On air: What would you like to know about life in China?

Today we’re with a group of ordinary Chinese people in Beijing. They’re ready and willing for any questions you’ve got.

How about this from Vijay: Do you like the fact that the USA and Europe are struggling and in recession,while China is booming (admit it, just a little bit glad)?

Or: Do you wish you could have more children?

And while we’re in Beijing, here are Mark’s thoughts on the city

“One thing puzzles me; the football starts today and I’m wondering what they’ll do for the toss at the beginning of the match. It only occurred to me the other day, Beijing doesn’t do coins. Right down to one Yuan (about 8 British pence), it’s all in notes.”

59 Responses to “On air: What would you like to know about life in China?”

  1. 1 steve
    August 7, 2008 at 18:09

    All of China is NOT booming. While they have a new middle class that is getting wealthier, they still have extreme poverty, villages without running water or electricity. Remember, the “poor” in the west are still infinitetely better off than the poor of places like China or the third world.

  2. 2 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:11

    Do you feel like you live in a fairly free nation? As Journalists, do you feel constrained on what you may cover? Do you live in fear? Is revolution inevitable?

  3. 3 steve
    August 7, 2008 at 18:12

    It’s sad hearing people say they can’t use their real names. For all the US bashing that goes on on the BBC, in the US, I can march around with a Che t-shirt on, holding up an Impeach Bush-Cheney sign, in fact, I could go walk 4 blocks to the white house and do that. What will happen to me? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. People in the west, especially the USA, take it for granted how much freedom we have here.

  4. 4 Jens
    August 7, 2008 at 18:17

    is chinese food different that out-side china? 😉

    do you have BBQ-places?

    ever heard of haggis?

    what is your favorite drink?

  5. 5 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:18

    Steve, That’s because you are not a threat, there is almost no possibility of revolution or and the administration cannot be removed even with all time low approval rating. If you possessed some information or anything that could produce that threat, there would be no hesitation to “remove” that threat.

  6. 6 Julie P
    August 7, 2008 at 18:18

    I understand that the tap water is undrinkable. If this is true, what do you for water to drink and clean with?

  7. 7 Thea Winter - Indianapolis IN, USA
    August 7, 2008 at 18:19

    I would like to know if the addition of Hong Kong has helped your freedom since it was handed over?

    Thea Winter-Indianapolis IN

  8. 8 Anthony
    August 7, 2008 at 18:21

    1) Why is Ping Pong in the Olympics so important in China???

    2) What does everyone (in China) think about Tiananmen Square?

    3) Do a lot of people from China want to come to the U.S. because of the “American Dream”?

    4) 10 years ago, I was in high school, and China was viewed by us (because of T.V. and our public school) as a really poor country, with poor uneducated people, who live in filth, and are all starving. Now that I’m older, and see suburbs with cars and houses that look like parts of the U.S. where I live. So was it just smoke being blown up our “you know what’s”?

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  9. 9 steve
    August 7, 2008 at 18:21

    re: Taiwan

    If the Taiwanese wanted to be part of China, Taiwan WOULD be part of China. Fact is, they DON’T want to be part of China.

  10. 10 Fae Marie
    August 7, 2008 at 18:21

    How can you live in a place where they limit your news sources? If America blocked WHYS I think the American listeners would have a riot! I can’t imagine living in a country where they limit the information it’s citizens recieve.

  11. 11 steve
    August 7, 2008 at 18:22

    @ Paul

    My point was that I don’t have to fear even mentioning my name and protesting against the government here. For as “bad” as the USA is, we sure have a lot more freedoms than the Chinese do.

  12. 12 Chris (Texas)
    August 7, 2008 at 18:23

    How offended were most Chinese citizens about the US cyclist team wearing smog masks when they arrived in China? Was this really a big deal? I’m having a problem understanding what the uproar was about.

  13. 13 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:23

    Can you listen to BBC in China?

  14. 14 Nicholas Kost
    August 7, 2008 at 18:25

    The Beijing Olympics is a great milestone in the history of modern China however what do you see as the next great milestone that China should be striving for in the future?

