So, just for the record, I want to get something off my chest.
I tend to be a positive person. My general life philosophy is keep the good things close, and ruthlessly cut out the bad. (I’m said I’m positive, not kind-hearted.) I maintain this attitude in all aspects of life: guys, job, hobbies, friends. And China.
Look, I like living in China. I like talking about China and I like to show the more positive side of things. This has led some people thinking I’m naive or a wumao. But I’m not. I live here, remember? I deal with the pollution, the spitting, the shitting and pissing on the streets. I deal with VPN’s to get unblocked internet and try to find open websites for my students to use. I see people shooting disgusting snot rockets at the bus stop and I walk over piles of garbage everyday.
I’ve seen the documentaries on the poorest of the poor, I know about Xi Jinping’s corruption crack-down. You don’t need to send me links to articles about Tiananmen Square, the pollution, or how some rich guy knocked down and killed a police officer who stopped him for speeding. By the time you read about something in the New York Times, I’ve probably not only heard about it from multiple sources, but I’ve lived with it. (We have news here too you know.)
There are so many problems here (as everywhere). I just don’t see the need to talk about it. If you want to find the negative articles about China, about the pollution, the worrying economy or crack-down on dissidents, there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of sources on that. It seems like not one news article can be written in a Western newspaper without at least one sentence on Tiananmen.
What there isn’t a lot of is sources for more positive stories about China. Stories of everyday life. Of the wonders and oddities of the country seen through, not a critical, glaring eye, but a positive and open eye. Stories of dating Chinese men, trying new food, seeing new things and struggling with the language. That’s the hole I’m trying to fill.
So have I “drank the kool-aid?” Well, if drinking the kool-aid means that I judge a country based on the people and the culture I have experienced rather than the actions or policies of the government, then yes. I have. I don’t want people to judge me as an American based on what our congress is doing, or what Americans have done in the past. And I’m not going to do that in China.
It doesn’t mean everything is coated in a Pollyanna sheen. I complain and get frustrated regularly. (I’m working on an article about the pollution right now.) But it’s not something I focus on, or want to focus on. Deal with it.
I like your blog, I always thought you were respectful. I also can relate. It’s a double edged sword, really. There are people who think that if you say one negative thing about China, you’re anti-China and you “just don’t get it” (not that they do, either). If you say one great thing about China, you drank the kool-aid and you’re simply an apologist. (shrug)
“I don’t want people to judge me as an American based on what our congress is doing…” AMEN! (Not religious, but needed an AMEN for that one.)
If, as an American, I were judged on the latest war hawkish, anti-science, constitutionally illiterate, socially backward, a la carte Ayn Randian to featured on Fox News, I would never want to leave the country. (Looking at you, Senator Tom Cotton, latest Republican darling.)
Americans, especially conservatives, really need to shut up and listen, rather than listening for two seconds and trying to squish that tiny sample of information into their close-minded “American exceptionalism” narrative. Seriously, if I mention the advances in the Finnish school system, or how Danes are the happiest people on the planet, some conservative snarls, “Go live there, then!” instead of saying, “Really? Why is that? Can/ should we implement similar changes in our school system?”
I applaud you for telling your stories, your personal stories and experiences. I find them fascinating and enlightening. Carry on!
Now I will put away my soapbox and shut up.
Great post, Becky!
As a fiction writer, I need to be aware of villains, conflict and disaster. But in my own life, I like to focus on the positive in people and situations as much as I can. Why make myself and the people around me unhappy? No person or place is perfect, and there’s much wonderful stuff in the world.
I love your smiling face in that first picture.
Wow, thanks guys for those great responses!
Eileen, you totally hit the nail on the head. It’s like one little comment either way and people criticize you. And because I tend to be positive (or talk about the good things instead of the bad) I get the “kool-aid” co,,emt the most.
Autumn, I’m right there with your gurl! Trying to explain the political system to my students is basically impossible. It’s too damn bat-shit crazy to make any sense of. Luckily they aren’t aware of the intricacies and I can paint a broad picture. But then when my European friends, who are much more aware of the situation, ask for an explanation (“so gay people can’t order pizza?”) it gets harder, haha.
And thanks for the compliment Nicki! I think no good writer wants a life to be like their books. 😉 And yeah, we can find and focus on the bad and be cranky, or we can find and focus on the good. I just hate being criticized for focusing on the good. Like, there’s something wrong with me for it. Grrrr.
Amen Becky!!!! I love you your blog just ignore those haters they probably don’t even have passports and will never leave their comfortable bubble lives. I get so many people on Facebook that ask me how I can live in a communist society etc. they send me articles too. All they know about China is from medi. They need to shut up hop on a plane and experience a foreign country. Thanks for this post. I thought it was just me.
Hi Becky, do you get a lot of messages from people telling you how brainwashed you are? FWIW, I don’t get the impression that you’re somehow biased in favour of China from reading your blog. What I get is that you tend to focus on stories of personal connection/experience, such as the relationships you have with your students and the various places you’ve visited.
As far as your opinion of China, the country, is concerned, the content of your blog is pretty much in line with that of most of the China blogs written by expats. I.e., you talk about the authoritarian government, the lack of free information, the pollution, the chaos/lack of manners, etc. Maybe the problem here is that you’re not anti-China enough.
Anyway, I enjoy reading your blog, and your post here has reminded me of an Economist article that I read not long ago, BTW. If you haven’t read it already, you might find it interesting:
Totally Amen, sister! I’m sure there are lots of people who think I’ve “drunk the Kool Aid” (especially when I say I have decided to live here for the rest of my life). Like yourself, I’d rather focus on the positive…and there’s plenty if you’re willing to look around and open your eyes to it. As you say, it’s the default to criticize this country, why not think about the good for once?
Suigetsu, thanks for the link, interesting article. I don’t get a lot of people telling me directly I’m brainwashed, but more subtle. Like when they ask me what I like about China and i say “the people,” they raise one eyebrow and look at me dubiously and say “really?” Or When I talk about dating Chinese guys they’ll be like “why?” (In a downward tone, not a questioning, interested tone.
And Amber and Jocelyn, I know you guys agree! 🙂
I think the Western media has a China-bashing agenda. Every negative things you mentioned about China, also happens in India…but at a worser scale. Public transport is far less developed. Public defecation is on a far larger epic scale (almost 50% of the population have no access to a toilet):http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-27775327. Pollution is even worse (Delhi’s air is more polluted than Beijing’s): http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/02/05/world/asia/delhis-air-more-polluted-than-beijings.html?_r=0. Population growth is unchecked.
Yet, not many in the media are critical of India’s pollution, filth, overpopulation. I wonder why?