Posts for Ralph Jennings
Dating 101: change majors?

Meeting members of the opposite sex of course doesn't just challenge the youth of China. But a bouquet of social pressures that start from childhood nip off most of the nation's female-initiated romances before they bud: you're too young for a boyfriend (mom talking), we sent you to college for education not messing around (parents talking), women appear too "easy" if they make a move (society talking) and you're not good enough for the rich, handsome, charismatic guy who everyone else has eyes on (society again).

Beijing's hidden ads in Taiwan media

China is attacking Taiwan with a new war of words. But it's not the ballistic, missile-rattling rhetoric of years past. Now it's the sweet oily stuff of the post-2008 cross-Strait detente era: flattering words from Beijing, about Beijing, disguised in Taiwan's media as straight hard news coverage.

Real English fluency: just for fools?

Why study English in China vexes the masses who study for years without mastery. It baffles foreigners in China who find it hard to communicate even with college grads who have studied the language for more than a decade. This despondent letter from a cynical Chinese guy teaching English to fellow country people suggests that mastery isn't the point. Language study is about memorizing just enough of it to pass standardized tests, and teaching means taking whatever steps needed to get there.

Taiwan's Want Daily wants a piece of China

That axiom is driving an upstart Taiwan daily newspaper's coverage of mainland China. The Want Daily, one morsel in a giant food production firm, is bearing broader business interests in mind as it reinvents Taiwan's normally standoffish coverage of its erstwhile foe on the other side of the Strait.

Mainland clowns on Taiwan TV

Taiwan has known for a decade or two, before the rest of the world figured it out, that mainland China was a place to save money on factory work or make it by selling mass-manufactured stuff. More than 750,000 Taiwanese and their families live in China and do just that.

High price of a free lunch when parents treat

Ralph Jennings is a journalist and long time resident of China. He currently lives in Taipei. From mid-2000 to 2006, he had an advice column in the 21st Century weekly newspaper in which he answered letters from thousands of students and young professionals. Below is a letter from the archive, with an introduction by Jennings

Beef market in China

There's a different kind of meat market in China. Female mate shoppers check out not only a man's looks, humor and signs that he'll treat her well. They also look for a bit of beef, as in where's-the-beef. That means a man's potential to earn money. Existing personal wealth is part of the cow. Future earning potential is another, or as advice column letter writer N.D. puts it, "achievements."

Imperfect day for a perfectionist

Here's where members of China's only-child generation start paying dues. Children smothered in the formative years by parental compliments imagine it's impossible to do serious wrong or to fail against public perception. Then they go off to a faraway college where no one really cares. Elizabeth, who I'd guess grew up sibling-free, explains.

Corruption starts in the classroom

When is the top student in a Chinese university class not the top student? When a second-tier student outsmarts No. 1 by brown-nosing scholarship committees or paying them off. What's the point of studying to be No. 1? You get a lesson in real life in China. Wenwen tells this classic story. The best advice: her own concluding words.

Can of Cold Blue Crush with extra ice

An introverted personality can be a Chinese undergrad's worst classmate. It follows only-child students to college from homes where parents discourage conversation and from middle schools where teachers forbid the same. In college they suddenly want dates but don't know where to start. Some guys dump ice on the hots for a girl:

Fear of being an informed fool

Chinese college students who show for lectures, sit in the front rows and finish their homework naturally know the answers to questions raised in class. But they are so afraid of the humiliation that would follow from a wrong answer, or from unpolished delivery of the right one, that they freeze up when given chances to shine.

Dorm storm: Share and beware

Ralph Jennings posts a letter he received when he was working as an agony uncle for a Chinese newspaper: "Last term, a student was killed by one of his roommates because of disputes when playing cards."

"I don't want to be compared! We are different!"

Letters to an agony uncle: A mother can be trouble enough. She insists on study over play. She's always hounding the kid to pass some test. She censors dates and mates. But add to that a failure, minor as it may be, that sparks Mom's sense of do-die-or-be-killed competition.

Death, seldom spoken, visits in writing

"I wonder if I committed suicide whether I would be able to see my great father once more."

A head above the pack is still behind?

What's more, sometimes a boy who is shorter than me may suddenly murmur behind my back, "it's too unfair."

"I want a face-to-face dispute, but I know it's useless"

"But he only said it was rubbish and didn't even look at it carefully. I retorted that it's not rubbish."

Top gunner: Drop the weapon?

Letters from Chinese students to a foreign agony uncle in a a state-owned English newspaper (Part VI).

Leaking family secrets

Letters from Chinese students to a foreign agony uncle in a a state-owned English newspaper (Part V)

Just an ice water, please

Letters from Chinese students to a foreign agony uncle in a a state-owned English newspaper (Part IV).

Kiss the screen already

Letters from Chinese students to a foreign agony uncle in a a state-owned English newspaper (Part IV).

It's dating, mom, not mating

Letters from Chinese students to a foreign agony uncle in a a state-owned English newspaper (Part III)

Let's go surfing already

Letters from Chinese students to a foreign agony uncle in a a state-owned English newspaper (Part II).

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+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
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