  15. 15 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:26

    But you can’t access that information, (I know from first hand knowledge) it seems alarming that you don’t even know that your internet is highly restricted. Try cnn.com it is restricted.

  16. 16 Giancarlo
    August 7, 2008 at 18:27

    How do chinise feel compare to the rest of the other countries?
    We (western) have a clear position on how we stand compared to other culture….sometime we are arrogant , sometime we admire them….
    and how do they perceive us? free, happy, lucky etc etc…

  17. 17 Nate, Portland, OR
    August 7, 2008 at 18:27

    I’d like a clarification on the subject of Taiwan. The Chinese folks so generously giving their time to answer our questions answered by saying Taiwan is Chinese, so what is the question? Nobody is denying that Taiwan is culturally Chinese. The real question is “Do you think it is ok or even necessary for the government of mainland China to forcefully re-integrate Taiwan into China?” Do they think it is ok for Taiwan to remain independent until China becomes a free, democratic country? Is it ok for the Taiwanese to maintain some say in their government?

  18. 18 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:28

    Steve, I agree. But in the US we must be weary of secret methods of control…

  19. 19 Fae Marie
    August 7, 2008 at 18:29

    @ Chris

    I think it was because they were basically coming into their home and saying it was disguisting. They took offense. I also don’t know what the big deal is about.

    Frankly, it confuses me: they say they will allow protest and expression of opinion but when that does happen they get mad. I also think that a lot of Chinese youth are brainwashed. This broadcast would not be happening if it weren’t for the olympics because their government wouldn’t allow it.

  20. 20 Susan USA
    August 7, 2008 at 18:30

    I’m interested to hear about your working conditions and schedules.
    1) How many hours a day do most people work there?
    2) How do you feel about letting your children work?
    3) Do you feel you are being fairly compensated for the work you are performing?

  21. 21 Keith
    August 7, 2008 at 18:33

    I partially admire the Chinese people. Although to us, their government seems oppressive, they still have a significant amount of pride, and acknowledge that their government is still “learning”. I thought it was interesting that they phrase it like that. (no sarcasm, i really do find it interesting)

  22. 22 Nate, Portland, OR
    August 7, 2008 at 18:33

    Oh, and I’d like to see a question about how they view China’s environmental record. The reports are horrendous, as evidenced by the air quality in Beijing, but also reports of cities where the average age of mortality is 37 due to cancer, the Yang Tze becoming a lifeless river, and many others. China is also the source of pollution accross the world. I read recently that much of LA’s pollution is in fact from China! What is their opinion on the balance between ecological health and economic growth? Is there a way for those concerned with the environment to express their views? Is there a way for officials who violate environmental policies to be punished?



  23. 23 Brett
    August 7, 2008 at 18:36

    I am absolutely amazed at the amount of pride that the Chinese people have. They aren’t arrogant about their country or their pride for their country (something which seems to be quite different from other citizens of other countries). How do they see the pride for their country in context of other citizens of the world? Where do they feel their strong pride stems from?

  24. 24 Trent West
    August 7, 2008 at 18:38

    Just a observation – we here in the States like to preach about freedom of press but tomorrow I will not be able to watch the openning ceremony of the Olympics. Go figure.

  25. 25 Fae Marie
    August 7, 2008 at 18:39

    Yeah they are sensitive because they don’t like hearing bad things about their government!

    Being an American, I experienced Anti-Americanism first hand while traveling! And you know what? You have to be honest with yourself and say “yea, my country isn’t doing too well..”

    It’s not discrimination or distorting the truth-they showed the truth! That people are against the olympic games because China’s horrible and ugly human rights record.

  26. August 7, 2008 at 18:40

    Do Chinese athletes get respect and attention all of the time? Here in the USA we only have interest in our non-professional athletes for the short time the Olympics are happening.

  27. 27 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:40

    You also have to keep in mind that these people seem to be of somewhat higher education/staus then the average Chinese person. No street cleaners in this bunch..

  28. August 7, 2008 at 18:41

    I’ll like to know from the Chinese on what role they want their government to play on the international stage now that they are one of the economic powers? What do they think about democracy compare to communism? Do they think that China will one day overtake the USA as both economy and military super power of the world? Finally, what do they think of Africa?

