Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Individuality" and the Chinese Lifestyle

When everyone has essentially the same lifestyle, everyone adheres to essentially the same value system. Perseverance, focus, consistency, and cool temper are the traits most prized by the Chinese as well as the traits most necessary to succeed in a standardized education system or a six-day-per-week job.

College admissions essays typically challenge students to reveal their values, and nearly all Chinese students choose these four same words to describe themselves at their best (an exception is the word "passion," which is usually meant in the sense of "the passion to keep working"). The reasons they give are the same, as well: these are the traits that enable a student to succeed on standardized tests, to remain in the education system, and to earn a job that will permit them to continue surviving. If they're lucky, theses traits might even earn them a ticket out of the country.

Among the workforce, vacation is comparatively rare and living is comparatively inconvenient, conspiring to make personal hobbies difficult to pursue even when income allows. A typical Chinese may spend six days a week working, two hours a day on public transport, and the seventh day doing housework. After deducting personal time spent taking meals with family, there is very little time left to be an "individual"-- to become an expert on an obscure topic, to develop a unique skill, or to produce a creative work. Cultivating individuality takes time; particularly time alone or with a purpose-driven community, but this time simply doesn't exist for most Chinese.

Whether aversion to individualism and preference for the current order preceded or caused the current state of affairs is debatable, but at any rate, a typical Chinese couldn't find the time to be an "individual" even if they wanted to.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Development and Ethics

Recently, the Chinese periodical Southern Weekend published an editorial by Duo Yu, who grew up in the fields before seizing a chance to attend university in the city.

"Only after attending university did I understand what is meant by 'urban-rural binary structure,'" Duo Yu recalls, "and that food producers having no food to eat is actually a policy scheme." The long-term estrangement between Chinese cities and countryside, he claims, has led to deep misunderstandings between burghers and farmers. Closing the gap between the two worlds is not a question of the city "saving" the countryside; rather, it's a mission to build mutual understanding, and to allow people on both sides to make informed decisions as they will. Furthermore, he concludes, an urbanite who derides a good-hearted farmer ought to question how "civilized" he really is.

Duo Yu's memoir demonstrates, among other things, that the developing-developed conflict within China is highly analogous to the developing-developed conflict between countries, in that:
1. The "developed" group relies on the "developing" group for basic necessities
2. The "developed" group patronizes the "developing" group by understanding it systematically rather than as a group of self-deciding individuals
3. The "developed" group is derisive of the customs of the "developing" group.
All this serves as fairly persuasive evidence that:
1. Ethically, the “developed” group is less developed than the "developing" group, and therefore, that
2. Development is unethical.
(If we assume that "unethical"="bad," whilst "development"="growth," that "growth" is a property of "nature," and that "nature” is "good," so thus all its properties are good; thus, "good"="growth"="development,") then we find that:

Let's call it the paradox of advancement. You take one step forward: learn a key fact, big word, new technique, or even a clever political theory; and all of a sudden, everyone who hasn't joined you is the Cause of All that is Wrong with the World. Take for example the US coastal dwellers' view of the center of the country, many second-generation Americans' embarrassment over their parents' accent, or the vile connotations carried by the word "immature." You've learned more, but become less. Then, say, you go on to run a mile: you learn all the words, invent some new techniques, and come to a deeper understanding of humanity; and all of a sudden, it feels as though you've gone nowhere at all. You start wondering if hunter-gatherers weren't happier, whether you really enjoy computing, and if we couldn't have avoided war simply by never having invented the wheel. And all of us can be at different places at once, depending on the issue and the group with which we identify.

Whatever the case, social betterment doesn't take place in Euclidean space, and words like "developed" or "civilized," which suggest situation at a fixed point, or even "progress" or "advancement," which indicate direction, derail productive conversations on the topic of betterment; they are the terms of a material, spacial paradigm; not an ethical one.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

China's Declining Fitness Rate

While China has risen to prominence as an Olympic medal powerhouse, recent reports show that national average youth fitness measures has dropped consistently over the past ten years, while the obesity rate has become the world's fastest growing. Before long, China will have more obese people than America has people.

China, it seems, is getting better at globalization, with even the bellies of its next generation becoming ever more globular. According to experts, this is because Chinese parents are, as the old saying goes, "hoping that their sons become dragons" and insisting that would-be exercise time be devoted to the same end as nearly everything else in China-- cramming.

