Fact or Fiction IV: March Madness

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Distractions

Welcome back one and all to the March edition of Fact or Fiction.  Those of you who read either of the last three will know, every edition I will have a guest and we will discuss a few of the big issues in China of the day.  Every answer will have a “Fact” or a “Fiction” and some justification to go along with it.

Today my guest is fellow Laowai blogger Matt.  He is the resident Kunminger (that is a word, right?), and his most recent intelligent posts have been about learning and teaching Chinese, as well as cooking and alcoholism.  Also, he keeps his own personal blog, Matt Schiavenza – A China Journal, which is a worthy addition to your Google Reader, whenever it’s not blocked.  Today we’re doing a bit of a topic potpourri, discussing Google, prostitution, and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the National People’s Congress.

o join us for Fact or Fiction 4:  March Madness~!!!

Welcome back one and all to the March edition of Fact or Fiction.  Those of you who read either of the last three will know, every edition I will have a guest and we will discuss a few of the big issues in China of the day. Every answer will have a “Fact” or a “Fiction” and some justification to go along with it.

Today my guest is fellow Laowai blogger Matt.  He is the resident Kunminger (that is a word, right?), and his most recent intelligent posts have been about learning and teaching Chinese, as well as cooking and alcoholism.  Also, he keeps his own personal blog, Matt Schiavenza – A China Journal, which is a worthy addition to your Google Reader, whenever it’s not blocked.  Today we’re doing a bit of a topic potpourri, discussing Google, prostitution, and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the National People’s Congress.

So join us for Fact or Fiction 4:  March Madness~!!!

Fact or Fiction

1. Google’s decision to redirect traffic to Google Hong Kong was a cop-out.

Glen: FACT
Sure they are shutting down Google.cn, but they aren’t fully pulling out of China, just moving to pseudo-China, or China-lite.  I know that HK has “limited autonomy” until 2047, but the money they make is still going to find its way into the PRC’s coffers eventually.  That’s not exactly being not evil.

Matt: FICTION
I’ve gotten into trouble for writing this before, but Hong Kong for all intents and purposes is an independent country, one with its own laws, currency, and media censorship policy. By moving its servers to HK, Google is sending a not-too-subtle message to Beijing that a vibrant, liberal media atmosphere exists right on their border, and that in an important sense China is on the proverbial ‘wrong side of history’ with this issue.

Hmmm off to a rocky start.  0 for 1.

2. You are getting excited about the Shanghai Expo

Glen: FACT
Partially because I’m so close here in Suzhou that I’ve been getting a lot of the hype, but not too much.  I think it’s going to be an interesting to see what the world decides to expose, and how China reacts.  If I’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that the Chinese know how to treat guests. I hope that they show the rest of the world that too.

Matt: FICTION
Alas, my residence here in the far southwest capital of Kunming has kept me out of the Expo loop, so I can’t say I’m getting excited about it just yet. I will say that Ryan’s recent LL post profiling the various national exhibitions did pique my interest and I may in fact get the fever before the spring is out.

Mayhap a bit of Laowai regionalism coming up here as us Yangtze-Delta folk can’t see eye-to-eye with those in the land of the sun.  0 for 2.

3. Prostitution is a major problem in China and it needs to be addressed.  (Note: this is in response to the series “Prostitution in China” on Renmin Shimbun)

Glen: FACT
I was simply shocked by the data in those posts, I knew that prostitution was bad in China (especially around tourist areas), but I had no idea just how bad it actually was. It is a tricky thing to deal with though, as harsher laws will not eliminate the problem, instead people in China need to be educated about the dangers of STIs, and there needs to be more poverty elimination support, then it will be less of an issue.

Matt: FACT
Rampant prostitution and the official denial that it exists is an enormous problem in China, where the AIDS virus has spread markedly in the past twenty years or so. The total lack of industry regulation has created an exploitative situation for the young women who get involved and has left them vulnerable to contracting devastating diseases. I’m of the opinion that legalization and regulation with health checks would be the best policy, not only in China but in other countries in which prostitution is prohibited.

Hopefully everyone agrees with that one, I mean really. 1 for 3. Time for the ol’ switcheroo.

