Misconceptions of China – Chinese Wealth and Poverty

August 21, 2010

In this post, Larry talks about Chinese wealth and Chinese society. He says that many believe all of China is old and while that may be true in rural areas, China’s major cities have become more modern than American cities.

He mentions films like the most recent Karate Kid, which he feels is not a good representation of Beijing, China’s capital.

The average Chinese person in the big city makes about one thousand US dollars a month. The income disparities in China are similar to those in Latin America while the Chinese middle class is still growing.

Source: ShiWoLarry

Larry says the wealthiest people in China are all business owners. However, in the US, top management of large corporations are paid high salaries compared to management positions in China. In China, to have a chance at wealth, you must own a business.

He feels that lifestyles of the wealthy in America and China are about the same. 

Larry says the cities are modern and have complex public-transport systems. I can attest to this. I’ve ridden the subways in Shanghai and Beijing and they are more efficient at moving more people than public transportation I’ve taken in the US.

See Don’t Drive in Beijing – Take the Subway or go to Misconceptions of China – The Chinese Government


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. 

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Shanghai Huangpu River Tour

March 6, 2010

Shanghai is considered the Paris of Asia.  There’s a reason for this and I hope these five pictures and video will show that.


Notice the Chinese middle-class tourists on the boat.  Study how they dress. See the cameras. And ask yourself this—if these people are so brainwashed and downtrodden, why are they out taking a cruise on the Huangpu River taking pictures as if they were visiting the Grand Canyon or New York?

Pudong side of Huangpu River

 See the city skyline along the river. 

This is only a small portion of Shanghai.

Shanghai side of Huangpu River - the croweded Bund

East of the Huangpu River is Shanghai. On the west bank is Pudong–fifty years ago, this land was farm land.

A close up of the crowded Bund on the Shanghai side of the river

Check out the number of Chinese tourists visiting the Bund in this photograph.  I’ve waded through these crowds.  These people are laughing, smiling, eating, taking pictures of each other, clowning around.  They are having more fun than I see from most American tourists when I travel in America.

Look at the signs-Nikon, LG, Nestle

China has almost five hundred million people living in its cities. Another eight hundred million live in the country.  If it hasn’t already happened, there will be more Chinese on the Internet than the population of the United States and there are ways to get around the censors.  Fifteen to seventeen million people live in Shanghai.


To discover more about Shanghai visit:
Shanghai Huxinting Teahouse
Eating Gourmet in Shanghai
Shanghai’s History & Culture
Chinese Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo


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. 

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Smoking Gun

March 5, 2010

The smoking gun I’m writing about in this post is complements of American tobacco companies earning huge profits in China. Isn’t the market-economy great?

Chinese child smoking

“Antismoking advocates often complain about smoking levels in Canada but our problems pale beside those of China, where it is estimated that 300 million people already smoke and more are being encouraged to do so by Western advertising. To its credit, the Chinese government is taking steps to discourage smoking as it prepares to host the 10th World Conference on Tobacco and Health in 1997. By 2025, smoking-related disease is expected to kill 2 million Chinese a year.” Source: CMAJ-JAMC

Big Tobacco in China

Yes, smoking is a problem in China. When we go out to eat, there will usually be people smoking in restaurants.  In cities, we use the subways, and I haven’t seen or smelled anyone smoking there.

When we travel in China, we often stay in a Jinjiang Inn, a chain of reasonably priced, modern, clean hotels that serve a complimentary breakfast. There are hundreds of Jinjiang inns in most if not all of China’s major cities. This chain caters primarily to the Chinese middle class or Asian business people.  Most foreign tourists stay in more expensive, upscale hotels.  We prefer the Jinjiang Inn.

However, even when we request a smoke-free room or floor, we often will smell drifting cigarette smoke coming from other rooms.

Bob Grant talks about the Chinese smoking in his guest post.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine SagaWhen 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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Rediscovering China

February 15, 2010

China has turned into a tourist destination—for the Chinese.

