Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas

Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas

by Troy Parfitt

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780986803529
Publisher: Western Hemisphere Press
Publication date: 06/04/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 424
Sales rank: 1,044,947
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

The author of Notes from the Other China (New York: Algora Publishing, 2007), Troy Parfitt lived and worked as an English teacher in Seoul, South Korea and Taipei, Taiwan for nearly 13 years. In 2009, he returned to Canada to take a teaching position at that country's oldest English-language university.

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Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
iddrazin on LibraryThing 18 days ago
Troy Parfitt lived for two years in Seoul, South Korea, ten more years in Taipei, Taiwan, and made an extensive trip through China and recorded his impressions of the country, its history, and its people. His overall conclusion is that the country is backward. It is in a terrible dilapidated condition, its history has been constantly revised to reflect a rosy but untrue picture, and the majority of its people is kept in ignorance and is not ready for democracy. Many people outside of China focus on the progress that China has made. China¿s military spending, for example, is second to that of the United States. But Parfitt saw bad conditions in the country and concluded that it is far from being a modern state.Parfitt discusses the many changes in recent times in China, such as the opium war, the end of the two millennia dynastic rule in 1911, how Dr. Sun Yat-sen stumbled into creating the ¿Chinese Democracy,¿ and the Russian involvement in the new China, among many other interesting and informative historical facts.He describes the crowded spaces in the cities, the repugnant smells, the cigarette smoke, and the urine running in the streets. He rode on a major artery and saw that it was ¿in a serious state of disrepair.¿ He states that tranquil, easygoing, and gracious people ¿are hard to come by.¿ There are signs saying ¿Please be Civilized,¿ but the signs don¿t help. In ¿the Chinese world, (the people are) eager¿ to submit to an authority figure ¿ to any authority figure,¿ but not in respect to civility (emphasis in the original). He cites some of the many lies that the Chinese government inserts in newspapers. ¿For decades, meteorologists have not been permitted to report temperatures exceeding 35 degrees Celsius (or 95 degrees Fahrenheit)¿ so that ¿workers across the nation are not to be given the day off.¿ When a disaster struck China and 7,000 school classrooms collapsed, the Chinese government hid this from their people so that they wouldn¿t ask why the buildings housing their children had been so shabbily constructed. He tells us that ¿China jails more journalists than any other nation.¿¿China,¿ he writes, ¿is a nation of much fakery; there is fake sushi, fake stake, fake gravy, fake music, fake goods, fake pharmaceuticals, fake news, fake weather reports, fake education, fake rights, fake laws, fake courts, fake judges, a fake congress, a fake constitution.¿ A Chinese music label may say that the song is sung by Barbara Streisand, but it is only a Streisand imitator. The Chinese axiom is ¿Foreigners are easily fooled.¿ But while they are misleading the foreigners, the ¿Chinese people perennially fool themselves.¿His stories about the people he meets are fascinating. One woman picks him up and offers him a selection of free teas, since he is a foreigner. He drinks the teas and she demands payment for them. He asks a government official about the Chinese ideology and the woman is unable to answer. He visits a hospital where a frazzled physician in an ill-lit ward treating children turns a blind eye to ¿evidently infected wounds (that) were not attended to. To be sure, there wasn¿t a nurse or bandage in sight.¿ A doctor was leading a camera crew around showing the young children. He lifted the foot of a young girl and casually said, ¿Her feet will have to come off. What a shame. She¿s so cute.¿ Then he let the foot fall and the girl shrieked in pain. These are just some of the hundreds of tales that Troy Parfitt tells.
