The Cultural Glue that Holds China together

August 26, 2015

Under Qin Shi Huangdi, China’s first emperor, who united China in 221 BC, a standardized written language was mandated for an empire that once resembled Europe with many countries and written languages, and this created a unique cultural identity from the rest of the world.

To understand this, I’m turning to a conversation thread from the Yuan-Xiao Festival. Alessandro, a European with a degree in East Asian studies, who lives in China with his Chinese wife, wrote a comment that helped me understand something I’d read years ago written by Lin Yutang.

Writing of the Chinese Mind on page 81 of the 1938 Holcyon House Edition of My Country and My People, Lin Yutang wrote, “The Chinese language and grammar … in its form, syntax and vocabulary, reveals an extreme simplicity of thinking, concreteness of imagery and economy of syntactical relationships.”

I didn’t clearly understand what Lin Yutan meant until Alessandro’s comment. “The Latin alphabet is a phonetic one,” Alessandro said, “and as such, it simply reproduces the sounds of the spoken language, making it more susceptible of changes whenever the spoken language changes. Chinese Hanzi, on the other hand, conveys almost no ‘phonetic’ information by itself … (and doesn’t change much in its meaning as time passes).”

Cultural Competence: Managing Your Prejudices

Alessandro went on to say, “Both Europe and China have had political upheavals and long periods in which they were divided, but (China) having a stable writing system that doesn’t change as much as an alphabetic one helped them not to lose an important element of cultural unity, therefore of ‘national’ identity…

“The Chinese concept of ‘nation’ has nothing to do with the ‘nation state’ concept common in Europe (and North America).

“European nation states are more or less based on ethnicity, while in China it was – and it still somewhat is – based on cultural elements.

“You were Chinese because you shared a common culture, because you acted as a Chinese and assumed Chinese customs.

“Europe never regained the unity that existed during the Roman Empire, while China always strove to regain unity after each period of division. The traditional saying 合久必分,分久必合 — means more or less ‘after unity comes division, after division comes unity’.”

While the West—North America and Europe—has many written languages, China has had one for more than two millennia and this has been the glue that creates a sense of unity and what it means to be Chinese. Westerns don’t have that sense or cultural identity or unity.


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.

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Abortions—are you pro or con, and do you know the difference between a fetus and a child?

August 11, 2015

This post was inspired from Foreign’s Meet China’s Pro-Life Christians.  The subtitle of the piece ran with “Can they succeed in a country with the most abortions in the world?”

When I read that question, my first thought was to fact check and discover if this claim was true, because anyone who reads that question might conclude that China has the highest ratio of abortions on the planet—and, as I discovered, they would be wrong.

The result was that the claim in the U.S. media that China had the most abortions in the world spawned a protest from a small number of Christians in Chengdu, China (various statistical analyses have found that between 2% and 4% of the Chinese identify as Christian)—“Their faces downcast, they carried large posters with gruesome photos of aborted fetuses and headlines that read, ‘A fetus is a child too’.”

But a fetus is not a child. To compare a child to a fetus is deliberately misleading to cause an emotional reaction from ignorant people who are easily fooled. More on this later.

There is also a BIG difference between the number of abortions and the ratio of abortions. After all China has the largest population in the world. The country with the largest ratio of abortions in the world has a population of 56,483 compared to China’s almost 1.4 billion people.

The Foreign Policy piece started by mentioning the anti-abortion movement against Planned Parenthood in the United States, and then in the second paragraph said, “The news quickly reached China, and within days the video had been posted to Chinese video streaming site iQiyi, where it received more than 170,000 views (0.012% of total population). China has the highest number of abortions in the world, with an estimated 13 million performed annually.”

I’m curious what the other 99.988% of China’s people think about this issue. I mean, are they allowed to have an opinion or do only the Christians in China count—you know, the 2% – 4%?

But in countries where abortion is not available and/or is illegal, women who don’t want a child get an abortion anyway regardless of the pro-life, anti-abortion mob and their lies about fetuses being children. In fact, “Globally, approximately three births occur for every abortion performed, and half of all abortions are unsafe.” – Abortion Ratios Worldwide in 2008 and Abortion Laws Worldwide

How does China compare to other countries with the percent of known pregnancies ending in a legal abortion?

Greenland was #1 in 2012 at 49.9%. China was ranked #12 at 29.2%, and the United States was ranked #32 at 20.2%. – Johnston (You might be interested in looking at the list to discover what country had the lowest number of legal abortions).

And according to Nation, “It is estimated that there are 44 million induced abortions annually, half of them in countries where abortion is illegal.”

In addition, the US National Library of Medicine reports that “Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion, and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, are unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%). Of the women who survive unsafe abortion, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications.”

Now, back to the Christian claim that “a fetus is a child too”

“The just-conceived prenatal life form is called a zygote (not a child). While migrating down the woman’s Fallopian tube to her uterus, it is named a morula (not a child), and from days five to 12 post-conception, a blastocyst (not a child). The blastocyst implants in the nutrient-rich lining of the mother’s uterus. From day 12 through week six, this being is termed an embryo (not a child or even a fetus).”

The rest of the description of the fetal development timeline may be found at baby For instance, during the first 3 weeks, “Your baby-in-the making is a ball of cells called a blastocyst (still not a fetus or a child).” … It isn’t until week ten that the embryo becomes the famous fetus that is still not a child.

In conclusion, back to that protest sign in Chingdu, China that said, “A fetus is a child too”.  It‘s obvious from the facts that this cannot be true. It also helps to know the reasons why most women make the choice to have an abortion, and according to WebMD on Women’s Health, the most common reasons women consider abortion are:

  1. Over half of all women who have an abortion used a contraceptive method during the month they became pregnant. (This means these women were not planning to get pregnant.)
  2. Inability to support or care for a child. (often caused by poverty, and did you know that 1 of every 4 children the United States lives in poverty?)
  3. To end an unwanted pregnancy
  4. To prevent the birth of a child with birth defects or severe medical problem
  5. Pregnancy resulting from rape or incest
  6. Physical or mental conditions that endanger the woman’s health if the pregnancy is continued.

In addition, in the United States 9 out of 10 abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy while most are done within the first 9 weeks and technically the embryo isn’t even a fetus yet. In fact, very few abortions are done after 16 weeks of pregnancy when the fetus is a long way from becoming a baby or even a child.

Did you know that fetuses spend most of their time sleeping. At 32 weeks, the fetus sleeps 90% to 95% of the day and this is the result of an immature brain. To learn more about the development of the brain, I suggest you read this piece from For instance, “at 9 months (after birth), the human brain is too immature to firmly register experiences, while at 17-21 months it has developed enough to record and retrieve memories of single distinctive experiences,” Kagan says.

To the pro-life, anti-abortion people, how does a fetus become a child when 90% of abortions take place before the embryo becomes a fetus and a fetus is never a child?

And last but not least, why pick on China when there are eleven other countries with higher ratios of abortions?

By the way, I learned something in the last few weeks. While talking to a few members of pro-life, anti-abortion crowd outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic, I learned that Christians in the United States are just as ignorant as Christians in China when it comes to knowing the difference between a fetus, a baby and a child. Do you know the difference? If not, watch the first video in this post.

I think every woman should have the legal choice to a safe abortion as long as it is still an embryo or an early fetus and not a baby or child, but truth be told, you can’t abort a baby or child from a womb because a baby or child has already been born and has left the womb.


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.

A 130th 5-Star Review

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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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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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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 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.

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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 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

In addition, Pew 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!


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

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