It's all about China

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Re: It's all about China

Post by HB Reader » Fri Jan 02, 2015 5:50 pm

MomTo2Boys,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your perspective on China.  Much to admire, much to question. 

Having lived Latin America as a child, and now as a retired USG employee that dealt with foreign officials over a host of monetary/economic issues, I think few Americans really appreciate the transparency of American society and its government.  We certainly aren't perfect, but I think the fashionable knee-jerk cynicism we often have about our own country seems to lack cultural perspective.

It's a big world out there.         
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Re: It's all about China

Post by MomTo2Boys » Fri Jan 02, 2015 9:49 pm

Wow, guys! Thank you all so much for your kind words!

Dualstow - Yes, I think each and every one of us could wake up every morning grateful to not be an animal in China...particularly any animal through which or with which one could make money.

For example, the big animal-linked expat outrage while I was there were the gallbladder bear farms. Evidently, the liquid (bile?) that a bear's gallbladder produces is very valuable and is used for all sorts of Chinese medications/cosmetics/who knows what. Thus, Chinese businesspeople, anxious to meet the need for this commodity, had set up extensive farms/facilities where bears had perpetual tubes extruding from their gallbladders so as to capture the bile. The tubes were never removed and the bears were restrained so they couldn't claw the tubes out. I'm sure this is still going on, because the expats were the only ones outraged. Capitalism? Even more pure than that you could find in America, with its pesky rules and regulations about animal welfare?

White-bread-American friends of ours lived in Shenyang (way, way north- and very cold!) during the time that we were living in Chengdu (mostly warm).  Right across the street from their apartment building was a dog restaurant. Of course, dogs and cats are eaten in China (there's actually a certain dog breed that tends to be used for food), so it's not so very shocking for an expat to come across a restaurant that serves dog meat.  But the shock of that restaurant for my friends was the fact that behind the restaurant, in stacked cages, were... the dogs. Waiting. Outside. In cages. In the cold/wet/etc. Just... waiting.

I'm sure Chinese folks would laugh at us because we in America euthanize unwanted dogs and cats when they could otherwise be used for food. There's no such thing as a stray dog or cat in China...at least, I never saw one. They are picked up off the street and cooked. I've seen it done - the apartment buildings being built near mine, where the workers were living (in China, the workers building the apartment building would actually live in the shell of the building the entire time that it was being built, most likely because the workers have come from far away for the building job), would have small animal carcasses hanging off the balconies, waiting to be cooked. What's the saying? In China, they eat everything with four legs but the table, everything with two legs but each other, everything that flies but an airplane, and everything round but the bowl. We Americans could be horrified that chicken feet are a delicacy and even make up holiday meals in China, but they could point out that chicken feet go completely wasted in America, which is shame and a waste of food. 

As to the bribes for letting children sit up front in a classroom, well, I'm sure that's because of the insane pressure there is in the schools.  This is in no small part due to the gao kao (pronounced: gow cow, with those words rhyming). The gao kao is... terrifying. It's the Chinese equivalent of every SAT or ACT test a high schooler would ever take together with all the high school grades they will ever earn. Chinese high school students get to take this enormous test ONCE. A test that literally determines the rest of their lives. Do well on the gao kao, you get to go to college.  Do badly on the gao kao, you may end up washing dishes.  Forever. 

In America, if your high school grades suck or you don't do well on your SAT, you can still be whatever you want when you grow up. You shake your high school track record off at a community college, do well, get into a four year university, and can still go to law school or med school or whatever.  Not so in China. The gao kao is so terrifying that Chinese high school students, when leading up to the gao kao, may actually get IV fluids at school in order to study all day and all night long.

And this actually leads me to my soapbox - the comparison of American high school students to those in other countries.  It's easy, so very easy, to look at American students' test scores (like math scores or what have you) and think that they are abysmal compared to those students in other countries. But what you must understand is that, in other countries, many students have been pulled into non-educational tracks (and put into job-prep tracks) in late junior high or early high school.  The students who are left taking math classes in mid or late high school (the ones compared to ALL American high schoolers) are only those who are truly gifted in math. So what you are doing is comparing ALL American students' math abilities with only those high school mathematicians in other countries who are extremely gifted in the subject.  Of COURSE American students will look ridiculous in comparison.

