China in depth, National Geographic special

National Geographic has put its stunning feature on China online, including a long article by Peter Hessler (who wrote the amazing story about China's instant factory cities), a series of pieces about China's middle class, life in Guizhou village (by Amy Tan!), architecture and the Olympics, the environmental depredations to the Yellow River, life in Tibet, and a beautiful gallery of aerial photos by George Steinmetz.

In a related story, check out the Chinese "Green Brothers", high-tech environmental activists who "do monthly, explainer-style documentary pieces on wind power, biomass engineering, and solar water heaters (?!) in China. They clearly know their stuff, and Zhao's favored Ghostbusters tee has a charming effect. Here's their first effort, on the problem of waste in Chinese cities."


Across Chinese society, parents appear completely at sea when it comes to raising their children. Newspapers run advice columns, their often rudimentary counsel–"Don't Forcibly Plan Your Child's Life" is a typical headline–suggesting what many parents are up against. Some schools have set up parent schools where mothers, and the occasional father, can share frustrations and child-raising tips.

At times educators go to extremes: At the Zhongguancun No. 2 Primary School in Beijing, vice-principal Lu Suqin recently took two fifth-grade boys into her home. "Their parents couldn't get them to behave, so they asked me to take them," she explains. "After they learn disciplined living, I will send them back."

Bella had one free day during the 2006 weeklong National Day holiday. Some of her extended family–seven adults and two children–took a trip to Tongli, a town of imperial mansions an hour's drive from Shanghai. Bella's father hired a minibus and driver for the trip; a friend had just been in a car accident and broken all the bones on one side of his body. Bella sat alone reading a book.

(Thanks, Marilyn!)

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  1. It is nice to read something about China these days that isn’t complaining about their espionage on the west, their brutality in Tibet, their toxic exports and so on. Which all sound like American attempts to justify aggression.

    While the increase in consumerism is a problem for the whole world, since resources are limited, it is great to hear that there is an increasing awareness of environmental responsibilities in China. Things are changing rapidly there, and hopefully for the better.

  2. Actually the anger was never exerted by the people, but by the authorities in its smartest ways. As a country with so called centralized media, spiritual system as well as a dominant state machine, people can but follow the guidelines without having too much time in thinking over. That’s why it gives the impression that the whole country is ready to fight a oral war. And as Chinese, I am pretty sure it is at any rate oral war only.

    A man never being rich won’t have the richness to fight the riched.

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    Disemvowelled as spam. –TNH

  4. > In a related story, check out the Chinese “Green Brothers”, high-tech environmental activists who “do monthly, explainer-style documentary pieces on wind power, biomass engineering, and solar water heaters (?!) in China.

    Why do hot water heaters rate a “(?!)” ? They’re a very well established and straightforward technology, already in use in a lot of places. They’re certainly nothing new.

    ps – got hit by that bug where my post was refused because “the text was wrong” or whatever. It seems to be happening more often.

  5. @TEAPOT7: I’m guessing the solar water heaters rate a “(?!)” because they are likely of limited use in a country where due to air pollution the sun rarely shines. But that’s just a guess. Maybe there’s still enough energy getting through that smog to heat up the water?

  6. t’s mzng hw Grn c-Fscsts wll mk llwncs fr ny rgm prvdd t pys lp-srvc t clmt chng ngst.

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  7. Got it. Just checking.

    Teapot, it’s good that you reported the problem in the thread. If you’re inclined to be extra-special helpful, you could click the eyeball on your posted comment and report it that way as well.

    Caledonian Jim, do you want to try rephrasing that?

    BlogMother, if you jerks don’t stop spamming Boing Boing with comments that link back to your sites, I am going to seek out and munge every comment ever posted here by one of your identities, and I’ll keep munging them in the future.

  8. MICAH said: “@TEAPOT7: I’m guessing the solar water heaters rate a “(?!)” because they are likely of limited use in a country where due to air pollution the sun rarely shines. But that’s just a guess. Maybe there’s still enough energy getting through that smog to heat up the water?”

    According to this article, 30 million Chinese households had them in 2006. The systems are much cheaper than in the West (starting at$190 USD), and popularity is also due to the efficient evacuated tubes that allow the heaters to function even under gray skies and at temperatures well below freezing.

  9. @Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator, thanks for your spam-munging, and thank you for your service to this blog.

  10. My in-laws all use solar powered water heaters (they live near Shanghai) and they work pretty good. The only draw back is that the older models (like 4 years old and older) require you to be careful about not emptying them early in the day as there is a risk of cracking as the cold water flows in ti replace the hot that was there.
    Not sure if this is my in-law’s own precaution or if it is actually recommended by the manufacturer. But, regarding water temp, they work quite well even with the (usually, but not always) smoggy air.

  11. @Bob
    You said “Gee, and we don’t even have to invade to make these changes happen? Amazing! (heavy sarcasm)”

    I agree with the anti-invasion sentiment but your comment reflects another problem with Western thinking in general. It is that “we” make changes happen over there. We don’t.

    When corporations talk about making change in China simply by being there and exposing folks to “Western” business (specifically Google,Yahoo and Starbucks have all talked of this) they are fooling themselves or, more likely, trying to fool us. They are not going to change anything. Rather, it is more likely that they will be changed by the experience. Regardless, they shouldn’t be trying to bring change. They should be selling internet services and coffee. Period. Anything else smacks of typcl Wstrn arrogance.

  12. arr? and do ya now lass? Here, c’mon on up on Padre Pederastia’s lap and tellme all about it. Confession is good for the soul ya know. Mind the filth encrusted cassock there, arr! (leans in with Jack Elqm bug eye and beery, whiskery face with impressive carbuncles)

  13. Although it works if you copy and past the link directly into the browser.
    I always thought he was such a fine looking fellow).

  14. “Across Chinese society, parents appear completely at sea when it comes to raising their children.”

    Shouldn’t that read “across the industrialized world”?

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