Official name: People’s Republic of China
Population: 1 388 200 000
Area: 9 596 960 km²
I recommend my curiosity called “The real map of China”, where I provide even more interesting information about China.
Tourist attractions of China, China – the current times (two sides of the coin), China – a developed country or developing, history of China.
Tourist attractions of China
From the tourism point of view, country as large as China has a lot to offer and is therefore very attractive. The places worth visiting are for example Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macao or Xi `An. To the best man made objects I include the Great Wall of China, the Summer Palace, and the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin, consisting of eight thousand pieces. In addition to those, there is also Tianamen Square and Forbidden City, and many other great temple complexes from centuries ago, showing the architecture and art of various dynasties. The beauty of Chinese art, its medicine and martial arts are famous all over the world. Despite the fact that during the times of extreme communism government promoted “religion as opium of the people”, the wealth of art, architecture and many traditions of this beautiful country come primarily from different varieties of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. In China, there is also the world’s largest Buddha in Leshan, and the famous Shaolin Monastery. All of these objects are unique and are symbols of Chinese culture. In addition to the above, remember that this vast country consists of 56 ethnic groups and countries with different cultures and traditions drawn by force into the People’s Republic of China, what gives a wide picture of how different China really is. To the best areas of natural beauty I include the area around picturesque Yangshou near Guilin city. There are also beautifly shaped peaks that can be seen during River Li cruise, and trained cormorants fishing for people. I am also a big fun of rural life in China, buffaloes plowing the fields with primitive agricultural machinery and rice terraces on mountains. Also very popular are Yangtze and Huanho rivers , as well as steppes of Inner Mongolia. The Republic of China also includes the very unfortunate shall Tibet with Himalayas, Mont Everest and Potala Palace in the holy city of Lhasa (Separate full report about Tibet). China is also the best place to see panda bears, the pride of the Chinese nation. In addition to the above, there is also a rich Chinese art in the form of paintings, sculptures and fine furniture. China is a vast, beautiful country of one thousand views, picturesque landscapes, statues of dragons and many faces of Buddha. China is proud of hundred kinds of teas and rich cuisine, which varies depending on the province. The most popular is Peking duck, but with this dish Chinese menu only starts. For anyone who has visited China and will spend about three months there, it will be a country opening our eyes to the things, that western media simply do not show us.
China also includes Hong Kong and Macao, but my reports about the Special Administrative Regions of the People`s Republic of China I listed as other countries and described them separately.
China – the current times (two sides of the coin)
Every coin has two sides and this is exactly the case with China. The greatness of China has also its small sides.
China is a country in East Asia, occupying historic China (excluding Taiwan) and Tibet, Inner Mongolia and other lands in Central Asia inhabited by a total of 56 ethnic groups, the largest of which are the Han (92%). China is the fourth largest country in the world with an area of ??9.5 million square kilometers and it is the most populated country in the world with a population of over 1.3 billion people. As for the administrative division of China, it is divided into 22 provinces, 4 separated cities, 5 autonomous regions and 2 special administrative regions.
However on the other hand…..
- if you want to find out how big the true China is how much of it is Chinese, I encourage you to read my article: “The real map of China”. It is a story with an unexpected ending.
China is a communist country where the absolute power is exercised by the Communist Party of China, though communism there is based on partially free market. In the 70’s and 80’s, China’s economy was very backward, devastated by war and Mao’s mistakes, and that is why the government had to do something about it. It has been calculated that the damage caused by Mao Zedong cannot be fixed in a natural way for a long time, and therefore the government began to open China to the world, what lured investors from the U.S. and the European Union. As a result of the new market reforms, China has become the factory of the world. Cheap labour is the main reason for foreign investors, and because the Chinese communism looks like capitalism without the provision of social services, health or retirement, people save on a massive scale, which is one of the reasons that drives the economy. On the other hand, high levels of domestic savings can finance large investment projects. I could see it very well whilst travelling in China for some time. I was under impression that all the magnificent buildings and highways have been built at the expense of the poor and deceived Chinese, who in many parts of the country are extremely poor. Today, China is the second largest economy in the world, although it is calculated that in 2050 it will become number one. In recent decades, China has observed the largest migration of people from rural to urban (140mln) and about 14% of people in the major cities are the lonely and childless couples who are focused on work.
