For many people the world over, China still bears a sense of mystery, even in the 21st century. Being an economic giant, China is a constant in our lives whether we know it or not. However, the everyday lives of the people living there aren’t something we have much access to. These pictures offer a glimpse as to what it’s like living in China.
1. The World Exporter
It should shock nobody that you can find an array of products made in China almost anywhere in the world. 18% of the giant country’s products go straight into markets in the United States. You are buying products made in China daily and don’t even know it. They are manufacturing everything from automobile parts, clothing, furniture, lighting fixtures, electrical machinery, wallets, handbags, and of course, toys.
The country’s epicenter of manufacturing is the city of Shenzhen. As they are officially the world’s economic giant, they are only hoping to take things further. The government is hoping to significantly upgrade their machinery by 2025, so that they can push their production efforts even further.
2. One-Child Policy
Big families definitely aren’t a huge part of modern Chinese culture. Most of this can be attributed to the one-child policy, which was introduced by the government in 1979. The controversial policy was enacted in the hope of keeping the country’s enormous population growth under control. Since most Chinese families treasured having boys over girls, many female babies ended up abandoned or placed in foster care.
While the one child-policy did slow population growth, it did end up having an inverse result: there’s an enormous gender imbalance in today’s Chinese society. The gap is so extreme that there are estimated to be 40 million more men than women in the People’s Republic of China.
3. A Different Kind Of New Year
As January 1st rolls around, most of the world celebrates the New Year. The ball drops in New York’s Times Square, the Rose Parade floats roll down the street in Southern California, fireworks go off, and then every is pretty much snaps back to normal. But China celebrates the Lunar New Year, which is a little more of a bash — to say the least.
Their celebration doesn’t stop after just one day, but goes on for a full fifteen days. Everyone is partying it up in one way or another, with parades, different symbolic foods, religious traditions, dances (perhaps most famously the Lion Dance), and plenty of drums, gongs, and firecrackers. With each new year comes a new animal zodiac to represent that year. For example, 2020 marks the Year of the Rat.
4. So You Think You Can Traffic
China is the most populous nation on Earth, a fact that becomes extremely apparent when you’re stuck in a Chinese traffic jam. Traffic in metropolises like Shanghai and Beijing make LA traffic jams look like smooth driving. Things got particularly bad on an infamous day in August 2010, when residents in Beijing experienced a traffic jam that lasted for twelve days.
The jam was especially bad for the poor people stuck on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway. On any given day, one can find themselves in traffic for over an hour at peak times. If you are late for a meeting and need out, luckily bottleneck rescuers exist. For a fee, two guys on a motorcycle will find your car, one will take you on the bike, while the other drives your car to your desired destination.
5. Panda Property
In zoos all over the world, you’ll be able to treat yourself to watching the adorable antics (or naptime) of a family of pandas. Despite those pandas hanging out in an enclosure in, say, San Diego, they are actually owned by the People’s Republic of China. The country actually owns every panda on the planet today.
China lends out their pandas to zoos all over the world. However, any newborn pandas outside of China are immediately flown home to expand the gene pool. The species’ status was only recently changed from endangered to vulnerable, and China has breeding facilities specially built to help them, most notably in Chengdu, capital city of Sichuan province. If you’re a panda fan, start looking for tickets.
6. Pajamas Are The New Black
While going out in pajamas in America may be seen as a sure sign that someone has given up on their life completely (yikes), there is no better way to say you’re hip in China than sporting your coolest pair of jammies in public. Okay, so they aren’t the hottest trend in all of China, but they definitely are the hip new statement in Shanghai.
On any given day in the Chinese metropolis, you can walk into a coffee shop, a movie theater, or just your local market and see a number of individuals decked out in their pajamas. Sadly, this fad might not go on forever, as the government is not a fan of everyone dressing down in public.
7. This Officer’s A Quack
If you asked the typical American what a police officer’s ideal animal companion would be, they’d probably describe a German Shepherd. Across the Pacific Ocean in China, however, methods are becoming rather different, especially in the more rural areas. There, they employ an animal that can be far more effective than the classic canine.
The thought of police geese may seem like an amusing joke, but you’ll have second thoughts when you’re getting chased down by a flock of these aggressive and territorial birds. Geese can hear far better than humans and have an amazing sense of sight. Even if a burglar doesn’t see the geese upon breaking into a building, the birds will know he is there.
8. That Teeny Little Pollution Problem
China has built a reputation as being a country of mass production. For decades, factories across the massive nation have been creating basically everything, for everyone. While this is definitely great for their job market, it isn’t so great for the environment. China is currently one of the most polluted countries in the world.
