China is a nation filled with ironies. It's a purportedly socialist state in which the images of Chairman Mao that used to gaze down from buildings have been largely replaced by an equally paternal-looking Colonel Sanders. And it's an enormously proud culture, but one whose ideals of beauty -- whether smiling women on shampoo bottles or virile men on packs of underwear or goo-gooing babies on diaper boxes -- are most often depicted as Caucasian. As for everyday Chinese life, forget those romantic images of rural schoolhouses, peasants tending rice paddies and ancient villages in the clouds. Such scenes do exist, of course, and though they cater to our lovely perception of China, they're roughly as accurate as having modern America represented by the shootout street in "High Noon." In fact, most of China's people are packed into a narrow band hugging the East Coast, and most of them live in relatively modern housing projects. This trend is likely to continue as more and more pe...
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