China has always intrigued me. It is the most populated country in the world with rich cultures and off course, huge deposit of money. I feel like China is really, divided… Each province has different cultures, people, and dialects. Beijing is the capital of China, it’s where their superpowers reign China. I feel compelled to write something about it.
I lived in Beijing for 6 months in 2011 and before that, I visited China in the early 2000s. The condition was off course, very different during my 2nd visit. Beijing nowadays is very modern. Almost everything (infrastructures) are upgraded to the better. What about the people? What about their old-chinese habits? What about the infamous untrustworthy Beijingers?
In the beginning of my 2nd visit, I observed that unfortunately, Beijingers are more or less the same. They may look different but mainly because of new suits. They are still very much very very impatient, dirty (body odors and habits), well you name it…
So that means the society is pretty much the same? Nah, they are actually worse. When I went to SanLiTun’s Starbucks, I noticed this guy (mid 20s) queuing impatiently, he constantly pushing me forward, not with words but his body. His actions went even worse when I decided to stand still. He stared at me, forcefully hoping I would make way for him. I was shaking my head. I was confused, why would a nicely dressed guy in his mid 20s acting like that. FYI, he wore expensive looking leather jacket and a LV bag. SanLiTun area is also notoriously known for expensive and exclusive shopping district. You could pretty much spot expensive cars (Rolls, BMW, MB, Porsche) every 2 meters.
That wasn’t the only case. There were plenty more as I spent more time in Beijing. Things like people who cannot even pee at the right spot, meaning taking a pee right at the designated spot in the restroom. The floors are always filthy and look disgusting. I couldn’t even begin to think about why they even do that. If they keep the place clean, it would be very comfortable for others to use it. I guess it never crosses their minds because it’s already embedded in their brains. Things like this need government attention. The government should put a warning if they ever do that, they will get hefty fines, just like in Hong Kong and Singapore. Try getting into the train during peak hours, New York will look pretty good. Try dine in a decent restaurant, customer service is simply non-existent.
From those real-world examples above, I’ve observed is that there are a whole lot of problems at the bottom, so to speak, as well. It isn’t just the leadership. It’s Chinese society. There is a great irony in the fact that China has a history of communism, which is associated with notions of community, and America is fiercely capitalist, which is associated with individualism. Well the truth is that societies don’t adopt communism because of any sense of social responsibility, they adopt it because the variables specific to their countries have made capitalism overly problematic, and the masses rally behind communism because they feel it will improve their personal situation. The welfare of others never enters the mind.
Americans have a far greater sense of community and social ethics than the Chinese. There are no community organizations here that work toward the betterment of the community or society as a whole. No community projects, volunteer work, charities, etc. Even local micro-business owners are incredibly unscrupulous in their dealings, willing to rip off anyone and everyone by any means necessary. They are even willing to sell food or water that they know could make someone violently ill just to make a quick buck.
Most of Chinese that I met lack even basic notions of respect, and when I encounters these habits every single day, it no longer comes as a surprise to me. The majority of Chinese I’ve met are dishonest, lack respect and basic etiquette, and treat the world as theirs to use up and throw away as they please. All others be damned. It still shocks me to see the way these people litter. When I went to Hong Kong, it was a different world. No honking, no littering, no spitting, no smoking in elevators, none of the rudeness you see displayed by the mainlanders. The people there have been brought up under Western Culture, and the last thing they want in the world is for Chinese culture to encroach.
A lack of a sense of community doesn’t nearly do justice to what can be seen in China though. Just look for one of the many CCTV videos of a woman being attacked in the street, while people casually stroll by and maybe cast a quick glance in her general direction. Or how about the toddler that was run over by not one but two cars, and was left to lay in the street for minutes on end as dozens of people went on like business as usual.
Now, imagine how they can come up with innovations with these environment. It’s a recipe for the most toxic way to improve quality of life in general and don’t start talking about spurring innovations, there won’t be any. Unless there are changes from the bottom to the top and the top to the bottom, yes both ways are sorely needed. They can kiss goodbye to improving anything. The next thing we know is China’s bubble is bursting because the Chinese aren’t able to appreciate what they have now and that they are moving too fast.
My reflections of Beijing are that we must appreciate those who have given their best shots to the society… to the environment… and to innovate… Sometimes, it’s easy to forget where we come from and who have helped us. China has a long way to go if they were to continue on improving their way of life. Or maybe, they don’t want to. I just think that their ways of living are not sustainable. Sooner or later, they will pay the price.