Is China a Republic? – Part 2/4

January 23, 2012

It appears that democracies come in several types. According to Democracy Building.info, there are three basic types of democracy—the Direct Democracy [ex. Switzerland], the Presidential Democracy [ex. USA, France] and the Parliamentary Democracy [ex. UK, Germany, Spain, Italy].

As for checks and balances, the parliamentary system offers few effective checks and balances [remember that China doesn’t offer checks and balances either].

In the UK, the Prime Minister, as head of state, is not elected. He or she is the leader of the majority party and may stay in power as long as his or her party is the majority. One of the main criticisms of many parliamentary systems is that the head of government is in almost all cases not directly elected by the people.

There are two types of parliamentary systems.  One is the unicameral system, which means it only has one single house or parliament. Forty-four countries fit this description. Examples are Denmark, Finland, Greece, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden and Turkey.

Then there is the bicameral system [thirty-three countries] of a parliamentary government, which has two houses, an upper and a lower chamber. Examples of this form of democracy are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the European Union, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

Let’s see how China’s type of government compares and decide if it is a democracy, republic or a dictatorship.


Democracy From the Bottom Up (The Carter Center)

The Carter Center says, “More than 600,000 villages across China are participating in a national movement toward meaningful democracy—democracy from the bottom up—in a communist nation of 1.3 billion people. For more than a decade, at the invitation of the Chinese government, The Carter Center has aided this effort by helping to standardize election practices among villages and by promoting good governance and citizen participation.”

According to Rural Life in China at Facts and Details.com, “the 2010 census [reported that], 51.3 percent of China’s population lives in rural areas. This is down from 63.9 percent in the 2000 census, which used a different counting system, and over 95 percent in the 1920s. There are around 800 million rural peasants and migrant workers—roughly, 500 million farmers and 300 million to 400 million excess unskilled rural laborers… There are around 1 million villages in China, about one third of the world’s total.  Each village has an average of 916 people.”

That means about 549.6 million rural Chinese vote in democratic village elections every three years.

By contrast, in the 2010 US national election 37.8% (90.6 million) of the voting-age population turned out, and in 2008 only 56.8% (132.6 million) did.  In 2008, the voting age population was 231.2 million and in 2010, it was almost 236 million.  If the majority of people do not vote in an election, does that mean the democracy is broken?

I recommend reading Rural Life in China at Facts and Details.com.  It is well balanced and points out the way it was and the way it is.  Although I did not read every word, I didn’t see any China bashing going on. It was not an indictment of China. However, I am sure a critic [read that enemy] of China could easily cherry pick this article and select a few pull quotes to support more misleading mudslinging at the CCP while ignoring what life was like in rural China before 1949.

Continued on January 24, 2012 in Is China a Republic – 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 First of All Virtues – Piety

November 10, 2011

Confucius said, “Filial Piety is the root of all virtue and the stem out of which grows all moral teaching.” Source: Susan Tan’s short documentary for a junior class project (Susan Tan is an American-born Chinese)

In addition, at Answers Yahoo.com, Genxi asked, “Why do Americans lack filial piety? At the international level, filial piety is very common… After all, parents definitely would care and protect their children unquestionably—ideal condition—, but why can’t adult Americans have filial piety toward their ageing parents in exchange?” (the few responses to this question are interesting)

However, anyone that believes Confucianism may define China might be surprised to discover that Legalism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Christianity, etc have also influenced the foundation and moral structure of China’s culture.  While China has always had a diversity of religious beliefs, filial piety has been common to almost all of them and it worked.

The result, for more than two-thousand years, China was the wealthiest and most powerful, technologically advanced nation on the planet until the 19th century.

As for the United States, back in January 2010, I read a post at Parent Base.com that said any damn fool can be a parent, and although I agree, I thought North America is not a comfortable place to be if you become a geezer.

Our daughter called me a geezer once, which means a man who is (usually) old and/or eccentric, when she was joking around during her early high school years. She was not raised to be a narcissistic self-esteem child but knowing many American children that were raised to have high self-esteem did rub off resulting in that rude comment.

Today, she attends Stanford and the degree of respect she demonstrates for older family members is reassuring. I hope the self-esteem residue wore off.

