Christian Anarchy

How can one be a Christian and an Anarchist?

China Trip October 2006

I'm back from my eighth trip to China in 12 years. Here's some observations I've made.

No, the monkeys are not related to me... (Monkeys at Wuhan's Forrest Park).

Quickly changing.

    Since my first trip in 1994 things have changed so much in China.  Whenever I stay in China, I'm staying with family or friends so I do not have the perspective of a tourist, but rather a guest.  My wife's parents have retired from their positions as college professors and they have changed from one apartment to a larger one.  They have increased their spending habits over that time span and they have more disposable income even as they have retired.  
    I've seen the construction soar over this time span.  They have gone from everyone using shovels and wheelbarrows to now they have big front-end loaders and mechinized construction equipment.  They still do many things by hand, but machines are definitely playing a major part.  There were only a handful of "McDonalds" in Beijing on my first trip but now they are all over China.  Other major chains are KFC and Pizza Hut.  Never seen a Burger King or other major player in the burger wars. 
    Even though China has the fastest growing interstate tollway system in the world (now second in miles only to the US freeway system) the train system is still the most convienent way of travel between cities.  Here my Treo 650 Bluetooth GPS unit is showing 95mph on steel wheels and rails.

Traffic and cars in China.

    Private cars were almost non-existant in 94 but now they are everywhere.  My wife never even saw a taxi when she was growing up in the 70's but by 94 there were lots of them.  Now the private car is taking over and many middle class have their own car (yes, there are middle and upper class in this "socialist" country).  Most of the cars are made by what are called "joint venture" automobile manufacturers.  They are companies like GM or VW who chose to build their cars in China but 51% of the joint venture company is owned by the Chinese government.  Cars by VW, GM, Audi, Honda, and Toyota are built in China.  Cost of these cars are similar to prices in the US.  Import cars are very expensive as the gov taxes them 100% and more.  I've seen the following imported cars:  Mercedes are the most common followed by BMW.  I've seen a handful of Cadilacs and about half as many Lincolns.  I saw one BMW two-seat sports car.  A couple of years back I saw a H1 Hummer and this last trip I saw an H2.  Never seen a Harley or any kind of "classic" automobiles.  This last trip I saw my first motor-home in China.  It was a smaller version built on a nice sized chassis with a diesel engine.
    NO ONE DRIVES A PICKUP TRUCK !!  It's hard to believe after living in the US where everyone (including myself) seems to have a pickup truck - they almost don't exist in China.  I've seen some mid-sized crew cab pickups in China but these seem to all be owned by utility companies.  They also have a huge bus that has a rear bed so it's like a super crew cab and it is also used by work crews.  On this last trip, I did see one crew cab pickup that did seem to be owned privately, but it may have just been an unmarked company vehicle.  On my first trip, I saw a toyota pickup in Wuhan that had a US licence plate on it so it must have been owned by a US worker living in China.

    There are plenty of "black taxi's" in China.  These are private vehicles that the owner uses as a taxi without paying the tax to become an official taxi.  They are easily spotted sitting along the road waiting for someone to hire them.  They will actively solicit your business.  
    Gas prices are running about $2.50 per gallon when converted from their price per liter.  They HAVE NOT seen a reduction in prices over the last several months like we have (they don't have an upcoming election). 

Paper products.

    Chinese people are funny about paper products.  It seems that a paper napkin is more valuable than money there.  You must always pack your own paper as you will not find any provided in restrooms or even many restaurants.  I've never even seen a paper-towel roll in any supermarket or store there.  Everything is "cleaned" with old rags (usually not to clean looking).  
    They also have a strange belief that is nation-wide that you cannot flush toilet paper down the toilet or it will plug the system.  I have personally proven this to be false as I always flush paper down the toilet and as long as you are careful not to flush a great deal of it, it will not clog.  If you tell them this, it's almost insulting to them.  They are horrified by the idea of flushing paper.  I find their practice of putting little waste baskets next to the toilet to put the soiled paper into more horifying.  


