The IGNORANCE Factor of Bias – Part 2/5

January 6, 2012

Another question Parfitt asked in in his comment to Comparing India and China’s Potential for Economic Growth was, What about China’s debt problem? Would that hinder it [China] in its supposed race against India?”

I doubt strongly that there is an economic race between India and China. If it is perceived that one exists, we may thank the Western media circus for that, since the media often compares the annual growth of India’s GDP with China’s.

The answer to Parfitt’s question leads to another question that should have been asked instead.

Will India’s corruption [50% of GDP], poverty [25%], literacy rate [61%] and debt problems hinder it in its supposed economic race with China? Source of facts used: CIA Factbook

By comparison, literacy in China is 92.2% and those living below the poverty line according to the CIA Factbook represent 2.8% of the population.

India’s GDP [Purchasing Power Parity – PPP], according to the CIA Factbook, was about $4 trillion dollars in 2010 but its public debt was 50.6% of GDP. It’s reserves of foreign exchange and gold was $287.1 billion [this is the same as a savings account], and its external debt was $316.9 billion, which shows us that India owes more money than it has in its savings account. In addition, it has been reported that corruption in India is worse than China.

By comparison, China’s GDP [PPP] in 2010 was more than $10 trillion and its public debt was 16.3% of GDP, its savings account held almost $3 trillion and its external debt was $519 billion.

Another point of comparison is the US GDP [PPP], which was $14.66 trillion with $14.71 trillion in external debt and a public debt of 62.9%, while its savings account holds $132.4 billion.

With these numbers, which country is in the best shape economically to face challenges at home and globally in the near future and in the long run?

I replied to Mr. Parfitt’s comments and there was another reply from Alessandro, a regular visitor to this Blog. The reason I’m writing this post is the IGNORANCE Factor, which plays far too large a role in the circus of American politics and public opinion, which is often inflamed by the biased opinions of individuals such as Mr. Parfitt.

Continued on January 7, 2012 in The IGNORANCE Factor of Bias – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The two-faces of Confucius – Part 2/5

December 21, 2011

Before we look at the two-faces of Confucius, let us learn something from a New York Times Opinion piece by Eric X. Li, Counterpoint: Debunking Myths About China

Li says there is a common myth that because China does not hold elections that its rulers do not have the consent of the ruled.

However, “According to the Pew Research Center” Li says, “the Chinese government enjoys popular support that is among the highest in the world.The Chinese people’s satisfaction with the direction of their country was at 87% in 2010 and has been consistently above 80 percent in recent years.”

Compare the popularity of China’s government to that of the US government and its people, and we discover that, “Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress receive highly negative job ratings. Just 23% approve of the job Republican congressional leaders are doing, while 67% disapprove. Ratings for Democratic leaders are not much better: 30% approve while 61% disapprove…” Source: Pew Research Center


Common Misconceptions  About China

Li also debunked the myth that China is an authoritarian state in which the party’s political power is concentrated and self-perpetuating.

He then tackled the myth that China’s restriction on freedom of expression stifles innovation. Li says, “Some of the most successful IPO’s of Internet companies on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq have been Chinese startups…” and “China’s share of scientific research papers published in recognized international journals went from 4.4 percent in the period between 1999-2003 to 10.2 percent in the period between 2004-2008, now just behind the United States.”

In addition, when it comes to claims that the Communist Party’s authoritarian rule leads to widespread corruption, “By Transparency International’s account [the lower the number the less corruption there is], China (78) ranks higher than India (87), Philippines (134), Indonesia (110), Argentina (105) and many more, and tied with Greece (78), barely below Italy (67) — all electoral democracies.

Apparently, China’s one-party system is less corrupt than many democratic countries.

In conclusion before moving on to the two-faces of Confucius in the next post, David Gosset in Common Misconceptions About the Chinese World says, “The level of individual freedom enjoyed today by its citizens has no equivalent in China’s past, and the effort to establish the rule of law will bring more social, economic and political improvements.”

Continued on December 15, 2011 in The two-faces of Confucius – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The two-faces of Confucius – Part 1/5

December 20, 2011

During our debate, when Troy Parfitt wrote, “The essence of Confucianism is obedience,” and “The strains of despotism in these native [Chinese] ideologies speak to communism’s appeal,” I knew he was wrong.

The complexity of Confucianism is much more than just about obedience.

However, to understand Confucianism, it first helps to discover how wrong many Westerners are about so many things when it comes to China, which may explain Mr. Parfitt’s confusion.

To discover the depth of this ignorance, we will explore a few examples before focusing on the two-faces of Confucianism.

The China Law Blog says, “My mother thinks that people in China still ride around on bicycles wearing those green army suits and green hats with the red star in the middle. While there are still a lot of bicycles, especially in Beijing and Shanghai—where they are proud to wear their silk pajamas while riding their bicycles and smoking at the same time—there are not many people wearing those green outfits.”

