The following are bits and pieces of thoughts popped up in my mind this afternoon when reading some China blogs by laowais in China. I posted a response to one of the blogs I read. Hope the words make some sense. Will follow up with a more systematic narrative, someday.
I had been away for a couple of weeks, intentionally avoiding the internet. Upon getting back to the office, I was dismayed by the explosion of bad press China had accumulated over that brief period. Gosh, when I first saw such strong venomous sentiments against my good old China, I was deeply puzzled and bothered. However, upon more careful consideration and serious pondering, bother became a sort of odd, gleeful delight, almost like a cheap thrill.
Here are bits and pieces of my thoughts.
"No emerging country has been allowed to behave like China." I actually feel flattered and pleased by this comment to one of your postings, in a perverted way, of course. Surely this extra lenience toward China by the world powers who without a doubt hold the ultimate moral authority, a lenience so deeply resented by that loser laowai, was not a gift of fondness or affection. This fact is made amply obvious by the numerous comments in your blog. Actually their distain, detestation and disgust with China find far more systematic expressions in Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich. The world has never been kind to the weak and helpless and it will never be. Good old China has earned every bit of whatever it manages to get away with, and needs to thank nobody. If those China-hating laowais could lay their hands on China today, can you imagine that they would refrain themselves and wait until tomorrow? This is why it is so heartening to see that while laowais from all over are tearing their clothes, banging their heads against the wall, ranting and bitching about China, the sky is not falling down on China. The last time the armed British thugs came to China with Opium and the Chinese didn't want it, the Brits came back with guns and battleships and all hell broke out. The pathetic old China had no choice. Things really have changed.
Here are my burning questions. Who is pissed off by the Chinese? Should we care about their opinion? Why or why not? Since most of the bitching about China has come from Western journalists, a word about my biased opinion against this bunch is in order. The Western Journalists in deed deserve the low regard held about them by the Chinese (per your Chinese informants). My brief encounter with them was in the late 90s (97?) at the World Women's Congress. I was at the hall where Western journalists were waiting to be ushered inside a partitioned restricted area and get registered. The way they bore themselves, conducted themselves, and dressed themselves would definitely give you some inkling about the street thugs, petty criminals, and other types of human garbage roaming their hometowns. I swear to Chairman Mao that the place reeked stale booze and fresh piss. A bad taste still lingers in my mouth from the vulgarity in the way they harassed the lone young Chinese chap at the entrance trying to prevent them from forcing themselves into the restricted registration area, at least some in their drunken wisdom. I have learned a very apt word describing this type of people in America - White Trash. [Here I have a caveat. I suspect that laowais in general and laowai journalists in particular stationed in China today have become a bunch of more elevated quality compared to those I was unlucky enough to acquaint with in the early to mid-late 90s. At least the current bunch writes straight sentences in their native tongue. No don’t thank me. These compliments are genuine, as they come from a card-carrying a-hole. I also have theoretical reasons for this suspicion, enlightened by Karl Marx's analysis of human behavior under capitalism. See another uncompleted piece in my blog. One day I shall complete all my thoughts and express them properly.]
