When China’s air pollution confuses my preschool students

Sure, we cry too much about the air pollution. But this one’s darkly humourous, I promise.

I routinely ask the oldest classes, “How’s the weather?” while pointing out the windows. And they automatically take a glance and usually reply, “IT’S SUNNY!!!” (“Sunny” is their favourite. But they can do cloudy, raining, windy, snowing, hot, and cold, too.)

So today I ask them. They glance out the windows. “IT’S…” A couple weak “sunny”s peter out among the 30 students. They can’t tell if it’s sunny or cloudy.

Because even though it’s bright outside, THEY CAN’T SEE THE BLOOMIN’ SKY. There are no clouds, but it’s all grey, and where’s the sun?

Later I check, and every air quality monitoring station in the city is maxed out at 500:

Below 50 is “good”. At 100 we close all our windows and turn on all the DIY home air purifiers. At 300 the preschool cancels all its outdoor activities.


Our Chinese preschool promotes Socialism Core Values (again)

Passed this on the way in to work today. It’s the 2nd time this year they’ve strung it up. I don’t know how they choose when to display it.
To find out what the Socialism Core Values actually are, see:

An unintentionally terrifying Chinese democracy poster

Family photos, Chinese air pollution style

In honour of Qingdao’s recent abysmal air quality (though still much much thankfully much better than Beijing and Tianjin!), here’s some photos we took in the fall:




The Chinternet vs. my VPN

This is about why I began to suspect that switching our China ISP might make our VPN work better, what we planned to do about it, and why in the end we didn’t make any changes. (And I know it’s kind of dumb to write about this. But I have my reasons.)

If you want general info on VPNs to use in China, including price and usage comparisons, I know of no better place than FarWestChina.com‘s Top 5 VPNs for China.

In the endless struggle to get the Chinternet to do what I want (i.e. give me access to Gmail, Facebook, Instagram and the news whenever I want it on my phone or laptop), I’m beginning to wonder if some Chinese ISPs are more VPN-friendly than others.

Or, more accurately: if some Chinese ISPs are less VPN-hostile than others.

Our first year in Qingdao (2012) we were on one of the three major telecom companies (China Mobile 中国移动中国联通、China Telecom 中国电信), but it was so slow and unreliable that we ditched it. After a pointless one-month stint with Great Wall Broadband 长城宽带 (never again; they’re blacklisted along with Delta Airlines), we went with a different main telecom company because Jessica had picked a phone deal from them.

Initially the speed was noticeably faster. But like all the other foreigners using various VPNs, ours was spotty at certain times of the year, and often pointless to attempt using between 4-9pm.

But here’s what’s got me wondering if not all Chinese ISPs treat VPNs the same. Via our home wireless I can fail to connect via PPTP on my phone, or I can maybe load my Instagram feed but pretty much never upload. If I switch off the wireless and connect the VPN via my data plan (different ISP), I can often upload an Instagram photo no problem over PPTP. And if I walk two minutes to my workplace, I can connect over their wireless (a third ISP) and upload photos to FB or Instagram with little problem. (We’ve since given up using PPTP, but that’s what our phones were doing at the time.)

But how could you even really know if the level of internet restriction consistently varies between ISPs, aside from performing some serious internet kungfu? The Chinternet’s degree of tolerance for VPNs isn’t static. Each province is its own unique situation. (You can ask Josh at FarWestChina.com about the internet, or lack thereof, that they’ve endured. He’s not the China VPN expert for no reason.) Restrictions also tighten or loosen according to the political calendar and sensitivity of current events. And, in your neighbourhood, you might only have one option for high-speed internet anyway.

I’m nearly illiterate when it comes to computer tech and the internet (obviously). But the VPN difference between home and work (different ISPs) looked suspicious enough that we had planned to ditch ours for theirs.

But then we discovered that in our neighbourhood, our current ISP is the only one offering 20 mb/s (which in reality is around 8-to-12), while my work’s ISP only offers 10. So until the ISP competition heats up, it’s all moot and we’re stuck with what we’ve got — aside from trying different VPNs.

Anyone have a preferred Chinese ISP?

the Commies are hiding in my dictionary!

