'Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great.' Excerpt 13.
“An inspection launched across nine provinces in China found 775 bogus military vehicles and more than a thousand stolen or faked military license plates. Criminal gangs faked military certificates and seals to produce the bogus vehicles, which they then sold for many thousands of dollars profit.
In Shanghai, the trade in fake tires is big business. Employees in underground workshops gather dumped used tires and cut new grooves into them, making them resemble new products. Each worker can make 30 to 40 such tires a day, and these are then sold on for 25 yuan (US$3) each. A genuine new tire costs 300 to 400 yuan. The fakes are prone to explode at high speeds.
In eastern Zhejiang Province, a factory manager, Ying Fuming, was arrested after it was found his factory made ‘edible’ lard from animal swill, sewage and even recycled industrial oil. The Fanchang Grease Factory, in the city of Taizhou, produced six tons of lard a day, and sometimes ten tons. It sold its lard to hotels and restaurants across the country at prices 50% lower than average.”
Coming to Shanghai, the visitor’s first destination is seldom the much-touted tourist attractions, but instead the markets, to buy replica Louis Vuitton handbags, designer labels, scads of pirate DVDs – all that stuff. And China fakes far more than this, for if there’s even a fraction of money to be made in faking something, it will get faked. Food, medicine, car parts, what have you; it all gets knocked-off, putting lives at risk for a handful of profit.
But I often think China’s essential fakeness runs deeper than this.
Xintiandi, for example, one of Shanghai’s premier tourist spots. A few years back, real people lived there. Sure, it was a run-down, beat-up neighborhood. But it was a community. Rather than renovate this community for the benefit of those who lived there, the residents were thrown out, palmed off with often sub-standard housing, often far away from their former friends and neighbors. Then their original houses were more or less torn down and rebuilt, brick by brick into what you see today – a picture-perfect Disneyfication of ‘classic’ Shanghai. A careful, cautious, sterile facsimile.
Few of the residents who used to live there could now afford even a single drink in Xintiandi. It is simply a site for well-heeled Shanghainese to strut, and for gullible foreigners to get the ‘Old Shanghai’ experience. Colossally expensive, with restaurants serving mostly mediocre food, Xintiandi is little more than corporate styling. And hugely successful it is too, so that now politicians all across China are letting their lack of imagination run riot as they order up their own Xintiandi clones. Eyes on the dollar, as always.
When I go to Xintiandi, I feel shame for China.
Same is true for that other famous Shanghai tourist spot, the ‘Old City’ area, and the ‘City God Temple,’ near the Bund. Here, tourists are pressured to buy ‘antiques’ from Ming and Qing China, all fake; and this happens in a venue which itself is fake, since the entire area was rebuilt in the 1930s, and has been renovated again several times since then. Fakes inside a fake, and the whole a dream of what China imagines itself to be. And all over China, pagodas, temples, wells, gardens, rockeries – so many are fake, modern-day reconstructions of the priceless heritage China destroyed in the Cultural Revolution.
But it is not just the fabric of China that is so often fake.
I often feel the Chinese national character itself is fake.
For what does it mean to ‘be Chinese’ today? Too often, it means to be the image, the embodiment of what the Communist Party says ‘being Chinese’ is. Every reader with a more than transitory experience of China will have heard the six famous words – ‘As a Chinese person I think…’
And, ‘as a Chinese person,’ what the vast majority of people think is nothing more than what the Party wants them to think. On Tibet. On Xinjiang. On Japan. On Taiwan. ‘As a Chinese person I think…’ and fill in the blank. And the flip side of those six famous words – ‘You are not Chinese, so you do not understand.’ Knee-jerk reaction, pre-programmed. How many of the people who use that phrase really examine their opinions, question them, shape them?
They take their opinions, and thus their very character, from Party hand-outs.
And so effective is the Party at this that most people do not even notice. Many citizens of China have criticisms of their government. Yet few see how wholly, how intimately, this same Party has constructed the national character. Teaching hatred. Bigotry. Intolerance. Xenophobia. Racism. Ingorance. And, to top off this poisonous mix, the Party instills the sense among its people that the world owes China an apology. That all of China’s current problems lie at the feet of Imperial Japan, or the British Empire.
The truth, of course, is that 95% of today’s problems in China are the fault of one group of people, and one group alone: the Communists. It is the Party that owes the deepest and most profound apologies to the Chinese people. Alas! With their Party-sanctioned personalities, how are the people to know it, how can they ever demand it?
Character should be self-created. Authentic. Yes, our genes, our environment, shape us in ways we do not fully understand. But still we can make what we are, can decide what we are. We can choose to be.
But in China? I do not often see that. What I more frequently see is the group reaction, the Party line, the cultural identity – ‘I am Chinese; therefore I think that...’
'Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great.' Excerpt 14.
China is home to the sweet wormwood plant, which is a source of the chemical artesunate, used to make artemisinin, a potent defense against malaria.
Malaria kills one person every 30 seconds, and up to three million people a year. Ninety percent of the deaths are in Africa. Most of the victims are children. Yet Africa, the continent that needs the drug most, is being flooded with fake versions of it. Fakes made in China that either contain too little artesunate or none at all. The copies are highly detailed, even down to fake security holograms. And they are cheap – around forty US cents, as opposed to US$2.20 for the real thing.
“Most of these find their way into the hands of poor people, they don’t have any choice. They buy these drugs with the little money they have and they die,” says Kevin Palmer, a World Health Organization official working in malaria prevention. “People die. We have plenty of instances when people have taken these fake drugs and then they are dead. It’s murder.”
Athletes and students: make your mark in China. ‘T’ for Tibet, ‘X’ for Xinjiang when you’re on camera in Beijing.