Thursday, August 5, 2010

What I Will Not Miss About China

So last time I wrote about the aspects of China that I will miss. But everything has pros and cons, right? While living in China, there were definitely some things that really bothered me.


It's no secret that there are over 1.3 billion people living in China. This creates congestion everywhere - in stores, in the streets, in schools. Buses and subways are always packed to the maximum amount of individuals possible without someone being crushed to death. At the Sam's Club in Shenzhen, on busy days sometimes there aren't enough shopping carts for all the customers. Traffic jams are a frequent and unavoidable consequence for city
dwellers and country residents alike.

Because there are so many people, each individual has to look out for himself. It is a dog-eat-dog world out there. People generally are impatient and will cut in line or push you out of the way. Most people are quite suspicious and therefore not friendly or welcoming to strangers. Both literally and metaphorically, if you let someone else get ahead, it only causes you to fall further and further behind. Of course, there are many exceptions to the rule, and once people get to know you they will treat you like family.

Environmental Degradation

I have written about China's environment before. It is hard to balance every individual's desire for a higher standard of living with the subsequent impact on the environment. My grandfather believes that right now China is just going through its development and afterwards the environment will improve. But the people and the government will never be satisfied with a set level of development. It is human nature to always want more once you have achieved your initial goal. Now your family may have a washer to do laundry, but wouldn't a dryer make life much easier as well?

In many cities that I visited, the air was heavy and the sky was smoggy and gray. There was a stunning lack of green grass and large trees. People tossed trash on the sidewalks without a second thought. Little kids relieved their bladders in the streets. Empty Styrofoam ramen noodle containers floated in rivers.

Additionally, people smoke everywhere - in cars, in restaurants, on buses and trains. Since regulations are so stringent in the U.S., it had been so long since I had actually inhaled cigarette smoke. At first I tried holding my breath every time I passed by a smoker, but I quickly realized this was probably the faster way to die, considering some of my own relatives smoked regularly.

Lack of Diversity

I have never fully appreciated how diverse the United States is, in terms of both race and culture as well as in perspectives and ideologies. Even in a relatively homogeneous place where I live (as compared to New York or Los Angeles), I can still find every single race represented, and people all along the political spectrum. It is easy for me to go to a public location and hear Chinese or Spanish spoken.

In China, outside of the more worldly cities such as Beijing, foreigners are a sight to be stared at. As soon as a foreigner walks into view, whispers commence about their hair color or their stature. It is very awkward, especially since most of the foreigners are fluent in Chinese. Some citizens are even brave enough to ask to have their picture taken with the said foreigner. Of course, though Chinese people may be one race, they can have very different appearances - short, tall, slender, pudgy, wide or narrow faced, large or small featured, etc.

Most Chinese citizens also have the same general opinions about politics and issues such as Taiwan and the U.S. This is the result of state-controlled media and education system. This reason is probably why most people do not talk of politics in everyday conversation. After all, what is the point in discussing if you already agree? I think this might start changing with the younger generation, especially with the rise in Internet usage. Though there are censors on certain websites, the government cannot possibly shield its citizens from all controversial information. We will see what will happen in the future.


  1. From what I'm reading, China seems similar to the US in a lot of ways. They are immensely different of course, but they both seem to encourage expansionist lifestyles which aren't maintainable, and it wouldn't be entirely unfair to say that the media in China and the US guides its people (possibly creating "variety" within their own planes of thought, though similar from a third-person perspective), and what your grandfather said reminded me about America's belief that technology will solve everything. Aside from the obvious setting in China, this reminded me a lot of the US. Dog-eat-dog, crammed streets and buses, strange things happening in the streets, and locals gawking at foreigners who speak the local language (English to us and Mandarin to them). Reminds me of Philadelphia or New York.

  2. That dog-eat-dog mentality is definitely true...and a lot of people I know here from Mainland China still seems to have that attitude, even in America. But then, the American attitude can be pretty individualistic, too.

    I hate the censorship in China...and my friend (who is Chinese too) just visited and said people really do not care about politics at all because they don't think it really affects them.

  3. China is definitely becoming similar to the U.S. because it wants to "catch up" in terms of technology and standard of living. But I think we have to keep in mind that there are way more people in China that are still living a very impoverished life, so the issue is even more complicated. We want them to have a nice life but at the same time based on current conditions if those people all had modern conveniences it would damage the environment even more.

  4. True, there are a lot of differences, such as the population issue. I guess that looking at any case makes one want to draw allusions to global issues, or even more likely an issue at home, like the US and expansionism/pollution... Can't wait to go to China some day!