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

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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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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

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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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Why do Suicides in China get so much attention in the U.S. Media?

July 1, 2015

USA Today reported in May 2015: Desperate Chinese turn to mass suicide in protest. USA Today said, “For some in China, suicide is the ultimate form of protest.” In addition, The World of Chinese Magazine alleged that China has one of the highest suicide rates per capita in the world.

How can that be when the World Health Organization lists China’s suicides for both sexes at 7.8 per 100,000 — ranked #94 compared to 170 countries?  That means there were 93 countries with higher suicide rates, and the United States was one of them at #50.

Guyana was #1 with 44.2 suicides per 100,000, but USA Today didn’t run a story on that country. If they did, I didn’t find it through Google, but Google had no problem finding the one USA Today did on China.

To be fair, USA Today did report in 2014: 40,000 suicides annually, yet America simply shrugs, and said, “Americans are far more likely to kill themselves than each other. Homicides have fallen by half since 1991, but the U.S. suicide rate keeps climbing.”

What about comparing China to several other Western democracies?

  • France was ranked #47
  • Germany was #77
  • United Kingdom was #105
  • Canada was #70
  • Australia was # 63

What are the reasons why five out of six (including the U.S.) of these Western democracies had higher rates of suicide than China — too much freedom maybe? (Note: I didn’t check all the democracies on the list to see how many had lower or higher rates of suicide than China.)

I know of one Chinese man’s suicide first hand and an attempted suicide by a Japanese woman, and both took place in California.

When our daughter was nine, we were hiking along trails in the hills near our Southern California home. She rushed ahead of us on the winding path until we lost sight of her.

Then she ran back saying she saw a man hanging from a tree and he looked dead. My friend Neil and I hurried to the hanging tree. While Neil climbed into the tree to see if the man was alive, I called 911.

When the police arrived, they searched the dead man’s wallet and called his mother’s house. It turns out that he was an architect from Taiwan. We discovered that his Taiwanese company had gone bankrupt, and he saw himself as a failure. He was about age 40.

The second incident I read about in the Los Angeles Times a few years back was about a Japanese woman who had taken her young children to the end of Santa Monica pier and leaped into the ocean with them. Surfers managed to save her but all of her young children died.

Her reason for attempting suicide was that her husband, a Japanese executive working in the US, had an affair. When the Japanese wife discovered her husband was cheating on her, she thought she had failed as a wife, and the only way to erase the shame was to kill herself and her children.

Since she was a Japanese citizen, Japan requested that she be returned to Japan. The reason given was due to cultural differences.

And last but not least, Americans have also used suicide as a form of protest against their own government. For instance, in 1998, The New York Times reported that the I.R.S. settled a widow’s lawsuit over the suicide of her husband. “A woman who accused the Internal Revenue Service of driving her husband to suicide said today that the agency had agreed to settle her $1 million lawsuit by eliminating her tax debt of more than $400,000 and letting her keep her home.”

The man’s wife, a librarian, said, “”When they decided to take everything I had (after her husband killed himself), I decided to fight back against the most feared and loathsome agency in the United States.”

And in 2010, Daily Finance.com reported that “8% of those surveyed (in the United States) said they would be willing to commit suicide “as an aggressive form of protest” in order to be heard by Congress about their student loan plight.”

Why do you think the U.S. media pays so much attention to suicides in China while ignoring so many other great suicide stories in other countries like the U.S.?

______________________________

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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Are all Chinese Parents Tigers with their Children?

June 2, 2015

It’s been more than four years since Amy Chua’s memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother launched a vicious tsunami of words that swept across the United States. Critics judged the book largely by asking the following questions: Should self-esteem come before accomplishment, or accomplishment before self-esteem? The logical answer, I think, is that a child’s self-esteem must develop naturally and organically and not through the efforts of helicopter parents pressuring teachers to dumb down the curriculum and inflate grades.

The bad news is that helicopter parenting might be getting worse if Psychology Today.com is right.

About the same time that Chua’s memoir came out, research into parenting styles revealed that “almost 49% of the European-American parents used authoritative parenting (alleged to be the best parenting style), as did about 46% of the Asian-American parents. Both groups revealed about the same number of parents using authoritarian (Tiger Mom-style) parenting (23% for European-Americans, and 26% for Asian-Americans). In other words, the number using authoritative parenting was virtually the same for both groups. – Psychology Today.com

In addition, Pew Research.org reported “Fully 94% of parents say it is important to teach children responsibility, while nearly as many (92%) say the same about hard work. Helpfulness, good manners and independence also are widely viewed as important for children to learn, according to the survey.”

But work by Eva Pomerantz suggests that Chinese mothers think differently. They think “my child is my report card,” and they see the academic success of their children as a chief parenting goal. But the reasons why a particular type of parenting works in one cultural group may not translate to another cultural group, partly because parenting goals are different in different groups.

