36 crazy things that only happen in China

Over the past decade China saw rapid economic expansion. But its growth model and controversial politics have not come without their fair share of problems.

Rising property prices, rising food prices, restrictions on investment, an emphasis on speed over safety, and lax environmental standards have led to some truly unique and sometimes crazy situations in China.

Rich people build mountain villas on top of apartment buildings, local governments incentivize burials at sea, and people are pouring their money into everything from walnuts to cockroach farms.

We identified 36 strange things that have happened in China.

1) Businesses hang nets to prevent employees from committing suicide.

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Foxconn installed nets outside its worker dormitories and hired mental health professionals to prevent suicides.

2) Firefighters are on hand to prevent self-immolations.

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Immolations are a very popular form of protest. Before and during the leadership transition in 2012, Beijing positioned firefighters in Tiananmen Square to prevent self-immolations.

3) A national pork reserve exists to combat inflation.

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China has replaced the U.S. to become the world’s largest consumer of pork. The country has a national pork reserve that it releases when prices soar.

4) A tourism law is created that tells Chinese tourists to “behave.”

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China passed the “Tourism Law of the People’s Republic of China” that seeks to protect the rights of both tourists and tour operators. But it also has a section asking tourists to “behave” after some incidents emerged that embarrassed the government. 

5) Grave robbers steal and sell corpses for “ghost marriages.”

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“Ghost marriages” have traditionally been arranged for young men who died before they could wed. But four men decided to sell 10 corpses without the consent of any of the families and pocketed 240,000 yuan ($39,000).

6) Cute kids get replaced by cuter kids.

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China lied about the little girl who sang “Ode to the motherland” at the Beijing Olympics. Yang Peiyi, the real singer, wasn’t considered cute enough and Lin Miaoke was brought in to lip sync the song. The music director Chen Qigang told the AP: “The audience will understand that it’s in the national interest.”

7) Local governments sponsor burials at sea.

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Land prices have surged in China making graveyards expensive. With that in mind, some Chinese local governments give families financial incentives to scatter the ashes of their relatives at sea. Guangzhou offered $160, while it was reported that in Wenzhou families were offered as much as $1,290.

8) Entire Apple stores get counterfeited.

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As Chinese cities develop across the country fake stores have become increasingly prevalent. Arguably the most famous fake store was the fake Apple store in Kunming, southern China.

9) Nail houses and graves pop up to protest land grabs.

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Land grabs are all too common in China, where local governments often seize land without adequately compensating the owner. While most families cave to government pressure, some refuse and developers continue to build around a stand alone home or grave, leading to “nail houses” and “nail graves.” 

10) People build houses on top of apartment buildings.

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Land is at a premium in China, especially in big cities. And the wealthy have taken to building elaborate homes on top of apartment buildings in China. While some of these are sanctioned, many like the mountain villa were not and the owner was asked to tear it down.

11) Couples divorce to avoid property taxes.

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The Chinese government announced a 20 percent tax on profits from home sales. But couples with more than one home have been getting divorced, taking one property each, and then selling one of the homes tax free, to take advantage of loopholes.

12) Wealthy people have stand-ins at their trials.

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In China the extremely wealthy are believed to hire body doubles to appear as them in court and serve out prison sentences.

13) Buildings fall over sideways and are sometimes intact.

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One construction worker was killed when this 13-floor building collapsed almost intact. There are constant fears that safety comes second to speed.

14) The government signs a deal to buy pig semen from the UK.

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China is the world’s largest pork consumer and rising pork prices contributed to Chinese inflation this year. In a bid to combat that, China signed a deal with the UK to buy pig semen. British farmers are expected to get £45 million ($73 million) a year thanks to the deal.

15) People spend thousands of dollars on walnuts.

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Wealthy Chinese with limited investment options have taken to investing in walnutsjade and gold mooncakes. Recently, con artists have been selling fake walnuts filled with cement.

16) They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on jade.

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Jade prices first started to rise in 2005 but the jade bubble is said to be popping.

17) And they earn high returns on cockroaches.

