Category Archives: People

Should everyone work as hard as the Chinese and Americans? No. Nuh-uh. Nope | Helen Lewis | Comment is free | The Guardian

The fuss about Jeremy Corbyn’s recent holiday is ridiculous. Every human being needs a break

Source: Should everyone work as hard as the Chinese and Americans? No. Nuh-uh. Nope | Helen Lewis | Comment is free | The Guardian

When the idiot George Osborne talked about Britons working as hard as the Chinese, I thought, er, “What an idiot.”

As far as I can tell, the only people who work hard in China are migrant workers, peasant farmers, and foreign teachers on international programmes. As one of the comments on the article said, there’s a lot of presenteeism here from the women in supermarkets who stand around gossiping all day to office workers who only do anything when the boss turns up to school librarians who sit around making sure no one goes near the books themselves.

In China, it’s all about the outward appearance of hard work, but this is really a culture of minimalism. At school, pupils do as little as they possibly can to complete work (e.g. responses to text types – write it once to perfection!), an attitude which follows them through their lives.

When I go back to the office after class, I inevitably have work to do; and even when I’ve finished that, I’m usually thinking about what I need to do next. There is occasional faffing about, but that tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

I also hasten to add that the age of retirement for women in China is 55, and 60 for men, and that’s followed by a lifetime of pension payments (though not necessarily for everyone). And so for a lifetime of turning up at work inhumanly early in the morning (well, to a point; we’re still in a lot earlier than the admin staff), taking 90-minute lunches, and avoiding hard work, there’s a nice little reward at the end.

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Ikea’s sleepy customers – in pictures | Business | theguardian.com

Ikea’s sleepy customers – in pictures | Business | theguardian.com.

If only this was quite as it seems. In fact, most of the sleeping in Ikea in China tends to be done in the sofa section, which is usually near the entrance. And the Chinese don’t just sleep on them. I’ve also seen women changing babies on the display furniture without the slightest regard for anyone else.

In China, there are two sorts of people – conspicuous consumers, who think nothing of wasting huge amounts of money on, say, overpriced handbags (or products from Ikea), and the rest who may not be that impoverished, but are cheap.

These are the people like the good ol’ boys who used to watch DVDs in the Walmart down 青石路 even although they were never ever going to buy the player or the screen.

These are the people who sit on the banks of chairs in bookshops reading books, but almost certain never buying them.

These are the people who never get the brakes on their electric bikes replaced, but use their feet as brakes instead; and who don’t replace the lights either.

A lot of people don’t have 2角 to rub together, but the culture of parsimony remains widespread in China even among people who don’t need to pinch pennies to that degree.

Since I wrote this this morning, pictures of two bright young female things flaunting copious quantities of cash have been mentioned on line today. One is alleged to have made the money from betting on the World Cup (although isn’t gambling illegal in China?), and the other appears to be some vulgar nouveau riche sporting sums of money beyond most of the rest of the population of the planet yet not above flaunting herself in bra and knickers on a bed heaped with ¥100 notes.

From the annals of scepticism

Putting the ‘cred’ into ‘credulity’.

In this morning’s post, I forgot to mention the recent survey which claimed that China was the most atheist country in the world. If this was some measure of how enlightened the place was, then there might be something to celebrate, but I wonder whether the wrong question was being asked. Also, there’s a difference between being an atheist and being sceptical about a whole range of beliefs.

For one thing, there was no shortage of people making offerings to the idols in 雍和宫 in Beijing, or 青羊宫 and 大慈 in Chengdu even if, I believe, they tend to pray for very modern things. There’s no shortage of churches in Fuzhou or people to attend them, and there are plenty of temples to native deities as well.

Although there are native Chinese gods, I’m not aware of them being organised per se. Buddhism and Daoism got thrown into the pot, and like the Roman Empire, China seems to have been fairly pluralistic. I know there were phases when the Bu­ddh­ists or Daoists were predominant, and one side or the other was persona non gratia. The situation was, I presume, different from the schism between the Cath­ol­ic and Protestant churches in Europe, and no one here ever thought that their religion should be imposed on others whether they were willing or not.

Lazy and getting fatter

Not quite me, though.

I needed to buy some more water this evening. When I went to the shop, there was a boy in a toy Lamborghini, celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary. In my day, it might’ve been a pedal car, but this one was battery-powered.

It was like the Escalator or Moving Walkway Problem. When there is no one to bar the way, why do the Chinese still just stand there doing nothing? If the pavements were all converted to moving walkways, would anyone walk further than the distance necessary to cross an intersection?

So instead of this child putting the effort in to driving himself around, he’s already been introduced to the idea that other things make all the effort and he is merely conveyed. I bet his parents will drive him to school, where he’ll sit at his desk most of the day.

There was an article in, er, some blog I read about Chinese students at top American universities which included an American from Yale at Peking University. Her tale was about how the students from Yale left writing an essay to the last minute while the Chinese students had taken care of it long before. She also marvelled at all the diagrams and complex data which they had included.

