Writing her way out of Poverty: Part 2 of 2

July 29, 2015

A few days after Ma Yan heard that her family could not afford to continue her education past fifth grade, Pierre Haski, the French journalist, visited her village.  After seeing the diaries, Haski promised that he would help her continue school then go to a university or even further than that.

Needless to say, after the publication of her diaries, Ma Yan continued on to middle school along with lots of attention from the media.

Ma Yan says that most of the media asked her about her experience at school, and she wanted to tell them what it was like so the world would hear of the other poor children that wanted to go to school longer.

Because of that media attention, the students at her elementary and middle schools received offers of help.

That outpouring of interest led to the founding of Children of Ningxia, but it closed its doors in 2013. Details about funding for this project may be found at Global Giving. Global Giving reports that they have helped 245 young people from Ningxia through this program and 34 already graduated.

China’s government also abolished school fees through ninth grade but many remote, rural families still struggle to pay for boarding fees.

As the Al Jazeera segment of Ma Yan’s Story ends, I thought of the billion people living in poverty around the world. Less than 10% of those people live in China and this story is only of a few of those people.

In fact, child poverty in the United States is among the worst in the developed world, and many American children who live in poverty also can’t afford to go to college. More than 15 million children in the US—22% of all children—live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. – NCCP

As for China, a survey conducted by Peking University and Beijing Normal University on young people in 18 counties in 2010 revealed that 4.9 percent of the respondents live in poverty. China has a population of 309 million under the age of 18, of which 60 percent live in rural areas. The survey findings suggest there are an estimated 9 million children living in poverty in rural China. – SOS Children’s Villages Canada

Curious to know what happened to Ma Yan all these years later, and what she was doing with her life, I used Google search but found nothing. I then found Pierre Haski’s Facebook page and left a question asking if he knew what had happened to Ma Yan in France. Last time I checked, I couldn’t find my question, and Haski has not replied.

Return to or start with Part 1

______________________________

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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Writing her way out of Poverty: Part 1 of 2

July 28, 2015

In January 2010, Al Jazeera Witness reported the story of Ma Yan, a young Chinese girl that lived in rural China in the same poverty that rural Chinese have lived with for centuries, and how The Diary of Ma Yan (link goes to Amazon.com) was published in many countries including China (where it was a best seller) and in the United States.

The village where Ma Yan lived was described in Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China, but since that time, few outsiders visited. The United Nations says this is a region unfit for human habitation. Source: China.org.cn

Contrary to popular opinion in the West and especially in the United States, the poor in China did not get this way because of the Communists. The hardship and poverty of Ma Yan’s people and many others in China had been that way for centuries.

It also didn’t help when the Communists won China’s civil war and the defeated Nationalists took the nation’s treasury and most of the ancient Imperial treasures to Taiwan leaving China nothing but people and land.

In this segment of Witness, we travel with Mao Yan as she breaks the cycle of poverty.

By chance in 2001, a French journalist, Pierre Haski, was visiting remote Ningxia province in northwest China when a Muslim woman wearing the white headscarf of the Hui people thrust her daughter’s diaries into his hands.

Ma Yan writes that the economy where she lived has not been developed. However, Mao Yan is not alone wanting to escape the hardship of poverty.  She wrote that her life was like a death sentence.

Then the French journalist read the diary Mao Yan’s mother had given him and was so impressed, he arranged for excerpts to be published in one of the French daily newspapers.

By 2007, Ma Yan passed a university exam and was one of the first girls from her village to be eligible for a university education. She then flew to Paris to live with a French family and attend a university there.

Continued in Part 2 on July 29, 2015

______________________________

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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The Stock Market Roller-Coaster Tsunami in China

July 22, 2015

The Chinese are finding out what it’s like be Americans, who have suffered repeatedly from the roller-coaster of land speculation and the fluctuations of the stock-market in the U.S.

Wikipedia lists twenty-two stock market crashes in the United States since 1772—about one every ten years on average (the next one should arrive in about two years in 2017). Most of the names of these crashes begin with the word “Panic”, and Business Insider gives us “The Complete History of US Real Estate Bubbles Since 1800” revealing that the real estate market in the United Sates peaks and crashes about every 18 years. “The world’s worst downturns are always preceded by land speculation (the chasing of the economic rent) fueled by misguided credit creation courtesy of the banks.”

The Guardian in the UK says, “Real estate agents in Australia, Britain and Canada are bracing for a surge of new interest in their already hot property markets, with early signs that wealthy Chinese investors are seeking a safe haven from the turmoil in Shanghai’s stock markets.”

Should we warn wealthy Chinese that it might be a bad idea moving from the stock market to real estate—like leaping from the frying pan into a fire?

A Market Watch Op-Ed piece alleged, “China’s stock-market crash is just beginning.”