In early 2011, we went to see Amy Chua in Berkeley when she was on tour for her memoir. The room was packed with several hundred people and there was standing room only due to all the controversial attention the book was getting.

At the times, I thought that Amy Chua looked as if she were expecting an eighteen-wheeler to crash through the wall and flatten her. That is probably because I’d read that she’d received death threats from across the U.S. for revealing in her memoir that she had said NO to activities such as sleepovers, play dates, acting in school plays, and did not allow her daughters to watch endless hours of TV and/or play computer games like so many American parents do.

Imagine getting assassinated, not by your child but by a stranger, because you wouldn’t let your kid have a sleepover.

To many, Chua did the unthinkable and demanded excellence. Time magazine said, “Most surprising of all to Chua’s detractors may be the fact that many (but not all) elements of her approach are supported by research in psychology and cognitive science.”

And as Amy Chua sat in that tall chair on stage above the audience with her feet dangling a foot from the floor, the audience laughed, applauded and treated her as if she were a hero—not someone to condemn or shun.

In the Time magazine piece, Chua said, “I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. The tiger-mother approach isn’t an ethnicity but a philosophy: expect the best from your children, and don’t settle for anything less.”

The American Psychological Association defines tiger parents as those who practice positive and negative parenting strategies simultaneously. Tiger parents are engaging in some positive parenting behaviors; however, unlike supportive parents, tiger parents also scored high on negative parenting dimensions. This means that their positive parenting strategies co-exist with negative parenting strategies.

Tiger parents and harsh parents are alike, in that both use negative parenting strategies. Unlike tiger parents, however, harsh parents do not engage in positive parenting strategies. Easygoing parents have a more hands-off approach, and do not engage as much with their children, either positively or negatively.

Another study out of the University of Michigan comparing U.S. and Chinese public school systems discovered parental involvement is a critical component to a child’s educational experience. If a child’s parents value education, then the child is more likely to value school as well. In China, parental involvement is higher than compared to the US, because Chinese parents accept the critical role of helping their students to learn concepts if they are lagging behind in school. Chinese parents also make sure that their children complete their homework. Parents in the U.S. typically play a more passive role in the education of their children. … It was also proven that greater involvement in a child’s education fosters more positive attitudes toward school, can improve homework habits, increase academic success and can reduce dropout rates.

What parenting style did your parents use on you? My parents were mostly hands off and that might explain why I barely made it through high school, but I did much better in college after the Marines applied their harsh methods of discipline.

______________________________

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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Bernd Hagemann’s “Sleeping Chinese”

May 27, 2015

a guest post by Tom Carter of Bernd Hagemann’s Sleeping Chinese

German businessman Bernd Hagemann arrived in China in 2002 amidst media reports of China’s impending rise to global domination. “News outlets around the world,” he writes, “were warning us about… how fast China is developing, how competitive it is, and what a tense life the Chinese people must live.”

Casual strolls down the streets of China in between boardroom meetings and networking, however, soon revealed to Hagemann a far less threatening side of China. So he took out his point-and-shoot camera and documented what he saw all around him. In just 148 pages, Hagemann’s debut photography book Sleeping Chinese swiftly dispels 9 years of chest-pounding by the PRC propaganda machine.

Sleeping Chinese is a fun little novelty item the exact same dimensions as a postcard that will leave you either laughing out loud or scratching your head in perplexity. The pages are divided into 3 parts: Hard Sleepers, Soft Sleepers and Group Sleepers, a clever allusion to China’s train carriage classification system.

Hard Sleepers: “Those who snooze in hard and uncomfortable places can fall asleep anywhere – even on a pile of bricks in a construction site!” Hagemann defines.

Witness, then, the dozens of people who have drifted into deep slumber atop stones, wood, mortar blocks, concrete and even cold slabs of raw meat. The most comical of the chapter being the dozing shoe repair man balancing precariously on a saw horse with an extra 2×4 for a pillow.

Soft Sleepers: “A little more fussy than their hard sleeper comrades,” the chapter intro explains, “fussy” meaning in plastic wash bins, hammocks slung under freight trucks, sleeping lengthwise across a motor scooter and even a laborer using a tape measure to cover his eyes.

Group Sleepers: “A traveling family needs no pillows when they have each other’s knees.” Truly, the photo of the family of five all huddled together like newborn puppies gives greater meaning to ‘jiating,’ China’s family unit.

 

Some Chinese might take offense to Hagemann’s photographic agenda, but anyone with a sense of humor will see that the book was made out of affection.

“I’d like to express my appreciation of the hard work and effort put in by migrant workers who play a central role in China’s success story but seldom receive the attention they deserve,” writes Hagemann.

Indeed, anyone who has spent quality time in China knows that these laborers, more than anyone else, deserve their rest — anywhere they can get it.

