The Impact of Cultural and Lifestyle Choices during a Pandemic

May 13, 2020

China is a collectivist culture based on valuing the needs of a group or a community over the individual.

Better the Future.org says, “The traditional Chinese diet consists of low or moderate amounts of meat or fish and plenty of vegetables accompanied by starches like rice or noodles. Tea is often served with dinner instead of soft drinks. Desserts are generally not part of the meal but fresh fruits can be served to help with digestion.”

The BBC reported, “China reported the cases to the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN’s global health agency, on 31 December.… The mayor of Wuhan has previously admitted there was a lack of action between the start of January – when about 100 cases had been confirmed – and 23 January, when city-wide restrictions were enacted. …

“WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has hailed China for the ‘speed with which [it] detected the outbreak’ and its ‘commitment to transparency’.”

The United States is an individualist culture. Very Well Mind.com says, “Individualistic cultures are those that stress the needs of the individual over the needs of the group as a whole.”

Health.gov tells us about the Current Eating Patterns in the United States. “The typical eating patterns currently consumed by many in the United States do not align with the Dietary Guidelines. … About three-fourths of the population has an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy, and oils.

“More than half of the population is meeting or exceeding total grain and total protein foods recommendations (and) … are not meeting the recommendations for the subgroups within each of these food groups.

“Most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.

“The high percentage of the population that is overweight or obese suggests that many in the United States overconsume calories. As documented, more than two-thirds of all adults and nearly one-third of all children and youth in the United States are either overweight or obese.”

How do these cultural and lifestyle choices translate to death by COVID-19?

On May 6, 2020, Statista reported that the United States was 1st place for COVID-19 deaths worldwide.

1st Place: The United States with 72,284 deaths

2nd place: the UK with 29,427 deaths (the UK is also an individualist culture)

11th place: China with 4,633 deaths (where the pandemic started)

The Smithsonian Magazine reports that “U.S. Life Expectancy Drops for Third Year in a Row, Reflecting Rising Drug Overdoses, Suicides,” and Global News reported, “The novel coronavirus is a bundle of proteins. It doesn’t care about faith, freedom, jobs or right-wing conspiracy theories, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of Americans from defying all medical advice to protest against lockdown measures meant to keep them safe — often while standing unmasked and shoulder to shoulder.”

What about life expectancy in China? Macrotrends says, “The Current Life expectancy for China in 2020 is 76.96 years, a 0.22 percent increase from 2019.”  In fact, China has seen a slow and steady increase in life expectancy since 1950. Click the link in this paragraph to see for yourself.

It is apparent that the price for individual freedoms in the U.S. means shorter lifespans and a higher risk of death by COVID-19. What freedom means in the United States depends on each individual.

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 COVID-19 Warning

May 6, 2020

If it is possible to learn from history, the world may be fortunate that the stability of Chinese civilization for several thousand years left behind a well-documented historical record.

In 2017, Scientific American reported, “Records from Ancient China reveal link between Epidemics and Climate Change. By analyzing Chinese records throughout nearly 2,000 years of history, researchers have found that climate-driven disturbances like floods, droughts and locust outbreaks were associated with disease epidemics. …

“The new research underscores the idea that climatic changes may affect human health in a variety of ways. Present-day concerns about climate change and infection often focus on the potential of higher temperatures to facilitate the spread of disease vectors, like mosquitoes.”

Contagion Live reports on The Ripple Effect of Climate Change on Epidemic Risk. “Increases in extreme weather events, as predicted by climate scientists, may also lead to increases in infectious disease outbreaks. Epidemics have previously been seen in the wake of natural disasters, which can lead to displaced and crowded populations, hotbeds for infection transmission. Severe rainfall or flooding is particularly effective at creating environments suitable for the transmission and propagation of infectious diseases such as measles or cholera. Conditions, as currently seen on the devastated island of Puerto Rico, are often more amenable for mosquitoes to breed in flood-affected regions and as a result, may increase disease risk in those areas.”

What did China learn over the centuries?

