China’s Sexual Revolution – Liberating or Destructive?

A chinese worker assembling what is becoming a very popular purchase in China.

Although it is a somewhat underground subject, even here in Britain, the sexual nature and openness of Chinese people has vastly changed through the generations, and has thrown up many positives, and sadly, caused many problems.

Sexual intercourse was traditionally considered dangerous for men, since they lost semen, which was identified as a man’s “yáng-essence” and was thought to be a non-renewable resource necessary for life. Nowadays, young people in China are indulging in their first sexual experience far earlier than their peers did.  One survey even claimed the average Chinese person could have up to 19.3 sexual partners. Research published by Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences showed that people born in the 1980’s have sex for the first time at an average age of 21 while in comparison, men and women born in the 1970’s had their first sex at an average age of 23, while the average age for people born in the 1960’s or 1950’s was 25 for men and 23 for women. If this trend continues, the people born in the 1990’s are likely to be engaging around the age of 18, and who knows, if this revolution continues this figure may continue to fall.

The following are two seperate data charts, showing a contrast in opinion on the age teenagers lose their virginity. (The first was published early than the second)

Sr. Number Country Average Age to Lose Virginity
1 United States 16.4
2 Brazil 16.5
3 France 16.8
4 Germany 17.6
5 Australia 17.8
6 Austria 17.9
7 Nigeria 19.7
8 Japan 19.7
9 Thailand 20.5
10 Hong Kong 20.5
11 Taiwan 21.4
12 China 21.9
13 India 22
14 Singapore 22.8
15 Malaysia 23

These contrasts in generations have a negative impact on the sexual revolutionaries of todays China. Rather than feeling liberated, they feel more trapped than ever before. An article written by Pete Marchetto for eChinacities.com states;

Parents are increasingly bowing to the inevitable. Five years ago the common parental instruction was: “You’re not to have a boyfriend until you’ve finished your studies.” Now, aware they will only be lied to, many parents have changed the rule. “Yes, you can date him, but if you do you must marry him.”

This view does not fit with the society the current generation live in, with girls now focusing on building careers and try to avoid the parental pressure towards early marriage and the obligatory grandchild for as long as they possibly can. This pressure can become unbearable, and saddest of all, many student suicides these days are triggered by relationship problems. Unable to turn to their parents, with friends who know no more than they, with no counselling available and no health education to guide them, too many give way to desperation when things go wrong.

To prevent such a thing becoming regularity, the education system has to reform to protect China’s newest generation as it adapts to a change in lifestyle. Many people believe a big factor in this lack of education is the fact that the previous generations were so suppressed by the Cultural Revolution that they are now too embarassed to talk, and therefore teach, about sex. Regarding awareness, the research by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences highlighted that about 63.8% of people born in the 1950’s and 1960’s have never used condoms. But that proportion drops sharply with younger generations. The percentage is 39.8% for people born in the 1970’s and 25.6% those born in the 1980’s. This is still a high figure, and sexual education is becoming a huge issue for the Chinese Government. Cases of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and more seriously, AIDS and HIV are on the increase, heavily due to this failure in the education system and also the government itself.

HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men in China is estimated at 5%. High rates of unprotected anal sex between men are leading to concerns that prevalence among this high-risk group is rising.Among the new HIV infections in 2009, 32.5% were as a result of sex between men, a significant increase from 12.2% in 2007.

Casting back generation to generation, it is believed even some emperors engaged in homosexual relationships, as it was seen to be more harmonious. Present day China is seeing a rise in the number of same-sex couples, although that is not to say they are more accepting. The government’s stance is simple and ruthless; the three no’s. “No approval. No disapproval. No promotion.”  The people’s opinion is becoming a little more accepting, and the people who find themselves in same-sex relationships are becoming braver. The first ever gay-pride event, Shanghai Pride, was held in 2009, and rather than a parade, it was a series of events. It is now a popular event, and it’s now held every year. Sadly, a vast majority of gay men in China who are married are still under social pressure to hide their sexual orientation.  Going back through the generation, although it was not regular, it is believed even some emperors have engaged in homosexual relationships, as it was seen to be more harmonious than hetero-sexual relationships.

