Beggars, Expat Habits, Netizen Revolution, Jackson, & Parkour

Weekly Review: Here are five interesting blog posts or news items from the past week that will help you remember that Chinese people are humans too, avoid becoming an ineffectual expat, brace for the netizen revolution, remember Michael Jackson with the Chinese, and find Chinese people who do cool stuff.

Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Credit: MARK RALSTON (AFP/Getty Images)

How Dare We Feel Sorry For Ourselves…

Richard Burger’s personal blog, The Peking Duck (recently blocked by the GFW), may not be a large blog but it’s definitely one of the oldest English-language blogs about China with a small but loyal readership. Anyone who is remotely someone in the ever-incestuous English China blogosphere either know him or know of his writing, and generally think he’s a swell guy even over strong and passionate differences. While I myself have had very strong disagreements wth him recently, I’ve historically tended to nod my head whenever he shares his thoughts. Richard is returning to the States soon, and his recent posts have reflected a certain reflective mood I’m sure he’s going through. Here’s an excerpt to a particularly good post he wrote in the last week titled “The Begger“:

All of these thoughts of disgust and distaste took place in a fraction of a second. I heard the voice screaming the single word, Xie xie! Xie xie! As the barker inched toward me. I vowed not to turn around. That’s what they want, especially if you’re a laowai – looking at them gives them that window to grab your heart and your wallet. I just listened in annoyance and kept focused on my dictionary.

But then the beggar was too close for me to ignore her. Soon she was right alongside of me, still crying out, “Xie xie! Xie xie!” And she then crossed the line, invading my personal space – she shook my arm, forcing me to turn around to tell her to her face to please back off.

It was in that instant that my heart stopped, my mind dissolved and I felt one of those deep shivers that went straight to my soul. For the beggar was not a beggar at all. The beggar was a woman, somewhere between 40 and 50 years old, and she was leading by the hand a severely retarded young man, maybe 17 years old, a spastic whose arms were flailing as he walked. The woman was shouting “Xie xie, xie xie!” to thank people for getting out of the way so that the boy could pass without his arms hitting anyone. She was not begging me for anything, she was thanking me for allowing her to pass and exit the bus with her boy. (I don’t know if this was her son or grandson, but I do know her devotion to him was total and unstoppable.)

If the above story is too sentimental and happy, and you need something more aggravating and disappointing, here’s one of Richard’s more negative but equally poignant China memories, though it technically doesn’t belong in this week’s Weekly Review: Laowai!

Why This Should Matter To You:

  1. You too have experienced panhandling and begging in China, whether on the streets or in the subways.
  2. Reminders of our humanity are always good reminders, especially if we’ve lost a bit of our humanity living in what we feel to be a rather inhuman place where rather inhuman things happen all too inhumanly often.

mark-rowswell-da-shanThe Seven Habits Of Highly Ineffective Expats

Steven Covey would be proud. The Lost Laowai has another fun and easy-to-digest post this past week sure to be applicable to make China expats or even short-term visitors (study abroad students, interns, etc.). The title above says it all, this post is about seven bad habits foreigners living in China tend to fall into. Here’s one:

Habit #1

“It’s not like this back home”
“In [insert home country back home] it’s like….”

If you’ve never heard this whine then you must not be talking to many foreigners, and if you’ve never said this then you must not talk to anyone period. For a number of people nothing here can ever be as good as it is back home, wherever that may be.

Obviously, the coffee here is not going to be as good as it is in the West. Clearly the Chinese are not experts at making hamburgers and french fries. The public transport is very clearly going to be much, much more crowded here than back home. Yes, the streets are probably dirtier here than a street in the suburbs.

These are the charms that keep China interesting, and very different from home. You will not be able to get a cup of tea back home like you can here, no Western chain will be able to satisfy your fried rice cravings, and just where are you going to spit when you have to back home?

I will never claim to be innocent of this ugly habit, but there has to be a time and place where you need to accept China for what it is, a wildly different place. While some things are better at home, there are definitely things that are better here. It is important to try to keep that in context, especially when you are experiencing the worst this nation has to offer.

