My Vacation [ edit ]
October 18 2005 (03:01:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )
Readers must have decided this blog will not ever again display new material. Life is busy. It is hard to have time to post. I have been very lucky over the last two weeks to have my parents in town. My mother in particular loves Beijing and is planning to visit me again in the Spring. I hope that my father also will feel well enough to come then.
So it has been a happy visit and they have brought energy and order to my apartment.
I have a great deal of new material to post once I complete editing and the like. So keep checking back. My parents are leaving on September 27. I will have ample time to write and post after that.
Have you been Beijing long enough to be a good guide? I beeen Beijing several times and I think autumn is the best seaon of a year for Beijing.
Posted by webdai on 10/18/2005 09:24:38 AM
the chinese [ edit ]
October 01 2005 (12:05:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )
Reading my writing or reflecting on conversation, I often find it execrable that I always refer to the “Chinese” as if they are one big group of identical people, with identical perspectives on the issues.
I believe it is shameful to even speak of a people as a group, but anyone who has been in China should understand why it comes so naturally to me. We are always regarded as laowai here, and Chinese refer to themselves as zhongguoren especially in contrast to us. Upon first arriving, one might want to avoid the tendency to group all Chinese together. The fact is that most people, outside of the educated ones or some who have been abroad, force me to represent the entire foreign world – in addition to the United States.
Writing these this, I feel as though I just arrived here, and have just noticed the most obvious things about the country. Readers from China keep in mind that people reading this may not have been here before.
I don’t want to seem elitist or culturally insensitive. In China, foreigners deal with levels of people that they normally wouldn’t encounter in their own country. Half-hour conversations about politics with the bicycle repairman just don’t occur in the States. Even if they did, the bicycle repairmen in Hyde Park, Chicago, didn’t just emigrate from a stone-age village.
I would argue that even more educated people tend to want me to represent the United States, at least at times. In Germany even, being an American, you sometimes find yourself in the uncomfortable position of defending the entirety of US foreign policy (not that you shouldn’t rise to the occasion).
My point being that considering most Chinese see themselves as a big happy family, feel extreme nationalism, and view foreigners as largely identical, I feel entitled to speak of “the Chinese”. I always feel a little bit of multiculturalistic disappointment in myself when I do it though.
aaaaaaayyy fuckin mennn how many times have i heard: 1)”you foreigners XXX” 2)”we chinese YYY” …a good portion of the people in the mainland seem to think that they are some sort of UN delegate for China… I always want to look over my shoulder everytime I hear “你们外国人” and make sure there isn’t a gang of people following me around that I hadn’t noticed… That and of course if your face is white: “there-ain’t-no-way-you-can-possibly-speak-Our-Language-or-know-anything-about-Our-Country” Or the extremely annoying: “speaking mandarin with the tones all fucked up so that the dumb monkey can understand” In my experience, most of these things go on in the mainland and are probably unavoidable in the near-term as China is still a developing country… I find Taiwan and HK to be infinitely better in this respect. I tend to purposefully refer to ‘Chinese’ people as 大陆人or 内地人in these kinds of conversations-with-idiots these days. just my 2 cents…
Posted by Pescatore on 10/09/2005 09:29:01 AM
pescatore, you don’t have to be so vicious, you’re no better.
Posted by molls on 11/22/2005 01:34:29 PM
October 01 2005 (10:53:00) US/Pacific ( 2 views )
This will be the first of many installments on “streetwear” here in China…Once my digital camera arrives, I hope to do a website with pictures.
I met an extremely thin, not in the least bit unattractive, girl, wearing hot pink knee-length pleated shorts, in New York who worked promoting various high fashion brands – notably Dior Homme.
She was an American-Born-Chinese from the West Coast and she surprised me by saying that the young men in China were “so hot”.
Please don’t accuse me of being racist, but there aren’t many women I’ve met who say this. It turns out that I agree with her, at least in some cases.
In her eyes, they far surpass their American counterparts. She said that these punk and alternative youth had captured the spirit of Hedi Slimane’s designs without even having heard of him, let alone being able to afford his stuff. And of course they have the super slim physiques, wild-color dyed hair, and vacuous looks to really master this look. That this look is so homegrown in China made it all the more appealing for her.
