Wo Shi Laowai – Wo Pa Shui

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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

So, You Still Dare to Go to China?

Posted by MyLaowai on Monday, May 28, 2007

There’s this reporter with the South Korean daily Hankyoreh named Cha Han-phil, and he has a blog. In his blog, he writes about common travel experiences in China. In his words:

“I am not saying people should not go to China. China has already become an inalienable partner to South Korea,” said Cha. “But many South Koreans go to China without knowing much about the country. And they often fall into embarrassing situations, or unwittingly place themselves in disadvantageous situations. I am telling them to know a bit about China before they go there to prevent those unfortunate things happening.”

I’ve read a little of his blog, and he’s absolutely spot on with a lot of it, though in all honesty he lets the bastards off the hook a bit lightly. Fair enough, we all have our viewpoints. His latest post, entitled “Shameless Chinese people”, tells of a train journey from Zhengzhou, the capital of Hebei province, to Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province. This is part of what he experienced:
– a mother encouraging her toddler to urinate on the floor
– people throwing litter out the window
– men taking their shirts off to cool down
– no one flushing the (squat) toilet after using the restroom
– young couple using the seat covers to shine their shoes before leaving the train
– people spitting food on to the floor
– people shouting into their mobile phones without consideration
– people smoking everywhere without regard for fellow passengers

Cha concluded: “While watching these people, I couldn’t help but think that Chinese people solely pursue their own convenience and interest. They utterly lack public morals.”

Well, like I said, he lets the bastards off lightly. I see all that and more on a daily basis in glittering Shanghai, never mind in the backwoods of Dumbfukistan and Fuckwitistan where he travelled.

Cha Han-phil has received a right royal torrent of abuse for his efforts, too. Apparently, he’s a racist, a narrow-minded nationalist, and a Western Imperialist to boot! That does not, however, make him in the slightest bit incorrect.

This is what I see from time to time in and around Shanghai:
– ‘people’ shitting in the restaurant washbasins in KFC.
– ‘people’ pissing against the wall in 5-star restaurants, because 15 yards is too far to have to walk to the toilet.
– ‘people’ gobbing out the window on to cyclists.
– ‘people’ gobbing on the floor in other people’s homes, hotel rooms, etc.
– ‘people’ dropping cigarette butts on the floor in other people’s homes, hotel rooms, etc.
– ‘people’ throwing up onto the floor of the bus, or out the window, instead of into the sickbag provided (and yes, they are provided. Chinese have very weak stomachs, despite all the delicious food and non-cancerous hot water).
– mothers encouraging their toddlers to urinate on other people, particularly foreign other people.
– ‘people’ wearing pyjamas instead of actual clothes when going to work, to the shops, to the stockmarket. When asked why, they reply “it is traditional’. Being too damned lazy to get dressed is obviously not a factor.

And the list goes on. I’ve seen this stuff, actually seen it with my own eyes. And it’s not an isolated minority, it’s the vast, overwhelming majority. Don’t believe me? Come to China, sit in a taxi at any traffic light, and look around you at the nearest 8 cars. Chances are that every single one will have some monkey with his/her/it’s fingers shoved up the nose to the fourth knuckle, or inserted into another randomly selected orifice.

And this is the place that claims to be more culturally advanced than anywhere else in the Universe? Give me a break! If the hypocrisy were any stronger, it would be given a listing in PHYSPROP.

Actually, I just re-read this post, and I apologise. Cha Han-phil isn’t the only one who lets them off lightly.

So, You Still Dare to Go to China?

Posted in Environment, Media, Rules of the Road | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Found: 8 Tigers

Posted by MyLaowai on Monday, April 23, 2007

AP reports that 8 rare adult tigers have gone missing from the Ranthambore National Park.

Well, I’ve found them. Seriously, no bullshit. They can be found in QingPu, Shanghai (at least, parts of them can). I know this because I see them for sale 3 days in every week, right in the main street. The people doing the selling probably don’t make as much profit as they’d like, because I frequently see them paying money to the Police to be allowed to continue operating their racket, but I guess there’s still enough to make it worth their while. They also sell bits and pieces from a host of other rare and endangered animals from all over Asia, in case you were wondering.

