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 Stereotypes about China are persistent and often outdated.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? ūüôā

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?

Late Winter Outfit


Revolution Mug

This week it’s Chinese New Year, which is like Christmas and Thanksgiving rolled into one. We’ve been enjoying warm weather for a couple days, but early in the week it was freezing cold (as is usual in Shanghai’s winter).

It’s hard to be fashionable when you are cold all the time, but I’m managing.


Outfit for work. 

It goes like this in the winter time: bra, shirt, other shirt, dress, other dress, sweater, coat, scarf. On the bottom: long underwear, tights, other tights, knee-high socks, skirt. I’ve taken to wearing colourful skirts as petticoats for extra layers. And yet, one will still be cold as the humidity means it just cuts right through it allllllll….

I did a little DIY for CNY, too. Lanterns made from Hong Bao, the lucky envelopes that people use to give gifts of money at this time of year. One I managed to do backwards, but it looks like a red sun (sorta).

It’s the Year of the Monkey, so our Christmas monkeys are in style still.

We made a Wishing Tree and wrote things we want for the new year, and made a feast of fish and cheese (much better than it sounds) for the night of the new year. Happy 2016!



Zhujiajiao: A Day Trip Out of Shanghai

We rode a bus out of the heart of Shanghai and into the countryside, over loads of small canals. The bus was just like a normal city bus, but barreling down the highway.

The town itself was lovely. It’s a little down-and-dirty in the pits of the touristy shops on tiny lanes, so small that one could probably touch both sides of them if pressed. It’s great. The pace is palpably different from Shanghai.

Zhujiajiao is a village of 60,000 to the West of Shanghai. It dates back to at the very least the 1100s, and largely preserved itself during the relative turmoil of the 20th century in China. It’s picturesque, with canals the same reflective verdigree of those in Venezia. The day we visited was hot and muggy, and the cafes along the lanes were simply too tempting.

One barmaid shouted, ‘Hello! We have couches!’ as we walked past. One of the weirdest tout-calls I’ve heard in my travels.

We took an overpriced but nonetheless fun gondola ride across town (‘Boat Rule #2: Drunk foreigners will be refused’). We stopped into Zher Bar, which is a cute little place wedged into what was once a family home. Anarchist posters and punk rock paraphernalia everywhere on the walls, but Reggae in the air. We had a sandwich and two cold beers, and enjoyed the quiet in the back garden room.

After lunch, we explored the architecture on the other side of the river. Some project, started years ago, is now empty and vaguely Postmodern in its white concrete and randomly-placed futuristic art. We wandered around, looking into what was clearly meant to be a convention centre, and took in a massive paper-mache head of Picasso while we were at it. The other statue appeared to have gotten wet and was somehow even more modern art-ish now that the seams of the face were ripped open.

We sat at a cafe, having failed to find the Heima Icelandic bar on Donghu Street. It is now apparently a cafe, maybe one that serves European wines. We passed a portrait artist painting the youthful face of a soldier taking a day off on a t-shirt. For himself, presumably. Nothing like wearing a self-portrait.

It was lovely. Great to finally have the time to get out there and see things in China.

Great Article: Let’s Talk About Millennial Poverty

View at

I’m not in as dire straits as some, including the author of this excellent article. It bears mentioning that I’m not immune to the phenomena she describes, though.

Yesterday I had a long discussion about graduate school and teaching with a coworker, who is leaving this week. We talked about her belief, as mine once was, that she should be able to get into a programme at a top-tier school and get the necessary support from a research assistantship or teaching assistantship. She wants to do a stand-alone MA. It’s not very likely that those positions would be available, and with the rise of adjunct ‘professorships’ it’s possible that they wouldn’t be available even if she did want to go the full PhD nine yards.

She wants to go into International Education and study abroad administration, the other other career I had in my early 20s. I told her that there’s no way that she should be paying for an MA if she is working in that situation, since many universities offer credit programmes and part-time master’s classes as part of employment.She was confused when I said that I hadn’t personally had the opportunity, but I wasn’t going to go into all the complications of moving abroad and coming back and everything. Not to mention that most jobs I’ve ever had in the US were purposefully pinned to 39.75 hours per week to deny me that benefits of full-time employment.

It should be a familiar refrain for many Millennials.

Work hard. Study hard. Do loads of extracurriculars.

Pray that you never get sick or have an accident. Work harder. Apply. Apply. Apply. Put in 80+ applications for menial jobs in London and get an answer for two of them.

Go to interviews where they don’t tell you it’s unpaid until you’re already there. Work in a bar and have your professors come in for table service.

Live at your parents’ house. Live at your partner’s parents’ house (To be fair to the article above, I’ve had the privilege to be able to move in with family when it was necessary). Be ecstatic with $10-$12 per hour.

Pay more than $1000 per month for a room in a house with a toilet shared between six-eight people. Look at your bank statements at the end of each month and wonder if you can make it to payday. Overdraw the only time in your entire life, and get hit with a £50 overdraw fee from the bank.

Take the tax hit instead of buying the insurance you can’t afford but you must buy under a law that was meant to help you, not hurt you. Pay $800 out of pocket for an outbreak of Shingles and garner disbelief when you say to the receptionists again and again, “Sorry, I don’t have insurance.”

Move to other countries to find jobs that you can’t back home. Move to China so that you can have health insurance and live in your own place with your husband. Ok, maybe those last two are more specific to me.

I’m not in abject poverty, but I choked on my tea to see that the average income for a new graduate in 2015 is $44,000. I’ve never made that kind of money in my life! I’m certainly not in poverty compared to those around me in China. But something feels wrong about all the work that I put into my education, and all the work experience I’ve gain since then. It’s not enough to get the life that I was told to expect.

I don’t have high expectations anymore; I want to live in the same country as my husband, have some good and nutritious food to eat, travel a bit, and be able to work (but not the 50 hours per week I’m currently pulling). Maybe someday I’d like to have children and not have to pay $3000 out of pocket at least for each birth. I’d like to have a place to live that isn’t shared between eight people who I don’t know.

It’s just that sometimes even those lowered expectations feel out of reach. It’s especially hard when my government and that of my husband base our right to live as a family on the money we don’t really have. Still harder is having to explain this almost every other day to those around us. Most people still assume that Married=Passport (not since 1927!) or at the very least, Married=Partner Visa. We are too in debt and making too little money to afford to live in the same country unless we go abroad for now.

That’s the life of this Millennial at 27.