The email that I got the other day was highly revealing, even though it outwardly appeared to be quite simple.

Hi: Rich
How are you feeling now? just can't stop thinking about your health, how is your chest doing?I have been watching CCTV's program about Iraqi war, all the informations give me an idea is that Mr. Bush made a big mistake. People from Iraq don't accept American army, not only people from all over the world against this war to Iraq, but also American people don't agree with him, I just think war is not the solution.

It doesn't matter how long the war is going to last, you gotta get better fast, that is important right now.
tAke care

Yes, China can sometimes be hard to understand. This is my thirteenth trip to this foreign land, and it seems, that over the past seven or eight years, I've spent about one year here in this country. I've learned lots, and I've learned little. Still can't speak the god damn language. Still can't eat fish eyes. But I've learned a lot about this country. I think.

I've learned that no matter how low to the ground the urinals are mounted to the walls in the Chinese bathrooms, the Chinese all still seem to piss on the floor.

I've learned that there are well over one hundred and seventy different words that have some sort of meaning connected to the word "love", yet, I still can't find any in this damn country. Unless I pay for it.

I've learned that, even though Chinese culture and language dictates a fascination with the concept of love and affection, Chinese businessmen of all levels can be brutally uncaring and capitalistic.

I've learned that affection in China can be seen widely; that men will hold hands with other men, boys will hold hands with other boys, men will hold hands with boys, older women will hold hands with younger boys, women of all ages will hold hands with women of all ages, and older men will hold hands with young girls. But, you won't find fathers holding hands with teenage daughters. You might find me trying to.

I've learned that Chinese water gives you the shits, and that Chinese food gives you the shits. Chinese air gives you lung infections, and the toilet paper in this damn country falls apart in your little hands. What little of it they put on each individual roll. God forbid you have one roll of Chinese toilet paper, and eat too many vegetables the night before. Oh, and you never, ever, ever, read the newspaper in a Chinese bathroom. Especially one that you find on the floor.

Chinese airlines used to always crash, now, with new Boeing jets, they just cramp the seats far too close to each other.

And did I mention that just about all Chinese men smoke? And that in the medium and smaller cities, a sure sign of a Chinese prostitute is a woman who smokes. In the larger cities, as more and more women are discovering this new found freedom to smoke, it's not a good sign of a cheap roll in the hay. Prostitutes in the larger cities tend to hang their cell phones from chains around their necks. Oh, and they smoke.

And if you think that prostitution is rarely found in China, think again. All these karaoke bars, night clubs, discos, and a good deal of the hair salons and massage parlors, can offer you the opportunity to find "special treatment". It's there. Much more than the Chinese government wants people to think. And, in many cases, it's run by the local police department. Capitalism has reached all sorts of new levels in this so-called communist country.

And on television, which is run by the Chinese government, CCTV broadcasts on over ten or fifteen different stations. And, over the past few years, it has all been the same old shit. News, stupid variety shows with dancing and "Jerry Lewis" style comics, tourism spots, which show different areas in China, and, movies. Lots of movies. All about love stories, where guy meets girl, guy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with guy, girl meets another guy and falls in love, first guy has broken heart, leaves, and sometimes dies. Always tragic. Oh, and the other movies tend to deal with war, and how well the Chinese fought against the invading Japanese, and how frightened the Americans were during the Korean conflict, and how they ran away. Chinese war history, like everything else in this country, has been largely "taught" via their interpretation of world events, as they have seen them, and is passed on to the younger generations, as they "portray" them and televise them.

Which is why, I found quite interesting, the latest and newest addition to Chinese television, to be, of all things, The History Channel. Now, I just love the History Channel back in the US. I could spend literally hours watching all the various and different shows that they televise during the day. And one of the things that I miss when I go to China, is my beloved History Channel. Well, quite the surprise had I the other day, when I was surfing through Chinese television, only to come upon a Chinese dubbed version of the History Channel. Interesting, I had thought, because the History Channel tended to be pretty reliable and insightful when it came to presenting a relatively uncommercialized and unretouched version of history. No doubt, with the new over dubbing of some of the shows in Chinese, there must have been some sort of screening of these shows, to decide what is safe and relevant for the general population to be seeing. Although, it did demonstrate for me, this new willingness of the Chinese government over the years, to open the world up to their population, not only in economic terms and western wear and customs, but with respect to out of China views towards current and historic events. It will be interesting to see where all of this eventually goes.

But, some things don't change. Even though China appears to be "opening up" to the world, it still keeps some things under various levels of control. The whole politics of the Iraq war, and the upcoming mess with respect to North Korea, seemed fascinating to me. I decided to investigate how the Chinese viewed these two present day major issues. What I found out, was what I kind of expected.

