Foreigners in China: The Reality Edition

China xenophobia

Just read some really thoughtful blog posts on being a foreigner in China, by bloggers who know.

The first is Foreigners in China: Weibo vs. Reality, and it essentially says that despite a few extra anti-foreign diatribes in the last month or so that have gotten a lot of media attention, day-to-day treatment of Laowai has really not changed:

Like with any country, China has plenty of unmitigated racists. But at least for me, they’ve never amounted to anything more than a very rare nuisance in my day-to-day life. So if you’re not in China, don’t get the impression from recent events that the country is a cesspool of xenophobia and hatred. And if you are in China, try not to let the recent coverage of online opinion skew the way you see things. The status quo for Chinese opinion about foreigners has been and will be for a long time more or less the same: Somewhat ignorant, but good-natured and curious.

David Wolf, whom I have known and respected for a long time, writes the following on his always superb, Silicon Hutong Blog:

There are a lot of things that can push living in China to the edge of bearability, but in-your-face nationalism and xenophobia is not one of them. If there is one thing that has made living in China these past 17 years so wonderful, it has been the people I meet. It never seems to get lost in a conversation that there is a difference between an individual and a government. Even at the height of anger over the Belgrade Embassy bombing, the vitriol was never personal: it was about a government’s mistake, not the mistake of a nation. At the same time, it’s incumbent on every one of us living as a guest on this soil to behave as a guest should, and not as an entitled drunken teenager on Grad Night at Disneyland.

David’s comment reminds me of a story CLB’s own Steve Dickinson told me. Steve has been living in China off and on for 20+ years and he tells me the only time he ever felt threatened by xenophobia was when he was verbally attacked at a bar by a patron angry over the Belgrade bombing. Steve went on the offensive and loudly told the guy to shut up (in Chinese, of course) and then went on to point out that if he (Steve) had anything to do with the U.S. government’s decision to bomb China’s Belgrade Embassy, he “sure as hell” would not be sitting in some two-bit bar in Beijing. Everyone in the bar laughed and agreed with Steve, including the Chinese patron who a minute earlier had been excoriating Steve.

Xenophobia in China: as bad as the media is making it out to be, or just another day at the ranch?

UPDATE: This Beijing CityWeekend article, Violence Continues to Plague Sanlitun (and especially the comments to that article) indicates a recent upsurge in violence against foreigners in Beijing. Though it is possible this is a case of foreigners getting caught up in an overall increase in crime, a number of the commenters talk about having seen a dramatic increase in anti-foreigner incidents in the last month or so.

52 responses to “Foreigners in China: The Reality Edition”

  1. “Somewhat ignorant, but good-natured and curious.” A description that fits many in the U.S. when it comes to foreigners but which sharply contrasts to their government’s attitude. The only predictable racist attitudes and comments I find in China are those shown and stated by laowai when they are together with no Chinese around. And it isn’t the hateful racial bigotry typical of more than a few Americans but rather a smug superiority about how things are ‘so much better’ in the U.S./Britain/Germany. It’s, to use a quaint term popular in the late 18th and early 19th Century an Anglo-Saxonism with American features.

    • @Steve,
      No racist attitudes in China, huh? How about this from noted “journalist” Yang Rui,
      “Wall Street’s greed was not exposed because Jews control both the financial and media worlds. Why do the US media not dare to support the call for the establishment of a Palestinian state? It’s because they’re afraid of getting fired by their Jewish bosses.”

      • I think what Steve is getting at is that you are unlikely to assaulted by an organized hate group in the middle of your neighborhood. Something that happens in the United States. As a Jew, I had a bunch of Skin Heads chase my sister and I off a bus and to our home, where upon we were forced to call the police. 
        That kind of thing just doesn’t occur in China. There is violence, but there is far less violence, and such violence is not organized by a nongovernmental institution, and your not going to run across it on your average school bus. 

        • All I’ve heard of is interethnic tension between Han and Hui in school playgrounds but hey, I used to get beaten up regularly after class in Brooklyn for being one of the white kids in my elementary school.
          Race relations ain’t always easy.

      • Yang Rui is indeed a leading journalist, with a talk show that hosts Beijing’s most distinguished official visitors from all over the world and he posted the controversial remarks against white trash on his personal website, not the professional one.
        He is entitled to his opinion or are we against free speech here?
        You might even compare him to Ms. Helen Thomas, except that he still has his job.