Clearly she’s no Old China Hand or she’d know that they’d probably written a gestalt essay larded with pretty pictures to hide a lack of content and intellectual depth, and first draft = final draft in China. I have yet to encounter a student who understood that what they write is merely a bad, unplanned first draft.

The Chinese students obviously needed a kick up the arse for being lazy in one way, while the Yale students needed the same kick for being lazy in another way. Neither group used their time wisely.

Rust in pieces

You evil woman.

As you might guess, I did not like Margaret Thatcher. In fact, I loathed her and all that she stood for. I didn’t loathe her in the same way the miners did, but rather because just as James I and Charles I believed in the Divine Right of Kings, so Thatcher believed in the Divine Right of Prime Ministers, and Blair after her. That kind of pseudo-religious fervour makes me uncomfortable because it’s blind and unthinking, and it’s expected that the adherents should be just as blind and unthinking. In the same vein, I could never abide the Tories inability to com­pre­hend that not everyone is born with the same opportunities and that hard work is not always rewarded.

There always seemed to be a little too much of “I’m wealthy; my friends are wealthy; how can the rest of society not be as successful as me?”

I also loathed her because of her destructive impact on the universities, which, I suspect, had its roots in Oxford refusing to award her with an honorary degree. One course of the destruction was regarding universities as mere adjuncts to business and industry (up with science; down with humanities); another course of the destruction was allowing polys to award degrees, which effectively increased the number of universities. This might look good on paper, but it devalued degrees. It also seemed to allow the government to play the spoilt university student card. The populace, by and large not so privileged, were not going to foot the bill for so many indolent middle class layabouts.

The whole business almost certainly contributed to my stillborn academic career as the universities were vindictively squeezed while being encouraged to overburden themselves with students.

Eventually, I came to see Thatcher as a dinosaur whose views and attitudes were out of date and belonged to a different age. She seemed to be as out of touch with reality as every other tyrant is. (Oddly enough – if I might be permitted an aside – I tend to see the EU in much the same way: it is an organisation which is a consequence of the aftermath of World War II, but which makes less sense in the modern world.)

I see the funeral is going to cost £10 million and that William Hague is saying the country can afford it. I’m sure it can, William, but there are much better and undoubtedly more urgent things on which to spend that sort of money than some divisive and deranged old woman.

Walk-down-the-cycle-lane Day

Why use the pavement when you can be a hazard?

Was today Walk-down-the-cycle-lane Day in the City of Pyjama-clad Clowns? I went to do some shopping at Carrafour after I’d had a chat to Mum and Dad on Skype this morning and found myself having to manoeuvre around even more zombies than usual. This wasn’t one of those instances when there were four-wheeled cretins parked all over the pavement and I’m inclined to be forgiving. No, it was one of those occasions when there was no need for there to be any zombies roaming around the cycle lane.

I don’t know whether I’m imagining it, but there also seem to have been a lot of zombie yokels around this weekend. In fact, they could be the ones walking along the cycle lanes.

Nationalism in a foreign tongue

The eloquence of Chinglish.

This afternoon after I come out of 远东百货 after l’expedition de la shopping (as they say in authentic, 21st-century French), there’s a white Buick (elsewhere known as a Vauxhall, I believe). On the front wings is emblazoned “F_ck Japan” and on the rear in Japanese (for which I cannot vouch) and Chinglish is “Japanese and dogs no nearing”. (I’ve seen that somewhere before.) I assume that the sentiment on the front wings can’t be expressed in Chinese without the risk of prosecution, but I also can’t help but note the irony that apart from a little 汉字, not a word of this is in the woman’s native language.

I can only conclude that nationalism in this more refined age is a quite international affair. Extraterrestrials had better watch out. The people of Earth stand united in blinkered idiocy.

Mr Bamboo, Etiquette Teacher

In, The Vegetable Clump.

I hate getting vegetables weighed and priced in Carrefour because there’s often a clump of people around the scales. Sometimes there’s something approximating to a queue, but there’s nothing to say that someone won’t approach the scales from some other direction and then just push in as they please.

Today there was a clump and seeing that one woman had got trapped behind her trolley, I manoeuvred around her, but knew I would be a polite boy if things didn’t go in order. Indeed they didn’t. Some younger woman, oblivious of the running order, pushed in ahead of me and Mrs Apples, and when she pulled a pomelo out of her basket, I stopped her and let Mrs Apples have her turn after which it was mine. Pomelo 太太 could bloody well wait.

BBC News – The search for photos of China’s past

BBC News – The search for photos of China’s past.

This is an interesting article about photos of a China which has largely gone. It’s the loss of the old which has motivated me to take photographs because even in my three years in Wuxi, much has vanished and I’ve often wondered whether any the locals have bothered to record old neighbourhoods before they’ve got demolished.

Unfortunately, my pictures are all contemporary so that the rickshaws and the traditional styles of dress or the sedan chairs are nowhere to be seen. But perhaps in some cases that’s not such a bad thing.