Intervention efforts are difficult; homosexuality was not removed from the official list of mental disorders until 2001, which highlights another generation difference in views. The government have been slow to solve the issue of STD’s. For example, China’s first condom advertisement was banned just two days after its release in 1999 because government officials had said it was illegally promoting sex products. This ban was only recently lifted on World AIDS Day in 2002, and condoms were re-categorised as a medical tool rather than a sexual commodity.

Nevertheless, China’s first major television campaign to promote condom use was not launched until 2007. The campaign targeted the young and mobile, and comprised of short public service announcements on public transport, using slogans such as “Life is too good, please protect yourself Maybe in some debt to this campaign, by 2009 it was reported that condom use in China had ‘ballooned’, and by early 2010 there had been an increase in condom sales. During the Beijing olympics, China released a series of advertisements, some of which can be seen below;

This article was inspired by a 2008 documentary on Sex in China. Although heavily biased, as many American documentaries are, it does highlight the rise in sexuality, and blames the Cultural Revolution for suppressing Chinas sexuality for so long. The videos, especially part 2, are a little full on, but do include some good interviews and makes very interesting points.

Although hard to draw clear conclusions, it is obvious that the difference in generations is vast. Previous generations were scared to hold hands and branded ‘sexually illiterate’, now China has more sex shops than most other countrie in the world. With China still developing, and generation gaps thought to be occurring around every four years, the future holds no barriers for Chinese people, and the rise of sexuality may long continue. The Chinese government has to be ready for this, and increase its efforts to protect its people through sex education and promotion of safe sex, so that this revolution is a safe revolution.

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Country of Origin

The manufacturing industry is driven by demand. The demand for cheap products is higher than ever and China’s supply of low cost labour and raw materials mean it can capitalise on the growing potential of the budget market. Because the emphasis is moving more towards value for money, a product’s origin becomes less important to us, and we’ve gotten to the point now where many of us barely know anything about where our belongings came from. Despite this, China maintains its reputation as a global power in mass-production.

A survey was set up to ask students about the origins of products in their homes. It was immediately clear that it was a matter of guesswork. Electrical products and plastic items were generally thought to be made in the East, while furniture and musical instruments were assumed to have been made somewhere in Europe. The brand name on the item was also a factor – brands like Sony and Fender have strong connections with the countries they were founded, but they both own manufacturing plants in China. This leads to confusion about where the item actually came from.

The majority of items in a room had been bought from chain retailers. These shops promote their products’ value for money, which is the often the main focus of the student shopper. Deluxe items often use the country of origin as a selling point, usually to help promote a product’s quality, which is often considered not as important. Because cheaper products are of generally lower quality, a cheap product’s country of origin isn’t used as a selling point, so the consumer never finds out where the product was made.

It’s becoming cheaper to make things, especially in Eastern countries where cheaper labour and resources are available. Because of this, many countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan and China gain a reputation for producing cheap, low quality items. There are questions about the ethics of some factories in the East, but the whole industry is built on consumer demand for cheap products and China is at the centre of this movement. The Made in China label appears on a huge range of items but in the survey, China wasn’t always guessed as the country of origin.

China was mostly guessed for electrical products, clothing and plastics. It is the world’s largest consumer of copper, which is used extensively in the production of electrical appliances, and cotton which is used in the textile industry. Another issue is that fact that many products a labelled as being made in China, but were actually only assembled there. This leads to further confusion. Basically, a lot of us don’t know where our belongings were made, but it doesn’t matter to us because stuff is so cheap, and China is happy to sell it to us.

 

How do we view products that are “Made In China”?

Perception of Origin in Textiles

How do we view products that are “Made In China”?

Many people still believe there is a sort of stigma that comes with products that are manufactured in China but is that really still the case? I am going to look into the home and different age groups and delve a bit further into the perceptions people have with clothing produced in China. From 3 different generations I have a control group of 3 persons. One of which is a student, aged 23 and Male. The second is a Father, aged 43 and last but not least a Grandmother, age – too polite to ask (roughly 70’s). Each was asked for three pieces of clothing, preferably a sweater or cardigan to further analyse. Hopefully this will be a good starting point to generate insightful opinions on how people’s opinions of their clothing and products being Made In China.