    •  Yep, anything from “smug superiority” to cheerful arrogance, i.e. “somewhat ignorant but good natured and curious” as they look at a Chinese do something, put on a condescending smile and say: “Oh that’s not how we do it in America.”

  2. I would agree that most of the anti-foreign hysteria is people in 4th tier cities sounding off on Weibo.  I’ve lived in Beijing on and off for 15 years – for about five in total – and only once have I had anyone say anything hostile to me because I was a foreigner.  And his embarrassed friends apologized profusely for him, and dragged him out of the restaurant. 
    But, there has been an increase in assaults on expats in Beijing.  They’ve always happened – I know of more than one white guy/Chinese girl couple that has been assaulted out of the blue, having bottles smashed over their faces, etc. But Beijing is a big enough city, and there are plenty of idiots in any group of 20 million people.
    But in the past 2-3 weeks its been on the rise.  I’ve heard of about a half dozen incidents of foreigners being assaulted since this nationalist turn has started.  They include a guy being attacked from behind, out of nowhere, by a couple of guys wielding broken bottles.  I think that the vast majority of Beijingers wouldn’t do such a thing – and I don’t think its something you can just shrug off.

    • Well, I’m in a second-tier city. All the local vs. expat violence I’ve heard of here was, um, initiated by the expat, e.g. one American teacher who beat up a student in class because the kid said “Marco Polo was a foreign invader, just like the others.” Anyhow, the kids locked the door and called the cops. Down at the station, there was the teacher, his boss and the kid sitting opposite two investigating officers. Had the American apologized, the cops would have left it at that, but in the middle of the questioning, the entirely sober teacher threatened to kill the kid if he ever touched him again. (Note the implication that the kid had started the fight.) Anyhow, the cops wanted to revoke his visa and give him five to ten days to leave the country but his boss asked them to let him stay until the end of the semester and they relented.
      Then there was another colleague who drank more vigorously and kept ending up practicing his kungfu on various taxi drivers. His boss got him off the hook more than once because he was a truly good teacher. Anyhow, this went on until one night he hit on a taxi driver who knew more kungfu than he did and the result was several broken ribs that put him on sick leave for over a month. Well, there, he had shot his last bolt and he got the axe from the school.
      In another incident, some teacher started kicking a vending machine that woudn’t give him his candy bar and this old sidewalk fortune teller tried to calm him down so the guy started shouting at him. Finally, the old man started walking off and collapsed a few yards later from massive infarction.
      I could go on.

  3. I have seen plenty of xenophobic violence against foreigners during my last twelve years in China. I suppose it matters where you are and who you associate with. The most bizzare incident was my being smacked in the face and called “a dirty Japanese” (I’m not Japanese), by a China Youth Daily editor at a local friend’s birthday dinner. I walked away to cool off and by the time I had returned the editor was passed out sleeping and his wife apologied by saying “He gets that way occasionally.”
    Xenophonic violence is NOT an everyday occurance or even something that I regularly think about. But it certainly does seem to be on the rise. Take a look at recent attacks in Beijing

  4. “every one of us living as a guest on this soil to behave as a guest should”
    It may be true, but thinking like this is part of the issue. Come on, after 17 years in China, he still thinks of himself as a guest ?

  5. Fortunately China has no extreme rightists, no skinheads, no CCC and no National Front, so violent xenophobia is almost unheard of. But there is much of subtle xenophobia, when even reputable newspapers call foreigners “laowai”, or people are approached in English just because there face is different.
    Countrary to popular believe, the smaller the town, the better the living conditions for foreigners. In the village of my parents in law noone ever asked what’s my nationality. I am son-in-law of a farmer’s family and that defines my status in the village. Nationality is simply not an issue (in addition, I have never seen a national flag in a village. The people are loyal to their village, not to their country).
    On the other hand if you are guest in an intellectual family in Beijing, latest after five sentences your host will raise the topic of “cultural differences” between China an the West.

    •  First loyalty has indeed always been to family and village because millennia of natural- and manmade disasters have written it into everyone’s DNA here that when the night soil hits the fan, your individual survival depends largely on who you know and who you can count on.
      In Chinese, the word “friend” means far more than “drinking buddy”.

