Monday, October 12, 2009

Ten things I like about China

Ten things I like about China:

1) the general exoticity of it all.

2) being able to walk around the streets at night and feel perfectly safe.

3) the fact that the Chinese don't have a culture of going to the beach (I don't like to either).

4) the modest and unconfrontational attitude which is built into the Chinese psyche.

5) the fact that most people don't practice an organized religion.

6) people staring at me on the street. It's nice to be in the center of the attention without doing anything to deserve it.

7) the fact that people have absolutely no strong preconceived opinions about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, or any other divisive issue in the West.

8) the food of course. Especially the fact that almost all the foods I don't like, for instance chocolate, tomato and cheese, are relatively rare.

9) the fact that the girls are so girly. No swearing, getting drunk, smoking, etc.... because it's not girlish. And yet that doesn't mean that they are all stuck in old-fashioned ideas about gender roles and sexual issues.

10) how the Chinese go out of their way to help foreigners, to an extent which is sometimes so extreme it's almost embarassing. It's also very convenient if you happen to be a foreigner.

11) the weather of Beijing (I'm kidding this time).

I won't list 10 things I don't like about China, for fear of causing offence, but when it comes to Beijing, the weather, crowded public transport and the days with scarce visibility (because of a combination of the pollution and the weather) would spring to mind. Not to mention the tofu they sell on the streets which stinks so much you have to keep at least 10 meters away. And the internet issue.


FOARP said...

Dude, normally I don't go in for flaming on noobs (which is what you quite clearly are), but since you advertised this site on ChinaSMACK I'm going to make an exception for you.

"the modest and unconfrontational attitude which is built into the Chinese psyche"

Err . .. . yeah. About the third conversation I ever had in mainland China was someone telling me that 'my' god didn't exist (I hadn't even brought the subject of religion up). Subsequent conversations included a taxi driver telling me that all western leaders should be killed, another telling me how China's nuclear weapons meant that they could destroy the west, and a random stranger telling me to go fuck my mum. Do you get out much?

"the fact that the girls are so girly. No swearing, getting drunk, smoking, etc.... because it's not girlish. And yet that doesn't mean that they are all stuck in old-fashioned ideas about gender roles and sexual issues."

Once again .. .. . yeah. I've had qualified doctors seriously tell me that it is a medical fact that men are more intelligent than women, university professors telling their female students that the most important thing they can do is find a rich husband, a pretty much every woman tell me that her parent would rather have had a son and they would rather have a daughter. Sexual issues? Are you kidding me? Just see how easily people accept male infidelity compared to female, how marital rape is considered a non-crime, how many women are the victims of domestic abuse. And if you want to talk about 'old-fashioned ideas about gender roles' in the same breath as saying how happy you are that women in China don't do certain thing - things they abstain from through fixed ideas as to what they may or may not do as women - then you are, my friend, full of it.

Take my advice - you may have this fantasy of yourself becoming the next Sidney Shapiro, but Sidney Rittenberg is a likelier outcome, and Ben Ross likelier still (although he hasn't done bad for himself). Learn from the guys who came before you, if you cruise around idolising China in the way you do here, you'll be deceiving yourself both as to your long-term prospects in-country, and as to your position in China and the nature of your relations with the people you know there.

Ji Xiang said...

I have had a lot of conversations with people in China, and no one has ever told me to go and fuck my mum, ot that China should destroy the West.

It is funny how people like you seem to go looking for these things in China, and you find them. Then again, your blog is called "fear of a red planet", which says a lot.

I am not idolizing anything, I just listed ten things I like about China, that does not mean I am naive, or unaware of the problems there are here. You, on the other hand, are one of those Westeners who has decided they don't like China, and spends half their time complaining about it, so much that you take the time to write long comments on blogs of people you don't even know. If you dislike China so much, what the hell are you doing here?

