Editor’s note: This opinion piece, translated from ifeng.com and a shining example of Occidentalism, was written by Yao Shujie, a professor of contemporary Chinese studies at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. The article lists aspects of life in China that are apparently envied by foreigners.
It is an interesting depiction of this Chinese professor’s view of China in relation to the West, and what Chinese citizens who do not have the opportunity to go abroad may be led to believe about Western societies.
I’ve heard the story many times before: so-and-so went abroad and is not coming back. In China, we often envy foreign countries with their tidy streets, orderly traffic and behavior. However, at the same time, foreigners are very envious of us, the Chinese people. This is a true fact!
I have an English friend that says over and over again how he thinks Chinese food is the best cuisine in the world. When I go to lunch with my German friend or my English friend they both know the phonetic writing for a few dishes and can order easily at an a la carte restaurant. They really enjoy the ease of this. All my foreign friends also like knock off and cheap products. They use Taobao to buy cheap goods or even travel to Guangdong to buy manufactured goods like bags, shoes, and even food to bring home as a gift. Latin Americans have told me they appreciate that you can go to a hospital without an appointment and see a doctor within a short period of time. They like that if you are sick you can go directly to the hospital to get the medicine you need. There are many other examples of this: China has many things that foreigners should be envious about!
Law and Order
I have friends from the United States and Sweden that have remarked on China’s firm maintenance of good law and order. No one in China carries firearms. You can walk around or go out at night without ever feeling unsafe.
The War on Drugs
This is something that has benefited the entire country but is especially good for foreigners living in China. There has recently been increasing drug use in China amongst the more crooked in society. One of my foreign friends recently told me that he felt that China’s harsh crackdowns on drug use and sale are very good. He said that he had heard a rumor that if you are caught with drugs in China you are immediately shot, even if you are wealthy or a high ranking official. I do know now if this rumor is true, but it indicates that the domestic crackdown on drugs is extremely harsh which means that it is a strong deterrent for criminal activity.
In Europe, courier or delivery services are very expensive. My European friends told me that at home they usually have to go to the supermarket to buy everything. The supermarkets in Europe close early so the whole thing is not especially convenient. In China, courier and delivery services are extremely cheap, which makes life more convenient.
Movies Many foreigners download pirated movies in China. I have taught many of my friends how to do it using domestic software. Sometimes there are issues with this. One time, we tried to download the software but it did not work in Portuguese and just came out in a bunch of garbled text. When it works correctly, downloading these movies makes my foreign friends very happy. I usually help them download movies or show them websites that stream movies and television with English subtitles for no charge. This makes them so happy!
Generally Low Prices
I have a friend from England who works in China as an English teacher. He originally planned to spend one year in China but has now lived in the country for four or five years. He said that China is a good place to live because the people are friendly and the prices are low, especially for clothing.
People Don’t Want to Leave
My girlfriend’s sister, a very beautiful girl, was studying abroad in Germany and fell in love with a German man. The two dated and were engaged while living in Germany. They had originally planned to live in Germany, but visited her relatives in China during the New Year and to have a Chinese style wedding. In the end, after six months in China, her German husband did not want to leave. He enjoyed living in her small city and said that he was very happy living there every day. He liked spending time with her family and going to the market. He said that the place was very safe, people were friendly, warm and easy to get along with and life was very convenient. He could not think of a better place to live!
Malls Open Late
In Australia, and many other countries, large shopping malls close as early as six p.m. Some countries have certain days of the week the mall will be open until ten p.m., but it is not open that late every day. In China, most malls have very late hours, which makes it very convenient to go shopping.
I mentioned this before, but it is worth talking about again. One of my Canadian friends always talks about how much he likes that there are no guns allowed in China. It makes the country so safe!
Traffic Light Countdown Displays
China’s traffic lights display the number of seconds left for those who are crossing or waiting to cross the street. Many foreign countries do have this, making it more inconvenient for pedestrians.
A Big Place to Explore
The Japanese often admire how much land China has. A Japanese teacher once asked me how a train to Xinjiang could take so long. They did not believe that the train trip could possibly take two whole days. I finally convinced them that the stretch of land between the two cities was indeed that big. The teacher, with this knowledge, sighed and said, “Wow, China is really big.”
Foreigners who are able to experience the high-speed rail in China are very lucky. The trains run directly from one station to another, it is a very efficient way to travel. You have to experience it yourself to understand, but when sitting in the car, the train really does feel as fast as lightening. When foreigners sit in or see the trains go by, they are usually amazed at the speed. Their jaws drop and they are shocked. Then, they wonder when their own countries will get trains that are this fast.
Cities If you have been on the dirty subways of New York City or the trash-filled alleys of Paris, you will be able to appreciate the serenity and peacefulness of China and Chinese cities. At least in China, you do not have to worry about being pushed into the tracks from the edge of a train platform or worry about being out alone at night. Many good, clean, small cities have now developed throughout China. These cities are clean and beautiful, with enough police on the roads to enforce safety and security. In China, you can wander around bustling downtown areas, and take clean and safe taxis without worrying about being robbed or raped.
Efficiency in a Health Crisis
In a video that I made, a foreigner made a comment about the period in which SARS was a crisis in China. He said that if students had a temperature over thirty seven degrees they would be immediately rushed to an isolated area by an ambulance. This would not be done as efficiently in many other countries.
Other Countries Aren’t That Great
In England, the weekends are boring, shops close early and the food is unpalatable. British punks and hooligans go out and throw bottles into crowds when their soccer teams lose and the police have to come and break up the scuffle. In the Netherlands, cities are small and walkable but depressing. However, they are very clean. Italy is very dirty. Roman architecture is very beautiful but other parts of Italy are unbearable. I have also been to the United States and I found it very boring. You cannot go anywhere without a car unless you go somewhere famous like Las Vegas.
On top of this, in many foreign countries, being sick is a hassle. Unless it is an emergency, you must make an appointment and you usually cannot see a doctor until the next day. Sometimes you have to wait up to a week. I really do not understand how this is possible in countries with universal health insurance.
An Australian friend once told me that he felt like there were no public information or customer service apps or phone services that he could use in his countries. But, in China, when he was lost he could call 114 and ask for a way to find the nearest bus. There are many other services and apps that can check nearby dining, entertainment, help purchase tickets and help with many other things. Is there anything else in Australia besides the basics like Google Maps? My Australian friend said that there were public information services available but they used robotic answering services that were difficult to understand.