Life in China: Survive or Thrive?

Can you thrive in China? Of course you can, as you can anywhere — you just may need to work a bit harder to get there. I offer my thoughts on how to do this with Fergus Thompson, the host of weekly TV show On The Level, shown on the Blue Ocean Network (BON TV).  It was a great opportunity for me to promote healthy living and primary care in China. You can watch below via Youku (pardon the 1 minute of ads) or also on their own BON TV Website, as well as YouTube.

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12 thoughts on “Life in China: Survive or Thrive?”

  1. Nice, but I got a bit lost in the interview. For instance, there is a question that somehow seems to go unanswered.
    Did the Chinese government approach to the issue of air pollution changed as a direct result of the American Embassy issuing their own daily reports? Did those reports and media exposure the most significant turning point for the Chinese Public Health policies and increasing openness on this issue?
    Thank you.

    1. I think in general, all of the public pressure from Weibo and other social media certainly was being mentioned often in newspapers a couple of years ago, much more than I had ever seen before. I remember well how famous SOHO real estate owner Pan Shiyi was on his massively popular Weibo, discussing PM2.5.

      1. I see, but it seems to me that if the American Embassy wouldn’t have been distributing those daily reports based on their own, limited in scope, data trough Twitter it would have taken much longer for the Chinese authorities to craft their own plan to measure pollution within the city and other measures to calm the increasingly worried population.

  2. Hi Doctor,

    My name is Gregory and I am currently an expat from America teaching English in Seoul,Korea.
    I am fascinated by the Chinese language and the people. I would like to go to China next year or Taiwan to teach English. I am a healthy male in my late 20s. I want to go to a city next year where I can learn Mandarin Chinese without worrying about wearing a face mask because of air pollution. Some cities i have been thinking about are: Taipei,Taiwan, Dalian China, Shanghai, Suzhou,Hangzhou,Xiamen,and Kunming. Please let me know which city you think I can be ok without wearing a face mask; for the present and for years to come.



    1. You can easily compare all China cities at the same time, either via smartphone apps like Air Quality China for Android, and the website Dalian and Xiamen are relatively better than many of those other cities. Historical data like from the WHO also compares cities. And in general, cities in southern China are cleaner than northern cities, but of course almost every city in China consistently has AQI over 50. So I can’t really give you any specific advice as to which city you would never need a face mask — that’s a personal decision anyway, as there is no specific cutoff recommended by any organization in terms of mask wearing.

      1. Thanks Doctor! Do you think China’s air quality will only get better in years to come? Seems like China is taking steps toward improvement. Also, what city do you recommend in China for a fresh expat?

      2. I’m sure the air will improve — but it will be many years from now before Beijing would have any appreciable improvement towards WHO-recommended levels. It’s still getting worse and there’s certainly no signs of it maxing out yet. In terms of being a young expat in China, I personally think Beijing is still a fascinating place and I’d much rather be here than Shanghai. I hear many expats and Chinese are really liking Dali these days. I love the ocean and think Dalian is very clean and modern; Qingdao and Xiamen also are on the ocean. Chengdu is nice, Nanjing is a great city, both are much more “liveable” than Beijing … lots of places!

      3. Thanks Doctor! If I understood correctly, you meant Beijing’s air pollution has no signs of maxing out yet. Do you believe the other cleaner Chinese cities will have better success of maintaining or decreasing their air pollutants? To be honest, the air pollution is really the only thing holding me back from making the China leap. But, from what I gathered from your articles; the most important thing is exercise and a healthy diet. I just dont want to go to China and feel like I have to look at the AQI everyday

  3. Last winter I was plagued with mouth ulcers, which then continued sporadically throughout the summer. Having constant mouth ulcers feels like you are just surviving. Eating, drinking, speaking and sometime just resting your tong in your mouth becomes a chore of discomfort. I wondered if there was a link with bad air days, I wondered if rinsing my mouth with harsh mouthwash or the tap water was to blame, I couldn’t be stressed all the time could I? I wondered if the tea I was drinking was too hot!

    As a long term eczema sufferer I’ve spent the last 8 years managing my condition with Aloe vera products, primarily drinking gel which provides a slow detox and builds healthy cells from the inside out. From my skin’s perspective I felt very strong when I came to China 5 years ago. However for the last two years in China I’ve not been taking aloe. Partly because I was testing to see if I still needed it, partly because it’s expensive and partly because the one place that use to sell my usual brand stopped selling it.

    I can’t believe I didn’t make this link between stopping the aloe and the problems with my mouth before, but after a month of being ulcer free in the UK they’ve come straight back within 2 weeks of being in Beijing. I’m testing my theory that my body is trying to detox. So. I’ve found a place that sells aloe drinking gel and I’m back on it for the time being. If this aloe is as good as the previous stuff I can expect 2 month where everything gets worse as the toxins are pushed out. Through past experience my skin and mucus membranes are the weakest link so I’m grimly looking forward to new mouth ulcers and a re-emergence of the eczema.

    BUT if it work then I will be thriving again.

    1. Hi Liz, that’s an interesting link perhaps between ulcers and the environment. But as a doctor I know there are many other causes of mouth ulcers which last a long time, so I hope you’ve visited with a doctor or specialist — there may be an underlying cause and a permanent cure…

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