When I was a child, youngsters were to be seen and not heard, which means we treated our elders with respect, and surprise of surprises, I was born in America and I am a Caucasian of British/Irish ancestry.  I’m not Asian or Chinese so I suspect piety was once widespread in American/Western culture but during the 20th century suffered a steep decline.

One exception would be the Amish community in the United States. The Amish are a stark contrast to the American concept of individualism—not only do the Amish encourage reciprocal family assistance but the entire Amish community is responsible for helping each other, including the elderly. According to Reuters, the US Amish population grew 86% to 231,000 in 2008 from 125,000 in 1992 and is set to double by 2026.

However, the Amish are not the norm. After the spread of television, the birth of Disneyland, fast food, MTV, the Internet and the iPod generation, a cancer called self-esteem spread through much of American culture. That self-esteem youth worshiping virus killed off much of the ‘respect’ for one’s elders among many of America’s youth.

In China, what America seems to have lost survives and is the norm. In addition, in Asian countries such as the Philippians, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, etc., piety is still strong and is learned in the family—not from a pulpit.

Collins English Dictionary (Harper Collins Publishing) says piety is a devotion and obedience to parents and superiors and says it (piety) is “now rare” (in the West).

In fact, a comment left by an “Aussie in China” on another post verifies that piety is still taught in most Chinese families since piety plays a significant role in the morality of China.

Aussie in China said, “from my experience here, I would argue strongly that there is a commendable level of morality among many of the young Chinese. The issues of morality are well drummed into them at school and at home.”

The decline of the “first of all virtues” in the West first appeared during the 1960s with the spread of the self-esteem movement among American parents.  The history of this movement goes back to the late 19th century and by the 1960s, it permeated American culture in addition to many of its private and public schools.

The America of today is not the America prior to World War II, and the United States owes its greatness to that previous generation, which was not raised to have high self-esteem and spurn piety and family values.

One example of this moral decline in the US happened to me one night during the summer of 2008 when a pack of young boys taunted me as they raced in and out of our steep driveway on bicycles.

“Hey, old man,” one boy shouted, “you can’t stop us.”

I called the police and filed a report, and the next day walked the neighborhood door to door seeking support to stop the harassment that had gone on for two years—mostly during the summers when school was out and these children had nothing better to do but run wild without proper parental/adult supervision.

These boys wanted to race their bikes down our steep driveway for a cheap thrill, and I dared to tell them not to do it so they defied me as often as possible.

The reason why I didn’t want them playing in our driveway is because the United States has become a litigation nation and if one of those boys hurt himself on our property, the parents might take us to court and possibly destroy us financially—even take our home from us.

When I talked to the mother of one of these boys, she asked, “What was your reason for not letting them play on your driveway?”

Did I need a reason?

Since the episode with that gang of boys (I’m sure they all had a high sense of self-esteem), that mother who thought I needed a reason to keep them off our driveway, doesn’t talk to me or acknowledge that I am alive if we pass each other on the street.

After all, I ratted out her precious, perfect, wild child and called the police on his pack of young friends. In addition, one of the other boys argued with me the first time I politely asked them to go elsewhere for their thrills.

Of course, as a teacher for thirty years, I’ve heard American parents say, “kids will be kids” to explain this sort of behavior.

However, I do not accept that excuse for defiance, lack of respect, rudeness and unruly behavior. In fact, the way children act is often linked to how parents raise them and children raised by self-esteem obsessed parents are often the worst ones, while children raised to value piety, which means respect and obedience to parents and superiors/adults, are often the best.

In reading a post at Always on the Verge, I discovered a misguided individual that inadvertently advocates a world overrun by noisy children that do what they want whenever they want wherever they want.

The author of the post says, “I have always had issues with this saying (children should be seen and not heard).  However, that Blogger called “Webbhouston” does not consider that being quiet around adults is also a sign of respect for those older people that go to work daily to feed the family and pay for a roof over their heads to avoid becoming homeless and hungry.

That, by itself, should be enough for children to learn to keep quiet around adults. Children are not an alien species. They are humans, but when they are born, they are wild animals that parents and adults, such as teachers, tame and train to fit into society.

A cartoon (used for educational purposes only) that dramatically illustrates the decline of piety and family values in America.

