China’s Gold Rush

August 8, 2013

The Imperial Color was yellow gold and the roofs of the Forbidden City were the same color. During imperial times, anyone wearing the imperial color, who did not belong to China’s ruling family, usually lost their heads.

Now, China is having a gold rush and holds more than a thousand tonnes of Gold as of June 2010, while gold demand from China’s middle class has grown 13 percent annually for the last five years.

As you can see from this Sky News video, Chinese are gobbling up gold as fast as they can regardless of the price.  To them, it is an investment and the Central Bank of China is quietly buying gold to build reserves. China is now the world’s largest producer of gold.

Frank Homes writing for Wall Street Pit, Global Market Insight, says China can’t get enough gold and state-controlled China National Gold Group signed an agreement with Kensington Mine in Alaska to buy more.

In fact, Pacific Money.com says, “China’s society is changing beyond all recognition. At the heart of the most sweeping social and economic transformation the world has seen is the rise of a powerful new largely middle-class population. In 2000, only 4% of China’s urban households were middle class; by 2012, that number skyrocketed to more than 66%.

Discover China’s Heart and Soul

_______________

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 love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


China’s Carbon Footprint Challenge

July 30, 2013

Bloomberg reported on China’s Datang Corp starting construction on a rooftop solar power plant in Jiangsu province as another step in China’s goals to cut carbon emssions. Plans are for this power plant to generate 6.2 gigawatt hours of power reducing the need for coal-powered generating plants.

This plant is not the only one under construction.  China is already the world’s leading producer of solar panels, and China is also building a 2,000-megawatt project in the Mongolian desert, which is planned for completion in 2019, and may be the largest solar power facility on the globe. Along with solar power, China plans to install 100 gigawatts of wind power by 2020. Source: World Changing

With the demand from China’s people to improve lifestyles, cutting back on carbon emissions is going to be a challenge as reported in China Juggles an Increase in Carbon Emissions and Renewable Energy Plans.

See Electricity is the Key

_______________

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 love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China


How one Amazon reader review Misleads and what many in the West do not know about China

August 28, 2012

There is always two sides to every issue so it is time to hear both sides in the same post—again.

A one-star Amazon Reader review written by an Adnil Nevets of “The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village” by Dongping Han said, “The author’s credentials are indisputable. He grew up in China and has an intimate knowledge of Chinese history and Mao’s policies. But, his version of history does not agree with 99% of the (note: Western) academic community, and indeed, official Chinese history.”

Adnil says, “I would suggest that readers keep in mind that there were intelligent, well-educated, scientific and academic members of the Nazi party who were completely smitten with Hitler and defended him to their graves. Sometimes closeness to a historical event does not yield clarity of thought.”

Hmmm, when I checked, Adnil Nevets’ Review Ranking on Amazon was 10,356,111.

Here is my response at Adnil’s reader review.

Regardless of the negative aspects of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Mao era, there is another side to China’s history—a positive one that is not all doom and gloom as Adnil infers.

In 1949, the average lifespan in China was age 35, more than 90% of Chinese lived in severe poverty, 80% were illiterate and China suffered from loss of life caused by famines in one or more provinces on an annual basis—deaths by starvation from famines have been documented going back annually for more than 2000 years.  For the first time in China’s history, deaths from famine have not happened in sixty of the sixty-three years that China has been ruled by the CCP.

During the Mao’s era, the average lifespan in years doubled, the population doubled, there was only one famine that caused deaths from starvation (1959-1961), but in the West Mao was blamed for that famine while Western authors and politicians ignore two thousand years of Chinese history, and people living in severe poverty have almost vanished (there are still many that live in poverty but it is not as severe as it was before 1949).

In fact, since 1976, literacy improved from 20% to more than 90% and China’s middle class grew from almost nothing to about 300-million people today with estimates that there may be 600-to-800 million middle-class Chinese by 2025.


The CCP is the only government in China’s LONG history to set goals and do something about poverty.

All of these improvements in lifestyle quality in China have been documented by the World Bank and other reputable international agencies,  although we seldom if ever hear about these positive changes in the Western media or in books written by so-called experts in Western Academia that focus only on the dark side of the CCP.


