Editor’s note: This opinion piece, translated from ifeng.com and a shining example of Occidentalism, was written by Yao Shujie, a professor of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. The article lists aspects of life in China that are apparently envied by foreigners.
It is an interesting depiction of this Chinese professor’s view of China in relation to the West, and what Chinese citizens who do not have the opportunity to go abroad may be led to believe about Western societies.
I’ve heard the story many times before: so-and-so went abroad and is not coming back. In China, we often envy foreign countries with their tidy streets, orderly traffic and behavior. However, at the same time, foreigners are very envious of us, the Chinese people. This is a true fact!
I have an English friend that says over and over again how he thinks Chinese food is the best cuisine in the world. When I go to lunch with my German friend or my English friend they both know the phonetic writing for a few dishes and can order easily at an a la carte restaurant. They really enjoy the ease of this. All my foreign friends also like knock off and cheap products. They use Taobao to buy cheap goods or even travel to Guangdong to buy manufactured goods like bags, shoes, and even food to bring home as a gift. Latin Americans have told me they appreciate that you can go to a hospital without an appointment and see a doctor within a short period of time. They like that if you are sick you can go directly to the hospital to get the medicine you need. There are many other examples of this: China has many things that foreigners should be envious about!
1. Law and Order: I have friends from the United States and Sweden that have remarked on China’s firm maintenance of good law and order. No one in China carries firearms. You can walk around or go out at night without ever feeling unsafe.
2. The War on Drugs: This is something that has benefited the entire country but is especially good for foreigners living in China. There has recently been increasing drug use in China amongst the more crooked in society. One of my foreign friends recently told me that he felt that China’s harsh crackdowns on drug use and sale are very good. He said that he had heard a rumor that if you are caught with drugs in China you are immediately shot, even if you are wealthy or a high ranking official. I do know now if this rumor is true, but it indicates that the domestic crackdown on drugs is extremely harsh which means that it is a strong deterrent for criminal activity.
3. Cheap Delivery: In Europe, courier or delivery services are very expensive. My European friends told me that at home they usually have to go to the supermarket to buy everything. The supermarkets in Europe close early so the whole thing is not especially convenient. In China, courier and delivery services are extremely cheap, which makes life more convenient.
4. Pirated Movies: Many foreigners download pirated movies in China. I have taught many of my friends how to do it using domestic software. Sometimes there are issues with this. One time, we tried to download the software but it did not work in Portuguese and just came out in a bunch of garbled text. When it works correctly, downloading these movies makes my foreign friends very happy. I usually help them download movies or show them websites that stream movies and television with English subtitles for no charge. This makes them so happy!
5. Generally Low Prices: I have a friend from England who works in China as an English teacher. He originally planned to spend one year in China but has now lived in the country for four or five years. He said that China is a good place to live because the people are friendly and the prices are low, especially for clothing.
6. People Don’t Want to Leave: My girlfriend’s sister, a very beautiful girl, was studying abroad in Germany and fell in love with a German man. The two dated and were engaged while living in Germany. They had originally planned to live in Germany, but visited her relatives in China during the New Year and to have a Chinese style wedding. In the end, after six months in China, her German husband did not want to leave. He enjoyed living in her small city and said that he was very happy living there every day. He liked spending time with her family and going to the market. He said that the place was very safe, people were friendly, warm and easy to get along with and life was very convenient. He could not think of a better place to live!
7. Malls Open Late: In Australia, and many other countries, large shopping malls close as early as six p.m. Some countries have certain days of the week the mall will be open until ten p.m., but it is not open that late every day. In China, most malls have very late hours, which makes it very convenient to go shopping.
8. No Guns: I mentioned this before, but it is worth talking about again. One of my Canadian friends always talks about how much he likes that there are no guns allowed in China. It makes the country so safe!
9. Traffic Light Countdown Displays: China’s traffic lights display the number of seconds left for those who are crossing or waiting to cross the street. Many foreign countries do have this, making it more inconvenient for pedestrians.
10. A Big Place to Explore: The Japanese often admire how much land China has. A Japanese teacher once asked me how a train to Xinjiang could take so long. They did not believe that the train trip could possibly take two whole days. I finally convinced them that the stretch of land between the two cities was indeed that big. The teacher, with this knowledge, sighed and said, “Wow, China is really big.”
11. High-Speed Trains: Foreigners who are able to experience the high-speed rail in China are very lucky. The trains run directly from one station to another, it is a very efficient way to travel. You have to experience it yourself to understand, but when sitting in the car, the train really does feel as fast as lightening. When foreigners sit in or see the trains go by, they are usually amazed at the speed. Their jaws drop and they are shocked. Then, they wonder when their own countries will get trains that are this fast.