datrappert on LibraryThing 18 days ago
Parfitt, a Canadian who taught for ten years in Taiwan, traveled extensively . around Mainland China. This book is more of a travelogue than a scholarly analysis of why or why not China will ever rule the world, but writing from his personal experience and a wide reading of literature about the two Chinas, and with his ability to speak Mandarin Chinese, Parfitt does have something to offer us.On the plus side, he is an excellent observer and he captures what he sees very vividly with excellent detail. Having lived in Mainland China and travelled to some of the same places Parfitt goes in this book, I certainly recognized the many of the locations as well as the human behavior he described. These travelogues, despite some shortcomings I discuss later, are the highlight of the book, and they cover a lot of the country.On the other hand, Parfitt is just about the most negative writer I have ever read. Traveling requires opening your mind and seeing past some of the obvious difficulties to find something of value. Parfitt, however seems to get lost in his own frustrations and prejudices so often in this book that he misses out on lots of good stuff. His observations about how polluted much of China is are certainly on target, but he harps on it way too much. His observations about how the people he meets lack of knowledge about things outside of China and their parroting of Chinese government propaganda are also true to a great extent¿but the same criticism could be leveled against most high school students in the USA or watchers of Fox News or MSNBC. Perhaps Canadians are smarter.Parfitt seems to attract trouble wherever he goes. Frequently he says locals laugh at him, threaten him, or just plain ignore him. And even when not confronted personally, wherever he goes, he seems to find himself in the midst of loud arguments and fights between Chinese. I would agree that there are probably more fights in China than I see in the United States, but in my visits to China, they would still be a notably rare occurrence, not something I see every day! As for loud arguments, Chinese talk incredibly loud in general, but I¿ll give Parfitt the benefit of the doubt since I don¿t understand much Mandarin.In Parfitt¿s travels around China, he also goes on and on about taxi drivers not being able to find his hotel, the train station, the main street of the town, read a map, or basically do anything. And no one he asks on the street is able to offer any help either, or if they do, they point him in the wrong direction. In my travels in China, I occasionally met a taxi driver who wasn¿t completely sure of a location, but was eventually able to find it by making every smaller concentric circles around the probable destination, but I never met one who couldn¿t find the train station. This makes me wonder if Parfitt is so objectionable that people just like to give him a hard time.This book tries very hard to do a lot of things. Interspersed with the travelogues, Parfitt presents interesting capsule biographies of various individuals, including Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek and discusses important events in Chinese history. He especially likes puncturing the accepted version of history, whether it concerns the actual events during the Boxer Rebellion or the fact that the killings in ¿The Tiananmen Square Massacre¿ didn¿t take place in Tiananmen Square. In reading through these various gleanings from Parfitt¿s extensive reading, it is difficult to understand his own attitude toward China. On the one hand, he understands the depredations of foreigners against China that the current Communist government uses to instill a dangerous sense of nationalism in the population. On the other hand, he seems to have little respect for the Chinese character and no respect for the Chinese intellectual tradition, which he dismisses as hogwash. He is certainly right, however, in showing that the current Government, with its promotion of Confucianism (which Parfitt des
pw0327 on LibraryThing 18 days ago
This is an incredibly difficult book to review. On the one hand, it can be read as a travel book, since the author does such a thorough job of documenting his experiences in both China and Taiwan. On the other hand, it is also a stream of conscious reflection on the topic of whether China, and the Chinese are capable of becoming the superpower for the next epoch. It is made difficult for me to review this because the subject is China, a place where my ancestors came from, and Taiwan, where I was born and lived until I was nine. When the author asked me to peruse his blood and sweat, I was less than enthusiastic. Now, after having read the book, that whole feeling of awkwardness returns anew. This is not going to be a hack job. I found the author¿s observations interesting and was able to travel vicariously through China to places I¿d never been to and obtain the feel and the flavor of the place. He definitely travels differently than I would, but he does go to some very interesting tidbits of China that I would not think to travel to. His observations are straightforward and at best blunt, at worst unkind. But you can not fault him for being disingenuous.It seems, at first, that the author really does not like the people that he¿d lived with for so many years. His assessment of the people of China and Taiwan are not kindly and are at times typical of westerners in their occidental centric view of the world. Almost all of his views seem to indirectly reflect his western viewpoint and prejudices. Now, he does this without being arrogant or imperialistic. Instead, his matter of factness is what saves him from being an absolute prig. It is a strange read. Where at times one wants to debate him on his observations and conclusions, there