From 1982 to 2005 China succeeded in lifting over 600-million of its citizens out of grinding poverty.

How about if we focus on the dark-side of American democracy instead?

There was a bloody Civil War to end slavery (that has returned today but in a different form), the battle for women’s rights, poverty (more than 40-million Americans live in poverty), starvation in America exists, endless foreign wars (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc), and continued racism, etc.


News that should be covered more than it is in the United States

Is there anyone out there that cares about both sides of the truth supported with facts?

Discover Health Care During Mao’s Time

______________

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.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China


Country Driving in China with Peter Hessler – Part 2/2

May 29, 2012

In the first 122 pages of Country Driving, Peter Hessler sets out to drive the entire length of the Great Wall in a rented Chinese made Jeep Cherokee and he achieves his goal. In this section, I learned that the Wall was successful most of the time and not the failure historians claim it was. Yes, in several thousand years, the wall failed a few times but it served its purpose and did protect China’s heartland for centuries. Hessler says that there is no archaeologist in the world that has studied the history of the Great Wall but wrote there are amateur experts (we meet a few in this section along with a unique view of rural China) that have proven through historical research that the wall did work.

In Part II, Hessler takes us into a small village a few hours drive outside Beijing where he rents a house and becomes accepted by the insular-rural village community making friends and becoming involved personally with local families. The man that becomes his closest contact and friend in the village eventually joins the CCP (there are only about 80 million members in China) and then uses this to his advantage as he continues to improve the quality of his family’s lifestyle.

In Part III, Hessler travels to the city of Winzhou in Southern China where he spends time developing relationships with factory bosses and workers.  In this section, the Chinese people he meets are open and friendly. Hessler sees a side of China that few witness and it is obvious that the factory workers are not victims because of low pay and long hours of work but see this new life as an opportunity.


Peter Hessler discussing his novel “Oracle Bones”

When I finished Hessler’s memoir, I walked away feeling as if I had experienced an in-depth taste of the dramatic changes that have taken place in China since Mao’s death in 1976. Since China’s critics mostly focus on the negative, which is the corruption and/or authoritarian one-party system, and never admit the good that the CCP has accomplished, most people would not understand what I discovered.  To understand what I mean, one must compare China before 1949 with today by reading such books as those written by Hessler and his wife.

Before 1949, more than 90% of the people in China lived in severe poverty, more than 80% were illiterate, the average lifespan was 35, few people owned land, and the risk of death from famine had been an annual threat for more than two thousand years. In fact, most rural Chinese were treated as if they were beasts of burden and not human.

Today, about 13% live in severe poverty and those people mostly live in remote, rugged, difficult to reach areas of China.  The lifespan is now about 73 years and Helen H. Wang writing for Forbes.com (February 2011) reported that China’s middle class is already larger than the entire population of the United States and is expected to reach 800 million in fifteen years (2026). In addition, no one has died of famine since 1959-1961.

I highly recommend Country Living for anyone that wants to learn more about today’s dramatically changing China from an unbiased perspective.

Return to Country Driving in China with Peter Hessler – Part 1

______________

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.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China


Country Driving in China with Peter Hessler – Part 1/2

May 28, 2012

Most books that I’ve read of China cover its history up to Mao’s death and after 1949, it is difficult to trust almost anything one reads in the West or in China, since most of this work is either biased and/or propagandized in the West or propaganda in China since the mass media is owned by the State.

However, I’m glad that I read Peter Hessler’s memoir of China, Country Driving. Rarely does Hessler intrude with his own Western bias (if there is one), which appears to make a slight appearance near the end. I suspect that his editor at Harper Collins suggested that he add it to the story, and he complied, because the few opinions he expresses near the conclusion of his memoir do not match the experiences that he shares with his readers in the rest of the book. In fact, while reading the book, I grew to trust Hessler’s perspective of today’s China.

It is obvious that Hessler honestly loves/respects China and its people and this infatuation runs throughout the memoir. He also carefully or unintentionally avoids mention of what he thinks about his own culture, which made me wonder if there is a lot he doesn’t respect about his homeland.

