The flaw behind “Don’t Do as I Do – Do As I Say”

August 29, 2011

Dictionary.com explains this self-deprecating phrase, which means you are conscious of your own shortcomings, with, “Don’t imitate my behavior but obey my instructions.”

The reason I am writing this post is because of Faithful Monuments, a piece I read in the May 2011 Smithsonian Magazine, which has nothing to do with China.

However, there is a connection to China with the “Do As I Say” phrase.

In Smithsonian, Jamie Katz quotes Shirley Macagni, a 79-year-old retired dairy rancher and great-grandmother of seven, who is also an elder of the Salinan tribe that inhabited California’s Central Coast for thousands of years.

Macagni feels, “It is unfair to judge 18th century attitudes and actions by contemporary standards,” and says, “They (the Spanish) didn’t deliberately say they’re going to destroy people…”

Macagni is referring to the Spanish conquest that brought Western civilization and/or Spanish cultural values including the Church to the Americas forging an empire in blood for gold.

John Selden’s phrase, “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say,” may be applied, with some revisions, to China. “It is unfair to judge Chinese attitudes and actions by contemporary Western Standards.”

In fact, Western and American civilization may also be judged by the standards of other cultures such as China.

Consider that contemporary Western standards underwent a drastic metamorphosis starting with the Industrial Revolution. This change altered how parents raised children, resulted in child labor laws, the building of national education systems, the rise of labor unions, and the liberation of women, etc.

Then the West decided to import these new values to the rest of the world even if the rest of the world was not ready or did not want them.

Henry Kissinger touches on this Western/American behavior in On China, where he says, “American exceptionalism is cultural. It holds that the United States has an obligation to spread its values to every part of the world.” In a CNN interview, he said, “So how to conduct ourselves in such a world – it’s a huge test for us… It’s a big challenge.”

In 1970, sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler published Future Shock and defined the term as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies and what happens when there is too much change in too short a period.

Toffler argued that these sort of drastic changes overwhelmed people leaving them disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation”. He said, “The majority of social problems were symptoms of this future shock.”

When we take what Toffler says into account, we have an explanation for everything that has taken place in China over the last century since the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.  The shattering stress and disorientation of future shock (forced on China by the West) led to China’s Civil War and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, etc.

Of course, when an individual is culturally and historically illiterate, it may be difficult to face this challenge Kissinger talks of – especially when we consider what Chris Hedges writes in America the Illiterate.

Hedges says, “We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth.

“The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth,” which may explain why so many in America and the West suffer from Sinophobia, a hostility toward the Chinese, Chinese culture, history and/or government, and a stubborn unwillingness to listen to the facts/truth and attempt to understand them.

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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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.

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Mao and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – Part 2/2

August 8, 2011

Mao (born 1893) grew up during a period of madness in China. To learn more, I suggest reading The Roots of Madness, which shows the world he grew up in.

Then the Chinese Civil War lasted from 1926 to 1949 with a few years out to fight the horrors of the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.

The Long March alone was enough to cause PTSD in all 6,000 of its survivors from the more than 80,000 troops that started the year-long journey of retreat, battle, and severe suffering that was surrounded by death.

After Mao was China’s leader, there was an assassination attempt by one of his most trusted generals, Lin Biao, a man Mao had named as his successor after he died.  In addition, during China’s Civil WarChiang Kai-shek ordered more than one failed assassination attempt on Mao.

However, the threats and violence that shaped Mao’s life began before The Long March and before he was a leader in the Chinese Communist Party.

As a child, he grew up among farmers and peasants. In the 1920s, as an idealist and a sensitive poet, he believed in helping the worker and led several labor movements that were brutally subdued by the government. Once, he barely escaped with his life.

In 1930, Yang Kaihu, his wife at the time (Mao was married four times), was arrested and executed. In addition, Mao had two younger brothers and an adopted sister executed by Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT.

To judge Mao by today’s Politically Correct Western values is wrong, since he grew up in a world ruled by a completely different set of values that shaped him to be tough enough to survive and win. Anyone that survived and went on to rule China at that time would have been judged as brutal by today’s “Politically Correct” Western values.

The History of Humanitarianism shows us that this concept was born and nurtured in the West and developed slowly over centuries with the result that the individual was made more important than an entire population.

However, in China, the whole is still more important than one person is as it was during Mao’s time. If you were to click on the link to the History of Humanitarianism and read it, you would discover that China was not part of this movement while Mao lived. (Discover more about China’s Collective Culture)

PTSD as a war wound and a trauma was not recognized or treated until well after America’s Vietnam War.  Prior to its discovery, it was known as “shell shock” and wasn’t treated. The diagnosis of PTSD first appeared in the 1980s, and Mao died in 1976.