The Student
In this volunteer’s items were 3 jumpers, the G-star Jumper and Breed Jumper were both purchased in the UK and the Abercrombie and Fitch was purchased in the United States.
Upon questioning The Student, it was concluded that he wasn’t sure of where each item was manufactured but assumed that each would have been produced in China, or Taiwan. A wild guess but rightly so – All of these items were in fact made in China.
The Father
These item’s concluded of the following, 3 Jumpers – Pringle, Taylor Made and Ralph Lauren. And again the Volunteer assumed all of these items we’re produced in China, except the Pringle Jumper – commonly misconceived as a Scottish based company – Pringle is in fact owned and based by S.C. Fang & Sons Company, Ltd in Hong Kong.
The Grandmother

Having discussed her items, the third and final volunteer was a bit more wary of where her clothes were from but still not completely sure of where each piece was made. Having worked in the Dundee Weaving Mills as a young woman, Theresa was much more aware of the conditions of factory workers and was informed of the reports on poor factory conditions in sweatshops around the world that have a big impact on the textiles and fashion industry. Her clothes were from more high street labels and was surprised to hear that her cardigan from Marks and Spencers was infact made in Turkey as opposed to China as she’d previously assumed.

Table of Products and Manufacturer.

Product Jumper Jumper Jumper Jumper Jumper Jumper Jumper Cardigan
Owner Student Student Student Father Father Father Grandmother Grandmother
Brand G-Star A+F Breed Taylor Made Ralph Lauren Pringle Primark M&S
Origin China China China China Macau China China Turkey
Notable Differences none none none none none none none none
Aware of Origin no no no no no no no no
Do British Consumers Care?
“It makes no difference to me whether it was made in China or made in Scotland – as long as it is well made and won’t fall apart in the first wash!” – Student

When asked if either had preconceived ideas about any products or garments that were produced in China, they all seemed to have similar answers. So I asked some more questions to clear up their opinions.

  • How does this effect peoples perceptions of China and where their clothes are from?
  • Would people from different generations have similar/different views?
  • Are people even aware of whether or not their clothes are produced in china?

When discussing the products with the two younger volunteers, neither of the two were aware of where their clothing was designed or made. And surprisingly so neither we’re very interested. It seems as though that all the interviewee’s found that the manufacturing was not something they found important when selecting and purchasing a garment. The only thing that came up and was the fair trade and fair working standards issue with factory workers in China and India.

It has become a common perception that all clothing and electrical items are produced in China, and it is often believed that these items are shoddily made. The real fact is that these items are the best manufactured in the world. There is a reason many companies ask for Chinese suppliers to produce their merchandise and that isn’t just because of the millions and millions of people looking for jobs, it is because the quality and speed of production outcomes are the quickest and highest quality in the world.

Attitudes to Manufacturing in China

“Made in China” – I’d bet that phrase appears at least once in every house in the country, but how do people feel about China monopolizing the manufacturing market?

 

To answer that question I thought I‘d ask my Scottish flat mates a few questions and then ask the same questions to my flat mate who was born and raised in Scotland, but whose parents and ancestors are all Chinese, and then compare the answers. This blog post was going to address the question “Does a Chinese perspective differ from a Scottish perspective with regards to manufacturing in China”. But it turned out my Chinese flat mates opinions were identical to everybody else’s. The main consensus was that we as a generation just don’t really care about where our clothes come from; it’s the last thing we would check.

 

One question was “Can you tell me where anything you’re wearing was made”. Nobody knew for sure, they could only make educated guesses. My Chinese flat mate mentioned that the hoodie he was wearing was actually bought in Hong Kong, but when we went to look where it was made, it didn’t say. This raised the question do our clothes here state the country of manufacture because we actually care about where they came from or just purely because it is a legal requirement.

