Lessons from China

Pollution in Beijing

Beijing’s smog is wretched. What’s going on here shouldn’t be allowed.  We’d heard that the capital of China was polluted, but it’s truly horrifying.  It makes LA smog look like child’s play. The first two days that we were here, you could NOT see more than 5 blocks away – locals verified that it wasn’t fog, but pollution.  In fact, we kept trying to say, “this is fog, right?”  And they’d say “no, it’s sunny today.”  There was no sun to be seen. 

The Great Wall of China

It is spectacular and was the highlight of our trip to China.  We hiked about 20 miles of it.  We couldn’t get enough of it.  We had very good weather for our hike, so we were lucky. The great wall is 5,500 miles long, which would stretch from Boston to Los Angeles, then back again. In other words, it took us 2 days to hike 0.36% of the wall.

Exercise Culture in the Retired Community

Retirees exercise in local parks with simple jungle gym installments.  It’s huge there.  This is something that we need to bring back to the US.

Read more about our attempt to join the community in our post from Xian

The Great Firewall of China

It’s real. Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Bloomberg, Dropbox, the NY Times, and the Economist are all blocked… I literally don’t know how to look for things any more without Google and I was forced to obtain a Yahoo account.  I want my US freedoms back… along with all these websites. 

Gender Biases

I’m here to report that they are alive and well here.  We received a tour from an Economics graduate student at Peking University, which is widely regarded as the top liberal arts university in China.   Several comments made by the Chinese male student giving us the tour: (1) “Men are supposed to provide for the family.  Women are the housewives.” (2) “Men are more competitive than women.” (3) “In finance, bank teller jobs are more suitable for women.  Men work in different areas of finance, the more competitive ones.” (4) And this one came from a female student when describing the arts vs. the sciences: “Our minds (female minds) don’t have the same abilities as their minds (male minds).” 

Child Rearing Restrictions in China

China increased its 1 child policy to a 2 child policy in 2016. Families in rural areas, however, found it beneficial to have large families because it meant more farmers to work on the land. Many families gave birth to more than 1 child and never reported it to the government. This led to a very large population of undocumented citizens in China. The country is trying to fix this by offering pardons to people who come forward without an ID. The tax for having more than 1 child is hefty, some reported $20-30k per child.

Trump Support

The majority of people we met in China liked Donald Trump. A few told us that they think he will be very good for our country. I’m sure he must have pissed off a ton of people when he took a call from the minister of Taiwan in early 2017. The younger population cited his business genius that they witnessed on The Apprentice and that he truly represents the American dream. 

Benefits from Relocation

We’ve read about and oftentimes condemned the Chinese government’s practice of uprooting rural families and relocating them to slum like quarters in cities. We didn’t find anything to completely refute this case, but we did find the flipside of the coin. In Shanghai, families with run-down older homes in desirable neighborhoods are being paid large sums (typically in the form of valuable apartments) in other places in the city). In some cases, a family might be given 3 large apartments in return for a small 2 bedroom shack in an area that will be replaced by Shanghai’s skyscrapers. Surely the government hasn’t done right in all cases, but how do you improve the livelihood of a country with 1.3 billion people!? That’s like running 4 USAs!


Bring your own toilet paper.  For real.  Bring it everywhere.  It’s a scarce commodity here.

Squatting holes

They’re the norm.  Even on China’s advanced, high speed train, you won’t find toilets, but squatting holes on board.