China puts the economy before the environment
After years of ignoring the negative effects China’s rapid economic development had on its environment, the country is currently implementing a hands-on policy to protect its natural heritage. In 2006, China put into place “The Renewable Energy Law,” to change the structure of its energy supply. In addition, with the help of state subsidies, in 2009 Chinese companies became world leaders in solar cell production. On top of that, new targets for reducing carbon emissions have been set for 2020, which could make China a global leader in the race to slow global warming.
While new policies are adopted, China’s forests have been growing rapidly over the past 20 years, making them the fastest growing forest resources in the world, according to an assessment published in BioScience in 2009. However, China is not quite there yet, say the authors, “China still faces grave challenges in pollution control and biodiversity conservation. The next decade is a critical period for China to engage all stakeholders in protecting its rich and unique biodiversity.”
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Chinese is the hardest language in the world
If we were to believe Chinese Studies Academic Director David Moser, learning Chinese for a native English speaker takes about the same effort as, let’s say, learning to kill goats by staring at them. One of the difficulties lies in the fact that it’s a tonal language. “How is it possible that shùxué means “mathematics” while shūxuě means “blood transfusion”, or that guòjiǎng means “you flatter me” while guǒjiàng means “fruit paste?” Moser wonders about this and more in his article ‘Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard.’
The fact that Chinese language has a huge number of characters doesn’t help either. Nor that it’s a lot less phonetic than most Western languages. However, without downplaying the difficulties associated with learning Chinese, it is not the hardest language to learn; that dubious honor goes to Japanese, with its 94 Hiragana, Katakana, and auxiliary symbols, Japanese also has Chinese characters each of which has more than one reading.” According to a recent study rating most difficult non-Latin alphabet languages, Chinese came in third. So is Chinese hard to learn? Most certainly. But the hardest language in the world: no.
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The Communist Party controls China’s Internet
Yes, China’s Internet-filtering technology is probably more sophisticated than those of other authoritarian regimes. The “Golden Shield” project, for example, that was implemented in 1998, is still in place. Nicknamed the Great Firewall of China, its main function its to censor and control the internet. A special Internet Police Force was also created to keep Chinese citizens from going to the wrong websites. However, a recent study shows that anti-internet propaganda is actually a more successful method of censorship than these fancy technologies and special forces. Currently, most people who do not trust the the web are also non-users.
The amount of internet-users, on the other hand, is growing rapidly, as even China’s propaganda machine is not immune to the effects of mass communication and globalization. “Cover-up” incidents that were revealed by the internet, such as the melamine milk scandal, caused the Chinese to become more sceptical of their government and more aware of its control over information. Whenever there is breaking news — a serious public safety incident or a big anti-government demonstration — the Internet is quickly filled with coverage and criticisms of the government. By the time the censors restore some control, the political damage is done.
China’s one-child policy is responsible for its gender imbalance
It’s nothing new: China is dealing with a severe gender imbalance. Normally, about 105 boys are born for every 100 girls (boys are more likely to die before reaching a fertile age; this is nature’s way of keeping the balance). Today however, 121 boys are born for every 100 girls. Currently most scholars believe that culture, as opposed to nature, is responsible for this gender gap. In other words: China displays a cultural preference for boys. Add this to the country’s one-child policy, and a connection between the two seems to make perfect sense.
A recent study shows, however, that although China’s OCP is party responsible for its gender imbalance, it is definitely not the only culprit. The researchers examined the son-daughter ratio among ethnic minorities in China, for whom the fertility restrictions are less stringent. They found that these minorities also produced significantly more sons than daughters. Other studies show that the phenomenon is also visible in countries such as Vietnam and India, and even in some Asian-American populations in the U.S. So although China’s COP does make matters worse, gender inequality remains the biggest problem in the matter.
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Chinese people are hard-wired to be hard workers
The stereotype has been around for a while – as early as 1894, missionary Arthur Smith wrote about the Chinese work ethic in his Chinese Characteristics, describing all Chinese –men, women, rich and poor – as extremely diligent. To some extent, this is true. Due to historical and cultural reasons, most Chinese do tend to view ‘working hard’ as a virtue. A 1985 study that seeks to explain the Chinese work ethic states that “Chinese will work hard when they see possible long-term benefits, in terms of improved material conditions and/or security, for a group with which they identify.”
However, Chinese diligence is only part of the story. There is another reason why Chinese work hard: because they have to. More and more often we hear about Chinese factory workers being exploited by large multinationals, working under terrible circumstances. Last year, China Labor Watch investigated ten electronics factories located in Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces. At every factory, over thirty workers were interviewed. The results: All of the factories’ overtime hours were between 36 and 160 hours per month. Moreover, in nine factories the minimum wage does not meet the living costs of its workers. “The pay is the biggest issue. Based on our investigation, most workers have signed a labor contract so there is some improvement,” says China Labor Watch founder Li Qiang in an interview with the NY Times. “They [the electronics industry] think about how many products they can produce, not about giving the workers a rest.”