Maybe the reason why he continues to return to China is because of this infatuation with a culture that values family more than most Americans do.  In fact, in the memoir’s acknowledgements, I discovered that Hessler was married to Leslie T. Chang, which even my wife—a Chinese immigrant to the US, whose first book, a memoir of growing up during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year—didn’t know.


Leslie Chang discussing her novel “Factory Girls”

Hessler’s wife is the author of Factory Girls, which is also about today’s China. Chang is Chinese-American and a graduate of Harvard. She is also an accomplished journalist and was raised outside New York City by immigrant parents, who forced her to attend Saturday-morning Chinese school, which is so Chinese.

For example, our daughter speaks Mandarin fluently and she was born in Chicago and is a product of the US public schools but with an immigrant mother and an American step father (me), which may explain (in part) why she is completing her second year at Stanford currently majoring in biology instead of trying out for American Idol while waiting tables in a Hollywood coffee shop.

Both Peter and Leslie have published work that went on to be honored as New York Times Notable Books.

Anyway, back to Country Driving. Much of Hessler’s memoir was connected to projects he wrote at The New Yorker or National Geographic. The memoir is divided into three sections:  Book I, The Wall; Book II, The Village, and Book III, The Factory.

Throughout the book there is a common theme: the independence and individuality of most Chinese and the failure of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda, which is there but often ignored by most of the people unless they can use the CCP to their own advantage.  That doesn’t mean the propaganda has no influence but the people seldom let it get in their way as they work to improve the quality of their lives.

In fact, it becomes clear in Hessler’s memoir that there are three Chinas: there is rural China, urban China and the Chinese Communist Party and many shades of gray among them.

Continued on May 29, 2012 in Country Driving in China with Peter Hessler – Part 2

______________

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.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China


The Power of e-bikes and Public Debate in China

April 16, 2012

If you have been led to believe that the Chinese people do not have a voice in China, think again. It may not be a voice expressing political opinions, but it is a voice.

One example of the power of those voices happened December 2009 and had to do with electric bikes. When new regulations threatened to restrict the use of e-bikes and ban them from public roads, opposition from the e-bike industry and bike riders stopped the regulations in their tracks.

Tim Snaith said, “I’m not surprised that Chinese riders are up in arms. A huge amount of the population rely on electric bikes on a daily basis in a way that UK riders don’t.”  Source: Bike Radar.com

Adrienne Mong of NBC News said, “The news triggered a heated debate that was played out all over the Chinese-language media and on the Internet. Eventually, the government backed down, and it’s been left up to industry groups to figure out new guidelines.” Source: Gr-r-r-r! Why I hate China’s e-bikes

When we visit China, we mostly walk (long distances), take taxis or use the subways, but I have admired the electric bikes that crowd China’s streets.

However, don’t count on us changing how we get around when in China, since many of the drivers in China drive crazy. The crowded urban streets behave more like an NFL game in the Super Bowl. I’ve often observed that red lights at intersection are ignored and crossing any street and sometimes even using sidewalks is risky and the only thing lower in the food chain than an electric bike are pedestrians risking lives as they cross streets even legally in a crosswalk.

That e-bike debate sounds similar to America where public debates often have an impact on government policy since the majority rules. Well, in theory the majority rules, since in America the majority is often ignored while we constantly hear from loud minorities such as the Tea Party or Occupy Movement, PETA, or the Million Woman March, which has only a few thousand members.

It also doesn’t help that about half of eligible voters in the U.S. seldom or never vote and the U.S. president is not elected by the popular vote but by a few hundred loyal party members (Republican and/or Democratic) in the Electoral College.

However, back in China, more than two years after the e-bike protest, Tea Leaf Nation reported on February 23, 2012 about a weibo Blog that was deleted by Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese microblogging platform, but what was deleted was soon restored thanks to widespread outrage and threats that the majority of Chinese would switch to Twitter and Facebook.

In addition, the Reuters Institute ran a piece about the power of the Chinese netizen and how microblogging is changing Chinese journalism. Zhou Kangliang, a Chinese journalist, concludes that “as Chinese online microblogging services grow and traditional journalism grows with them, it is learning from lessons and experience…”

In fact, The Washington Post reported, “In a country where most media are controlled by the state, information is heavily censored and free-flowing opinions are sharply constricted, Chinese have turned to a new platform to openly exchange unfettered news and views: microblogs, similar to Twitter.”