  29. 29 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:41

    Trent, Why not?

  30. 30 Harvey
    August 7, 2008 at 18:42

    Ironic how Jimmy argues that they now have access to both sides of the history of China in school and then asserts that Taiwan belongs to China when, in fact, China ceded ownership of Taiwan to the Japanese after its defeat in 1895. I think that if there was freedom of speech in China, all of you would acknowledge that Taiwan and China have evolved separately over the last century and that their indiovidual histories have created two very different nations.

  31. 31 Vijay Srao in Chattarnagar India
    August 7, 2008 at 18:43

    Have any of you personally been effected by corruption?

  32. 32 Asad_Babyl
    August 7, 2008 at 18:46


    It’s cute that people from the US and Europe are criticizing the shamlessly censored and propagandized Chinese media, but we really should not be talking. Our media is just as bad if not worse (since it propagandizes covertly) than that of the Chinese.

    I understand we are discussing China at the moment, but my dear CNN and NBS watchers, let’s keep our feet grounded in reality?

  33. 33 Keith
    August 7, 2008 at 18:51

    Do you wish you could have more children? I wonder if we in the US and elsewhere will have to deal with this, because let’s be honest, the population of the world is growing at a ridiculous rate.

  34. 34 Trent West
    August 7, 2008 at 18:52

    @ Paul C

    Because NBC bought the right to air them and they won’t show them live. By the time NBC shows the openning ceremony on the west coast it would have been over for almost half a day. This is the 21st century and I am denied the right to see what I want when I want. They will also block the live online streaming.

  35. 35 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:52

    Asad, you are perfectly correct, media control is no less prolific in the west. Even, sorry to say, the BBC is controlled by it’s powerful executives, and whose interests do they serve?

  36. 36 Fae Marie
    August 7, 2008 at 18:53

    @ Asad

    Let me be the first to ADMIT that America uses propaganda!! BUT I am not limited in accessing different sources of information. I can go to BBC and read what they have to say about the Olympics and look up what India or the Philippines have to say about it.

    Unlike the folks in China who have moderated and limited sources-I can easily google any source of information without having to worry about if the content is being blocked by my country.

    I can also express my opinion and my views using all sorts of outlets without having to worry about being thrown into a re-education through labor program.

  37. 37 Paul C
    August 7, 2008 at 18:55

    “How long will they kill our profits while we stand aside and look? Some say it’s just a part of it…”

  38. August 7, 2008 at 18:56

    hello, i’d like to know what the Chinese people think about their government’s policy on Myanmar. As a giant on Myanmar’s doorstep, it has blunted western economic sanctions on the junta. Besides it has also been the main force behind the junta’s continued reign, by selling arms and by vetoeing against greater intervention from the west at the UN. The Olympics begins tomorrow, but it also marks the 20th anniversary of the bloody 1988 uprising in Myanmar, similar to that in Tianaman 1989. So does the Chinese citizens support their government’s international policy of supporting inhumane governments for economic gains at the expense of more misery for the poor? Remember, the poor in third world countries deserve the right as humans too.

  39. 39 Fae Marie
    August 7, 2008 at 18:56

    HA! Because he’s a volunteer they’ll let him know exactly how much money was spent. Jeez…

  40. 40 Andreas Keitel
    August 7, 2008 at 18:57

    I grew up in SEAsia, mostly Singapore, Hong Kong, and Philippines. It doesn’t surprise me that China is doing that well economically. It’s my opinion that they are so successful economically cause they have always laid huge emphasis on financial well being. They are natural business thinkers and exercise very open market ideals.

    However, it’s quite the opposite when it comes to critism on political and social agenda’s. Just take a look at Singapore. No ones comfortable challenging the government openly for fear of repercussions. Don’t you think the ‘free speech issue’ is a behavioural and cultural problem beginning at the family level?

  41. 41 Anthony
    August 7, 2008 at 18:57

    Can the panel answer our questions online after the show 🙂

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  42. 42 Sue B
    August 7, 2008 at 18:58

    Are ordinary Chinese alarmed about the environmental mess that is their nation?

