Living in China. What I Saw Today

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I’m a people watcher. I find watching people doing ordinary things endlessly fascinating. Here are a few things I saw today

A woman walked toward me. She was wearing unusually patterned stockings. When she got closer I could tell she was actually wearing two pairs of stockings. One was torn, ripped, and was full of runs. She had a good pair on over the ragged pair, and the tears and holes were visible. Is this a new fashion trend?

I saw 8 people get out of a Nissan Tiida. It’s a very small car, built to hold 5 people at the most.

There were two girls making fresh orange juice. I bought a bottle for 8 RMB (under $1.50 USD). It was great, so I bought three more to take home.


Many unusual styles of dress and pattern matching. The women like very unusual shoes in many types and styles.

I noticed a woman being dragged down the sidewalk on her boyfriend’s arm as he was walking too quickly for her. She seemed happy.

I stopped in a café. A man sat at the table next to me. He ordered a tremendous amount of food, ate a little, and asked the rest be boxed so he could take it away. When he tried to pay, the owner of the café wouldn’t let him. Who was he?

There was a loud argument between a man and woman as they walked down the sidewalk.

Many people carried large bags or boxes. What do they contain?

I saw a man with the longest neck in Shenzhen.


A woman was sitting and knitting in the park. I don’t remember seeing anyone knit before today.

I noticed very old people and very young people often stared at me. Most would smile or wave if I did so first.

A woman walked by with bouncing boobs. This is very unusual in China as most women keep them heavily cinched in canvas-like bras with 8 steel hooks in the back.

A very cute YCG (young Chinese girl) walked by. She had a giant red berry growing out of her forehead. Why didn’t she have it removed?

I noticed restaurants trading food to each other’s customers. Why?

A man carried a small furry animal in a cage. I couldn’t see that it was. Maybe it was a pet. Maybe dinner.

A small child was in the park. He had a long rat tail in the back of his head. It was several inches off center to his right.

I realize most of this stuff is trivial and uninteresting to most people, but people watching gives me more or less unlimited pleasure. I don’t know why.


Living in China. Air Pollution and Measles.

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Many years ago my parents took the family on a car trip from Louisville to New York City. Our route took us through Pittsburgh. When we reached the outskirts of the city, the sky turned gray. Downtown it looked like it was dusk in mid-afternoon. The unusually colored air was a result of the air pollution from the many factories and steel mills in the area. My parents marveled at the prosperity that resulted from the busy economy that brought on the pollution.

A few years later I returned to Pittsburgh and the air was clear. The polluting industry had either been closed or they had installed pollution control equipment. There were many shiny new skyscrapers built downtown. The economy was rolling along splendidly, and the air was cleaner. Bad air was not necessary for the city’s prosperity.

Recently there has been an epidemic of foul air in China. There have been reports that some days the air was so thick in Beijing that flights in and out of the city were cancelled. Fortunately the air in Shenzhen seems no worse than usual.

The word smog is a combination of the words smoke and fog. In the old days the smoke came from burning coal for industry and heating homes. In less industrialized times, it was the kind of air pollution most often encountered. It eased as industry began eliminating burning coal, and with the advent of scrubbers on smoke stacks and other air cleaning devices.

In more recent years photochemical smog has been most often encountered. It is a mixture of ozone and various carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur compounds combining within the air. The chemicals are released primarily by modern industrial processes, automobiles, and many smaller sources, including natural.

Bad air has bad health effects. There have been cases where the dirty air killed people directly, like the Great Smog in London in 1952. Then some 4000 people were killed in the four days it lasted. 60 people died in a suburb of Pittsburgh in 1948 during an especially severe smog. There are all sorts of estimates about how many people develop long term respiratory and other health problems from breathing polluted air.

Most western governments have passed laws and regulations aimed at cleaning the air. While not perfect, the air is much cleaner than it was even a few years ago. Things continue to improve as environmental science and technology advances.

Pollution is a product of prosperity. It is a symptom of good economic times. There is little air pollution in primitive and backward areas of the world.

Currently China finds itself where the west was a few years ago. Its young economy is coming on strong. It is developing quickly. Coal fired power plants are being built to supply the energy needed for the economic renaissance. Cars crowd the roads as people go about their business.

As China’s economy has flowered, so has its bad air. Once viewed as an inevitable product of a brisk and growing economy, air pollution is now seen as an unnecessary burden on everyone it effects. The government is starting to enact emission controls on automobiles, and is closing some of the worst polluting factories. There are also fledgling efforts to clean the waters of China.

In many ways bad air is similar to the childhood disease of measles, or Rubella. Measles are spread from person to person by a virus. Often the high fever and respiratory problems brought on by the disease are severe, even permanently damaging. Fortunately, most people recover from the illness completely.

While sick, the body develops immune tools to fend off future attacks from the virus. People usually get measles while young. Most recover and live strong and healthy lives, immune from further bouts of the illness.

Air pollution is like measles. It has attacked the young Chinese economy. At the present time the attack is very severe, even debilitating. China is like the Pittsburgh of my childhood, prosperous but dirty.

But China is beginning to fight back, much like the human body fights the measles virus. Now it looks like pollution is winning the battle, but China continues to strengthen its regulations and enforcement efforts. Eventually it will win the battle. It will emerge from this sickness and its overall economic health will be greatly improved.

