Riding a slow train three hours to Guiyang, the provincial capital, before boarding another 10 hour train to Chongqing (one of the fastest growing business capitals in the west) I feel like I’m regarded with fear, apathy, disgust, curiosity… usually a heady mixture of all of the above.
The feeling is more than mutual.
Before I go into some of the ridiculous things I’ve heard foreigners say about the Chinese, full disclosure: I had a really hard time adjusting to the people and culture. Still do, in all honesty.
The only country I can remember being so difficult to adjust to was Mali, and maybe India on some of its worse days. But the major difference is that I was bolstered by India’s (and to some degree, Mali’s) social and economic growth and autonomy, and the richness and vibrence of it’s culture. There were problems, injustices, frustrations. But there was also beauty and hope. At first China, on the other hand, just left me feeling sick, literally and figuratively.
Sick from pollution and development. Sick from injustice. Sick from unabashed and unadulterated human greed. Sick of getting ripped off and stared at. Sick of being discriminated against, I mean worse than in the States.
White people just don’t know… until they come here. And believe me, they’re still treated better than people of color.
That said, I had many days where I felt like the best thing that could be done would be for the U.S. to nuke this country into oblivion. I mean, I don’t mean that, but some days I felt like I did.
Apologists for this country are forever lamenting the "China that was" ten, maybe fifteen, maybe twenty five years ago. People weren’t as rich. This place was cheaper and even more of a shit-hole. Life expectancy and quality was probably much shorter and lower.
Now, infrastructure is being built and improved upon at an unimaginable rate. Cost of food in my region (one of the poorest in China) has doubled in the past five or ten years, according to locals. Nobody is quite sure where it’s going or what they’re going to do, but they want that fucking golden ring. They want to be the world’s top super-power.
I’m not going to lie; I have a problem with that vision. I’ve got no love for the U.S. or it’s foreign policy. But based on what I’ve seen here, I’d prefer that to the eternal pissing contests that Japan, the Koreas and China all seem bent on having with each other.
I won’t go so far to call it a powder keg, but imagine a full-blown grab for resources and territorial control between China, Russia, the E.U., the Middle East and the U.S? (I say that assuming we’ve kept allegiances with the rest of the Americas, should there be an uprising, they might be too busy or otherwise inclined to give support.)
The general attitude from the Chinese I’ve spoken to is that the country is too big and too unwieldy to be completely or even marginally more democratic. Rich politicians would just buy votes. Like, even more directly than in the U.S. It’s part of the reason that the U.S. is usually deadlocked in indecision and disagreement; we like to think of ourselves as having a representative government. We don’t, of course, but we like to think we do.
And, too be fair, we’re not entrenched in even deeper golden conflict, as I’m almost positive we would’ve been if there had been a different president the last two terms. But fuck-all if I’d say we’re on the right path.
Anyway, back to shit here in China. Foreigners seem to be of two camps; apologists and haters. Apologists are trying to see the good in a sure-as-shit shit-show of a situation, socially, politically, and morally. And in their defense, it’s understandable that they’d want to give the Chinese a break; this country has been pretty fucked for the past, well, since the fall of the last dynasty, really.
So, for four or five solid generations, they’ve been shit on by the rest of the world; the British (those Limey fuckers!), the Japanese (vicious dogs!), the US and Russia (keep it to yourself, homos!) And then Mao. Fucking Mao.
I might have to check my numbers, but I’m pretty sure Mao did more to destroy this country, it’s people, it’s history, or it’s culture than any foreign power.
And yet here we are, just a fifth of the way through the century. And this country is kicking serious economic, some would say political and military ass. Now, is it unfair they’re doing it by devaluing their currency, working their people to death in an unhealthy and unsustainable manufacturing industry, essentially becoming a polluted machine-country of sick and unhappy automatons? Willing, working, shopping slaves?
Wait, didn’t Chomsky say something like that about the U.S.?
Apologists would say that people are trying here; there are protests everyday. People do want change. But those people are silenced. And even though it usually isn’t by force, they’re being silenced in the U.S as well. Only in some ways apathy is much more deadly.
I admit, I’m a hater, but not because I think China shouldn’t be where they are, (they’ve earned it, if you want to put it in a completely fucked up, Darwinian perspective). What I hate is that the game that the world is playing is fundamentally flawed. And it’s fucking everything up. For everyone.