So True

18 Nov 2006

Meg at Violet Eclipse says:

> China is so safe, a girl could walk alone at night without worrying she’d be attacked or robbed. China is so dangerous, she might fall into a gaping hole in the middle of the sidewalk, left but the constant construction.

> Chinese people are the hardest-working people I’ve ever seen. People like Juice Aunt and her husband are outside with their cart, all day, every day, no matter what the weather is. But Chinese people are the laziest people I’ve ever seen. I’ve gone into restaurants and seen the staff asleep on the dining tables.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. John,

    Any way you could post the entire thing? With blogspot being blocked, it’s a tad difficult. Or any other way to access the page. Sounds like a winner.

    G

  2. Greg,

    It’s generally considered bad form to copy a whole post. Try this Anonymouse proxied link.

  3. Yes, one can often get confused when trying to generalise about Chinese people as some of the trends go in two directions. In fact Yi Zhongtian referred to this in his book 闲话中国人, where he wrote: 中国人耿直却又圆滑,坦诚却又事故,多疑却又轻信,古板却又灵活,讲实惠却又重义气,尚礼仪却又少公德,主中庸却又走极端,美节俭却又喜排场,守古法却又赶时髦,知足常乐却又梦想暴发,烧香算命却无宗教感,爱抱团儿却又好窝里斗,爱挑刺儿却又打圆场,不爱管闲事却又爱说闲话,懂得”只争朝夕”的道理却又主张慢慢来…..

  4. Da Xiangchang Says: November 19, 2006 at 11:45 pm

    This is one of the laowai entries that are like, Duh! Essentially, it’s saying: “Chinese people are different from one another.” Wow, this is truly insightful!

  5. No, DXC. You have misunderstood again! Everyone knows members of a nation are not all the same; that is not the same thing as saying that cultures of different nations are all the same. The problem is not that the Chinese nation has hardworking people and lazy people and nice people and nasty people, but that these are all the same people. The same lady who is lovely to you as a foreigner is the same person you saw the next day torturing a cat. The hardworking person is the same person you saw slouching down the next day at an extremely slow pace. The intelligent doing a PhD in biochemistry is the same person who can only recite government propaganda on political and social issues.

  6. Da Xiangchang Says: November 20, 2006 at 12:19 am

    Hakkaboy,

    Reread Meg’s entry carefully; it’s not about the same person being different people in different situations–it’s China having different kinds of people. Maybe that used monitor you’ve bought is flickering out; time to replace it.

  7. DXC,

    You really are missing the point, and the point is neither invalid nor hard to grasp.

    Examine these two lines carefully now:

    Chinese people are the hardest-working people I’ve ever seen.

    Chinese people are the laziest people I’ve ever seen.

    It’s not that the people are different, it’s that they go further to the extreme than any people she’s met before in her entire life, and not only that, but they go to both extremes. And that’s noteworthy.

  8. Meg’s Discovers That China Is Not a Homogenous Country.

    OK, OK, it is a valid point. China is an insanely huge and diverse place (more diverse than the US and as much as Europe), but that shouldn’t be surprising given that it has as many different cultures as Europe. I can appreciate DXC’s comment, because Meg’s comment betrays a lack of knowledge about her future place of residence before coming to China. It’s as if someone from China came to the US and remarked on the wide diversity of races in the US.

  9. Hey, thanks for the link! If you want to repost the whole thing because of the blogspot block, it’s fine with me.

    To Richard: You’re right, I did lack this knowledge about China. Actually, I’m not sure that any amount of pre-China reading could have prepared me for the extremes of wealth/poverty, safety/danger, love of foreigners/hate of foreigners, etc. that I’ve found here.

    The real problem w/ my post is that my home friends think I’m exaggerating and my China friends say “duh”.

  10. True, China’s hard to comprehend for middle-class Americans, these days. If any of your friends are history buffs, you can tell them that China right now is like the boomtown Chicago described by Carl Sandberg in his poem when its population was doubling every decade. There’s a sense of vitality that I felt when in Shanghai which is hard to find even in NYC (and simply doesn’t exist in any other American city).

  11. How diverse is China where nearly everyone is Chinese and nearly everyone has carbon copy opinions on everything? I have just finished reading a book on Confucianism and the author did mention how Westerners fail to understand China. And I don’t think that is necessarily correlated to length of time here. I think it is quite likely that Americans spend 5 or more years in China and go home with no greater understanding of the culture, due to the slavish devotion to political correctness, which makes you misinterpret everything. China is many things, but diverse it ain’t!

  12. We all have our own slavish devotions, don’t we, DJW?

  13. yeah that is so true !

  14. DJW:

    That’s funny. How diverse is Europe when nearly everyone is European and nearly everyone believes in governance by some form of a democratic, capitalistic welfare state?

    Seriously, how old are you? Where did you get the idea that “nearly everyone has carbon copy opinions on everything”? Is this from another book that you read?

  15. I cannot believe that someone just compared Chinese society to European society in terms of diversity. There are exceptions to most every rule, but to say that most of Chinese society isn’t homogeneous? That’s just laughable.

  16. @ Richard: I may be stating the obvious, but sometimes it’s necessary!! Although European belief in democracy might strike you as boring uniformity of thought, it does allow for a variety of opinions. I’ll leave you to mull this one over.

  17. OK, Rob, why is it laughable? What parts of Chinese society have you been exposed to?

    DJW: Yes, Europe is not ruled by a totalitarian government (for that matter, it’s not ruled by any one government). However, the underlying culture in China is as diverse as Europe. Imagine if the Roman Empire had been able to hold together (more or less) over 2000 years. That’s what China’s like.