In fact, if Mao were alive today he would not be alone. In the United States, it is estimated that 7.8% of all Americans suffer from PTSD, and among that segment of the population, more than 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan military veterans have PTSD in addition to 1.7 million Vietnam veterans. The more combat a veteran was exposed to, the higher the risk.

Discover Mao Zedong, the Poet or start with Mao and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – 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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.


Mao’s Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (Viewed as Single Page)

August 6, 2011

Before reading this post, I suggest first reading China, The Roots of Madness to understand what led to Mao’s era in China (1949 – 1976). This link will take you to that post. When you finish, return.

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Mao’s era started October 1949 with victory celebrations in Beijing, as the country with the largest population saw a Communist government come to power.

Mao says, “The People’s Republic of China is founded today. China will be free of inequality, poverty and foreign domination.”

Before 1950, most Chinese lived as they had for centuries as part of a feudal system. Even after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, warlords ruled much of China, and then China was torn by Civil War and an invasion by Japan during World War II.

For most Chinese, feudalism describes the “old society” that existed before “liberation” in 1949.

The following video shows what this life was like before Mao’s era.  It is estimated that about half the people in rural China lived in severe poverty and were in debt to landowners.


(When the advertisement appears, advance the video scroll bar to 2:00 minutes to avoid it.)

In the video, Hu Benxu, a peasant farmer from Sichuan says that in the past, there was justice for the rich but nothing for the poor.

Chiang Kai-shek believed that improvements would spread through the country (sort of like President Reagan’s trickledown theory, also known as voodoo economics or Reaganomics, which did not work in the US) as foreign investments poured into China.

However, the opposite happened. As the country industrialized, the gap between the rich and the poor widened because the rich held on to money and wanted more and protests about working condition in the factories were met with death from Chiang Kai-shek’s troops.

Meanwhile, at the same time, Mao promised land reforms, and his troops treated the peasants with respect.

When Mao won China, he said, “We Chinese should work hard. The country is poor. Our people are uneducated. We must make China a modern industrialized state.”

However, there would be many mistakes and much suffering during the next 27 years. After two thousand years of an Imperial system of government, China was embarking on a journey of reinventing a country and a culture without foreign influence.

Mao held more power than anyone since the emperors, and he wanted China to be a purer, fairer more progressive state than the Soviet Union, so the peasants were the first to benefit.

As Mao promised during China’s Civil War (1926-1949 – with a break during part of World War II), there were land reforms.

Luo Shifa, a party official in Sichuan, tells his story about what happened in 1950. Rural property owners were judged enemies of the people (by the people) and hundreds of thousands were executed.

Changes in urban areas were not as violent. The owners and managers of factories were needed to keep things running but all property was signed over to the state. Factory and business owners who resisted were executed.

Women were given new rights at work and in marriage and foot binding was abolished. Literacy was also important. Before 1949, illiteracy in Mainland China was 80% and life expectancy was 35. When Mao died, the average life expectancy had increased to 55 and today it is 76 (while literacy is now more than 90% and China has done more to reduce poverty than any country on earth).

To deal with disease, the Communists launched programs to improve health care that had never existed before. Millions were inoculated against the most common diseases.

The nation went on a cleaning spree. Posters said everyone had to help exterminate pests. Songs were sung, “Pest free areas are glorious. Let’s wipe out the flies, bugs, mosquitoes and rats.”

Sparrows were considered pests since they were accused of eating crops. Whoever killed the most sparrows in each village was rewarded.

However, exterminating sparrows led to insect populations exploding, which endangered crop yields.

Then the people were told to watch for capitalistic or counter revolutionary behavior and to denounce suspicious people.

In 1958, Mao’s boldest program was launched. He wanted to out-produce industrialized nations in manufacturing and crop yields. The land given to the peasants in 1949 was confiscated and people communes of 100 thousand or more were created.

Mao believed that more people working together meant larger projects. By the end of 1958, 700 million people had been placed into 26,578 communes.

Ironically, one of the key factors in food production in China was the weather and 1958 had particularly good weather for growing food.

Then in 1959, things started to go wrong.

The excellent growing weather of 1958 was followed by a very poor growing year in 1959. Some parts of China were hit by floods. In other growing areas, drought was a major problem. The harvest for 1959 was 170 million tons of grain – well below what China needed at the most basic level.

Soon, in parts of China, starvation occurred and millions died.

In addition, political decisions/beliefs took precedence over commonsense and communes faced the task of doing things which they were incapable of achieving.

Mao said, “Revolutionary enthusiasm will triumph over all obstacles.”

