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Very interesting observations about China from a man who looked at its citizens and places

  • Aug 4, 2011
Troy Parfitt lived for two years in Seoul, South Korea, ten more years in Taipei, Taiwan, and made an extensive trip through China and recorded his impressions of the country, its history, and its people. His overall conclusion is that the country is backward. It is in a terrible dilapidated condition, its history has been constantly revised to reflect a rosy but untrue picture, and the majority of its people is kept in ignorance and is not ready for democracy. Many people outside of China focus on the progress that China has made. China's military spending, for example, is second to that of the United States. But Parfitt saw bad conditions in the country and concluded that it is far from being a modern state.

Parfitt discusses the many changes in recent times in China, such as the opium war, the end of the two millennia dynastic rule in 1911, how Dr. Sun Yat-sen stumbled into creating the "Chinese Democracy," and the Russian involvement in the new China, among many other interesting and informative historical facts.

He describes the crowded spaces in the cities, the repugnant smells, the cigarette smoke, and the urine running in the streets. He rode on a major artery and saw that it was "in a serious state of disrepair." He states that tranquil, easygoing, and gracious people "are hard to come by." There are signs saying "Please be Civilized," but the signs don't help. In "the Chinese world, (the people are) eager… to submit to an authority figure – to any authority figure," but not in respect to civility (emphasis in the original). He cites some of the many lies that the Chinese government inserts in newspapers. "For decades, meteorologists have not been permitted to report temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius (or 95 degrees Fahrenheit)" so that "workers across the nation are not to be given the day off." When a disaster struck China and 7,000 school classrooms collapsed, the Chinese government hid this from their people so that they wouldn't ask why the buildings housing their children had been so shabbily constructed. He tells us that "China jails more journalists than any other nation."

"China," he writes, "is a nation of much fakery; there is fake sushi, fake stake, fake gravy, fake music, fake goods, fake pharmaceuticals, fake news, fake weather reports, fake education, fake rights, fake laws, fake courts, fake judges, a fake congress, a fake constitution." A Chinese music label may say that the song is sung by Barbara Streisand, but it is only a Streisand imitator. The Chinese axiom is "Foreigners are easily fooled." But while they are misleading the foreigners, the "Chinese people perennially fool themselves."

His stories about the people he meets are fascinating. One woman picks him up and offers him a selection of free teas, since he is a foreigner. He drinks the teas and she demands payment for them. He asks a government official about the Chinese ideology and the woman is unable to answer. He visits a hospital where a frazzled physician in an ill-lit ward treating children turns a blind eye to "evidently infected wounds (that) were not attended to. To be sure, there wasn't a nurse or bandage in sight." A doctor was leading a camera crew around showing the young children. He lifted the foot of a young girl and casually said, "Her feet will have to come off. What a shame. She's so cute." Then he let the foot fall and the girl shrieked in pain. These are just some of the hundreds of tales that Troy Parfitt tells.
Very interesting observations about China from a man who looked at its citizens and places Very interesting observations about China from a man who looked at its citizens and places Very interesting observations about China from a man who looked at its citizens and places

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August 28, 2011
I do not think any country can claim to RULE the world! American government may want to but does it really rule the world when "ruling" its own citizens is challenging enough! Politics aside, I wonder how long had the writer actually live in China to come to his conclusions. In any case, China is a force to reckon with economically. However, to even think that China has the intention to rule the world is naive of the writer. If he lives that long in Taiwan & since there is an ingrained belief among the Taiwanese that China is a threat (well, in most cases, many countries think that as well) likelihood is his belief is very much aligned with those of Taiwanese. Much as we all dread to see the Chinese advances so rapidly it is an irreversible trend. Hence, to agree with the writer is merely a feel-good journey on the part of many readers who have never ventured to China or lived there for a period of time.

I've always discussed the "imperfections" in China as something foreigners should be thankful. Had they been like any other advanced country, you can be sure we the foreigners have no place to stand in the grand scheme of thing!!!

Speaking of which, the writer chooses to focus his sight on the bad things in life. If that's all he saw when in China, it's no wonder that he can't find easygoing and gracious people there!
August 27, 2011
Sounds like a great read. Thanks for telling us all about it. Add to the all of this that the Chinese government is dictating a one child per household policy and I would have to agree with your conclusion.
August 28, 2011
Since you brought up the one child policy and you had read AFTER AMERICA, you'd remember Steyn's claim about the Chinese "inclination" to send the young men to war. Now, I hope I didn't read that wrong and if I haven't, then who knows what's China real intention some years in the future?

I didn't read Parfitt book but it feel to me his distasteful account of the Chinese is as equally deep as those of Steyn's criticism of your very own president! 
August 28, 2011
The point the Steyn was attempting to make in "After America" is that Americans are simply not having children and that Chinese couples are only allowed to have one. Meanwhile, Muslim couples are having tons of kids. He argues that the numbers do not lie and that ultimately Muslims will become increasingly influential around the world.
August 26, 2011
I think that Chinese culture does have a lot to offer, but as of late, China has gotten a pretty bad rap due to the fact that they've been imitating and faking so many things. It takes brains to do that, so I hope they apply those brains to do and create more innovative things in the future rather than doing a lot of copying. And those are some interesting tidbits on other points. Thanks for sharing, Israel!
August 28, 2011
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Devora. I agree. Israel
August 28, 2011
The Chinese are just doing what the Japanese used to do in the early 70s. This American writer is just writing his experiences in a way which many American readers would love to read about what has gone wrong in China ;-) To me, no new insight here...
August 25, 2011
And I thought our health care was bad
August 04, 2011
China's biggest problem (and our greatest consulting opportunity ) is importing the knowhow from the coastal communities inland to the more rural areas of China. Americans should note all of the weaknesses pointed out in the above and seize the moment to fill the vacuum with services that solve these problems in a cost efficient manner .
August 04, 2011
I sent on your commnet to the author Israel
August 04, 2011
Very good point, Joseph. Excellent review, Israel!
August 04, 2011
Thank you Adrianna. Israel
August 05, 2011
Thank you for referring my comment to the author in Israel.
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About the reviewer
Israel Drazin ()
Ranked #67
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of twenty books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four … more
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Parfitt, who has taught English in Taiwan for over a decade, uses his experience there to start several months of travel through the People's Republic of China in order to challenge the assumptions that China will determine the course of the global economy in the next century. The result is mostly travelogue told from an outsider's perspective, contextualized with overviews of major events in Chinese history. Parfitt argues that China will not rule the world, because as a nation it is more interested in the appearance of success than actual substance. He suggests that culturally, China has little to offer. More importantly, the majority of goods currently being created in China come from non-Chinese companies, again proving a lack of innovation. Parfitt makes a compelling case from the microcosmic level for why it will be difficult for China to become the primary hegemonic force of the 21st century. However, his book lacks the pre-cise facts and figures that he decries in other books promoting Chinese dominance. Parfitt is a persuasive writer and readers will leave his tale scratching their heads and perhaps deciding that they do not want to visit China at all. --Publisher's Weekly, June 2011
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