really is nothing on which one can hang on in order to accuse him of being just a Sinophobe. After reading a while, one gets the feeling that the author will say these things to his own blood just because this is how he feels. I was able to absorb his words much better after I came to this conclusion.In addition to the travelogue, the book also tries to be an unorthodox history of modern China, gathering and revealing some of the gossipy anecdotes concerning the Nationalists and Communists during the fight towards republic and the battles that ensued closely after during the war against Japan. These stories have been fodder amongst those who survived the Second World War and are living outside of China. That was a romantic period for many people of my parent¿s era. It was, the center of gossip for that generation. These are great stories and may or may not be good history, but they are juicy. These stories are not really documented rigorously in Chinese or western history of China so it was good to see them in print finally. The third purpose, and the primary motivation for the author to write the book, is to prove unequivably, that the recent hoopla surrounding the denouement of western powers and the rise of the Asian potentate are merely wishful thinking and are the results of overactive imagination. I agree with the author that the so-called old China hands who fall all over themselves in praising and predicting upcoming China epoch are both self-serving and despicably naïve. Extrapolation of the existing facts into a fanciful wet dream is what these old China hands are very good at, yet they are rarely correct. They do manage to sell a lot of books.Unfortunately, the author does not approach the topic in an astute nor interesting manner. The author pretty much states his thesis at the very beginning: the Chinese can¿t be dominant in this world because they are not westerners, their systems and bureaucracies are not consistent with western bureaucracies, their mindset are not in line with western thought. Admittedly, Chinese philosophies of politics, governance, commerce, seem quaint and outdated in light of the modern society. But they have managed to be pragma
SamSattler on LibraryThing 18 days ago
Troy Parfitt decided to find out for himself if there really is anything to all the media chatter about China¿s imminent world domination. Anyone that pays the least bit of attention to world economics ¿ or goes shopping most anywhere in North America, for that matter ¿ cannot help but get the impression that China is destined to be the world¿s next great economy and, soon enough, the world¿s new number one superpower. Parfitt spent ten years teaching English in Taiwan and considers himself a close observer of the Chinese culture and its people. He has the ability to speak with the Chinese and to read their newspapers; he knows the country¿s history well. Based upon what he already knew about the country, its people, and its government, Parfitt found it difficult to believe that China was approaching anything near the modern, politically-free state predicted for it. Curious, he disguised himself as an everyday tourist and spent several weeks traveling the country in search of the truth. Why China Will Never Rule the World: Traveling in the Two Chinas reveals what he found ¿ and why he believes that China ¿will never manage to rule the world.¿Why China Will Never Rule the World is, first and foremost, a well written travelogue filled with stories about the people Parfitt meets along the way and the strange circumstances he so often finds himself in. Parfitt, who is a great storyteller, uses his anecdotes to individualize the Chinese people he meets and to make points about the culture that produced them. His stories range from heartwarming ones to those certain to appall and sadden the reader, but all of them lead Parfitt to the conclusion that China and its people are far from ready for the role projected for them. Parfitt describes a country filled with pollution, overall squalor, backwardness, and rampant poverty, a country that is not all that different today from what it was two centuries ago. As he puts it, ¿Chinese culture remains locked in a self-replicating state of chaos, myopia, inefficiency, intolerance, violence, and irrationality. It is, in a word, backward.¿Damning as that observation might be, it pales in comparison to that of another writer, Bo Yang, who said that ¿the Chinese are afraid of the truth, incapable of introspection or admitting error, and `addicted to bragging, lying (considered a virtue), equivocating and slander¿¿oblivious to the benefits of democracy, civility, generosity, co-operation, and the rule of law, ¿unaware of the backwardness of their own culture¿the same everywhere.¿¿ From what Parfitt recounts, it seems that little in the essential nature of the country and its culture has changed, even in recent years.Parfitt believes that China¿s future will be defined by its past because, in the Chinese mind, the past, present, and future are forever intertwined. For this reason, the country will not be easily dragged into ¿the orbit of global consciousness.¿ Neither Bo Yang, nor Troy Parfitt, believes in the ¿myth¿ that the twenty-first century is going to belong to China. Bo Yang puts it down to the fact that China¿s culture is simply ¿too primitive¿ to claim ownership of the new century, that the people suffer especially from the ingrained flaw of ¿being dishonest with themselves and others.¿ He believes that the country¿s greatest flaws are ¿dishonesty¿ and ¿infighting,¿ either of which, alone, would hobble any country with the supposed aspirations of China. Nothing Parfitt describes of his travels would lead one to believe differently. In the end, whether you agree with Parfitt, or not, this one will make you think.Rated at: 4.0
