Remote Southwest China

March 4, 2020

Far from the Great Wall and the Grand Canal are the remote villages and towns of Southwest China.

Post Magazine reports, “Historically, this area, which spans the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, and Yunnan, was a hotbed of ethnic insurrection and separatist movements. The region proved so difficult to pacify that the Chinese have long dubbed it ‘the land of a hundred barbarians’ and even today, ethnic minorities, as well as local Han, eke out lives as removed from mainstream affairs as one can be in today’s China.”

While I have never visited Southwest China, a few years ago when my daughter was a student at Stanford University, she volunteered to travel to this area with a nonprofit that provided heart-related health care for poor children. The closest I came was when we flew to Southeast China and visited the Dragon’s Back and cruised along the Li River.

Southwest China is also where Pu’erh tea originated, and the beginning of the Tea Horse Road to Tibet.

In 225 A.D., when China was divided into the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu, and Wu, the prime minister of Shu led a military expedition to Yunnan. Historical records say that many of the Shu troops came down with eye diseases.  After they drank boiled Pu’erh tea, the troops recovered.

Wild China reports, “Deep in the heart of Southern Yunnan there exist tea trees unlike any other on Earth. The jungles of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture and the districts of Simao and Lincang are home to the oldest tea trees in the world. In these regions grow tea trees that range in age from several centuries to over a millennium, and the tea that is made from their leaves is called Pu’er.

“Over the past 30 to 50 years, however, the number of these ancient trees has steadily decreased. Since China’s reform and opening-up policies were implemented in 1978, the Chinese tea industry has grown rapidly.” …

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 are Trees Good for

February 26, 2020

Trees are vital. As the biggest plants on the planet, they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilize the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter.

The UN’s 2006 Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement. When an executive in the United States told Professor Maathai their corporation was planning to plant a million trees, her response was: “That’s great, but what we really need is to plant a billion trees.” The campaign was carried out under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco.

As of November 2019, 13 years since the campaign’s launch, its website The Trillion Tree Campaign registered over 13.6 billion trees planted across 193 countries.

China planted 2.8 billion of those trees, after already planting 63.2 billion before 2006. India was in 2nd place with 2.5 billion trees and Ethiopia was third with 1.7 billion. The United States, a distant 12th place, only planted 315 million.

While China has been planting trees for “the past 40 years, the Earth has lost a third of its arable land to erosion and degradation.” – National Geographic

You might ask, “What is arable land?” Arable land is any land capable of being plowed and used to grow crops. That means in the last 40 years, our planet has lost thirty-three percent of the land capable of growing the food we need to keep from starving and dying off.

National Geographic reports, “in 1978, the Chinese government implemented the Three-North Shelterbelt Project, a national ecological engineering effort that called for the planting of millions of trees along the 2,800-mile border of northern China’s encroaching desert, while increasing the world’s forest by 10 percent. Also known as the ‘Great Green Wall,’ the project’s end date isn’t until 2050; so far, more than 66 billion trees have been planted.” …

“Beyond the Great Green Wall, China has taken other measures against encroaching deserts. A series of laws starting in the early 2000s also targeted the problem, including efforts to return some farm and grazing lands to a more natural state of forests or grasslands.”

Since China’s Great Green Wall is being planted in an arid desert without enough water, Chinese engineers are planning to build a 1,000km tunnel, the longest in the world, to carry 10 – 15 billion tonnes of water each year from the Yarlung Tsangpo River to the Taklimakan Desert in the north.

“The proposed tunnel, which would drop down from the world’s highest plateau in multiple sections connected by waterfalls, would ‘turn Xinjiang into California”, one geotechnical engineer said.” – South China Morning Post

China currently leads the world in planting trees, photovoltaic solar power use, the most wind energy produced, the most hydroelectric power, and Lithium-Ion battery production. Ancient China also built The Great Wall (13,170 miles long) and the longest canal in the world.

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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Thanks to Donald Trump’s GUT, US farmers lost the Thanksgiving market in China

November 20, 2019

CNBC reports, “The duties in large part target U.S. farmers, who largely supported Trump in 2016 but suffered from previous shots in the Trump administration’s trade war with China. The thousands of products include peanuts, sugar, wheat, chicken and turkey.”

According to USDA.gov’s internal trade data for chickens, turkeys and eggs exported to China, in 2015, U.S farmers sold 260,102,000 pounds to China. Fast forward to 2018, and those exports fell dramatically to 122,000 pounds. If that is welcome news, send the Real Donald Trump a thank you tweet.

According to The Poultry Site.com, “Most of the world’s turkey meat is produced in just five countries: US, Brazil, Germany, France and Italy.”

Before Donald Trump, China bought most of its turkey meat from the United States.  My guess is that China is now buying its turkey from Brazil. “Although one-fifth of the size of the US industry, turkey production in Brazil rocketed by 220 per cent between 2000 and 2008. Without a doubt, this has been the most dynamic industry in the current decade with output likely to come close to 500,000 tonnes this year making this country the second largest producer in the world.”