To achieve Mao’s goals, the Communist Party encouraged competition between communes. Instead, overproduction caused crops to rot in the fields and the communes hid the truth by faking records.

Huge construction projects began without proper planning leading to accidents and deaths, which were hidden by the project managers. No one wanted Mao to discover the lack of proper revolutionary enthusiasm.Some critics claim that Mao was aware of what was going on but others argue he had no idea of the extent of the problems until late 1959.

During this time, steel production was to double in one year. Instead of producing steel from industry, Mao wanted the peasants to build small furnaces.

Again, there was competition between teams of peasants, and forests were cut down to fuel the crude furnaces the mostly illiterate peasants built.

All over China, people were neglecting the fields and crops to produce steel because the people were told they had to listen to Mao. All metal was melted — including cooking woks, but the steel produced using these methods was useless.

While the peasants were producing this useless steel, the crops rotted in the fields. Then in 1960, there was a drought and food production fell more than 25% and millions died from the resulting famine (no one knows the exact number — estimates run from 10 million to 45 million or more).

Having failed, Mao publicly admitted he had been wrong and stepped aside to let someone else run the country.

The large communes were abandoned in 1960, and the peasants returned to their villages and were given land again.  At the time, Mao was still popular with the people but he still resigned as the Head of State.

However, fearing a return of capitalism and exploitation of the people, Mao’s supporters printed a book with his quotations and slogans.

The goal was to break the thinking and attitudes of old China. Using film, a propaganda campaign was launched so Mao could regain power. Then in 1966, the Cultural Revolution started.

By 1966, Mao’s Red Book of quotations was being used as a textbook in the schools.

Shao Ailing, a head teacher in Shanghai says, “The pupils began to realize that all the changes taking place in their families, in school, in Shanghai and China were because of Chairman Mao.”

Mao encouraged students to attack authority and the leadership of the Communist Party that did not agree with his beliefs.

This advice was coming from a man considered to be the “George Washington” of China, the man who had delivered on his promises to the peasants in 1950 and brought them medicine and land reforms—something the emperors of Imperial China and Chiang Kai-shek had never done, and Mao was still popular with the vast majority of the Chinese people.

Zhang Baoqing, an early Red Guard member in Beijing, says, “Chairman Mao started the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) to keep up the momentum for change. We thought if we followed Mao, we could not go wrong.”

Mao motivated millions of students from speeches in Tiananmen Square. This time it wasn’t the rural peasants that suffered the most during the Great Leap Forward (1958 – 1960). This time he looked for support from China’s urban youth that did not remember or were not aware of Mao’s earlier mistakes.

Urban student anger focused on Mao’s rivals, President Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Even small children were taught to denounce Liu. Then anyone in power was denounced. The structure of the Communist Party collapsed. Schoolteachers were attacked and tortured by their students. More than a million were killed or driven to suicide.

The anarchy caused by Mao’s Cultural Revolution spread. Schools and hospitals closed. Offices and factories were in chaos. Qi Youyi, who was a factory worker in Beijing, describes how bad it was. Production stopped. No one knew when he or she might be denounced and arrested. Many workers committed suicide.

After two years (by 1968), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was called in to restore order and reestablish the Communist Party. Then to bring peace to the streets, millions of members of the teenage Red Guard were sent to the countryside to learn from the peasants.

However, the Cultural Revolution did not officially end until 1976 when Mao died.

After his death, Mao’s closest supporters, the Gang of Four, were arrested and Maoist revolutionary activities were abandoned. In an attempt to hold the country together, the Communist Party used propaganda and the PLA to maintain control.

Deng Xiaoping replaced ideological fervor with economic activity so the people would be motivated not by dreams of equality but by money. In the 1980s, the new message was “to get rich is glorious”.

This post first appeared as a six part series starting June 21, 2010 as China’s Great Leap Forward – Part 1.

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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 love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

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Capturing a Vanishing China

June 23, 2011

I feel compelled to write about a one-star review that appeared recently of Tom Carter’s China: Portrait of a People.

In fact, as I write this post, Carter’s book has had 100 reviews. Eighty-eight earned five stars and eleven four-star reviews. There is only one one-star review.

My wife is Chinese and was born in Shanghai (discover the modern city) during Mao’s Great Leap Forward then was sent to a labor camp as a teen during The Cultural Revolution. When she first saw the photos in Tom Carter’s book, she said he is the first and only photojournalist to capture the heart and soul of China.

What she was talking about was the rural Chinese who have always been the invisible heart and soul of China. If it weren’t for those same rural Chinese, Mao and the Communist Party would have never won China’s Civil War.

What follows is the rambling, rant of a one star review written by someone calling him or herself Xuemin Lin.