Whenever you talk with someone, whether it be a lower level government official, a highly connected businessman, or a college student off the street, it's the same theme. Interference.

The feelings that the general public in China have towards the US seem to emanate from one source, and that is the state run media, whether it be the newspapers, or the news on television. Similar queries bring similar results, as if the mass brainwashing of the Chinese government run media has had the desired effect. You can't blame these people for not thinking out of the box, considering the fact that the only facts” that they get, are spoon fed to them. I've seen this before with my queries about Tibet, and its history, which seems to have been rewritten by the Chinese government. Their feelings towards the US with respect to our upcoming war in Iraq, and with respect to Taiwan and the upcoming mess in North Korea, all resonate the same, apparently regardless of whom I speak with, regardless of their level of expertise or influence in the governmental hierarchy.

The theme of America taking over the world”, which seems to be a constant, regardless of whom I speak with, outwardly appears to be one of angered hatred, but inwardly smells of slight jealousy. I've heard this before, the whole idea of the US getting involved in areas of the world that it has no right to. My conversations over a few nights with some college students and some other people having various connections with the Chinese government, was revealing, to say the least.

They all seem to feel the same. China is a peace loving nation”, one that does not want to get involved in other country's affairs. Their attitude of taking the "middle road" not only is a reflection of it's thousands of year old philosophy, but also is representative of the character that stands for "China". Zhong, is portrayed as a box with a line going down the middle of it; which is supposed to represent a land that lies "in the middle", between heaven and the underworld. This "middle of the road" approach is something that you see as quite the recurring them, in the country's various philosphical writings, in the characters associated with it, and in the people's general attitudes, not only about world issues that have little to do with China, but, with events that happen in day to day life. They seem to be happy just taking care of things in their own neighborhood, and to hell with whatever happens outside their borders.

The attitude changes when it comes to their hood. Talk of causing trouble within the country's borders, and all of a sudden, people's attitudes change, and change they do, quite drastically. China is perfectly happy using its military to defend its borders, and, to keep peace within. This concept of spreading troops all over the world, for whatever reason, as the US tends to do, appears to be anathema to them. They just don't understand why a country would want to interfere with other country's matters. Of course, not to rock the boat with these poor uninformed college students, I didn't mention the brutal takeover and destruction of the Tibetan society. That, according to them, was just an issue of China taking control of what it had always "owned". Just as Taiwan seems to be. I didn't bother getting into Tibetan history, and the fact that Tibet was not always a part of China, and that, in fact, China granted independence to Tibet back in the early 1900's, during one of it's previous attempts at incursion. No, discussing real history with these people, tends to lead to funny expressions. They can't believe history that is presented to them, from an outside source, primarily because, that's not what they've been told. "Tibet has always been part of China." "Taiwan has always been part of China". It's comical sometimes, it's sad. It reminds me of the nonsense of DeGaulle freeing Paris from the Germans during World War II. The French wrote their version of history too. I guess, to some degree, we all do.

World events outside of China's lands seem to generate interest, but not so much as to demand China's interference in what goes on around them. It becomes drastically different, when an outside force intrudes upon Chinese borders; then, almost universally from my experience, the attitude of "taking the middle of the road peaceful approach" changes to one of sudden anger and hatred. Two events come to mind; the downing of the US spy plane onto Hainan a while back, with the death of the Chinese pilot, and, Clinton's bombing of the Chinese embassy, during one of his bullshit retaliatory strikes against terrorism, or whatever the hell he was doing. (To this day, I don't think even he knew; maybe we'll all find out when he writes his 12 million dollar memoir. Maybe he'll tell us how good Monica really was....) The Chinese may not care very much about what North Korea does to South Korea, even though they're right across the border; they get inflamed when some foreign country "invades" their terrritory. Their defensive posture goes up quite a few notches when things directly affect their lands or their people; they don't seem to care much about other people's or country's issues, even though, that country's issues might have some sort of ultimate effect upon China and its people. All this is contrary to US policy, which seems to have a need to interact in many other country's issues, as we see the world as being a big place with many, many necessary foreign interactions, whether it be trade, defense, or security. China, like the turtle, seems to want to withdraw into its shell when it senses danger nearby. But, it will come out and attack, if its shell is violated.

