fakeemall.jpgI’ve decided that years of having really crap State-controlled TV has taken a huge toll on the populous population of China. It has caused near all 1.3 billion inhabitants of the PRC to view the world around them as nothing but an uncontrollable, intangible source of entertainment.

It would seem to me that a numbness has overcome the gross majority of this nation and that when not directly involved in the situation around them, it all glosses over and an ignorant shroud cloaks them into thinking that the entire macrocosm exists simply in their being.

Having to venture out of the little oasis of my apartment a lot lately for hospital trips, I’ve been forced to revisit ‘China’ and forced to realize how much it disagrees with me and why I’ve been hiding from it. If it’s not the asshole that’s decided to stand in the doorway (of every doorway ever constructed in this country) thinking that it was built just for his leaning, it’s the visitor of a patient talking to another visitor in decibels that would make Spinal Tap proud, while seriously ill and in need of rest patients grumble but say nothing.

And when it’s not abounding ignorance to their surroundings, it’s a complete antipathy for getting involved.

Not getting involved but happy to watch is a past-time in this country like no other. There are no shortage of tales from expats about seeing twisted car wrecks accompanied by a massive (and equally twisted) crowd of people staring with morbid amusement while not so much as dialing three numbers to help. I’ve seen domestic violence carried out with an abeyant audience of double-digits. I posted near exactly a year ago on how laowai are punished for getting involved, so that excuses (to some extent) us… but fuck… what’s the Chinese excuse? Liability? Legality? Repercussions of some other sort? Lack of desire to grow a pair? Lack of knowledge that this, in fact, is what they should do? What?

Now perhaps I’m being insensitive to the Chinese, and perhaps I’m bordering on racism lumping such a large (and pseudo-diverse) group of people together – I’ve watched the BBC special, the CBC special … I saw the interviews with people who do care, people who are welcome additions to the human race … they do exist. It’s just unfortunate that none of them were standing in the gawking crowd of people at Dalian’s Victory Square when my friend T and her sister were assaulted.

“[We] were walking over the escalator down to victory plaza when a dirty middle-aged Chinese man in a black jacket came up to me and tried to grab my water bottle away.

There are people in China who collect plastic bottles to sell back to somebody, recycling plants, I suppose. Thinking this man might be one of those (though he admittedly didn’t have the usual bag), I pulled my bottle out of his grasp and held it up so he could see there was still quite a bit of water in it. This is usual enough to get such people to leave you alone, but this guy saw my watch and made a grab for it. I wrestled my arm away with a stern “no” (a quick side note for those questioning why I’d be speaking English at this point: Chinese doesn’t really have a universal “no” like English does, so I couldn’t figure out which of the many Chinese verbs floating through my head to negate—“no” was just easier). The man then decided to go after my sister who also wriggled away.

At this point, we were in a very crowded area outdoors (for those in the know, we were in the plaza outside New Mart at the escalator by the Daphne shoe store), approaching a very crowded escalator. There were no shortage of people watching us the entire time because people are always staring at foreign girls, so there would have been no shortage of people watching us speed up, watching this man follow us, watching him swing his arm, and watching as he hit me directly in the face. There was also no shortage of people watching as I began screaming my head off, as the man made a swing for my sister, as she ducked, and as he finally walked away.”

In the post she mentions that the experience has unfortunately tainted her feelings about staying in China, and rightfully so. I keep looking for reasons to stay in this country now that the DVD thing has grown old and the cheap beer thing has lost its taste… and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find one. Well, there is one, and she’s currently trying to will herself to sleep in a room full of women completely oblivious to the fact that sick people need rest, not conversations about the price of cucumbers delivered with constant fortissimo.


  1. Pingback: The Hao Hao Report

  2. How common are attacks like that? I always thought that in general China is pretty safe. I can understand that there are always shady areas in any city/large population, but in general do you have to fear for your life? Fear of getting mugged?

    That does suck though. It seems pretty apparent that the guy was desperate to get anything he could from them. He probably wasn’t expecting them to fight back though.

  3. I’ve never had much fear of it, but in general I don’t. I’ve walked the streets of several of the world’s largest cities at night and not been overly concerned – so, perhaps I’m the wrong guy to ask.

    However, I’ve definitely heard more about women being hassled than men. Another friend of mine from Dalian was mugged while she was living down in Shenzhen. As “safe” as China is claimed to be, I think as foreigners we’ve got a bit more of a target on our back.
    1) It’s easier to rip off someone you have no cultural bond with.
    2) It’s easier to rip off someone you feel won’t be able to adequately take disciplinary action.
    3) It’s easier to rip off someone you feel can afford to lose whatever you want to take from them.
    4) It’s easier to rip off someone you’re pretty certain has something to rip off.

  4. Haha… yeah. The “fa ke” thing comes from my buddy Matt. Back in the Dalian/Jinzhou days we’d come up with creative messages to each other using Chinese characters to make up English phonetics.

    And the Dante you’re thinking of is not the Dante I’m quoting.