If you are one of "the people who came before me" who I should learn from, then no thanks. I would rather learn from Chinese people, who have been here their whole lives, than from foreigners who spend their time dissing the country they live in.

FOARP said...

Dude, if you advertise on a website like ChinaSMACK then you should expect ChinaSMACK-like visitors, and ChinaSMACK-like repartee. Look on this as a learning experience:

1) The title of my blog, well, it comes from the title of a Public Enemy album - but I guess you never bothered to check that, did you?

2) The guy who told me to fuck my mum did it in the street in Beijing, just a nice quick walk-up-to-the-man "肏你妈" and then he walked away. Some fool followed me home on a bike doing the same thing whilst I was in Nanjing. Am I making this stuff up? No, it matches the experiences of pretty much every expat I know who got to know China properly. Do I hate China because of this? No, I actually like the place, but I long ago lost the blinkers which you are so obviously still sporting.

3) Half my time complaining? That seems about the right kind of balance. Criticism is not the same as 'dissing', but praise for things which are not generally, you know, true? Just pure foolishness which it doesn't pay to advertise - which I guess brings me right back to where I started, no?

Ji Xiang said...

yes indeed, next time I better advertise my blog somewhere else.

Anyway, I don't have any blinkers on, and I think it would be unfair to say that I don't know China at all. I have been here a year and a half in all, ok it's not a hugely long time, but most of my friends here are Chinese and I have already travelled around the country a lot, often staying with Chinese people or in rural areas. My Chinese is not great but I'm learning, and I can understand if someone tells me to fuck my mom. Quite simply that hasn't happened to me, nore has anything remotely similar.

I realize that in China, just like anywhere, you can get aggressive idiots (just the other day I almost saw a fight brake out on a bus in Beijing). However, generally speaking, I don't think it's too controversial to say that the Chinese are modest and unconfrontational in comparison to Westeners. After all, it's far easier to find someone you don't know being aggressive towards you on the street in Britain than it is here in China. And considering how crowded and stressfull Beijing is, it's surprising how patient and peaceful people generally are.

I am not "praising things which are not generally true". These are personal impressions about China. In any case, Western observers from time immemorial have spoken about the Chinese as modest and unconfrontational, so it doesn't seem so outlandish to think so, and your reaction seems quite over the top.

Justin said...

You're going to have to get out of that dorm room next to the "countryside" of Beijing. Travel a bit, live alone away from other foreigners. Work there. Do your absolute best to seek being a normal person. See if you can make that happen.

Ji Xiang said...

hi Justin,

well I think I am doing my best to get an idea of what China is really like. I do live in a dorm for foreign students, but like I said I have travelled a lot, including to the countryside, and most of my friends are Chinese. I happen to live in a campus with relatively few foreign students, and practically no Westeners (three permanent resident Westeners counting me). My campus is also situated in a very peripheral neighbourhood of Beijing, which is very different from living in Wudaokou or Chaoyang. I think these facts (which came about by pure chance) have meant that I spend a lot of time with Chinese people. However, actually going out of my way to live away from other foreigners seems a little extreme, and every now and again it is nice to be with Westeners as well.

Anonymous said...

In the same line as the homies FOARP and Justin above, you totally have the blinders on. This is not be to be taken defensively, and it's not that it's a bad thing, just part of the process. The fact is that if you move to a more local neighbourhood, comprised of hard-working local and provincial brothers and sisters, and then u go out, look for a job, interview for a job, get a job, do everything to build and have a real-world life -- you will find that living on an everyday basis working, going out, going shopping, going to cafes, you will start to notice some 'dissonance' (almost always guys). I was much like you and if you like people staring at you all the time, that's great. Most people get a kick out of it at first.

But in the same way that your Mandarin level improves, u will be come more fluent in -- strategically-timed and placed coughing and spitting, comments made to make the girl you are with uncomfortable, maybe the security following u around at the shopping mall or cigarette ashes (or other special ingredients) added to your 'yang rou' or 'mian tiao' at the corner BBQ stand at 3am in the morning (he added them in there when he thought you weren't looking) The list can go on.

