Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Living in China in These Turbulent Times- Chinese Living

Posted by w_thames_the_d on February 26, 2011


I have been in China for over three years now, and have seen a bit but not as much as many others in the center country. But one thing that many ask me about is what life is like in China and how it feels to live under the thumb of the communist dictators, especially at this point in time. So I will answer this with a two-part response.

The question is somewhat difficult to answer. The first question is about life in China in general. The answer is that it really depends. I live in Beijing, so to me it’s one of the safest cities I have ever been in. The police only come out to shake down the illegal taxis or local craftsman who sell their wares on the streets, or to beat on our doors and demand to see our documents or stop is in our lobbies, demanding the same. Other than these minor irritations, they are a non-entity.
The problem in China is what you don’t see, it’s the ‘hidden big brother’ that surrounds us. As an example, a good friend of mine was leaving my place the other day. The Chinese think she’s Korean due to her looks, but she’s not. The local taxis out front asked her if she needed a ride and she walked by, speaking in Mandarin, a language they thought she didn’t understand, they proceeded to talk about the fact that she is Korean and a flight attendant and then discussed how she was my friend etc (she is a flight attendant and much of what they knew of her was true, and neither of us socialize with anyone in our neighborhood, thus their knowledge of her was scary). To me this is a scary example of how the Chinese keep an eye on the foreigners in their little villages and buildings. I was told when coming here that this was true. I was told that the cops actually will ask the locals, how we are behaving, if we are partying too much and even heard they will ask if the foreigners are keeping too much company with Chinese women. A very good friend of mine who has an over-active libido, has actually had some problems do to his prurient interests in the local women. Another friend had the cops regularly coming to his place to inspect it as they believed he partied too much. This is a fact of Chinese life. You will and are constantly under the microscope, and no matter how much you try to fly under the radar, due to the nature of Chinese,it is impossible.
That is Chinese living for we the foreigners. For Chinese it is worse. They are under constant scrutiny by each other and are belittled for any shortcoming. They are caddy and unloving and quite shallow.
They have no rights in China and as I posted earlier, a hum..an rights prof from China University of Political Science and Law ‘disappeared’ with two other h.u.man rights profs, last week. You may call this scary, I call it living in China. I report, you decide.

To answer the second part of the question I would say that being a foreigner in Beijing now, you feel safe. I use that term in the present tense, for one can constantly feel the ‘big brother’ effect and although they smile at you today, you get the feeling not to let your guard down. For instance, I say Beijing is peaceful , as it is today, but each year China literally has millions of protests, so being here I am somewhat isolated from that. But when you go to a place like Chongqing, you get a feel for the utter lawlessness of China and how little power the people have. I lived in Paraguay in the late 90’s when they had a bit of political unrest, tons of poverty and problems and some places in China feel the same.
Another caveat in the statement that I feel safe, is that we all have to remember that up until the mid 70’s China was still in the throes of the cultural revolution where millions Chinese died for no real reason. When one considers this little factoid, it makes one wonder just what this place would look like, should there be any form of unrest as we have seen in other places….
Much of the reality of what I have seen, I cannot share as of yet. Once back in the sanctity of my humble abode in the land of breathable air and drinkable milk, I will be more ‘detailed’ about what life here is like.

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