  6. Also, just to note – I too respect David Wolf’s commentary on things Chinese.  I’ve only met him once, but he definitely impressed me as very intelligent, and a generally nice person.  But you should keep in mind that most of the violence against foreigners in Beijing takes place in areas where drunken idiots congregate late at night.  Wudaokou, Sanlitun Houjie, etc.. I’m guessing that a lot of people writing the business oriented blogs you might read are not hanging around Wudaokou at 2am, and thus wouldn’t be the target of such negative attention.
    As far as the general increase in crime idea – its hard to say for a variety of reasons.  Reliable crime statistics don’t really exist, and people might just be talking about anti-foreign attacks more because of the political climate.  Its also really hard to know what the motivation of individual attackers are – I’ve certainly heard some accounts of being attacked for being White that sounded to me like asking for trouble and then getting it.  But the possibility that there is an increase in such violence is not something I would dismiss so quickly.

  7. I have to tell you, if you don’t read Twitter or Weibo, life is very peaceful. I wouldn’t have even know about this upsurge in nationalism if I didn’t read CLB.
    I do agree with Jean, though. I have never encountered much in the way of hostility here, but it does occasionally make me sad that I have to work so hard to get accepted as a resident of this country like any other. I’ve lived in Xiamen longer than I’ve lived anywhere else; my oldest boy is a Chinese citizen. I had to dodge the Neighbourhood Committee to have a second kid, just like my neighbours. And actually, when I tell people I’m a Xiamenren, a surprising number are starting to be willing to take me at my word. Not all, though, not by a long way.

      • It applies if you want your child to have Chinese citizenship, which is much more convenient if you’re living in China long-term – no visa hassles, almost-free education, subsidised healthcare etc.

        • No, it applies automatically. When a Chinese citizen (certainly a Chinese woman, not so sure if the father’s Chinese) has a child within the mainland, that child is automatically a Chinese citizen. (A bit like how any child born in the US is a US citizen, but in China it doesn’t apply if both parents are foreign.)
          My oldest is also recognised by the UK government as a British citizen, of course. China doesn’t recognise his British citizenship, but when we leave China, he can go and live in Britain, travel on a British passport, etc. etc.

          • So if I understand you correctly, you are married, but never bothered to put your wife through the immigration process, so she still hold a Chinese passport and no UK residency card? Not sure why you would do that, but Ok. Many countries offer a permit to re-enter which entitles the residency card holder to live aboard for a specified period and have that period toll towards their foreign nationality. The U.S. is one of them. Such a permit also makes it easier for the foreign national to get visas because they have a document guaranteeing their re-entry to their place of residence.  Anyway, if my assumption is true you have only one choice.
            What you need to do is register you child’s birth with Consular officials, get a UK travel document, and renounce the kids Chinese citizenship. You do that at the pubic security bureau where your wife has her hukou and its going to take a while. Once you do that the kid can ride on your dependent visa. The UK government will recognize both nationalities, but China will only recognize the Chinese nationality until it is renounced. However, they are no de facto dual nationality and at some point you are going to have to prove to the Chinese authorities that you kid did not obtain UK nationality anyway.
            Otherwise you risk needing travel documents and authorization to leave should you need to depart China on short notice. Al lot of people are not feeling so confident about the future of China in the coming few years, and in 1989, believe me it was one hell of a time trying to get out. Good luck.

          • It’s the lovely wording that I enjoy: “put your wife through the immigration process”. Lucifer, I don’t tend to put my wife through many things. She makes her own decisions about what she does and what nationality she wants.
            I’m not insensitive to the potential risks of living in a developing country. But it’s a choice that I make with my eyes wide open. I won’t blame you if it all goes wrong, I promise.

          • 1,000,000,000 people were not all trying to leave China because of one crackdown that killed around 600 although most of them were very cheesed off after five straight years of 20% inflation per year and an emerging entrepreneurial class forced to bribe civil service drivers to get their goods delivered (privately-owned vehicles were illegal until 1990).
            In 1984, a working wage was 300 yuan/month (arguably USD 30) but 75% of that was disposable income in a system with no income tax. By 1989, inflation had driven their disposable income into the dirt and folks were dipping into savings to cover daily living expenses. People started looking at the use of government vehicles for private purposes and connected that dot directly to the inflation: that was what was at the root of Tian ahhh men. At stake was grassroots demand to return to a socialist economy with stable prices and far cleaner government, something that Deng Xiaoping had no intention of doing.

          • I have had exactly the same experience. When you return to China you just show your Chinese passport. When your overseas, in my case the U.S., you use the U.S. passport. 
            Whatever passport your not using sits in the sock. Again, wife is Chinese also…

          • You said you’re British and your son is a dual citizen – how do you
            handle travelling to the UK? I heard that the UK wouldn’t give visas to
            people who also have a UK passport, which makes it basically impossible
            to travel directly between England and China (only showing the Chinese
            passport = no visa, can’t board the plane; only showing the UK passport =
            no Chinese visa, big fine for being in the country illegally; showing
            both passports = illegal dual citizen, also a big fine). Is my
            information wrong, or do you have to do something complicated like
            flying to Hong Kong and getting a separate flight there?

      • My wife’s a Chinese citizen, so it still applies. Any child she bears in the PRC is automatically given Chinese citizenship. Our first is a Chinese citizen, so the second would have put us in the illegal category. We skipped town and had no. 2 in the UK, so we have two sprogs of different nationalities.

        • Dude, your child is not born a Chinese citizen. Who told you that? Did you get them a passport from your country? Why not? Do you want them to need visa to go there? Again, China does not recognize dual nationality. If you did the foolish thing of registering your kids as Chinese….well good luck with that one. If you are putting them through public school because its free, i have to wonder what you are doing in China? If you ever need to leave China in a hurry, guess who is not going with you…..

    • What a ridiculous statement. Unless you renounced your nationality, your children carry your nationality and the family planning regulations do not apply to you. China does not recognize dual nationality, and thus is next to impossible that they were born Chinese. The family planning laws do not even apply to Hong Kong residents who are also clearly Chinese nationals. It’s no wonder you go around telling people you are Xiamenren, when you are not….because you have no clue what your are talking about. This is where the problems begin, and its this kind of impression that is left on local CHinese about all foreigners. You can live in China for 50 years and became a PRC national and you will always be “laoway.” 

      • Let’s try to be nice guys. My wife is also Chinese and we fall under similar regulations. What matters greatly is your wife’s Hukou.
        Remember that this is China, and the law doesn’t always apply equally, or even at all – especially as it concerns laowai.

      • Chinese society is actually very much akin to that of France: if you master the language and etiquette, you are very well accepted here.
        In both societies, a fine command of language reflects higher education and high education is venerated because that’s what builds civilization and civilization is a tangible commodity to both peoples.
        Add to that a nation with 56 official languages and vast cultural diversity. Villages as little as 10 km apart will speak different, mutually-incomprehensible dialects that have individually evolved over the millennia, along with customs and traditions specific to each given village. To take one example, my lawyer has a family tree that goes back 900 years and she’s never seen it — not shown to girls by tradition. No big deal to her but I can imagine some westerners bristling about it right now.
        I’m really sorry if this shatters the media-made archetype of an endless ocean of brainwashed robots all dressed in olive drab shouting “Long Live Mao!” at the top of their lungs, but that’s how it is in a society of 1.4 billion that’s had 5,000 years of evolution and diversification, egged on by the ups and downs of natural and manmade disasters.
        But in a sense, you’re right anyhow Lucifer. When you live abroad of your native culture for over two or three years, you’re never the same again. As I tell my students, it’s like being a fish that crawls up onto a beach and has to adjust there, so it evolves into a frog. But when it returns to the sea, it remains a frog and stuck between two worlds.

  8. I am not sure, but it seems a lot of people here drank the Koolaid. China is a very nationalistic and racist society. They even despise their own citizens of other ethnic groups. Most Chinese men who befriend a foreigner will always hold some suspicions of their foreign friend and these are reenforced though Chinese government sponsored propaganda. Chinese are taught to hate Japanese, even though the WWII generation is long dead, and America conspires to keep China down, and all blacks are black devils. In my 23 years in China, I have only found the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan to be truly normal people without built in prejudices about foreigners. Sure, you might have your Chinese friends, but go ahead and do business with them and see who ends up on the losing end of the stick. I can honestly say, that a lot of their prejudices  are not just implanted by the Party’s propaganda machine, but many of them are cultural too. They view all Caucasians as one suspicious group, and we are the source of all their ills. If you think I am overreacting, I will tell you that you have not lived worked, and dealt with Chinese in the mainland long enough.