By the time Trump arrived and declared his tariff war with most of the world, I think Brazil’s turkey producers were ready.

According to CNBC, “Struggling (U.S.) farmers are losing a huge customer to the (Trump’s) trade war – China.”

And if you think the Chinese do not eat Turkey, you are wrong. Mentalfloss.com tells us that China is #1 among the top five importers of turkey meat. According to Mentalfloss, China imported 82.8 million pounds, and that was back in 2012.

Conclusion, if you are one of the 72,000 American expatriates living and working in China and you want to eat turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving (a U.S. holiday), that turkey probably came from Brazil, Germany, France, or Italy, but not the United States where the farmers that produce turkey are probably facing failure if not already bankrupt.

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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September 13th is Mid-Autumn Day

September 11, 2019

China’s Mid-Autumn Festival is similar to the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. Families and friends in China get together and celebrate a bountiful harvest by coming together to eat, drink, and be happy.

Around the world, Chinese and Vietnamese celebrate this festival. For instance, in San Francisco, not far from where I live, the Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival took place on September 7 – 8, 2019.

During the Mid-Autumn Festival, it is customary to have Moon-Watching parties, and offerings are still made to the Moon.

Also known as the “Full Moon Festival,” the Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month and takes place when the moon’s orbit is at its lowest angle to the horizon, making the moon appear brighter and larger than any other time of the year.

One historical event linked to this festival is the Moon Cake Uprising.

Near the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368 AD), many Chinese wanted to take back their country from the invading Mongols. Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 AD), united the resistance forces. However, it was not easy to organize the different factions spread across the country so the rebels hid notes with details about the rebellion in mooncakes and sent them to the different factions on Mid-Autumn Day. Since then, eating moon cakes have been a Chinese custom during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

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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Rice and its History

August 28, 2019

When you think of rice, do you think of China? If not, you should. China is the world’s largest producer of rice with 208-million metric tons in 2017, and the crop makes up a little less than half of the country’s total grain output.

Ricepedia.org reports, “Based on archeological evidence, rice was believed to have first been domesticated in the region of the Yangtze River Valley in China.” Then “In the late 3rd millennium BC, there was a rapid expansion of rice cultivation into mainland Southeast Asia and westwards across India and Nepal.”

Fast forward ten-to-eleven thousand years from the domestication of rice in China to 2017, and Statista reported, that almost 496-million metric tons of husked rice were produced in the last harvest year worldwide, and China’s share was almost 42-percent of the global total.

When we compare rice to wheat production, “the global amount of wheat produced came to about 755-million metric tons in crop year 2016-2017.”

World Atlas.com says, China is (also) the largest producer of wheat in the world. “China produces more wheat than any other country, followed by India, Russia, and the United States.”

How difficult is it to grow rice? “All rice cultivation is highly labour intensive. Rice is generally grown as a wetland crop in fields flooded to supply water during the growing season. Transplanting seedlings requires many hours of labor, as does harvesting. Mechanization of rice cultivation is only minimally advanced. Rice cultivation also demands more of other inputs, such as fertilizer, than most other crops.”

When comparing the benefits of rice to wheat, “A study published … by a group of psychologists in the journal Science finds that China’s noodle-slurping northerners are more individualistic, show more ‘analytic thought’ and divorce more frequently. By contrast, the authors write, rice-eating southerners show more hallmarks traditionally associated with East Asian culture, including more ‘holistic thought’ and lower divorce rates. The reason? Cultivating rice, the authors say, is a lot harder.”

How important is rice when it comes to feeding the world? Thought Co.com tells us: “Today, rice feeds more than half the world’s population and accounts for 20-percent of the world’s total calorie intake.”

Next time you eat a bowl of rice, you might want to thank the Chinese for domesticating it for the world?

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 Life of Dogs in China

July 3, 2019

Thought Co says, “Dogs are known the world over as man’s best friend. But in China, dogs are also eaten as food.”

While it is true that dogs are still food for some, most Chinese do not eat dog meat. In fact, ltl-school reveals, “the simple fact is most Chinese adore dogs just like many western households do. The practice of eating dog meat in China is actually much less common than most expats think. …  One thing we can say for sure, eating dog is NOT common practice in China and Chinese restaurantstofu and pretty much anything else is much more common.”

I’m a vegan and visited China several times starting in 1999 and my last trip was in 2008. Not once did I see dog meat offered on any menu, and I also did not see dogs in cages in the farmers’ markets I visited. I saw ducks and chickens in cages waiting to be bought and slaughtered, but there were no dogs or cats.

In fact, China is more vegan and vegetarian-friendly than in the United States.

GBTimes reports China’s love-hate history with dogs. “China began domesticating dogs thousands of years ago, producing many of the breeds that remain popular today. Over the centuries, however, the Chinese have also developed a complicated love-hate relationship with its canine population.” …

“In ancient China, the dog was one of the most honoured and cherished animals.”