The association of the US with Taiwan seems to generate a lot of anger. Of course, most Chinese, if not all, seem to think that Taiwan is a part of the motherland, and should be returned to it, just as Hong Kong and Macau were recently. The fact that the US defends Taiwan against intrusion brings up the continually repeated concept of interference”; the reasons for our interference appear to be more one of economics and power, and less, one of protecting and ally and a friend. In fact, when presented with the concept of allies and friends, these college students had great difficulty understanding the notion of making alliances and providing mutual protection and economic benefits. All they could think of, was the idea of holding onto Taiwan (as if the US owned” Taiwan, an interesting observation) for one reason: to maintain the fairly significant computer economy that Taiwan holds. Their observation was that Taiwan is responsible for sixteen percent of the world's computer and associated technology production, and as such, provides a significant economic and power boost” to whatever country controlled it. Their feeling was, the US controls Taiwan to stay on top of the world's economy (our strong economy being a recurrent theme, again, hinted with streams of apparent jealousy), and, to remain the world's sole superpower. They seemed to think that the US feared Taiwan's return to China, for one reason: that China would then rival us in their attempt to become the world's sole superpower, with an economy far outpacing that of the US. I inquired as to where these students got their information, as I had noted to them that Taiwan's independence from China largely benefited Taiwan and the other countries that did business with it, and really had nothing to do with the economic strength of the US. Again, it was clear, that what they were regurgitating to me, came directly from what they read in their newspapers. Newspapers which are freely and publicly displayed on corners around Bejing, prominently displayed in well lit glass enclosed billboards.

The influence of the government controlled media is a powerful one. Remember, if you have a population of people who have no other source of information, other than what they read in the newspapers and see on television, that population of people can be easily influenced. People tend to believe what they read in the news, and what they see on television. We do the same in the US, though, our education and upbringing tends to open our minds a little more, thus forcing us to question things at times. We also have the benefit of different types of news organizations, with CNN being more liberal minded, and Fox being more conservative. Different approaches to the same stories tends to make us think more out of the proverbial box. The Chinese, not having the benefit of seeing different sides to the same story, seem to regurgitate what they're told. I would assume that its part of not only the educational process, but the culture (the concept of "respecting one's elders" is paramount here). But, if you present the Chinese with facts, facts that they have not been exposed to through their government influenced newspapers and televsion, they are open minded enough to wonder. They'll think about things, they'll start to question, but, in the long run, they fall back onto whatever they've been led to believe by the state run media.

The Iraq war is a good example. From the email above, it's quite obvious that what is being presented in the Chinese media is different than what is being presented in the US media. The Chinese seem to have forgotten the events of Sept 11th, and they can't seem to see any relevance between the two. The whole concept of our going to war with Iraq as a part of our war on terror, in an effort to prevent another, and quite possibly far more devastating version of Sept 11th, is completely unknown to them. They're sympathetic to us with respect to that horrible day, but, they just don't seem to understand the relevance of it. The notion of a terrorist attack of that magnitude happening to them, on the shores of their country, is completely unacceptable; they just don't seem to think that something of that magnitude could ever happen. The idea of terrorism occurring in their cities is not something that they can understand; they just don't ever think that anything like that could ever happen to them. All of which, is something that I kind of find amusing, since Beijing has been the subject of terrorist attacks, by the muslims in XinJiang province, in the past. I guess these things are quickly "taken care of", the terrorists are "disposed of", public displays of protest are "dealt with", and the things that shouldn't be televised or made newsworthy, "aren't". One thing is for certain though. If there's ever a major political event in the Chinese government, such as the recent elections for president, you won't be able to sneeze without hitting a policeman or military serviceman with snot. The time I was in Beijing just recently, when the congress was gathering at the Great Hall on Tiananmen, saw an incredible amount of police, security guards, and military, with various sorts of weaponry, just about everywhere. Security was incredibly tight, and even though the "word" that was on the streets, that this increased security presence, was "typical", deep down, one could sense that China did not want to have any possibility of any sort of terrorist activity soil its worldwide appearance. The outward presence of terrorism on its shores would place China onto a different level on the world stage, one which could not allow it to maintain its much beloved "middle of the road" approach.

China maintains this "middle of the road" approach with respect to other important world issues, most notably, North Korea. North Korea is a neighbor, and a close one at that. It's current sabre rattling with respect to possible future nuclear weaponry and war with South Korea, is of a concern to those I spoke to in China. Again the whole "wanting a peaceful outcome" was paramount. The idea of the Chinese going to war with North Korea because of this new nuclear proliferation, just does not seem to be an option to them. Nor do they understand the US's desire to get involved. It's interesting, the Chinese don't seem to be worried about NK's having nuclear weaponry; no, that just doesn't seem to be the issue to them. I got the same response with respect to this,as I did when we talked about Chinese history and nuclear weapons. Supposedly, Chairman Mao was never worried about the US with all it's nuclear weaponry during the Cold War. He felt, that regardless of how many US nukes landed on China's cities, China would easily be reborn, and would not really be devastated, because most of Chinese society really inhabited the fields, and not the cities. China, being a society built up by Mao from the peasant class, a society which tended to be more agricultural than city based, just would not suffer from a nuclear exchange with the US, as the US would suffer. The US, being a society which was more city based, would derive more pain from any sort of war. So, China was just never worried about it, always thinking the US to be a "paper tiger". They seem to have the same feelings about North Korea.