4. Chinese leaders have been all talk and no action at the recent National People’s Congress.

Matt: FACT
But alas, were we expecting anything different? Much of the decisions that truly affect people’s lives occur far from the spotlight in China, and this annual pageant involving the country’s embarrassing rubber-stamp parliament is no exception. The only interesting development in China’s political world is the rise of Bo Xilai, a so-called ‘princeling’ who could have a major role in formulating government policy following the scheduled reshuffle in 2012.

Glen: FACT
Well said my friend.  All talk and no action seems to be par for the course for the NPC.  No matter how much they talk about opening up, implementing more democratic reforms, or any of the number of promises, nothing seems to happen.  I’m not 100% certain that Bo will effect too much, I mean it wasn’t that long ago that people said similar things about Hu.

Now it looks like we are all talk, and some agreement. 2 for 4.

5. An Asian wide Free Trade Agreement would benefit China greatly

Matt: FACT
China’s combination of technical know-how, impressive infrastructure, and persistently cheap and abundant labor would position it well in the event that free trade spreads in East Asia. Quite a few countries on China’s periphery simply cannot offer this combination of factors, and opening the floodgates would harm infant industry development in countries like Vietnam and Indonesia. China, on the other hand, would be the winner.

Glen: FACT
I think it would.  Free Trade in North America saw a number of companies close up shop in Canada to move to the US, only to see them then move to Mexico.  As a Canadian, NAFTA is sometimes a dirty word, especially because the Americans only follow it when it is beneficial to them (see:  Lumber, Softwood).  But NAFTA certainly helped the US Economy become the powerhouse that it was during the Clinton years, and it is easy to see China benefit in a similar way from such a set-up.  That being said, anything more than an ASEAN Free trade is a long way away.

We now how a tie for most agreements in the storied four month history of Fact or Fiction!  3 for 5.

6. You expect to be writing when Lost Laowai gets to it’s 1000 post.

Matt: FACT
Or at least, I hope so! Writing for Lost Laowai’s intelligent audience has been a real pleasure, and given the intensity and breadth of discussions we routinely have in this space I wouldn’t be surprised to see LL survive to its 1,000th post and beyond.

Glen: FACT
Well only 495 left to go after this one!  I have already signed on to stay in China for another 2 years, with a big possibility of sticking around for longer, so really, why not keep blogging about it?  I just hope that I can do it more frequently than I have been doing lately!

And that concludes it. 4 for 6.  The first time my guest and I have ever topped .500.  Someone call Guinness.

As always, what do you think?

Talk on Fact or Fiction IV: March Madness


6 Comments
  1. You know what, I’ve been marinating in my mind an idea for a post, that “expat writing on China” has huge variations based on where said expat lives, and that these difference should be both acknowledged and explored; that is, it’s a way to critically view the tendency among all of us (me included) to speak with one “expat voice” on China. That idea is kind of brought into the open with commentator Matt who lives in Kunming and has different ideas about various topics. Being mostly a Xinjiang expat myself I find my ideas on China veers away drastically from a lot of Shanghai and Beijing folks.

    Well, I’ll write up a post on it soon! But thanks for providing me with some more “evidence.” Interest observations from both.

  2. I couldn’t agree more Porfiriy! China is a place that has some pretty vast regional differences, including economic, cultural, and even linguistic in some parts. So really, we are all interacting with different cultures, so obviously we would be having different experiences, and writing differently. I imagine the tendency to write with one expat voice comes from the fact that most bloggers are in Shanghai or Beijing, so that would become the more dominant blogo-culture.

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  4. I think Matt’s description of the relationship between HK and the PRC is dead on. Legally, they are completely different “countries” with completely different legal systems.

    • Actually, they are not completely different countries. They are “one country”, with “two systems”, under the one “one country, two systems” policy that brought Hong-Kong and Macau back into the fold.

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    I’m not too sure legalizing prostitution would solve the problem. The weird thing about it is that it is already government regulated, sort of. I’ve had lots of dicusions with prostitues and red light business owners, they have to keep really good guanxi with the local government to stay in business. This means that people do come in and check on things and if conditions are really bad, they’ll be closed down no matter how much money exchanges hands. I agree with Glen that the answer is better education about the dangers.

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