 

I stumbled across this section in a website recently: “1000 Toys NOT Made in China”. A whole list dedicated to focusing on where these toys where not made, rather than where they were. However at the end in brackets it stated “Note: Some manufacturers have part of their products made in China”, so appears it’s near impossible to purchase goods these days that are completely detached from China. This list featured toys that where made in Thailand and Israel amongst many other non-American or European countries, so why was China singled out and picked on? One person’s comment on the list cited the “safety risks” associated with Chinese manufacturing and mentioned the toy recalls of 2007. In the June of 2007 China had manufactured every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the United States that year.

 

But this anti China attitude continues past toy purchases, there are several articles and blog dedicated to the challenge of living free from any Chinese manufacturing, and they varied from just trying it for the day, to long term lifestyles.

NotMadeInChinaLife : http://www.notmadeinchinalife.com/

 

A surprising statistic is that only 2.7 percent of US consumer purchases have the “Made in China” label, and that 88.5 percent of American’s consumer spending is on things made in the US. With this in mind it seems strange that people should be wary of Chinese products and there “domination” over the global market. Perhaps it’s because America is a much larger country and economy so it can sustain itself better.

In a conversation with a flat mate he starts talking about how he would like to buy more things that are made in the U.K and would probably be prepared to pay slightly more for that, but raises the point that it’s not an easy thing to do, almost everything is outsourced. He then mentions Jack Wills, and the fact that their clothes are “Fabulously British” is a major part of their branding technique. A quick Google search reveals that Jack Wills do indeed manufacture some clothes in China, as well as Turkey and Portugal, along with many posts from people ranting about this. There is even a facebook group entitled: “Jack Wills, fabulously British…yet made in china?…failll” to which somebody has replied “no? because the clothes represent Britain”. I think this is a fair statement, just because something wasn’t manufactured in Britain doesn’t mean that it isn’t a British product.

 

 

 

 

Home Made Produce or Value for money imports?

When buying products, especially online, a large percentage of the British public are concerned about the ethics and morality of the product if it is manufactured in a foreign country.

Foreign imports are a regular sight, be it in a popular brand store like Topshop, or whether it is online. But does the public actually consider where the product was made? Considering Topshop, the company does not state on website the origin of the product, but says is displays it on ‘most’ items of clothing aside some for which it is not ‘relevant’. Asos is another brand, which does sell items imported from China, but does so under strict guidelines that include;

  • Compliance with local laws
  • Employment is freely chosen
  • Freedom of Association and the right to collective bargaining are respected
  • Working conditions are safe and hygienic
  • Child labour shall not be used
  • Living wages are paid
  • Working hours are not excessive
  • No discrimination is practised
  • Regular employment is provided
  • No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed
  • Environmental protection
  • Communication and supervision

But does this all matter? In a students case, the answer of course is no. Value for money rises above all other criteria, as agreed with by an anonymous interviewee who said, “I work and work and work, but all money goes to numerous sources, such as bills and rent. That leaves little enough money for fashion without having to fork out over the odds for British home made products.” This is a resounding factor in the relevance of where our products come from. The following question was proposed on my personnel blog;

The results, although only a small scale, show a large swing towards the opinion that the public would like to see where products originate from because they feel anxious about certain destinations.  The rest of the results are fairly spread. Two students further commented on the matter;

  • · Mike Skillings says:

Don’t care where they are made. As long as the product is made well and employees treated fairly it shouldn’t matter which country they are being produced in

I completely agree with Mike – the quality of the product and the employees’ conditions are a lot more important. Maybe websites should focus on emphasising these instead?

The question just asks more questions rather than provide a clear view. Questions like, if products are still made in the same way – and look the same, taste the same and smell the same as a result – does it matter? Would a mere change in ownership mean you’d stop buying a product you love? Would you want to undertake the jobs the likes of the Chinese workers are doing – repetitive labour, underpaid, cramped conditions? (There a few who set a higher example than this.)

