I have landed—in China

I’m in Dongguan, China, a very large industrial city (8 million, larger than all the areas of Hong Kong put together), which, like most Chinese cities, is growing rapidly, has construction everywhere, and is beset by smog. On the good side, I’ve learned a lot about modern China in only one day from expats who live here, I have lovely hosts taking good care of me, and have had two awesome meals (photos later).

Today I tour the rural areas, where I’m told I’ll get to see a slice of the slow-paced rural China that is, by government policy, rapidly disappearing. This afternoon I’ll lecture to the students at the local international school on religion and “ways of knowing” (the first time I’ve ever talked on the latter subject).

Here’s where I am, a short distance from Hong Kong:


After that it’s back to Hong Kong (about 2 hours from here) to begin my formal duties there, with another school talk (the Chinese International School), a radio interview, and a meeting with the local Skeptics in the Pub. I believe the latter is open to everyone, so if you want to come, chat, and imbibe, here’s the information:

8 November, Tuesday: 19:00-21:00 or as you wish. Skeptics in the Pub at Taboo in Wanchai.


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 6, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a very interesting time coming up.
    Old Delaney’s in Wan Chai shows lots of time on Alien Visitation. I wonder, other planets or other countries? Also says for science lovers and geeks. Not mutually exclusive I guess.

  2. AMY
    Posted November 6, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I learned this place last year… :))

    Enjoy your trip!!!

  3. Diane G.
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    Sheesh, a city the size of NYC & I’ve never even heard of it. Hard to grasp just how populous China is!

    • Michiel
      Posted November 7, 2016 at 4:41 am | Permalink

      I visited China for the first time a couple of months ago, traveling three weeks from Beijing, to Xian, to Zhangjiajie, to Suzhou/Shanghai and back to Beijing. Yes the size and population of the cities in China is hard to grasp. Even a “relatively small” city has several million people. Fascinating country for sure. The speed and size of development is stunning but also sad to see so much of traditional China is already gone and covered by rows and rows of apartment buildings under construction. Trains were very good, with extensive (and still expanding) high-speed rail connections. Smog is definitely a problem. Sometimes we didn’t see sky for several days on end, even though we knew the sun was shining. Streets are clean though.

  4. bric
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    I was startled to see ‘Peking’ and ‘Kanton’ on a modern map, but Russland gave it away – it’s German. China watchers know that Dongguan is famous for quite a different sort of hospitality than good food, although Prof. CC’s family friendly reputation should be OK now: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/07/world/asia/red-lights-dim-in-chinas-sin-city.html?_r=0

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      How many floors of … negotiable affection?

  5. Posted November 7, 2016 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on information1st and commented:
    Jerry Coyne in China…

  6. p.puk
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    In other news: There are still English maps out there which mention Peking instead of Beijing.

    • bric
      Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:38 am | Permalink

      You may be right, but context is all. Since 1979 Beijing has been the accepted version of the Chinese capital in english-speaking countries, the history of why it is not Peking or Peiping is both linguistic and political, but ‘Peking’ is nowadays associated mainly with those who contest the legitimacy of the current PRC. It’s a red flag, or rather an anti-red flag.
      The situation in other languages is different because of the way Chinese characters are rendered in those languages.

      • Posted November 8, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        As noted by bric, this is a German map. Germans (I imagine) use their own romanizations, PRC or English sinologists not withstanding …

  7. bluemaas
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    How does this timing matter — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_in_China — affect persons, other animals and crops in to the far reaches of the Land ?

    negatively, positively, western, eastern, darkened and / or quite sunlit ?


    • eric
      Posted November 7, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Well I doubt the animals and crops care where the hands are on humans’ clocks. 🙂 As for the question of whether being on a single time means shops operate during different clock hours or whether they operate during the same clock hours = different daylight hours…I don’t know.

    • tomh
      Posted November 7, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      There’s an op-ed in the New York Times, Time to Dump Time Zones, that advocates this system for the entire world. Though he prefers U.T.C rather than the Chinese zone. (By the way, there is unfettered access to the NYT during election season.)

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 7, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        Bloody annoying though I find time zones to be (self and well at Z-3 ; geology department wanting reports for Z+1 ; drilling departments wanting their reports for Z-11), I don’t think humankind is sufficiently urbanised to ignore time zones completely.
        We get sunrise at about 08:15 local time, and sunset a little after 16:00. While there are still significant numbers of people who live outside comprehensive street lights, that will remain a problem.

        • somer
          Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:41 am | Permalink

          Yes China has at least 3 time zones (that all have to run to Beijing time and Beijing is in the Extreme east) so people in the extreme west – Uigurs and Tibetans – or even in agricultural setchuan have to put up with losing morning daylight hours and working in the dark

    • Posted November 8, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      I had a colleague at CMU from China who I discussed time zones with once (being from Canada he often asked me about American things to avoid embarrassing our hosts). He said people didn’t seem to mind, and it does avoid the confusion I have at my current job sometimes. (I work in the federal public service, so all Canadian time zones are “on topic”.)

  8. murali
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    If Trump wins, would you come back?

    • dabertini
      Posted November 7, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      He better!! He would have lots of money owing and we need him for our sanity.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 7, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      If Trump wins, would PCC(E) be allowed back? Given his history of double-plus-ungoodthink and triple-plus-ungoodspeak …
      What time on Wednesday morning do you think the Militias will try to take over?

      • bric
        Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:46 am | Permalink

        Oh at dawn, it’s always at dawn

  9. madscientist
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    That must be a terribly old map with Kanton and especially with Peking. I was always surprised that the communist party took so long to change the name to Beijing. At least Nanjing is spelled in the acceptable way as opposed to “Nanking” and Guangzhou is written in even if in parentheses below Kanton.

  10. Hempenstein
    Posted November 7, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    How did you get there from HK, water/land or air?

    • Posted November 7, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      They have things called “cross-border cars,” which are special cars licensed to go across the border back and forth. The driver usually owns the car and the license to do that, which I hear can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s a cool experience to enter China that wey: you have to go through several checkpoints, and the drive simply opens the window so the officials can see you look like the picture on your passport. There’s also something like a a free trade zone between the two countries, so its about 5 min between leaving Hong Kong and entering China.

      The total drive for me from Hong Kong to Dongguan was about 2 hours each way.

      • bric
        Posted November 8, 2016 at 4:54 am | Permalink

        Are the demonstration/protests about Beijing interfering in the Legislative Council very visible?

      • Hempenstein
        Posted November 8, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        And apparently no groping. Congratulations!

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