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5 Common Myths About China

China is a country with a long history and has many legends, myths, and beliefs. From the outside looking in, a lot of the situations and events in China may not be what they seem. Many stories have been invented and misconstrued. Here are 5 common myths about China debunked.

Myth #1: China is the first civilization


Reality: You will often read online, in newspapers and even in books that China is a country with more than 5000 years of history. But in actuality, China is only around 3200 years old. The belief came from a philosopher and mathematician in 1922 who wrote that China persisted over the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian and roman empires. He believed in the existence of the Yellow Emperor, who was the founding father of China, but this is all a myth. There are no evidence or written record that the Yellow Emperor and his time ever existed, his stories are all legends!

Myth #2: Breathing Beijing air is equivalent to smoking a pack a day


Reality: Somewhere between the recent reports and news of the air pollution in Beijing, a rumor came about that breathing in Beijing would be the same as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Many people must wonder how people can live in such conditions! Although no one can deny the air condition in Beijing is definitely far from ideal, it is not even close to a pack of cigarettes a day. Research has shown that it is actually closer to 1/6 of a cigarette a day, which is similar to breathing in second-hand smoke. Although clean air would still be the best for you, research has shown that this is not life threating or catastrophic. 

Myth #3: The internet is 100% Censored


Reality: It is widely known that the internet in China is censored, but to what extent? Well, it’s not as much as people would think. The censorship mostly does not affect the information about the rest of the world, but more focused on preventing criticism of the government or unrest and protests. Even though there is this censorship, if citizens wanted to access more information or talk about topics they have figured ways to do that. Whether that be through VPNs or coded messages.

Myth #4: Everyone in China Speaks Chinese


Reality: The belief that all Chinese people speak Chinese is like saying people from Mexico speak Mexican. In China, there are several different “languages" spoken. You may have heard of Mandarin and Cantonese, but did you know there are more than 200 dialects spoken in China? Some may be similar and distinguishable by those who speak a different dialect while others are completely incomprehensible and a language in itself. China’s official language is Mandarin, known as putonghua, but many other languages like Cantonese and Shanghainese is widely spoken.

Myth #5: China has a strict one-child policy


Reality: In China, there is a policy that is implanted by each local government in order to control population growth, but it has not been readily enforced since the 1980s. Forced abortions and such practices are actually against the law. There are many exceptions to the “one child” policy and since it is up to local government to enforce, it is implemented differently in different areas of China. In some local governments as long as you pay a fine you are allowed more than one child and if the parents are also the only child then they are automatically allowed to have 2 children. In 2013 the policy was even more loosened to where you can apply to have 2 children but only 12% of eligible couples applied, and now in 2016 the policy has been changed to a two-child policy.

What other myths or rumors have you heard about China?

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About the author

Monica is a Canadian-Chinese travel blogger and marketer that has spent time in Beijing, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou,and Xitang, Shanghai. When she isn't watching YouTube videos, you can find her writing or creating videos.


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