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China has witnessed a cockroach bubble, as cockroach farms are multiplying. These roaches are used in Chinese medicine, and a pound of dried cockroaches that used to cost $2, now costs $20. One farmer said you can invest 20 yuan ($3.25) and get back as much as 150 yuan ($24).

18) Fathers hire assassins to kill their sons’ World of Warcraft avatars.

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A Chinese father, Mr. Feng, reportedly hired multiple assassins to kill his son’s online World of Warcraft avatar. Xiao Feng, the son, had quit a software development job and spent all this time playing video games instead of looking for a new job.

19) People get arrested for spreading rumors about the Mayan Apocalypse.

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Ninety-three people were arrested in China for spreading rumors about the Mayan Apocalypse. One man spent all his savings to build an ‘ark’ to survive the Apocalypse.

20) ‘Love Hunters’ look for women in shopping malls.

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Yang Jing, a matchmaker at Diamond Love and Marriage looks for women and sometimes men at shopping malls. Wealthy Chinese pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to “love hunters” like Jing to find their “ideal spouse,” according to The New York Times.

21) The government announces a ban on gift giving, and it immediately hurts the economy.

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In an attempt to crack down on “gift giving,” Beijing banned commercials for luxury products. This immediately impacted retail sales.

22) They have cricket fighting competitions.

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Cricket fighting is considered a sport in China and those that are serious about cricket fighting spend time on breeding and training. While most crickets cost between 10-50 yuan ($1.50 – $8), they can go up to 10,000 yuan ($1,635).

23) Thousands of dead pigs float in a Chinese river.

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Nearly six thousand dead pigs were found floating in the Huangpu river near Shanghai. The river water tested positive for porcine circovirus, which affects pigs but not humans. For now officials say the water is still drinkable.

24) The smog is so bad it can be seen from space.

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Rapid industrialization has caused pollution problems across China. Recently the smog got so bad NASA said it obscured the view from space.

25) Milk gets infused with melamine.

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China’s dairy industry has been hit with milk contamination scandals since 2008. Milk products have been found containing everything from mercury to melamine and detergent.

26) Rivers turn red.

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Environmental pollution and chemical spills have caused rivers in China to turn red.

27) Obscure James Joyce novel “Finnegan’s Wake” becomes a bestseller.

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James Joyce’s 1939-book “Finnegan’s Wake” became a surprise bestseller. Jeffrey Wasserstrom, a historian at the University of California, Irvine, attributed this to a sudden interest in books that were once banned by the Communist Party.

28) Bridges collapse within a few months of being built.

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One person was killed and 22 injured, when the Wuyishan Gongguan Bridge collapsed in China’s Fujian province.

29) Cities with no occupants pop up all over the country.

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China’s infrastructure-investment-driven growth has caused ghost cities and ghost malls to pop up all across the country.

30) 26-mile bridges get built to nowhere.

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The 8-lane Qingdao bridge is the world’s longest bridge and cost 14.8 billion yuan to build, but sees a fraction of the traffic that was expected, according to the Financial Times.

31) Gigantic accidents occur on newly-built high-speed rail lines.

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Forty people were killed and 200 injured, when high-speed trains collided near Wenzhou in 2011.

32) Whole media organizations get banned.

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China blocked Bloomberg.com after it ran an article on the wealth of the family of president-in-waiting Xi Jinping.

33) White collar executives get sentenced to death for their role in the shadow banking system.

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Wu Ying aka ‘Rich Sister’ was originally sentenced to death for her role in shadow banking, but is now expected to serve life in prison.

34) TV programs are based on interviews with criminals on death row.

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“Interviews Before Execution” was a popular television program. Henan TV only cancelled the show after Chinese officials worried about how it would impact China’s image abroad following publicity surrounding a BBC documentary on the show.

35) People do push ups in the middle of busy highways.

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Cars came to a standstill on China’s highways during its Golden Week holidays. Drivers were seen exiting their cars to stretch and even do push-ups.

36) People practice eye shaving.

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A traditional Chinese practice called “eye shaving” that involves using a razor to clean eyes is still in existence today. The entire process is believed to take five minutes.