Zero Hours

Source: Zero Hours


Local Walkabout – Shanghai, China

A lot of people post their travel blogs here, which is great, but I’d love to see more local walkabouts in various countries around the world, getting into the grit of real life.

Now, I’m no photographer, and I made no effort to pretend otherwise, but here’s a bunch of photos of my area, no more than 5 minute’s walk from my home in any direction, in the heart of Shanghai, China. Hopefully my descriptions will add some actual value to the sub-par images. So please enjoy the journey with me!

So first up, we have this little enclosed business area with a nice restaurant which is within visual range of my apartment. It’s not interesting in and of itself, but in context of it’s surrounding, I thought it symbolic of the substantial wealth divide rampant in the city/country.


A few metres away, a typical public toilet. For those who have read my article about toilets in China, your imagination should be running wild by now.


As you walk, you can see a school is around somewhere…


To continue, you have to go through a couple of small shack homes pretty much. It looks as if they have been there for many years and urbanization has done its best to consume its surroundings and make it public.


Around on the side of the little house is a sign in Chinese saying ‘If you want one of our plants you can just ask, stop stealing our shit’ – more or less.


Here you can see the rich area immediately behind, and some random biker just casually passing through.


‘Great wall’ internet. 50M is not particularly fast in Shanghai, you can easily get double, but it’s actually faster than I’d ever get back in England (I mean, for the price I’d pay). Right now I have 50M for 90GBP per year.


Not the best of photos, but I wanted to demonstrate how just about any small home can become a store, and this guy had been doing quite well running a fruit stall until the authorities made all the shops keep to their assigned spaces and to stop spreading onto the street. Now he’s left with a few measly benches of peaches and barely gets by.


On my way to work, I like to go down these little secret alleyways where the poor families tend to reside. Behind this blue door is a space a little larger than a single bed. Many people use this space as storage down this alley, but at least half of them serve as actual bed-sized homes. It’s quite something to observe when walking down here at night and you get a little peak at them watching a tiny TV with a tiny fan blowing in their faces.


Trash is typically picked up… infrequently, and most of these trash areas are overflowing for some days, usually until the weekend. In some cases, the piles continue to grow for weeks at a time. On the way to work, one sometimes fills up the entire street until it becomes impossible for cars to actually get by.


Graffiti in training


About 2 years ago somebody came up with the bright idea of putting cigarettes into grab machines, and you can pretty much see them everywhere now. Hardly a surprise given that at least 350 million people smoke in China.


When the trash piles get to a certain size, you can sometimes see weird little auctions where an old lady has been curating various bits of useful trash and others can come and buy it from her, I suppose?


In the midst of all the housing there lies a secret, female-only temple.


This guy will unlock any door. I’ve been locked out a few times. It’s quite disconcerting that he can just waltz up to any home and break in silently without a care in the world, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.


Getting into the more populated areas now, you can see the monstrous buildings hiding behind the residential areas.


Dogs are rapidly becoming a family treasure here, and we’re seeing a growing discomfort with the eating of dogs, and the festivals of dog slaughter, like Yulin Dog Festival, in which 10,000 or more dogs are tortured and skinned alive before eating, because the suffering they go through makes them taste better. Apparently.



Street food is pretty amazing here. Who knows how safe, but I’d say at least 40% safe.


Directly across the street you start to see more modern Shanghai. This cafe opened just a few months ago and is proving to be incredibly popular, with customers out the door most days. It turns out the owner of this restaurant is from Hong Kong and is a high school friend of my long-time Hong Kong friend. I’ve yet to take advantage of that via discounts… but I will.


One of the good things about Shanghai is that they are doing very well at making the city greener. You’ll find most streets lined with trees like this, and in the narrower, French colonial streets, they block the sunlight and create a wonderfully nature-shaded walk. Given the mega city Shanghai is and its mass of cars and pollution, the ubiquitous trees and plants are a very welcome addition.


I’d say this hospital is about 6 minutes away from my home. This is where I got my toenail removed after it became ingrown. It’s not a good hospital. They removed the whole nail, something that is outdated and generally a bad idea, then they made me return several times to agonisingly and ruthlessly tear off the bandaging and replace it. But the very act of replacing it re-opened the wound and just made matters worse. I took it into my own hands and it healed quickly. Then it grew back even worse and I now live with daily blood stained socks until I find a more decent hospital on the cheap (Work does not provide insurance). Story of my life.


Going into the subway…


Down we go. Shanghai has one of the biggest subway systems in the world, and despite its size, a place like downtown Shanghai will see some outrageous numbers of people during rush hour, as you can see:


Technology is pretty substantial under here. You can scan your phone on this machine and charge your subway card, which also can be used to pay for taxis, buses and all that.

The app you use to scan can also pay for bills, book cinema tickets, flights, book restaurants and all sorts. Pretty amazing stuff.


Buses outside in this central Shanghai area are powered by electricity. You can see the kind of tram lines above this bus.


Saw this overtly proud backpacker


The recent crazy of shared bikes is another pretty wonderful addition to Shanghai and other cities around the country. One day, bright orange and silver bikes popped up out of nowhere on the streets – Mobikes. You scan their QR code and you can download a fully English app where you can locate the bikes in your area (always at least one within a few metres, it seems), then you scan the bike code which unlocks the wheels.

Per use, you will pay between 0.5 RMB and 1RMB (around 10cents), depending on the bike.

Within no time, a new, bright yellow, Chinese language only bike came about – OFO. Many prefer this because it’s cheaper, more ‘bike-like’ in comfort and other issues. Within the week you had blue, even cheaper bikes, green electric bikes and now there are even shiny golden bikes.

It’s a little overwhelming, filling the streets and causing problems, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Quality of life has gone up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see pollution data fall in the near future.


Sometimes it really does come across like the government can’t physically see residential homes and just blindly build giants on top. In reality, the government has the right to demolish and build on any area, and give homeowners a deadline to get out. They do get a rather comfortable compensation (well in Shanghai, at least), but some simply refuse to leave. In some cases the government, rather than make a big fuss about it, simply build around those homes.


If you look really carefully, you’ll see two Starbucks in this single image. Can you spot them?


You’ll often find a lot of interesting information, maps and the like on various walls, even back-streets like this one.


