The Thunder of China’s Quiet Second Revolution: How a Few Starving Farmers Brought an Economic Boom by Abandoning Collectivism

The following essay was originally published as “Desperate Heroism and the Thunder of a Quiet Revolution: The Rise of China’s Economy and IP System” on Nov. 11, 2021 on the intellectual property site, IPWatchdog.com.

 

On October 16, 2021, as I contemplated lessons from my nine years in China, the Financial Times broke a story that rocked the world—especially the U.S. military: “China tests new space capability with hypersonic missile.” China’s recent launch of a nuclear-capable rocket that circled the globe at high speed “took US intelligence by surprise.” Military experts quickly noticed that Chinese innovation in hypersonic weapons “was far more advanced than US officials realised.” As I’ve seen happen many times in coverage on innovation in China, our mainstream media is now downplaying China’s achievement (“not much of a surprise,” per the New York Times, and nothing but old Russian technology per Foreign Policy). It’s similar to the objections raised for decades about IP and innovation in China: low quality, just copying, nothing to be worried about. Yet in industry after industry, China is taking a leadership position in technology and its international patents that can’t be won by copying. It comes from leading.

Downplaying Chinese innovation may make the West feel more secure, but it is a security based on illusion. Whether one likes China or not, its leadership role in innovation and IP cannot be wisely ignored, as we should learn from their hypersonic missile surprise, and surprises in hundreds of fields ranging from nanotech to paper straws.

My nine years in China taught me that China is serious about innovation and serious about leading in many areas. As I learned in many experiences, the capabilities of Chinese engineers, scientists, programmers, manufacturers, architects, designers, physicians, artists, financiers, and entrepreneurs can far exceed what the West thinks it knows about China. China’s accomplishments happening before our eyes or above our skies can catch us off guard,  whether they are in technical fields like biotech, green energy, transportation such as high-speed rail, solar power, mining technology, or nanomaterials, or in the realm of intellectual property (IP) and innovation itself, or in business strategy, political strategy, and numerous other areas. How did this happen? What changed in an impoverished, hungry nation to defy all expectations?

Part of the answer might be found in the heroic defiance of a few desperate farmers in the small village of Xiaogang who helped transform China. Their story teaches us old lessons about property rights and economic liberty that we may need to reconsider for our own future. Xi Jinping visited that village in 2016 and declared, “The daring feat we did at the risk of our lives in those days has become a thunder arousing China’s reform, and a symbol of China’s reform.” I believe you cannot understand China’s journey from poverty to leading the world in IP without knowing this rarely told story.

My Road from Shanghai to Xiaogang

My wife and I began our adventure in China in 2011 when I joined Asia Pulp and Paper as Head of Intellectual Property for what was supposed to be a one-year assignment in Shanghai, followed by a return to be part of North American operations. Fortunately, it became a much longer stay in a beautiful country and the most exciting city I’ve lived in. I wondered how Shanghai and much of China could be so prosperous, free of the economic problems of Cuba, Russia, the former East Germany, North Korea, and other lands that had embraced Marxist-Leninist ideology. Obviously, the economic reforms launched by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s and 1980s had succeeded, but there was a backstory that touched me deeply when I learned of it. It would lead my wife and I to make a pilgrimage to an obscure little village in Anhui Province.

My first hint of the Xiaogang (pronounced like “shao gong”) story came while reading Michael Meyer’s In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2015). Meyer briefly recounts the story of how China overcame the problem of starvation and transformed to economic success. He first reviews the challenges China faced in the 1950s, when the visions of socialism met the reality of poverty and hunger and over 20 million, perhaps over 40 million, died of starvation during the “Great Famine.” Part of the problem was collectivism (Meyer, pp. 214–5). When farmers have their food confiscated and have to live off small rations, a painful reality sets in: there is no incentive to produce more. In fact, hard work burns more calories and will just make you hungrier. The abuse of the system by those with power over redistributing wealth also led to more discouragement and misallocation of resources. Entrepreneurs and those who were relatively successful would be punished for being “rich,” resulting in the loss of much talent and capital that China needed. The misallocation of resources and the crushing of incentives to make products was not just a theoretical nuisance: it led to the starvation of tens of millions.

Lest defenders of communism think such claims come only from hostile partisans, consider the memoirs of a loyal supporter of Mao, Ji Chaozhu, the man who stood at Mao’s side on many occasions as his translator. His book is The Man on Mao’s Right: From Harvard Yard to Tiananmen Square, My Life Inside China’s Foreign Ministry (New York: Random House, 2008). Though a loyal communist, his tales of the disaster of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revelation incidentally reveal the chaos and starvation that occurred before China’s communism added its essential “Chinese characteristics.” Reading it, I could only mourn for the farmers who were given yellow dirt instead of the fertilizer they needed during the Great Leap Forward, and whose vital iron tools were sometimes sacrificed and turned into worthless scrap metal as villages tried to meet ridiculous quotas for collective steel production.

