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A Guide to Chinese Culture in Chimerica Close

Choon Ping | May 30, 2013

Elizabeth Chan in Chimerica. Photo: John Persson.


What is China’s economic relationship with AFRICA?

There are an estimated 800 Chinese corporations doing business in Africa, most of which are private companies investing in the infrastructure, energy and banking sectors. China gives unconditional and low-rate credit lines to African countries, which have taken the place of the more restricted and conditional Western loans. Since 2000, more than $10bn in debt owed by African nations to the PRC has been canceled. Large-scale structural projects, often accompanied by a soft loan, are proposed to African countries rich in natural resources. China commonly funds the construction of infrastructure such as roads and railroads, dams, ports, and airports. These amenities aid the movement of natural resources back to China, and provide China with leverage to obtain exploration and drilling rights.



An anonymizer or an anonymous proxy is a tool that attempts to make activity on the Internet untraceable. It is a proxy server computer that acts as an intermediary and privacy shield between a client computer and the rest of the Internet. It accesses the Internet on the user's behalf, protecting personal information by hiding the client computer's identifying information. Use is extremely widespread in China to bypass State censorship.


What is BAI CAI?

Chinese cabbage, with distinctive dark green leaf and white stalk.


What are BAO ZI?

A type of steamed bun in various Chinese cuisine, with a variety of filling ranging from braised meat and vegetables to custard, even soup. Directly translated, the phrase means 'little parcel'.


What are Russo-Chinese BORDER affairs like?

In June 2010, the Xinhua News Agency reported that China had leased a total of 426,600 hectares in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (District) – popularly known as Birobidzhan – and the Khabarovsk region of Russia to Chinese farmers. This has caught Russian nationalists’ attention; they have called the arrival of waves of farmers the beginning of 'the Chinese conquest' of Siberia. A floating population of tens of thousands Chinese traders and seasonal workers continually moves back and forth across the border, one of the longest in the world. The immigrants settle not only in border areas but increasingly deeper into Russian territory, and some backlash is imminent. These developments raise several questions for Russia as to the migration’s impact, China’s long-term plans for Siberia, and potential Chinese dominance in the region.


How did BUDDHA become Chinese?

Buddhism first reached China from India roughly 2,000 years ago, during the Han Dynasty. Han Dynasty China was deeply Confucian, and Confucianism is focused on maintaining harmony and social order in the here-and-now world through active intervention. Buddhism, on the other hand, emphasized entering the monastic life to seek a reality beyond reality. Confucian China was not terribly friendly to Buddhism. However, Buddhism found an ally in China's other indigenous religion, Taoism. Taoist and Buddhist meditation practices and philosophies of non-action were similar in many respects, and some Chinese took an interest in Buddhism from a Taoist perspective. Early translations of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Chinese borrowed Taoist terminology. Still, during the Han Dynasty very few Chinese practiced Buddhism.


What are some Chinese superstitions and taboos concerning CHILDREN?

Babies are given unpleasant names for everyday use (as opposed to official use) to avoid the attention of evil spirits. In the same vein, babies are never praised. In very formal situations, parents would refer to their own children as 'puppies', to signal modesty. Another related superstition is that by giving babies un-human names, it would be some time before the gods cotton on and enter them into the 'Registry of Life and Death', and hence avoiding premature deaths. In certain Chinese communities, the ears of male babies are pierced, to disguise them as female babies (which are less valuable and therefore less likely to attract the attention of evil spirits). Babies are not announced to the world until they have survived one month after birth, whereupon their arrival would be celebrated with 'full-month banquet'.


How do Rockets Disperse CLOUDS?

Cloud seeding, a form of intentional weather modification, is the attempt to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds, by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei. The usual intent is to increase precipitation (rain or snow), but hail and fog suppression are also widely practiced in airports. The most common chemicals used for cloud seeding include silver iodide and dry ice (solid carbon dioxide). Clouds were seeded during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing using rockets, so that there would be no rain during the opening and closing ceremonies, although others dispute their claims of success.