    Chinese people believe cold drinks are not good for you.  Hence you will have a hard time finding any.  Even coke is usually room temperature.  Getting a drink served with ice in it is even harder than finding a refrigerated drink as they also don't like the idea of the ice watering down their drinks.  This is changing also and my wife's mother now takes a frozen bottle of water with her on her walks.  During a summer shopping trip a year ago we were also able to find some vendors selling frozen water bottles.  

Happy Valley.

    This last trip we went to one of the newest attractions in Beijing, the Happy Valley Amusement Park.  It's kinda like Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm.  There are several roller coasters, including a "flying" roller coaster (like the "Superman" one).  They have everything you would expect at such a park.  There's the 3d movie, several stunt performances, larger than life rock castles and props.  It's the largest such park in Asia and we really were only able to go through half of it because they close much to early.  We were there last Friday and the park shut down the rides at 5pm and closed the park at 6pm.  They need to work on that a bit.

Police State.

    Most think of China as a communist police state and I was surprised on my first trip there in 94 to find that was not really the case.  Make no mistake, they will arrest anyone they consider a "dissident" but then so will we.  They have a looser designation of what that means however, we are catching up with them quickly (ala "patriot" act).
    There "police" were far less intimidating than ours are.  In fact, they do not carry guns.  Many have a billy club, but only "detectives" carry guns.  I've witnessed two arrests in my many trips there and in neither case did I see the kind of brutality that our police seem to engage in.  One time a guy was getting arrested for trying to steal a bicycle and two cops grabbed him and stuck him in a motorcycle sidecar.  One cop drove and the other was sitting backward on the front of the sidecar trying to hold the suspect in the sidecar and striking him.  At least he wasn't pluggin him full of holes with a 9mm.  Another time A guy in the shopping mall was trying to steal purses and all the women there started hitting him and held him there until the cop arrived.  
    I've never been harrassed in any way by the "authorities" here.  One time, we rode the train from Wuhan to Beijing and after arrival they found that I had a "resident" ticket instead of a "tourist" ticket and took us to the office to pay the difference in ticket price.  All the while I was complaining in English about how the whole thing was an inconvenience and how this kind of treatment would be bad for tourism.  Although I know they could not understand me, they could tell I was very upset and loud.  They sheepishly told my wife what the difference was and she paid it.  They did nothing to me.  I know that in this country the police are taught to control the situation and if any suspect gets loud that he must be put in his place even if it means using force.  I've never seen this kind of behavior by Chinese police.  Most of the time, the police cars get passed by other motorists without fear.  When they are driving with their lights blinking, no one pays any attention to them and they have to fight through traffic like every other poor sap.  Their police cars are ordinary cars with nothing more than some lights and a two-way radio bolted into the console.  No computers, no shotguns, no trunk full of weapons, no loudspeakers to holler at offenders, and no "tough cop" attitude that I ever saw.  Maybe these guys haven't been told that they are supposed to be in a police state.
    As far as freedom, the Chinese have some freedoms restricted but they also have some that we gave up long ago.  They are left alone in their family matters.  If a couple gets into an argument, they don't arrest the husband and charge him with abuse.  If a parent spanks his child, he won't even get an eye turned his way.  Then there's the "one child" policy in China (see next subject).

Forced Abortion.

    There's a great deal of rumor going around in this country about how the Chinese gov will force women who have more than one child to get an abortion, or even worse, if they have the second child, that the gov will come and kill it!  I will tell you that this is BS.
    My wife has two different uncles who each have four daughters.  They wanted a son and just kept having kids but gave up after four.  It is unusual for families in China to have more than one child but it's due to economic pressure on the household.  If you are a government official and have a second child, you will lose your position.  If you are a government worker and have a second child, you might lose your job depending on your position.  If you either work for yourself in a business or work for a foreign corporation and have a second or more child, the only thing the gov can do to you is take away your family's social healthcare.  Many families feel that they would rather have the children and take their chances with their health coverage.  In China, there's no free health care to uncovered persons.  If you don't have health coverage, don't show up at the hospital emergency room cause they won't treat you.  So much for "socialism"...
    If you think about it, how could the population of China be increasing if they really were enforcing this one child policy??  In fact, after over 25 years of this policy, the gov is now admiting that these 1 - 4 families are not good (one grandchild to four grandparents).  They are now changing their policy to two children per family (some will still have more).

 hits since 11-11-06