The Journal of Biosafety and Biosecurity reports, “Since ancient times, China has acquired a rich experience in both the prevention and cure of infectious diseases. As early as in the Warring States period (475 BC – 221 BC), China began to develop theories on epidemic diseases. In the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 206 BC), an integrated response system, including prevention, diagnosis, and isolation, was established.

“Later, during the Han Dynasty (206BC – 220 AD), people began to pay attention to the control of infection sources. Whereas, vaccination methods were created in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1270 AD, composed by the Northern Song Dynasty and Southern Song Dynasty), they were popularized throughout the Ming (1368 – 1644 AD) and Qing (1644 – 1912) Dynasties.

“However, at that time, China had not established a biosafety prevention system based on modern microbiological studies on infectious diseases, lacking a comprehensive scientific understanding of them. It was in the middle and late Qing Dynasty, with the arrival of missionaries and the return of overseas students, that advanced western science and technology were introduced into China, allowing the implementation of scientific infectious disease prevention and control measures and giving rise to modern biosafety means.”

For modern civilization to survive, the world’s leaders must cooperate, and that includes the United States. However, current President Donald Trump is always looking for someone else to blame. For sure, Donald Trump is not a role model for how to survive a pandemic. That is not how to survive climate change and the epidemics to come. COVID-19 might be just the beginning. Are you ready? 

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 Came First, the Blog or the Book?

April 29, 2020

The reason I launched iLookChina in January 2010, was to build a social media platform to attract readers for “My Splendid Concubine”, my first published novel, and it worked. The 1st edition of the book was released in December 2007 and two years later the novel had sold 562 copies. By New Years of 2010, another 2,375 copies had been sold thanks to the blog. Fast forward a decade to February 2020, and Concubine has reached 64,399 readers (more if their copies were loaned to friends and family), and that is not counting the near quarter-million page reads through Kindle Unlimited.

This journey did not start in 2007. It started December 1999, when Anchee and I visited China together for the first time on our honeymoon. By then, I had already I started the nine years of research, writing, editing and revisions that led to the novel.

By the end of 2007, I thought I knew a lot about China. I could not have been more wrong. The truth was I didn’t know much at all as I was soon to discover.

That brings me to 2009, when I was a member of the California Writers Club (the 2nd oldest writers club in the United States), and I took an all-day workshop through the South Bay Branch of the club where we learned what we had to do to attract interested readers for our books.

Without word-of-mouth, readers are not going to find our books. We had to find the readers first.

In that workshop, we were told not to write about being writers as many authors do, but to write about something our book was a small part of. For me, that meant China. The instructor said if we wanted to be found on the first page of a Google search we had to publish 1,000 posts in the first year. I went home and did everything I had learned in that workshop and started posting three times a day until I hit the one thousand mark. Good thing I was a retired teacher by then, because that turned out to be more than a full-time job. After reaching 1,000 posts, I slowed down to one new post a day for the next few years before I ended up where I am now, once a week.

The first post was American Hypocrisy published on January 28, 2010. The first paragraph says, “Why am I writing about China? Simple—many Americans do not respect the differences between cultures. They say they do, but I don’t believe them. During the 2008-2009 school year, our daughter returned home one day to tell us that her history teacher talked about China and said the people had to be very depressed to live under a totalitarian government like the Communists.”

While China has an authoritarian one-party government, it isn’t a totalitarian state like North Korea, not even close, and I never met any Chinese depressed by their government during my trips to China. In fact, Shanghai turned out to be the Paris of Asia, a colorful, thriving city filled with life.

The day I launched the blog, I had been married to Anchee Min for a decade and had visited China nine times with my family to learn more about the country, its culture, and people, and even that wasn’t enough.

Long before the end of 2010, I ran out of stuff to write about by the time I reached the hundredth post. Most of what I knew about China was what I had learned while writing that historical fiction novel set in the middle of the 19th century. It was based on a true story and the main character was an Irishman named Robert Hart who was 19 when he arrived in China in 1854. Beginning as a student interpreter in the consular service, Hart arrived in China at the age of 19 and stayed for 54 years, except for two short leaves in 1866 and 1874. Hart has been credited as the most important and most influential Westerner in Qing dynasty China.