And yes, I do know that this is obviously impossible because China says this is an illegal activity and there are no criminals in China etc etc etc…

When my grandkids ask me why there are no animals left in the wild, I’m gonna simply show them a map of China, with the word “Bastards” written across it.


Posted in Corruption, Environment | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Why Smoking is Good For You

Posted by MyLaowai on Friday, April 20, 2007

I have a good friend here who was born and grew up in a quiet, rural part of the United States. The first two years he lived here, were spent teaching at a university in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province (the home province of the dictator, Mao Zedong). The air in Changsha is not good – I’ve been there myself enough times to know. The city is cut in half by a river, across which there are three bridges spaced out over approximately three kilometres. On a clear day, from the middle bridge, you can make out both the others, through the haze. On an average day, you can make out only the nearer of the two. On a bad day, you can just about see past the end of the car you are in. There are many, many days that are not ‘clear’.

After two years, my friend relocated to Shanghai, though as he was in desperate need of some civilisation, he first spent a few weeks back home in the US. Because he was going back to China for an indefinite period of time, he decided to pay a visit to his family doctor and get a quick check-up. The doc gave him a complete physical and pronounced him fit, though my friend was warned to quit smoking. He, naturally, laughed and told the doc he hadn’t smoked a single cigarette in his life (though he did once share a cigar with me one Christmas). The doc looked at him and said earnestly that, although my friend might be able to fool his family and himself, he couldn’t fool a doctor, and that the two packets he was smoking daily were bound to catch up with him sooner or later. When my friend then explained that he’d been living in China, the doc sighed and nodded in understanding.

My friend returned to China a couple of weeks later, this time to the bright lights of modern, developed Shanghai. The first thing he noticed was how bad the air was, compared with Changsha. He hadn’t suffered much in Changsha, but Shanghai air definitely did not agree with his lungs. It wasn’t so much the coal dust and sulphur dioxide, it was more the cocktail of noxious industrial fumes that had him coughing up lung butter. Two years later he is still in Shanghai, and his cough hasn’t gotten much better.

I live in an area of Shanghai that is far from the city centre. My apartment is located at the top of a high-rise building, and I have an excellent view. Or at least, I would have, but for the smog that blankets the city. There are days when I can barely make out the next building, only a hundred metres away. I see blue sky on only a handful of days every year, and I remember seeing stars only once in the entire time I have lived here.

Quick facts: 25% of the air pollution over Los Angeles comes from China. It drifts across the Pacific, passing over Hawaii and raising temperatures there on the way past. A report released in 1998 by the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that of the ten most polluted cities in the world, seven can be found in China (now 16 of the top 20). Due to industrial production alone, sulphur dioxide (21 million tons per year), smoke-filled dust (4 million tons per year) and suspended particulate matter (13 million tons per year) result in acid rain, which now falls on about thirty percent of China’s total land area. The increase in global-warming gases from China’s coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks. The sulphur dioxide produced in coal combustion alone poses an immediate threat to the health of China’s citizens, contributing to about 400,000 premature deaths a year. In 2002, the State Environment Protection Administration found that the air quality in two-thirds of 300 cities it tested failed World Health Organisation standards – yet emissions from cars are only just now starting to have an effect. Globally, China is one of the world’s leading contributors to climate change, ozone depletion, and biodiversity loss.

I am a smoker. My favourite brand is made in China, and it is both mild and inexpensive. Despite what I know of the habit, I find it does relax me and I’ve always enjoyed smoking whilst sipping on my favourite martini at the end of the day. The nicest thing about a cigarette, though, is that it has this filter on the end. It’s the only way to get clean air in this town.

The water is a more serious matter…

Posted in Environment | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Great Outdoors. Sort Of.

Posted by MyLaowai on Friday, April 20, 2007

A while back I went hiking up mountain and down stream with a group of Chinese in Anhui. It certainly is a beautiful country in parts, and once you get away from the pollution and the cities with all the screaming hordes things don’t seem quite so bad. It also gives one a better opportunity to reflect on the whys and wherefores of this otherwise incomprehensible place, especially when walking in what are undoubtedly beautiful mountains.