DavidWineberg on LibraryThing 18 days ago
I wish I could characterize this book as easily as its author characterizes the Chinese. Then I could simply say it was misguided, miscategorized, and missed a great adventure. But it¿s not as easy as that, a lesson that author Troy Parfitt needs to understand.I really wanted to love the book, from the title alone. But when Parfitt sent it to me to review, I was surprised to see it was categorized not as economic or political, but as Current Affairs/Travel. From the title, I expected a deep political/economic analysis that would lead to a defensible, concrete conclusion. Mistitled.It is nominally about his wonderful, extensive trip through the backwaters of China. Unfortunately, Parfitt is so busy hating China and the Chinese, he misses the fact that he was having a great adventure in another culture. He constantly wishes for streets lined with Starbucks and Subways and 7-Elevens, and he just doesn¿t get them in China (except for occasional sanctuary in a KFC) until he gets home to Taiwan, where he taught English for 10 years. The rest of us strain to vacation in places without Coca-Cola signs; Parfitt gets crabby without them. Early on, he complains at length that the Chinese don¿t know how to make pizza. He is horrified that food he orders in hole in the wall restaurants is authentic rural ¿ awful offal. What he is looking for is Olive Garden.Incredibly, Parfitt speaks Chinese and understands what everyone is saying both to him and about him, a perspective none of us mere mortals will ever have. He understands people arguing in the street, talking on the phone, pestering him for sex, and yelling across the room, giving him so much more of an experience than I had when I visited China, twice. After talking to local hucksters, he was even able to sneak into North Korea by himself for a few moments! While Parfitt is thrilled to never go back to China, I could spend several more months there. Hence my conundrum.Parfitt hammers a single note again and again and again, sometimes twice in the same paragraph in case you missed it: the Chinese are ignorant peasants, devoid of culture, history, manners or tact. Got it. Without exaggeration, that note is sounded 500 times in 400 pages. That¿s why the Chinese will never rule the world, it seems. Everything about the country is backward, inefficient, and extraordinarily annoying. Absolutely everything gets under his skin, form clerks¿ little power games to warm beer, to China¿s infamous pollution, and even including western tourists he encounters. His misadventures, which would provide you or me with endless stories to dine off of, provide Parfitt with evidence the Chinese are a hopeless basket case. The book is just resoundingly and poundingly negative. But while Parfitt was being depressing, I was wishing I could have such a trip. Hence my conundrum.It occurred to me he could have come to the same conclusion travelling the backwaters of the USA. If he had spent three months on greasy Greyhound buses and in dingy hostels, going from Wheeling to Biloxi to Lubbock to St. Louis, he would have encountered endless poverty, uneducated overweight locals with no manners or patience, who couldn¿t tell you the capital of their own state, let alone name a single state senator, revolting restaurants, fleabag hotels, and thieves around every corner. And from that I guess he would conclude the USA would never be fit to rule the world. He would damn all Americans as hopeless. Hence my conundrum.So while the book can be a fascinating travelog, it isn¿t. It¿s a vitriolic attempt to damn 1.3 billion people for eternity. And that¿s misguided.
BrianGriffith More than 1 year ago
Having lived in Taiwan for 10 years and speaking good Mandarin, Parfitt is far from an oblivious Western tourist. In traveling through mainland China he's a far more serious investigator than the typical sightseer. He aims to check China's pulse, and determine if the country has superpower potential. When he talks to Chinese people, he tends to play hardball. Is there anything China has to teach the world? Parfitt feels that nobody has an intelligent reply. Does Confucianism offer anything of value to global society? What do people think of democracy? Independent thought? Parfitt seems to find none. Is there any basis for considering China a burgeoning superpower? The ugliness, poverty, inefficiency, and general ignorance Parfitt finds in city after city seems to say not. Actually, Parfitt finds very little he can respect in China, and he has no hesitance in saying so. His verdict resembles that of Bo Yang (1920-2008), who wrote "The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture." And Bo was downright disgusted by most of his countrymen or women. Under Parfitt's criticism, the whole notion that China has a great civilization starts to seem laughable. For sure Parfitt is an acute observer and brutally honest. But a few questions came to my mind. Concerning Confucius, didn't he spend his career challenging the practices of abusive rulers? Doesn't that suggest there is more to Confucianism than blind obedience to authority? Also, at one point Parfitt expresses relief and surprise to have a normal pleasant conversation with a woman in a tea shop--a woman who doesn't try to cheat him or sell him a "massage" in his hotel room. But wouldn't that normal woman be more representative of Chinese people than the hucksters who cluster around Western tourists? Anyway, for those who like hardball tourism, this is the clash of cultures for you. The book has numerous well researched, extremely irreverent asides on the careers of major Chinese leaders. And Parfitt's tour encircling Taiwan is a highlight of the book. --author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization