China: A review.

(Badaling Great Wall– a section of the Great Wall.)

Seeing as how I’ve managed to survive unscathed after 6 weeks in China, I must really run a poll. This question had been killing me for ages, and after reading sites like Sankaku Complex, I must really wonder what the world thinks about China. Well, this is what I think.

Before anything, here’s a short poll:

Now, I am a student after all, so it’s in my nature to try and learn more things. Before going to China, I read up on its history, from its dynasties to the Opium Wars, from the Treaty of Shimonoseki to Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Gaige Kaifang’, which essentially meant that China stopped being isolationist. To be honest, I didn’t have a good impression of China either at first, what with the recent melamine scandal and the toys and the usual Sankaku Complex news flooding my sight, spreading the image that (I quote) living in China is like ‘playing Russian Roulette’. After going to China, I was rather disappointed at the appalling lack of melamine poisoning and exploding fruit. It was rather …regular. I expected to at least get some propaganda on the streets but I didn’t get any. If I only gained my knowledge from Sankaku Complex, I’d be expecting to die about, well, 4 days into the immersion programme. Now that it’s ended, I can safely say that China …is fine.

I know, little may agree with me, or rather, opponents can criticize me easily. “What do you mean by fine? They’re communist!” Now, as the conclusion of my stay in China, here are some common faults and issues with China people find, and my opinion on them.

  1. China is communist, so they’re evil!

True. China is run by a communist party. Some people say that if China ever gains power, the world would be screwed, since China’s ideologies might spread outwards. Coupled with their recent increase in military strength some people have started to attack China and criticize her movements.

However, the problem I see with themselves calling themselves communist is that the only thing you could have called ‘communist’ would be the single party system, of which is also crumbling into power by many. What is the aim of communism? To break down the social classes. This was something Chairman Mao tried to aim for – and almost succeeded. When Deng Xiaoping took over, as the leader of ‘New China’, the aim was no longer to aim for true communism, but instead for increased economic development. In fact, he did much better in this aspect than Mao managed to. Between the years of 1980-2000, China’s GDP increased twofold.

I would call China communist in the same way I’d call Singapore authoritarian, or the way I’d call most countries ‘controlled democracies’. The way I see it, the world is slowly shifting towards the lovechild of communism and democracy: socialism. What? Socialism essentially takes the best of both worlds and places them together. True communism is impossible. So is true democracy. What we can aim for is a controlled democracy, a democracy where the government still has control. America already practices a political system that resembles this: the 4-year election system.

Besides, no system, as I have said, can be truly democratic. Let us think back to the original definition of democracy: free speech, free rights. Of freedom- that’s good right? More like too idealistic. We couldn’t possibly let everyone be free to do as they please- hence our political systems. Then we look at the current definition (according to Wikipedia, anyway) that democracy is giving everyone equal rights to vote. But all the countries, no matter what political system, give the same kind of rights to its citizens when it comes to voting, right? Something one might want to consider.

However, I do admit that there are events in China’s history that I absolutely despise. For instance, the Cultural Revolution under Mao’s rule was completely uncalled for and a great waste of culture. Deng Xiaoping’s quelling of a riot at Tiananmen Square was too, too violent and cruel a measure. The way I see it, if China ever becomes a superpower, the whole concept of ‘communist China’ would, and will have to die to allow way for a more socialist and recognized system instead.

  1. China produces bootlegs and everything they have is low quality, etc.

Now, when it comes to bootlegs, I won’t deny or defend China. China’s bootleg industry is large and thriving. Across the street from our school in Beijing there is an anime shop, and IO dare say most, if not all of their figurines are fakes. It hurts the most when you own the original figure in question – and then see the cheap, putrid knockoffs. Derp faces everywhere.

The second part, however, I beg to differ. While China may have had scandals such as the melamine milk scandal as well as what seems like a collection of fail items, one must remember that you pay for what you get. The cheapest of bags – I bought one made solely from cloth, sewn by hand for about $9 Sing dollars – kept snapping when I forced my arms out, so I had to sew it back twice during my 6-week stay. However, that is the kind of bags they sell for cheap. As prices go up, you can see the noticeable quality difference. Isn’t this the same for most countries? For instance, I see many Chinese items in Singapore, but of poor quality: why not use the better ones we find here? Simple – price difference = reduced profit.