Dude, the comments above are not criticisms, there are just simply commentaries on a bit of wide-eyed innocence. If you take them as criticisms, it's because u r getting defensive. If anything, these are helpful commentaries for situations that u will likely run into, if not already experiencing, but just haven't noticed. And if anything give you some context and nuance to add to your experience and mature.

Anonymous said...

jixiang,thank you for your good impression of china.glad to see your comment. i trust you are a rational person.i am so happy i see the "diss"word in your blog.i hold this word is suitable for some irrational person who do terrible things in china.that person should not be forgivable./aileen.

Anonymous said...

gabriel, you did a good job here, anyway the only thing what i want to do is support you.

Ji Xiang said...

thanks for the support! "diss" is short for disrespect in any case. it is used to mean talking badly about something, which is what the guy above does about China.

Ji Xiang said...

As for you, costa, it is ridicolous to claim that FOARP comments aren't criticism, and I shouldn't get dfensive. They are arrogant criticism, made by someone who has a grudge against China and can't stand the idea anyone might like the place or say something good about it. And don't go making assumptions about what I have done or not in China. Last year my university stuck me and the other foreign student in a very "local" neighbourhood for six months while they restructured our dorm, comprised of ordinary working people. It was in the outskirts of Beijing, in a place with very few foreigners around. I have worked, travelled, gone shopping in ordinary places and I have a taste of life in China.
Quite simply, I have never found people intentionally being hostile towards me, spitting at me or anything similar. I have had a couple of bad experienced, but very isolated cases. I am sure that wherever I go or whatever I do in China, this won't change (except if I go to prison perhaps).
Why do you people seem to attract all this hostility? Is it because the Chinese sense you are hostile to them?

Anonymous said...

Ha = thanks for pointing me towards your old blog post jixiang. Not sure if you still get notifications if someone comments but here goes (comments were closed on The Guardian so I couldn't reply).

Yes I can see why a few people might have jumped on this - it does come across as a little naive in places!

When I read back your Guardian post a second time I immediately suspected you probably weren't a Chinese person in actual fact and was kicking myself. Actually I've been in China longer than you think (not as long as you but long enough to not be in my honeymoon period) but I understand what you're driving at. If you don't speak the language very well then your insight is limited. My wife is Chinese though you see so I am lucky in the sense I am a little more in the loop than most newcomers both in terms of just knowing what people are saying through her and also having close and regular contact with Chinese friends and family in a way most expats I know don't.

Regarding the community I live in I find a lot of the new build 'fancy' places a bit alienating to be honest but I can see there are benefits. Our place is reasonably nice inside so I don't worry too much about the fact it looks a bit shabby from the outside looking in.

You make wholly valid points but I think these things also simply depend on the people you meet. In terms of people my own age group who are Chinese I guess I've been lucky to meet people who are quite progressive and open-minded, and also quite cynical at the same time. China's a huge place though so one can't really generalize or apply this to the whole granted. I do agree that there are rather a lot of what could be described as basic attitudes and there are lot of things, shall we say, drummed into people which are difficult to penetrate. That said it's hard to get through to people back home on a lot of things as well.

In terms of the UK, I have come across quite a bit of xenophobia and feel it is increasing of late, but again, it depends on who you talk to. Newspapers such as the Daily Mail certainly don't help matters. There are obviously a lot of liberal and tolerant people too though.

Thanks for sharing anyway - hope you get this as I wanted to thank you for taking the time give an honest account of your experiences.

Ji Xiang said...

That's cool man, always glad to talk about my experiences, and to direct people to my blog :)

Feel free to look at the more recent posts too.

I haven't back to Britain in a long time, so I can't say if xenophobia really is increasing, but I will go back this Christmas, so I'll have a chance to assess the situation :)