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Chinese men have small penises
This misconception does not just exist for the Chinese; supposedly all Asian men do not measure up in the penile department. A tenacious stereotype, considering the fact that no trustworthy study confirms it. There are three reliable penile size studies commonly quoted in literature; none of which even attempt to correlate size with race. The problem with most other studies is that they were based on questionnaires “How long is your penis?”, a question that, even anonymously, most men tend to answer less than truthfully. This explains, for example, why condoms manufacturer Durex revealed that the average is 16cm (6.29”), based on an internet survey held among 2936 men, while a study from the University of California lowered this figure to only 13cm (5.11”).
What remains unclear though, is why there still isn’t any satisfying data to put the whole thing to rest. How hard can it be to conduct a cross-cultural study, that makes use of a significant amount of men from different countries, who’s penises are measured –flaccid and erect- by a team of objective (perhaps female) researchers? We will have to keep waiting for that day to come.
Chinese women are inferior to men
“A woman without knowledge is a woman of virtue”, was once a pretty popular proverb in China. Back in its imperial days, and also in the decades that followed, Chinese women were held under the dominance of a man at every stage of their lives: fathers, husbands and sons. Then along came Mao Zedong, saying things like “women hold up half the sky,” as he understood China’s women were necessary to realize his Cultural Revolution. Today, most scholars agree that although Mao’s revolution inflicted enormous suffering upon society, it did have an upside: Women were encouraged to participate in the workforce and became more equal to men.
In China today women hold 34 percent of senior management positions, compared with 20 percent in America and 12 percent in the EU countries. In addition, 19 percent of these female senior managers are CEO’s. This doesn’t mean, however, that Chinese feminists can lean back; gender discrimination is still prevalent among low-end job holders (the so-called “sticky floor” phenomenon). Women working in factories tend to make less money than men doing the same job. According to economists Li Bo and Chi Wei, who studied the problem, education is the solution: “at the primary-school and middle-school level, we hope compulsory education can change the tradition in the countryside, where women are regarded as inferior to men.”
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China will rule the world
“The China Threat.” “Chinavasion.” As China has shown enormous growth over the last decades, statistics show that at this pace, China will surpass America’s economy within the next twenty years. Martin Jaques, author of ‘When China Rules the World’, claims that China will become the world’s first superpower: “Of course China will not rule the world any more than the United States has ruled the world for the last 60 years, or Britain before. But I think China will, in time, become the most powerful and influential country in the world, and that’s what I mean by ruling the world.”
Most experts, however, disagree with Jaques. Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s international affairs program, points out that the fragile state of the Chinese political system, the growing inequality between the rich and the poor, the lack of freedom of speech, and the bursting of the real estate bubble will disrupt China’s growth. In addition, Dr. Edward N. Luttwak, strategist and historian, adds that China could even become weaker because of its own rising strength. China could become a global strategic power, if it would implement more conciliatory and unassertive foreign policies. History shows, however, this will not be the case. As it goes against human instinct and common sense to become more humble when one’s power is increasing, a rising world power such as China will not lower its guns, thereby ruining its chances of becoming global number one.
China is a Buddhist country
For most people, when thinking about religion in China, Buddhist monks come to mind. Although Buddhism is still an important religion in China, with around 19 percent of the population adhering to it, it is not the largest. Shenism-Taoism is China’s first religion, with over 30 percent of the population adhering to it. Still, the questions of what should be called religion or religious in China is up to debate. Some scholars argue that both Buddhism and Shenism-Taoism should be defined as “thought systems” instead of religions.
What is considered a “real” religion in China, one very much on the rise, is Christianity. Although it is hard to give an exact estimate, it seems clear that the numbers are growing. The government says that China has 25 million Christians (18 million Protestants and six million Catholics). However, according to the CIA World Factbook, this number is about 47 million.
In “Jesus in Beijing”, journalist and historian David Aikman states that at current growth rates, another 300 million may be added to the Christian fold over the next three decades, making China one of the largest Christian countries in the world. According to Aikman, Christianity flourishes in China “because of the ethics of a faith based on a profound hope in the future and a belief that history was not cyclical, as Buddhism and even Confucianism proclaimed, but linear, and with a specific end goal.”
Mao was not directly responsible for China’s Great Famine
Although the numbers still differ depending on the source, currently it is estimated that China’s Great Famine between 1958 and 1961 led to somewhere between 20 to 43 million deaths. But who was responsible for these years of mass starvation? According to the official explanation by the central government, it was the lack of experience with socialist construction, leftist mistakes and the weather that can be held accountable for the failure of the Great Leap Forward, and indirectly, the famine. Mao’s role in the famine, and whether he was aware of it during his reign as chairman, remains unclear.
In ‘The Great Famine’, Frank Dikötter argues that Mao indeed deserves all the blame. Quoting a Chinese document that was recently declassified, Dikötter states that in one of his speeches, Mao said that “It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.” “Mao was sent many reports about what was happening in the countryside,” Diktötter states in his article in the New York Times, “some of them scribbled in longhand. He knew about the horror, but pushed for even greater extractions of food.”
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