One must also admit that, like the joke goes, most of the world is made in China. Honestly, how many items do you own that are not made in China?  A journalist once did an experiment to see how life would be like for one year without products made in China. The results are surprising. A broken coffee machine would remain broken for months. Her son had to beg his aunt to buy some Vader mask for Christmas, and so on. While scandals rock and ruin China’s reputation, the quality of items made in China for other companies as well as the unsung heroes, such as Huawei Electronics, can attest to the fact that living in China is, contrary to Artefact’s belief, not playing Russian roulette.

  1. China hates Japan/America/etc.!

Ah, crap. Not this again. Previously I’ve already written about anime culture in Japan and its rampant growth, if not long existence. Now I’m here to write again. I admit that China was in a horrible state of affairs following the Opium Wars, Sino-Japan wars and the World Wars. After China was crippled by 13 ~15 years of resistance against invaders, Mao Zedong took power and China became communist. From then on China had a policy of isolationism following the domination of Chinese territories claimed by the Western powers.

However, after the Gaige Kaifang, overseas culture began to flood into China. You can tell the difference by looking at the different clothing styles between the two eras: in the 1980s, soon after the Gaige Kaifang, jeans and denim and other western clothing became the rage. The traditional Eastern clothing was being purged from popularity. In fact, before that time America and China were already on close terms before the two countries drifted apart due to conflicting ideologies.

Now, skip back to 2011. Foreign cultures are abundant in China. There are craploads of anime magazines and merchandise in China. I bought about 9+ magazines, with freebies, wall scrolls, and even a plush Palmtop Tiger (which looks exactly the same as the one in the anime, by the way.) I couldn’t help it- a lot of it is made in China already, bootleg or not – drastically reducing costs due to lower import costs. The students we met at the Beijing school have an interest in anime too – but frankly I couldn’t keep up for long, what with the names in Chinese. In fact, I dare say I bought much more anime stuff in China than I do on a regular basis. There is no actual proof that China detests America either. I mean, ever since Deng Xiaoping took over the policy actually changed to seek co-operation from the West. China was getting a dose of Western ideas. China and the USSR split, and Deng’s policy was for economic reform and openness to the west, leading to the US formally recognizing China in 1979. For the past 30, 40 years China has been working to get closer to US, the same country which helped them so much during the World War, in their time of need, when China was still under siege from Japan, the 13 years of bloody fighting. Why would China hate the US? Hating Japan, perhaps for the older generation, yes, but for the US?

I’d love to write more about my six weeks in China. Of the lessons, the fieldtrips , the experience of living in dorms. But, I must remember this is , after all, an anime blog, and all of that, I’ll just have to keep to myself. Until then, remember that knowledge is power, but just like the prisoners of Plato’s cave , seeing it is hard.

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About Valence

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35 Responses to China: A review.

  1. baka~ says:

    Glad to see how much light your experience in China contradicts Sankaku Complex’s claims but perhaps, the things that we see in Sankaku Complex, influenced by -chan or not, is located in some parts of China. A place where people are striving hard enough to stoop to such lows or brutality. Then again, Sankaku Complex has been notorious with its satire, stretching out its facts, that I cannot even look at its content seriously

    • Valence says:

      Some of its news are blown out of proportion,or worded to be negative. See that post on China’s opinion on anime. It’s worded so that it sounds as though all of China hates Japan and its anime. I could give you more if needed.

  2. Ming Xuan says:

    Saderrrrrrr!

    *cough*

  3. feal87 says:

    Please go tell these words to the thousands of people interned into prisons or simply killed just for saying bad words against the government.
    Try to go and live in the rural areas of the China (not the major cities, or tourist spots) and see the degrade they live in.
    Newspapers always make the news bigger than really it is (and Sankaku is no different), but please be aware of the rights and freedom you have in your own country before thinking “China is fine” and please try to LIVE in China. Not be a tourist on sightseeing for a couple of weeks that thinks that’s all there is in the country.

    I could go ahead indefinitely, I work with a english (born in China) girl, and she told me quite a different story of the life in the rural China (where her parents still live) and about the repression of people with different ideas.

    • Valence says:

      I must admit, I wrote the post from the perspective of someone living in the cities of China, and surely I must have not written about those in the rural areas. I must wonder, however, how you get your facts from. Word of mouth? Or have you been there yourself, to see the conditions they live in?