The Wall Street Journal, “China’s leaders are clearly freaked out about the (Chinese) stock market. Global investors need to wonder how nervous they should be, too.”

CNN Money reports, “China’s stock markets are suffering their worst crash since the global financial crisis.”

This is where it helps to pause and remember that the global financial crises started in the United States. “August 2007: The Landslide Begins: It became apparent in August 2007 that the financial market could not solve the subprime crisis on its own and the problems spread beyond the United States borders.” – investopedia.com

For China, where did this all start? To find out, let’s begin with Shanghai’s public schools.


This Al Jazeera English news segment aired June 23, 2007.

On December 9, 2010, a CNN Go Asia headline said, “Shanghai has the world’s smartest teens”.

If you heard the news of Shanghai students beating out 65 countries in student scholastic performance tests in three key categories of ability, the Al Jazeera English video embedded with this post may provide part of the answer of how that happened.

While many American students are applying makeup, drinking sodas, eating candy and French fries in class while texting friends and ignoring teachers let alone reading or doing homework, Al Jazeera reports of twelve year olds in Shenyang, China learning how to be stock brokers.

These students buy and sell and learn how to get the latest information on global stocks.

One Student, Ding Chuan, was asked how his investment portfolio (a class assignment where the students don’t actually buy stocks) was doing, and he replied that last year his investments hit 10,000. Now, his portfolio is at 20,000. He wants to be a millionaire when he grows up.

Xiu Shu Jun, the headmistress for the school, says, “We decided to do it because we wanted to give the children a more realistic and practical financial education.”

I wonder if that realistic education includes the part where you lose all your money.

Tony Cheng, the Al Jazeera reporter, says, “It is ironic that the largest Communist nation in the world has become obsessed with this capitalist pastime.”

Cheng says, “Stock trading goes against about every principal Chairman Mao stood for, and he would be pretty horrified to learn that there are now more registered (stock) traders in China than there are members of the Communist Party.”

Mao’s statue in Shenyang is surrounded by banks. After all, Tony Cheng says, today to be rich in China is glorious.

I say, What Tony Cheng doesn’t tell us is when Deng Xiaoping came to power by arresting those that would have continued the Cultural Revolution, China’s central government repudiated revolutionary Maoism and launched a Chinese style of socialist-capitalism.

Meanwhile, outside of school where children are being indoctrinate into capitalistic tendencies, China’s citizens bought stocks hoping to get rich quick not realizing that this is the same as going to the casinos of Macau, Monte Carlo and Las Vegas and throwing all of your money on the roulette table.

It seems that the Chinese are learning the hard way that in a capitalist economy what goes up also comes down.

______________________________

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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China’s Sweet Mooncake Mania

July 21, 2015

September is right around the corner and that means Mooncake Mania in China.

Back in 2010, I wrote a post about China’s Mid-Autumn Festival, which is also the time of year for giving and eating mooncakes. At the time, I had no idea that Haagen-Dazs sold the most sought after modern version of this Chinese traditional treat.

My wife learned from a friend in China of the popularity of Haagen-Dazs and mentioned the mooncakes, so I did some scooping for this post. Mooncakes are traditional gifts to friends, family and clients during the Chinese mid-autumn festival, and Haagen-Dazs’s Mooncakes have shown a 25% annual growth in sales since they were first introduced in 1997 and represented 28% of Haagen-Dazs’s revenue every year!

Fast forward to 2015 and over 50% of the Chinese people have now heard of Haagen-Dazs—that’s more than 650 million people or more than twice the population of the United States.


Mooncake Mania for China’s September Holiday

Kai Ryssdal reported for American Public Media’s Marketplace that China’s mid-Autumn Festival and tradition of eating mooncakes has become an underground business possibly worth billions.

Marketplace’s Shanghai correspondent Rob Schmitz says mooncakes carry about a thousand calories and most of the cakes bought are gifts as a way to show respect to business partners and people you want to be close to.

Imagine the size of the market—more than 1.3 billion people, which explains why Starbucks, Nestle and Dairy Queen got into the business of selling mooncakes in China too. In fact, Starbucks offers espresso and hazelnut mooncakes; Godiva promotes a chocolate variety; Häagen-Dazs features cookies-and-cream ice cream mooncakes.


2009 Haagen-Dazs Chinese Mooncake Commercial

Industry groups estimate that mooncakes bring in $2 billion in annual sales in greater China, accounting for 200,000 metric tons (about 220,400 tons) of production each season. – New York Times

______________________________

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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China’s Answer to Harry Potter

July 15, 2015

Guest review by Tom Carter

China’s love affair with superstition, pseudoscience and the fantastical may be traced back over five millennia, whence some of history’s oldest myths and legends originated.