Before Nixon visited China, the country was surrounded by an invisible bamboo curtain. It’s citizens were not allowed to travel far—even from their homes. In September and October 2008, there were so many Chinese tourists, that we were the minority.

Sedan Chairs Waiting to Climb the Dragon's Back

The Dragon’s Back is in Southeast China near Vietnam. After our bus climbed a narrow, winding mountain road, we reached a parking lot. For a few yuan, we gained entry and men with iron legs were willing to carry us to the top in sedan chairs. We walked.

The construction of the Longi Rice Terraces started during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368). Today, many Zhuan and Yao ethnic people live simple lives that honor the laws of nature. China’s central government encourages that life.

A hundred feet further, vendor’s stalls lined both sides of the road. It was China’s market economy in action reminding me of Disneyland and the shops that sold trinkets no one needs.

Halfway to the top, we reached a village built on stilts clinging to the mountain. The steep slopes were terraced to grow rice. Since it was mid afternoon, we stopped to eat local rice cooked in sections of bamboo on a hot bed of coals.

Cleaning Home Grown Rice Safe from the Sun

Mao’s Cultural Revolution ended decades in the past, and China is moving on while time seems to stand still on the Dragon’s Back.

See About iLook China

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart.

Where did all that Pollution Come from that Plagues China?

February 7, 2010

Before criticizing China for polluting the environment, learn about the history that caused today’s problems first. The First Industrial Revolution took place in England after James Watt developed the steam engine in the late 18th century. Coal and burning wood played an important part in this process. The result, the beginning of serious air and water pollution.

The second Industrial Revolution (1820-1870) was significant to the economic development of the United States, and this process increased between 1870 and 1914 leading up to World War I.

Pollution from industry increased to epidemic proportions after World War II in 1945, because the type of pollution changed significantly. Industries in America and Europe began manufacturing and using synthetic materials such as plastics, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and inorganic pesticides like dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT). These materials are not only toxic, they also accumulate in the environment—they are not biodegradable. This brought on increased rates of cancers, physical birth defects, and mental retardation, among other health challenges.

Due to an increase in world trade after World War II and moving a significant percentage of the world’s manufacturing to Japan, then to China after Mao died, the pollution created by using these synthetic materials increased and with it pollution moved to a global scale. Most of the products that are manufactured in China are sold by multinational corporations like Wal-Mart where 90% of what they sell in America is made in China.  If you shop at places like Wal-Mart, you are partly responsible for the pollution in China. When you hear criticisms blaming China for polluting the environment, point a finger at yourself as one of the causes. For that reason, I do not shop at Wal-Mart.

Another factor is that there is a lot of pressure from the people of China on their government to improve the standard of living for 1.3 billion people. Only one other country on the planet at this time has the same challenge and that is India.

A city street near Shanghai, China

The changes taking place in China and India today parallel the changes that already took place in America, Britain and Europe more than a century earlier. In the 1960s, about sixty percent of Chinese workers were employed in agriculture. That figure remained more or less the same throughout the 1960s into the early 1990s. In the 1990s, the labor force employed in agriculture in China had fallen to about thirty percent, and by 2000 still further.

By comparison, in 1870, a hundred-and-twenty years before 1990, fifty-three percent of workers in America were in agriculture. Today, that number makes up 3% of the workforce. The rest live in towns and cities with a middle-class consumer lifestyle that many in the world want and that is the cause of much of the pollution in the world today.

What is China doing about its pollution problems? Next, iLook China will focus on answers to this question at  China Going Green


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. 

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Spoiled and Confused — China’s new urban generation (Viewed as Single Page)

January 28, 2010

This guest post by Chris “Foreign Monkey” Bewley first appeared as a four-part series, which started on May 25, 2011 as Spoiled and Confused — China’s new urban generation – Part 1

Chris Bewley has taught English as a foreign language for the past 10 years all over the world, including Japan, Korea, Mexico and Brazil.


When I first arrived in China as an English teacher, I had lofty scholastic goals: I wanted to try a creative variety of class activities and apply a broad spectrum of teaching methods that my students could benefit from to make them competitive in academia and, later, the international job market.