I searched for a Blog that talks about teachers being abused by students and found thousands that did nothing but bash teachers. Then I found Who’s to Blame (a dim light in the wilderness of blame the teacher).

It seems that only a few people in the West care what happens to teachers (Finland may be the only country in the West where teachers are given the respect they deserve and Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world. In Fact, the World’s Happiness Index from Forbes.com places Finland second of 155 countries as the happiest place to live).

Then months after I first wrote this post, which appeared January 2010 as a nine part series, I launched Crazy Normal – the Classroom Expose, another Blog to help fill that lack of support for teachers in the US.

Then there was a second incident I experienced that further demonstrates the loss of piety and family values in American culture.

During the summer of 2007, we had just pulled into a motel parking lot in Southern California after driving several hundred miles. A teen with his girlfriend wanted to rent a room for an hour at the same motel. As we waited to check in, we heard the motel manager say, “No way!”

The boy turned to me, and asked, “Hey, old man, can you give us a ride to the next motel? They will not rent us a room here.”

I’m sure this adolescent was out for quick sex. He probably didn’t even know the girl’s name or care. Nevertheless, the lack of respect was obvious.

Today, it is as if adults are expected to be invisible and silent while youngsters get whatever they want such as a TV, Internet connection and video games in the child’s bedroom.

In most of North America, we have spawned more than one generation of narcissists with no respect for piety or understanding of what family values means and many are now giving birth to the next generation.

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.

To learn more about Confucius and piety, check out this site at the Journal for International Relations. I’m not saying what Confucius taught was perfect but it has served China well for thousands of years and still plays a vital role in that complex culture.

Confucius said, “The reason why the gentleman teaches filial piety is not because it is to be seen in the home and everyday life. He teaches filial piety in order that man may respect all those who are fathers in the world.

“He teaches brotherliness in the younger brother, in order that man may respect all those who are elder brothers in the world. He teaches the duty of the subject, in order that man may respect all who are rulers.

“Those who love their parents dare not show hatred to others.” Confucius taught. “Those who respect their parents dare not show rudeness to others…”

While visiting China, I have never heard, “Hey, old man.”

However, there are always exceptions when it comes to piety. Even in China, there will be the occasional rude individual. The thing is, I haven’t seen or heard one yet, and I have visited China many times since 1999.

I did have a disrespectful, American born Asian student (once) during the thirty years I was a teacher.

I also had a small number of hard-working, respectful students from all ethnic groups—even those that were American born, but those types seem to be a dying breed.

My best students were usually immigrants that came to the United States after living in their birth country for several years where the word “self-esteem” was never heard and parents taught the value of piety instead.

In addition, I had one American born student enter high school as a freshman after being home taught by his Caucasian, conservative Christian parents. He was a great person—polite and he worked hard to further his education.

It was obvious that piety and/or family values had been instilled in this one individual by his parents, a daunting task in a country obsessed with stuffing a high sense of self-esteem in its youth.

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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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Note: This edited and revised post first appeared as a nine-part series January 30, 2010 in The First of All Virtues – Part 1 of 9


A Snapshot of Democracy in Asia – Part 3/6

September 29, 2011

The People’s Action Party (PAP)  of Singapore has been the dominant political party since 1959. The politics of Singapore take the form of a parliamentary republic and the Prime Minister is the head of the government.

On May 7, 2011, the election results for parliament resulted in 60.14 percent of the votes for the PAP,  and  they hold 81 of the 87 seats in Parliament.

Singapore has been accused of being a social democracy. The Economist Intelligence Unit says Singapore is a “hybrid” country, with authoritarian and democratic elements. Freedom House does not consider Singapore an “electoral democracy” and ranks the country as “partly free”.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 136 of  more than 178 countries listed in the 2010 Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

The ruling Party’s policies contain aspects of socialism as does mainland China, which includes government-owned public housing constituting the majority of real estate and the dominance of government controlled companies in the local economy.

For 31 years from 1959 to 1990, Lee Kuan Yew ruled Singapore as prime minister, and he still has much influence as a Senior Minister and as a Minister Mentor.

Chinese make up 76.8 percent of the population and according to a comment left for another post, the Chinese mostly vote for the PAP keeping Lee Kuan Yew’s party in power.

The CIA says unemployment is 2.2% (two point two) and there is no information from the World Bank, the CIA, the World Health Organization, or from  Global Edge on how many live in poverty in Singapore.