One certain issue that is becoming very pressing is the economic situation. For every £999 Britain spends in imports from China, China spends £1 in imports from Britain. This is one of the many reasons China is becoming such a world power, as her level of self production becoming increasingly high. As a developing country, they have cheap labour as a major resource. Developing countries typically export a large quantity of relatively low value mass-produced goods. As a developed nation, the UK has a skilled and a rather more expensive labour force as its major resource. We export less in volume, but we export higher value, and generally higher technology goods, such as satellites or even folding bikes!

To help boost Britain’s economy, a campaign has been set up by Stoves to increase the sale of home made goods, and is backed by UK manufacturers and MPs. The ‘Made In Britain’ Logo has been designed, and to qualify, companies must say ‘the majority’ of their production or manufacturing takes place in the UK with companies certifying their own eligibility. So far over 100 manufacturers have applied for the logo, including Samuel Heath (Bathrooms), Roman Showers, The Pure H2O company, Ultima Furniture, Chalon (Kitchens), Big Bale Transtacker, Taylor Bins, Anglia Kitchens and Bathrooms LTD, Perrin and Rowe (Taps), Bartuf (Retail display manufacturers) and Primisil Silicones LTD. The logo can be seen below.

According to the research carried out by Stoves’, over one third of British consumers say they would buy British more often if it were easier to identify British products. It’s a noble sentiment, but would it still hold once consumers saw the price tag of a 100% British manufactured product? Some foods and drinks already carry Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) labels that let consumers know that foods are made according to tradition and in the designated area. Surprisingly, the UK only has 16 registered PDOs, compared with France’s 82 and Italy’s 143.

Only time will tell whether the Made In Britain campaign has any affect. It is battling against a public stuck in a struggling economy, and a mentality to get the best value for money possible. Although issues still surround the foreign factories that produce our imports, many are beginning to improve their working conditions, such as the EUPA factory, and this will ease the publics mind. On the other hand there are many who will stand to the end to help the small time, home made companies battle on and convince the British public that buying their goods is more beneficial than imports. With China’s increasing rise in power, everything we own may soon come from China. And, as a student, that may not be all bad.

Chinese Batik And Silk

Made In China: Textile Design

Silks and Batik

Silk Legends

Silk was discovered in ancient times and is developed from various types of arthropod’s cocoons during metamorphosis eg. spider silk, silk worm, mulberry worms.

Like many ancient Chinese discoveries, it is unknown who exactly or how silk was discovered or first created. There are many tales and legend with this discovery – one of which being the tale of the young woman who lived with her father and their magic horse, who could fly as well as understand human language. Once when the girl’s father went out to work  he didn’t return and the girl made a promise to the horse that if he could go out and bring back her father that she would marry him. When the horse returned her father back home, the girl’s father refused to allow the marriage to take place and killed the horse. He then skinned the horse and hung its hide out to dry, the hide then took flight and grabbed the daughter then flew away only to land on a Mulberry tree and when the daughter was released onto the branch she turned into a Silk Worm.

Another more convincing story being that in Ancient times, workers found the silk cocoons by accident and thought they were fruit from the Mulberry tree. After failing to eat these incredibly hard “fruits”, the ladies tried to boil them to soften the shells but when this too failed, the women lost their patience with the hard white fruits and beat them with sticks thus discovering the silk.

Silk Production

Silk is produced from Silk Worms (Bombyx Mori) which feed on the leaves from the Mulberry Tree and produce silk during their metamorphosis. It takes on average 24-28 days for a silk worm to grow old enough to begin to spin a cocoon. From this cocoon, the silk must be harvested at the right time for unwinding before the moth hatches out of the cocoon, spoiling the strands. So the cocoons are heated to kill the pupae inside. When reeling the silk into raw strands, 1 silk cocoon may harvest 1000 metres of raw silk – It has been said that it may take 111 cocoons to produce 1 man’s tie.

Batik Printing

What Is Batik?

Batik is a method of printing silks and other similar fabrics by masking images and pattern on fabric with hot wax, dying the fabric then washing in hot water to dissolve/separate the wax from the fabric allowing the masked areas to be repeat printed over or left  bare. The wax is applied using a tool called a Tjanting, which is a small round bowl-type tool with a small peak from which the hot wax would controllably dispense.