12. Safe Cities: If you have been on the dirty subways of New York City or the trash-filled alleys of Paris, you will be able to appreciate the serenity and peacefulness of China and Chinese cities. At least in China, you do not have to worry about being pushed into the tracks from the edge of a train platform or worry about being out alone at night. Many good, clean, small cities have now developed throughout China. These cities are clean and beautiful, with enough police on the roads to enforce safety and security. In China, you can wander around bustling downtown areas, and take clean and safe taxis without worrying about being robbed or raped.
13. Efficiency in a Health Crisis: In a video that I made, a foreigner made a comment about the period in which SARS was a crisis in China. He said that if students had a temperature over thirty seven degrees they would be immediately rushed to an isolated area by an ambulance. This would not be done as efficiently in many other countries.
14. Other Countries Aren’t That Great: In England, the weekends are boring, shops close early and the food is unpalatable. British punks and hooligans go out and throw bottles into crowds when their soccer teams lose and the police have to come and break up the scuffle. In the Netherlands, cities are small and walkable but depressing. However, they are very clean. Italy is very dirty. Roman architecture is very beautiful but other parts of Italy are unbearable. I have also been to the United States and I found it very boring. You cannot go anywhere without a car unless you go somewhere famous like Las Vegas.
On top of this, in many foreign countries, being sick is a hassle. Unless it is an emergency, you must make an appointment and you usually cannot see a doctor until the next day. Sometimes you have to wait up to a week. I really do not understand how this is possible in countries with universal health insurance.
15. The American Justice System Has Issues: Many envy the American justice system, however it has many aspects that need reform. Juries’ decisions are often random and unexpected, plea deals are used too often especially by those with public defenders and little money. The rich have good lawyers that help them cover up their crimes. It just shows that money is the most important force in America and the role of capitalism in the justice system.
16. Mobile Resources: An Australian friend once told me that he felt like there were no public information or customer service apps or phone services that he could use in his countries. But, in China, when he was lost he could call 114 and ask for a way to find the nearest bus. There are many other services and apps that can check nearby dining, entertainment, help purchase tickets and help with many other things. Is there anything else in Australia besides the basics like Google Maps? My Australian friend said that there were public information services available but they used robotic answering services that were difficult to understand.
In China, we have looked enviously at other countries for too long. However, I did now know until now that many other countries are also envious of us. There is joy in China and joy in foreign countries. The beauty of life is that it is not about where you are, but how you are living. Good and bad, joy and sorrow, come from the heart. We must let go of trivial comparisons in order to find peace of mind.
And you know what, you are the envy of many foreigners. They really do envy China!
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Keywords: Foreigners’ view of China
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I just wonder, if China is such an amazing place why is everyone and their mums queuing up to leave? Where they land, they'll just breed like rabbits, open shops which sell counterfeit goods, spit and litter everywhere and make our countries look like China and then complain it's better back home. I think the person who wrote this article is smoking something that the "perfect Chinese law and order" haven't found yet. It must be strong, cause that's no China I've ever heard of.
Sep 19, 2016 14:48 Report Abuse
This article is written by a moron. This country is a giant advertisment for birth control, an example of what happens when the world is over populated, and just plain shitty. To be frank, I would rather die than stay in this country for the rest of my life. Nothing has ever sucked more ass than being here. To the person who wrote this article I say, you can have this giant flaming pile of garbage. There are not enough words to describe how pitiful this place really is.
Nov 29, 2014 08:47 Report Abuse
While some of these points are true, some of them are nonsense. In my view the worst offender is point two. Foreigners agree with China's crackdown on drugs? That's nonsense. Most Westerners are appalled at the idea of executing drug dealers, which is what China does, and many of them would like their own countries to legalize certain drugs. The point about guns should be limited to Americans, while it gives the impression that all Western countries allow people to carry guns around. This is misinformation.
Oct 29, 2014 10:53 Report Abuse
Apart from the serious "Canadian lauds no guns" hilarity, I would just add that unless you are walking around a real bad neighborhood in the States your chances of encountering gun violence are about the same as being struck by lightening... indoors.