One of my favourite things about East Asia is the love of secret little Cafes. Some do not advertise at all or even have a sign on the front, but simply depend on word of mouth through social media. This one takes up the entire house and is a lot more than just a cafe. Upstairs there is a Playstation room, a bean bag room, a boxing room, a meeting room, a massage/relax room and a whole bunch more.


Finally I get back home and take a look out my window

On the surface I guess it’s barely worth mentioning, but this sight is particularly unusual in Shanghai, the world’s biggest city and with a population of 25 million people. Sure, you get all the roads lined with trees the same boring trees, but to see these huge, ancient beasts right outside my window is super rare. Finding this apartment was a stroke of luck – these green giants reduce my stress levels by about 60%!

Thanks for coming with me!

China – the bad, part 3

This is Part 3 of my series on China. Each part can be read separately, but you can read part 1 here

and part 2 here

Previously I discussed:

Culture (in part)
Health & Safety

I’d like to explore more aspects of culture, with my Steemian friend, who, as a Chinese woman, has a first-hand account, @ginafraser. So let’s begin


In many ways, much of what I say here would probably apply globally, but China has a systematic approach to inequality which, though changing in some of the major ‘first tier’ cities like Shanghai and Beijing, still has a long way to go, and in much – perhaps most – of China, has an unchanged attitude towards equality, in particular, gender equality. I find this particularly striking given their socialist history. According to the Gender Inequality Index, China ranks 91 out of 187 countries (some tied), and 99th in the Gender Gap index.

These statistics may not go against any of your expectations, but let’s dig a little deeper into what this actually means, culturally.

Women in much of China are considered as little more than a homestay maid that provides sexual release for the men. But these women also have to be the right kind. A woman’s value rapidly deteriorates in China based on their age and whether or not they are a virgin.

Marriage markets

When I say value, I really mean value. A common sight in China – even in Shanghai – is the rather famous ‘Marriage Markets’. So much so that they’re even a tourist attraction on many websites.

Here you can essentially sell off women to eager, aging, single men. You can advertise men too, but unlike women, the men tend to increase their value with age, and it’s their wallets that really matter.


China has a popular idiom ‘剩女’ or ‘leftover women’, which refers to women in their late 20’s that are still unmarried (Just recently, the nation somehow collectively decided to lower this age to mid-20’s). After that threshold, your value decreases and your chances of finding a partner in the markets (and elsewhere) plummets. Women typically then feel pressure to get whatever they can take. Additionally, the ‘virgin system’, as @ginafraser puts it, causes value to drop even more. I find this particularly bewildering given that there is a huge gender imbalance in the population in the other direction; a surplus of 33 million men reside in China.

Once a woman finds a man and the man proposes, it’s not unusual for the woman’s family to put a price tag on their approval. My friend’s fiancée was given the go ahead after a nice, brand-new, widescreen TV was put on offer, for example. Some may simply ask for a lump cash sum to prove you’re a good person somehow.


Women typically have less rights overall. Mao Zedong, in his little red book, insisted that gender equality is a necessity in society, citing equal pay for equal work decades before modern SJWs were even born. But his words did not match reality, with very few discrimination cases and little to no protection against harassment until very recently when Xi Jinping started to make some reforms, and even that led to little change.

Even anecdotally, I know of sexually harassment to friends of mine in public; men touching their underwear with their penis in the subway. Others witness older men casually masturbating over them. ‘When she later asked Beijing locals about the incident she was told that older men were allowed to take part in this kind of activity as they are senile and it was just the way things were.’

According to a Chinese Non-governmental organization, a massive 70% of women here have experienced sexual harassment at work, and 15% have left their jobs because of it.

Furthermore, domestic violence is as high as 40% against women, and even higher in rural areas. Like everything here, the main issue is simply a lack of legislation and enforcement. There is no protection or shelters for abused women, no helping organizations, and abuse is largely considered a ‘family matter’ to the authorities. With that in mind, divorce is not granted on grounds of ‘abuse’. It’s just not a valid argument for divorce in China.

Now we get to the ugly bit.

Unwanted children & abortion

As mentioned above, there are 33 million more men in China than women. That’s a huge number, even for a population as big as China. It may be partly due to the one-child policy I talked about in part 1.
As the policy took over (though many exceptions were available), there was pressure in rural areas to birth males, who are apparently better at work. Women are undesirable; not good for work. So there is a natural desire to abort the fetus or failing that, abandon the baby so they can try again for a boy.

Often, a family is allowed a second child IF the first one is a woman, because this first attempt is considered a ‘failure’. I should note that this attitude in and of itself is common all over including Vietnam and India. This continental gendercide is winding down slowly, like every other problem, but not nearly fast enough. Abortion rates are still incredibly high in China. 336 million abortions were reported since the one-child policy was put into effect, or 13 million each year, many of them forced.

Suicide rates are higher in women than men in China – The only country in the world other than some small island with a population of about 10 people. Now we can start to see why.


The Communist Party of China, of which there are almost 90 million members, enjoys plenty of general rights compared to the rest of the expendable population. Becoming a member is considered ‘the ultimate resume boost’ to start off, and, going back to the marriage market, your value shoots up substantially. You are culturally more respected and become more influential, because becoming a member is something considered only for the elite – despite it being 7% of the entire population.
To put the cherry on the cake, members literally have more rights according to the Chinese constitution: ‘Article 35 proclaims, “Citizens of the PRC enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of the press, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration.” Another segment guarantees workers the right to strike, to speak out freely, air views fully, hold large debates and write big-character posters.’ – With a big asterisk at the bottom citing ‘applicable to members of the party only’

Well, that’s nice.


China is probably most famous for its incredibly powerful censorship system. With the great firewall, and the lesser known great cannon, billions of dollars put into watching and controlling dissent through social media, internet and a full range of hacking skills, there’s little anybody can realistically do and get away with it – foreigners like me included.
A fellow co-worker, for example, was on skype to his son one day, when he got a phone call from the internet company. ‘Sorry to disturb your call with your son, but’.

Wait, what? It seems they were sitting there, watching them chat through their own computer screen before calling him up, which violates no privacy rights whatsoever. If a private company has that kind of power, what does the government have?
A lot.