Meyer’s In Manchuria continues with the story of a secret and illegal scheme that would eventually lead to the overthrow of pure collectivism and bring the economic salvation of China. The scheme was forged in the embers of desperation in the tiny village of Xiaogang in Fengyang County, Anhui Province, not far from the large city of Bengbu. My wife and I with two friends would make a pilgrimage from Shanghai to Xiaogang. Few foreigners have ever heard of the village.

In 1978, China was still reeling from the Cultural Revolution, though that came to an end with the death of Mao in 1976. For the villagers in Xiaogang, it was obvious that something besides collectivism was needed, for the harder one worked, the faster one starved. Twenty-five percent of their county had starved to death during the Great Famine from the Great Leap Forward, and over 67 of the 120 villagers in Xiaogang had starved during that time. Now they were starving again. One man, Yan Hongchang, a 29-year-old father of four and deputy leader of the village work team, decided to make a change that would put his life on the line. Meyer describes the scene:

On the night of November 24, Mr. Yan summoned the heads of the village’s twenty families to a secret meeting. The village accountant was deputized as a secretary, and on paper torn from a child’s school exercise book transcribed a seventy-nine-word pledge to divide the commune’s land into family plots, submit the required quota of corn to the state, and keep the rest for themselves. “In the case of failure,” the document concluded “we are prepared for death or prison, and other commune members vow to raise our children until they are eighteen years old.” The farmers signed the document and affixed their fingerprints.

Thus began China’s rural reform.

Today a large stone monument to the pact greets tourists to the village. But in the spring of 1979, a local official who learned of the clandestine agreement fumed that the group had “dug up the cornerstone of socialism” and threatened severe punishment. Thinking he was bound for a labor camp, Mr. Yan rose before dawn, reminded his wife that their fellow villagers had promised to help raise their children, and walked to the office of the county’s party secretary. But the man privately admitted to Mr. Yan that he knew, since the pact had been signed, the village’s winter harvest had increased sixfold. The official told Mr. Yan he would protect Xiaogang village and the rebellious farmers so long as their experiment didn’t spread. (Meyer, pp. 215-216)

But other villagers saw something unusual was going on and made inquiries. The system quickly spread from village to village, leading to a boom in Anhui Province’s agricultural production, with a 600% increase in production, maybe more. Yan Hongchang’s heroism came at just the right time. Rather than being punished as a criminal, Yan would be ultimately be recognized as a hero who inspired Deng Xiaoping. The voice of a few farmers became a thunder, as Xi Jinping said, that roared across China, catalyzing a transformation from poverty to abundance.

It would take time for the political obstacles to be overcome, but the unmistakable success of this second revolution in China could not be denied. Deng Xiaoping would face criticism, but had the courage to bring about new policies over the next few years formalizing the Household Contract Responsibility System, often called da baogan, which allowed families to farm their own allocation of land. They had to give a portion to the state, but the rest they could eat or sell at unregulated prices. Fifteen-year leases to farm plots were introduced in 1984 and then became 30-year leases in 1993. Agricultural taxes were abolished in 2006. (Meyer, pp. 215-217). For details on the rapid changes that took place, see chapter 5, “Disbanding Collective Agriculture,” in Jonathan Unger’s book, The Transformation of Rural China (New York: Routledge, 2002). Also, see the recent interview with Yan Hongchang recorded by Ni Dandan in “The Farmer Who Changed China Forever“ (SixthTone.com, Aug 21, 2018).

The signing of the Xiaogang contract

The signing of the Xiaogang da baogan contract is captured in a painting displayed at the spacious Da BaoGan Memorial Hall in Xiaogang, a short walk from the easily-overlooked home of Yan Hongchang, which is the key place to visit if you go there. The original of this painting is in a museum in Beijing.

Soon the principle of “household management” would become enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, Article 8:

Working people who belong to rural collective economic organizations shall have the right, within the scope?prescribed by law, to farm cropland and hillsides allotted to them for their private use, engage in household sideline production, and raise privately owned livestock. [emphasis added]

This recognition of a form of property rights for farmers was a vital step in China’s economic resurgence. What is today proudly called “socialism with Chinese characteristics” has traits that seem to resonate with principles of economic freedom and property rights. That economic revolution not only replaced famine with abundance, but has lifted China in many ways, opening doors for intellectual property rights, which also got a foothold in 1984.

The home of Yan Hongchang, where the Xiaogang contract was signed on Nov. 24, 1978.

The home of Yan Hongchang, where the Xiaogang contract was signed on Nov. 24, 1978.

The windowless room where the Xiaogang contract was signed.