It's a reminder of how drastically different the United States and China can be. While American policy makers ponderously fail to drum up interest in exploring one of the most beautiful, safe, and inviting plots of real estate on the planet, Chinese parents are tirelessly inventing new ways to restrain their children from breaking loose into the cold dystopian coal-scape. And curiously, the outcome is identical: an unstoppable army of fat kids.

Chinese dragons, unlike European ones, do not necessary breathe fire. Instead, apparently, they will breathe in quick, shallow, asthmatic gasps.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Innermost Thought of Chinese High School Students

Ohio is a pleasure ground with its children running and screaming all the time.


"The instant her hands touch my chest when I ultimately understand where my richness really laid on."

I dare not say I am the best student in my class, but I dare say I am the best student in history.

“‘Oh, who cares about that. If you really want to, just come on. He pretended to be a child who had been horrored欺负 by me, which made me laugh in my beard.”


I don't have my own point and always flow with the crowd. It makes me always be influenced by the surrounding environment.

I think making friends is one of the best way to improve the relationship between a people and another people.

"Deciding to go abroad to study really has a great impact on my life. For achieving this dream, I need to go abroad to study."


Beside this, my distinctive macbook pro and its fascinating desktop also show my diversity.

As kant said “an elict clear his visions, disturb someone ‘s the attraction in each of the word pairs listed here, conseluses the flaunt the your immient laughter council jacket talents


"The author of this book is called ‘Qian Sima’. He was persecuted by the king and suffered a bitter penalty that cut his penis. At last, I quoted a sentence in his book: inherent in a person die or again in Taishan or lighter than a feather."

I had great sympathy in Taliban.


Thirdly. I met a girl when I had classes out of school months before. The girl was not very beautiful but gives a fresh feeling.

I devote myself in my favorite subject. Then I want to find a good job which I am really interested in. And for my outstanding behavior during the work, the pay for me should be higher every year. Before 35 I find a girl and married with her. We can have a baby.

Barnes[C1] said[C2] “you must usually get communicated with your member efficiently and conformably, in addition, you should also be a good listener.” And I agreed with him.

[C1]Who is Barnes?

I fabricated this name.

[C2]Did you also fabricate the quote?

Remember that, that’s really make sense. [C1]

[C1]What do you mean by that? Does this sentence add additional meaning to this paragraph?

No, it doesn’t. It’s meanless.


For some reason, such as my family or my genius on something I can still be better than them.


I've heard a question: If you are the only one left on the earth, what will you choose to do? My selection is: commit a suiside.

Just like to choose an online game or a consolegame, I would denfinitely choose the online game.


If one succeeds, he could easily share his happiness with his partner, but if one loses, he must not only blame on his partner, but also take on the responsibility he should assume, especially his partner is a girl.

I comforted her, even feeling terrible myself, for I think a girl is more sensitive at this kind of time. Many of the partners quarreled after their loss, but she and I still kept to the imitated friendship…”

Having experience for so many times, I knew that it was the best time for me to come.

"Also, after being accustomed to the boarder life, I soon regarded the school as my home, my classmates as my family members, and now in senior 3, three of my best-best friends are all my old Grade 6 classmates, we have the privates that others don’t."

"It is truly not about my rudeness or crankiness to those schools, I just cannot accept. (SO SORRY)."


I still remember the day we went to school for the blind. There was a girl whose name is Ziyi. No language can describe how excited she was when she knew we came to play with them. She was so proud to show us her dance, her songs, her flute play. When we about to leave, Ziyi gave us a letter written in blind language.


It all began after ten years in the same body, I started to notice the slight and embarrassed difference occurring on my body day after day: protrude on my chest was becoming more prominent!

Sorry for making so much grammer mistakes...

In Defense of the Deplorable Speed of Democracy

We in the United States have a habit of complaining that our democracy moves too slowly, a conversation which sometimes verges dangerously close to denying the value of the system altogether. But could our society really progress much faster?