The Chinese government hires something they call ‘五毛党’, or ’50 cent army’. This is a massive array of individuals paid to manipulate public opinion online (though it’s just as likely it’s an official duty of membership to the CPC). They are responsible for faking 450 million social media posts according to research.

They are also there to snitch on dissenters among other things. They specifically focus on ‘derailing discussions unhelpful to the communist party’. Essentially, they are professional trolls.


Wechat is China’s Whatsapp. But it’s so much more than that. It’s an incredible, powerful device that transforms life as we know it. But I’ll get into that in the ‘good’ post later on. The problem is that wechat consumes almost every aspect of life. In the app, you can call taxis, pay your bills, book cinema tickets or flights, order food or pay at restaurants, charge your phone, unlock a shared bike and a whole manner of oth – oh, and chat with your friends.

With 900 MILLION users depending on this all-consuming app, it’s a little worrying when you realise they have a very cozy relationship – as is required – with the government. Censorship is bountiful, and there are 50-cent eyes required in every group chat over a certain number of members. Members of large group of 500 or more also have to register their phone numbers so there’s no escape

The parent company, Tencent, without telling anybody, censors a whole range of key words and images that appear in newsfeeds, typically things relating to political issues like Tiananmen square, the Hong Kong protests and so on. Many users have been arrested and some reportedly ‘disappeared’ (a common theme in China) for writing dissenting ideas where more than a few people could read it.

There is in fact a whole new language created by Chinese netizens meant to be a code to bypass censorship, but the grip gets tighter every day.

Censorship is incredibly fast and efficient here, so word has to spread fast if anybody wants to even hope to make a difference and get people informed.


VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are surprisingly not illegal in China. But with the vast majority of the country totally unaware of what that is, it doesn’t mean much anyway, and it allows the hypocritical government to access whatever they please. Just recently however, there has been a crackdown on VPNs, and now only VPNs registered and authorized by the government may function in the country. Surprise, surprise.


Typically, all media is heavily censored. Songs cannot sing about anything controversial, TV shows are all safe and family friendly (there is no age rating in China, so EVERYTHING has to be safe viewing for EVERYONE), Video games have to be safe and friendly, literature has to be compliant and family friendly. And safe.

There was a period drama released a couple of years ago called ‘Empress of China’ which, famously, was pulled from the network without warning, and was not heard of again until a few weeks later when it was re-instated. See if you can spot the difference:

That’s right. NO CLEAVAGE.

Blood is also unacceptable for the most part. The recent movie Logan was released here surprisingly, but only after a full 14 minutes were cut out. I’m sure you can guess which bits.

Most international movies released here (of which only 36 are allowed in a given year), have a scene or two cut from it. Which leads me to the final section of Part 3.

International Affairs.

You may have noticed a sharp rise in Chinese actors in minor roles in big movie hits across America. This is no accident. With China rapidly becoming the biggest cinema market, and by far the fastest rising market, it only makes sense that Hollywood sucks their… little red book. But over here, it’s even more pronounced. What you don’t see in America are the additional scenes specifically recorded by Hollywood to include a dialogue or action by some famous Chinese actress or actor being patriotic and all round heroic. Some movie examples are:

• Iron Man 3 – An extra scene showing famous Chinese actors as heroic doctors operating on Tony Stark
• X-men – Fan Bing Bing, the most famous actress in China, played a useless role
• Transformers – It includes a wide range of Chinese product placement
• World War Z – Left almost unrecognizable after all mention of China was removed
• Dozens of other movies (Looper, Pixels, Karate Kid, Django Unchained, Hunger games, and so on) – Scenes cut entirely for
Chinese viewing.

It’s safe to say that China is having a substantial impact on the Hollywood industry. Directors are carefully planning their movies to be suitable and attractive enough to fit into that small, 36-movies-a-year movie list in China.

One Belt, One Road

China is of course a global power, and boy, do they know it. But naturally, it’s never enough. Just recently, Xi Jinping has released grandiose plans for the ‘One Belt, One road’ initiative; a giant update of the old silk road

The move plans to economically connect the world with China for developmental and cooperative reasons. But it’s not all it seems to be.

It has already gone under fire when footage of Kenyans protesting about the new rail system being installed by China surfaced. The rail system connecting the one belt will triple import and export times.

The Kenyans were protesting for a pay raise from $2.50 to $5… per day to start, but there was also protest about the track cutting right through a protected wildlife reserve, treatment of workers and all round poor conditions, such as firing Kenyan staff without cause, firing Kenyans for asking for more pay, dredging sand from beaches for construction, and stealing water from local communities.

This is common across Africa with Chinese companies, with many human rights laws being broken, with outbreaks of cholera, no protective gear and more.

But not to worry, it’s a divided issue, and at least thousands of new jobs have been provided to install the project. Sounds great! Except… the companies China brings to Africa import their own labour. Very few Kenyans actually got to work on the project.
The problems get bigger still. Kenya will be forcefully buried into debt as a result of this project. Kenya’s debt is now 700% of its annual budget – 60% of which belongs to China.

Similar plans are happening around the entire belt. In Vietnam, plans to ‘help develop’ the country will add additional debt equal to the country’s entire annual budget. There is certainly something sinister about this peace project.
500 billion dollars was given in trade in Latin America, with a further 250 billion in direct investments. Yes, almost a trillion dollars in the continent. As for One belt? An estimated 3 Trillion dollars will be sunk into that beast.

There are even broader efforts by China of global domination. In New York Times Square, for example, there is a huge propaganda ad playing 120 times a day, and has entire sections of newspapers dedicated to Chinese patriotism all over the country. Chinese propaganda is commonplace with entire TV channels dedicated to praising the CPC and more.

Overall, China spends around 10 billion dollars on international propaganda, compared to the US’s $666 million.

Make of that what you will.

Can you spot the propaganda?

To conclude

China’s influence on the world is phenomenal, and its rate of growth is even more astonishing. As worrying as this might be, the internal issues are, to me, a much greater concern. Political battles, human rights abuses, an extremely alarming disregard for safety standards and health, pollution disasters, substantial poverty, inequality, animal cruelty and a whole range of aspects I didn’t get time or space to cover, they all lead to one thing:

I need to make a Part 4!