Mr. Biao.com says, “Singapore has no beggars, because they will be picked up by the police… We have no poverty, because Singapore has no official poverty line.”

Continued on September 30, 2011 in A Snapshot of Democracy in Asia – Part 4 or return to 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.

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.


The Danger of False Truths – Part 2/3

July 22, 2011

My “old” friend said, “It isn’t the fact that China has crooks, every nation has them. However, the degree of corruption in China is simply breathtaking. But not unexpected due to the fact it’s an oligarchy with strict censorship of anything deemed inappropriate by the ones who are the most open to corruption.”

My reply was to refer him to Transparency International, which identifies itself as the global coalition against corruption. The results are worth reading and provide compelling evidence that my “old” friend may be wrong since many democracies, according to Transparency International, are more corrupt than China.

Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that nearly three quarters of the 178 countries in the index score below five, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).”

Of 178 countries ranked for corruption, China tied with seven for a rank of 78 and a score of 3.5.  The countries China tied with were Colombia, Greece, Lesotho, Peru, Serbia and Thailand.

If you check the list of Electoral Democracies, you will discover that Greece, Peru, and Serbia are on it and many other electoral democracies have a lower rank than China.

For example, Argentina is ranked 105 with a score of 2.9.

India, often touted as the world’s largest democracy, is ranked 87th with a score of 3.3 and is home to a third of the world’s people that live in severe poverty.

In fact, according to Economy Watch, India’s underground economic corruption is believed to be 50% of the country’s GDP or $640 billion US dollars at the end of 2008.

Mexico is ranked 98 with a score of 3.1.

The Ukraine is ranked 134 with a score of 2.4.

The most telling evidence is Singapore, which did not make the Electoral Democracy list. However, Singapore shares 1st place with Denmark and New Zealand as the three countries with the least corruption in the world.

Qatar was ranked 19th and is an Emirate, which is similar to a monarchy or sultanate, but a government in which the supreme power is in the hands of an emir (the ruler of a Muslim state).

The US rank was 22 with a score of 7.1, which is a C- (good but not perfect).

The reason those 16,000 to 18,000 Chinese crooks fled China for mostly the US was because if caught, they would probably be executed.

In the US, all these crooks have to do is pay taxes then reap the rewards of their corruption in a land where more people go to prison than any country on earth. After all, Bonnie and Clyde are folk heroes in the US with a Hollywood movie.

Continued on July 23, 2011 in The Danger of False Truths – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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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.


A Road to the Hajj from China – Part 1/2

November 30, 2010

This two-part post may come as a surprise to many in the West that believe there is no religious freedom in China.

In fact, China handles religious freedom similar to how Singapore does, and Singapore is seldom if ever criticized in the Western media for this practice.

The U.S. Department of State says that Singapore’s government has broad powers to limit citizens’ rights and handicap political opposition, which it uses. One of those restrictions is a limited freedom of religion.

However, the Constitution for the Republic of Singapore offers the same fundamental liberties China and the US does, which includes freedom of speech, assembly and association and freedom of religion.

For example, Singapore bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Unification Church by making public meetings illegal. The Falun Gong has also had problems in Singapore.

China, on the other hand, recognizes five religions — Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism but has banned certain new religious movements that are considered cults. China does not recognize cults as religions.

In the video embedded with this post, Al Jazeera follows Chinese Muslims as they prepare to undertake the hajj pilgrimage.

The ancient city of Xian in Shaanxi province is home to about 60,000 ethnic Chinese Muslims.

Xian claims it has a Muslim history going back thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Xian during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Chinese Imam Ma Yi Ping speaks both Chinese and Arabic. He studied at the Islamic University of Medina and has made the hajj several times. He was taught to be a devout Muslim by his parents during Mao’s time when the mosques in China were closed.

Despite the persecutions that took place during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), Islam survived in China.

Ma Yi Ping says that after Mao and the Gang of Four were gone and China opened for trade with the world, he did not have to study the Quran in secret anymore.

Since the 15th century, Xian Muslims have been going to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

In the past, during the ancient days of the Silk Road, these journeys started and ended in Xian’s Muslim quarter. Today is no different.

Continued in A Road to the Hajj from China – 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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