In China, the Ministry of Civil Affairs guarantees a generous set of provisions for the welfare of children born with HIV. However, as Southern Weekly reports, parents in the Guangxi Autonomous Region have recently banded together to pressure a primary school principle to expel an infected child. The article goes on to report that nearly half of Chinese urbanites, when surveyed, would be unwilling to share a meal with someone affected with HIV, and nearly as many would be unwilling to work alongside them.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs promulgates an enlightened, sympathetic, and informed view of AIDS, but its guidelines are, for the most part, ineffectual. People's minds take time to change-- for better and for worse. The alternative to democracy isn't faster progress; it's merely a wider gap between theory and practice, and all the cynicism that comes with it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


“Oh, no, I don't think you understand-- I don't want to learn how to write. I want you to do it for me."

More than a few times, when dealing with students who've made it abundantly clear that they have no interest in learning anything, and who believe that I am perfectly happy to receive a small sum in exchange for seeing to it that they slide along through the system, the thought has crossed my mind: For the sake of the integrity of education, someone needs to stop these kids before they pay their way through any more barriers. If these kids get into their "dream schools," they will take up valuable space, torture their roommates, and convince their classmates that China isn't really a country worth their respect.

This all led me to wonder, what does qualify a student for education? I can think of a few characteristics:
* The student is excited about learning
* The student is culturally aware and unprejudiced
* The student is creative and can add new value to old discussions.
In a word, one might describe such a person as "educated." But then, if education were the prerequisite for education...

As it turns out, many of the Chinese students I have met do not meet these standards, as I presume many students anywhere may not. Their parents are conspicuously wealthy, overbearing, and possibly corrupt, and the students themselves are not above leaning on their family's power and influence to avoid being productive themselves. They don't "deserve" the opportunity provided by a world-class American university.

And that's precisely why they need it more than anyone.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Open Letter to Glenn Beck

Dear Glenn Beck,

I recently read the free Kindle sample of Broke, your latest effort to contribute to the pubic dialogue regarding the direction of our nation. Your advice is timely and necessary, if somewhat obvious. You have successfully established, with historical examples, that debt is bad, that having money is preferable to not having money, and moreover, that it really sucks that our country no longer has any money. With these three points I stand behind you one hundred percent, even if I wasn't quite willing to buy the remaining ninety-five percent of your book.

As you advise your readers, staying out of personal debt is a surefire way to avoid being indebted. What's more, exercising thrift is still vitally important, as underspending significantly reduces one's likelihood of overspending. You've spent several pages proving that the Greek, Roman, and Spanish empires all fell as a result of overextension and debt. But what, if not this long-term financial insolvency, defines the collapse of an organization? A government falls, it turns out, when it falls. Do you think you could go further to explain how our government could be more thrifty; i.e., what can we stop spending money on? Should we stop sending food to our soldiers, or give up entirely on our flagging education system? Will spontaneous charity be able to fund these programs at an acceptable level, given that, historically speaking, it never has? I'd like to see more thoughts on this in your next book, or possibly in the remaining chapters of this book that I opted out of buying.

I would also like you to reconsider the basis of your rejection of social security. You opposed it on the grounds that it requires the young generation to pay for the old generation, rather than the old generation putting away for itself from an early age. But even if we begin to put money into private retirement funds when we're young, we're still no less reliant on the next generation, for in our dying throes it's not actually money we'll be hankering after so much as medicine, hair dye, and golf clubs. These things will be bought in the future and will be produced by the next generation no matter how the system is set up. If the next generation is smaller or less productive, then they money we've put away in our private savings account will be able to buy less of value, and the only way around this is to literally stockpile the golf clubs now. Most of us will choose not to do this on the assumption that the drivers of the future will compensate for our lack of skill more than the drivers of today, and this is what we concretely mean when we say that our monetary savings grow in value over time. The point is, Social Security is in trouble because it has made promises it can't keep; not because it's public. "Because it's public," you will likely reply, and you'll be partially right- but what will happen to those who forgot to take out a 401k or who outlived their savings? You can say it's their fault, but it's your driveway they'll be sleeping on. I hope we can reform the system too, but I think we should be clear from the outset that it has objectives beyond just raping bald eagles.

Also, Glenn, do you think there might ever be an appropriate time for debt? Sometimes entrepreneurs take on loans to expand their businesses, and sometimes people who can't afford to eat sell themselves into indentured servitude. You argue that being debt-free is the only way to be free-free, and with this point I agree entirely. However, are there not some circumstances in which one's freedom in the long run is increased by taking on the shackles of debt in the short term? (I think this is what Keynes meant by his "glorification" of debt that you so abhor. I think he was just being provocative to make his point, as we all are from time to time.) Granted, debt must be temporary in order for credit and freedom to be restored, but given that most of us are willing to accept short term debt in emergencies, I feel that the conversation ought to center on the question of what exactly constitutes such an emergency.