According to Time, currently, the two most polluted locations on the planet are the Chinese cities of Linfen and Tianying. The environment of these cities is said to be more toxic than Chernobyl. The country’s overall pollution is so out of hand, that multiple studies have found its residue can reach as far as San Francisco, California.
9. China’s Cave Dwellers
Here is the 21st century, the thought of human civilizations living inside caves seems like something that went out with the Stone Age. However, this isn’t true for some people living in China’s northern province of Shaanxi, particularly in the region called the Loess Plateau.
As we line up outside of Best Buy for the latest iPhone model, there are over 30,000,000 folks in China still living in caves. That’s more than the entire population of Australia. Luckily for them, the house caves that they live in do a good job of keeping heat out during the summer and keeping the cold out during the winter, so beyond a lack of electricity and windows, they actually aren’t too bad.
10. Most Populated Country In The World
Not only is China a massive country in terms of its geography, but it has the biggest population on Earth. The population of China is over four times that of the United States, and currently one in every five people on our planet is of Chinese descent. That said, it should shock nobody that Mandarin Chinese is the most widely-spoken language in the world.
Countries like Canada and Russia are much larger in terms of their area, with the latter being nearly double China’s size. However, those countries aren’t half as condensed as the People’s Republic. With that, if you’re business savvy, Mandarin or Cantonese are definitely languages that you should consider learning in the future.
11. Walk And Text With Ease
The world currently has no shortage of people recklessly walking down the sidewalks with their heads aimed down at their phone screens. This has resulted in an alarming amount of people bumping into individuals and, worse, sometimes even stumbling directly into traffic without looking to see if cars are coming.
China has attempted to tackle this issue by catering to frequent texters, giving them their own lane. The mobile lane allows pedestrians to text carelessly while all trotting along like zombies. No more will they run into the elderly or unsuspecting toddlers. The lane also has written in bold white letters: “Walk here at your own risk.”
12. Housing The World’s Biggest Army
With a mind-boggling 1.6 million troops on hand, the People’s Republic of China holds the present title of having the world’s largest army. For perspective, if China’s entire air fleet decided to start pulling away from one of their aircraft carriers, their fighter jets would still be taking off 24 hours from now.
The country is often described as a rising superpower in the world, but truth be told, they already are one of the biggest powers in the world. Not only do they have an incredibly strong ground force, air force, and navy, but they also have a rocket force and strategic support force.
13. Avoiding Your Parents? That’s Criminal
It happens too often that parents raise their kid only to see that child ditch them and move across the country. While this wasn’t always such a common occurrence, thanks to greater social mobility, it’s happening now more than ever. This phenomenon is especially prominent in places like Japan, Korea, and most of Europe.
While not ideal by anyone’s standard to have the society’s elders be forgotten, the Chinese government decided to stand up against this epidemic of abandoned elderly. If someone has a parent over the age of 60 in China, it is quite literally illegal to not visit them on a regular basis. There have been cases of children actually being taken to court by their neglected parents.
14. Do You Have A Kid Certificate?
In Chinese society, two people who are in love can’t just decide to bring a child into this world, at least not without the government’s approval. That’s right: if they’re living in China, couples must first apply to have a baby, get approved, and receive a Family Planning Certificate.
If you don’t get approved for this certificate and have a baby anyway, your baby will be deemed illegal. These illegal children, which are known as heihaizi, do not have the Chinese equivalent of social security numbers. That means they often can’t get legal jobs or travel documents, and won’t be treated at hospitals or taught at schools.
15. China’s Sweet Gift To Us All
Ice cream is a dessert appreciated anywhere and everywhere across the planet. There literally isn’t a person around who wouldn’t scream for some ice cream! As it turns out, we have China to thank for that: the sweet treat was first invented in China back in 200 BCE. Some ancient genius did this by blending snow with a mixture of rice and milk.
We don’t know who this person was, but we’re betting that they never would have guessed that their local treat would have spread throughout the entire world. While Ancient Persia and Greece had somewhat similar treats at an earlier time, the Chinese version stands as the closest example of what we eat today.
16. Beliefs Galore
While Communist nations don’t really have a good history with religion, China contains many different religious traditions within its vast borders. Not only has the enormous country given rise to its fair share of religious philosophies over time, it also borders some very diverse nations. Over the centuries, this has had a profound effect on the Chinese people in terms of who they pray to.
Nearly every one of the world’s major religions has touched down on Chinese soil at one point or another. The most popular belief systems in the nation are Taoism and Confucianism (both of which originated in China), as well as Buddhism, which arrived from India two millennia ago. That said, there are also around 20 million Muslims in China, and the country currently homes more Christians than all of Italy.