None of the snapshots in Sleeping Chinese were staged. Any foreign tourist in China who bothers to stray from his package tour group or get out of his hotel for a jaunt off the tourist trail will see these exact same sights, and more.

Incidentally, taking and publishing photos of sleeping Chinese people will often land a foreign tourist in hot water if caught by the authorities (the subjects themselves tend not to mind).

People’s Daily newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the Politburo, even attempted to put a socialist spin on Hagemann’s revealing imagery in an article about Sleeping Chinese: “If (we) are tired, (we) lie down anywhere and anytime and sleep. This shows (our) society’s accepting attitude.”

Regarding the western media’s scare tactics of China’s “waking dragon,” this reviewer is reminded by Sleeping Chinese of a particular song from old-school hip-hop artists Public Enemy (who I had occasion to watch perform during their 2007 tour through Beijing): Don’t Believe the Hype!

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Travel photographer Tom Carter is the author of CHINA: Portrait of a People, a 600-page China photography book, available through Amazon.com

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Chinese long history is rich in calligraphy, music, poetry, and painting

May 13, 2015

UNESCO says the Guqin represents China’s foremost solo musical instrument tradition. Legend says that the Guqin has a 5,000 year history compared to Chinese writing that dates back nearly 3,000 years.

The body of the Guqin is a long and narrow sound box made of Catalpa wood with two holes, one large and one small. The large hole is called the “phoenix pool” and the small one the “dragon pond”.

This seven-stringed instrument was played by noblemen and scholars and was not intended for public performances. Twenty years of training were often required to become proficient.

Since it is known that Confucius played the Guqin, the instrument is sometimes referred to by the Chinese as “the father of Chinese music” or “the instrument of the sages”.

For millennia, the strings of the Guqin were made of various thicknesses of silk.

However, in recent times, the silk has been replaced with nylon wound around steel strings. Some say without silk, the Guqin doesn’t sound as rich.

The Guqin was one of four subjects the ancient scholars perfected. The other three were chess, calligraphy and painting. For centuries many Chinese felt China was so civilized due to these practices that no other country would bother them. Why bother to study how to fight wars? Why spend what it would take to keep the military modern and strong?

Then in 1794 came the White Lotus Rebellion (100,000 rebels killed), followed by the Opium Wars (50,000 killed), the Taiping Rebellion (20 million killed), The Nian Rebellion (75 thousand killed), Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (500 thousand killed), Miao Rebellion (75,000 killed), Hui Rebellion (millions killed), the Du Wenxiu Rebellion (1 million killed), the Dungan Revolts (8 to 12 million killed), the Boxer Rebellion (more than 100 thousand killed), the Sino-Japanese War (10 thousand killed), the Xinhai Revolution (almost 200 thousand killed), China’s Civil War between the Communists and Nationalists (8 million killed), and Japan’s invasion of China during World War II (15 to 20 million killed).

Compared to what China suffered, during the 8-year long American Revolution, total casualties were less than 60 thousand, and in the 4-year long American Civil War there were 620 thousand casualties.

That explains why—when the gunpowder settled in 1949, after 155 years of revolution, civil war and war—after Mao came to power, he launched a series of reforms with the goal to make China strong again to stop the revolutions and invasions. These reforms ended with the Cultural Revolution—1965 – 1976, with about 1.5 million killed and millions of others suffering imprisonment, seizure of property, torture or general humiliation.

During this period, the Guqin fell out of favor as the literati were persecuted as the scape goats of China’s long suffering.

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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China’s Changing One-Child Policy

May 12, 2015

In 2008, France 24 International News provided an example of how the Chinese families could get around the one-child policy and reported how one Chinese couple wanted to have more than one child and how the couple used loopholes to have three.

The mother’s first child was a boy, and she was desperate to have a girl.

Since fines are less for a second child if delivered in a remote province, the couple moved south from Shanghai.

However, the mother discovered she was pregnant again soon after the birth of the second child, a girl.

The doctor told her that because of her health she couldn’t have an abortion.

Due to where the children were born, she was told her children would not be allowed to attend school in Shanghai. The mother was upset because she said rural schools were not as good as urban schools.

At the time, she also resented the fact that wealthy Chinese businessmen, television and movie stars often avoided the one-child policy because they have money to pay the fines. Ten percent of rich Chinese have three children and this practice is spreading among the upper-middle class.

Explaining how wealthy Chinese got away with it, Peng Xizhe, dean of social development and public policy at Fudan University, said, “In the Maoist era everyone was controlled by his work unit. It’s over now. Many workers are independent.”

Then in late 2013, China declared it was relaxing its one-child policy. The Guardian.com reported, “Experts say this only underlines a looming demographic crisis in China: low fertility rates, a rapidly ageing population and a shrinking labour force.”

______________________________

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.

2015 Promotion Image for My Splendid Concubine

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