This process can be repeated until the desired image is created. A highly skilled process, Batik is one of China’s Ancient treasures and it was commonly passed on from mother to daughter for generations as a skill that every young girl must learn.

Batik was found in China as early as the Sui Dynasty (AD 581- 618), It is said to have been developed by Chinese artists who then took the technique to the likes of Japan, the Middle East and Indonesia.

Batik is a very skilled process when done well but can be very simply yet effectively copied for simple designs, I in fact taught a group of Students at my work placement this method of printing in a small class at the end of the week for students who had completed their class work. Using small sections of silk, hot wax and batik fabric dyes, we took turns in sketching out our designs onto paper then tracing around them through our silk squares and leaving the hot wax to dry before painting on some fabric dyes.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed this process and it proved that this would have been a great way for young Chinese girls to spend time with their mothers and grandmothers learning a valuable trade as Batik became a very popular method of printing and decorating silk.

Dragons in Chinese Art

Dragons have been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years and today Chinese dragons are recognised the world over as positive symbols of power and prosperity.

The earliest Chinese dragon depictions discovered so far date back some 7000 years. An ancient Yangshao burial site found in the 1980s in Henan Province showed an adult male skeleton lying between images of a dragon and a tiger made with clamshells. Ancient dragon imagery has also been found on clay pots and jewellery at many sites in China. There are only theories as to where dragon images came from but dinosaur bones were being dug up in ancient China and are referred to in documents from the time as ‘dragon bones’ and were often used in medicine. However, dragons may only be the artistic interpretations of wild animals – crocodiles and snakes. Although their source is still unknown for certain, dragons were common in Chinese mythology and legend.

In Chinese culture, dragons are commonly associated with water in all its forms: rainfall, snow, clouds, storms and oceans. Because the weather was very important to farming and fishing, dragons were respected and even worshipped. They becomes symbols of strength and power and so many emperors adopted dragon imagery to show off their might and superiority. Dragons adorned clothing, buildings, furniture, walls, flags, paintings and were considered sacred.

Depictions of dragons tend to follow certain rules. They are usually shown as serpentine creatures with four limbs, each limb having three to five talons or claws. There was a time when the four and five clawed dragons were used only by senior figures in the palaces while the three clawed dragon was permitted to be used by common citizens. It was even considered treason during the Ming Dynasty to use a five-clawed golden dragon image, which was permitted for use only by the Emperor.

The dragon traditionally has 117 scales comprising 81 yang and 36 yin (9×9 and 9×4). The number nine is frequently associated with dragons – nine being the highest single digit number. Nine represents the sky in the I Ching (Book of Changes) and dragons are often shown in groups of nine. Chen Rong was a painter in 13th century China and was most famous for his images of dragons. Perhaps his most recognised work is a handscroll, ‘The Nine Dragons’, which shows nine dragons all in their natural element. The ‘Nine Dragon Wall’ is a large screen decorated with nine relief sculptures of dragons that can be found at many historical sites in China such as the Forbidden City in Beijing and Pingyao theatre in the city of Pingyao. Some of these elaborate walls date back to the late 14th century, during the Ming Dynasty.

The dragon is sometimes shown holding a flaming orb. This may represent the sun, as many Chinese people believe dragons have a mythical connection with the sun. However many sources refer to it as a pearl. The pearl is a symbol of good fortune and is often a feature of dragon designs. It also resembles a miniature moon, and the moon has links to water, particularly tides, which ties in with the dragon’s connection with the sea. The Chinese dragon image is now quite familiar in the West. Although the spiritual and cultural meanings of the dragon are sometimes lost, it is universally recognised as a symbol of China and the East. It is often used in branding and marketing food products that claim to be authentic. It is also used frequently in the Chinese tourism industry. Basically, the dragon image is used wherever possible to help sell any product or service that has any link to China, as if it were some kind of seal of authenticity. In some ways the Chinese dragon has become what you might call a gimmick.

The iconic dragon image might be loosing it’s meaning the way many symbols do, but the fact is that it’s visually appealing, and the depiction of a golden dragon still sparks the imagination, inside and outside China.