Glenn, your take-aways are really worth hearing: spend less, spend smarter, and …something about debt. However, I've had some trouble following the logic that has led you there, and to help clarify I have included a representative except with my questions in bullet point below.

"The recent denigration of profits and wealth is right out of the progressive playbook. They make wealth synonymous with greed and profits synonymous with corruption…"

  • Is this denigration "recent"? Is this the first time in human history that wage earners and serfs have resented those whose incomes are chiefly derived from collecting rent?
  • This sentiment exists today, but you'll notice that (as of 2010) one sees very little anger directed at artists, musicians, or figures such as Steve Jobs, who are clearly working hard to create things the public finds valuable. Instead, the public is enraged by the top management of GM, who has been selling essentially the same Suburban for twenty years regardless of a changes in taste and politics, or the fund managers of Wall Street, who either consciously or not (not sure which is better) sustained the great credit bubble and managed to hold onto their jobs in the fallout.
  • Glenn, I propose that what you're seeing has nothing to do with progressivism; it's a near-universal reaction against those who prove that unfairness exists even in America, a country which ought to have higher ideals; those who challenge America's identity.

"After a while, people start to think to themselves: Maybe I don't want to be rich after all. Wealth isn't something to be admired; it's something to be avoided…"

  • Is this really the biggest problem that our society faces today? That young people just don't want to be rich anymore; that they underachieve because they're afraid of making too much money? Frankly, Glenn, I just don't believe that insufficient love of money has been or ever will be a problem anywhere.

"So people borrow, they spend, they live the high life, and, sure enough, they are never wealthy. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

  • I don't follow. Are we meant to believe that wealth is denigrated so much that people just want to pretend that they have it but back away from being rich in private? That the citizenry only feel comfortable conforming to the social pressure to be poor when no one's watching?

"The reason this is so important is that fewer wealthy citizens means fewer jobs.

  • By what path of causation do "wealthy citizens" create jobs? Good jobs are created by a number of things, including innovative ideas which often originate in publicly funded universities or research institutes, and a large middle class which can afford to buy these innovate products in significant numbers. (Take a look at China, who has not only a prodigious number of people but also "wealthy citizens," but whose high-skilled job creation is stifled because there are simply not enough moderately wealthy people to buy high-tech products).

Fewer jobs means fewer people to take care of others, which in turn allows the government to make a case that is has to step in to fill the void.

  • Are we meant to believe that "progressivism" is a government propaganda campaign designed to defeat charity? Isn't it possible that some of the fine folks in Washington D.C. might want to raise taxes so they can take care of things like securing the country or educating your kids, and really have no intention of stopping you from dropping a few coins in the Salvation Army box?

After all, if individuals were still willing and able to engage in private, willful charity and philanthropy (as used to be the tradition), we wouldn't need government to do it."

  • Glenn, what evidence do we have that a substantial amount of 'willful charity and philanthropy" has ever been "the tradition" for more than a very small percentage of society? How much charity do you reckon the average Irish immigrant or Native American or slave was receiving in, say, 1830?

…But virtue requires morality, and morality requires adherence to a religion that embraces charity as a pillar of its theology and recognizes a higher power than the government.

  • Do you mean to imply that those who do not "adhere to a religion" cannot be virtuous or moral, or is "require" just a poorly chosen word?

In all seriousness, Glenn, I value your attempt to shake the average American out of his complacent stupor. As it happens, I have a few ideas of my own on the subject. Let's let some immigrants in. How better to instill competitive, entrepreneurial vigor into Backyard Bill than to move him next door to Salim, the computer genius from Calcutta who has never taken a weekend off, and inform the two that they're competing for the same job? How better to instill the guilt of consumption into Mary Jane than to move her next door to Rosa and the other ten members of the Hernandez clan living next door to wait for picking season? And then, to make sure that Bill has a leg to stand on and Mary Jane knows enough Spanish to invite her neighbors over for tea-- to make sure that they engage the world beyond rather than evading it and being defeated by it-- why not give both of them a first-class, government-funded education?