Note from Blog host: In 1999, before I first visited China, I thought pretty much the same about the green army suits and green hats with the red star in the middle. Then I arrived in China and discovered there is a reason that Shanghai is called the Paris of Asia, and it has to do with fashion.


Misconceptions about China

At eChinacities.com, Sarah Meik shared, “8 Common Misconceptions about China Debunked“.  If you want the details, click on the link to Sarah’s post. You might learn something.

Then Fred Dintenfass posted, “3 Things I Misunderstood About Chinese People Before I came to China.”

Fred says, “It is way too easy to generalize, to see a Chinese person spit and decide that all Chinese love to hock loogies in the street… I knew the media here was state run. I knew people might be cautious about expressing their political opinions. What I didn’t realize is that young people in the cities are content.”

Then at The Tree of Mamre, we learn from “China Owns Most of the US Debt, and other Misconceptions“.

“Misconception: Most of what Americans spend their money on is made in China.

Fact: Just 2.7% of personal consumption expenditures go to Chinese-made goods and services. 88.5% of U.S. consumer spending is on American-made goods and services …”

“Misconception: The United States owe most of its debt to China.

Fact: China owns 7.8% of U.S. government debt outstanding.

Continued on December 15, 2011 in The two-faces of Confucius – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Not Rule the World” – Part 12/12

December 8, 2011

Note from Blog host: Troy Parfitt’s closing statement of about 500 words appears first. To read Lloyd Lofthouse’s closing statement, you may have to scroll down this page.

Closing Statement [Parfitt]:

I would like to thank Tom Carter for suggesting and facilitating this debate. But most of all, I would like to thank Lloyd Lofthouse. True, this is his website, but Lloyd’s been key in getting this organized, and has been nothing but helpful, positive, and polite.

Between the episodes of verbal jousting, which hopefully have kept you interested and entertained, we’ve communicated amicably about China and related topics, which is great. Two literary publications have refused to review my book, one citing arrogance, the other controversy and bigotry. It’s a sign of the times (you have total intellectual freedom to say anything you want, except things people don’t want to hear), so good on Lloyd for being so tolerant of someone like me, whose views on China have little overlap with his.

China is a complicated subject, and because debate about it is so divisive, it’s sometimes difficult for people with only a casual interest to sort fact from fiction. To come to any kind of understanding, you’ve got to spend a lot of time reading about China, and it helps enormously to understand Mandarin and travel or live there.

The West has some serious problems; it always has and it always will. Somber problems are normal for human societies; we’re a troubled species. In light of Western inadequacy and hypocrisy, it’s tempting to see China as a land of answers and alternatives. China can appear as the great Other: the feminine to the West’s masculine; grace to aggression; cultivation to calculation. But that’s a romanticized construct located in the recesses of the Western psyche, with little basis in reality.

That’s not to say China isn’t a noteworthy subject; it’s a fascinating one. Nevertheless, determined and altruistic cadres, heroic Communist leaders, an overriding system of guanxi, a citizenry instilled with the wisdom and morality of Confucianism, a harmonious society, a glorious past, and a mission to help neighboring states, are concepts that exist largely in people’s imaginations. They are myths, both Chinese and Western, that mainly block the view.

People like myths; they’re easy to latch on to; easy to remember; they cover up what isn’t flattering; they justify, and can make you feel good. But they won’t bring anyone closer to understanding what China is, how it got that way, and where it might be headed. To do that, one needs to research, observe, and apply critical thinking. Counter evidence cannot be denied, dubious sources should be treated as such, and a sense of fairness must always be employed. Once you’ve got a working theory about China, its nature, and so on, you must test that hypothesis constantly; that’s how you’ll discover the wonderful and terrible truth.

Again, I’d like to thank Tom and Lloyd for setting this debate up. It was good for me to defend and reflect on my ideas, and China is such an important topic; debate about it is crucial.

Thank you very much.

Troy Parfitt

Closing Statement [Lofthouse]:

In the prologue of Lin Yutang’s My Country and My People, the author says few in the West understand the Chinese and their culture. He writes, “It is difficult to deny the Old China Hand (Note—foreigners that lived or are still living in China) the right to write books and articles about China…”

Lin Yutang says that only one in ten thousand of these “Old China Hands” understands China, while the other 9,999 results in a “constant, unintelligent elaboration of the Chinaman”. He mentions Sir Robert Hart and Bertrand Russell as examples of the few that understand China.

At the urging of Pearl S. Buck, “My Country and My People” was written and then published in 1935 and what Lin Yutang wrote then is still relevant today.

Pearl S. Buck writes in the book’s Introduction that when China was “not able to meet the dangerous and aggressive modernity of the West… They forced out of existence the old dynastic rule, they changed with incredible speed the system of education, and with indefatigable zeal they planned and set up a scheme of modern government”.

This metamorphosis of China that we have witnessed in the last few decades has almost eradicated severe poverty from more than 70% in 1949 to 2.5% of the population today in addition to the growth of a modern, Western style urban consumer middle class that is still a work in progress. This transformation took a literacy rate of 20% in 1976 and increased it to more than 90% today.