      I will not defend China in the fact that it has repressed and killed naysayers in its history. The killings have stopped however, into imprisonment, for instance in the Jasmine Revolution, sparked by the events surrounding Egypt. Free speech is something we don’t have in Singapore either. Look at the tiny amount we get. The only way we can talk in public is in Hong Lim park- what’s free there? Someone wrote bad about the PAP and got imprisoned. Hell, what’s the difference here? The difference is the condition of the rural areas, am I not wrong? That they are in degrade? Otherwise the two countries share a similar stance on free speech, one of repression.

      No offence to your friend, but conditions in the rural areas are on the up and up. Surely, what has happened to your friend’s parents is most unfortunate, but these experience will surely, be gone as China enters the future.

      • feal87 says:

        Sorry, have no clue about what happens in Singapore so I can’t really talk about it.

        But for sure China is a lot less democratic than any western country, that’s a thing you can’t just forget. They changed killing in imprisonment? What’s the difference?
        Just to make an example, I don’t remember that pastor in the US who tried to burn the Coran going into jail, but that’s my memory…

        But as I said in the other comment, I am here to talk about anime, manga and VN so I’ll refrain from baiting into this kind of political post anymore. 😛

        • Valence says:

          See, this is why I wrote about the idea of a controlled democracy, to give the people limited freedom. It’s already in place. A social construct. We have our boundaries. Our taboos. Our social conventions, our laws. Doing something like burn the Koran, despite being ‘free speech’, is still seen as bad, as taboo, as racist, yet isn’t against the law. Sure, he isn’t imprisoned. But how will people treat him now?

  4. Higanzakura says:

    You just don’t know how crappy it is to have china as your neighbor, especially when your country is still in development.

  5. Pearz says:

    Alot of what you hear is propaganda, whether you know it or not. Being in Canada, I see networks like CNN and other news networks spreading propaganda of how “evil” China is. Heck I’m even from Hong Kong which is dead set on believing that China is a 3rd world country and if you cross that border you’re gonna get mugged and killed for $10. But if you look at the bigger scheme of things, many things are blown way out of proportion, and isolated stories.

    @feal87, do you also know in the past couple years, the farmers are making rediculous amount of money being farmers. Most are making much more money then your average in the city due to government incentives to keep the rural people farming.

    True that things are different when you are a tourist, but most the “evilness” of China does come from the media needing to point at who is the “Bad guy”. We all need somone to point the finger at, and communism is the perfect reason why, even if it is nothing like it used to be.

    ~Pearz

  6. Anonomyous says:

    From what i can see from baidu’s forums, the chinese don’t hate the US but resentment is there due to some things

    i) The chinese do not consider themselves anywhere near a super power or even a first world country, more like a 2nd world developing country, so getting harped on to be a responsible international power does get old fast.

    ii) They constantly get raised up as a bogey man as a diversion for political reasons or to prevent focus on their own problems. All the chinese i have talked to, agree that they have big problems but also they see the US as having equally big problems such as black poverty and overspending. It is obvious hypocrisy there.

    iii) Another reason is that time is not given to them to solve their problems. A lot seem to agree with the “stability is paramount as prosperity will follow” idea possibly due to Russia’s (USSR then) experiences with its sudden dissolution in the 1990s (the times when the rouble became devalued very greatly, etc)

    • Valence says:

      I don’t know, the whole superpower thing is thanks to Goldman Sachs’ analyses on the BRIC countries. China’s philosophy also contributes largely to their politics.

  7. Rho says:

    I’m glad you’ve had a good experience in China, it takes an open mind to break out of the propaganda and see the country for what it actually is.

    Does china do information control? Hell yea it does. Can you get around it? Easily. (proof: our blog is hosted by blogspot, which is blocked in China.) When I told my friends I needed to bypass the blocks, they laughed at me.

    Anywhere you go there is a gap between those in the know and those who are not. A simple analogy would be during my time in UofT, there are those who know and use DC++ and those who have no idea. Some would rage that UofT networks blocked torrenting, others just laugh. It is no different in China.

    When it comes to anime you’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg, there are shopping centers with entire floors dedicated to the subject. People buy, sell, trade, cosplay and perform, as one would expect from an anime convention, except this happens every day. (you’ll likely find Pearz blogging about it in the coming month as she comes to explore the country with me)

    It is like you said, China is only partially communist, Although it is a very noticeable interlacing between communism and capitalism. The private sector is enormous and everything is negotiable. (this includes the entry exit bureau where I went to get a VISA extension. I received one longer than the maximum) At the same time there are sweeping reforms when necessary. When the Olympics happened, the roads had a dedicated Olympic lane for use only by government and Olympic related people. Resident car owners in Beijing could also only drive on even or odd days during the month, corresponding to the even or odd on your license plate number. This cut down on congestion tremendously and surprisingly everyone I knew were sympathetic to it.

