What is the situation in Tibet? Tibet and Mongolia were taken over by China about 60 years ago. Unlike the USA, the Chinese government is still struggling to define its borders. We know we have 50 states and no more – and we seek no new territory. But China continues to fight against dissidents in those areas they confiscated which is why the Chinese suspect the Americans of military troubles. And in fact Japan, which has very little land and most of that mountains, would love to annex parts of Northern China. Because Japan has a military treaty with the USA China feels sure that we will defend Japan if she ever tries to take Chinese land. China hates Japan more than any nation, so our being friends with them makes the USA China’s enemy. China also fears we will defend Taiwan against a takeover. By the way, China has good reason to fear Japan.
Does China have superior military? China has put a great deal of money into the navy. China’s most productive land is on the shoreline and the mountains on the west protect China from enemies coming from that direction. However, the USA still rules the skies (air force.) The Chinese military, unlike the Communist government, is not considered corrupt. It is very highly structured and disciplined.
What is the Chinese New Year? From about Jan 26-February 14th the Chinese take a long vacation when schools and shops close. Families get together and have huge meals with too much food, just like our Christmas. Since no one is allowed to have a gun, they can set off fireworks which can go on for hours. However, some hunters in the barely inhabited areas do have rifles for wolves and other predators.
Why do you go there? Officially I am an “investor” but I invest in the Chinese people. My experience as a multi-linguist helps me tutor adults in advanced English and makes them better teachers. Since China is poorly taught about foreigners, I want them to know the real America. The Chinese are ready learners and it is a joy for a classroom teacher to have such enthusiastic students.
Can you recommend some books about China? My favorite for adults is Chinese Lessons by John Pomfret now in paperback. Bill Gertz is a writer who knows a great deal about the Chinese military. A profile of Christianity in China can be found in Jesus in Beijing. China has changed so much I would recommend blogs over books right now and there are many. Escape from Tiananmen is an autobiography of a student who survived during and after the uprising purge. Most of the people who contested the government in 1989 did not live through it, but this young man came to America. I would recommend that for kids. ANY reference to that uprising is forbidden in China; one does not see Tiananmen references in magazines or newspapers; it is like it never happened, but people over 20 remember. Read about it on Wikipedia. River Town by Peter Hessler is good too.
What is daily life like for you in China? China does not have the public utilities we have here. For example, a toilet seat in a public bathroom is rare. Because the sewer systems are not modern, one does not throw toilet paper in the commode, but puts it in a plastic bag. That makes travel outside of the most expensive hotels a real strain. Since most American travelers stay only in good hotels they do not see this side of Chinese life. A private car for a foreigner is not a good idea, so we take taxis and buses everywhere – or walk. Public transportation is excellent, and the cell phones work wonderfully; cell phones are the glue holding China together. The service is cheap and easy to get. There are almost NO dairy products anywhere except for yogurt – no butter, no cheese (no pizza worth eating), no American goods except Pepsi. Except for birds and fish pets are rare. Because most people do not speak English you have to use sign language and a lot of guessing to get things done, so the Americans tend to stick together. Chinese food is excellent and cheap! Farmers may have single-family dwellings but city folk have apartments which are devoid of items we expect, like a refrigerator, stove, oven, not even cabinets. Also nearly all Chinese food except rice is stir-fried. A woman can prepare a meal for 8 in less than ½ hour. There are no elevators in buildings under 6 stories; the Chinese are very healthy with all that stair-work, and they ride bicycles most of the time.
I hear there is no freedom of religion. The Chinese Constitution allows freedom of religion BUT, there are 10 pages of exceptions and qualifications. Parents are not allowed to discuss God with their own children until age 18. Churches must be registered and preach the party line but many do not. Officially the Communist Party requires members to be atheists but Chinese children are naturally believers in God. I frequently asked them! “Do you believe in God?” Without hesitation they would say Yes. China has a rich history of theism so in recent years Buddhism is encouraged, Christianity smothered, and others tolerated. While the official number of Christians is 1% in actual fact it is over 10 million because there are so many underground churches and believers. You can read about Chinese Christians in prison online at Voice of the Martyrs.