With an NFPA 704 rating of Blue 2, silver iodide can cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury to humans and mammals with intense or continued but not chronic exposure. However, there have been several detailed ecological studies that showed negligible environmental and health impacts. The toxicity of silver and silver compounds (from silver iodide) was shown to be of low order in some studies.


How is DUNG used as fuel?

Dung is dried, and used as fuel in lieu of plant or fossil fuels.


What is FACE?

'Face', originating in Chinese, is idiomatic for prestige or dignity. Although linguist Lin Yuntang claims that 'face' cannot be translated or defined, its meaning may be triangulated with the different formulations by different academics:
• Erving Goffman: 'Face is an image of self delineated in terms of approved social attributes'.
• Ho Yao-fai David: 'Face is the respectability and/or deference which a person can claim for himself from others, by virtue of the relative position he occupies in his social network and the degree to which he is judged to have functioned adequately in that position as well as acceptably in his general conduct'.
• Bert Brown: Face is something that is emotionally invested, and that can be lost, maintained, or enhanced, and must be constantly attended to in interaction. In general, people cooperate (and assume each other's cooperation) in maintaining face in interaction, such cooperation being based on the mutual vulnerability of face.

Michael Carr discovers 98 phrases dealing with prestige, feelings, dignity, social valuation in the Chinese lexicon, which are formed with the word 'face'. Lin Yutang considers the psychology of 'face': 'Interesting as the Chinese physiological face is, the psychological face makes a still more fascinating study. It is not a face that can be washed or shaved, but a face that can be "granted" and "lost" and "fought for" and "presented as a gift"'. Here we arrive at the most curious point of Chinese social psychology. Abstract and intangible, it is yet the most delicate standard by which Chinese social intercourse is regulated.

Lin refers to liu mianzi – 'grant face; give (someone) a chance to regain lost honor'; shi mianzi – 'lose face'; zheng mianzi – 'fight for face; keeping up with the Joneses', and gei mianzi – 'give face; show respect (for someone's feelings)'. Others include si po lian – 'to disregard social niceties in favour of brutal honesty; to fall out'; bu yao lian – 'to be shameless”; shang lian – “to turn up to an event, by which respect is shown to the event’s organiser'.


Why is it good to be FAT?

In Chinese culture, people congratulate new parents on having a “fat” or “plump” baby, with plumpness being a sign of health and wealth.



Fengtai District is a district of the municipality of Beijing. It lies to the southwest of the city center, extending into the city's southwestern suburbs.


Where is FUZHOU?

A city in Fujian Province, on the Southeast coast of China; across the straits from Taiwan.


What is GUANXI?

Guanxi describes the basic dynamic in personalized networks of influence, and is a central idea in Chinese society. In Western media, the pinyin romanisation of this Chinese word is becoming more widely used instead of the two common translations – "connections" and "relationships" – as neither of those terms sufficiently reflects the wide cultural implications that guanxi describes. At its most basic, guanxi describes a personal connection between two people in which one is able to prevail upon another to perform a favor or service, or be prevailed upon. The two people need not be of equal social status. Guanxi can also be used to describe a network of contacts, which an individual can call upon when something needs to be done, and through which he or she can exert influence on behalf of another. In addition, guanxi can describe a state of general understanding between two people: 'he is aware of my wants or needs, and will take them into account when deciding his course of future actions which concern or could concern me without any specific discussion or request'.

Guanxi refers to the benefits gained from social connections and usually extends from extended family, school friends, workmates and members of common clubs or organizations. It is custom for Chinese people to cultivate an intricate web of guanxi, which may expand in a huge number of directions, and includes lifelong relationships. Staying in contact with members of your network is not necessary to bind reciprocal obligations. Reciprocal favors are the key factor to maintaining one’s guanxi web; failure to reciprocate is considered an unforgivable offense. The more you ask of someone the more you owe them. Guanxi can perpetuate a never ending cycle of favors. The term is not generally used to describe relationships within a family, although guanxi obligations can sometimes be described in terms of an extended family. The term is also not generally used to describe relationships that fall within other well-defined societal norms (e.g. boss–worker, teacher–student, friendship). Sociologists have linked guanxi with the concept of social capital. Similar concepts include the 'old boy network'.