    • I live in a small city of a million and an area of about 6 million
      according the the PRC. This area is known for tourism for Chinese. It’s a
      famous birthplace of a few notable poets. It’s extremely RICH. I don’t
      know how to express that more then capitalizing the word. Think of it as
      Shanghai without outside Chinese.  It’s closed, there is no foreign
      investment to speak of, and for the last 2.5 years I can count the
      amount of Westerns I have met on two hands. One if we only count people
      living here. They just had their 2500th year celebration.
      It’s a rich narrow minded community who treats anyone who does not speak
      the local language as suspect. It’s the most racist place I have ever
      been. They may not speak remarks out loud, but the looks, their actions,
      and everything else point towards it.
      My friend’s wife is from Northern China. She gave birth at a local
      hospital in this city. They were the rudest, non-helpful people you
      could ever imagine. The doctors left at 5, she was in labor, she had a
      epidural scheduled for 6. Again, the doc left at 5. Refused to come
      back. The nurses treated her and her mother like outsiders. But treated
      their roommates that were local like normal humans. It took a phone call
      to someone we know who have a high amount of guanxi to call the docs
      and get them to come back. 30 minutes later docs are back, nurses were
      asking how we know the guy that called, they treated my friend’s family
      like kings afterwards. They had private nurses, docs, etc. Everything
      taken care of.
      While that example may not be racist in itself it for sure shows how
      local communities treat outside Chinese as well as foreigners.
      Don’t get me started about the working environment here. The sand
      bagging, jealousy, of the foreign staff. Just happens just about
      everywhere sure. Not debating that. But to this degree is outright
      Anyway, the smaller and poorer the area the more welcoming they are. If you live in a rich area that mostly local, they look down on you, will not talk to you, and shove you under the bus whenever they can.
      Poor and narrow-minded is fine. You still can get respect through the money and guanxi you may have. Rich is fine as long as they are open minded and international. They might want to do business with you, or be interested in your culture. But rich and narrow-minded. It’s a very depressing situation to be in. Trust me.

      • Well, I live in a residential compound that belongs to my school. Most neighbors are school employees, ranging from cleaning staff to faculty chairs. Their spouses may be working anywhere.
        The few times I’ve needed hospital care, I was sometimes treated as a special guest; the other times, I was treated like everybody else — which seems akin to what happened to your wife.
        But yes, everything is about “connections” aka guanxi. Like most other places. Nothing unique about China here.
        Yes too, there is a class of nouveaux riche who are what they would be anywhere else. In 1992, in front of a hotel right next to the Royal Palace (aka Forbidden City), the parking lot was crammed with Bentleys and Rolls Royces. Well, they learned and now all you see are upscale sedans in black.
        In France, you see Serge Dassault, the narrow-minded heir to the aircraft maker founded by his most playfully brilliant and shrewd father, Marcel. Or folks like the advertising magnate Jean-Claude Decaux who once picked me up when I was hitchhiking. It was 1975 or so and I noticed the radiotelephone in the upscale sedan he was driving himself. Throughout our ride, he interviewed me, a blue-jean clad kid, aged 27, as if I were a precioius potential personal advisor.
        What can I tell you? You get all kinds.

  9. As a laowai, we sadly get what we deserve.
    For every decent foreigner in China, there are ten indecent ones. I’ve seen far too many adulterers, drug addicts, religious zealots, bigots, and opportunists to even for a minute entertain the argument that the Chinese wrongly suspect foreigners of poor intentions. It is called the 100 year humiliation for a reason… and sadly, to many, but not all foreigners much of the thinking that lead to China’s subjugation remains unmitigated and wholly intact.
    Within China I have never faced open bigotry from any Chinese person. Maybe I am fortunate, or maybe I, like a few other good guys, present the right foot forward.
    Learn the language, respect the culture, obey the laws, accept that this will never be your home, and you will likely have little issue.
    And this is from a guy whose favorite restaraunt is right smack dab in the middle of WuDaoKou.
    China exports junk goods to the rest of the world, the rest of the world seems to export human junk to China.
    My hats off to all the decent laowai in China, keep it up, and whenever you see a friend, colleague, or traveler seeking a qingren, sleeping around, partying too much, doing drugs – say something. For all our sakes, it is far easier to police ourselves, than to face 1.3 billion rightfully angry Chinese.
    For all white trash cluttering the streets of China, just because you are a failure at home, doesn’t give you the right to fly to the other side of the world, and take advantage of a kind but ignorant people. Do China and the West a favor and go home, get on welfare, and continue to lead the democracies of the world into oblivion. Your going to leave China eventually anyway. The sooner, the better.

    • First of all, who is this “we” that you’re talking about deserving what “we” get?  In treating non-Chinese in China as an undifferentiated mass, you’re using exactly the same logic as a racist.  Did my friend, who has lived here for over a decade, started a successful business, speaks fluent Chinese, doesn’t run around like a drunken idiot, etc. get what he deserved when some folks decided to assault him and his wife because they didn’t like a white guy being with a Chinese woman?  Please explain that a little more.
      And, “a kind but ignorant people”?  Really?  Sorry, you come off as fairly ignorant there yourself.