But I promise it will be a lot shorter next time.

Thanks for reading this far, and a special thanks to @ginafraser for her personal knowledge included in this article.

Brainwashing – Old and New

Original post here –

I’d like to preface this post with a…hmm… ‘Trigger warning’ (urgh). Further down it goes anti-Islamic, and generally anti-religion. But I want to be very clear that it is not anti-Muslim or anti-religious person, and I try to make that clear distinction.

The critique of an ideology is not bigotry, so if anybody has opposing opinions, we can discuss it civilly below!

Brainwashing is such an overused term when trolling or generally arguing on the internet, that the potency of its effects are often undermined.


Brainwashing is an incredible global force that in many ways has defined and carved civilisation. Think about that. Some ridiculous Chinese people revere in Hitler’s achievements, saying he’s strong and changed the world for the better with some sacrifices – Just like Mao!

Historians often claim that Genghis Khan and the Mongol empire was one of the best things that ever happened to us; it connected the east with the west and set up the blueprints of continental trade and communication that we thrive on to this day.

But close your eyes and imagine being there. Imagine being the victim of Khan’s wrath, of Hitler’s ideas and ideology. Imagine being thrown into the mud ad a group of nomadic, brutal men throw planks of wood on you and your child, so you serve as the foundations for a victory party, with dozens of horses and hundreds of men trampling you from above, breaking your ribs, your children’s skull, and the hundreds of other victims surrounding your now broken and lifeless corpse.

Suddenly, that continental connection doesn’t seem so important.

Imagine looking up in your final breath, having had a bullet in your lungs, and seeing a field, plain and flat, as far as the eye can see on a snowy winters day in Stalingrad, yet you can’t actually see any grass or plains, but instead, carcass after carcass, lined up head to toe, messy piles reaching as far as the eye can see, like blades of grass that had just been mowed down by an industrial lawnmower.

battle of Stalingrad… the results

Suddenly, Hitler’s ideology doesn’t seem so valid.

Time is a natural brainwasher, and a very powerful one at that. We look at the 1200’s in amazement, but we can’t grasp the kind of world the 1200’s under the power of the Khan. It’s just too far away.
ISIS is nothing, ISIS is an ageing mosquito, slowly buzzing near your ear compared to the world our ancestors lived in.

This kind of brainwashing is inevitable in most ways beneficial. Living with this kind of knowledge every day would be the end of us.


But although there are still countless atrocities going on right now, we really do live in a time of comparative peace. In fact, it is easily the most peaceful era in human history.

But as a result, a new kind of brainwashing has been born: Voluntary Brainwashing. And I can’t stand it.

Recently, my home country, England, has seen Islamic terrorism hit its shores again. It’s terrible, and it happens all over the world on a regular basis. Pick any birthday, and you can be sure to find a bunch of deaths related to Islamic terrorism on that day (I checked). So do we really have to keep pushing the ‘not all Muslims’ agenda, one of the most prominent forms of voluntary brainwashing?

Not all Muslims are terrorists. Obviously. If they were, we would all be dead right now – INCLUDING all Muslims, since they largely can’t agree with each other.

But it’s totally beside the point.

It’s like saying ‘not all North Koreans are evil dictators’. yeah, we know. But we also know that those North Koreans are trapped, brainwashed by the powers that reside over them, helpless. The only knowledge they get is the knowledge they’re told, the knowledge those almighty leaders want them to know.

In Islam, the exact same situation. Yet we condemn north Korea and for some absurd reason, do everything we can to revere Islam.

Every single terrorist attack that decapitates a dozen teenage girls, or injures 500 London commuters or the specks of beheadings and knifing and axing and van driving with a Muslim behind the wheel, weapon and action, with every one of them, it takes mere seconds for the solidarity movement to jump onto social media and say NOT ALL MUSLIMS!

Yeah. It’s not the Muslims that are the problem. It’s Islam.

Islam is one of the most successful brainwashing tools the earth has ever known. All religions are pretty efficient at this, but i’d say they are not voluntary.

You, as a Muslim, are trapped. You are victims of forced, lifelong brainwashing. From the day they are born, they are surrounded by adults who don’t want to teach them to think for themselves. They want to teach them to obey the ideals of a prophet of war, a vengeful God. A belief system that demands world dominance and the slaughter of all non-believers. How can you believe anything else when everything around you tells you otherwise? How can you escape when you are threatened with death for leaving?

For the vast majority of Muslims, there’s no way out.

So given how trapped they truly are, how can it possibly help those presumably millions living in fear of their leaders and Gods and prophets, but still blind to their faith from a lifetime of brainwashing, when those non-religious folk or Christians or general liberal minds across the west stand around with their fingers up their arses pretending Islam is a beautiful religion that people have simply distorted?


Islam, like every religion, is a serious problem. And I’m very aware that you, as a westerner (probably) are more likely to get crushed by your fridge than fall for a Jihadist bombing, or get gunned down by a latino or whatever, but again, beside the point.

Most of these statistics showing that Muslim terror attacks are the least likely threat to you are generally based in the US, where Muslims are barely 1% of the population, and terrorist attacks are typically rare on the whole. When you go global, Muslims are 6 times more likely to commit an act of terror compared to the rest of the population)

Here is about 25% of the Islamic Terror attacks that have occurred in the last 30 days. I couldn’t fit the whole thing in one image.

But I want to focus on the very core of the religion, not it’s distorted offshoots.

There are many, many overwhelmingly alarming problems inherent to the ideology as a whole that simply do not fit in our comparatively peaceful world. It may have been a useful tool during the era of empirical conquests and cultural revolutions, but saying it has a place in this world, in 2017 is just dangerous, voluntary brainwashing.

It promotes suppression of women, it often prohibits freedom of religion around the world and it resists democracy and freedom of speech at every turn with a brutal Sharia Law.

When you learn that a vast number, of nations with huge populations think stoning somebody for adultery is the way to go (89% in Pakistan, 81% in Egypt), and those who wish to leave the religion should be put to death (62% in Malaysia, 66% in Palestinian territory), can you call yourself a Feminist or a Liberal as you desperately try to protect them by reminding us that NOT ALL MUSLIMS are terrorists?