The windowless room where the Xiaogang contract was signed. We must never forget the courage and desperation of that tiny group of farmers huddled together in a small room with no windows – an important detail, for it meant that local government informants could not walk by and listen to the meeting. The contract they signed specified that if any of them were caught, the others would raise their children. But they would rather risk death by execution than stand by and watch their families continue to starve. I’m so grateful for what they did.

From Agricultural Reform to the Rise of Intellectual Property

Allowing people to control and purchase property, even if still formally owned by the government, and to prosper from their work and their investment of capital, created an environment of relative economic liberty. As collective communes were finally discarded in favor of letting farmers control their own allocations of land and profit from their work, the recognition of property rights also began spreading to the realm of intellectual property. An overview of the early rise of China’s patent law is told by Bonan Lin, Jon Wood, and Soonhee Jang in “Overview of Chinese Patent Law,” 35th International Congress of the PIPA, Toyama, Japan, Oct 19–22, 2004.

China passed its first patent law in 1984 and then created its Patent Office in 1987 under the leadership of a man I deeply admire, Dr. Lulin Gao. Drawing upon his familiarity with the German IP system, he paved the way for the creation of the Patent Office and became its Commissioner, serving from 1987 to 1998. Then he led the way in establishing the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) and served as its first commissioner. While the patent system in its infancy had weaknesses, China has steadily strengthened its IP laws, IP awareness, and IP training. What I saw year after year in China was an urgent effort to strengthen IP laws and IP enforcement, including the establishment of specialized IP courts and programs across the country aimed at helping companies and officials strengthen IP. Patent quality is steadily improving, as is innovation.

China’s IP activity and achievements have come at a nearly hypersonic pace, catching the West off guard. China now leads the world in Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) patent applications. These expensive international applications are usually presumed to be a sign of quality innovation. When China’s domestic patents began to climb rapidly and surpass the filings of many nations, Western voices often suggested that China’s relatively low number of PCT filings revealed that innovation in China was nothing to take very seriously. That argument now lacks any merit. But it still seems to be “common knowledge” in many corporate and government circles that innovation in China is weak and that China relies on copying. A little patent searching will show that China’s patent filings in so many areas, from graphene to paper straws, exceed those in the United States and other nations by such great margins and with such interesting advances that copying utterly fails as an explanation. Yes, copying has occurred, but it’s the value-added innovation on top of learning from others that makes China such a powerhouse. This can no longer be ignored or be downplayed, and hopefully China’s recent hypersonic shot-over-the-bow will help strategists reconsider the power of China to lead, not just copy, in numerous critical areas—including the IP system itself.

Copyright © Jeff Lindsay, 2021

By |2022-04-27T13:19:37-07:00April 27th, 2022|Categories: Books, Business, China, Industry, Patent law, Photography, Society, Surviving|0 Comments

Jimmer, the “Lonely Master,” Might Be Doing Better and Doing More in China than the Deseret News Thinks

In the state of Utah, Salt Lake City’s Deseret News recently carried a touching but slightly downbeat article about China’s most popular basketball player, Jimmer Fredette, the impressive star who once stunned American crowds while playing for Brigham Young University. The article is “Lonely Master: From March Madness to Shanghai, the Unlikely Journey of Jimmer Fredette” by Jesse Hyde, published March 12, 2018. It has a lot of positive things to say about Jimmer and his accomplishments in China, but the general tone of the article is that Jimmer has missed out on his US dreams and thus has settled for something painfully inferior by coming to China, a grim and gritty place. I think there’s another perspective that ought to be considered.

Yes, the CBA is a far weaker competitive field than the NBA, and yes, it is disappointing that his NBA career did not give him the opportunities and satisfaction he sought. But don’t shed too many tears for Jimmer: things might not be as grim as the article implies.

The negative picture painted of China is quite disappointing. It’s a beautiful, exciting place where Jimmer is visible and influential to millions of people in ways that would not be possible in Europe or the US. I have met Jimmer and chatted a few times but don’t know him well nor can I speak for him. But what he is doing here is remarkable and has touched many people. His goodness, his honesty, his humility, and his high standards have also helped him touch people beyond what his athletic skills alone could do. For someone who possibly may have a sense of a mission higher than personal temporal success alone, coming to China brings many opportunities to achieve greater good, while also benefiting from a shorter season and excellent pay. Win/win from my perspective. His presence in China is part of something big, at least in the minds of many of his BYU-related fans here.

One of those fans, a Communist Party official, requested a chance to meet Jimmer last year. I was honored to be part of the little gathering where introductions were made. Jimmer with his characteristic class and humility brought gifts for the Chinese men who had come — framed photos of him as keepsakes. They were thrilled. Before Jimmer showed up, one man in the small group, a business leader in charge of the large complex where we rent some beautiful space to hold LDS services, chattered excitedly about Jimmer and quoted statistics from Jimmer’s games when he was at BYU and in China. Kid in a candy shop when Jimmer arrived. The official had gifts also, a terrific album of Chinese postage stamps. It was a beautiful souvenir for each of the foreigners at this event, which I’m proudly holding in the photo below.