They certainly don't want North Korea to be a problematic child, but not because they're worried about going to war with them. They fully understand that North Korea wouldn't stand a chance in any sort of conflict with China. They also fully understand that there wouldn't be much economic loss if they severed ties with North Korea because of war; in fact, the Chinese economy is growing in such leaps and bounds, because of its interaction with so many other areas of the world, the loss of North Korea as a "friend" just would not hurt them. They certainly don't want to see the North invade the South, because that would be contrary to their generally peaceful means. I got the impression that the Chinese just were not worried about any sort of interaction with the North, in fact, in the Chinese newspapers soon after the new congress got elected in Beijing, newspaper articles which talked about telegrams of congratulations, from other countries, appeared. One of the most prevalent writers of telegrams, to all of the newly elected officials, was North Korea. One of the most noticeably absent offerers of congratulations to the newly elected officers of the Beijing congress, was the US. North Korea plainly wants to keep friendly ties with China. China, doesn't seem to really care.

Except for one, very significant reason. If there were to be any sort of conflict with North Korea, whether it be the South, or the US, the main problem that the Chinese would have, would be the sudden and very large influx of North Korean refugees into northern China. The Chinese just don't want them. They have more fear of having thousands upon thousands of North Korean refugees flooding their borders and intruding on their way of life, than any sort of nuclear exchange or terrorist ties with that country. Again, the whole concept of "not caring what goes on outside their borders", and, "getting inflamed upon Chinese territorial intrusion". It's a common theme. To the Chinese, this whole North Korean fiasco is an issue to them, but, from what I could tell, a peaceful outcome, with no international interaction, would be preferable. Although not preferred, a non-Chinese participating international foray with some sort of military exercise might be acceptable, if it took care of the North Korean "problem", as long as there were no worries or suggestions about the possibility of Chinese territorial intrusions. Again, it's a recurring theme. You can take care of issues outside in other people's backyards, as long as you stay the hell out of my backyard.

The general impressions, are that the Chinese, though "world players", are more happy reaping the benefits of this world wide interactive economy, without having to deal with any of the world wide problems that are out there. They always seem to want a "peaceful" resolution to all these world wide issues, most likely because the Chinese, having suffered for thousands of years with multiples of wars and warlords, and foreign invasion, are now finding their place in the world as a burgeoning and growing economic superpower. They're more interested in improving their society and their economy, than militaristic issues in the world, even though, these issues might have some economic effect upon them at some time in the future. Their abhorrence of external conflict is readily forgotten once there is foreign intrusion of any sort, upon their lands. I remember one group of college students telling me about how angry they were when one of Clinton's cruise missiles or bombs destroyed a foreign Chinese embassy, killing three Chinese people. The lack of sincere apology, and the event itself, caused these students, and many others, without the encouragement of the Chinese government (as we in the US were led to believe), to show their consternation at the walls of the US Embassy in Beijing. The hatred that I viewed when these students talked about this one issue, was incredible. It all reinforced the idea of the Chinese being more concerned about what happened to their people, and their land, than world wide events that might have some sort of impact on their country, even ones that are right next door to their borders.

SARS, nukes, wayward child countries. The approach all seems to be the same. The old "we'll take care of issues on our property, and stay the hell off of it" approach. No doubt SARS has been in China for a while, no doubt it's far more prevalent than what they're telling the rest of the world, no doubt, they'll handle it on their own; it's a problem which seems to be more ours and less theirs. To them, Taiwan is theirs, and they'll wait patiently for its return. The opposition to conflict seems to override their desire to have their supposed lands back. Again, an issue which we seem to make more of than they do. They know Taiwan will come back, it's only a matter of time. North Korea, a problem, but again, apparently more ours than theirs. They certainly are not worried about North Korea becoming a nuclear power (though their not overly happy about it), as they're not threatened by them, nor are they greatly worried about terrorist activity originating from there. Again, more our problem, than theirs. Three different issues, three similar approaches, all of which portray China as being far more concerned with its internal affairs than its external ones, All of which show China wanting to take the slow, peaceful approach, than some hasty militaristic one. All of which show China being very protective of its own pond, and not really caring what happens outside the fence that surrounds it.