I had to learn more about China, or the blog was going to die a slow death. I started studying China’s history going back thousands of years. I wrote about the Great Wall, the Grand Canal, the first emperor, the different dynasties, the best emperors, the worst emperors, the inventions that came out of China, Chinese medicine, Daoism Confucianism, Buddhism, and the food, et al.

I also learned about China’s 1911 revolution, and Dr. Sun Yat-sen, known today as the Father of the Nation, both in Taiwan and Mainland China. Sun had been sent by his family to go to school in Hawaii as a boy where he learned about the U.S. Constitution. He returned to China as a young man and joined the revolution to replace the Qing Dynasty with a republic modeled on the United States but adapted to fit Chinese culture.  After several failures, Sun successfully recruited the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Nationalist Party, and other smaller parties to work together and form a multi-party republic.

Then Dr. Sun Yat-sen died unexpectedly in 1925 before the job was done, and the alliance he had built fell apart starting China’s long and brutal Civil War (1927 – 1949). The CCP did not start that Civil War. Chiang Kai-shek did that when he formed an alliance with the criminal triad gangs in Shanghai to destroy the newly forming labor unions and the young Chinese Communist Party that was organizing the unions. Without warning, Chiang Kai-shek’s troops, with help from Shanghai’s ruthless criminal triads, hunted down and executed, without trials, every member of the Communist Party they could find and the leaders of the labor unions along with the workers that had joined the unions.

To keep publishing posts and attracting readers interested in learning more about the real China, I had to keep learning, but I couldn’t do that by turning to the misleading, biased propaganda that often gets published and broadcast about China in the U.S. media. I had to find material published before 1911 and from other academic sources like from Australia, and the media from other countries like the BBC, France 24, and Al Jazeera English, headquartered in Doha, Qatar.

Since iLookChina’s launch, there have been more than 2,434 posts (most of them researched and written by me), 4,966 comments, and 802,366 hits (visitors). Sometimes I have paid a price when a China hating American accuses me of being an evil Communist and a traitor to the United States, because I strive to reveal the real China and not the fabricated one we often read about in the U.S. Media.

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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Who was the Real Anna May Wong?

April 22, 2020

Anna May Wong was born an American citizen on January 3, 1905, and died February 3, 1961. She was the first Chinese-American movie star and the first Asian-American actress to gain international fame.

On March 1, 2003, Bill Moyers reported, Anna was American-born, confident in ways her father’s generation could never be, still she lived suspended between two countries, starting with how people saw her.

“Americans regard [us] as a dark, mysterious race,” Anna May once said, “impossible to understand. Why is it that the screen Chinese is always the villain? And so crude a villain — murderous, treacherous, a snake in the grass. I was so tired of the parts I had to play.”

In fact, because if the films she appeared in, she became known as The Woman that Died a Thousand Times.

By the time she was 32, and an established Hollywood star, in August 1937, Japan invaded Shanghai. Anna’s younger sister was living there at the time and managed to escape, but their family couldn’t get out. In 1938, Anna managed to get her family back in the United States. Then she started working with Chinatown communities to get rid of the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Five years later in 1943, this racist legislation that targeted Chinese was repealed.

The Exclusion Act (1882 – 1943) made it virtually impossible for Chinese to have a normal family life inside the United States. The Exclusion law applied to Chinese laborers. It exempted merchants, travelers and students. What this meant to the Chinese who could not become a merchant, and what it meant was not a student or a traveler what it meant was that he could not bring his wife. – Stanford Lyman (Historian)

As a young girl, Anna skipped school to watch silent films at local theaters. By the time she was 9, she had set a goal to become a movie star.  She hung around the studios, including MGM, asking for extra work instead of going to school. Eventually, she landed some rolls. At 17, it’s rumored that she had an affair with an older but married director.

In 1924, at 19, Anna had her first success when she played a Mongol slave in the classic film “The Thief of Bagdad” cast alongside Douglas Fairbanks.

According to Cal Van Vechten’s daughter, Anna May had a brief affair with co-star Vincent Price. – Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend, page 164. While acting on stage in Turandot, she also had a brief affair with her costar. – Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography, page 77.

