This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy are joined by James Palmer and John Giszczack for a discussion of the disabled in China. Join us as we discuss how the Chinese language defines the concept of disability, what public attitudes are prevalent about the disabled, and what resources the Chinese government makes -- and doesn't make -- available to help those with disabilities integrate themselves into society.

As a quick introduction to our guests, James Palmer is making his second appearance here on Sinica today, and is well-known for his excellent pieces on China, including this favourite of ours on the 1980s generation in Aeon Magazine. John Giszczack is the co-founder of Abled Lives, a med-tech company focused on improving the quality of life for disabled people in China.

Enjoy Sinica? Let us remind you as always that you can use iTunes to download new episodes of Sinica as they get released. To do this, click on the File menu and select "Subscribe to Podcast" from the available choices. Your computer will prompt you to enter a URL, so give it Please also consider yourself welcome to download this and all of our other shows as a standalone mp3 file. We hope you like it.
 said on
February 22, 2014

1. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (page at Wikipedia)

2. Crippling injustice, by James Palmer for Aeon

3. Eliott’s Corner

4. Save the Children - China

5. Terms referring to disabled people in mainland China:

Initially: 残废 canfei (offensive)

Later: 残疾 canzheng (most common)

(Not mentioned: 残疾人 canjiren)

Now: 有障碍的人 youzhangai de ren

Or: 残障 canzhang

6. The China Disabled Persons' Federation (page at Wikipedia)'_Federation

7. The band Black Panther / 黑豹 Heibao (page at Rock in China)

8. The prophesied Buddha Maitreya / 彌勒菩薩 Mile Pusa (page at Wikipedia)

9. One Plus One (Beijing) - Disabled Persons’ Cultural Development Center

10. Deng Xiaoping’s son Deng Pufang 邓朴方 (page at Wikipedia)

11. Beijing YIRENPING Center (English page)



12. Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China's New Rich by John Osburg


13. The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency by James Tobin


14. Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade by Adam Minter


15. True Detective (TV series) (page at Wikipedia)

(Bonus mentions):

16. Robert W. Chambers (page at Wikipedia)

17. Thomas Legotti (page at Wikipedia)
 said on
February 27, 2014
Hi, in No.5, "Initially: 残匪 canfei (offensive)", the Chinese character 残匪 should be 残废. Just a reminder.
 said on
February 27, 2014
Regarding the recommendation from James, Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China's New Rich by John Osburg, an interview can be found here with the author.

The interviewer Carla Nappi is good. In her interviews she often praises that which is singular and able to be located precisely to time and place, yet which also speaks directly across cultures/places/times to broader concerns. I like it.
 said on
March 12, 2014
Cheers and thanks, jt_sweetlife!
 said on
March 14, 2014
Several comments:

My wife had a sister who was starved to death, possibly (probably) deliberately. This was in the early 90s. This was not, AFAIK, because of disability, it was because she was the 4th daughter.

You guys didn't talk much about learning disabilities. I'm an English teacher, and I've come across a whole bunch of moderate dyslexia. This is something that teachers and parents seem pretty aware of in China. I've also had a couple of kids who maybe, and one who DEFINITELY had some kind of autism. A lot of teachers tried to work with this kid, I was the only one who had any success; this was because none of the Chinese teachers really knew what autism was, and only a few had even heard of it. Not that I'm an expert (yet), but I at least understood that getting angry wasn't going to get me anywhere.

If you ever feel like coming back to this topic, learning disabilities in China might be an interesting topic. I'd be interested to hear about how dyslexia manifests in Chinese. It couldn't be exactly the same as in English; I've read that dyslexia in English and Chinese doesn't even occur in the same part of the brain.

Another problem for disabled Chinese: the wheelchairs SUCK. I've only ever seen three people in China with decent chairs and one of them was a foreigner. Everyone else is in godawful hospital chairs. I'm surprised there haven't been knockoffs of western wheelchairs. It isn't like there aren't plenty of out-of-patent chairs that have wildly better geometry than the crap people are wheeling around in now. There isn't even any reason they have to be made of the same expensive materials, just better ergonomics would be a vast improvement.
 said on
May 8, 2014
In rural Qinghai, I once saw a severely mentally retarded guy who appeared to be in his mid-twenties tied to some farm equipment with about a 40 foot rope like a dog. There was a big circle worn out from where he just dragged the rope around all day. Probably one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

I'd like to hear more about the topic, especially about the medical aspect (diagnosis, treatment, etc.) Seems like a huge amount of potential for social entrepreneurs in the training/equipment aspect of this issue.
 said on
August 19, 2014
Could we work at making your site a bit more friendly to the disabled? Like having transcripts of your podcasts? There are people in my life who are hard of hearing with whom I'd like to be able to share this and many other of your conversations, but listening is a problem. Perhaps transcripts are already lurking somewhere and I haven't found them, but I would have thought they'd be available on the page for each podcast topic.
Mark Lesson Studied