    @feal87
    You depress me greatly, do you honestly think the US takes no liberties with peoples rights? Every, and I repeat, every country commits atrocities against their residents for their version of the greater good. (try to explain to the Native Americans why they live on reservations or why second generation Japanese Americans were put in concentration camps during WWII) You are a hypocrite, you are not EVEN a tourist of the country and yet you would attack the opinions of others. I’ve spent half of my life here, some of which were in the rural parts where I slept on stone beds heated by coal, and I also think “China is fine”. How about you explain to me how this poor repressed rural girl cleared for immigration or a work visa and manage to afford to leave this oh-so-horrible country.

    ~*+ Rho

    • feal87 says:

      Rho, you can really put in the same level the US where a fricking idiot can try to burn down the Coran angering half of the muslim world with a state where they shot down manifestant like flies?

      Sad and depressing is your position friend.

      Not going to continue talking about it, I’m on the blogosphere to talk about anime, not about politics. 😛

      • Rho says:

        Let’s face it, that’s not the worst either of these countries have ever done. Comparing two unrelated incidents achieves no effect other than bias. It would be equivalent to me comparing what happened at Tiananmen Square to the nuking of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, where over two hundred thousand civilians where murdered for the crime of calling those places home.

        You may discontinue this conversation, however you need not to justify it using excuses of on-or-off topic. Your participation, from the beginning, was voluntary.

  8. Derpina says:

    Terrific review! This is truly the type of article that should be shared around the internet. Shame on the search engines for not ranking this post higher!

  9. Nopy says:

    Glad to see you taking a look at China from different perspectives. Every country has its problems and the news tends to take sides when it comes to ideologies. One of the things I’ve noticed is that the American broadcaster, CNN, often refers to China as “the enemy,” but CCTV in China does not do the same when talking about the U.S.

    • Valence says:

      I don’t know. I’m too idealistic. I want a world where everyone is an ally.

      Is that too much to ask for? Definitely.

  10. misaki says:

    It’s nice to see a semi-anti-Sankaku China view for once. China has its share of problems, and some of them are truly terrible. But then again, every country has shitty people doing shitty things – some just have it a bit worse.

    Also, on Chinese views of Japan: Chinese people hate Japanese people. It’s kind of like the racism against Hispanics in the U.S., only stronger. Stuff like the Rape of Nanjing are hard to forget, and most older Chinese people detest Japanese people with a passion. Of course, this doesn’t mean they won’t buy foreign products.

    On America: “America hates China more than China hates America but they have to cooperate because they’re in deep economic shit together” is pretty much the modern stance. Anything that results from that: “made in china,” American companies in China, etc. can be interpreted from different angles.

    – Chinese guy who took a U.S.-China course last semester.

    • Valence says:

      I think the new generation are fine with Japan.The older generations, no, they definitely hate Japan.

      Good to know they’re other Chinese bloggers too.

  11. ~xxx says:

    Having China as a neighbor means business…

    But the great part was they have their jets surrounding your island full of Natural gas.
    Man, I like how China made a Trillion Dollar reserve. And I mean they can buy another country’s debt like that.

    • Valence says:

      Trillion?Already? But buying another country’s debt leaves their own country in danger, no? Singapore has tonnes of foreign reserves too, but we don’t go about buying off debts.

  12. bobbierob says:

    I was really surprised when I chanced upon your post, and I admit that I, if even for a second, expected some sort of bigoted rant similar to the (pardon the cussing) shit Sankaku Complex churns out. I was delightfully proven wrong.

    Being a Chinese person myself, I obviously feel an attachment to China. That is not to say I am blindly loyal. I am all too aware of the faults China has, including the atrocities they have committed in the past. However, I do believe that they are in what could be considered an improving trend.

    I will not say I am the most knowledgeable person about China. Far from it. I am quite in the dark about the true details of people call the supposedly atrocious “rural life” in China, as I live in the city. As such, I do not believe that I have enough facts or grounds to back myself up should I make comparisons between China and say, another country. Therefore, I won’t make it.