With typical Jimmer class, Jimmer noticed a couple of keenly interested staff members from the little cafe where we met and invited them to get their photos taken also. It was a big day for all of us.

The Deseret News article makes numerous references to the pollution of China and Jimmer’s depressing situation here. The lead paragraph suggests he can’t see much of the skyline in Shanghai due to pollution (yes, we have pollution and some days visibility is noticeably reduced, but we have a lot of beautiful days too and air quality is improving). His apartment is “empty, lonely, a place he just crashes, so devoid of personal effects….” Regarding some reminders of his wife and daughter in his apartment: “Sometimes he needs those reminders. Like when he’s in Shanxi, a gritty industrial city where the gray dust blows from the cement factories and the grime is so thick he could scribble his name on the windows of parked cars.” And when he’s in Shanghai, in spite of the wealth and good food here, “even here, the air carries a slight whiff of chemicals you can almost taste. It’s hard not to want to be somewhere else.”

At this point in reading the article, I wondered if the staff of the Deseret News have ever been in Salt Lake City during the winter months, when the winter inversion traps air in the Salt Lake Valley and leads to painfully high levels of particles, nitrogen oxide, and other pollutants? Of if they have ever been near operations of the massive copper mine that scars the Valley? Or drove through Utah County in the days when the Geneva Steel works were cranking out massive whiffs of chemicals into the air? Or if they have lived near a paper mill in the United States? Shanghai air can get smoggy and is typically worse than most places in the US, but apart from an occasional painter using oil-based paint or a vehicle burning too much oil, as in almost any city, noticeable “whiffs of chemicals” are something I generally don’t experience here, unless those chemicals include the cinnamon aromas coming from Shanghai’s amazing Cinnaswirl bakery with world-class cinnamon rolls, or from the intoxicating smells of any of the hundreds of different cuisines available in Shanghai. OK, we do have stinky tofu, which does have a noticeable smell from its unusual natural chemistry — maybe that’s what the writer encountered here. But you can just take a few steps and be free of that.

China has pollution, certainly. There are spots that are gritty or grimy, just as in America. But it’s also one of the most beautiful and exciting places to live, especially Shanghai. For me personally, my respiratory health during my nearly seven years in Shanghai has been much better than it was in the US, where I would often get bronchitis or other issues in winter. Here it’s been great and I’ve almost never had to miss work due to illness. One or two days for an injury, but my health has been terrific. Part of that is from the food, which is high in fresh produce and generally quite healthy.

Come give China a chance. It’s one of the nicest places in the world, in my opinion. Anyplace is grim when you are away from family, but with such a short playing season, we hope that Jimmer can continue to thrive here and increasingly experience the beauty and wonders of China while here.

As a reminder of the surprising beauty and sometimes even miraculous nature of life in Shanghai, here are images of one of Shanghai’s secrets: its impressive angels rising from the ground to watch over this city. May Jimmer continue to be among them.

Finally, here’s a couple views of one of Jimmer’s favorite Shanghai spots.

Shanghai Disney Castle

The Shanghai Disney Castle

 

Cinderella’s Castle.

 

 

By |2018-03-17T07:24:37-07:00March 16th, 2018|Categories: Business, Career, China, Food, Health, Photography, Relationships, Religion, Restaurants, Safety, Shanghai, Society, Surviving|Comments Off on Jimmer, the “Lonely Master,” Might Be Doing Better and Doing More in China than the Deseret News Thinks

St. Gobain Celebrates 350 Years of Innovation with a Temporary Pavilion on the Huangpu River in Shanghai

St. Gobain, one of the world’s oldest companies (350 years!), just had their Innovation Days celebration in Shanghai on Sunday. I was privileged to be a guest and to learn more about this innovative Fortune 500 company, headquartered in France, that produces leading materials like special glasses and abrasives.

To celebrate their 350th anniversary, they built a temporary pavilion on the Bund near the International Cruise Terminal area, just east of Suzhou Creek, and it is now open to the public for a few days. But you have to reserve a ticket for specific times. Make your reservations at www.saint-gobain.com.cn/en/350th_anniversary.html.

I especially enjoyed the display with mirrored walls and actively lit glass inside, and the display highlighting the acoustic insulation materials they produce. Booming loud inside, quiet outside.

Here are some photos from the event I attended:

By |2018-02-06T16:56:01-07:00January 14th, 2015|Categories: Business, Industry, Innovation, Photography, Shanghai|Tags: |Comments Off on St. Gobain Celebrates 350 Years of Innovation with a Temporary Pavilion on the Huangpu River in Shanghai

The Mysterious Angels of Lujiazui Park Watching Over Shanghai

In the midst of the tallest buildings in Shanghai, in the heart of mighty Pudong, lies an unexpectedly serene and generally overlooked park with one of Shanghai’s most intriguing mysteries. It is a beautiful but small park, offset against the towers on all sides. But within its borders lies the mystery of two unusual figures, rising and hovering over the city.