Journey to the West (Xi You Ji), published anonymously by scholar Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century Ming Dynasty, remains China’s most beloved fantasy story.  Considered one of the “Four Great Classical Novels” of Chinese literature, the 100 chapters of ‘Journey’ are replete with monkey kings, flesh-eating demons, immortal sages and celestial battles.

When science fiction became all the craze in 1950’s America, Red China followed suit by founding its first sci-fi periodical.

However, unlike the west, where rapid advances in the tech sector fueled science fiction, China promoted sci-fi to help inspire its own dormant technological progress.

Conversely, about the same time during the 70s when American director George Lucas was preparing to film a little space opera called Star Wars, the Cultural Revolution was banishing all China’s scientists to hard-labor communes.

Indeed, where the Chinese have categorically failed in speculative fiction (programming on the Communist-controlled CCTV is evidence enough that future perspective is held in little regard here: of China’s 19 official television channels, all feature serials set in olden times, some in the present, none about the future), they remain masters of mythology and purveyors of the past.

Present-day PRC is seeing a renaissance of the fantasy genre.  The wuxia-inspired Chinese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was a critical and commercial success, generations of young, Chinese cyber-punks are hopelessly addicted to the virtual sorcery of World of Warcraft, and Harry Potter remains China’s “most pirated novel ever”.

Even so, no Chinese author has ever been able to replicate the success of Journey to the West; as a result, publishing houses in the Middle Kingdom prefer to translate western best-sellers such as Lord of the Rings and Narnia rather than take their chances on local fantasy fiction writers.

Enter Zee Gorman (nee Yan Zi-hong) China’s response to J.K. Rowling.

Born in Guangdong province during the Cultural Revolution (both her parents were exiled to the countryside for being “intellectuals”), Zee was raised on a literary diet of propaganda and scar literature.

Rather than publish a clichéd daughter-of-the-Revolution memoir about her hardships, the aspiring author opted for the escapism of fantasy. Hence, her decades-in-the-making debut novel, The Altethlon Chronicles.

A high-fantasy fiction set in a parallel universe either far in China’s future or in its past, The Altethlon Chronicles is a complex blend of military, history, romance and sorcery.

Leading the rich cast of green-eyed, purple-skinned characters is the royal yet rebellious teen Ximia (“what kind of princess are you anyway, running around like a wildcat?”) and her forbidden lover, Nikolas, the leader of a rival tribe – a tumultuous relationship most likely inspired by Zee’s own experience with cultural clash when she immigrated to the U.S. and married an American.

Ximia is misled into believing that Nikolas has been killed during an escape attempt, whereby the princess is married off by her father to a dastardly lord.  The two young warriors go on to lead their respective armies until the day when destiny arranges for them to meet again in battle.

Lots of magic, weird names and epic battles of Tolkien proportions (note: this reviewer has never actually read a J. R. R. Tolkien book; I just thought it sounded cool to say that) ensue.

In creating this alternate world, Zee draws heavily on her Chinese heritage.

Kingdoms such as Manchuli, Dalong and Taklaman are each reminiscent of real regions in China.

Nonetheless, Zee, who is bi-lingual and holds dual degrees in English Literature, chose to write The Altethlon Chronicles in her second language and self-publish in America rather than risk having it pirated in China’s nascent fantasy market.

Some realities are worth escaping.

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of CHINA: Portrait of a People, a 600-page book of photography from the 33 provinces of China, which may be found on Amazon.com.

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Land Grabs and Murder

July 14, 2015

A friend and expatriate living in China sent me a link to a piece written by Gillian Wong for her New Witness accounts renew suspicions over Chinese village leader’s gruesome death.

Gillian Wong wrote, “The persisting suspicions about Qian’s death reflect a growing lack of trust in China’s government as rampant corruption and official abuse erode public confidence.”

The language Wong uses to place blame bothers me. What she writes assumes that China’s central government has total control over everything that happens in China, which it doesn’t. China is about the size of the United States with almost five times the population, and most police work and governing takes place at the local level as in the US.

In fact, China couldn’t have joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001 without having a legal system in place similar to most Western democracies, which means this issue of a rural village leader being murdered over a land grab has to be dealt with by China’s infant legal system guided by the laws of China and not the laws of another country like the United States.

And this means criminals often go free—for instance, like in the United States. If the evidence and witnesses do not exist, no one is punished. The old days of Chinese officials rounding up the accused and executing them without evidence and a proper trial are supposed to be over.

For example, in 1973, Al Pacino played the part of an honest real-life New York cop, Frank Serpico, who blew the whistle on corruption in the city police force only to have his comrades in police uniforms turn against him. Pacino’s film was based on a true story.

The US even has a witness protection program to protect the lives of innocent people from criminals that want to erase all evidence against them even if it means murdering witnesses

I’ve written about corruption in China before and what is being done about it. What the West considers corruption in China and all of Asia was a way of life for several thousand years. The old ways of doing things do not change instantly just because a foreign legal system and new laws are created.