Then during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, “Dogs were seen as a symbol of the bourgeois, therefore they were involved in the class struggle,” Marina Shafir explained. “There was a mass extirpation of dogs, and many of the original Chinese dog breeds almost became extinct.”

Then once Mao died along with his Cultural Revolution, dogs made a comeback, not as food but as an honored and cherished family member.

What is it like owning a dog in China today?

The Culture Trip answers that question. “Walk down any street in Shanghai or Beijing and you’re sure to see little brown poodles dressed more extravagantly than their owners, schnauzers with impressive beards, and shiba inus that look like they’ve been ripped straight from a meme. Little old ladies are more likely to be seen with a dog buggy than a baby buggy, and Uncle Ma is able to impress his friends with his samoyed, as if it were a Bulgari watch.” … “Dog ownership is on the rise. There are an estimated 100 million registered dogs in China, with the real number being likely even higher.”

In addition, the BBC reveals that Taiwan has banned the selling and eating of cats and dogs and that in mainland China, “The practice of eating cats and dogs has become less common as pet ownership rises, and new generations have different attitudes to eating domestic animals.”

If you are a hardcore meat eater, hate vegetables and tofu, and want to try out dog, “Each year in June, the city of Yulin in southern China hosts a dog meat festival, where live dogs and cats are sold specifically for eating and an estimated 10,000 are slaughtered for their meat,” but you better hurry because in 2016 there were large protests against this festival throughout China.

However, if eating dog and cat ends in China, never fear, because there is a better country to visit if you want to chow down on dog. South Korea, according to the BBC, has an estimated 17,000 dog farms, and then there is Thailand and Vietnam.

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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China takes the lead in growing indoor crops

June 26, 2019

I recently read a comment on another blog that said Trump was going to win his tariff war with China because of a crop eating pest known as the fall armyworm that is threatening China’s domestic food supply.

So far, this worm has only attacked crops in Southern China.

The flaw in this thinking is the fact that China imports food from other countries. In fact, in 2017, China bought more food products from France than the United States, and World Bank.org lists the countries China buys from and how much China spends. All you have to do is click the World Bank link in this paragraph to discover those facts.

The comment I read mentioned Inkstone News.com, “To compound matters, China’s food supply was already under pressure after it was forced to slaughter millions of pigs with African swine fever affecting all 31 autonomous regions and provinces within just nine months, trimming 20% of the national supply and driving up prices.”

First, China is not going to starve because they lost twenty percent of the country’s pigs, because the Chinese eat a lot more than pork. I’m a vegan and have never had a problem finding a variety of plant foods to eat when visiting China.

Second, Smart Cities Dive reports, “How China Leads the World in Indoor Farming. China is investing significant amounts of effort into developing vertical farming systems to feed its burgeoning urban population. It aims to become a world leader in industrial scale applications of these systems.” …

“Compared to conventional farming, a plant factory with natural solar light can increase productivity per unit area by between two and ten times. With artificial light, this rises to 40 times and by adding vertical farming this goes to 1000 times.”

To learn more, read what Next Shark.com reveals about China’s high-tech indoor farms where “5,000-square-meter (53,819-square-foot) indoor space, produces eight to ten metric tons of vegetables DAILY while requiring only four staff members to manage it. Conventional farmlands would require about 300 farmers to produce the equivalent amount which can feed almost 36,000 people.” …

“The smart farming method involves a strict system that regulates temperature, water source, humidity, nutrients and LEDs that replace sunlight in a confined indoor space. Such regulations allow the firm to significantly save on water, granting each plant only the right amount it needs.”

If bugs, African swine fever, and global warming continue to threaten China’s domestic food supply, how fast will it take China to convert most if not all of its outdoor farms to these high-tech indoor farms?

The answer can be found in China’s high-speed rail network. China’s first high-speed train service was introduced in April 2007. Twelve years later, China has the longest high-speed railway network in the world, 18,000 miles in length, two-thirds of the world’s total, with plans to increase it to 24,000 miles by 2025.

How does China’s high-speed rail development compare to the rest of the world?

Well, the first high-speed rail system started operating in Japan in 1964, and it took the rest of the world 55 years to build one-third of the world’s high-speed railroads. The United States only has one high-speed rail line linking Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington DC, but those bullet trains cannot take advantage of their maximum speed because some sections along that route are old rail lines that cannot safely support trains moving 150 mph.

When China needs to, it can move fast. For instance, the Chinese government made high-speed rail construction a cornerstone of its economic stimulus program in order to combat the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis and the result was a rapid development of the Chinese rail system into the world’s most extensive high-speed rail network. China moved up its timeline when twenty million Chinese lost their factory jobs because of the global financial crises … and let us not forget that the United States was responsible for that crises due to old fashioned capitalist greed.

One day, pork might not be on the menu in China, but there will still be plenty of fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and if I can survive for thirty-seven years as a vegan, the Chinese can do it too.

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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