During lunch, the conversation veered towards the Chinese people… this was an opportunity for me to learn / understand them better. It started because someone explained that having spent time in China and being married to one (which qualifies him to comment), he explained that outwardly, the Chinese appear compliant to authority but inwardly, they are crafty and always finding ways to beat the system for personal gain. My assumption was that as they have been under Communist rule for so long, I imagined that the authoritarian rule would ensure its people are disciplined and obediant.
My asumption was corrected when he explained his observation, which is that while the world is given this image that the Chinese people love their country, the reality is different. The Chinese are aware of the “truth” that happens in their government but as long it does not affect them personally, they do not have an opinion about the matter. It is only when it affects them personally that they would be motivated to correct the injustice they have suffered. I got the impression that everyone is for him/herself, which I find contradicts with my assumption of communism.
My first real opportunity to observe and form an opinion of the Chinese was during my recent visit to Macau. Unfortunately it was not a kind impression – I checked into a 5 star hotel and was greeted by the smell of smoke. Several guest were smoking liberally, despite there being conspicuous “no-smoking” signs all over the hotel. They smoke everywhere as-if it is their homes, with no regards for others. Occasionally if you’re unlucky, you would enter the elevator to find clouds of smoke and walk out, smelling as-if you were a smoker. Next observation – they have no regard for queues and think nothing of cutting infront of you. You’re ignored if you make a fuss and you end up feeling like an idiot for ranting over something small. Now imagine it happening to you, several more times.
For someone who hasn’t even visited China, I’ll admit that my perception is flawed, definitely inbalanced. For sure, there will be many Chinese who are better than the ones I’ve observed but my perception was formed from observation of its people Outside China. Maybe, when they are back in China, they are perfectly decent and law-abiding, don’t smoke indiscriminately because that could mean a fine or worst, jail time. Or maybe, in China it is perfectly acceptable to jump queues and smoke anywhere. Everyone’s perception of social norms may differ, shaped by their environment.
In his attempt to explain why the Chinese are the way they are, someone asked me to imagine being repressed for most of my life. And then to get a chance to experience what it feels like to live freely, without the kind of restrictions that you’ve only known… how would you behave?