Public schooling in China is no joke. If some random Thursday or Friday is a holiday... the students might get that Thursday or Friday off, but will be in school that Saturday and Sunday to make up for the day(s) off they just had.  At the end of the school year, a Chinese friend of mine who had a daughter in elementary school was terrified by the mandatory parent/student assembly coming up, at which scores for the yearly tests would be revealed. Students who did well - they and their parents would stand up and be recognized. Students who did badly on the test? They and their parents would also stand up and be publicly shamed for their horrible performance. If her daughter (I think she was in the equivalent of first grade?) did badly on a homework sheet, she had to re-do her homework sheet TEN TIMES. You betcha there's corporal punishment in those schools, though I think that's starting to wind down as there's been a bit of a backlash building against it.

I haven't been to Taiwan, so I don't have the ability to compare it to the mainland.

Barrett - I am quite sure that foreigners are treated better, as you say. I could walk anywhere I wanted at any time of the day or even in the middle of the night without even the slightest hint of worry because crimes against foreigners are punished quite severely.  My understanding is that if a Chinese person so much as stole my backpack from me, that crime was punishable by death. I could be wrong, but I did hear that. That and you'd be crazy to attack/accost/steal from a foreigner because there's a huge chance that they're being monitored by a Chinese government source and then you'd REALLY be found out and punished - you'd have no chance of evasion. So yes, my experience was much different from that of a Chinese national. I'm white, I'm different, I stick out like a sore thumb.

The police structure is quite different than in America. In America, local police, or county police, or federal officers - they are all separate. In China, they are not. They are all the same structure - they are all ultimately law enforcement officers of the Chinese government. 

As for women sleeping with their bosses - why not? Again, there's basically no court system in China, so there aren't those pesky sexual harassment suits or such like we would have in America. It's easy to criticize our "litigious" American society, but let me just tell you, life in a country without a court system is reallllllly not attractive to me. 

For example, naive American students or young adults would come to the mainland to "teach English." Sometimes this would go well for them.  Often, it would not.  Contracts are not binding in China, so say before they agreed to teach the person had been offered, whatever, plane fare to China and back and a stipend in exchange for teaching English. Then they show up in country and realize that their tiny room has no heat, no a/c, no warm water, that they share it with 6 other people, that they've taught English now for two months and haven't been paid a penny, that no one will commit to when they will be allowed to leave, and that the head of the "English School" seized their American passport their first night while they were sleeping ("for safekeeping").

But there's no court system that will force them to pay you what your contract, which is more worthless than the piece of paper it's printed upon, says you are owed. If you're lucky, you can reach your nearest American consulate or embassy by phone (except making long distance phone calls in China is NOT intuitive for an expat) and whisper in English that you have no clue where you're located and don't speak Chinese so you can't hop in a cab and try to leave the "English School" and ohmygod please please help me.  If you're particularly unlucky, your "English School" will be located in a city a thousand miles away from an American consulate or embassy, you won't know how to get to any transportation hub, you most likely won't have the Chinese necessary to go anywhere on your own, you don't have your passport because they took it from you, etc. Have fun with that.  This is called: not-everywhere-is-America baptism by fire.

Desert - Yes, Japan is as different from China as night is from day. I'm still kind of absorbing the Japan of it all. I'll be more than happy to write about Japan when our time here is over and I have a better grasp on it. :)

Sophie - Black market items are even more rampant in China, believe it or not! Especially black market items aimed at foreigners. My husband and I would have run screaming in the other direction, but there were some expats who we were friends with who took advantage of all of the items available.  American tv shows/films/etc. on DVD available to you for a pittance if you went to a certain stairwell at a certain time and were white.  Hotel rooms? Many of them came together with a... female companion, shall we say. Chengdu is famous for its... um... pretty ladies.  It's sort of the... pretty lady... capital of China. Corporations would even have their meetings at the....pretty lady places.

That and everything - absolutely everything - was available to be stolen online. You can't go to Facebook but you can totally rip the movie that just, kid you not, had its first showing in America an hour ago. Or maybe even hasn't showed yet in America at all. You can torrent/rip/steal/whatever that bad boy even though you can't read your sister's mommy blog.  All your email in and out is read and therefore delayed but darn straight you can steal the tv show that hasn't even aired yet in the States.  Oh, China! Such a super interesting place.

HB Reader - I totally, totally agree 100%.
Last edited by MomTo2Boys on Fri Jan 02, 2015 10:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: It's all about China

Post by Ad Orientem » Fri Jan 02, 2015 10:05 pm

Mom
You reeeaaallly need to write a travel or ex-pat guide. But only when you are 100% certain you will never be returning to China.
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Re: It's all about China

Post by TennPaGa » Fri Jan 02, 2015 10:05 pm

+10100

Thanks for those glimpses into Chinese society, Mom2!
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Re: It's all about China

Post by sophie » Sat Jan 03, 2015 8:29 am

This is a wonderful perspective not just on China, but on the U.S. as well.  A great way to start the New Year!

