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A Very Chinese Solution

The Chinese way is real, and no matter how long you’ve been here you will never understand it. Fortunately, it somehow works.

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The Xiamen International Marathon has problems. It is simply too crowded, there are simply too many runners and not enough room on the roads. Last year was a disaster. This year, the organizers got together and devised a plan to remedy the problem.

Some people thought that they would do something like restrict the number of entries or staggering start times, as is common practice for marathons all over the world, but they would do no such thing. To limit the number of runners in their marathon the Xiamen committee decided that they would simply not announce the start date until 30 days before the the race begins. The thinking — if it could be called that — is that less people will be able to find out about the event in time to make travel plans and prepare, and therefore there will be less runners in the marathon.

“When you put a group of Chinese people together in a committee they are going to make decisions that are the exact opposite of what everyone else in the world would come up with,” a long term China expat and marathon runner exclaimed.

When people talk about the “Chinese Way” they are speaking of patterns of thought and behavior that are extremely unique to China. The Chinese Way is something real — it’s not merely a matter of misinterpretation or foreigners not understanding their surroundings. This country does just about everything their own way.

As foreigners, we can’t comprehend this place, and this is what makes it so interesting. We come to China and see a culture that often does things the exact opposite of how we think things should be done. It often seems idiotic to us, but when it comes down to it the Chinese Way works in the context of China . . . A fact that we often can’t believe but also can’t deny.

Filed under: China

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3705 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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