This exchange in the opening scene in film The Godfather between Don Corleone (played by Marlon Brando) and Bonasera, a supplicant for the Don’s help in taking vengeance against his daughter’s rapists, is a good (though more demonstrative) approximation of guanxi:
Bonasera: I ask for justice.
Don Corleone: That is not justice. Your daughter is still alive.
Bonasera: Let them suffer then, as she suffers. How much shall I pay you?
Don Corleone: Bonasera, Bonasera. What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you'd come to me in friendship, then this scum that wounded your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you.
Bonasera: Be my friend. Godfather.
Don Corleone: Good. Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day.


What is HUKOU?

A hukou is a record in the system of household registration required by law in the People's Republic of China (mainland China). The Communist Party instituted a command economy when it came to power in 1949, and as an instrument of this command economy, in 1958 promulgated the family register system to control the movement of people between urban and rural areas. Individuals were broadly categorised as a "rural" or "urban" worker. A worker seeking to move from the country to urban areas to take up non-agricultural work would have to apply through the relevant bureaucracies. The number of workers allowed to make such moves was tightly controlled. Migrant workers would require six passes to work in provinces other than their own. People who worked outside their authorised domain or geographical area would not qualify for grain rations, employer-provided housing, or health care. There were also controls over education, employment, and marriage.


How does China control INTERNET access?

Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China is conducted under a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations. In accordance with these laws, more than sixty Internet regulations have been made by the Chinese government, which have been implemented by provincial branches of state-owned ISPs, companies, and organizations. The apparatus of China’s Internet repression is considered more extensive and more advanced than in any other country in the world. The governmental authorities not only block website content but also monitor the Internet access of individuals.

Amnesty International notes that China 'has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world'. The offences they are accused of include communicating with groups abroad, signing online petitions, and calling for reform and an end to corruption. The escalation of the government's effort to neutralize critical online opinion comes after a series of large anti-Japanese, anti-pollution, anti-corruption protests, and ethnic riots, many of which were organized or publicised using instant messaging services, chat rooms, and text messages. The size of the Internet police is rumored at more than 30,000.

According to a Harvard study, at least 18,000 websites are blocked from within mainland China. Out of the Top 100 Global Websites, 12 are currently blocked. The state-sponsored news agency, Xinhua, stated that censorship targets only 'superstitious, pornographic, violence-related, gambling, and other harmful information'. On the other hand, websites centered on the following political topics are often censored: Falun Gong, police brutality, Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, freedom of speech, democracy, Taiwan independence, Tibetan independence movement, and the Tuidang movement. Foreign media websites such as BBC News, Yahoo! Hong Kong and the Voice of America are occasionally blocked.

A 2012 study of social media sites by other Harvard researchers found that 13% of Internet posts were blocked. The blocking focused mainly on any form of collective action (anything from rumors provoking riots and protest organisers to large parties for fun), pornography, and criticism of the censors. However, significant criticisms of the government were not blocked when made separately from calls for collective action.


Where is JIANGSU?

Jiangsu is an eastern coastal province, south of Beijing, north of Shanghai. Culturally, most of Jiangsu is considered Southern Chinese.

Two main subdivisions of the Chinese language, Mandarin (not Putonghua, the national standard speech based on the Beijing dialect, also commonly called Mandarin) and Wu, are spoken in different parts of Jiangsu. Mandarin dialects are spoken over the traditional North Jiangsu, while Wu is used in South Jiangsu. Mandarin and Wu are not mutually intelligible and the dividing line is sharp and well-defined.