Lin says, “Ignorance of all American who think that these photos show the reality China, you don’t know the truth. Tom Carter pictures can only show that poor farmers and rural areas. He ignoring the majority of China’s middle class and developed districts in urban life intentionally. We have a modern apartment and a beautiful new car and stylish clothes. Why Tom Carter just want to show the barefeet farmers and the minorities? His pictures make you believe we Chinese all are swarthy skin and the tooth is not good and make our homes in the mountains area. China’s economy has grown rapidly. The United States owes a debt to total billions of dollars to China. China will soon become a superpower in the world! Han people will lead Asia and then the world. So, do not believe that this book is shows the real China! Tom Carter in a planned way only want to show you the poor! I upload his video got from the Youku website so yourself can see his photos is not the good. Do not by this book I suggest!”

Lin claims that the majority of Chinese belong to the emerging middle class. Lin is wrong. China has a few decades to go until more than a billion people join the modern middle class lifestyle.

Even China’s leaders have admitted that China is not as developed as America or Europe and that China will never rival American super power status. The best China may attain is a regional military super power and a global economic super power.

To understand what I mean, you may want to read Amy Chua’s Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance–and Why They Fall.

It is a fact that China is modernizing at a pace never before seen in history and more than three hundred million Chinese now live in urban cities similar to Shanghai and Beijing and belongs to China’s middle class. However, that leaves about 1.2 billion people that have not yet joined that middle class and 800 million of those people still live as Carter shows us in his photos.

If China accomplishes its goal to modernize most of China and lift the majority of Chinese into the middle class, the world that Tom Carter captured with his photos will vanish. Our only reminder of that China will be his book.

What Lin’s one-star review really reveals is a shame among some Chinese that should not exist. China should be proud of its rural peasants because they have always been the backbone of China and those people deserve their moment in the sun or between the covers of China: Portrait of a People

When I visit China, I want to escape America for a few weeks but realize that I cannot escape the Golden Arches of McDonalds, or Starbucks, Pizza Hut and KFC, which is the worst thing China could adopt from America.  In addition, China has also inherited the obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer that come with this fast food, middle class, and motorcar culture invented in the West.


Some of America’s history captured in photos and song.

In addition, I’ve complained that China has no artist comparable to America’s Charles Russell or Bev Doolittle — great artists that captured the heart and soul of the America that existed before Europe and the industrial revolution arrived to fill the air with poison.

However, Tom Carter’s photos capture some of that world in China that will soon be lost. After China has paved over its past, without Tom Carter’s photos we would never know what that world was like.

Therefore, I ask the Xuemin Lins of China, “What is it you have against Tom Carter capturing what is fast disappearing as China becomes another middle class, smog choked clone of Los Angeles, London, Paris and New York?”

I prefer the China where people are practicing Tai Chi in the early morning fog.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.


Chiang Kai-shek

July 23, 2010

Chiang Kai-shek (also known as Jiang Jieshi) was born on October 31, 1887. His family was from the upper class and was wine merchants. At 18, he attended a military college in Japan. Chiang had four wives during his life. His first wife died in the Second Sino-Japanese War. His second wife contracted gonorrhea from Chiang (a known womanizer) soon after they married. His most famous wife lived to 106 and died in 2003. Before one marriage, he converted to Christianity as a condition to marry.

After training in Japan, he went to Russia to study the Soviet government and decided he did not care for the Communists. Returning to China, Sun Yat-sin appointed Chiang to command a military academy

Under Sun Yat-sen the Communists and the Nationalists worked together to rule China, and Soviet advisers provided the help needed to increase their power since most of China was ruled by warlords.

However, when Sun died in 1925, Chiang led the Kuomintang army north to defeat the warlords and destroy the Communists.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, the Communist Party had organized labor unions to improve working conditions in the low paying sweat-shop factories. During Communist organized labor strikes, these factories were shut down.

When Chiang Kai-shek army reached Shanghai, he joined forces with gangsters then went on a killing spree known as the White Terror. Tens of thousands of workers, who belonged to the labor unions organized by the Communists, were hunted down and killed along with their Communist leaders. One of the few to escape was Mao Zedong.

For the next few years, Chiang would rule China unchallenged until 1931, when Japan invaded. During the early months of the war, Chiang ignored Japan and continued hunting for the Communist survivors, who had fled into the countryside.

In 1949, when Mao won the civil war, Chiang Kai-shek took the survivors of his nationalist army to Taiwan where, protected by the US military, he declared brutal martial law and ruled as a dictator until he died on April 5, 1975 at the age of eighty-seven.

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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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

#1 - Joanna Daneman review posted June 19 2014

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