The above was a very general, preliminary information, and now I go to a few details. China is now the second largest economy in the world and the fastest growing country of the world, with bigger growth than all the G7 countries combined. It has been predicted that up to 2015 China’s economy will grow by about 10% every year, but there are also views that due to high population and a huge impact on the environment, in later years China’s economy will expand more slowly or will stop growing. “The factory of the world” has also many commercial and political ties around the world, having strong and unbreakable economic relations with the U.S. In my opinion, this economic relationship is primarily a silent guarantor of security, however this will not be admitted by any of the parties. In addition to the open, “free-market communism” in conjunction with huge economy, results that China is the third in the world in terms of foreign investment, and at the same they also invest around the world on a massive scale, what makes China grow in power. Because China is the “factory of the world” it would take me long to list what they produce, but from a variety of products I pay my attention at the world’s largest number of counterfeit goods. In China, counterfeit brand-name companies are so widely spread that even this scam has grown to a huge scale industry, which is great for them because China feels unpunishable. In addition to that, China is also a mining market leader, it has a reputable stock exchange in Shanghai and Hong Hong, and it is the second country in the world when it comes to the number of billioners. Also, the infrastructure is not like what it used to be in the 70’s. Today China has very good motorways, very well-developed and high-speed rail, and a well-developed network of airlines. There is even a direct rail link from Beijing to Lhasa in Tibet (by the way – scenic views!).
Not many people know that, but China was once the most advanced civilization in the world and at the time of the Ming Dynasty it was a leader in science and technology. The ancient Chinese inventions include: production of paper, printing, compass and gunpowder. They also developed arts and culture. Unfortunately during the times of Mao Zedong Chinese technology was at a disastrous level. Today China spends about $100 billion a year on technology. China has also the largest number of mobile phone users what also develops its economy, and yet another reason to be proud of is the production of super-computers and cosmic achievements of China.
However on the other hand…..
- When I wrote about the fact that China has the world’s second number of billionaires, I did not write that each one of the 1.3 billion Chinese people has billions. It is true that in the eyes of the average Chinese everything is going great, especially that 40 years ago the entire nation was dressed in green uniforms and hats with a red star, and was also starving. Today, Chinese people can choose their clothes themselves, and they can afford more rice. From official data it seems that 450m Chinese people live for less than $2 a day, and about 15% lives for less than $1.25 a day.
- China is the factory of the world. Yes it’s true, but it is not the quality of the world. Whilst travelling around China I bought many pairs of shoes which were gone after two days, or even after 10 minutes. There are also “single use” T-shirts and pants, strawberry yogurts without any flavour of strawberries, milk ice-cream with a flavour of ice only, and chocolate brownie a little bit softer than a brick. In neighbouring Tajikistan which is a very poor country, they buy Chinese cars and laugh that they will last only for 2-3 years, and can`t climb any hill. Quality in China is roughly on the same level as Mao-Zedong`s “cultural” revolution. I only wonder that if it ever came to war, would they be able to start up their equipment, and if yes, how far would they go? In case of problems, the starving and provided by China in new sandals North Korean army would probably help.
- I wrote that China’s infrastructure is well developed, but I didn’t add that only in the east. West China has not only a very poor infrastructure and industry, but it is backwarded by many decades. East China, which is the only area that is truly Chinese is at a higher level.
- Despite the well developed banking system, bureaucracy in China is legendary. To cash traveller’s check I had to wait long, sign a lot of papers and fight with rudeness and complete disregard of the employees. In the meantime, the staff also goes out for a smoke, or just to spit on a sidewalk, what is very common in China.
- I also think that the level of prosperity in China is very well illustrated by the great number of prostitutes from China in other Asian countries as well as in China’s wealthy enclaves. When walking through Hong Kong, Macao and Shanghai, and when I was in Singapore and South Korea I saw whole streets of Chinese women, and hotels rented by the hour. Chinese prostitution also takes place in Japan and Taiwan, and it`s been calculated that there are as many as 4 million Chinese women who in this way pay for their families in China. Officially they are in the rich parts of Asia on “working holidays.” Some of them are born into working in brothels, because in many parts of China the poverty is so great. These are the tragic consequences of the cultural revolution and the later economic revolution of China.