When you learn the Koran teaches global conquest, to dominate over all other religions, be it through death or simply out-breeding slowly over generations (as told by spatterings of current leaders of Islamic groups around the world), are you still going to sit there, twiddling your thumbs reciting ‘NOT ALL MUSLIMS’? or ‘Christianity used to be just as bad!’ or ‘Some Christians in Africa are brutal too!’

Think about it. Don’t brainwash yourself. Religious people, especially Muslims, need saving. They are trapped victims of the most powerful psychological tool mankind has ever created.

If you are a Muslim reading this from a moderate family in a moderate country who feels fine with what you’re doing and what your religion stands for around the world, well, I don’t know what to say, but you are lucky enough to be in a country where you can make that choice, whichever way you decide.

Let’s make Critical Thinking the new global superpower and do away with all this fantastical, menacing nonsense. Stop giving a hand to a religion that goes against literally everything we believe in.

China – The bad… Part 2

(for included images, see the original blog post here:

Health & Safety

## Food & Drink

This is a BIG one.

China is renowned for its counterfeit products, its lackadaisical approach to piracy and a variety of other scandals, on the top of this pyramid of crime, I would say, is the rather ubiquitous fake foods industry, of which there is an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to scandals (And believe me, it doesn’t cover the half of it) –

These incidents can simply be disgusting, like using cardboard in place of breaded food. Others are mildly concerning, like the recent bout of fake Budweiser, in which a small factory was busted for producing 600,000 crates every month ‘as workers at the factory dumped their bare hands in buckets of beer to fill the cans before sealing them shut on a dirty-ass conveyor belt’

Then we get to the downright dangerous and disgusting, like using human hair and sewage in tofu manufacturing, and poisonous baby formula, in which 300,000 children were made sick, and 6 were killed in this single incident in China alone. Other countries were also affected. There are numerous incidents of entire schools falling ill, some even having students contracting cancer from food incidents like this (though it could be wildly coincidental that somebody was diagnosed with cancer around the same time that 500 students fell severely sick, who knows).

Li Chiangjiang forced to resign from his position as safety boss after 53,000 infants fall ill from a baby formula scandal.


More personal to me, a recent man was caught on my very street with over a thousand dead cats hanging in plastic bags in his dingy apartment. He had been hunting cats in the street, killing them and preparing to sell them to restaurants – who would then claim it was another meat, such as rabbit. This was also not an isolated incident. I have a cat, so I made sure never to let him out again, until I moved house to a safer area. Again, this is in downtown Shanghai – the most developed and westernized city in the country.

Shanghai locals and expats always thought they were safe from food scandals like this, imagining the better safety procedures in such a wealthy city, yet only a few years ago, reports of 6,000 dead, rotting pigs floating down shanghai river shocked the world, as farmers from some unknown place upstream, due to some unknown cause of death.



Other restaurants just recently have been shut down – thirty-five in one bust – for adding opiates in their food in an odd attempt to drive customers back with addictive qualities.

I was unable to find any data on how many deaths are pinned to food safety; it would be very difficult to count given the long term health issues, the sheer number of scandals, many of which still going to this day, and the general lack of control the government seems to have on these issues.

But it’s fair to say, when living in China, you have to live with the fact that you have probably eaten something unsafe, unsavory and illegal that may have detrimental effects to your health. You have to lead a very paranoid and careful lifestyle to see it through safely.

Even water is not a safe haven’t escaped it, with videos surfacing of individuals filling water bottles with unsafe tap water – some claiming 70% of bottled water is fake in cities like Beijing.

Well, if you’re going to live here being perpetually poisoned, might as well take it up as a dirty habit right? Grab a cigarette.

Actually, not so fast.

There is, I’m sorry to say, a thriving underground world of fake cigarette manufacturing. An estimated 400 billion fake cigarettes are produced in China – ‘Enough to supply every American smoker with 460 packs a year. These are produced in huge factories, often literally underground, like the subterranean factories in Yunxia.

These fake cigarettes are so profitable that even individuals that invested millions into legitimate factories ended up returning to the highly lucrative crime.

Since these counterfeit sticks are not regulated by health and safety procedure, they have been found with 80% more nicotine and 130% more carbon monoxide, as well as other decorative ingredients like insect eggs and human feces.

The safety of China is unbearable to think about, and there is a flood of flashbacks from a wide variety of reports going through my mind as we speak, but I’m already approaching 1,000 words and I have a lot more to cover.

## Pollution

This one is quite self-explanatory, but exacerbated by political corruption – as usual.

China is one of the top offenders of pollution. Recently, it has been reported that it’s possible India is in fact a worse polluter now, but since there is little comparative effort to diagnose their cities’ particulate levels, they have just been unappreciated until recently.

Having said that, 7 of the top 10 world’s most polluted cities are all located in China: Taiyuan, Beijing, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Chongqing, Jinan and Shijiazhuang. This is quite broad geography, spanning from way out west all the way to the east coast, and does not fully enlighten you on the details.

Recently, the city of Shenyang reported PM2.5 levels of 1,400.

PM2.5 is the particulate matter that is around 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter. This is considered the most dangerous particle group. Pm10 is typically things like pollen, whereas 2.5 is more like chemical pollutants that can easily enter the lungs and cause short, mid and long term health effects. 1.6 million people are put to death from polluted air in China each year.

So how bad is 1,400? Well, to put this into perspective, London, as I write, has an AQI (Air quality index) of 30.

Shanghai is faring almost as good at 38 – An incredibly rare occurrence, I’ll admit – and Beijing is around 150. The MAXIMUM level on the scale we use worldwide is a ‘hazardous’ 500 PPM, at which point all citizens will feel health effects and possibly breathing problems.

So when a city reaches 1,400… one can only imagine. All the cotton masks in the world aren’t going to save you.

This would be all very well if there was a prioritized effort to clean it up, but the government have made some… alternative plans. After Beijing was put under red alert for its dangerous levels of pollution three times in a short period, they simply raised the threshold required to create a red alert, several times, and, well, they haven’t had a red alert since! Problem solved!

There are actually some profound efforts to clean up the air in China though, which I’ll cover in the ‘good’ post another time.