Why This Should Matter To You:

  1. You make unfair comparisons between China and wherever you’re from or wherever you’ve had it better.
  2. You routinely think about when you’re “going home” or “taking a vacation from China”.
  3. You frequent the same places over and over again and many of them are foreign.
  4. You find yourself in a country other than China whenever you have days off.
  5. You drink a lot. Or others think you drink a lot. Even if you deny it.
  6. You have an Ayi, and you purposefully live like a sloth because you have an Ayi.
  7. You think you know China, understand China, get China.

v-for-vendetta-guy-fawkes-masksV Is For Vendetta

When I said that a lot of people were outraged by the whole Green Dam and CCTV attacking Google thing, I wasn’t joking. Some Chinese netizens have taken upon themselves to become Guy Fawkes, spreading something of an open-letter titled “Declaration of the Anonymous Netizens 2009” (Chinese version, the deftly-translated English version can be found here). Here’s a preview sure to titilate:

To the Internet censors of China,

We are the Anonymous Netizens. We have seen your moves on the Internet. You have deprived your netizens of the freedom of speech. You have come to see technology as your mortal enemy. You have clouded and distorted the truth in collaboration with Party mouthpieces. You have hired commentators to create the “public opinion” you wanted to see. All these are etched into our collective memory. More recently, you forced the installation of Green Dam on the entire population and smothered Google with vicious slander. It is now clear as day: what you want is the complete control and censorship of the Internet. We hereby declare that we, the Anonymous Netizens, are going to launch our attack worldwide on your censorship system starting on July 1st, 2009.

July 1st, eh? Mark your calendars. If anything does happen, I hope it’s a lot more interesting than the proposed boycott.

Why This Should Matter To You:

  1. Who doesn’t dig the Guy Fawkes mask?
  2. Just in case you forgot that there’s a plurality of opinion amongst Chinese netizens, and people.
  3. Who doesn’t get excited by sweeping declarations? Stick it to The Man, man!

Michael Jackson Has Left The Building

nanjing-tribute-to-michael-jacksonThe King of Pop passed away this past week. As many Americans learned of the news late evening Thursday, the Chinese learned of the news as they woke up and approached their Friday workday. chinaSMACK translated a bunch of Chinese netizen comments Friday to show us how Chinese people were reacting to news of Jackson’s death (some critical, most sentimental and respectful), Danwei showed us how many Chinese newspapers honored the singer with front-page coverage on Saturday, and shameless shanzhai-copycat Chinahush also translated some more Chinese netizen comments Sunday. Samples:

Pathetic countrymen, it is just a single foreign entertainment star. At most, it is regrettable, but is this worth all of you being so miserable? Truly making a fuss over nothing.

He was a music genius…but when he betrayed his own skin color and bleached his skin white, when he started hating his own race and changed his face so much that he no longer looked like himself, he became a monster/freak…Were it not for this, I believe he would have had a better life.

In university there was a girl who was passionately in love with Michael. Whenever she heard anyone say he was “abnormal/perverted/deviant” she would get angry and fight with them. It was from that girl that I slowly came to realize his charm! Now when I look at his stuff from 20 years ago I still get excited and thrilled! He is not just a king to me but also a a symbol of my youth!

MJ passed away~~ makes me feel very old. The superstar of a generation.

He doesn’t know that in China there is a group of fans who are infatuated with him, who will go crazy for him, who will always support him…once again: Goodbye, we love you.

Why This Should Matter To You:

  1. Michael Jackson.
  2. Wow, the Chinese also liked Michael Jackson?! Didn’t know we had that in common…
  3. Wow, the Chinese can also be haters?! Didn’t know we had that in common…

Do Cool Stuff With Cool Chinese People

Credit: China Photo Press

Because everyone who does parkour, biking, skateboarding, dancing, and rock climbing are automatically “cool.” Okay, the biking not so much, especially in China, unless its super aggro-mountain-jumping biking because then that’s kinda cool in a nation of bicyclists. As expected, we’ve got another Adam Schokora Fifty-5 entry for this week’s Weekly Review and this time he’s offering a list of websites for Chinese “alternative sports enthusiasts”. If you’re good with Chinese and looking to meet some like-minded locals for…I dunno…jumping between building ledges together, Adam’s links may be a good starting point for you:

:: online communities in China can link people together based on common interests. Sometimes, these interests are located online — gaming, net lit, online video, tech — but often times people are involved in offline pursuits that they wish to share with their netizen friends. Some communities / discussion forums are national in nature and connect people from across the country. Others are more locally-focused and serve as online outposts of a groups that meet frequently in the real world. Although each of the following activities takes place offline, practitioners meet online to plan events, share videos, seek help with techniques, or shoot the breeze with other people interested in the same thing.

Why This Should Matter To You:

  1. You do cool stuff and you’re looking to make some cool local friends to do that cool stuff with.
  2. Because you’re cool.

That’s it for this week. Have a link to a blog post that shouldn’t be missed? Be sure to share it with everyone in the comments, and don’t forget to tell us why you recommend it!

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