Toward Ending Corruption in China

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A few weeks ago my friend journeyed from Shenzhen to his home province in order to change his legal residence and get a few other small things done. He allotted eight days for his trip from Sunday to Sunday. When the Sunday he was scheduled to return rolled around I got a message that it would be the following Sunday when he returned.

Why? Because the bureaucracy was so entangled, complicated, and self-contradictory that it was going to take the extra time to get all the papers filled with the proper red stamps.

For obvious reasons I can not go into great detail about what happened, but basically despite preparing as best he could, he ran into problems that he didn’t foresee. This was combined with some of the officials being on unauthorized days off, and unhelpful bureaucrats who caused him to chase his tale needlessly. On top of this he ended up paying some 6200 RMB in 1000-2000 RMB bribes to get some lower level clerks to stamp his papers immediately instead of leaving them to be picked up three days later.

As a consequence of all the mess he encountered, his trip took fifteen days instead of eight, and cost more than twice his original budget. My friend was so disgusted he vowed to never again return to his home province.

One of the major subjects of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) meeting in Beijing is addressing the need to end corruption. Clearly party officials realize that dissatisfaction with the present system runs deep because of the pervasive corruption at all levels.

Much, if not most, of the corruption is institutionally embedded. Much results from state agencies which have been granted regulatory power without institutional constraints. Ending this type of corruption, graft, and unofficial prebendalism, could be ended by simplifying the rules. The fewer red stamps required in daily life would take away the lower level bureaucrats’ power to sell the red stamps in exchange for bribes.

In my friend’s case, there was no reason he should have had to return to his place of birth to get his residency changed. The laws governing movement of the and residency of people are byzantine and unnecessary. Complication breeds corruption.

I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. I have never had to return to Louisville for any reason other than family visits. There have been a couple of times when I’ve needed a copy of my birth certificate, and all it took was a call to the hospital where I was born and a certified document arrived in the mail a few days later. I couldn’t imagine having to return to Louisville to attain it, much less doing bureaucratic acrobats in order to qualify for it.

China should learn from this simplified system. Beside being extremely efficient, it eliminates the possibility of a corrupt bureaucracy from growing up around the birth certificate game.

Admittedly the example above is tiny in comparison to the massive corruption at all levels in China, but it is this type of petty graft that confounds and angers the average citizen in the average day. High ranking officials and their families amassing fortunes are thought wrong, but are hardly a major influence in the day to day lives of the average citizen. Eliminating low level corruption by reforming bureaucratic rules would help more people than putting an occasional big shot in jail.

Some time ago a very wise person came up with the concept of KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. He was an intelligent man indeed.


Anger Against the Chinese State

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A few days ago a truck driver named Gan in Sichuan Province in southwest China was confronted by the police for illegally parking his truck. The driver and the cop got into a heated argument. The description in the Beijing controlled Global Times said in one place there was a scuffle, it indicated there was only a verbal altercation in another. The driver “suddenly felt uncomfortable” and indicated he had medicine in his truck that would help him. The police couldn’t find the medicine, but a bystander did. The driver took the medicine, and an ambulance was called. Despite treatment administered at the scene, the man died.

There was no mention of excessive police brutality causing the man’s sickness, and the fact that he carried medicine with him seems to indicate his condition was chronic, though the immediate cause of his death was indeterminable.

By the time the ambulance arrived a crowd of onlookers had gathered. When the man died, they began to riot. The riot lasted until 04:00 the next morning and seven police cars were burned. According to the report, no people or police were injured during the riot.

While the government version of the event as reported in the Global Times may have been skewed to make the police look less culpable than they really were, the fact that a major riot broke out indicates there is serious discontent bubbling under the surface in Chinese society. That a relatively insignificant incident like this is enough to set off a major riot speaks volumes about the people’s anti-government feelings.

It is not that the Chinese people yearn for democracy, they don’t. Most are just fed up with the corruption that comes with a well entrenched, all powerful, highly bureaucratic government. The government makes their lives more difficult in many ways. They are tired of it.

The government has set up a team to investigate the incident, and promised to announce the results quickly. I’m willing to bet we will never hear another word about it. Another fire was extinguished. Things can now return to as they were until the next incidence of spontaneous combustion ignites.

Big Changes Are Coming to China


I lived in China for much of the last four years. The average person dislikes the corrupt government and loves America, Americans and American products. Most Chinese involved in commerce even take English names. The Chinese government, like all governments, exists only to keep itself in power.

Now that the economy is slowing and the housing bubble is collapsing I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see major anti-government movements as people see their life savings disappear. How things will end, I don’t have a guess. But it is certain that big changes are in store for China.

More Global Warming News Today

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Headlines in today’s Drudge Report:

Heavy snow brings Beijing to standstill…

Britain facing one of coldest winters in 100 years…

Once in generation cold snap forecast for North Carolina…

East Coast Faces Deep Freeze; Florida Oranges Threatened…

Iowa temps ‘a solid 30 degrees below normal’…

Beijing — coldest in 40 years…

Peru’s mountain people ‘face extinction because of cold conditions’…

World copes with Arctic weather…

Fourth Death Related To Cold in Chicago…

I guess the governmet’s efforts to curb global warming have started paying off. Thank god we have these wonderful government people, backed up by the finest and most ethical scientists, looking after our best interests. It appears they have saved the world and all of its inhabitants. A big thanks to Al and the boys.

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