It is really quite funny observing the way in which Chinese deal with problems, deal with each other, and deal with the usual trivialities of life. Maybe some of this is obvious to you, so forgive me for stating the obvious, but maybe you will also find it amusing, at least I hope so.

To start with, there is this philosophy of always being right and everyone else always being wrong. I don’t actually have a problem with that per se, in fact this is the case almost everywhere, but the folk here carry it to extremes. Even the tiniest traffic accident, a mere scratch or ding, and that’s it! Everyone is out of the car and shouting and shouting and shouting. No one is actually listening, and no one actually is trying to establish the facts, they are all just saying how wrong the other guy is. And they keep on doing it all day. A busy main highway comes to a complete standstill for hours because they don’t even move the cars off to one side of the road. The purpose of the police is to a/ tell someone they are in the wrong and b/ collect a bribe from the person who was in the right.

This is seen elsewhere too, for example when you are halfway up a mountain and leading a group of Chinese and you stop to ask which path they think is best. 20 minutes later you just have to make up your own mind and walk off. They will never do this, it would never occur to them, because if the path they choose is not the best, then everyone else would tell them how wrong they were. All Chinese want to be leaders, but no Chinese ever lead if they have the chance to follow. It is quite interesting. They hate the idea of being responsible for anything. You simply cannot get anything resembling teamwork here, but try bullying them and they will love you, as it takes the responsibility away and lets them get on with thinking how right they are and how wrong you are and how they could do a much better job anyway. Hilarious to watch it in action. A number of times I put one of the others in charge and hence in the lead, but it was literally only minutes before they found an excuse to stop and let me in front again. Without me in front setting the pace the furthest we got without stopping was about 200 metres, and the furthest we got without a meal break was about 1 Km. The Chinese love their food.

The place we went to was poor and rural. They had never seen hikers before – sleeping outside by choice was an idea very alien to them. And I’m pretty sure I was the first foreigner to visit the place in living memory, perhaps ever. We followed the line of the river, up and down hills etc, but generally up into the mountains. We kept seeing little houses that were gawd only knows how many generations old. One old guy came out of his hut when he heard us and asked if we were his relatives, because no one else would go that far into the back of beyond for any other reason than to visit family, and maybe not even then.

I found that the peasants were bloody nice people. Maybe in some ways they still were very closeminded, but they were a lot more honest and trustworthy than any Chinese I have met in Shanghai, and a lot more willing to smile. I have seen so little of the milk of human kindness since I have been here that I was starting to think Chinese hearts were made from coal, but it is clear now that the poorest of them are actually decent folk.

But, the most striking thing I have noticed here is the pollution: no matter where you look there is pollution. Part of this is industrial waste and effluent, pumped direct into the river, part is noise (Chinese are incredibly noisy!), but most is just rubbish dropped in the street or water or restaurant. And spit, I honestly believe spitting is the national sport. There is spit on everything, even the carpet in 5 star hotels is covered with gob. After a while you don’t notice the pollution as much (you never can forget the spitting though) but when you are in the relatively clean and therefore remote areas, it stands out like dogs bollocks. Anyone from a civilised country would just cry if they saw such beautiful wilderness littered with plastic bags and kerist knows what else.

For the record, Anhui is one of the poorest provinces in China. The capital, Hefei, has a population of around half a million. The women of Anhui are commonly found in the cities of other provinces, doing menial jobs such as housekeeping and baby-sitting. Female children from Anhui are often sold to criminal organisations for use as beggars, flower-sellers, prostitutes, or wives. According to one creditable report, the number of people in abject poverty in Anhui’s 19 officially designated ‘poor counties’ increased by more than 300,000 in 2003. Of growing concern is an extremely high gender ratio imbalance in young children: there are almost 130 boys aged 0-4 years for every 100 girls. Sex selective abortions are the main presumed culprit.

So there you have it, dear reader. The Great Outdoors. With Chinese Characteristics.

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