    What I do want to say, though, is that simply making comparisons between two countries is in itself pointless. Every country has unique circumstances attached to themselves, and one who is ignorant of such details would be automatically biased towards their own viewpoint.

    Living in Canada, I have encountered little to no anti-China propaganda at all, and I believe that the antagonistic air towards them has a minute presence here. For that reason, I simply cannot understand when people make remarks such as “they’re bad because they’re communist” or just “it’s made in China, so it’s bad”. I am aware, and sometimes slightly depressed by the fact, that some people actually think this. However, I have yet to meet one personally.

    As I’ve stated previously, China could be seen to be improving. The traditional view of “Communism” certainly does not hold true any more, and China is not run by the same Communist ideals the Americans were perhaps so afraid of in the 60’s. Perhaps I’m a bit idealistic too, but I seriously wonder why people won’t let bygones be bygones and take a completely objective and unbiased look before they pass judgement.

    Reading your post has been enjoyable, and it makes me glad to know some people are still making judgments for themselves, instead of just taking what is being fed to you. And it’s great that you had a good time in China.

    • Valence says:

      I’m also Chinese, so I feel a little sympathy for China despite being from another country. True enough, I too, am no scholar of the ways of China, as demonstrated by feal87, my mere stay in Beijing is insufficient evidence to substantiate any actual understanding of the entirety of China.

      The Made-in-China jokes are all because of the screwed up manufacturers who only care about money so much that they are willing to compromise on everything else. Damn.

      China’s improving, and I hope that when I finally finish my education, the world would truly be globalized.

  13. kevo says:

    I’m Chinese, too and I’m glad you had an enjoyable experience in the place that I grew up. I love Beijing, and every few years I go back it seems different every time. There are so many Chinas: the China that’s stretching out in every direction, the China that shows up in the mainstream media, the China that rushed to help victims of the Sichuan earthquake, the China that imprisons artists and activists, the China that hosts the Olympics, the China that that enjoys fast food more than Americans…
    All these China haters have second hand experience or just reads about this stuff online. Of course China isn’t perfect. Of course their government are a bunch of idiots. But that doesn’t craft what China IS. You can’t depict that with mere words alone. The moral of the story here is to see things for yourself, not just read Sankaku (which by all accounts is the WORST way to get your worldview, lol).

    Now, you would really disappoint me if you told me you went to Beijing and didn’t eat your heart out. 😉

    • Valence says:

      Of course I did..hence the weight gain >= A meal for 10 at a fancy restaurant for less than the price of a Macdonald’s meal per person? Hell yeah.

      One thing I’m glad about lately : China’s new harsh stance on food manufacturers who produce harmful products. Death to all. Finally, this will ensure an increase in food safety, quality, and hopefully, reputation.

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  16. Jo says:

    Hi there..

    Just wanted to ask, during your stay in Beijing were you able to watch anime ie. download torrents from nyaatorrents? Or did you have to use a proxy/VPN?

    Any advice for someone going to Beijing, that wants to keep up with series currently airing?

    Thanks heaps.
    Jo.

    • Valence says:

      Our classroom was the only place I had internet, and it had its own modem. There was probably a proxy though.

      I managed to download anime at the same pace nonetheless.

      In Beijing, series currently airing are harder to find. Proxies help you torrent, but you can actually get reviews and even chinese-subbed episodes of new anime through anime magazines in news-stands. Best to get a proxy nonetheless.

      Any other questions about anime or just life in beijing just feel free to ask =)

      • Jo says:

        Thanks for that Valence..
        Hmm.. I think I’ll have to work it out when I get there then. I’m actually going to be working in Beijing for 8 months, so the only internet access I’ll have will be from ‘home’. I can’t really read much Chinese but I might give those Chinese subbed-episodes a shot if it really comes down to that. Maybe my Chinese will improve lol..

        Yup, if I think of anything else I’ll drop by and ask. Thanks!!

        • Valence says:

          download wireless hotspot or whatever programmes they called it. Hotspot shield i think. If you run that program you should be able to access the internet as per normal and download english subs.

  17. chikorita157 says:

    Although I’m a Chinese that is born in the states, I have mixed views of the country mostly because of the government. Still, I think they are getting better and now there is more economic freedom than there used to be. On the other hand, their human rights still needs a lot of improvement and I expect that will happen when they are ready to embrace a democratic government. However, bashing them like Sankaku Complex is what offends me since every country has flaws. Considering the disaster with the useless congress in the United States last summer, you get the point…

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