Education is at a good level and is well organized, although the level of literacy is still only about 92%. The Chinese government provides free education for primary and secondary schools, and also educates through internet, television and radio. Attendance to schools is also good because Chinese people like learning. In general China is on a good road to further education of its people, with a big number of universities and schools teaching specific occupations. In about 10 years the number of people with doctorates increased five times.
The only bad thing in the Chinese education system that I see, is wrong teaching of English. In China teaching English is based on repetition of words, what I call “the parrots` education syndrome”. In China students learn to write in English, but they are almost never thought how to speak. One Russian man told me that this type of teaching English is for a reason in communist countries, because the government does not want its citizens to speak good English, because it is afraid that they might become “spies of the West”.
China is currently in the process of carrying out massive health reforms. The Government partially covers the cost of treatment, but to varying degrees and depending on location. In most modern cities, the government assistance covers only 30% of expenditure on health, 60% in small towns, and in the smallest villages even 70-80%. Although China has made great progress in health care, there is still a huge difference between cities and villages, what is associated with malnutrition, anemia and stunting of children. Still about 15% of children are malnourished, 34% are anemic due to too little iron, and 40% have intestinal worms. Poverty is to blame for this situation, and for example the rural Chinese prefer to sell the eggs they produced for 20 yuan per kg than eat them themselves. Instead they eat instant noodles soups, which do not have any vitamins but only chemistry. A research has been conducted on rural households and it`s been calculated that 30% of them eat meat, eggs and rice less often than once a month. That`s why children in western China do not have a proper diet for their development. It`s been also calculated that about 7.6 million children from villages were smaller and lighter than children of cities. In the vast China and the country of huge population there ar not enough doctors per citizens. This situation looks the worst in western China, so precisely in the areas which are not Chinese (Tibet, Turkestan). By 2002 92% of people from cities, and only 8% of people from rural areas had access to clean water, and to sanitary facilities had access only 69% of people in cities and 32% of people in countrysides. In addition to all that China has a lot of diseases, and at certain point tuberculosis became an epidemic. China is now on the second place (after India) in tuberculosis infections. In China there are also: hepititis A and B, malaria but only in some parts, leprosy, rabies and many others – although again, with India it is difficult to “compete”.
China were deliberately slow in the fight against HIV/AIDS for a long time, because the Chinese government did not want to admit to the epidemic, recognizing it as a problem of other countries. The Chinese government was so hypocritical that it closed all the anti AIDS clinics and its founder was under house arrest. One woman even sold her house to distribute leaflets about AIDS, and politicians tried to stop her. There was also a big case of selling AIDS infected blood in which some politicians were also involved. In 2005 there were about 1 million infected with HIV and 150,000 died of AIDS. It is possible that in 2010, it was about 10 million. In 2003 only 2,6% Chinese people new that condoms could stop HIV, what is also closely related to education.
China has about 100 mln people with mental illnesses, which is more than the total populations of Britain and Poland combined.
However, I have a lot of good to say about traditional Chinese medicine, which is based on homeopathy, acupuncture and acupressure. In China, for thousands of years people have been treated with natural ingredients and therapeutic massages, (as for example Thai massage in Thailand). For centuries this art has grown and in today’s China there are two medical schools: one of the West (which I call the “Mendeleev`s board”) and the other one is a natural Chinese medicine. I believe that contrary to the Western medical art, not everything should be treated with chemistry, because many drugs can be found in nature, like for example: in flowers, trees, deep waters and elsewhere. I believe that the West should be more open to the traditional medical art of the Far East. The difference here is, that when when an Englishman gets cold he takes an aspirin or antibiotics, and I have learned to drink herbal tea with honey, lemon or raspberry juice. When I got sick in China, I was cured by a traditional Chinese medicine.