  5. Some 40,000 Chinese were jailed for theft involving violence or assualt (grabbed from a motorbike, etc) in Guangzhou last year alone! It is not just a laowai thing…

    Sorry you went through that…

    I had money snatched from my hands near the Forbidden City about a year ago….But, I am a 6th dan in Hapkido….I put the man in a wrist lock and dropped him to the ground…It was a Kodak moment…After the initial shock, he ran away and the gawkers moved on…

  6. We Chinese ourselves thinks we are not safe in some big cities. How could you?
    Although this kind of things seldom happened to me, but i do believe this things will happen to me probabaly few seconds later.

    I have no chance to travel to the Dalian. I am in Shenzhe. In Shekou district of Shenzhen, there are maybe more foreigners and policemen. You may choose stay in Shenzhen and travel to Hong Kong.

    Next time, if you feel you cannot manage, do not fight, remember just give up. The bad guy may hurt you more in an mixed mood of being scared,eager to escape, and being insulted by you. You konw, a gun or knife will make the bad guy think themsevlves the God or emperor who hold can determine your life.

    As for those damned audience, you konw some Chinese only care for their own life and safety, some are too shy to extend help to man speaking the language they could not understand, and some eager to learn english and befriending foreigner learned from website that a few foreigners think they are uneducatd and brainwashed.
    Why would they help? In china, most heros who are hurt and handicapped in their bravery deeds have to pay the hospital fee themselves. The government reluctant to support all of these hero. The city level government want the town level government to support, and the town level government want the village government support. At last, they draw a conclusion, they should not pay the bonus because the hero is hurt serverl days later by retorsion instead of being on spot. Like a man survive in his heroical deeds to put out the neighbor’s fire, but dead when went his home. His car accident in nothing with his heroical deeds. The Chinese government do not pay for the heroic deeds in most cases.

    Cordially wish your sister will soon recuperate and you will find your happy place again!

  7. In the Mao Zedong period, such thing will never happen. Today, people in China are better off but much more material,pratical, and self-centered. They do not believe Mao Zedong’s communism and they also have not yet developed a set of morals for such an commercial society. They are neither the typical pure and simple-minded Chinese in Mao period nor the moden American people.

  8. To the Dude responsible for this blog,

    Thank you.

    My deepest thoughts/feelings…or whatever they have become, are not alone anymore. I have a love/hate relationship with my China. Here’s the latest: I attend a very high end gym in Beijing. Yesterday I finished my workout, went to the locker-room, and began the process of changing clothes. Ten feet to the right of the lockers is a section with mirrors, a scale, hair dryers placed on a counter which is about hip level, and of course the self-standing human size microwave machine, in front of which naked men with ridiculously small packages contemplate themselves, and “save” paying 3 RMB for a new towel, so they just stand there for 10 minutes.

    After a year of being a member of this club, I am used to seeing things that in the western world would seem outrageous…but yesterday I saw a new one: As I’m getting ready to leave my locker, I decided to walk to the area with the mirror, hair dryers, and scale. I wanted to check my weight. As I turn the corner I see a naked man standing facing the wall to wall mirror with the hair dryer on high power sitting on the counter and pointing at his pecker. I stood there in complete disbelief (others might think I’m gay or something like that) as this man (oriental) is brushing his hair ( the hair on the head above his ears) while the hair dryer is cooking his pea size “thingie”.
    I turned around and left the scale for another day.
    Speechless…only questions…why? why? why?

  9. I have been reading trip advisor about travelling in China and it does not have anything like what you have here. Usually I travel alone but it had been to English speaking countries or countries where English is widely spoken. Now I am thinking hard after reading your blog. Would you say it wise of me to go to China on my own, then buy a tour package there, or go in a tour group from home or don’t come? Don’t worry about being biased.

  10. @Belle: Definitely come! There are few places on the planet that are so difficult to go to alone that they should be avoided. Definitely take this post with a grain of salt — as the category says, it’s a rant and should be read as such.

    My only suggestion when travelling in China is to dig deep into the well of patience, and take it all as it comes. It’s a pretty wild ride.

  11. Just came across this through the recent comments and see it’s from 2006. And we’re all still here 🙂

    @Belle – absolutely come, these kinds of incidents are really few and far between and most people are extremely friendly and patient.

    As happens to everyone, I’ve been experiencing an increasing wave of frustration with life here. Not with necessarily ‘big’ things like physical safety or jobs, etc. but with the ‘small’ things like internet freedom, the incessant pettiness of the censors and having to constantly skirt certain subject.

    That said, I’ve totally reached grumpy old man/cat lady status and would most likely be a curmudgeon in any country I lived in.

  12. Ah hah, I thought just as much. Westerners are just so impatient. It took 20 odd years for China to embrace consumerism, may be in 20 years, they might give up censorship 🙂 … definitely more cost effective.

    I do plan to visit China and hope to focus on the positive side of the trip. But it’s good to read some scary stuff so that I shan’t become complacent. One thing that I can’t stand is people discussing oneself when they know I can’t understand them ( but know they are discussing me). The Chinese do this all the time, it’s so bad mannered. But some years ago a couple of British guys who claimed to be Oxford graduates discussed me in bad French. If I wasn’t in such a good mood, they would have heard a few choice French words I knew. So disappointing, being from an ex British colony, I thought only high class people go to Oxford…

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