Interesting to hear about the selection bias in high school performance measures.  Could this also explain why Americans lag behind virtually all other industrialized nations?  There is something similar in the UK for example, where kids start following different tracks by age 16.  Maybe our problem is forcing kids to choose between dropping out and completing a college prep curriculum that's useless for many of them.  The resulting watering down of the college prep curriculum in turn feeds into a proliferation of third rate colleges whose main purpose in life is to saddle students with debt.  Tracking kids who are academically limited into vocational career paths would make a ton of sense.  This would necessarily involve judging academic performance in ways that may be politically unpalatable in the US, but it doesn't have to be as draconian as it is in China.
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Re: It's all about China

Post by dualstow » Sat Jan 03, 2015 9:26 am

Sure they have a court system. Haven't you seen Qiu Ju;)

Anyway, learning a lot from you, Momto2.

I just picked up some pasture-pig bacon. I've never lasted long with vegetarianism, but it's nice to know that no 'sow stalls' were involved. I'm very sad to read about the dogs and bears in your second post, but we have to remind the world about these goings-on.
As to the bribes for letting children sit up front in a classroom, well, I'm sure that's because of the insane pressure there is in the schools.  This is in no small part due to the gao kao (pronounced: gow cow, with those words rhyming). The gao kao is... terrifying. It's the Chinese equivalent of every SAT or ACT test a high schooler would ever take together with all the high school grades they will ever earn.
Yeah, that test is big in Taiwan, too. In Japan, it used to be that students would study their asses off so that they could get into the right university and then party for four years. Then, they would work their asses off until death. I think they have a special word for working yourself to death, karoshi or something. (?)

My wife thinks even high marks on the dreaded gao kao won't cut it anymore; you need bribes on top of it. Don't know if that's true.
Last edited by dualstow on Sat Jan 03, 2015 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: It's all about China

Post by MachineGhost » Mon Jan 05, 2015 6:13 am

MomTo2Boys wrote: For example, the big animal-linked expat outrage while I was there were the gallbladder bear farms. Evidently, the liquid (bile?) that a bear's gallbladder produces is very valuable and is used for all sorts of Chinese medications/cosmetics/who knows what. Thus, Chinese businesspeople, anxious to meet the need for this commodity, had set up extensive farms/facilities where bears had perpetual tubes extruding from their gallbladders so as to capture the bile. The tubes were never removed and the bears were restrained so they couldn't claw the tubes out. I'm sure this is still going on, because the expats were the only ones outraged. Capitalism? Even more pure than that you could find in America, with its pesky rules and regulations about animal welfare?
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nann ... ear-rescue

I donated.

IMO, the #1 problem with the Chinese is they have no respect for themselves or for other lifeforms.  China is nothing but a paper tiger, literally.  And once they go through their eventual Great Depression, maybe they'll do some deep soul-searching and then they'll get a fucking clue.

Other than that, China sounds like a living Orwellian-Libertarian nightmare.  They are nothing but teenagers at best and worthy of contempt.  >:(
Last edited by MachineGhost on Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: It's all about China

Post by dualstow » Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:26 am

MachineGhost wrote:   China is nothing but a paper tiger, literally. 
Figuratively, probably,
but thanks for that link!
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Re: It's all about China

Post by MomTo2Boys » Tue Jan 06, 2015 6:04 am

Oh my goodness, MachineGhost - that's... wow.  I had no idea there were bear rescue facilities in Chengdu, but there obviously are.  Thank you for posting that, and thank you for donating. 

There are some fantastic folks on this forum, there really are.

Dualstow, believe it or not, I *have* seen that movie.  I saw it back in 2011, so it's been a while, but yes, I saw it.  As for whether bribes are now needed in addition to great gao kao scores... I'm sure your wife knows far more about China and those sorts of things than I do.  I will say that the ability of wealthy Chinese families to be able to easily send their college-bound students who don't do well enough on the gao kao (or even those who do, if they wish) to colleges in the United States takes a lot of pressure off the Chinese government, I should think, in this area.

Sophie, yes, I think so.  My 16 year old son actually has been attending a school for a while that is based on the British educational system.  It's completely different than the US system.  Basically, in the British system, they teach all students all subjects until the end of what we in the States would call 10th grade.  By the end of (the equivalent of) 10th grade, British students have had roughly of all English, math, science, history, etc. as a typical student would would have if he or she had completed all 12 grades in the US (without having taken AP classes, theoretically, although right now my son has learned far more than the equivalent of 12th graders in the US in several subjects).  Anyway, then at the end of that equivalent of 10th grade, students take huge, long tests in every single subject.  And we're not talking multiple choice tests or scantron tests, oh heck no. We're talking essay tests - big, long, HUGE essay tests that each go on for pages and pages and pages - multiple tests in every single academic subject.  The testing goes on for something like six weeks at the end of (the equivalent of) 10th grade.