Chinese culture is one of the oldest in the world, and it consists of traditional art, music, philosophy, architecture, arts and cuisine. Although during the cultural revolution religion was promoted as “the opium of the people”, the Chinese culture is based on Taoism and Confucianism, and also Buddhism. In China you can see wonderful and very attractive Buddhist temples, pagodas and beautiful gardens. The best examples of splendid Chinese architectural culture are such landmarks as the Forbidden City, gardens of Leshan with the largest Buddha in the world, and the Summer Palace near Beijing. Terracotta Army also tells us a lot about the very rich Chinese culture. Prominent symbols in front of each temple are: Chinese dragon – usually with long claws and long mustache, lions guarding the entrance, and ornamental jug with incense. It is unfortunate however, that such wonderful places such as the Forbidden City is surrounded by communist buildings and communist monuments. Among many other things Chinese art consists of images of tigers and pandas on the background of rice fields and bamboos, golden cats supposedly bringing good luck, red lanters and red strings tied in a traditional Chinese way, monuments of Buddha and dragons. China has also Chinese New Year, during which are held dances and dragon shows. China has also its cuisine which is largely based on rice, and dishes such as Peking duck need no introduction. Chinese cuisine is old, good and very sophisticated. In China, there is a culture of making and drinking tea on especially prepared tables, usually with carved Buddha. Contrary to common believes, brewing tea is also an art, and China has thousands of kinds of it. Famous throughout the world is also a kung fu (wu shu), a Chinese martial art. I was personally in the Shaolin temple to see monks in action. There a few kung fu styles taken from the nature, such as for example: the monkey style, tiger, mantis, snake and crane, although I think there should be also a panda style, especially that this bear has grown to the status of a national symbol of China. China also has their own traditional costumes that resemble long shirts in many colours and rich in many patterns. China has also its traditional Chinese medicine, based on homeopathy, acupuncture and acupressure.
When it comes to ethnic struture, the 92% are Han and the remaining 8% are minorities. In China, there are many languages, but the main version is the Mandarin Chinese. Although for example in Hong Kong Cantonese language applies. About 600 000 foreigners live in China, mostly from South Korea, Japan and the U.S.; but given the huge population of China I still appreciate it as a homogenous country. When it comes to religious division, the “opium of the people” unfortunately claimed many victims as 42% of Chinese people are atheists, 30% worship Confucianism, and 4% Christianity. There are also other minority religions and Islam (2%). Despite rapid economic growth and the endless race for money, and despite poverty in many parts of China, fortunately religion is coming back as many Chinese people need something deeper in life than just money. Christianity becomes very successful in China.
China also puts great importance on family planning, which I think is a good idea taking into account 1.3 billion population, and the fact that 70% of Chinese people are of working age. The one child policy however is not obeyed by racial minorities and people living in rural areas, because of hereditary issues and need of labour. Because of desire of having a son China got infamous for removing girls.
Unfortunately, there is another side to this nice story:
As for the beauty and attractiveness of the Chinese culture I have no doubt. I also believe that Chinese culture deserves to be explored, however
- The culture of China is interesting but I should have added that only the one which was left by their ancestors. An average Chinese does not cease to spit on the street, as well as in a post office, in a bank, or in a bag on the bus. Before the Olimpics in 2008 the Chinese government had to do something with that problem because of the shame and the general threat of tuberculosis. Also, Chinese toilets are only good when compared to those in India. At a railway station toilet Chinese people squat next to each other on a flat floor without any fences, and then a woman flushes all the bronze figures with a bucket of water. Delightful, isn’t it?! Arrogance in China is extreme and sucked with the milk of communism.
- Chinese people lie to themselves. After Mao Zedong starved, killed and finished off 60m Chinese by disease, he is still the father of the Chinese people and his portrait is hanged on the gate of the Forbidden City and appears on every banknote. Official figures say that Mao was wrong only in 30%, but somehow no one could explain me the enigmatic 70% of his success. I think that the Chinese Communist Party is also wondering how to stop this ridiculous propaganda, but they still haven`t figured out how to go around it. Once I saw a Chinese couple at the age of 75, who wanted me to take a picture of them in front of the portrait of Mao. To them it meant a lot. Most Chinese people have never been abroad because they cannot afford it, and because they are raised on the lies of communism they honestly believe that really helped Tibet, China, and that the communist party is right. By the way, Americans are brainwashed in exactly the same way.