## Hygiene

Hygiene is a serious issue in many developing countries, and though China is on its way out of that label – Kind of (See part 1), it still has a long way to go.

You never have to go far, for example, to find some of the most disgusting public bathrooms mankind has to offer. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve cautiously entered a toilet cubicle only to find the wettest shit smeared over the actual seat – For reasons unknown – or on the floor.

A lot of this is to do with methodology and beliefs. It is believed that squatting is better for your bowels, allowing a smoother release and reducing stress to your insides, so you might find some country folk unaware of the point of a western toilet, and try hopelessly to climb onto the toilet to crouch over the bowl and, well, mistakes were made.

And yes, this actually happens. Another sign is needed:

But is squatting actually better for you, or is it just a hangover from the days when a toilet was (and still is in more rural areas and other developing countries) a simple hole in the ground?

Well, according to a study by a company that sells squat toilets, yes, it’s much healthier:

The modern day toilet is convenient, but has one major fault; it requires us to sit. While sitting to do our business may be considered “civilized”, studies show the natural squat position improves our ability to eliminate… The puborectalis muscle creates a natural kink to help maintain continence. Squatty Potty relaxes this muscle for fast, easy elimination.

As for real science, well, the studies have been disappointingly small. Although it’s true that squatting does create an easier release, this generally makes sense because you’re bending and pushing your weight into your bowels and adding pressure. Additionally, none of the studies claim that western toilets are an actual cause of constipation or bad for your health, it’s just that squatting feels better.
For me, I’m so unfit that squatting has been a traumatizing issue, and after hiking for hours uphill every day in Nepal, squatting in a shed is the last thing I want to be doing to my poor, tired legs.

There is the issue of your butt touching the seat that a thousand others have touched, but on one hand, studies show the bacteria on an average toilet seat is fewer in number and less dangerous than that found on your smartphone, and on the other hand, squat toilets tend to look like this:

And the splashback from that is something I’m not too keen to think about.

There are a range of other hygiene issues in Chinese culture, such as the whole philosophy of ‘ridding oneself of bodily waste when the need arises’, hence the bum-less trousers on babies in part 1, as well as the spitting, peeing and shitting from adults at any given time and place. But again, we better move on.
# Corruption

Corruption is rife around the world. You can find innumerable instances of it at any given time in any given place. Some are worse than others, like Kenya, known as possibly one of the most corrupt countries with a government. But we’re here to talk about China, so let’s go.

## Money

As mentioned in part 1, the Chinese economy isn’t doing too well. This is not helped by the raging corruption going around in big businesses and political families.

Since Xi JinPing, affectionately known as Xidada, came into power, he has been battling with corruption left over by Jiang Zemin, a previous party leader. The ideology of each leader seem to be so opposite that it has caused a complete overhaul via one of the biggest anti-corruption campaigns in history.

Several years ago, authorities seized $14.5 billion in assets from family members and associates of Zhou YongKang, a previous security chief of the CPC – more than some small countries make in a given year.

Zhou YongKang is a man responsible for a colourful array of crimes against humanity, including torture, intimidation, labour camps, persecution of dissidents, minorities and religious leaders, at the request of his leader, yep, Jiang Zemin.

Jiang Zemin, leader of the CPC from 1989 to 2002.

Since the cultural revolution, it has been the case that top officials would not investigate each other. That’s just how it’s been. Until Xi Jinping came along. So this huge case was the beginning of a new era, of ruthless wars between two factions within the communist party. And that intense battle between Jiang and Xi is… something for another post.

But since this all began, a huge number of officials have been arrested, some have disappeared entirely, and others forced to resign and even put to death. In the aforementioned case alone, 300 were arrested on charges of corruption. The fact that the richest and most powerful people in China fell like dominoes is testament to how serious this whole thing is.

When first put into power, the previous leader (who was rather unsubstantial due to the overwhelming influence of Jiang Zemin before him), warned Xi that if corruption wasn’t dealt with, it will cause the fall of the party, and the fall of the country.

Since then, Xi has taken down over a million officials… according to official statistics, anyway. It’s such a big thing that there’s even a reality TV show based around political figures confessing to their crimes.

Bai Enpai, sentenced to death for taking 38 million dollars of bribes.

When you start looking at numbers passing a million officials in corruption, you have to wonder, is this such a simple problem, or is this part of a larger culture, a system-wide situation that condones corruption from the ground up? It sounds to me like the entire party of the entire country of China has been totally fine with it.

The public are not unaware of this either, with 50% of the public saying corruption is a very big problem in the country, and a further 34% think it’s quite a big issue – a combined concern higher than all other aspects researched, such as health, crime and pollution.


The battle continues to this day, and although it’s clear the battle is benefiting Xi in many ways, garnering an exponential amount of power (Some liken his power to be on par with Mao Zedong himself now, and has officially been called ‘the core leader of the party’), it also has the added benefit of ‘draining the swamp’, as some orange-haired buffoon once famously put it.

But this is a big swamp, and the effects are far reaching.

## Ghost cities

The mishandling of money in China creates hefty artificial inflation, unstable financial markets and insane property bubbles that climb to levels higher than anywhere in the world.

One side-effect of this are pretty cool Ghost Cities.

One city, Wuliang, has a multi-million-dollar airport that sees less than 5 flights in any given day. Another which had a planned population of 1 million, has a mere 1 in 50 buildings occupied.

There are at least 50 of these ghost cities across China, and that’s only from one little study. Part of the reason why is because corrupt officials want to get promotions up the wazoo. Promotions are assigned based on their reported GDP growth. By artificially inflating those numbers by building way more infrastructure than necessary. This, in the example of Wuliang, created a temporary GDP growth of a massive 21%. Shortly thereafter, however, the report showed a -2% GDP growth, and that will only be lower now.

With Xi’s anti-corruption campaign going strong, corrupt officials inflating GDP, corrupt factories working in these ghost city and all corrupt families involved, tend to disappear and you’re left with yet another desolate landscape.
## To be continued…

Well, this has been so substantial and interesting to work on, I’ll have to make a THIRD part to this series on the bad stuff. I’ll cover areas involving society and equality, racism, the education system, ecology and international influence of China.

Hope you enjoyed reading, and, watch what you eat.