Angels? In a public park in a Communist nation? Yes, angels, with wings, cleverly sculpted so they appear to rise from the earth as trees, then transform into feminine angels watching over and nurturing the inhabitants below.

Angels are not only a symbol from Christianity or Judaism. They play a role in numerous cultures and beliefs, and even for a formally atheistic society, I believe the Party leaders here recognized that angels of this kind can be widely appreciated symbol of protection and favor of China, be it heavenly favor, cosmic, spiritual, or whatever. Yes, there can be a touch of mysticism and cosmic imagination here without subverting official policies. And for those of us who wish to see further dimensions to the art, I welcome the concept of heavenly favor of China. May real angels watch over this grand nation and its peoples!

13-12-20_81867

Lujiazui Park

A Protective Angel Watches Over Shanghai

13-12-20_81865

13-12-20_81871

13-12-20_81875

13-12-20_81876

13-12-20_81886

13-12-20_81893

13-12-20_81901

The Angels of Lujiazui Park

The Angels of Lujiazui Park

By |2017-10-24T07:13:12-07:00October 25th, 2014|Categories: Photography, Religion, Shanghai|Tags: , , , |Comments Off on The Mysterious Angels of Lujiazui Park Watching Over Shanghai

Zhangjiajie, China’s Beautiful Mountain Treasure Overlooked by Most Foreigners

One of China’s most beautiful locations is Zhangjiajie, arguably one of earth’s most beautiful locations. But Zhangjiajie is sadly overlooked by most foreigners travelers here. They go to Xian or other popular spots that pale in comparison. Zhangjiajie’s scenery was actually used in the filming of Avatar. The tall mountains with trees on the top don’t float they way they do in the movie, but when the clouds are at the right level, it sort of looks that way.

Zhangjiajie is about a two-hour flight from Shanghai. You can stay in the city of Zhangjiajie or take a 40-minute taxi up into the town at the entrance to the major national park, where rates are not bad at all. It can be busy on holidays, but still entirely doable and affordable. Way too much fun to overlook. Plan on spending at least two full days there. Three days are about right.

I recommend staying in the mountain village of Wulingyuan, where you are just a short walk or cab ride to the main entrance of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, one of several attractions in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area. The park has stunning karst pillars of sandstone. There are often clouds and fog, which can enhance the photography if you are lucky, but might just block your view at times.

Wulingyuan Scenic Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss it!

We reached Wulingyuan by flying to Zhangjiajie city, which has a small airport and a lot of crooked cabbies. They will quote you a price of 300 RMB to get to Wulingyuan. It should be about 100 RMB if they use a meter, which naturally they don’t want to. Insist on the meter or walk away. It’s only when you walk away that they will take you seriously. Tell them you can take a bus or something instead and walk, or go to a different cabbie, but don’t pay 300 RMB.

Also be sure to get a tour guide. We can recommend an excellent one that charges 100 RMB for half a day and 200 RMB for a full day. She was outstanding. Chinese language only, but it was good Chinese – sort of like having a day-long lesson for the price of one or two hours of regular lessons. Yes, we tipped her, and would be happy to recommend her to you as well. Email me (jeff at jeff lindsay d0t com) your contact info and I’ll get you in touch with her.

Here are a few photos of this scenic area in western Hunan province, near the center of China.

By |2014-06-10T17:16:01-07:00June 8th, 2014|Categories: China, Photography, Travel tips|Tags: , , , |Comments Off on Zhangjiajie, China’s Beautiful Mountain Treasure Overlooked by Most Foreigners

Qingdao, China: Clean, Beautiful City with a Great Beach and Nearby Mountains

For a recent 3-day holiday, my wife and I went to Qingdao, China, in Shandong Province. We stayed on the beach the Haiyu Hotel. The hotel was reasonably good and quite inexpensive, less than 500 RMB a night with an ocean view and a great beachfront to explore. Qingdao has wonderful seafood, and if you like clams and basic fish, you can get it very inexpensively. The air was fresh, the sky was blue, and the ocean front was relatively clean and attractive, unlike the mud the occupies the region around Shanghai.

We began with a trip to Lao Shan Mountain, which features some good hiking and also beautiful fishing boats in the coastal city of Lao Shan. Then we visited a few parts of Qingdao such as Ba De Guan with lots of European architecture and the beautiful Zhongshan Park.

Travel tip: taxis can be hard to hail in Qingdao. During a time with lots of visitors, you would be wise to arrange a driver ahead of time. Might cost 400-500 per day. If you hire a taxi for a day, it might be more like 800 or higher. A subway system is under construction and should be up starting in 2015.