Almost 1 year later, my primary responsibility as a “Foreign Expert English Instructor” has been distilled down to little more than babysitting a bunch of spoiled, undisciplined children who for the most part want nothing to do with English.

At my crowded primary school in a small, semi-urban city in East China, there exists what I have coined the “20/20/20” split in each of my classes (60 kids per class): 20 eager/20 indifferent/20 bad. Basically, I’m teaching 20 while trying to control 40.

To make it fair for everyone, I have to dumb-it-down/ fun-it-up every class. Instead of actually teaching, I find myself playing games with them and jumping around for them like a monkey, which is the only way to retain their attention.

On the positive side, of the eager 20, there are several extremely smart students who I expect one day to be quite successful in what ever they do. Unfortunately, whenever those eager 20 are trying to learn, the other naughty 40 will try just as hard to spoil it for them.

In the past year, I’ve had only a handful of students ever raise their hand and ask ME a question about the English language. That’s 1,200 students/week x 30 weeks, which equals 36,000 (thirty-six thousand) chances for a student to raise a question, but only five ever have. On the rare occasion that my students do ask me questions, it’s usually regarding the price of my clothes or how much I get paid.

Criticism about my lessons that I have received from students, parents and Chinese teachers alike includes “it’s too difficult”, “it’s not fun enough”, “there’s not enough participation/activity,” but never have I ever heard that my classes are too easy, which in my opinion they most certainly are.

By now, I have figured out that English lessons in (urban) China are just a show; a clown show; a monkey show – starring myself as the foreign monkey.

For parents’ week last month, whilst dozens of “concerned” parents and school administrators observed my classes for 5 days in a row, rather than actually teach their children, I just played a bunch of silly games and sang some songs with them, and, guess what? That made all the parents really, really happy!

Most recently, I found myself having to literally, physically, throw out my Chinese teaching assistant (a recent college graduate with no classroom experience hired right off the street for a minimal salary) to avoid a mutiny from within.

You see, she absolutely refused to discipline the rowdiest students, and did nothing to help control their deafening volume when I was trying to teach.

A quarter of China’s rural youth overweight!

When I approached her about this, her response was: “you are not a real teacher!” I imagine that this assistant was once (11 years ago, to be precise) a spoiled, indifferent primary school student herself; how sadly ironic that at age 21 she still indentified with the students rather than with me, the teacher.

China’s universities are being touted with utilitarian promise, a promise that trickles down all the way to the elementary school level. The Chinese’s fear of poverty has undermined intellectual diversity; plagiarism and cheating are rampant and go unpunished, reading books is not encouraged, greater importance has been placed on math than any other subject starting in the earliest years of child development, and there are no other languages other than English offered until university.

English “industry” in China is what I call “C.O.O.C”: completely out of control! There is literally a new, privately run children’s English “school” popping up on every other corner every other week. Nor is it an industry that has grown in a healthy, steady way from its infantile beginning; it is a product for infants in hyper-drive.

A perfect parallel to this is the car situation in China, which is also out of control.

I hate to say it because it has become an international cliché, but, truly, nobody in China knows how to drive or even park properly. Automobile ownership in China has, along with its economy, bloomed at an alarming rate in the past 5 years, resulting in massive congestion everywhere from the smallest towns to the largest cities.

It’s obvious that the people who own these cars use them primarily as status symbols rather than for necessity; it rarely rains in my city and there are no hills, yet every single day, 6 times a day, hundreds of parents dropping off/picking up their children in new, black Audis will cause an hour-long gridlock directly
in front of my school rather than be seen walking or riding a bicycle.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not a “China-hater.”

Colorful street life, extremely friendly people, great food, affordable massage parlors, a handful of good friends both Chinese and foreign, and a decent income have been sufficient to keep me reasonably comfortable.

But in the end, I have to ask myself: what am I here for? Because it’s obvious that China doesn’t want me to actually teach anybody anything.


Chris Bewley has taught English as a foreign language for the past 10 years all over the world, including Japan, Korea, Mexico and Brazil.

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