When it comes to freedom of speech and freedom of press, it is more or less at the level of the Soviet Union of Joseph Stalin. Newspapers are censored and many western websites are blocked. In Shanghai, before I used Internet I had to give my passport for scanning, because special services may want to see what foreigners are interested in. The West is preaching China about democracy and freedom of speech, but those hipocrytes forget, that they are not much different from China. Hello London!
On the press freedom list out of 179 countries and territories, China is on the “honourable” 174th place, after countries such as: Djibouti, Somalia, Afghanistan or both of the Congos. “In the name of communism long live the freedom of the Chinese people.” Behind the 174th place China obviously hides its political prisoners, tortures and harassment of journalists, who see freedom of speech in a different way.
This section of China I dedicate to the natural environment, which can be classified as horror novel. Environmental protection system in China is very primitive and according to me it is a “policy of missed target”, because industry takes priority. Comparing to developed countries China is backwarded by about 40 years. The difference between China and India is only, that in India they dump rubbish on the streets, and in China environmental problems are swept “under the carpet”. This is the only reason why China looks cleaner.
- China has also an “honourable” title, because they are in first place in the world (after India) in terms of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Air pollution is so thick that in some parts of China sun rays are not able to get through the smog, nothing can grow, and the landscape looks like on Mars. This has of course a huge impact on the health of Chinese citizens.
- Water pollution is huge and has a direct impact on the flora and fauna of China. Many rivers are close to heavy industries, which also serve as a waste.
- Desertification of land at a rate of approximately 67km2 per year. Approximately 30% of China are deserts, not possible to live in or to agriculture. Mainly in the west of the country.
- Forests cover about 20% of China and in this respect I have to shake hands with the Chinese goverment, because at least they try. China is on the list of the 15 most forested countries in the world, spending $6.5 trillion a year on afforestation. Around 7.7 million hectares of agricultural land has been earmarked for afforestation. I think that it is still not enough.
- China one hand protects panda and the whole world has devoted much attention to this matter, but on the other hand we have to remember other crimes of China, such as: ivory, rhinoceros horns and shark fin. In few parts of China they also eat snakes.
- All of these problems are directly related to the huge population and a huge industry that has to serve it, and then even more industry to supply the entire world. Also the enormous an never ending greed of the Chinese take part in it.
China – a developed country or developing?
I’ve seen many times questions on the Internet whether China is still a developing country, or it is already developed. Economy, stock market and the strength of export are not the only indicators of development of the country. There are also many other very important factors, which I described above. China is definitely still a developing country and still have many challenges ahead. However, due to huge population and all the problems and requirements associated with this population, it is very difficult. On the other hand, countries of the West sometimes call China a developed country because they want China to cover some of their costs.
In my opinion China will become a developed country one day, but in the era of mistaken ideology the countries of Western Europe and North America will in many ways become developing ones.
History of China
I always say that, it is very good to know history of the country you are going to, to better understand local customs, culture and sights. History of China is very rich as it is one of the countries with the longest political tradition. Next to India, Mesopotamia and Egypt, China is one of the oldest centres of civilization in the world. China’s historical tradition that dates back to 1700 BC and under its influence were: Japan, Mongolia, Taiwan, Vietnam and South/North Korea.