Here are some photos of our adventure.

By |2014-04-16T15:54:32-07:00April 13th, 2014|Categories: China, Photography, Travel tips|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Qingdao, China: Clean, Beautiful City with a Great Beach and Nearby Mountains

Qibao, a Not-Too-Ancient Water Town in Shanghai

Qibao: A Shanghai Attraction You Must Not Miss

A fun attraction in Shanghai that many foreigners overlook is the ancient water town of Qibao, a 5-minute stroll from the Qibao subway station on Line 9. It’s over 30 minutes away from downtown Shanghai, but is definitely worth the trip. As a water town, it’s views aren’t nearly as scenic as those in the famous water towns like Wuzhen or Zhouzhuang, and lacks the many attractions of Suzhou, but it has plenty of excitement for a half-day visit and can be a fun place to shop and try unusual foods. There are some good photo ops there, but what I like best are the many vendors on the pedestrian street. There are also 8 museums you can visit with one 30 RMB ticket, but they are small and not all that interesting for the most part, though it’s cool to say you’ve been to the Cricket Museum (featuring some calligraphy about cricket fights and a table display with real crickets in real formaldehyde), and there are some interesting items in the memorial hall for Qibao’s famous sculptor, Zhang Chongren and some fascinating  miniatures in the Miniatures Museum.

Here are some photos from recent visits to Qibao:

When you visit Qibao, go to Exit 2 of the Qibao Station on Line 9, then go left to the corner and turn left again. No need to cross any streets. You go may 200 meters and then you will see a big gate for the Qibao area. Go down that street another 200 meters roughly and on your right you will see a big fountain area made from rocks and a small pagoda. Turn right there and follow the stream of people down toward the narrow street close to the rocky fountain that is the beginning of Qibao’s interesting pedestrian street. Follow it to a bridge over the canal. This is a good place for photos. You can wander over to the right to get a good photo of this main bridge, then do on the bridge and take photos, then cross and go over to the left for another good spot for photography. Then continue down the pedestrian street to see the throng of vendors and other attractions.

At any of the little museums that are easy to miss, you can buy tickets for all 8 attractions or just pay the 5 or 10 RMB for individual museums you want to see. Or skip them and focus on food and photography.

One food tip: At #21 on the main pedestrian street, there is quite good gelato or ice cream for just 10 RMB a scoop. I tried the chocolate and found it as good as any chocolate gelato I’ve had in Shanghai, and less than half the typical price. Not bad!

Gate to the Pedestrian Street Area of Qibao

Backside of the Gate to the Pedestrian Street Area of Qibao

By |2016-10-24T05:58:00-07:00March 15th, 2014|Categories: China, Photography, Shanghai|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Qibao, a Not-Too-Ancient Water Town in Shanghai

Update on the Farmer’s Son, Recovering from Surgery #1

I’d like to introduce you to the most self-reliant people I have ever met. Noble people who have a message to some of my readers and friends: “Thank you for helping our son!” This is the family we met in Shanghai, where destiny and, in my opinion, the hand of the Lord brought us together. It is the family I previously discussed whose son has long been in need of surgery to correct a serious deformation of his leg (see the story here). We came to visit and see how their son is recuperating from a first flawed surgery. He is recovering well and is now able to stand, with the help of his friends. With a future surgery, we hope he will be able to walk more normally.

We left our comfortable, convenient city of Shanghai Friday night and flew out to Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, a smaller city with just 5 million people. From there we took a train to a much smaller town that many people here have never heard of, though it is about the same size as my hometown of Salt Lake City.  From there we took a car into farm territory and arrived at a tiny little farming village of just 180 people, with a handful of cement and brick buildings clustered together.

After living two years in one of the world’s largest cities, spending some time in a tiny farming village was a completely different experience, and probably our most magical time in China so far. Along with some gifts, we brought them some cash that some of you donated to help them pay the debt they have for the surgery their teenage son had in Shanghai. And now we are preparing for the next surgery that he going to need, this time the most important surgery, the operation to rebuild his knee that has been grossly deformed ever since a severe infection when he was a toddler.This family may be poor in monetary wealth but they are rich in the the things that matter most like love, integrity, and, as we also discovered, good food. Lots of good food that they planted and prepared themselves. The rice, the peanuts, the bitter melon, the various greens, the two kinds of herbal tea we tried, the beans, the chicken, the eggs, etc. I didn’t ask where they got the water snakes that turned out to be one of the especially delicious parts of our second meal in their home (I’m serious–I was really surprised), but I suppose they captured them out in their rice paddy. A small fraction of our feast had been purchased or traded with neighbors, but the vast majority was the work of their toil.

This rugged, self-sufficient family was impressed us with their love, goodness, and their competence in what they do. When we spent time with them in Shanghai, they seemed lost and confused, truly in need of someone to help look out for them, but on the farm, in their environment, they stood as masters, savvy, wise, competent, and fascinating. They were not the ones helping and lifting us.