Xie Gengyun, a professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University, recently completed a report on microblogging and said weibo is the most popular choice for trustworthy information, ahead of newspapers, online forums and blogs.

______________

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.

Subscribe to “iLook China”
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page.

About iLook China

Note: This edited and revised post first appeared on April 29, 2010


Down and Out in Hong Kong

October 15, 2011

Guest Post by Tom Carter

Having spent over four straight years in the Chinese Mainland without leave, it was with both anticipation and apprehension when I finally crossed the southern border into Asia’s wealthiest city – Hong Kong.


Who wants to fly into Hong Kong?

Despite its one-stop-shopping popularity with Mainland expats needing new clothes and a new visa, I truly had no idea what to expect in the former crown colony that supposedly makes even rich men feel poor.

Rather terrified of exacting reverse culture shock, I hence saved English-speaking Hong Kong and its “One Country, Two Systems” self for the tail end of my journey across the 33 Chinese provinces.

And it is from there I report that all my preconceptions and fears about Hong Kong were—true.

To quote the under-appreciated American author Thomas A. Carter (me!) upon his brief sojourn in the legendary Chinese city, “I’ve never felt more poor than when I was in Hong Kong—I’ve never felt more ugly than when I was in Hong Kong.”

DAY 1: Cross the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border at Louhu and catch the immaculate KCR railway, immediately impressed that nobody is staring, shoving or spitting.

Arrive in Kowloon’s southern peninsula and emerge from the underground into the land of lights – Tsim Sha Tsui.

Blinded with excitement, I have to ask a resplendent group of Indian women draped in saris where the Mirador Mansion is.

They point their gold-ringed fingers straight up. A towering, rust-stained concrete block, one of Hong Kong’s only affordable accommodations.

I check in to a claustrophobic dorm room (three times the price of a Mainland dorm and three times as small), then hit Nathan Road.

Peering up into the neon lights, tripping in the crush of the crowds, I feel just like a migrant worker back in Beijing.

DAY 2: Awoken at 6am by one of my bunkmates stumbling in after a long night.

His name is Pat, a young American backpacker with long red hair whose introduction is immediately followed by a long-winded narrative about his two-week romp in Hong Kong, including scoring with the mythical “Asian girls who LOOOVE foreign guys.”

When I counter that I never had any such luck, the fast-talking but likeable Pat proffers some off-the-cuff advise (“Dude, lose the beard”) before launching into more useful information.

“It’s Sunday, okay, and there’s gonna be, like, 120,000 Filipino nannies and maids on their only day off – and looking for boyfriends!”

I’m a little dubious of Pat’s generalizations, but sure enough his mobile rings continuously with calls from adoring cleaning ladies he met the Sunday before.

An afternoon stroll around Statue Square indeed reveals a literal blanket of thousands of picnicking South Asian women (Hong Kong’s largest migrant communities) whose collective chatter sounds just like a large flock of seagulls.

When I attempt to candidly photograph one attractive young Filipino, she shouts “Hey! I klick jor ass!”

So much for getting a date.

DAY 3: Fieldtrip to Shek O beach on Hong Kong Island’s south side, savoring the soft sand and splashing in the subtropical South China Sea.

Supposedly this place is packed out on the weekend, but that’s what weekdays are for, no?

It’s one of those moments when I enjoy being unemployed and chase my fun in the sun with a tram ride up Victoria Peak for a breathtaking evening vista of skyscrapers, which appear to be constructed entirely out of lights.

Photo by Tom Carter

Dafnit, an Israeli girl clearly in awe of the Hong Kong skyline, remarks, “We have no tall buildings in Israel. Oh wait—we have one!”

DAY 4: Spend the day traversing Kowloon, the fashion billboards of TST segueing into seedy massage parlor billboards as I descend northwest down the Nathan Road side-streets, the sun lost behind precipices of neon signs stretching horizontally over the sidewalk.