Oct 27, 2014 03:06 Report Abuse
THINGS IN CHINESE SOCIETY THAT FOREIGNERS HATE! 1. LONG DIRTY NAILS 2. SPITTING 3. STINKY TOILETS 4. POLLUTION 5. BEING SQUASHED LIKE SARDINES 6. LISTENING TO CHINESE PEOPLE EATING 7. THEIR DRIVING SKILLS 8. SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER, NOT TALKING 9. SMOKING WITHOUT CONSIDERATION FOR OTHERS 10.HEALTHCARE SYSTEM, SEEING A DOCTOR WITH AT LEAST 10 CHINESE STARING AT YOU 11.THEN OF COURSE THERE IS JUST "STARING" 12.PERSONAL HYGIENE - THEY BATH LIKE ONCE A WEEK. 13.THEY CANT WAIT THEIR TURN OR CUE AND PUSH IN! 14.THEN THERE ARE THE LAZY ASS STUDENTS 15.DISGUSTING TEETH 16.ACCESS TO YAHOO, EMAIL, FACEBOOK !!!! WANT 16 MORE? I'VE ACTUALLY LIVED IN OTHER COUNTRIES (INCLUDING CHINA FOR 3 YEARS)
Oct 25, 2014 13:32 Report Abuse
LOL. Manna for any narcisstic, violent, face seeking population. ANY society that needs myths and lies like these to please their disfigured ego is still at the bottom of the evolution ladder, no matter how many high speed trains or ATMs they managed to copy, rob, cheat, and steal, or souless hookers they got.
Oct 25, 2014 12:33 Report Abuse
Has this writer ever ventured off his UK campus. The UK has far better food than China e.g. Indian, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Greek, African, Brazilian, Argentinian, Mexican,Russian, US, Caribbean...... Further, I often go to football/soccer games in the UK and it's years since I saw any violence, for good or bad, 'CCTV is everywhere!!' FINALLY, DO NOT go on about how great the Chinese health system is, next you'll be telling me there is no corruption in the Chinese education system next, then again, you are a professor!!
Oct 25, 2014 09:30 Report Abuse
But after having read it I believe your opinions are far from the truth and it's laughable to think you arrived in UK in the 1980's. I have family from Hong Kong who came to the UK in the 1970's so I have some insight to what you're saying but still, highly inaccurate especially by someone of your competence and judgement. I will go through each point and dissect what you said. 1. Law and Order. Well did you consider the forced demolitions that are carried out each day in China as well as the lack of domestic violence law in China (non existent). As long as you have money in power you can bypass the law. 2.The War on Drugs. To a certain degree this is probably the most accurate section of your article. But it's common and not difficult to access drugs in China. As long as you know where to look for it, it's not hard and the recent revelations of Kai Ko and Jaycee Chan suggests drugs is prevalent in the Showbiz industry in China just like every other 1st world country. 3. Cheap delivery. You are specific on supermarket deliveries and if you use the internet you should know Tesco and Asda and others offer free delivery once you spend over a certain amount at those supermarkets. So your point has been proved wrong. Also, Amazon offer free shipping on practically all their goods if purchased from their directory. 4.Pirate Movies. Everyone who knows who to use the internet will know how to access pirated movies, anyways instead of downloading (waste of ROM space) just watch online. You can easily search these websites on Google also. 5. Generally Low Prices. This is true about China as I have lived and worked there for over a year. I do love the cheap food. However, the basic salary in China is low and still a long way to catch up with the salary say in UK as you are a professor, so should be on a good salary yourself. 6. People don't want to leave. Well if they don't want to leave they are usually in the 'honeymoon' period of their time in China and once a couple of years go by they will see the damage it does to stay too long (pollution, racism and bad manners springs to mind). 7. Malls open late. Firstly use basic standard British English, it is called a shopping centre. This makes me think you did not write the articles cause if you had arrived in UK in the 80's you would in fact to refer to them as Shopping centre as Mall is an American word. Shopping Centres in big UK cities such as Nottingham do now HAVE shopping centres that close at 8pm. Another flawed statement you made. 8. No guns. Most European countries forbid guns. If you live in UK you should not even have to mention this as well prohibit gun use unless for sporting reasons i.e. gaming and hunting and Olympic sports. Another point I countered. 9. Traffic Light Countdown Display. This point is useless as I've seen so many drivers ignore the traffic lights and drive on their own accord. Traffic lights are for show and not to be followed by many road users in China. Might I add that China has some of the worst driving and lack of safety I have ever experienced. 10. A Big place to explore. China is a big place but then again a lot of the land is polluted and contaminated so good luck on finding some nice and natural places to explore. 11. High Speed Trains. I do find it very useful as I have used it many times. But China stole the plans and rail work from Japan. They hired a Japanese company and team of engineers to work with them on this but once they received the plans and key information they removed the Japanese workers and sent them packing back home. Might I add that Germany also uses High Speed Trains. Japan were first to use these types of trains. 12. Safe Cities. China is reasonably safe but when I am in UK in north west I feel safe as that region is my home. I won't walk into a dark alleyway in UK so I am sure not going to do that in China. You just have to be cautious as any place can be safe and dangerous at the same time. 13. Efficiency in Health Crisis. You mention that in other countries you need to make an appointment. Well have you heard of the NHS WALK IN CENTRE where in fact no appointment is need, just go in, wait and you will be seen by medical staff soon for any treatment etc and there are hospitals. I cannot believe you live in UK and don't know about medical walk in centres. 14. Other Countries aren't that great. Well how many countries have you actually lived in for a long period of time apart from China and UK. Well you should in fact respect UK cause you would not be in the position to earn so much money now in Nottingham if it wasn't for the UK. If you were stuck in China teaching as a professor could you imagine your LOW salary? My point made clearly. 15. The American Justice System has issues. Every justice system has problems and nothing is perfect. USA and western countries has the general view of 'Innocent until proven guilty' BUT in china it is 'GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT' .... haha I laugh at the Chinese Legal system, who comes up with the laws? Corrupt officials by the looks of how stupid they can be. 16. Mobile resources. With the age of smartphones and how easy it is to use them you can download many apps to find your way, find info and so much more so your point is invalid.