They took us around to the various parts of their territory to show us the many crops they raised. We met relatives and friends with whom they share and cooperate, a wonderful example of what a community based on solid family values and love for one another can be. This was a happy place with the elderly and children spending time together, passing on values and principles. I saw no televisions. Water came from a well requiring a rope and a bucket. Luxuries were scarce. Chickens were abundant and roamed freely in some of the homes.

They were poor by our standards and by Shanghai standards, but they had everything they needed, with the obvious exception of competent health care for serious issues. Another child there was in need of surgery for a foot problem (I think it is clubfoot). With some additional help (use the PayPal button at the right if you wish), we can assist our family in getting the surgery they need for their son. If by chance we get more than is needed, I think this village will be a worthy target for ongoing external support. And perhaps some of you can join me one day in a future visit to this little piece of heaven on earth, hidden in the middle of China.

The foreign friends they wish to thank include some of you from the States and also some friends from Taiwan living here in China who have been wonderfully generous. Thank you!

A few photos follow. Note the fireworks exploding in the second picture: we got the fireworks treatment when we arrived and when we left. I think fireworks help drive away evil spirits. Did it work? You’ll have to be the judge. Maybe it takes two applications to be effective.

I should also mention the sweet woman in blue. She was so curious to meet us and so warm. After she met us, she went home and wrote a letter that she brought to us later in the day expressing her happiness to have us as new friends. It was such a kind letter. Really one of the sweetest, most gracious people I’ve met. She apologized that she only had two or three years of education and wasn’t cultured, but I wish everyone had that much culture.

13-06-21_72570

13-06-21_72584

13-06-21_72589

13-06-21_72592

13-06-21_72599

13-06-21_72601

13-06-21_72602

13-06-21_72606

13-06-21_72612

13-06-21_72629

13-06-22_72646

13-06-22_72657

13-06-22_72665

13-06-22_72690

13-06-22_72709

13-06-22_72763 13-06-22_72767

13-06-22_72781

13-06-22_72787

13-06-22_72804

13-06-22_72846

13-06-22_72874

13-06-22_72876

By |2016-10-24T05:58:01-07:00June 26th, 2013|Categories: China, Health, Photography|Comments Off on Update on the Farmer’s Son, Recovering from Surgery #1

Raising Money for Surgery for an Impoverished Chinese Teenager

Update, March 28 and 30, 2013: This effort has turned into heartbreak, but there’s still hope. The surgeon did things his way and didn’t operate on the knee at all. It was the wrong surgery, according to other experts who had insisted that knee surgery, not hip surgery was needed now. The family is out a ton of money and a load of time with the possibility that there son will be worse off than before. I was despondent initially, but am now moving forward. We still need to help the man pay off some of the debt he has for this surgery, while building funds to bring them back to a better hospital for the knee surgery that is needed. More details in the update section below. Also see my update on this blog or at Mormanity.

Part of the magic of China is expressed in the phrase yuan fen (缘分) which refers to seemingly accidental encounters that have destiny behind them. So many of the miracles I have experienced in China are tied to this concept. So many of the rich friendships I now enjoy here began as chance encounters.





One of these chance encounters happened a few weeks ago in Shanghai, leading me to become friends with a poor family of Chinese farmers from a distant province that I many never see. But on my way back to the office after lunch at a good Chinese restaurant, my eyes were drawn to a father and his little son whose leg was badly deformed. The boy could walk, but the way his leg curved outward to the side instead of going straight up and down made it look like it would snap under the weight of his thin body. Every time he stepped with his bad leg he had to stoop halfway to the ground in a difficult motion.

What a burden this must be, I thought, and wondered if they had seen a doctor. I couldn’t let that thought go, and spent several minutes trying to argue myself out of doing anything. But I ended up following them for about 100 yards. Do I dare approach them? They looked like they were from the countryside, and I worried that they wouldn’t speak Chinese that I could understand. Won’t I just embarrass them and make things work? I struggled to know if I really should step forward, and in fear and uncertainty wished not to, but try as I might to just turn around and go back to work, I felt I had to do something. So I finally approached them, and, as if it were somehow my business, asked the father about the boy’s leg. The father spoke too quickly and with what seemed like a difficult accent to me, and my Chinese is still often inadequate when people speak even it’s pronounced clearly in standard dialect, but to my delight, another person with them, a college student, the cousin of the young boy, spoke excellent English and was able to fill in the gaps.

It’s a long story, but the father and the boy were here in Shanghai to finally get medical help. The boy had a terrible infection as a baby that made his knee swell terribly, and after that, his leg was bent horribly. He had some kind of surgery at age 3 but it didn’t help much. Now the father was determined to get his son some help at a much better hospital than the countryside offered. He was acting on pure faith, in my opinion, determined to help his son, but had just gotten the bad news from the hospital that surgery would cost well over 100,000 RMB, but he was going to have it done and find some way to pay.

