6 Secrets Of China That Billie J D Porter Reveals In Her New BBC Documentary

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  • Thought you knew everything about China? Think again.

    After traveling to China to investigate the disciplinary bootcamps, gaming addicts and mass dating events that the country has to offer, the female Louis Theroux, Billie J D Porter tells us what she discovered about the country which seems a world away from ours…

    It’s a country ruled by its respect for authority

    ‘I think the main difference between the UK and Chinese cultures is their complete unquestionable and intrinsic respect for their elders and authority in general. There is a real, real respect there. People see that obedience as a negative thing and in some ways I think it may not be the healthiest thing to just not question any rules but as far as the teaching environment there it is very different to the school I went to. I went to a school where it was just complete chaos and then to go to a Chinese one where everyone is eager to learn and not cause trouble, it was very different to see.’

    Teenagers don’t spend their formative years dating the wrong boys in China

    ‘I don’t know whether it’s necessarily a good thing but for me and for most of Western culture there is definitely this idea that your teenage years are a period of your life where you’re not allowed but almost expected to make mistakes. You’re meant to date idiots, do shitty jobs and to go out. But in China it’s not; I did question whether it’s healthy to study, study, study. It’s so cheesey to say but I’m not sure whether you can properly forge an identity unless you’re making mistakes.’

    Their disciplinary bootcamps maybe aren’t as bad as we may think

    ‘When I first arrived at the bootcamp [a nine-month disciplinary course that parents of unruly children sent them to] I was almost quite upset by it all. As I spoke to a lot of the kids, I didn’t personally feel like that was the right way to approach any of their issues but by the end of my time there I had done a complete 360.’

    ‘I developed a real bond with a girl called Xin Yu at the bootcamp and she was quite obviously one of the sweetest people in the world but was considered a real rebel in society and by her parents because she’d gone to an Internet café and smoked a cigarette once. But the bootcamp was disciplined but in a soft way, I guess. The success rate is really pretty good and the kids that had been there longer than the others spoke highly of the methods that they used. It’s just so difficult because I’m not a parent, I’m not a teacher and I don’t feel like I can say with any authority whether it’s right or wrong but I’ve seen it with my own eyes and I know that it did have a positive affect on a lot of peoples lives.’

    Gaming is HUGE in China

    ‘Professional gamers in China are treated and spoken about in the same way that athletes that perform other sports are. The top level professional players earn a large amount of money by playing in leagues but apparently when they hit 27 their reflexes start to decline; their clicks per minute go down. I think the most surprising thing about the gaming addiction problem in China was how simple the game League of Legends [one of the major games that people play] is.‘

    ‘I thought maybe it was about escapism – I was never a big gamer but I used to have a PlayStation and I’d play fantasy games but this game is so basic. It’s just pretty much one level and it’s about playing it all in a better time or with better weapons. I was like, how is this your downtime from a life which is centred in routine and about doing things over and over. It’s weird that their reaction is to play a game which is about routine as well.’

    Forget breast enlargements, it’s all about the double-eyelid surgery in China

    ‘The popular double eyelid surgery is almost a routine procedure over there – it’s relatively cheap, it’s done under local anesthetic and you can walk in and out on the same day. I read an article about parents getting it for their children because they think it would better their chances of being taken seriously when they leave school. It’s a trend across Asia to try to look Western. It was one of the most difficult things that I’ve had to watch and I’ve watched someone get their penis pierced for another show that I’ve done.’

    ‘One girl I saw having the surgery was 22 and you know, I’m completely pro-surgery if it’s something which people will think will greatly improve their lives but I just refuse to believe that at a really young age that you can know. We can say from our point of view, that it’s so casual for them [in China] but then look at Kylie Jenner. I know she’s only admitted about the lips but it seems like he’s had a complete body and face transplant at the age of 17.’

    ‘When we were there, it seemed that across the board that men seemed to like a Western aesthetic with the wide-eyed kind of doll like look. But while I was there, I tried to set up this guy that I met with a Chinese model that I know and after the date he told me that she was too Western. He didn’t mean in her looks but like, I wouldn’t be an attractive girlfriend to them because I don’t have the same Asian ideals; I’m too outspoken and maybe I don’t have the same family bond that they would want for a partner.’

    Dating is a serious business in China

    ‘The dating event that I went to was super awkward and there was absolutely no heavy petting or even flirting! It seemed to be more of a networking event for parents. The parents are quite often the matchmakers and not from a religious point of view, but it’s just tradition that children should be married at a certain age so the parents just kind of muscle in whereas over here I think that dating has become a bit of a hobby. While over here a Tinder date isn’t a big deal, in China when they’re at these marriage events or using apps, it’s really serious business. They’re looking at it and asking whether this is someone they can marry.’

    The food is pretty spectacular

    ‘The BBC are rolling out some horrific Instagram videos of me at the moment. We went to this market in Beijing and the director was like ‘we’ll do a little funny scene of you eating some of the food’, so I ate a tarantula, snake and loads of insects. It was foul. I thought it would just wouldn’t taste of anything but when I bit into the snake and there were eggs inside I was gagging, then the footage didn’t make the cut!’

    ‘But on the whole the food there was amazing. People told me to be careful but I fucking loved it. Over here we have this really inaccurate view of what Chinese food is like because most takeaways in the UK are actually Cantonese rather than cuisine from mainland China. It’s so fresh. I’ve been trying to recreate some of the dishes at home but not with much luck…’

    Billie JD Porter presents Secrets of China from Tuesday 25 August at 9pm on BBC Three

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