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Thursday, 19 December 2013

From China Today

By Johna Ferguson

Rules, rules and then more rules. Yesterday Zhou and I wanted to visit a sick friend of ours, a Chinese, in a hospital here in Beijing. It is a navy hospital for their higher-ups and who knows what they might be talking about, so no foreigners are allowed.

But Zhou had once been asked to give a lecture there with my speaking on the side in my English voice so Zhou called the doctor who had invited us to see if he might be able to help get me in.

He said he must contact his higher-ups, and they would probably contact their higher-ups but we never got a call, so Zhou will go alone.

It used to be the rule that when a foreigner arrived in any city, they must immediately register at the local police station so the government knew where you were at all times. This time, Zhou asked his granddaughter about the rule as she is an American citizen, having been born in the states but always living in China until she left for college at Cornell; she is back for a semester working on an internship.

She said she heard the rule had changed in Beijing; after a month one must register, so we are going on her word. I just hope it’s right or I could face a big fine, maybe $500. I did, however, register when we arrived in Qingdao since those rules are stricter.

Because the pollution is so high, the government limits the days you can drive your car in various areas of Beijing. The rule depends on the last number on your license plate; odd or even number. That cuts in half the number of cars on the roads, yet the traffic jams are still horrendous in this city of over 20 million.

At the present, the city has six ring roads, the last four arterials; the fourth being five miles from the city center and the sixth one is nine miles out from the city center but even they aren’t enough for all the cars.

Eight million people ride the subways daily and many rely on the extensive bus system but still the leaders of this country cannot get a handle on how to manage the cars that add so many effluents to the already polluted air.

There are rules about how many drivers’ licenses can be issued in each province and how many cars can be purchased but there are ways to get around these rules. It all depends on whom you know and how powerful they are in your province. No wonder corruption is so prevalent

A new rule regards population control. If one party of a married couple is an only child then they may now have a second baby. But, then, it is so expensive living in any city that most can’t afford to have another.

The rule has been changed from both parents being only children to just one now. Who knows how soon that will affect the birth rate and uneven ratio of boys to girls.

Another change is no more labor reform camps for political prisoners. This could mean anyone who spoke out about the Party or government. They could be sent away for years without even a trial.

The conditions at these camps have been deplored for years by other nations’ human rights committees. Now we wait to see what they will replace these camps with.

But these changes are not enough for me to want to return to live here. The government is strengthening its hold in other ways. The party does not want to lose any power over its control of the populace.

I miss the freedoms I have in America so I will happily return back to the states after our month’s visit has ended and who knows if I’ll return again. Only time will tell.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post



When I see your name I always hope you will be telling us more about life in China.

You write the most interesting things about a Country most of us will never have the opportunity to visit,so we depend on you to tell us about life there.

I can't picture living in a city of 20 Million people; 8 Million of whom ride the subway every day. Unimagineable!

I was also very interested in the issue of Population Control. You made a point I had never thought of before. That being the fact that even if a couple were permitted to have a second child, they probably could not afford to have that baby anyway.

I hope that you continue to write about your very interesting life in China, even after you return to America, using your Perry Ellis coat as your Passport!

An extremely informative post. Once again, you've told us more about China than all the self-anointed experts who haven't lived there or had direct family connections. Thanks.

I, too, always enjoy your personal accounts of life in China. I often wonder if your husband misses his life there.

No Jackie, he doesn't for in America he can write most of what he wants while in his country a lot of it would be banned. Also there is a large population of Chinese here in Seattle.

Johna - always so interesting to read your posts- reminding me of my time teaching in China twenty years ago - at that time the roads were still congested by bicycles but of course all the young people wanted a car - when I tried to discuss the impact that would have on their country they just could not comprehend it - none of us can truly picture the future can we? A fascinating country full of lovely people but oh dear the bureaucracy!!!! I would love to visit it again but I certainly wouldn't want to live there.

Thanks for the current and first-hand info. Good to know.

Thank you for sharing your very interesting life with us.

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