I think a big part of why I needed to get involved was to help them recognize the need for a second opinion. I helped them see an excellent and experienced physician at a leading hospital who explained what was wrong with the recommendation of the first doctor he had seen. The first doctor wanted to operate on the hip and the knee at the same time, but the hip surgery, including an artificial hip, should wait until the boy’s bones had quit growing. Doing that surgery now could greatly complicate recovery and make things worse.

The father wasn’t entirely convinced, but then I arranged for two very kind LDS doctors in the States to look at the x-rays and photos and offer their comments, and they gave further clarity into the problems with hip surgery now. Perhaps a result, the father made what I think and hope is the better decision. That may be the main purpose for my involvement in this case. But it may not be the only reason.

As I write, the boy is about to wake up from a several hours of complex surgery. This surgery costs 50,000 RMB, about $8,000. The father has been able to come up with 20% of that cost as a down payment. When the boy leaves in a couple of weeks, if all goes well, his father will need to make the rest of the payment. He isn’t sure how he will do that, but I admire his faith. I’m hoping, with the help of some of you, perhaps, to raise some funds to make that goal reality. If you are interested in helping this brave family get their son back on his feet, let me know at jeff at jefflindsay.com. Think of it as your chance to make a difference in China and help a boy with vast potential live a better life.

Here are some related photos, shared with permission.

2013-03-022

Zhiwei awaiting surgery, sitting on the bed in a crowded room of six beds at Shanghai hospital where he will spend the next two or three weeks recuperating, if all goes well. (Not the Children’s Medical Center.)

13-03-14_67390

The boy’s bad leg, photographed at Shanghai Children’s Medical Hospital, where the family got a second opinion on the originally recommended surgery.
13-03-14_67392

A recent x-ray taken at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.

 

13-03-14_67402

Zhiwei walking before surgery.

13-03-14_67408

Walking before surgery. I’m praying that there will be a significant improvement after surgery!

Update, Sunday, March 24, 2013, 8 pm: Tonight my wife and I just visited Zhiwei and his father tonight at the hospital. The boy is in a lot of pain and has no desire to eat. The father is worried for him. The mom will be coming tomorrow and that should help. I think she’s never been to Shanghai and is worried about how to get to the hospital. The father didn’t know how to tell her to get hear and was planning on just using a taxi, I’m afraid, which would be too expensive for them. We showed the father how to use the subway system nearby so he could tell her exactly what to do, how to but a ticket and how to get to the station and what exit to take, etc. This must have looked really strange to the locals as they watched two foreigners using Chinese to explain to a native Chinese man how to get around town. We’re always providing entertainment here in China–perhaps that’s our real purpose here.

The father said that Zhiwei’s resistance was low, but didn’t have a bad fever. Not quite sure what he meant by resistance. The skin isn’t doing well either around the wound. That good man is worried for his son. He hasn’t slept since coming here on Thursday, having watched over his son constantly and now he says he needs to massage his son’s leg or something every little while. Saw no doctor or nurse while we were there, and got the feeling that the man was feeling pretty alone, in spite of a crowd in the same room.





Update, March 26, 2013: The boy’s mother came into town yesterday. I went by the hospital briefly on my lunch break and she saw me for the first time as I stood at the door of the little room with 6 hospital beds packed together. She instantly knew I must be the strange foreigner she had heard about and broke into a huge smile. It seemed like we had already been friends when we met. What a warm and sweet woman she is. Even more gladdening, little Zhiwei was smiling, too. He’s eating and smiling and making progress. What a difference a mother makes!

Thank you for the donations! We still need more, but are so grateful for the kindness we’ve seen from people close and far away recognizing the need to help.

Update, March 30, 2013: Disaster! When I finally looked at the leg under the blankets, to my horror I saw that the surgery was on the hip, not the knee. WHAT? I was outraged. The doctor was supposed to be in the next day at 6 pm, so I came then, but he didn’t show up. During all my visits, I’ve never seen a doctor come in and do anything with the patients and their families in the crowded little room, and only once saw a nurse come in to drain a catheter or something on another teenage boy, a procedure that involved exposing his genitals to everybody in the room and the hallway. No sense of privacy at all. Ugh. Anyway, the father called the hospital staff and arranged for us to see the surgeon the next morning when he came in at 7:45. I was there, with a translator to help, and the doctor came in and just walked by us, radiating wealth and importance, with no time to discuss his work with peons like us. We were told he needed to change and would be with us in a minute. Then he escaped out of his office and went into another office down the hall, and then we were told he’d be just a few minutes and we’d have to wait until 8:00 a.m. That time came and went. It was clear he wasn’t interested in meeting or talking. What was he worried about?

The father then showed me the x-rays