China – The Bad

Originally posted here –

Here’s the first of 2 or 3 posts I’ll be making about my opinion of China, based on various facts and data. I’ve lived here for about 4 years now and 7.5 years in this general area in Asia, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about this.

But… it’s complicated. Part 1 will get all the negative stuff out the way. Part 2 will reflect on the great things China is, will be, and has to offer.

The Bad


China is still largely in abject poverty. Although there is great pride in the people that ‘700 million have been lifted out of poverty’ (similarly written in Chinese but not so direct, such as 摘去贫困帽 (taking off the poverty hat) and 减贫(reduce poverty), it comes with a huge asterisk.

The definition of poverty in China is anybody earning $1.90 or less a day. This means anybody earning $1.91 a day is not considered poverty, and now fits comfortably in the ‘Low income’ bracket. Doesn’t sound so bad now, huh? But the fact remains, people here are VERY poor.

Additionally, the definition of poverty in China is not the same as the global definition of poverty. The global definition for a start, is ‘less than $2 a day’, but the US poverty line, for example, is around $12,000 a year for an individual.

Now obviously there is a lot more complications when it comes to what poverty actually is, regarding health, opportunity and so on. But that’s just it. Claiming 50% of your entire population has been lifted from poverty gives you the impression that 700 million individuals have been pushed out of a little mud hut, starving in the cold, and dumped in a flashy new apartment with a nice but modest car. This just isn’t so.

What’s worse is that the wealth of the country is rammed into the west coast cities, a big black marker pen line is drawn down the left side of them, and then the rest of the country’s economy is in shambles.

Here you can see that by 2020, things may look a little better for some places, but when comparing GDP across various provinces of China, the contrast is quite stark. Where you have eastern provinces and some central ones sharing a GDP with Canada, Australia, Switzerland and the Netherlands, a short trip out west and you cross over to territory sharing an economy with that of Kenya, Kazakhstan and even Zambia.

In this other map, you can see the mean income is divided very strongly across that eastern band:

Where the coastal provinces may be earning, per individual, 30-100%+ the mean income, the west is earning as little as half the mean.

When you think of China, you may think of the shiny, beautiful Skyline of The Bund. But we should never forget the dirty, dilapidated classrooms the children of China are growing up in, in their millions.

Now, the government has been providing the nation with a general prediction that growth will slow to 7% or even lower to around 6.5%. This is shocking news and a foreboding symbol of the future. Unfortunately, it’s almost certainly not true. There is a mountain of evidence to suggest that the Chinese economy is in fact growing much slower already.

The man in charge of the economy, The Chinese premier, Li Keqiang has even been leaked saying he can’t see how 6.5% is possible, and states it’s more likely to be as low as 2-3%. I won’t go into too much details on the evidence for the weakening economy, but trust me, it’s there.

Alongside this worrying reality, reports from China have insisted there is stability nationwide, with such unbelievable claims that unemployment is around 3-4% at any given time, but the reality is clearly less utopian.

With a false sense of security in its economy, compounded by a huge economic divide across the country, news only gets worse when businesses decide to leave in droves because China is now no longer quite poor ENOUGH to be profitable, compared to, say, India! Not only that, but around 70% of all Millionaires in China are either planning to leave China or have already left China, because their assets are not well protected or not very valuable in their home country.

The economy in China starts getting VERY complicated at this point, but needless to say, it’s very troublesome. So let’s move on:


The first thing most people think, is that the infamous One-Child Policy is inhumane and ineffective. Others might think it’s a necessary effort to curb an exploding population. Well, let’s take a look.

As you can see, the birth rate has been on the decline. But as you will also notice, the One-Child Policy, established in 1979, came immediately AFTER birth rates plummeted naturally. What happened?

Well, in short, during Mao Zedong’s ‘great leap forward’, he encouraged everybody to have as many babies as possible. Dozens! if possible per family. Then… a while after that the government decided this wasn’t such a great idea and started to re-educate. A lot of propaganda and education informing people to slow down was spread all over the streets, and, thankfully – as you can see – it was pretty effective.

But the Communist party figured this wasn’t enough, and established a rather foolhardy law that each family can only raise one child. Once this law was put in place, ironically, the population growth started to level off.

The interesting thing is, there are so many exceptions to this rule that almost 60% of women are actually allowed a second child, but actively choose not to. Now the rule has been updated to a 2-child policy, and its making no difference to the choices of those women.

However, the impact of the law has not gone unnoticed. With a huge percentage of families affected, China has an insane average family set up of

  • One child
  • Two parents
  • Four grandparents

This seems pretty normal until you realise that child is now entirely responsible for looking after her 6 aging family members, who are now living longer than ever. With the gender preference being male, there are 35 million extra men in China, too. This means competition is fierce and you end up with a lot of men unable to get partners for financial support.

Even worse, since the pressure on only children is to go to University and become rich, Schools are overcrowded, jobs are unavailable and half a dozen men end up living in 蚁族, or ‘Ant tribes’ – Tiny rooms, often even underground, with 6, 8 or more men cramped within. Each one expected to support 6 elderly folk.

With so few children being born, and so many old people living for so long, China is set to have an aging population crisis as bad or worse than Japan, with too few workers healthy and young enough to actually support the country.

So the population is kind of a mess, and there’s going to be no easy, quick way out of it.


China has to be the only place in the world that needs a ‘no spitting’ sign. This sign I spotted in the Shanghai subway system, which comes across as a surprise to me, since Shanghai is supposed to be the most civilized and westernized city in the country. And in many ways it is (but we’ll save that for the ‘The good’ post another day), but the Culture of Disgust is still strong even here.

You may see the occasional person spitting, peeing, vomiting wherever you are in the world, but it gets out of hand here.

Anecdotally, my commute to work involved a 5 minute walk to either the corner where I get a taxi, or to the subway station. Either way it’s the same distance. In that 5 minute walk, I decided to record my experience. For 2 months, every day (including weekends), I would take note whenever I heard a local Hock and Spit as loud as that person possibly could.

A few days went by and each day, at least one person, but usually 2 or 3, would hock up their junk and spit it on the floor roughly as loud as an angry seal. Then a few weeks passed. Finally, after 2 months, I gave up and realized I had proven the point I already knew. Every single day, in any given 5 minute period, a person – man or woman – in their 30s-80’s, will be certain to do this disconcertingly close to your feet.