      • “to many, but not all foreigners””My hats off to all the decent laowai in China, keep it up”I treat no one as an undifferentiated mass. And I am not a racist. I am sorry that your friend and his wife were attacked. Such violence is inexcusable, but it should be expected considering the behavior of the overall foreign community in China. We all know that guy that refers to the Chinese as children. The guy who brags about sleeping with a different Chinese girl every night. We all know the ‘human rights activist’ who traveled half way around the world to fight communism instead of improving his own country. And the religious zealot that is hell bent on making sure that there is a repeat of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. And that is why we face such condemnation. Because laowai have a history of abusing China, a history that is continuing into modernity. And that is the problem. For all the good foreigners in China, there are a lot of not so good ones. Or a lot of very misguided ones. We can make this as personal as we want. Everyone has their own experiences. But you simply need to read the news or hang out in any expat circle to meet the people I’ve referenced above. I have seen people do things in China that would have landed a hefty prison sentence in their own country, and that is precisely the problem with our, the foreigner community – we allow behaviors that we would not allow in our own nations. We need to do a better job. For example, few expats speak Mandarin. That is also another hard fact. If a Chinese person comes to America they are given 0 leniency. Learn English, commit to the culture, or live in obscurity, or get the hell out. Yet, in China, because white skin buys you a lot of clout we get away with things that would never be tolerated stateside, and then because of these high profile bad eggs innocent good people like your friend get hurt. This is unacceptable and we must change.  It was only a matter of time until some smart Chinese blogger started uploading videos of foreigners doing terrible and unacceptable things (like putting feet all over a woman’s head, or even worse, attempting to rape a young Chinese girl). I wish I could say that I haven’t seen things like this in person, but then I would be a lair. The backlash to foreign abuse is long overdue. And if we wish to start bettering the relationship between the foreign community and China then we need to discourage the types of foreigners that crowd too many bars, parlor religion, and act like fools. China is not Thailand. We have a choice, we can do this ourselves, or we can get beaten up by angry Chinese people who cannot distinguish between one kind of foreigner and another, and get herded out of the country by a government under civic pressure. Policing ourselves is a far better option. As for my portrait as the Chinese as kind but ignorant, in a nation of 1.3 billion people that is 94% ethnically identical, with only 590,000 foreigners, most of whom live in Shanghai, it is not a stretch of the truth to say that your average Chinese person is ignorant as it concerns foreign culture. It is not an insult, it is a fact. This is why innocent people like your friend get attacked. Because to your average Chinese person, how can they tell the difference between your friend and a drunken, British Egyptian. That being said, there are always exceptions to the rule. Chinese people’s exposure to the international community is ever increasing. Every person is a person. But never forget that stereotypes exist for a reason. And that is precisely why we as a foreign community need to do a better job improving our own. 

          • What is shaky is all the hatred being spewed forth by Westerns on this forum. It is a perfect example of exactly to what I’m referring to. 

          • It’s hard for some folks to see communists managing a capitalist economy better than capitalists themselves when we’ve been told for decades that communism was all messed up and inefficient. It is harder still after all the triumphant cheers that when up when the USSR reincorporated as the Russian Federation and its Comecon allies all signed up for NATO as a prerequisite to EU membership.
            It’s really hard for some folks.

        • I’m having a very hard time believing you’re actually a westerner, maybe you just have an easy time with cognitive dissonance. “[N]ever forget that stereotypes exist for a reason. And that is precisely why we as a foreign community need to do a better job improving our own.” Replace laowai with mexican and you’d have something that could get you fired or socially ostracized in the US.

