Despite being the most populous (and arguably most influential) country in the world, China tends to get a bum rap, possibly because of its colorful history of human rights abuses. However, if you take the time to read about everyday life in China, you'll realize that things there are in fact way, way more insane and dystopic than any of us ever imagined. For instance ...
Anyone seeking medical care in China must first obtain a registration ticket to see the doctor, which is often impossible thanks to the hundreds of scalpers who snatch them up like Guns N' Roses tickets. And no medical system should be able to be compared with anything at all involving Axl Rose. Consequently, Chinese citizens run the risk of missing out on desperately needed care because they can't push to the front of a line or pay an unscrupulous criminal boatloads of money for a ticket.
But even getting one of these tickets doesn't guarantee much more than one doctor's appointment. For a lengthy or complicated disease that requires many visits or consultations, the official solution is literally "Get back in line." One man here explains that during the course of his cancer treatment, he repeatedly stood in line for months to obtain the tickets necessary for each new appointment and treatment as the insidious illness spread through his body.
And because these treatments aren't available in smaller towns, patients and their families are forced to pack up and move so they can be closer to the treatment centers (and the lines in which they have to wait). They often move into establishments that have been charmingly dubbed "Cancer Hotels." They're like hospice centers, if hospice centers were exclusively located in strip malls and operated by racketeers.
Like most homeowners, many Chinese dream of one day passing their homes on to their children. After all, a house is a significant investment, so it makes sense that you should pass it on down the line once your dead ass no longer has any need for it. But people have recently discovered that there might be a problem with that. See, while a typical Chinese homeowner might own their house, they don't own the land it stands on. That's owned by the Chinese government. You know, because of communism.
Of course, the government has kindly given leases for this land to builders and homeowners for durations varying between 20 and 70 years, and in the last few decades of easing markets, everyone in China has all but ignored the issue, buying and selling houses without paying much attention to the leases underlying them. But when a woman tried to sell her house and was informed by the local government that her lease had expired and that she would have to pay them one-third of the home's sale value if she wanted to sell it, it threw a lot of things up in the air.
Because the government never had a plan for what to do when these leases expired, it's all been a bit of a mess. They've tried to make 70-year lease renewals mandatory, but it's not clear whether homeowners would have to pay for that. And while getting rid of the system entirely might sound like a simple enough solution, local governments do genuinely need this lease income -- they have few other sources of revenue. Also, it's not clear what will happen if a homeowner is unable to afford a lease renewal. Do they get to keep the house and move it somewhere? Could they put it on stilts so it's not technically on the ground?
You probably recognize pornography, or "porn," as that thing you currently have open in another tab.
But you know who doesn't have porn open on their computer right now? People in China. Because it's illegal there. The government famously filters the internet to block anything even remotely scandalous, and has been known to censor any product that enters the country which so much as suggests nudity. Even classic literature can get scrubbed of objectionable material before being allowed on store shelves.
But as is the case with any illegal product in any country, enterprising citizens have found a way to get porn anyway. However, because a ban enacted by a totalitarian regime that controls everything going in and out of the country is rather ironclad, any porn found anywhere in China is likely to be of the DIY variety, like stories or videos on blogs and video hosting sites. The professional stuff is all strictly prohibited, so it's mostly locals making what they can.
However, these courageous nudity barons peddle their craft at their own risk, because the Chinese government comes down hard on internal video sharing sites which might host such pornography. So hard. Like, super hard.
Chinese universities aren't terribly expensive, but they are terrible. In many schools, students claim that the bulk of what they learn is little more than nationalistic trivia, and that the education they do receive isn't determined by choice, but by the involuntary placement tests that dictate their majors. But despite that, higher education has never been more popular; China is essentially building a new university each week. But since most of China's upper- and middle-class students are going overseas to receive their education, it's mainly low-income students filling these schools.
As a consequence, the loan shark business is booming. And here's where it gets creepy. In order to sign up for one of these gray-market loans, borrowers are often asked to send a picture of themselves naked and holding up a driver's license. If they default on their loans -- which is quite likely, given the insane ballooning interest rates they usually carry -- the naked images get published in retaliation.
So if you're ever feeling down about your own loans, remember that Bank of America has never threatened you with that.
With a population of around 1.5 billion, it's understandable that China would face some struggles trying to keep every one of its citizens reasonably fed. However, China isn't known for food safety regulations that are well-enforced or even exist, which regularly results in some horrifying news stories crossing the wires. Two years ago, meat smugglers (yes, meat smugglers) were caught trying to peddle over 100,000 tons of outdated meat. And we don't mean a few days or weeks past their sell-by date. We're talking about meat that was 40 years old. What makes this doubly shocking is the fact that, beyond selling what amounts to decades-old corpses to unsuspecting victims, the smugglers were so lazy that they didn't even try to hide the packaging blatantly dated with stamps from the 1970s.
And don't think something simple like an egg is any safer, because Chinese shoppers also have to be careful that they're buying real eggs. Yes, there's a serious problem with people selling fake eggs in China. And we don't mean "fake" in the sense of the vaguely egg-like substance found on a standard McMuffin. We're talking about cruel egg decoys slapped together with starch and resin. Oh, and when you get around to cooking your ancient meat and horror egg, consider that some delightful entrepreneurs are skimming "gutter oil" from sewers downstream of restaurants and bottling that up for sale on store shelves as well.
As you may have guessed, it doesn't stop there. In 2009, six children died and nearly 300,000 others fell ill after drinking milk containing melamine, a chemical typically used in the development of plastic that a company was adding to its milk batches in order to trick quality control tests. (Evidently, this particular type of poison shows up as a high-protein yield, which raises serious concerns about the quality control tests.) Two people involved with the scheme were convicted and sentenced to death, which may seem a bit harsh for criminal negligence until you consider ...
In some respects, we're amazed anyone ever breaks the law in China, because it executes goddamned everyone. In 2014 alone, the government carried out around 2,400 executions for offenses of all kinds, even nonviolent ones. For example, drug offenses are a "popular" choice, as well as business and investment fraud. And believe it or not, some Chinese families claim their loved ones were executed to cover up cases of government corruption.
It gets weirder, because in China, the soon-to-be executed often become a television spectacle. The executions themselves aren't being televised (yet), but from 2006 to 2012, one of the most popular shows in the province of Henan featured a reporter interviewing death row inmates on camera.
Prudently, the show only focused on murderers, and not political prisoners or people who forged a couple of checks. The interviewer asked these convicted killers to share their thoughts and regrets in the days before their impending deaths. This sounds pretty grim until you learn about how a different province treated its death row inmates. In the Yunnan province, four men convicted of mass murder were shown on live television being led to their execution. A few years earlier, a man was driven to his execution in an open vehicle with his crime written on a sign around his neck. If the Chinese government thinks your crime is serious enough, it will make sure the entire goddamned country knows when you're about to draw your last breath.
Which is a fine segue to the death vans! That's right -- death sentences in China are sometimes carried out byspecial vans that cruise around doling out lethal injections like bomb pops.
To capitalize on this terrifying efficiency, the government also has people in the van to harvest the prisoner's organs immediately after the executions have been carried out. So in that sense, we suppose it's more like a food truck.
We don't mean to discourage anyone from visiting China. It is a land of beautiful vistas and rich history. But make damn sure you don't break any laws while you're there.
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