Those of you who visit China or live here may be surprised. Most expats just add the Chinese fashion sense to their list of aspects of the country to bitch about. A group of white males all clad in a uniform of tapered jeans with black tee shirts tucked-in will sit around condemning the Chinese male for his bad taste in clothing. Their attitude of superiority usually transcends the sartorial, but it is interesting that a bunch of pleated puds would criticize Chinese dudes for their fashion sense. People who appear not to give a damn about clothing suddenly wax indignant upon arriving in China, and seeing people with a more distinct sense of style.
Granted most people in China don’t have the money or the interest to care about clothing and they tend to look as though they just came in from the village, which they often did. But the expats are usually complaining about the fashion-sense of the new middle class or the extremely style-conscious youth.
And our concern here is with streetwear anyway, so peasants and laborers don’t count, though they do choke the streets in my part of Dongcheng Qu.
I. The Hair Salons and Ducks
Even more than in the West, hair salons are a locus of style. This is where all the young dudes congregate to preen about and try to outdo each other in extravagance of attire. Tons of rail-thin boys in skin-tight black jeans and silver shirts or sleeveless white blazers haunt the doorways of the hair salons, chain-smoking, adoring only their own gaudy youth. Techno turned louder than the cheap speakers can stand is the soundtrack to their posing. Any shoe less than twice as long as their actual foot can never worn by these stone-faced jesters. With the number of roaches here, their choice of footwear makes some sense.
Enter the salon and you will see the master. He is “the Mongol”. His long silky hair with pink streaks, his refined beard, his chiseled features, his wolf-like eyes all reveal that his origins are on the steppe. He is the one who sculpts atrocious masterpieces on heads. His attire also introduces him. His sleeveless top is a combination of black web and silver rings. His shoes are pointy like those of his minions, but they are patterned with skulls and cross bones, repeated in a rainbow of colors. Overwhelming, but fascinating.
To the Mongol’s right stands an assistant. He wears all white, very tight. To his left is another assistant. This fellow has extremely long hair, a handsome face, a shiny floral shirt, black bell-bottoms – outlawed as symbols of western decadence during the seventies – and gold pointy shoes.
In the winter, the attire becomes extremer with the weather. In the middle of the gray and pollution, I see three dainty lads displaying all degrees of brazenness in their strut and attire. Bleached blond hair, ass-tight black jeans, and Jackie O glasses were prerequisites for joining this precious little clique. One dude had on a knee-length leopard print fake fur coat, another a matrix style black jacket with a mandarin collar, and another a tight green zebra-stripe suit with a red skull-pattern scarf. I tried talking to them. Though these boys were under twenty and dressed to the nines, there were no sissified antics to be found here. They had tough voices.
These were ducks. Ducks are the callow youths who throng the Karaoke bars and dancing clubs looking for a rich married women to buy them for the night. Though foppish, these were mean men of the night, who had a mission. And the women who paid for their service were often minor beauties themselves. They had apparently married overweight pig heads with BMWs, but needed the ducks for their non-monetary needs. These pretty little mallards were always impeccably dressed, in their special way.
October 01 2005 (09:05:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )
Inability to connect with everything around won’t vanish. Brief are moments of toleration for the concrete and people, the gases filling the air, the hawker’s coarse yells.
The insurmountable walls rise again. Conversations with a Chinese bring back that familiar distance. Talking with an American reinforces seperation too. Both races are so commercialistic, naively optimistic. The past is forgotten for them; they look unreflectively and boldly ahead. Coarse acquisitiveness boils over in their souls, dissolving all philosophical spirit.
It’s tough being European. Raised by scholars, schooled in the classics, a spirit easily drifts across the Atlantic. When this well-groomed being then ends up on the other side of the Pacific, it might be doused with a wok full of boiling fish oil, orange and thick.
A grand history that can never be matched again weighs down Europe. The venerable continent fashions spirits that start life wise but fatigued. American rightists taunt Europeans for their streak of nihilism. This lifelong nihilism also dashes hopes of friendship with the upbeat, unreflective Chinese. This most practical race, they waste no mental space with decadent hopelessness. They make rational calculations aiming for the top spot, even if corruption and inefficiency sometimes dog their steps. History has ended for most Europeans. No national will to ascendancy fires their spirit. Europe has already been number one. They sadly step aside now, making way for those with rawer ambition. With luck, the new emperors will forget the wrongs their former lord committed and retain him as arbiter of elegance. Europe might even set itself up as Greece to China’s Rome, and let the United States go the way of Carthage.