To allow this new legal system to work, the slow wheels of justice must be allowed to turn and that doesn’t guarantee that justice will be served. If you believe China is doing nothing about crime and corruption, then I suggest you read What China’s Anti-Corruption Investigation Means For International Business from Forbes.

Another American movie, Walking Tall, was also based on the true story of honest Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser, who almost single-handily cleaned up his small town of crime and corruption, but at a horrible price, and he nearly lost his life as Serpico did.

No, I refuse to blame that rural village leader’s death on China’s central government, and I cannot expect Beijing to send in the teenage Red Guard goon squad, which doesn’t exist anymore, as Mao would have done during the Cultural Revolution to punish everyone accused of a crime, even innocent people, without evidence as defined by China’s new legal system.

Gillian Wong also says, “Qian’s death is the latest violent incident to touch a nerve among the Chinese public, angry over official corruption and abuse of power, including unfair seizure of farmers’ land for development…”

Wong’s statements make it sound as if the land belongs to the farmers. It doesn’t.

In fact, the land the farmers work belongs to the collective and the government but not individuals. In fact, even the title to urban homes individuals buy in cities clearly says that all the land belongs to the government. It’s more of a long-term lease.

How do you measure fair compensation of land that never legally belonged to the farmers in the first place?

Before 1949, most rural land belonged to a small number of wealthy landowners. In fact, the ancestors of the peasant farmers working the land today were tenant farmers that paid rent to the real landowners, who often abused the peasants.

After winning the Chinese civil war, Mao allowed the peasants to punish many of the original landowners and almost one million were found guilty and executed.

Correct me if you have other “facts”, but most of China’s rural farmers have worked the land free for about sixty years with no rent, no mortgage and no property tax.

As for murder, with a Western style legal system and no witnesses willing to step forward, there is no case. The main character of My Splendid Concubine wrote in one of his journals that in China the innocent were often punished along with the guilty while in England the criminals often went free and there was no justice for the victims. What does that mean for China now that it’s developing a Western style (capitalist) legal system?

Then there is the law of eminent domain. “The power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The (United States) Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners.”  – Cornell University Law School

What about China? – An Analysis of the Conflict in Chinese Property Law: Eminent Domain Powers versus Real Property Rights

______________________________

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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Local & Foreign Entrepreneurs in China: Part 2 of 2

July 8, 2015

In the PBS documentary of foreign entrepreneurs in China we discover (when the US financial crises hit the world causing more than $64US trillion in global loses while those who caused the crises walked away with fortunes) China experienced a slowdown in economic growth in 2008.

One foreign entrepreneur, Ed Hung, talks of the clothing store he co-founded, NLGX Design, which opened in Beijing in 2008.  He said rent was still increasing.

Ed Hung was born and raised in San Francisco. His business partner, Michel Sutyadi, was born and raised in Germany.  They met in Beijing while studying Mandarin in 2005.

Ed Hung says modern Beijing is becoming a consumer culture.

Then Doug Ma, a co-founder of Go Tour-ING, talks of how the global financial crisis (which was started in America) has affected business.

In the spring of 2008, Dough Ma left his job at an investment bank to travel. He wrote a post for Jet Set Zero in July 2009, and said, “It has been quite a challenge starting up Tour-ING (looks like this business didn’t survive). For one thing, it has been a tough year for the tourism industry. Less people are traveling due to the global economy and the outbreak of swine flu has hindered a lot of travel plans.”

Brian Sloan, CEO of Robotic Blow Job (want to be shocked and/ or LOL, click on the link), says the toys he manufactures and sells seem more popular in hard economic times since people spend less money going out and stay home more so they need a method of self-entertainment.

In addition, in October 2013, Forbes ran The Rise Of Self-Made Billionaire Entrepreneurs In China, And What It Means For The Future Of Chinese Corporations, and said, “Anyone who has followed China’s business billionaire lists in recent years will probably have noticed an encouraging trend: self-made entrepreneurs are climbing the charts. Six out of the ten billionaires topping this year’s list are genuine entrepreneurs.”

Then in August 2014, The Diplomat.com said, “China has long been preparing the ground for entrepreneurial revolution. … Starting in the 1980s, the Chinese government actively encouraged entrepreneurship across the country, by introducing the first patent law, allowing state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to go bankrupt, and creating a more investor-friendly environment for private entrepreneurs.”

And in May 2014, TechNode.com offered The Top 3 Tips For Foreign Entrepreneurs Starting Up in China:

  1. Find a Local Partner
  2. Don’t confuse market size for adoption speed
  3. Learn the language and culture, and hire locals

Start with or return to Part 1

______________________________

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.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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