When the dust clears and the test results are back, the students then face the next academic year (our equivalent of 11th grade).  What happens then is that the four academic subjects that they scored the best in (this is a rough idea of the way it works - I'm trying to simplify a bit) are the four subjects they then take in 11th grade.  The subjects are taught at the college level... very in depth.  So, basically, students who are not strong in math will wave goodbye to math after our equivalent of 10th grade.  Those students who are incredibly strong in math will continue on into our equivalent of 11th grade.  There is more subject weeding out at the end of 11th grade; only a student's THREE strongest subjects are then taught to them in our equivalent of 12th grade.  Thus, if you compare British 11th graders and American 11th graders, well, almost all Americans are still taking math of some type in 11th grade, whereas at that same time a large amount of British students have funneled out of math, and only those who are quite strong in math are still taking it.  I hope this makes sense. This is why you absolutely cannot compare math capabilities of British students with those of American students in the later grades with any kind of fairness.

On one hand, the British educational system is FAR superior to the American system.  My son's education blows my mind.  I am very math-y and science-y, and I envy him the ability to learn with this curriculum.  The American high school educational system is just... broken...especially in math and science, I think.  That said, one aspect of the British system is... rather sobering.  That is the idea that, once you leave a subject behind, it is my understanding that this very much impacts your choices from then on out.  In America, we pretty much teach everyone everything until, what? The end of your freshman or sophomore years in college, roughly? And only then are you expected to begin really focusing on what you want to pursue? In Britain, if you want to pursue math or science (or any subject, actually), you had best do well in them on your 10th grade tests or you will be leaving them behind, maybe forever.  It narrows your choices later on, and at such a young age. 

For example, if you want to be a doctor, you must score well on your math and science tests so you can continue on in math and science at the end of your 10th grade year.  Then you have to do so again the end of your 11th grade year.  Then, in your 12th grade year, you apply to medical school, which literally starts at the beginning of your first year of college (the same year in the US that would be your freshman year). So different! And the path began narrowing when the student was just 16 years old.  So that is what I consider to be a possible downside to the British high school educational system.  I like how the American system really keeps your options open for far longer. 

 
Ad Orientem, that's hilarious. I can't even tell you what a horrible job I would do! Believe it or not, I suck at things like sightseeing or what hotel to stay in or what restaurant to eat at, lol.  But thank you and TennPaGa for the very kind words.  :)
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Re: It's all about China

Post by lordmetroid » Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:05 pm

In Sweden the path narrows at age 16 as well. However instead of a big test determining what you are good at and deciding for you what subjects will be dropped, the student must choose for himself and apply to the programs he is interested in. Of course if there isn't sufficient available seats available then their grades will determine who gets the offer of a seat first.

However, you are never locked into one path or another. Our education system recognize that people can have a change of mind and allows the student to reapply for different programs or  optionally complement their studies with the courses that are necessary for choosing a different path at university level.
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Re: It's all about China

Post by sophie » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:25 pm

Thanks Mom2!!  That was my understanding of the British system also...one of my collaborators is in the UK and attended Oxford with David Cameron, so I've heard lots of stories.

Its nice to preserve an escape hatch, but for many kids narrowing choices at age 16 makes a lot of sense.  Sometimes I think the purpose of our educational system is to generate lots of money for the educational lending business.  Meanwhile, math and science majors apparently need to be imported.  Just a weird, weird state of affairs.
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Re: It's all about China

Post by Pointedstick » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:56 pm

sophie wrote: Thanks Mom2!!  That was my understanding of the British system also...one of my collaborators is in the UK and attended Oxford with David Cameron, so I've heard lots of stories.

Its nice to preserve an escape hatch, but for many kids narrowing choices at age 16 makes a lot of sense.  Sometimes I think the purpose of our educational system is to generate lots of money for the educational lending business.  Meanwhile, math and science majors apparently need to be imported.  Just a weird, weird state of affairs.
I don't think it's actually so weird. Most U.S. state institutions have been twisted into thinly-veiled subsidies or bailouts of private industries that would be largely unable to exist in their current form in a more competitive market. Defense, agribusiness, textbooks, student loans, pharmaceuticals, insurance, you name it.
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