  43. 43 Asad_Babyl
    August 7, 2008 at 19:01

    @Fae Marie

    Agreed, we have less of it, but we’re getting there (see latest move by our govetnment to regulate internet sites. or the way google suspended anti-obama bloggers as spam).

    The point of my comment was to remind our western friends not to get carried away in righteous anger when they are living with “moderated media” themselves.

  44. 44 Jeff Minter
    August 7, 2008 at 19:04

    Understandably the constant barrage of condescending comments and opinions on “what China should do” from foreigners like us must take its toll on the chinese people who listen. How do you feel about this, do you just dismiss our comments as one of ignorance and arrogance, or has it got to the point where you are just fed up of telling us that “what you see is what you get”?

  45. 45 Fae Marie
    August 7, 2008 at 19:07

    @ Asad

    Moderated media? I don’t think you can say that because moderated media is limiting information access deliberately. As far as I’ve searched you can find both anti-Obama & McCain websites with all sorts of information as to why you shouldn’t vote for one of them with ease!

    Living in America and in westernized countries, I love being able to say what I want to say and express my opinions without having to worry about getting booted away to a labor camp. Its only fair for everyone to have that sort of freedom.

  46. 46 Alex
    August 7, 2008 at 19:10

    This is all a lot of hype. I’m sure it helps to raise tv ratings for the news channels. But its time to put this in perspective. This is another olympic games with the usual political and economic contoversies attached to it. China happens to be the hot media issue of the time so we are being overdosed with all manner of analysis and debate (complete with exotic oriental flavor) by the western media. Fortunately this will be over soon and we can all move on to something more substantial.

  47. 47 Fae Marie
    August 7, 2008 at 19:12

    I was actually in Paris during the torch relay and I was right there under the Eiffel Tower where they allowed Chinese supporters to be right there in the front and Free Tibet protesters were pushed to the back.

    I was also in the underground where I saw a “FREE TIBET” sticker and Chinese supporter tried to peel it off. I asked him why he was taking it off and he told me, “it’s a bad message.” I asked him why he thought that he said because it’s not right-the message is not right.

    Just wanted to share my personal experience.

  48. August 7, 2008 at 19:31

    I know more than enough by seeing BBC newsreels. I know they are a nice people and hard working. The best way for the leaders is to grant autonomy to Tibet, it would solve many problems. After which it would be better to continue as they are and allow democracy to slowly materialise, for the sake of peace.

  49. 49 Jens
    August 7, 2008 at 20:39


    the difference is that any media can be critical of anything in the USA, without living in fear of being looked-up and being closed down.

    the isue you address is self-cenorship and manipulating the public opinion. now the public can change this by demanding more intersting news that paris hitons latest breast implants or not, or what ever mindless nonsens is the taste of the day. i am absolutly certain it is not the goverment who tells CNN to have mutiple hours of the same sensless paparrazi crap

  50. 50 Asad_Babyl
    August 7, 2008 at 21:02

    @ Jens

    Doens’t matter who does it, the correct, relevant info doesn’t get through

  51. 51 Syed Hasan Turab
    August 7, 2008 at 22:30

    We can immagine because of heavely populated society, I am wondering how there Govt managge food to feed the nation. Every country have Urban & Ruler life, & China may not suceed to eliminate the economic diversity among the nation. The way Chinese Economy is growing Govt may not suceed to narrow the differance from urban & ruler life in China.
    Over all China is on the path of progress & prosperity, which may be understand never ending journey of this heavely populated country, if problem of economic diversity may not fix might be ended up another revolution or division.
    Any way presance of corruption, Red Army & Mafia may not be denied, though I visited Hong Kong, now I am waiting the day when china will open for the world.
    No doubt China have good size of influence over world economy & recognised food business.

  52. 52 Greg, Portland, OR, USA
    August 7, 2008 at 23:37

    I bet it is far too late to get any response on this, but on the program today one of the panelists mentioned Wikipedia. In June, I was on a concert tour of Beijing with the University of Notre Dame, and we found that Wikipedia was as accessible as at home – unless you navigated to a page critical of the government. A few of our group’s members were interested in some of the protests at Tiananmen, but upon navigating to the page were summarily blocked from all Wikipedia pages.