  18. “Imagine if the Roman Empire had been able to hold together (more or less) over 2000 years. That’s what China’s like.”

    ?? Do we have our wires crossed? To take part in a discussion, you need to adduce examples, not adopt a purely assertive approach. Rather than saying “China is diverse”, you need to say why and how.

  19. Food, language, wedding/marriage mores, entrepreneurial spirit, combativeness, acceptance of strangers. There are wide variations in all of these aspects (and a bunch of other cultural spectrums). There really are too many differences for me to explain. Where are you right now? Go live in various parts of China for a while (and not just the cities) and you’ll know what I mean.

  20. @Richard: I have lived in China for 3 years and traveled through most of China, village and city. Yes, there certainly are many differences between Chinese people… there are also differences between identical twins though! However, if you are going to comparing whole societies like this, you gotta admit that the majority of Han Chinese, who are the majority of Chinese, share similar opinions with each other on most major topics, on a comparative basis.
    This smacks of you just wanting to go against popular opinion so that you can believe that you are the only one who ‘really knows what’s going on.’

  21. Part of the benefit that China would get from political reform is acceptance of different views, and a gradually more varied intellectual scene. The fact that they eat rice in the south and have dialects is neither here nor there. Ask Chinese people what they think of homosexuality. I don’t mind whether they approve or object; what I do find eery is that 90%+ of people – including those who eat rice in the south!! – have the same opinion. You could raise many other issues. What about a certain island off the coast that was Chinese between the 1680s and the 1890s? 99%+ believe it has been Chinese for “thousands” of years. As I was told on the train recently by someone, just because parts of China are north of the Great Wall does not mean those parts have ever not been part of China – and yes, ask your Chinese friends, 99%+ will agree with this. What about the Chinese killing Western children because they were Christian during the Boxer Rebellion? Er..”it didn’t happen” – ask 99% of your Chinese friends. Chinese food – very samey in ,my view despite there being hundreds of dishes, it is all oily little bits of meat and large chunks of green pepper – is the best in the world, and foreign food is not filling and tastes awful – ask 99% of your Chinese friends. And so the nonsense goes on… Roll on a genuine Hundred Flowers period!

  22. DJW:
    The viewpoints are the same because the political education is the same (because it’s ruled by a totalitarian government). Back a few centuries ago, 99% of Europeans would have had the exact same opinion on homosexuality, the Catholic church, Jews, other non-Christians, and whether Jerusalem should be under Christian control or not. I guess by your reckoning, Europe was one homogenous, undifferentiated mass during the Middle Ages!

    As for the food, you must not have had the chance to eat many different types of regional cuisine (or have no tastebuds, which I can’t rule out). Hell, green peppers pretty much can’t be found in the dishes of my ancestors (or most traditional southern cuisines, for that matter).

    Rob:
    I’d like to think that I know more about what’s going on because, well, I’m Chinese, and I’ve been interacting with Chinese people since I was born. Going by opinions is a pretty silly way to judge the homogeneity of cultures, since so much of it is due to what education and political system is enforced. By your reckoning, then, Taiwan has a more diverse culture than all of Mainland China, since you’ll find a greater diversity of opinion there.

  23. Ah Richard, and there in lies the rub. You ask me what parts of China I have been to, when the real question is, Richard, what parts of the WORLD have you seen? And, BTW, by world, I am meaning more than just “all under heaven”, if you get my drift. We are not all residents of Laowaistan, you know. If you ever have a chance to spend some time travelling the world, and I don’t mean a package tour with other Chinese that lasts for a week, come back and discuss this some more.

  24. Er….this is somewhat farcical. Richard says you cannot judge the homogeneity of a culture by the people’s opinions. So what people say, think and ultimately do is not a guide to how diverse a country is. The sole criterion is that in some parts of China they eat rice and in other parts noodle – and so people who think alike, have the same opinions on nearly all issues and lead very similar lives, must be diverse: the contents of their food bowls are the proof! Yes, of course Europe was less diverse before the Reformation. You continue to either assert the obvious, without realising it does not prove any of your points, or to make groundless assertions. I

  25. I grew up in the States, you ignorant pre-judging doofus, and probably have dealt with more people from different cultures than you, so drop the condescending tone.

    Seeing how you speak to people you see as Chinese, though, I can see why no one’s bothered to interact with you long enough for you to know any better.

    What is it about those Americans who go to China and adopt an air of superiority when back home, they’re more likely than not judged to be flat-out losers?

  26. I generally agree with both lines of thought: yes, China is basically Han homogeneous, but there is substantial diversity within the homogeneity. What I don’t agree with is the guy who said Chinese people have essentially the same opinions on issues because they’ve been force-fed CCP propaganda.

    It’s a mistaken assumption on a number of levels. But most importantly, it implies that Chinese only have access to one means of news and information (the government), which is simply untrue. A lot of Chinese I know in the Mainland listen to and read more varied news sources than most Americans. The fact that many of them share the same opinions doesn’t necessarily mean they’re brainwashed, it could mean their beliefs simply fits in with their own experience and reality. And I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve met many, many people who strongly disagreed with each other and the so-called ‘government line’.

  27. Ah, it’s almost as if… both sides are trueA PARADOX??

    …which is very similar to the whole point of this post.

    Let’s give this one a rest, everyone.

  28. Cinderella Says: December 7, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    I am a Chinese, but Chinese people is not like you said. but I still happy you talk china.

  29. […] I wrote this a few days ago but I made it sticky to faciliate the flame war make it easier for folks coming over from Sinosplice. […]

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