and the Libertarian movement in the United States, China will probably never become a capitalist kleptocracy like the U.S. is fast becoming. Guanxi will make sure that never happens in China, and corrupt individuals like Donald Trump will never understand how Guanxi works because of his inability to be honest and trust others. To Trump, he must always win and everyone else must lose.

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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Halloween vs China’s Hungry Ghost Festival

October 31, 2018

The closest celebration in China to Halloween is The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated the 14th or 15th night of the 7th lunar month. For 2018, the Hungry Ghost Festival started on August 25th.

Similar to Latin America’s Day of the Dead, The Ghost Festival, also known as The Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival and holiday celebrated by Chinese in many countries, in which ghosts and/or spirits of deceased ancestors come from the lower realm and/or hell to visit the living.

Buddhists and Taoists in China claim that the Ghost Festival originated with the canonical scriptures of Buddhism, but many of the visible aspects of the ceremonies originate from Chinese folk religion, and other local folk traditions (The Ghost Festival in Medieval China by Stephen Teiser).

Chinese Culture.net says the Hungry Ghost Festival is “Celebrated mostly in South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and especially in Singapore and Malaysia.” It is believed by many Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to let out the hungry ghosts who want food.

History.com says, “Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts lived 2,000 years ago in what’s known today as Ireland, the United Kingdom and Northern France. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the New Year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.”

In America, children wear costumes and go door to door collecting free candy.  In China, for those who celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival, the opposite takes place: food is offered to dead ancestors, joss paper is burned, and scriptures are chanted.

I stopped celebrating Halloween decades ago. As a teacher I was what all that candy was doing to my students the day after when they returned to school on a sugar high followed by a sugar low. At first, I handed out small boxes of very sweet organic raisons until a mother told me I was cheap.

If you are a parent of young children, here is why you should not celebrate Halloween with them. The Guardian.com reported, “Sugar is behind global explosion in type 2 diabetes, study finds. Researchers say link between consumption of sugar and diabetes is independent from obesity.”

In addition, the National Institutes of Health says, “Rates of new diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are increasing among youth in the United States, according to a report …”

And if you don’t want to believe sugar is responisible, here’s what Stanford Medicine has to say, “Researchers examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries over the past decade. They found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.”

Think about it: if you want to celebrate Halloween, replace it with China’s Hungry Ghost Festival and skip the candy.

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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Crazy Rich Asians – a Review

August 28, 2018

I saw “Crazy Rich Asians” on Wednesday, August 15, the day the film was released, near where I live, a few days before the film earned the #1 rank at the box office for its first weekend. The following Sunday I went to see another film and there was a long line waiting to see “Crazy Rich Asians”.

Opening Weekend: $26,510.140
(#1 rank, 3,384 theaters, $7,834 average)
Box Office Mojo

Crazy Rich Asians” is the 2nd film I’ve seen that I think reveals what goes on inside an overseas Chinese family. I haven’t read the books (a trilogy) the film was based on, but I plan to. The first book in the trilogy came out in 2013.

The first book and film was Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club”.

Both books and films reveal the inner workings of overseas Chinese families.

Chinese American New Yorker Rachel Chu flies to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young, to attend his best friend’s wedding in Singapore where she runs into his Singapore Chinese family that’s split over accepting or rejecting Rachel. The elder and ruling members of the family do not approve of Nick’s girlfriend while some of the younger members of the family accept her without reservation as long as the elders don’t know they support Rachel.

In Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club” (Hardcover 1989) we are introduced to a tiger mother, who grew up and immigrated to the U.S. from China, and her rebellious American Chinese daughter. In 2009, I married into a Chinese family with an immigrant mother and American Chinese daughter.  I married the mother who is Anchee Min. The marriage survived for sixteen years and we are still friends. I think that qualifies me as a reliable witness to the inner working of an oversees Chinese family.

Although the film for “Crazy Rich Asians” focuses on the fact that Nick Young’s super wealthy and powerful Shanghai Chinese family thinks of themselves as “Chinese”, the fact is they are also overseas Chinese just like Rachel is, because most if not all Chinese in China think of everyone that is Chinese living outside of China as overseas Chinese.  Maybe Singapore Chinese are considered less overseas since they live closer to China than Rachel from New York.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, do not stereotype Chinese. Not all Chinese think and act the same as the family in “Joy Luck Club” or “Crazy Rich Asians”.  Not all Chinese are rich or are tiger parents. Another book I recommend is the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. But again, Chua is overseas Chinese born in the United States to immigrant parents. “Amy Chua argues that Western parenting tries to respect and nurture children’s individuality, while Chinese parents typically believe that arming children with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence prepares them best for the future.”

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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Religious Influence in China

April 17, 2018

The Financial Times reports, “Christianity first reached China in the 7th century AD, brought by Nestorian Eastern Syriac believers.” The Review of Religions.org says Islam arrived about the same time, but in the 17th century, The downturn for Muslims began with the rise of the Qing Dynasty in 1644. Qing Emperors made life very hard for Muslims. First they prohibited the Halal slaughter of animals, then they banned the construction of new Mosques and the pilgrimage for Hajj. Conditions grew bleak for Islam in the second half of the 19th Century when rebellion led to the slaughter of possibly millions of Chinese Muslims.”

This helps explain why China has never had an organized religion dominate the culture as religions have in Western and Middle Eastern countries.

In fact, when organized religions meddle too much, the Chinese eventually strike back. During the Tang Dynasty in 878 A.D., a rebel leader named Huang Chao burned and pillaged Guangzhou (better known in the West as Canton) killing tens of thousands of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Then there were two Opium Wars during the middle of the nineteenth century where France and England invaded to force opium and Christian missionaries on China.

That resulted in the Taiping Rebellion, which was led by a Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, known as God’s Chinese son. Hong claimed to be Jesus Christ’s younger brother. Estimates say twenty to thirty million Chinese may have died during this religious war to rid China of opium and turn China into a Christian nation, far more than all the Crusades combined.

The culmination of a series of campaigns against organized religions starting in the late 19th century, including Mao’s Cultural Revolution, destroyed or forced Christians, Jews, and Muslims to hide their religious beliefs.

More than thirteen hundred years have passed since Christianity and Islam were introduced to China, but after all those centuries only 0.45-percent of the Chinese population follows Islam while about 2.5-percent are Christians. That means about 97-percent of the population does not belong to an organized religion like Christianity or Islam that often has an influence on politics.

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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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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