    Are the panelists aware of this sort of happening? It caught all of us off guard and was the subject of much conversation throughout our trip. Any comments would be more than welcome.

    Thank you,
    Greg E

  53. 53 Jeff Minter
    August 8, 2008 at 00:34

    @Fae Marie

    The same Paris relay where a Tibetan snatched the torch from the disabled FRENCH athlete (who was of Chinese descent – not that it made much difference to the media and commentators, asking why on earth a Chinese person was holding the torch in France)?

    I was at the London relay by the way. My friend, a British born and bred TAIWANESE, was with me when we joined the main crowd. A few seconds after stopping, I look over to see my friend draped in the Tibetan flag, with two hippy looking protesters screaming “FREE TIBET” several times. “HE’S BRITISH YOU IDIOTS” failed to garner any sympathy. It was only when he spoke in his broad Scottish accent that they grumbled and left. No apologies.

    Just wanted to share my personal experience.

  54. 54 parth guragain
    August 8, 2008 at 04:22

    this is a time of great pride for china.wha i find that in recent years western media have been greatly obscessed with china.be it be print media or electronic media people have been talking about china.my analysis is that there is defenetly human rights abuses in china but human right abuses occur in any part of the world.what i find that there is some amount of fear in west that china will overtake them in days to come.but what we should remember is that now world is interconected and if there is instability in country as huge as china the progress of world will be going backwards.it is the time we should be working together not single out china.Besides that what we should know that western media is the strongest media in the world and english is global language.so what the media of Britain or america says tends to have more influence and help in creating opinion around the world.this is the fact and what we should remember is that these media have certain intrest.I am not against democracy ,democracy should be the only form of governance.this type of governance brings transprancy.but what i fell that west is so obscessed with democracy that they don’t understand groundreality of many cuntries around the world they want to impose their thought and will to other people around the world.what we should remember is that change doesn’t come overnight .what i fell in case of china is it is defenately changing.it is not like middle eastern countries who doesn’t want to change.

  55. 55 Tom
    August 8, 2008 at 07:50

    @ Brett re Chinese pride,

    As a Chinese Australian I could add my 2 cents worth on this. The sense of pride among ordinary chinese people is fueled by a number of sources.

    One source is that our culture emphasises collectiveness over individualism. Chinese people have extremely close bond with their immediate and extended families. In times of crisis, this sense of the family can easily extend to any fellow Chinese. This was recently demonstrated after the Sichuan earthquakes and the marred torch relay.

    Another source is of course China’s much touted long history and its influence on the world. Just ask any Greeks or Italians and they could tell you their similar sense of pride in the achievements of their forebears. History plays an indispensible part in defining Chinese-ness. James Reynold in his BBC Chinese blog recently attempted to analyse the source of this Chinese pride. In that he placed the Chinese’s grievances over past injustices at the hands of foreign powers as central to this pride. That was only one of the many sources. In Chinese history, proud moments are often lauded and glorified, while infamous moments are either amnesised, if they were self-inflicted, or deeply reflected upon, otherwise.

    As a child, we were raised with deep awareness of who we are, where we came from, what makes us unique, and to propagate this awareness through achievements, competitiveness, planning, and adaptiveness. As with all things, there are good and bad aspects to this sense of pride.

    Apologies for the long post.

  56. August 8, 2008 at 09:48

    does the china chairman promise chinese people like what obama and mc cain and other democratic countries presidential candidates or rulers do when campeigning or in power?

    play GEMS,not games


  57. 57 fromtheworldofdennis
    August 8, 2008 at 23:17

    does china will be ever able to hold free elections.

  58. 58 Thomas Lowry
    August 10, 2008 at 18:25

    I wonder how people get het up about China and the Tibet question and not about other places which have been regarded as belonging to whoever rules them. I refer to Ulster which was taken by the British and no one has ever questioned as to why it has not been returned to its rightful owners.East and West Germany were reunited so what is the difference.

    T L

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