We can still sneer a little at the concrete blocks the Chinese erect everywhere, and their excitement over BMWs and Mercedes Benzes. It is hard not get a jolt of superiority seeing all the billboards, fast food joints, and the ubiquitous Chinese panty-lines standing out under tight jeans. This is our only comfort. They may be building the greatest economic power in history, but it will not be beautiful like Europe was.
Joining the business world has meant forsaking lovely enervation and putting on a tie. A mask must be donned. One has to pretend to be the same as the capitalistic Chinese and Americans. These two races represent obsession with professionalism, superficiality, and contentment. Essentially: vulgarity. The European spirit is separate, but the only defense is labeling them “base”. A man of taste and virtue cannot speak with children struggling for electric gadgets and gas-guzzlers. The carefree, unashamedly simple spirit, the absence of the grave or heavy: these are the things that impede communication. Here, no one hides their quest for improvement of nation and self. Most Chinese – and these very intelligent ones – aren’t afraid to position themselves in a larger organism, rejoicing when it succeeds, defending it from any perceived slight. There is no sense of failure or disappointment in China – just a sense that the future will be brighter.
The dilemma is: Can we abandon all of our unfortunate attitudes in order to succeed in the capitalistic, Sino-American, world? I play their smiling game of “attitude is everything” by day, but when night falls I gleefully return to my cherished nihilism, that self-defeating system, and reflect snootily on the ugly men in shapeless suits I have met. Must a definition of self have to be rejected if it is empty? It is difficult to embrace the neon modern world without smugly despising it.
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October 01 2005 (04:13:00) US/Pacific ( 1 view )
My old blog at blogcity is inaccessible. It took a long time for me to realize that this was because the entire site, blogcity, has been blocked in China, and not because of content on my specific blog. I was wondering what could possibly have been objectionable. There was nothing critiquing the Chinese Communist Party in that blog, and there won’t be in this one either. In fact, this blog will do quite the opposite. I can only beg the scrupulous men who scan the web for evil pollution to not block blogsource. That would be inconvenient for me. The move would also be regrettable from the perspective of the Communist Party, as my interests correspond to theirs. Allowing my blog to live is a win-win proposition.
Nothing in this blog will be politically subversive. My issues with life and the world and even China have nothing to do with the Communist Party. I think the old boys are doing a swell job. There is no need for regime change, widespread elections, or any drastic political reforms. Drastic and rapid political change is always deadly, as the French Revolution and the Cultural Revolution made clear. For that reason, I don’t support any huge alterations in the status-quo in China.
My own feelings and impulses may often appear aggressive or subversive. But I don’t claim that changes in the nature of things that would improve my life would also make the world a better place for the majority of people – or anyone besides myself. Any reactions I have to society are selfish and my suggestions are too often self-serving. Empathy has always been a challenge. Without it, it is impossible to grow, or at least, to write something worth reading.
I was diverted into a dull monologue on myself, but now let’s talk about the far more interesting Chinese Communist Party. They are fine people. One can easily see that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao are earnestly trying to improve things, and they should be admired for that. They have a lot of difficulties before them, but I know they will prevail, and so will China. It has for the last nearly three decades, and prospects are good for the next three.
Opposing the Communist Party is senseless. I challenge anyone to show me a regime in all history that has more rapidly brought prosperity to a nation. The fast success of China has not been only due to domestic policy: development here has clearly benefited from foreign investment and an era of globalization. However, the brilliant policies of the Communist Party have allowed China to exploit the full potential of these trends.
Like many Westerners, I am often frustrated by the system of government here in China. “How can these people be content to live under a dictatorship?” This viewpoint is natural for a Westerner to have, but it is immature and one-sided, not accounting for real conditions or the needs of this country. Recently, I have grown-up a little, and now revised my thinking. I now acknowledge the strength and glory of the Communist Party. They should not accept any silly demands made by the West.