Simplified Chinese characters aren’t the only way to tell if your Chinese dictionary is from the Mainland or not. Sometimes the sentence examples provide clues. In case any of you need to know how to use 接受communistdictionary

New Chinese anti-gendercide poster — translated

For several months, Qingdao has been flooded with propaganda posters and billboards relating to the ongoing “sanitation” 卫生 campaign, encompassing everything from tidying up (or clearing off) street markets and sidewalk BBQs to promoting food safety and healthy eating habits.

But here’s one new anti-gendercide poster from our neighbourhood bulletin board that I hadn’t seen before today, from the “Qingdao City Sanitation, Harmoniousness and Family Planning Committee” (text and overly-literal translation below):


Zònghé zhìlǐ chūshēng rénkǒu xìngbié bǐ huá fù zhī gēn
Comprehensively managing the birth population sex ratio is the ROOT of China’s restoration.

  • 出生人口性别比是关于中华民族繁衍生息,盛衰兴败大事。
    chūshēng rénkǒu xìngbié bǐ shì guānyú zhōnghuá mínzú fányǎn shēngxī, shèngshuāi xìng bài dàshì
    Birth population sex ratio concerns the Chinese people’s propagation; it’s a matter of prosperity or decline, flourishing or withering.
  • 出生人口性别比,是指一定地域人口某一时期(通常一年)内出生的男婴总数与女婴总数的比值,用100名出生女婴数相对应的出生男婴数表示。正常范围是每出生100名女婴,男婴出生数在103-107名之间。
    Chūshēng rénkǒu xìngbié bǐ, shì zhǐ yīdìng dìyù rénkǒu mǒu yī shíqí (tōngcháng yī nián) nèi chūshēng de nán yīng zǒngshù yǔ nǚ yīng zǒng shǔ de bǐzhí, yòng 100 míng chūshēng nǚ yīng shù xiāng duìyìng de chūshēng nán yīng shù biǎoshì. Zhèngcháng fànwéi shì měi chūshēng 100 míng nǚ yīng, nán yīng chūshēng shù zài 103-107 míng zhī jiān.
    Birth population sex ratio refers to the population ratio of total male babies born to total female babies born within a certain time period (usually one year), and is expressed using the figure of 100 female babies born to correspond to the number of male babies born. The normal range is within 103-107 male babies born for every 100 female babies born.
  • 如果出生人口性别比持续超出正常比列范围,将导致人口性别结构失衡,对将来的婚姻和家庭形成冲击,进而影响社会稳定与和谐。
    Rúguǒ chūshēng rénkǒu xìngbié bǐ chíxù chāochū zhèngcháng bǐ liè fànwéi, jiāng dǎozhì rénkǒu xìngbié jiégòu shīhéng, duì jiānglái de hūnyīn hé jiātíng xíngchéng chōngjí, jìn’ér yǐngxiǎng shèhuì wěndìng yǔ héxié.
    If the birth population sex ratio continues to exceed normal parameters, this will lead to population sex composition unbalance, seriously affecting the future formation of marriage and family, and from that influence social stability and harmoniousness.

zhuǎnbiàn jiù de shēngyù guānniàn, ràng quán shèhuì bù zài yǒu xìngbié qíshì
Transform the old childbearing notions, make the whole society no longer have gender discrimination.

男女平等 家庭幸福 社会和谐
nánnǚ píngděng jiātíng xìngfú shèhuì héxié
Male-female equality, family happiness, societal harmony

Qīngdǎo shì wèishēng héxié jìhuà shēngyù wěiyuánhuì
Qingdao City Health, Harmoniousness and Family Planning Committee

* * * * *

The background of the poster has an iconic Qingdao landmark (May 4th Square) and the Chinese character in various styles.

leftoverwomenBooks like Leftover Women: the Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China by Leta Hong Fincher demonstrate that social stability is the government’s priority, and authorities willingly exacerbate gender inequality in pursuit of that goal, particularly through the promotion of the “leftover women” concept, which is designed to push “high-quality” women out of the workplace and into the nursery. From their perspective, skewed gender ratios and a large population of hopeless bachelors threaten social stability; gender inequality per se, not so much.

There’s lots more on this blog about gendercide.