China’s first agricultural culture developed in the Neolithic Period (circa 5000-2500 BC) which was a period of many inventions that improved work and contributed to the prosperity of China. They began to use a potter’s wheel, rice and mulberry cultivation, irrigation and breeding silkworms. In the years 1766-1122 BC there was first China`s documented dynasty – Shang. Then they developed writing, first calendar, and found new cities. In times of the next dynasty – Zhou, feudal system was introduced. Then V-III century BC was a period of warring kingdoms. This was also the golden age of Chinese philosophy. At that time Confucianism and Taoism were created. In the third century BC Great Wall of China was built to defend against nomadic tribes from the north and west. This was attributable to the glory days of China’s Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). Technology stood at a very high level and China was the most advanced country in the world. When the Han dynasty collapsed there was a long period of economic and cultural stagnation. Buddhism gained great importance in that period. It was not until the beginning of the Tang Dynasty, when China started to grow again. In the VIII century there was published the world’s first printed book. In the year 1211 began a period of the Mongol invasions which ruled the throne of China. They established their own dynasty – Yuan, with its capital in Beijing, but when the Mongol empire began to disintegrate, in 1368 the power over China was taken by the Ming Dynasty. It was a period of strong development of the state which opened to foreign influences, but long wars with the Mongols, pirate attacks and internal political conflicts led to the collapse of the dynasty in 1644. Then the power was taken over by the Manchurian dynasty – Qing. It was also the time when Europeans reached China’s leading political, commercial and missionary affairs. European influences become so strong that dissatisfied Chinese closed all their ports except the Cantonese. However this didn’t help China at all, because the Anglo-Chinese Opium Wars, internal conflicts and lost war with Japan in 1894 led to the final collapse of the country. China then became a semi-colonial country, divided into the spheres of influence: Japanese and English. In 1911 revolution broke out what became a beginning of a long struggle for power and political domination. Japan used this fact, and in Manchuria the created a meaningless state headed by China’s last emperor Pu Yi. After the Japanese captured Beijing, the Chinese created the anti-Japanese front, commanded by communist leader Mao Zedong. In the 1946-1949 civil war, in which the Communists won and formed the People’s Republic of China, the representatives of the former government fled to Taiwan. Mao Zedong introduced communist principles and pursued a “policy of the big steps”, what according to him meant a rapid progress through collectivization and socialization. In 1966 he announced the “cultural revolution” which resulted that all schools were closed and all people had to work physically as only such work was considered useful.
It is worth mentioning here that the cost of such a policy was immense because Mao murdered about 60-80m Chinese citizens and further believed that the nation’s strength lies in its numbers, and therefore all kinds of contraception were prohibited. Not only he murdered about 80m people and brought them to the frontiers of poverty. Today he is regarded as the father of the nation. Part of the “cultural revolution” for example, was to attack on Tibet and including it into China`s territory (I accurately described this matter in my documentary about Tibet). After Mao’s death in 1976 began the struggle for power. Despite the reforms and establishing cooperation with the West, the Chinese kind of Democracy is very limited. The Chinese Communist Party has authority over the political, economic and social matters.
Tourist visa: I bough this visa 4 times and each time without a problem. I recommend a double-entry visa valid for 60 days from the date of entry. I also had one visa valid only for 20 days. After leaving the mainland China to Hong Kong or Macao, our Chinese visa expires, and to return to the mainland you must have a new visa. I do not advice consulates in Warsaw or London because the queues are huge. The fastest service provides an office in Hong Kong.
Safety: I always felt safe, both in small villages and large cities. In many places there is however theft and fraud, and the worst is Xi An. Keep your bags close to you and don`t believe in scams like for example invitation for tea, or buying tickets from con artists. I advise you to be tough and cold to those who are too nice and too helpful. Honest Chinese people do not usually behave like that.
Moving around the country: not a problem. Very good network of quality trains and buses, which do not always ride on good roads. Sleeper trains and buses are very popular due to long distances. Internal flights network is also very well organized.
Prices: (in 2006 when £1 – about 15CNY) vary depending on region. The most expensive are Beijing and Shanghai, though even here I found a six bed dorm room for about $ 5 per bed. In other parts of the country I paid the same amount for better conditions. There is a very good network of cheap hostels but as usual it all depends on your budget. Food is cheap. Street stalls and cheap pubs will feed for a dollar or two. In many parts of the country for $ 5 I was able to feed my family. Transport is more expensive, and especially trains from Beijing, and depending where you want to go. Sometimes it is bettr to buy a plane ticket. In a country of over a billion people I advise you to book ahead.
Climate: varies widely. Moderate in the south, subtropical dry in the centre and in the east, tropical and humid in the south and the south-east. In such a large area it can be -30oC in the north and 20oC in the south at the same time. in Beijing and Shanghai it should be about 25oC in the summer. In the south it will always be warmer and wetter.