It is an outrageous and bizarre phenomenon that has a few explanations. Some are simply related to the vast smoking culture – 1/3 of the entire population smoke, and about 45% of all cigarettes on earth are produced here. There are even arcade grab machines littered across the city, stocked full of cigarette boxes.

Other explanations are more complex, relating to the Purge of Intellects during Mao’s rule, threatened by their informed disagreements with him. Spitting loudly was a way to show you were just a country boy, rather than, say, a doctor, and thus your life was protected.

Who knows, but thankfully from what I can tell, the younger generation are at least trying to avoid this (though they’re not all free of guilt).

But alas, it gets worse. Peeing in the streets is absolutely rampant. When going to work via taxi, I’ll see at least one man (yeah it’s obviously always men), usually a taxi driver, peeing on a wall or on a tree. They don’t try to hide it or find a corner, they often even just stand in the middle of the pavement just letting loose.

Even more extreme, I’ve witnessed on no less than four occasions, people taking a shit in the subway. IN THE TRAIN. In one scenario, it was just a child, but rather than have a nappy, the mother chose the money saving option of just having a pair of trousers with a bum hole for easy excretion.

The child decided to let loose ON its mother, who was sitting in one of the seats. But she saw it coming. So rather than move or do anything in particular, she simply rammed one of the subway map papers handed out to everyone on board, under the baby’s bum, the baby let loose (and it was a liquidy one), and… well, that was that. She just sat there.

The train stopped at the next station and she CONTINUED to sit there, determined to get to her destination. Naturally by this point, I evacuated and waited for the next train.

This might be some extreme scenario, but it’s not. It is reported on frequently, and it gets worse as country folk come to the city during vacation times, unaware of any etiquette or health and hygiene standards. They will quite happily sit on a trash can and let it all out, walking off like it’s just another day. And after being here for so long, that’s how you eventually learn to treat these things.

My other gripe with Chinese culture is the lack thereof. Unfortunately, the Chinese Government has suppressed much of its native traditions and celebrations. Living in Korea and Vietnam, and visiting many surrounding countries, you see huge celebrations on times such as Buddhas birthday, the Lunar festival and so on. However, I see almost none of that here. I see no decorations, no parades, no festivals of great size. What I see are people going home to their families and sitting bored in front of the TV until it’s time to go back to work. Work will then make them stay for an extra weekend or two to make up for the ‘lost’ time they spent sitting in front of the TV. A holiday is rarely a holiday here. It’s more just a re-shuffling of the weekly schedule, moving some weekdays onto weekends. A kind of trick, or propaganda art to make people think they’re getting time off.

In Korea, I have a great memory of floating lanterns, thousands of people participating in a public display of parading fire-breathing dragons, Chinese music, ancient characters from Chinese stories. A parade that took 2 hours to pass you by as the giant wall of well-rehearsed individuals danced their way past you.

Gorgeous lights and displays, fireworks can be seen all around the borders of China. But rarely within. In fact, fireworks are now banned in Shanghai.

With such suppression, beliefs and culture seem to be merely an afterthought. Out west in the more open regions, you will see more of this still alive, but it’s not like its the pride of the country, it’s simply because the government hasn’t decided to stamp it out yet.

The government already has an iron grasp on religion (All churches and other buildings must report to officials regularly and their content must strictly adhere to guidelines), with Falun Gong being considered the religious practice of satan himself and anyone caught doing it will be arrested and probably have their organs harvested – that’s an actual thing, by the way, with some evidence showing up to a million Falun Gong individuals getting their organs taken without consent.

Look at those evil falun gong practitioners.

Muslims in Xinjiang, totalling 40% of the population in that region, are given curfew, with military presence all around at any given time, and their internet cut out completely sometimes for months at a time.

And I don’t even need to talk about TIbet, in which the spiritual leader of Buddhism was kidnapped, never to be seen again, and replaced with a new, Communist-friendly figure of Buddha.

You can start to see that pretty much every problem China has boils down to one thing: The Chinese Communist Party. Economy, Education, Culture, Equality, Corruption. It’s all there, in that gigantic party nobody can ever remove or replace.

So for now, there you have it. The bad. I need to do a part 2, including censorship, business & corruption and more, but then I promise you I will touch on the great things to hopefully wash the bitter taste from your mouth!

Every country has its problems, and I have happily complained in great depth about my own country, the USA, Korea, Vietnam and more. I just happen to live in China, so that is my current focus. Feel free to share a different opinion!

WILTW – What I Learnt this Week


Pajama is an early 19th century word from Urdu and Persian, from pāy – ‘leg’ and jāma – ‘clothing.’

Fake snow is made of the same stuff used in Nappies and tampons due to its excellent liquid absorption capabilities

The smallest Christmas tree in the world is made up of 42 atoms


Fresh thyme combined with lemons or limes give meat very original aroma and taste… Also, I’m a terrible cook. @richman


Apple pie, in a sense, is very American in that none of its constituent parts were discovered or made in America.

Red-footed tortoises have their penises and vaginas in the end of their tails. The penis balloons out of the tip.


You have to carry guns in Svalbard whenever you go outside of town, due to the risk of hungry hungry polar bears

You can have surgery to remove the floaters in your eye which involves replacing the juice of your eye with salty liquid

King Leopold II of Belgium had 10 million Africans brutally killed in the Congo (an area 76 times that of Belgium), around half the population at the time. He died peacefully and is generally remembered as a great man.


Torture, whipping and mutilation of those above only stopped after independence in the 1970’s. People of the DRC are 12x more likely to die as babies, make 99.24% less money and live 23 years shorter than US citizens.



You can test the PH level of your garden soil with either a good eye for weeds, or vinegar & baking soda @gardengirlcanada

62% of philosophers are atheist

The Voynich Manuscript is the most mysterious book – and one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of today. The manuscript is written in an unknown, unheard language that nobody can translate, and dates back to around the early 1400’s

Bonus Saturday

There’s now a much more scientific method of describing your personality than Myers Briggs or… Astrol… I don’t even want to use that word. @sirwinchester