In 1949, we witnessed an element of that transformation as Mao declared war on Confucianism and then again as the age of Mao gave way to Deng Xiaoping’s “Getting Rich is Glorious” era, which turned China into the world’s factory floor. Then in 1982, China wrote a new constitution and started a process to reinvent its legal system to be more Western in its structure and laws.

I thank Mr. Troy Parfitt for his participating in this debate. However, he is not a Sir Robert Hart or Bertrand Russell.

In Part 1, he claimed that “face” was a license to behave however one pleases, which is not the case.

He then inferred that because Jonathan Spence never mentions Mao’s war on Confucianism in his biography of Mao that it never happened.

Yet, Henry Kissinger in On China made it clear that Mao was passionately and publicly anti-Confucian. Zhou Enlai even told Kissinger that Confucianism was a doctrine of class oppression.

Parfitt’s “gossip” includes his opinion of “Confucianism”, “face”, “Guanxi”, the “Mandate of Heaven”, corruption in China, and Mao being a monster that deliberately caused millions of deaths from a famine, which took place during the Great Leap Forward in a few of China’s provinces.

As Lin Yutang says, “It is difficult to deny the “Old China Hand” the right to write books and articles about China… Nevertheless, such books and articles must necessarily remain on the level of the gossip along the world’s longest bar.”

Return to the Discussion with Troy Parfitt – Part 11, author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas“, or start with Part 1.

See Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty – Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Not Rule the World” – Part 11/12

December 7, 2011

Tenth Question [Parfitt]:

What’s your take on Chinese education?

Answer [Lofthouse]:

China faces many challenges educating its youth. The Compulsory Education law took effect in 1986. In addition, because urban teachers continue to earn more than their rural counterparts do and because academic standards in the countryside are lower, it remains difficult to recruit teachers for rural areas, so China faces an acute shortage of qualified teachers.

It didn’t help that during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the education system was gutted and literacy dropped to 20%.  However, today, literacy is above 90% and improving.

After Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping enacted gradual reforms that included not only the economy but education. One of the first changes was to get rid of Mao’s Little Red Book that inflamed a generation of radical youths during the Cultural Revolution.  Today, dogmatic Party slogans have no place in China’s classrooms.

While Chinese education stood still for twenty-seven years under Mao, Western educational science evolved emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving skills over rote learning, and now China is learning those methods and introducing them slowly as teachers are trained.

One component of change sees hundreds of thousands of university students earning degrees in America and other Western nations and then taking that knowledge back to China. In fact, many children of China’s top leaders are attending universities in the West such as Harvard or Stanford.

The first schools to see changes were in Shanghai about 18 years ago, and the results were dramatic when fifteen-year-old Shanghai students took first place in every category in the 2009 international PISA test, which has components that test critical thinking and problem solving skills.

However, China’s central government was quick to announce that the rest of China would take about fifteen to twenty years to catch up to Shanghai.

I understand that over the doorway of classrooms in Shanghai are signs that says something like “there is more than one answers for each question” and the dogmatic methods used for centuries are being phased out as teachers are retrained but change is slow and the challenges many. Teaching an old dog new tricks is not easy.

Response [Parfitt]:

I taught in Taiwan, where, like China, schooling is test-based, geared toward entrance exams, and bolstered by rote memorization. School days are long (8 to 13 hours), homework received in heaps, and evenings, if free, filled with cram-school classes.

The goal is admission to National Taiwan University, nationally number 1. Globally, it has a Times Higher Education World University Ranking of 115.

In that index’s top 100, China has only 3 entries. Australia has 5, America 52. China’s flagship, Peking University, is ranked 37.

“More than one possible answer,” is great, but I wonder how China can transition to Western education without belittling Confucian principles. I also wonder about returning students, who sometimes find it difficult to assimilate after Western exposure. Returning scientists have said it’s most important to report what superiors want to hear, and that they are powerless to change things. Change requires freedom; freedom is impossible.

Final Word [Lofthouse]:

Most students in collective Confucian cultures have no problems learning from Western educational techniques while surviving the influence of Western values after returning home.

In Singapore, Confucian beliefs are so autocratic, parents face harsh penalties and jail time if a student’s schoolwork suffers. In addition, Singapore students face caning when breaking rules, yet fifteen-year-old students in Singapore placed fifth in the 2009 international PISA test.

In fact, among the top eleven nations that scored significantly above the OECD average in the PISA test, five were cultures influenced by Confucius.

Shanghai-China placed first, South Korea second, Hong Kong-China fourth, Singapore fifth and Japan eighth, while the US placed seventeenth.

In addition, the US may have 52 of the top 100 universities but 62% of foreign students attending US universities are from countries influenced by Confucius, and Doctoral-level institutions, for example, reported an increase of 130 percent, on average, in Chinese students.

Continued on December 8, 2011 in Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas” – Part 12 or return to Part 10.

See Discovering Intellectual Dishonesty – Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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