China Survey: Results

Thank you very much to everyone who responded to the survey I put up about China in 2016. It was very interesting to see how people said they view China.

The biggest takeaways:

  1. The majority of respondents have never set foot in China.
  2. More respondents have a negative view of China than a positive one.
  3. Stereotypes about China are persistent and often outdated.

Now let’s get into the survey’s meat itself. If you want to take the survey yourself, please click here. 

Q1 Result: 57% people residing in the USA.

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The other countries in the 32% at the bottom were mostly Canadians, with several Australians and many others.

Q2 Result: 56% of respondents consider their nationality US.

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Only a couple of people identified themselves as Chinese.

Q3 Result: Hardly anyone reads hard-copy magazines anymore.

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Bizzarely, most of the responses for ‘Other’ were for Reddit. Guys…that’s an internet news site. Except this one:

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Russ, is that you? 🙂

Q4 Result: Slightly more than 40% of respondents have a mostly negative or wholly negative view of China.

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One person did say it was too complicated to categorize in this fashion.

Q5 Result: ‘Authoritarian,’ ‘Corrupt,’ and ‘Communist’ are the top adjectives for the government of China.

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This question could have been formulated better, but I wanted to see what people used to describe the government of China broadly speaking. Additional write-in responses included ‘capitalist,’ ‘unknown,’ ‘fascist in some aspects,’ and ‘i haven’t thought of it before.’

Maybe I should have included a definition of these words, or asked people to define them in their own words.

Q6 Result: Nearly 80% of respondents have never visited China.

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This is the most revealing question in the whole survey. The vast majority of the respondents have never seen China with their own eyes, so their views must only be formed through the information they get from the news and their interactions with people they know who are Chinese.

A little over a year ago, I would have been in this category, too. My own views on China have changed a lot since I moved there last year. The post is coming, I promise! I’m still digesting what I think and forming it.

Q7 Result: 65% of respondents are not nervous about China’s place in the world. Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 3.46.30 PM

Interesting! I wouldn’t have expected this, based on the conversations I’ve been having since I got back. The comments on this question are revealing:

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I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to North Korea since I’ve been back in the States.

Q8 Result: I’ll get out of the way and let people speak for themselves. The question was ‘Describe your mental picture of China, in two sentences or less.’


Highlights include this gem:

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The most commonly mentioned phrase in these responses was ‘air pollution’ or some variation thereof, following by mentions of weak legal institutions and income inequality.

Q9 Result: Most people know at least one person from China.

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Q10 Result: Everyone knows about Mao Zedong, few people know the name of the First Emperor.

Sorted from most responses to least.

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It seems as though people hear about China a lot, even though most in this survey have never been there.

This survey falls in line with the general ideas about China in media, and the narratives that drive them. Some of the ideas people have about China are really outdated, but my guess is that this is due to the poignancy of the images from the Cultural Revolution and the heavy focus both within and outside China on the current air pollution issues.

I was surprised that more people did not indicate they are nervous about China’s role in the world, given that they are mostly from the USA and most people I’ve spoken to since being back here appear to be hyper-nervous about it. Equally surprising is that the Rape of Nanking ranks above the Cultural Revolution in renown.

It is unsurprising that those surveyed have a mostly negative view of China.

How do you feel about China in 2016? Do you have opinions about travel to countries like China or North Korea?

Travel Talk

Here’s the talk I did at a local high school (my old school!) today. It’s meant to be encouraging to young people looking to get into this nomadic travel lifestyle. It went over quite well!

If anyone, high schooler or no, has questions for me about travel and this life I’ve chosen, contact me directly below. I write back quickly.


Mt. Hua (Huashan): One of the Best Days in China

I’ve been off grid in terms of ability to upload photos lately, because our contracts in Shanghai ended and we had two weeks to travel in China. After 36 hours of travel beginning at 7AM on Hainan and :

  • five airports
  • a four-hour delay in Sanya
  • three planes
  • four taxis
  • several buses
  • some the worst air in Shanghai in quite some time
  • bingewatches of both Cosmos and Game of Thrones

I am back in Colorado!

This morning I finally had the opportunity to look at my photos from our hike of Huashan near to Xi’an, which were taken a couple weeks ago. My tiny HD camera makes it like the old days of waiting for film to be developed. It has no sight for looking through, and I couldn’t plug it in to look at them until now, my laptop having been killed outright by the humidity in our apartment.

It was worth the wait.

Huashan (ćŽć±±) is 75 miles outside Xi’an, but you can just get the 300kph train and then a slightly overpriced taxi. We opted to take the gondola up the North Peak, which is best summed up by the video below.

it was so much cooler than i would have even imagined. A giant adult-sized playground hanging between heaven and Earth. The drops on all sides were very intimidating, and after the gondola up we had both pretty much decided we would not be able to muster the courage (nor the clean underwear) to do the famous ‘Plank Walk’ on the South peak.

As the day wore on, clouds came blowing upwards around the peaks. We had talked beforehand about whether it was scarier to be able to see the 1000-foot drops, or not to have them occluded by the whiteness.

Definitely the latter. Definitely more terrifying. I’ll take the known void over the unknown any day.

Mt. Hua has been a sacred mountain in China since at least the 220s BCE, around the time that the First Emperor united the warring kingdoms. Without the assist from gondolas and carved out stairs (and hotels!), the mountain could be a brutal climb. As it is now, it stands no less impressive, but much more accessible. A 70-year-old grandmother climbed up a rock ‘ladder’ just ahead of us on the West Peak.

That day, we wandered in a loop to all five of the peaks. North Peak, WuYun Peak, East, South, and West. It was so much fun, and worth it. Probably the best day of traveling that we had in China, followed closely (if not tied) with the day we climbed up the Great Wall.

I’m going to get out of the way here and let the pictures speak for themselves.


It was one of the best things I’ve done while travelling. So very much fun and a wonderful day that I will never forget.

Beer in Situ: Song Tasting Room

The Pertinents

  • Song Tasting Room
  • 259 Jiashan Road (near Jongjia Rd), in the alleyway under the Jiashan Market arch
  • Founded in 2016


Tiny but great! It was like a dream. The music was essentially my playlist for the last seven years, and making me feel like maybe there was an interesting Universe moment. The place is just down an alleyway and feels like an actually cool place in Shanghai.

I asked for a Stout and got a cider. Meh! It was good. We tried three of the four beers and they were all very high quality. In particular, the water seemed well-treated and tasted unlike the tangy Shanghai water. The pale ale was the best.

No food as far as we could tell, but there is a lot around. This is technically a soft opening, and they are brewing new beers to come out soon. Can’t wait to see what comes next for them, and we will definitely be back.