          • Or maybe I just have an easier time in China because I’m not a giant turtle egg. 
            If you must know I am a Texan, and I think I know a lot more about what can and cannot be said around Mexicans than you do. Especially considering half of my family is Tejano. You should see the looks my boots get on the Subway.  
            When you steep to personal attacks it really weakens your statements. What I am noticing from this post and the many above and below, is that we have two kinds of laowai on this website. The exact kind that is getting the foreign community into trouble and shouldn’t be in China. And the other kind like Arthur above – decent people. 
            I knew that saying what I was going to say would draw a lot of flak, partly because I also know that a lot of people do the exact types of things, or have in the past done the exact types of things I’ve listed. 
            And you insulting me and accusing me of being Chinese is a perfect example of the kind of attitude that is wrong with the foreign community. 
            I criticize the foreign community and you immediately accuse me of being a Chinese minder. 
            We need to be honest with ourselves and admit that all the drinking, sleeping around, disrespecting the local customs, and generally looking down on the Chinese population is not healthy and will only increase the number of negative interactions. 
            We must to do a better job. As as an honest Texas, I’m not going to couch my language or beat around the bush and play political correctness with any other foreigner. I’m going to shoot straight and tell it just like it is. And it’s just plain screwed up…

          •  I have no idea if Laowai4life is a Westerner but I subscribe to his or her views and my name googles nicely if you add “China” as a search term.
            One of the reasons I live here is that political correctness has replaced courtesy in the USA and I find that repressive — intellectually, politically and socially, as well as financially, as you point out yourself.

        • hmmm….I bet you are not aware that there are dozens of PRC national sin US prisons who are convicted of murder.,,,and many other vicious crimes. My favorite is the Chinese guy who cut his girl friend’s head off in the University cafeteria.

      • Well, there is resentment when an alien male in his 50s or 60s goes out with a young lady in her 20s or so: a good number of young Chinese males have trouble financing the fully-equipped home they and spanking new car they need before they can expect to be sure of finding a wife. There is resentment, but it’s very occasional and this is the first case of assault for simply being an interracial couple I’ve heard so far.
        Mind you, I do have the odd neighbor in my school residential compound who audibly mutters insults at women who visit foreign teachers in their homes. It happened to a 55-year-old friend of mine who put up with it for awhile until she’d had enough and then finally came along for coffee one afternoon in uniform. She’s a police officer and didn’t have to wear it twice to shut them up.
        But as a rule, violence is very rare. In your friend’s case, I would be looking for disgruntled ex-employees and business associates, or for competitors who feel he’s driving them toward bankruptcy. A lot of business is cooperative here: where in the West can you go into a restaurant, order a dish the proprietor has run out of and see that proprietor send their waiter out to buy it from the restaurant next door for you?
        About eight years ago, the local media reported a spate of assaults against Taiwanese businessmen who, alas, remain famous for treating Mainland employees like dirt. Indeed, Taiwan’s Foxconn is still in the learning curve about how to treat people here.

        • “There is resentment, but it’s very occasional and this is the first case of assault for simply being an interracial couple I’ve heard so far… But as a rule, violence is very rare.”
          I can think of 4 instances of people who I know, or friends of friends being assaulted in Beijing because they were white guys with Chinese (or, Asian American) women.  In every case, the women were assaulted as well – and two of them involved bottles being broken on people’s faces (both the men and women), and the other two involved people being thrown down on the ground and kicked repeatedly.  In another incident, a good Chinese American friend was roughly dragged off the dance floor of a club by the bouncer and warned not to dance with White guys (this is in a club, Late, that the US Embassy mentioned in an Email warning about attacks against Americans).  This is in the past 2 years.
          I understand that you have not encountered this in your time in China, and that’s great.  I’ve managed to avoid anything remotely resembling this as well.  But it happens.  

  10. That’s because foreigners only make up a tiny tiny percent of their population, and aren’t permanent immigrants. Let’s see how they deal with Western style multiculturalism…