Oct 24, 2014 09:28 Report Abuse
I love living in China for a number of reasons, and there indeed are quite a few things here that I envy. But come on, Yao Pengyou, are you serious? Those are some piss poor observations the professor made about other nations and his own country. Let us not even start talking about the enormous degree of generalization and sound half knowledge displayed in several statements. I mean, Law and ORDER? One of his country’s central cultural standards is relativism of rules. This is something you do not only experience in traffic, but almost functions as an integral part of Chinese society in general. As for ‘trash-filled alleys of Paris’ and ‘the serenity and peacefulness of China and Chinese cities’: Really? Come on now, there is not much peacefulness and serenity in overpopulated cities. There might are some clean and lovely towns somewhere in China, but thinking about major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan or Guangzhou with populations of up to 23mio. I fail to see the serenity and peacefulness. My favorites are the ‘clean and safe taxis’ though. Does he mean those where the safety belts are tucked behind the seats or covered with casings? Defo a good thing, considering transport safety in China. Oh and I can really take those taxis ‘without worrying about being robbed’? Because it kind of feels like robbery when the driver chooses the extra long route, sets the clock to night-rate or does not even use the meter, just so he can make some extra bucks. ‘Efficiency in a Health Crisis’ is just HAHA. Good thing they come pick you up when showing symptoms. But you never see an ambulance rushing somewhere. If you are about to die better call yourself a cab, because the ambulance might not get you to a hospital in time. Flashing lights and a siren don’t make much of a difference. Usually other cars just cannot be bothered making space for an ambulance, not even when it carries someone who is in need of help. ‘Other Countries Aren’t That Great’ – the headline already implies that Yao Pengyou is about to get a bit bitchy, and totally ridiculous, and insulting, and unprofessional. He is really digging deep into that big box filled with super-superficial clichés: So the British are aggressive punks? Well, they are probably just frustrated, because their food is ‘unpalatable’ (gosh, I am totally craving some chicken feet and intestines right now). Oh, and all these miserable Dutch people in the streets of Amsterdam (I am actually surprised he didn’t blame it on the weed). And Italy, bah, with those clear lakes and white beaches – who would want to spend a day in that dirty country when you can have loads of dead pigs floating in the beautiful chocolate-colored water of the Huangpu? And what is with this whole being sick thing? It’s not really much of a hassle to make a phone call and see the doctor on a previously agreed date. U might have to wait a few minutes in a clean and quiet waiting area, but that’s it. On the other hand, going to the hospital in China is a real pain in the arse. Sitting in a waiting hall with loads of people and then sharing an examination room with at least another doctor and his patients without any privacy whatsoever. At the same time, another 5 patients are already standing next to you, waiting until it’s their turn. Now that’s a freaking hassle. All in all, the article is bull and the author just a pseudo-cosmopolitan trying way too hard to make China something it simply isn’t. Wondering what his lectures look like.
Oct 24, 2014 00:38 Report Abuse
Loved it. "Satire is a genre of literature in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement." This is a great example how a satire is written in a way that passes censorship. As the great Karl Kraus put it: "Satires understood by the censor are banned with good reason". Enjoy this masterpiece ;-)
Oct 23, 2014 11:25 Report Abuse
I've never met anyone from outside China who knows anything at all about it. Except for one or two things. Like...it's filthy and Chinese people go to the toilet wherever they happen to be standing/sitting. And they also spit all over the place. And the country has little respect for human rights and is mired up to their teeth in corruption. Those of us who live here know that it's a lot more pathetic and disgusting than that.
Oct 21, 2014 22:40 Report Abuse
I really hope someone finds this article (as it is written in Chinese) and let the Chinese know how completely garbage this is... it is not only insulting but potentially dangerous to the Chinese commoners. They will think we actually admire their legal system and the other slew of vile this article produced. How can he look in the mirror after knowing what he wrote was a total farce?
Oct 21, 2014 17:44 Report Abuse