If you are a fan of piggies, you might want to consider staying far away from China. Half of the planet’s pig population belongs to China and the Chinese people are hungry for them, consuming up to 1.7 million swine on a daily basis. If you ever find yourself in a Chinese restaurant, you’ll notice that pork is never excluded from the menu.
When you consider how smart pigs are, you can’t help but feel pretty bad for them. While China might seem like the perfect tourist destination for us humans, any pigs looking to book a travel package might want to steer clear — even if they are afforded their own zodiac sign.
18. Table Manners
At the end of the day, manners are relative to the person and the culture that they belong to. An American at a Chinese dinner table might be taken aback by some of the table manners displayed. Behavior that may seem completely forbidden at a Western table is actually the norm in China.
When eating in China, spitting, slurping, grunting, burping, and yawning are actions you may see at your meal. These customs can even show your chef you appreciate the food. While it may seem surprising at first, chances are, in time you’ll start joining in on the fun. It’ll only be a problem when you return to your country and have to face your family at the dinner table.
19. Rent A Significant Other
Being single is hardly ever a pleasant thing, but it all takes a turn for the worse when you’re well into your thirties and heading home for the holidays to parents with grandchildren on the mind. In the West, you’d be in for some intense interrogations regarding who you’re seeing and when you’re getting married.
In China, this problem is easily solved due to the booming business of renting a significant other online. Not only will this rented significant other keep your parents quiet, but they’ll also gain you a lot of free sympathy when you have to announce the breakup. Seems like a win-win situation!
20. Movies Aren’t Rated
If you’re 12 years old and dying to see the newest Rated-R movie in America, you can forget about it unless you have a parent or legal guardian by your side. In China, however, the rules considering ratings are thrown out the window. Literally anybody can walk right into even the raunchiest movie if they have the money to buy a ticket.
Ratings aside, these movies are more often than not heavily edited by the government. There is a committee of 36 officials who filter all the movies that come through the People’s Republic. If any movie features a scene putting China in a bad light, it’ll be cut from the film.
21. One Mass Vacation
Vacations aren’t a norm in Chinese society, particularly when compared to most European countries. When citizens get their annual holiday from work, it’s on a nationwide scale. Nearly every Chinese citizen gets a mandated two-week vacation during Chinese New Year.
This mass vacation across the nation leaves even major cities like Beijing and Shanghai looking like ghost towns as most citizens head to their hometowns or to holiday destinations. In that small time frame around and during the holiday, over 3.7 billion trips are planned. One can only imagine how hectic the airports are, not to mention how slow packed amusement parks are.
22. Piercing The Heavens
Skyscrapers are a major part of any major city across the world. At the moment, the United States and Japan hold the second and third spots for countries with the most skyscrapers, with the US sporting over 700 and Japan over 250. However, having over 1,400 skyscrapers across the country, China easily trumps them both combined.
In the year 2018, 88 new skyscrapers were erected across the country. We aren’t just talking large buildings either, but megastructures with very unique designs. In recent years, the trend has gotten so out of hand that Xi Jinping, the country’s president, asked for this kind of building to be stopped.
23. Ghost Cities Out Of The Twilight Zone
It’s been estimated that there are up to 50 cities across the expanses of China that are in fact completely empty. These luxury cities are quickly developed, and then they’re left as massive empty ghost towns until they are eventually filled up with people. However, sometimes that can take years to happen.
Tianducheng, “Sky City,” is the perfect example of this. When this massive living space was first constructed in 2007, it took years to get any sort of population inside. By 2013, the city had only attracted 2,000 residents. It was practically a ghost town. Today, 13 years after its construction, it has finally managed to get 30,000 residents. However, those numbers are still pretty low for a city of its size.
24. Locked Out
If you’re thinking about checking your phone for Facebook updates while in China, you can forget about it. Some of the planet’s most popular sites aren’t so popular with the Chinese government. While people the world over love to kill time by bingeing on YouTube videos, China isn’t having it.
When you have a question and the answer is hanging on the tip of your tongue, you can’t even ask Google. The reason for this is that China’s government seeks to control the information that comes through the Internet. They went out of their way to make sure that any possible outlet for anything they perceive as “anti-Chinese” is stopped.
You can find a piece of everything in China. They have their own massive Eiffel Tower, their own giant American-style shopping malls, their own man-made River Thames and High Street in Shanghai’s Thames Town, and even Hallstatt, a city that basically looks identical to a number of pastoral mountain towns that can be found in Austria.
Those fakes are only the beginning. You can find no end to pirated music and films, and you can even find no shortage of fake stores. If you have some of China’s fake unauthenticated Apple products, you’ll find a fake Apple store to fix them. There are also fake restaurants and fake banks. Instead of joining Chase Bank, why not join Ching Construction Bank? After all, they use the same logo!
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