  11. I have to agree entirely with the thrust of this article: I’ve lived here for nine years and only once did anyone get “anti-American” at me. In that case, the fellow was a Korean war veteran in his 80s and the year was 2003. He did go on and on ever so fiercely in my face at pointblank range about the use of chemical and biological weapons he experienced — something Washington continues to deny. With all that heat coming out of him, he couldn’t have been making it up or repeating newspaper content. Anyhow, I do have this one example.
    More specifically, I’ve been here for nine years now. Nobody has ever said a word to me about the US/UK invasion of Iraq, US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and a laundry list of other topics that might make you feel uncomfortable trying to defend or even condemn. The bedrock value of Chinese society is “harmony”; the US translation would be “keeping it mellow”.
    Personally, you can say I’ve been a professional immigrant for the past 47 years and in every case, I arrived solo and dependent entirely on my own resources to dig in and sort myself out. It was therefore easy to adjust to China. First, I came to learn, not to impose a product or special flavor of salvation. Second, I came to help, not to “save” China. Third, folks here are naturally politely outgoing and piqued by anything that miht teach them something. Fourth, you can call them outrageously nosy, but most of the time, the intention is to be helpful, to understand you better and maybe to pick up a tip or two from your life experience. Fifth, my white hair, teaching position and credentials as a translators are a boost to my social status while they would sooner be a drag to it in the West. Sixth, in tighter moments, you would never hear anyone say “There’s nothing personal about this but…”; this society has, I think, takes the integrated approach because it realizes how much the one affects the other.
    Most Westerners who go wrong here owe it to arrogance. Whether they consciously come with a “mission” to “save” or simply operate on the subconscious assumption that they are smarter, more advanced and more liberated from propaganda and oppression than the local people, then rejection is the predictable outcome so either they leave or they end up in a narrow circle of likeminded expats who huddle together for beer only to trade stories about how stupid the locals are.
    And when you get confrontational, nobody wants anything to do with you anymore; if you have a conflict, then get out of the situation politely and look for a middleman to plead your case. If you push it, you might secure a tactical victory but you’ll be sorry when payback time rolls around.
    My own experience resonates nicely with Jean, Laowai4life and Phil H and in the conflicts I’ve seen between expat and Chinese, I have to say the police have been too nice by the highest of Western standards: in most cases, you’re off the hook for a first misdemeanor or fistfight if you just apologize sincerely and cover the cost of any damages you caused. Maybe it’s partly because most officers are armed only with a uniform and cellphone link to the crime information center, so it sharpens your negotiating skills, which get better as your capacity for empathy increases. The other part is that they love the arrest paperwork as much as any colleague on any other force in the world and when you arrest an alien, it means extra forms to fill in and circulate to more levels of your chain of command.
    In defence of Westerners however, I have to say that, apart from the trash, those who get in trouble are basically decent guys at home but they just don’t have the mental agility to get their heads around a new culture and language or to merely adjust their lifestyle. In the case of others, they become even more rigid than they were because, when they see China firsthand, it is so different from everything they ever saw on TV and read about the country, that to accept a change of attitude and views is tantamount to admitting to yourself that your own information media has been feeding you one long lie since the day you learned how to turn on a TV set. And that’s just too much for some folks to swallow.

  12. It’s an absurd debate started with the intention of deflecting attention from the increasingly dysfunctional and divided communist party that can agree on only one thing: we don’t want foreigners bossing us around.

  13. Yang Rui is a disgrace and should be fired. It’s not credible to have an open nationalistic and racist hosting international media that purports to represent China’s opening to the world. Fortunately his attitudes are pretty rare…

  14. Sent out today by the US Embassy. The nightclub mentioned is Elements, another terrible club at Gongti West Gate, next to Lantern. Hope there is more press on this and a boycott of the club if the attack was indeed as presented. 
    From: AmCitBeijing
    Subject: Message for U.S. Citizens: Precaution Advised in Beijing Nightclubs
    Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 12:35 AM
    In the early morning hours of Saturday, June 9, a group of localnationals assaulted an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing insidethe Element nightclub, located on the west side of Workers’ Stadium nearSanlitun.  The employee, who was out with some colleagues, was hit inthe head with a sharp object as he was dancing away from the group.According to witnesses, the employee fell to the floor and wasrepeatedly beaten and kicked in the head by individuals serving asbouncers for the nightclub.  By all accounts, the attack was unprovoked.

  15. Here is a reality check for all the Chinese parents who want to educate their children in the West.  That door is closing rapidly for numerous reasons, and the U.S. State Department informed all universities not to accept any Chinese student application that comes from an “agency” due to rampant cheating.  The Chinese value our educational system without the slightest value on our culture.  They will always see themselves as superior to any other race, and I have seen “in your face racism” when I showed students a “fashion slide show” to teach clothing vocabulary.  The first model was African American and the entire class said they disliked her dress.  I asked why?  They said because she doesn’t have white skin.
    China has slashed foreign teachers salaries in half, they all got their contracts this month and my estimate is 50% of them are leaving, I’m gone on Friday.
    China has managed (on an educational level due to corruption inside the schools) to piss off both the U.K. and Australia by firing the foreigner academic directors (who abide strict examination policies) and replacing them with Chinese managers who leak the questions to the students in advance.
    Because in China, it’s only the score that counts, not honestly learning your subject.  The door works both ways.  Chinese students will be finding cold receptions at Western embassies when they apply for a student visa.
    Bye bye, you get what you pay for.  You don’t want to pay for foreign experts, you can teach each other English, and we all know how well you are at that!  NOT!

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