Jiangsu is rich in cultural traditions. Kunqu, originating in Kunshan, is one of the most renowned and prestigious forms of Chinese opera. Jiangsu cuisine is one of the eight great traditions of the cuisine of China. Suzhou, a city in Jiansu, is also famous for its silk, while Wuxi is famous for its peaches. Since ancient times, south Jiangsu has been famed for its prosperity and opulence, and simply inserting south Jiangsu place names (Suzhou, Yangzhou, etc.) into poetry gave an effect of dreaminess, as was indeed done by many famous poets.


Why does Ming Xiaoli write LETTERS?

Petitioning (also known as letters and calls, correspondence and reception) is the administrative system for hearing complaints and grievances from individuals in the People's Republic of China. Under the system, State and local Bureaus for Letters and Calls are commissioned to receive letters, calls, and visits from individuals or groups on suggestions, complaints, and grievances. The officers then channel the issues to respective departments and monitor the progress of settlement, which they feedback to the filing parties.

Petitioning bureaus are ostensibly a communication channel between government and citizenry, and have been relied on since the establishment of the PRC in 1949. Petitioners may begin their attempts for redress at the at local-level letters and calls office, which are located in courthouses or in township-level government offices. If unsatisfied, they can move up the hierarchy to provincial level offices and, at the highest level, the State Bureau for Letters and Visits in Beijing.

Provincial capitals have been accused of hiring people in Beijing to abduct petitioners who have travelled from their areas and force them to go back home; this is known as "intercepting." The apparent aim of interceptors is to prevent citizens from appealing in Beijing because local officials face State displeasure if citizens from their areas seek redress in the capital. Human rights organizations have accused Chinese authorities of arbitrarily imprisoning large numbers of petitioners in black jails or other illicit detention facilities. In 2009, Human Rights Watch produced a report alleging that large numbers of petitioners, including children, are detained in black jails, and documented several allegations of torture and mistreatment in the facilities.


What are the PRIVACY LAWS in China?

China does not currently have a comprehensive legal framework to regulate the use and disclosure of personal data or a national level law that delineates how a company can legally collect, process and retain personal data. However, there are important rules scattered in diverse laws, regulations and local ordinances that should be considered when doing business in China. The right to privacy is upheld in principle by the PRC constitution and Civil Law Principles. The PRC Constitution provides that a citizen’s personal dignity is specifically protected as a fundamental right. Although the Constitution has yet to define what constitutes personal dignity, most Chinese legal scholars take the view that personal dignity should include certain privacy rights. Despite the fact that the term “privacy” is referenced in certain PRC laws and judicial interpretations, the scope of privacy protection (including the right to restrict public access to personal information) has not yet been expressly codified or addressed in detail by the PRC courts.



In the People's Republic of China, a public security bureau (PSB) (公安局) refers to a government office essentially acting as a police station or a local or provincial police force. Typically, a PSB handles law enforcement, public security, social order, residence registration ("hukou"), and internal and external migration matters, such as the registration of temporary visitors. The system of PSBs is administered by the Ministry of Public Security. This should be distinguished from the separate but parallel network of state security bureaus, administered at the national level by the Ministry of State Security, which is responsible for external and internal intelligence, and performs a 'secret police' role.



China UnionPay, also known as UnionPay, or CUP, is the only domestic bank card organisation in the People's Republic of China (PRC). Founded in March 2002, China UnionPay is an association for China's banking card industry, operating under the approval of the People's Bank of China (PBOC, central bank of China). It is also the only interbank network in China excluding Hong Kong and Macau, linking the ATMs of some fourteen major banks and many more smaller banks throughout mainland China. It is also an EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) network.



The slogan is popularly attributed to Mao Zedong; however, there is no actual record of his ever saying that. However, his views on woman are clear, for example, Chapter 31 of Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (The Little Red Book) is devoted to the emancipation of women. In summary: 'Women represent a great productive force in China, and equality among the sexes is one of the goals of communism. The multiple burdens which women must shoulder are to be eased.'