The first Chinese film star in Hollywood, the rolls she could play were limited. The Hays Code did not permit the portrayal of interracial relationships on-screen. However, Anna’s rumored lovers, from Vincent Price to Marlene Dietrich, were white, and Douglas Fairbanks called her the “Chink in my amour”. Her most famous movies were denounced as “ghost films” and banned in China. – The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies.

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 Moral Failings of Donald Trump according to Confucius

April 15, 2020

Simon Worrall, writing in National Geographic Magazine said Confucius “was hailed after his death as ‘The Uncrowned King,’ a philosopher whose sound bites of wisdom became China’s handbook on government and its code of personal morality for thousands of years.”

Confucius believed that every person had their place in society, and his philosophy turned Ancient China into a structured society with the longest continuous history of any country in the world–3,500 years of written history. Source: American Historical Association

More than twenty-four hundred years ago, Confucius dedicated his life to the moral training of his culture. He lived during the Warring States period before China was unified. Living with all of that violence and death, he dreamed of a land where people could live happily and harmoniously together.

Does that mean China enjoys dignity without democracy while the United States has democracy without dignity?

Confucius provides the answer In Analects 16.7, “The gentleman has three things to be cautious about: In his youth, when his blood and energy are not yet settled, he must be cautious about sex. In his middle years, when his blood and energy are just strong, he must be cautious about fighting. In his old age, when his blood and energy are already weak, he must be cautious about greed.”

The Conversation says, “Trump seems to embody all three types of recklessness identified by Confucius.

“His behavior towards women has been roundly condemned; his warmongering words regarding North Korea provoked fear and consternation around the world; he unashamedly made his lust for wealth and power into the basis of his media personality.”

Why do these moral failings matter?

“Because democracy needs dignity if it is not to descend into disorder. That doesn’t mean (America’s) leaders have to abide by some impossible standard of personal moral purity; after all, they are only human.”

However, if we judge Donald Trump by Confucian standards, Trump is now America’s most irredeemable leader and is beyond redemption. It doesn’t matter of Trump wins or loses the election in November 2020, he will always be considered hopeless by future historians.

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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Surviving a Pandemic: China vs the United States

March 25, 2020

China is a collective culture and the United States is individualistic. FutureLearn.com says, “Individualism stresses individual goals and the rights of the individual person. Collectivism focuses on group goals, what is best for the collective group, and personal relationships.”

While it is true that China got off to a bad start when local officials in the city of Wuhan attempted to silence and punish Dr. Li Wenliang for sending out a warning about the COVID-19 virus, it didn’t take long before China’s central government acted aggressively to contain the spread of the epidemic.

On December 27, Wuhan health officials learned that a new coronavirus was making people sick. Four days later, China informed the World Health Organization’s office in China.

Then on January 7, China’s President Xi Jinping became involved. Eleven days later Beijing sends epidemiologists to Wuhan to determine what is happening.

On January 21st, the CDC in the United States confirmed the first COVID-19 case. Two days later, China, locked down Wuhan and three other nearby cities, days before Dr. Li Wenliang died on February 7 from COVID-19. The lockdown was not voluntary. It was mandatory.

By March 19, China Daily reported, “The lockdown of Wuhan, the city hardest-hit by the novel coronavirus in China, could gradually be lifted if no new cases are reported for two consecutive weeks, which may happen in April, a top public health expert said.

“However, strict disease control and prevention measures will still be needed to prevent a possible rebound of the outbreak, said Li Lanjuan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a senior adviser to the nation’s top health authority.”

Meanwhile, in the United States on January 22, President Donald Trump, a hard-core individualist, because almost every word out of his mouth or from his Twitter account is about how great he is or an attack on someone else or another country, said, “We have it totally under control.”

That was the same day it was confirmed that the first American had COVID-19.

February 2, Trump said, “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China. It’s going to be fine.”

The number of confirmed victims in the U.S. had climbed to 8.

February 24, Trump said, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA … Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

But the number of confirmed infected individuals was increased by 27, and CNBC reported, “Stocks plunge for a second day as the DOW lost more than 800 points on Tuesday.”