This reminds me of anther interesting anecdote about the World Women's Congress, this time about foreign activists, a digression, but might be amusing. Before the conference, a bunch of European women activists made known their plan of running (jogging?) in full nudity across the great Tiananmen Square. I have no idea what was the point they were trying to make. Were they trying to stage a live demonstration of China' lack of freedom of expression, its abundance in police brutality, its citizens' perverted interest in bare (foreign) asses? It is also entirely possible that they just wanted to have a good time in China, their way. Or maybe they just want to show China a good time. Anyway this intelligence and other issues related with activists prompted the Chinese authorities to move the conference out of town to Huairou county, where the European nudists indeed satisfied themselves with a naked brisk walk, at least according to rumors that reached my ears. I can imagine the peasant farmers from the surrounding country must be delighted to have an eyeful of their bare asses. Now I know I have a point to make with this anecdote. It's image and faces I am talking about. This is what the Olympics all about, isn’t it? Obviously the Chinese have a whole lot to learn about images and face from the West. The westerners can be proud about their bare asses in a foreign street in broad daylight, and make an activism out of it, why can't we take pride in spitting, swearing, pirating, faking, polluting, and swindling foreigners? Just the other day I found another lesson the Chinese desperately need to learn from the West on the issue of image, face and pride. I was having dinner with the TV on. The commercial break in the middle of the evening news was showing a spectacular mountain range, covered with snow here and there. Two cyclists in professional gear were charging down the steep slope on a winding road, which they had all to themselves. They came to a sudden stop in front of the camera, shoulder to shoulder. [They got real good brakes on the bikes.] The guy was physically attractive, and the woman a real hottie. The guy pulled off his hamlet to give the audience a better look at his sensual face, and with great delight and enthusiasm he announced "I Have Genital Herpes." I choked on a piece of pidan (known in Canada as thousand-year-old egg) in my rice-soup, barely catching what the woman said in the follow-up - "I Don’t (Have Them Herpes)." Then a narrator explained how a particular medicine can allow people to have sex without giving each other herpes, and that over 50 percent of people with herpes got them when their partners' herpes showed no symptom. After the audience was thus enlightened, the couple returned to close off the show. The guy again announced with great delight and enthusiasm, this time with a dose of defiance added "I Still Have Them Genital Herpes." The woman matched him in defiance: "I Still Don’t." I muttered over my rice-pidan soup "What a glorious relationship and what a cool medical condition." In the West, there is herpes pride, bare-ass-jogging-in-China pride, obesity pride, gay and lesbian pride and polygamy pride, why don’t we have Chinese spitting, pirating and swindling pride? How many years do I have to wait until my native country catches up in this aspect?
There is no wonder I am taking immense satisfaction that China and its people are finally imposing some discomfort, inconvenience, even anger and outrage upon these characters. It is even more gratifying to see that the China-hating laowais all over the world are finding themselves compelled to learn to cope with their indignation, and contain it with maturity, instead of foolishly acting on it. Having confrontations and conflicts (both practical and ideological), is a good thing for China. In fact it is essential because it gives the Chinese the opportunity to learn about the environment in which they must compete for everything they will own. In my humble opinion, it is in China's interest to test the water now. Pushing the envelope and hurting the bigger guys is the most meaningful and useful way of testing the water. Therefore China I cheer you on, old girl, hurt them some more, and see what happens. This is the only way you can learn to deal with them under the full range of circumstances.
Another thought popped up in my mind while reading laowais' bitching blogs was that the West is using its opinions and the Chinese's pathetic care for them as a way of manipulation. That is sneaky, big time. The Olympics, like all the PR-related events China is rushing to use for showing off itself on the world stage, is a sword of double edges. While it might gain you some status and improve your image (which I happen to doubt), it could very well play into the hand of your enemies, who will use your immature and frankly speaking pitiful desire for image (or face, in the old-fashioned Chinese sense of the word) to manipulate you to their advantage (trade, geopolitical favors, propagation of their ideology and their deity). Having made a living at the point of impact between the Chinese and the Western for most of my adult life so far, I have deep appreciation about how sneaky and cynically manipulative the West can be. Old girl China needs to make one thing absolutely clear to herself - why on earth do you want an improved image in the eye of the west. What the hell do you get from it? Do you really need it? Do you get security, prosperity and a comfortable place in the world out of it? In my humble opinion, which I feel is backed up by the Chinese history not for the past 200, but for the last 2000 years (in dealing the Manchurians, Mongols, all the way to the Huns etc.), image, or face, does not get security or prosperity, less a comfy place in the world. You get all these desirable goodies from political, economic and above all military strength. Good old Chairman Mao got many things wrong in wacky and idiotic ways, but he got one or two things straight. These one or two things he got right have been crucial for the Chinese history over the last half a century. One thing he got