A well-known China specialist from the United States who I had the honor of meeting the other night commented that if China were to have a popular election today, Mao would be elected. That is to say, the peasants would elect Mao. The underlying meaning is that populism would have the run of the day. True democracy here would lead to redistribution of wealth, sapping all growth. Bringing democracy to China would mean a step backwards in development. The United States might claim that democratization is in China’s interests, but it is easy to see why many here believe that US pressure for democracy is aimed at stifling China’s development.
If anyone suggests that China implement democracy, I should hope they mean of a very limited type with property qualifications. Chinese must only point to the India example, to refute any argument that China should adopt thorough democracy. Despite that the “miracles” of China and India are often grouped together, looking at the standard economic indicators and their recent growth trends reveals that China has succeeded, and that it remains on a better course. We had property qualifications in the United States, in the beginning.
The problem with these calls for democratization the United States makes is that they don’t account for the reality in China. We imagine a people enslaved to merciless despots. The patent-leather boot of oppression eternally planted on the emaciated stomachs of a billion writhing coolies is often what Westerners imagine the situation here to be. Those who dare breath opposition are roped to the ground or slowly murdered with a thousand knife-wounds. This stifling society is the one that the West concocts as it preaches democracy and liberalization of the press. Anyone who lives in China knows this vision and reality are at odds.
I see a billion smiling coolies. They are watching their lives improve. The ones that are protesting should learn patience. Once their children have education, they too will live in beautiful homes and face computers all day. They will have a healthy appearance after eating much fatty meat. The number of people that have already made this dream their reality proves that the policies of the Communist Party are correct.
This has been my plea to the guardians of righteous thought and moral discourse. I say to them:
Observe all of this that I have said. Is my heart not in the right place? I am your ally. I cherish purity – just like you.
I want to crush pollution. This is my great campaign. Pollution seeps into more than just the air and water. The spirit, the heart, the way we think can be polluted. This can be a broad infiltration stretching across an entire society. This is cultural pollution. And this is what I have always devoted myself to combating. I have always wished to eradicate poison of the moral and intellectual discourse. Everything I say and write relates to this grand project.
I pledge to aid all others working toward the same goal of moral purification. I believe that my allies include the Chinese Communist Party and many others. In this one case, even though my writing is normally selfish, I believe that my new goals correspond to what is in the hearts of the majority of people. I sense a widespread dissatisfaction with the high levels of pollution in society. The average person wants to live in a purer society, so I pledge to subvert all of my usual ulterior motives and irony, and help them to scrub society clean.
Love your ally. Preserve me. Allow me to access my blog.
Unfortunately, it was my blog that ultimately caused blog-city to blocked in China. Look no further than the China Daily for evidence: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-07/22/content_462460.htm
Posted by Gordon on 10/02/2005 04:27:41 PM
To be honest, i agree more with ‘china-lover’ moreso than ‘gordon’… gordon’s writing seems mainly the rantings of a disillusioned english teacher who came to china without knowing enough of what he was getting into…
Posted by bai ma fei ma on 10/09/2005 09:39:04 AM
It’s funny. I read that article, but I never put two and two together. So, we have Gordon to blame…The “China Lover” article was rather transparent in its propagandistic intentions, but there is a definate tendency among expats to be unsympathetic. I know that Gordon has interesting and extreme opinions that should not be blocked. The opposition they generated is surely just the sort of nationalism the government wants to encourage. Any foreigners criticizing China are probably helping the Party.
Posted by nels on 10/10/2005 02:41:10 PM
I like your blog. I wish I could see your previous one as well. I am just curious, did you ever backup your blog? or is it feasible to do so on blogsource? BTW: It would be great if you can break one long essay into several smaller pieces if possible.
Posted by webdai on 10/17/2005 04:13:05 PM
I am glad to have a pleasure to view your Blog, as a Chinese,I have a srong feeling about our motherland and thank you for your help.We can believe China Gov. to settle them_whatever they are.Yes? Be glad to your friend,for I am studying Anthropoly and you can help me recognize China from a foreigner angle My English is poor,I am sorry.Can you catch my meaning?
Posted by hiriver on 11/15/2005 10:22:04 AM