The markets of Mong Kok are mobbed with uniformed students on lunch break: long-haired boys with untucked white shirts and loosened ties, and made-up girls in little outfits out of a Japanese kogal/hentai fantasy: knee-high black stockings, short skirts and a Louis Vuitton bag to carry their pencils and books.

They have tattoos, tongue piercings and smoke cigarettes.

After commenting that they are the hippest students in China I’ve seen, one 15-year-old boy replies in perfect English, “Yes, so cool, but so young.”

Photo by Tom Carter

DAY 5: I want to see how the other half lives and spend the day in Central, Hong Kong Island’s microcosm of capitalism. Cross Victoria Harbor by the centuries-old Star Ferry through a morning miasma of pollution and follow white-collared crowds of businessmen contending with cell phones, briefcases and lattés into their respective skyscrapers.

Later observe as many women shopping in designer department stores – these must be the wives. I notice that they all clutch their purses as I walk by, then realize why as I catch a glimpse of myself in the reflective facade of the Bank of China tower.

My head cast down in self-consciousness, I almost get rolled over by a Rolls (driving on the wrong side of the road, damn Brits!), then almost again by a double-decker cable car.

Everyone in Central must be against me.

My insecurities are firmed up that evening in Lan Kwai Fong, a gentrified neighborhood of upscale restaurants and bars on the Island’s northern escarpment.

Photo by Tom Carter

The steep streets are congested with young, well-to-do westpats toasting yet another successful day of money-making. I can’t believe there are so many white people in China who aren’t English teachers!

They are all smartly dressed and have well-groomed hair; I am wearing cutoff army pants, low-top fake Converse, an eight year-old t-shirt that I bought used, nor have I shaved or cut my locks in the 2 years I’ve been on the China road.

I want to belong, but I don’t. It’s one of those moments when I regret being unemployed.

DAY 6: I give the Island another chance and take the night ferry across the harbor to the north end’s older and seedier nightspot, the infamous Wan Chai.

Recall it is where Richard Mason penned his 1950’s tale of forbidden love, “The World of Suzie Wong,” though a lot has changed since he wrote “take a minute’s stroll from the center and you won’t see a European.”

The pick-up bars still line the road, yum-yum girls luring passersby into their neon-lit dens, but these are the illegitimate daughters of Suzie Wong, not of Chinese but Thai dissent, wearing not elegant silk cheongsams but cheap miniskirts raised to immodest heights.

And unlike the kindly ladies of the Nam Kok Hotel, these modern-day working girls are vicious, mercenary, cold.

When a group of obviously disappointed white boys emerge from one venue exclaiming, “In Thailand they take off ALL their clothes,” the brown-skinned door girl in plastic go-go boots is quick to shout back, “Then go to Thailand!”

Further down Lockhart, I follow a couple of older Europeans primed with drink and flirting heavily with a lovely bouquet of girls looking for generous company.

After making their arrangements, one of the men leans on me and confides, “Wy mife, I mean my wife, thinks I’m *HICCUP* at a conference.” The remaining girls give this poor writer a cursory glance then quickly cross the street away from
me.

DAY 7: I wake up feeling dejected and classless; the expatriates of Central don’t want me, nor do the waterfront girls of Wan Chai.

I take a stroll around TST, passing by friendly knots of third-world hustlers hanging out in front of the Chungking Mansions, the immigrant ghetto of Kowloon that serves as temporary living quarters for Hong Kong’s financially insolvent émigrés.

Photo by Tom Carter

A street corner tout from Kashmir says to me “The Mansions is where anyone not wearing pastel shorts or a suit stay.”

I realize this mad cauldron of multiculturalism is the only place I truly feel at home in Hong Kong.

The Africans on the never-quiet front steps always high-five me, the Pakistanis all think I’m a Muslim (must be the beard), and the Indians bat their eyelashes at me.

The Chungking Mansions are the international haunt for anyone who is no one, and I am one of them. It is a peasant’s epiphany – in Hong Kong, I am the ‘nongmin.’

__________________________

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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.

Note from Blog host: This post first appeared as an eight-part series on iLook China, July 19, 2010, starting with Is Hong Kong Any Place for a Poor American – Part 1


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,374 other followers