right was the simple truth that "political rights come from the gun barrel." I would beg to modify these words of wisdom only slightly - "All freaking rights come from the gun barrel." You don’t get any rights by showing off your polished-up "image" like a stupid peacock bursting with gonad hormones. You get your rights by making it absolutely clear that you kick ass when you get pissed off. Many people say the so-called "rise of China" started only after Mao's timely death in 1976. Even some Chinese believe Mao was a TOTAL disaster and led the country astray ALL THE WAY. The stupidity, no, the idiocy in this piece of mind pisses me off and keeps me awake in the night. Good old Chairman Mao laid the foundation for the rise of China; he started off the whole thing. Here is freaking why. Everybody agrees China's "rise" started with participation in the world, especially in the economic activities of material/wealth production. And the seed of this gradual "coming out" (what an idiotic term) of China into the West-Dominated world was probably sowed in the meetings between Henry Kissinger/Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai/Mao in the early 70s. However, to make it possible for the kind of productive and constructive encounter between Kissinger and Zhou, what kind of mental state would China and its representatives (Uncle Zhou and Grandpa Mao) need to be in? Kissinger and Nixon were real bad dudes; this pair of thugs had just bombed the living daylight out of the Cambodians and the Vietnamese. To venture out your protective den and deal with these creatures took a lot of trust, not trust in these dudes you are dealing with; you know they are bad dudes. But you got to trust yourself, that you can still effectively deal with the bad dudes even if things turn ugly, even if your dealing with them might have compromised your defense position. To take this risk, you need a basic level of self-assurance, and a rudimentary de-mystification of your opponent. Where had this mental state come from for good old China in 1972? The answer is Granpa Mao, the Korean War, the half million poorly-armed, ill-equipped, frost-bitten Chinese guys who laid down their lives on the snow-covered peninsular between 1951 and 1953. To deal with somebody, you need to know him. Would there be a better way to get to know the Americans (and the Brits) than in the battle field, in a full-frontal infantry engagement, I beg to ask? Some Westerners found the reverence Granpa Mao still commands among ordinary Chinese inexplicable. Well, the only thing you need to tell an ordinary Chinese guy or gal about Granpa Mao to stir up the reverence is actually quite simple: "his son Mao Anying was among the first Chinese to die in the battlefield in Korea." The last time China (the Manchurian China) fought over Korea was against the Japanese (1893); it lost miserably. This time, China fought against the biggest and baddest dudes in the whole damn world and pushed them back to the 38th parallel (What happened to the United Nations resolution to eliminate North Korea and unify the Korean Peninsular?) The divergence of China's fortune following these two Korean wars is as clear as the lines in your palm in broad daylight. This kind of credential is what really counts in China, or anywhere in the whole damn world. The guys running China should know that China has no use for improved images in the West. The only image it really needs is that China is an Asshole and proud of it. The downfall of China, and much of the ill-treatment it received (and deserved) over the last 200 years, had come from a pathetic care for image or face. Screw the Olympics. Screw the image in the west. Kiss my Chinese commie ass and have a nice day. This is what I would say to the world on behalf of the Chinese if I were in the appropriate position (which I am not, for better or worse).
The Chinese has no use for image, they needs assertiveness training. In this matter, I have two role models, who command my highest regard, to recommend to the Chinese: diligently study Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld and learn from them, especially when they get criticized; in due time you shall successfully become a wholesome jerk. That is the kind of China I am dying to witness within my life time. Amen.
Well. On a second thought, this is probably NOT literally what the Chinese should say. Images are useful, after all (although face in the old Chinese sense is not). However, you should go for image only to the degree that it advances your strategic interests. I have to develop this screwy idea when I have time. But one thing I am certain about is that you should never image yourself to other people's desire and satisfaction. If somebody tells you a thing is good and you should pay to have it (otherwise you would be a sucker), you should immediately be critical about this person's opinion and intention. If somebody tells you not only that the thing is good but also you better take it voluntarily otherwise the damn thing is going to be forced down your throat, you should definitely be vigilant about that thing. My wish for China is simple. Sample widely, choose wisely, take your time to figure out what is good for you. Don’t let anybody rush you. Especially don’t let other people's opinions affect your choices. If Microsoft software is good, go get them. If you can get them for free, don’t pay for them. Of course nothing really good is going to be free forever. Eventually you are going to pay for it and probably end up paying more than paying for it right at the beginning. Whether you should pay for it and at what point you should start paying is a tactical issue. The strategic issue is that you must have the choice and you must control the pace.
A word for laowais who are concerned about the evolution of the Chinese political system. If democracy is good for China, rest assured we will pirate it. There is no rush, we will take our time and do things at our pace.
Well, what the hell, I am going to say what I want about the 08 Olympics.
"Screw the Olympics. Kiss My Chinese Commie Ass, and Have a Nice Day."