Life in School - and Beyond             November, 2009

 

note:  This was written more than ten years ago, when I began teaching full time in China. Some slight editing and updating.  My students were all undergrads in business, marketing, civil engineering, or urban planning.  These notes are early observations on student life at ZUST in Hangzhou.  I can't say this email feels inaccurate years later.   Life goes on, in and out of school, but the beat goes on, too - stress upon stress, and not stress of one's own making.   Smoking and environmental cancer are big contributors to early death.  But stress is also an environmental constant.

The middle class Chinese diet is full of the stuff that doctors in the US tell us we should eat- lots of fish, lots of vegetables, fruit, a little liquor (ok, maybe not a little), a little meat, nuts, grains.  But adult Chinese die at about the same rate as Americans, and now, from mostly the same causes - heart, and cancer.  Why don’t Chinese people live forever?

The National Day Singing Competition - Zhejiang University of Science and Technology, September, 2009

 note:  this post is from 2009, a few weeks after I came to ZUST to teach full time and I was still awed by most everything.  As it turns out, there were no more singing day competitions. This one was part of the celebrations of 60 years since the founding of the PRC.  Still, an impressive event.

One of the emcees wore a black tuxedo with diamond -  I wanted to say rhinestone- studs along the collar and piping.   The other wore a white tux with black piping.  The women emcees wore serious prom type dresses, or serious I-am-a-grownup-take-me-out-dancing dresses- a slinky reflective gold long dress for one, a more demure white for the other. 

An Evening in Middle Class Life        October, 2009

There is a pattern in the west of seizing on negative China stories as definitive proof than revolution, or collapse, or the Second Coming are just around the corner.   Debt and moral vacuum and lack of trust and cheating.  But China is a big country, with a big middle class that is vested in ongoing stability.  This is just a dinner story from ten years ago, with government friends from Hangzhou and Shaoxing.  This is just middle class people relaxing and enjoying the holiday. 

This story is also about middle class CCP members, and such an observation seems sorely overlooked in most discussions of China's future.  I have no systematic data, but my educated guess is that a Venn diagram of Chinese middle class - however you wish to define them - would show great overlap with CCP membership.  There are about 90 million CCP members.  With some dual member households, let's speculate that comes to 60 million households.  These are the people holding nearly all government jobs, heading up non-government organizations, teaching in high schools and universities, and owning many small and large businesses.  Let's give those 60 million households one child and a grandparent or two, or four, and that is roughly the same as the size of the middle class.  CCP is the middle class, and when writers talk about emerging democracy and civil society and middle class demands for voice, we should remember who we are talking about.  The CCP is the bourgeoisie.

Are you getting hammered from the typhoon?   The constant question from the US in fall of 2015 …

 Hangzhou, Xihu District, Shui Mu Qing Hua residential development.  Reporting from the front.  On the fifth floor.

Liu hé lu, the street right outside the school and our apartment complex, was flooded today. That is the only exit from our development.  Late in the day, there was occasional traffic in each direction in the west bound lanes only; a few of the brave drivers who made the attempt did not stall or get flooded out.  Other major local streets were also flooded, and closed.  There is no other way in or out of our development, and all the other developments to the west of us.  The thousands of us were stranded, at least for the rest of the day. The street floods a couple of time a year anyway, so this was not unexpected. 

Source: Englishsina.com

Source:  chinadaily.com.cn

Enyce and guanxi and ... chen dongfan               Fall, 2009

 

Note – this was a couple of months after I began teaching full time in Hangzhou, so I was being sensitive to … everything.  Food, clothes, manners.

 

Ju la, or as it is sometimes written, Ru la, is an American-sixties style restaurant in the hills of Hangzhou. Chinese food, Chinese patrons, but the design is all exposed and rough-cut wood, with American nineteen-fifties advertising posters on the walls and tables that are enormous rough hewn blocks.  It is very popular, especially on Sundays.  It is a custom to go to a restaurant on Sunday, take a table, and spend two or three hours or more eating and drinking and talking.  No waiters hustling you out as you take your first bite of dessert.  It is Sunday, the one day of rest.

Ju ra       Trip Advisor - Restaurants Hangzhou

 

The Mysterious Parking Garage Market   

 

Tea party activists and Randians and market fundamentalist miss some things about the real world.   One is the distinction between free markets and competitive markets.  Free markets are for one-off deals with buyers and sellers who don’t know each other, have equal power in the market, will not see each other again, and don’t convey any information about the transaction to the rest of the market.  One-off deals are the métier for people like our current dear leader.  Except for the equal power in the marketplace bit.

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