February 25, Trump said, “CDC and my administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”

Eighteen more victims of COVID-19 were confirmed in the United States.

February 26: Trump said, “The 15 cases within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” He also said, “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”

Six more cases were reported by February 27.

On March 4 (Source: The White House), Trump said. “If we have thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work – some of them go to work, but they get better.” Trump made this comment during an interview on Fox News. At the time, the CDC was urging employers to have workers stay home. Later that day, Trump defended himself, “I never said people that are feeling sick should go to work.” Source: CBS News

By the end of March 4, another 51 confirmed cases had been added to the list.

Meanwhile, many of Donald Trump supporters, individuals that seem to think like him, refused to self-quarantine. “Trump supporters have been warned incessantly not to trust mainstream journalistic coverage of the issue.” Source: The Atlantic.com 

Between March 4 and March 18, another 7,078 confirmed cases had been added to the list. — Statista.com

“Though President Trump said March 7 that ‘anyone who wants a test can get a test,’ the United States’ limited testing capacity means that in practice, only a fraction of people who have symptoms are being tested.” – LiveScience.com

To see the list of Trump’s lies from January 22 to March 13, click on Snopes.com.

 

I started my self-quarantine on March 13th and have gone out once to buy supplies. I was gone for about an hour on March 19. While out, I saw two shoppers (of dozens) wearing masks and they were a young Asian American couple. Later, while at Trader Joes, I saw one cashier (Caucasian) with a face mask, but it was hanging around her neck and wasn’t covering her mouth or nose.

Time.com reported, “Why Wearing a Face mask is Encouraged in Asia, but Shunned in the U.S.”

What do you think – Do collectivist cultures like China have an advantage over an individualist country like the United States when it comes to dealing with a pandemic like COVID-19?

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’s fifty-six Recognized Ethnic Groups

February 19, 2020

By 1979, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) had recognized 56 ethnic groups. The largest is the Han Chinese with 91.51-percent of the population. China’s population was 1.435 billion in November 2019. The largest, the Han numbered 1.313 billion. That left 122 million for the other 55 recognized ethnic groups.

The two minority groups in China the world hears about the most are the Tibetans (almost 6.3 million) and the Uyghurs with a bit more than 10 million. But what about the others 53? For instance, the largest minority group is the Zhuang people and most of them live in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Since most of the minorities do not have large populations, not all of the 55 minority groups have their own autonomous zone. There are five autonomous zones in China: in Guangxi (population 46 million), Inner Mongolia (24.7 million), Tibet (3 million), Xinjiang (almost 22 million), and Ningxia (almost 6.2 million).

The PRC also has programs to improve the quality of life in each autonomous zone. For instance, in 1950, the average lifespan of Tibetans was age 35.5. Today, life expectancy in Tibet is 68.2 years and still improving. That’s almost twice what it was when China’s long civil war finally came to an end.

China.org.cn reports, “In China regional autonomy for ethnic minorities is a basic policy adopted by the Chinese government in line with the actual conditions of China, and also an important part of the political system of China. Regional autonomy for ethnic minorities means that under the unified leadership of the state regional autonomy is practiced in areas where people of ethnic minorities live in concentrated communities; in these areas organs of self-government are established for the exercise of autonomy and for people of ethnic minorities to become masters of their own areas and manage the internal affairs of their own regions. …”

The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner reports, “The economy in five autonomous regions (Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia and Xinjiang) and three multi-ethnic provinces (Guizhou, Yunnan and Qinghai) had made significant progress and people’s living standards continued to rise: the population living in poverty went down from 31 million in 2012 to 10 million, and the poverty rate dropped from 34 per cent to six per cent.” …

However, “NICOLÁS MARUGÁN, Committee Rapporteur for China, asked China to provide written information on the allegations of torture and on the intentions concerning the establishment of an independent mechanism for the investigation of allegations of torture and deaths in custody in Tibet and in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.” …

Meanwhile, the 30,875 reindeer herders of China’s small Ewenki ethnic minority in Northern China is struggling to keep their centuries-old traditions alive.

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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