Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 22

An amazing thing occurred two days ago, but I did not celebrate it with a blog post as I had planned.  I am just trying to make it through these last few days of class, and it's taken up most of my energy.  Two days ago was August 24 and also 24 days until we depart China.  Since 24 is my lucky number, it was an auspicious day.  (We’ve talked before about my number superstition, and even though I say 24 is my lucky number because Nickelodeon was channel 24 when I was a kid, the real reason is that it is so eminently divisible.  2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, it’s a very accommodating number.  24 in a math problem is an act of mercy from deity of math textbooks.) Today is 22 which is also lucky because it is doubles, and if we were playing Monopoly I could roll again or get out of jail.

And, hmmm.  Get out of jail.  That sounds good right about now.  Let’s get real, people.

I’ve tried to be pretty upbeat on this blog.  Another reason I haven’t posted much in the last couple days is that I’ve been practicing the Thumper Method of blogging, “If you can’t say something nice then just go hang out on Pinterest instead.”  The truth is, though, I have as many bad things to say about China as I do good things.  I’m burnt out, kids.  Maybe that’s a well kept secret or maybe you’re all thinking “thank goodness she finally said it” but it’s the truth.  Our primary motivation for coming back to the US is that we are both burnt out on this country.

The reasons are many and various, some trivial, some humorous (like today when I described a spider as “what has eight legs and is terrifying?”) and some reasons that are, well, terrifying.  I have been pondering them all heavily within my soul, but today I feel like letting a few out.  If you’re Chinese or a big fan of China you may be bummed out by what I have to say, but this is how I feel and I don’t apologize for it.

First of all, today I got on the bus and was treated to a shouting—no, screaming—no, shrieking match between two woman accompanied by two children and a man with his son.  The two women got on the bus and told the man and his son that they should give up their seats because their children were younger than his.  
Why they picked on him I don’t know.  He was sitting in priority seating, and it is both a rule and good manners on Chinese buses to give up your seats for parents accompanied by young children.  The man was accompanied by a boy about twelve, the woman with children perhaps seven years old.  

I don’t know why no one else offered to give up their seats, or why they fixated on this man and his son, but what really scalded my bacon was that once the moms started shouting, the kids joined in.  Kids.  Elementary-age kids shouting at a man on the bus.  I heard one of the kids say, “She’s sick, you have to give up your seat.”  Disgusting.  I wish I could be a fly on the wall when those two kids go back to school next week and the moms learn that they are bullying other children.

Then of course there’s this mess with the Islands.  The Islands go by various names, and are claimed by Mainland China (the PRC) Taiwan (the RC) and Japan.  It’s a hot issue now.  Islands have changed hands in treaties in the past, but it’s not exactly clear if the Islands have been included with other islands that have changed hands.  There are various documents and maps and records throughout history indicating that these islands belong to one country or the other.  The Islands (which go by several names, which is why I am simply calling them the Islands) were administered by the US up until a treaty gave their administration over to Japan.  Though China has sporadically claimed the Islands as theirs, things didn’t start getting really noisy until the 70’s, when some treaty or other said that the country that owns the Islands owns all the oil reserves beneath them.  Cha-CHING!

Anyway, all of that is actually fine with me.  Lands have been disputed throughout time, and often it ain’t pretty.  What is making me itchy, though, is how the Chinese are going about it.  A little while ago a boatload of Chinese (mostly from Hong Kong, says Peter) set out for the Islands intending to plant a flag on the largest of the Islands.  You know, because that will solve everything.  Boy, that will really show those Japanese!  

That move in itself was not really very inspired, and what followed was predictable: the flag-bearers were arrested.  Japan administers the Islands, and they’ve been more vigilant since the whole dispute heated up.  My students are flabbergasted.  They were arrested!  They weren’t given any water!  They were treated like prisoners!

I should add here that China still has a continent-sized chip on it’s shoulder when it comes to Japan.  The feud is age-old, but when you (well, I) press most Chinese people into saying why, they say either than Japan waited too long to apologize for the rape of Nanjing, or that Japan has not yet sufficiently apologized.

I would pay a large amount of the money I don’t have for a chance to interview these Chinese flag-bearers.  Did you think the Japanese wouldn’t notice you?  Did you think they’d say, “Oh, it IS your Island, let’s just pack up our stuff and move on?” Did you think they’d invite you in for sushi?  How did you think your little flag trick was going to help the situation?

What amuses me most is that, although Taiwan claims the Islands—and, to be clear, Taiwan claims the Islands belong to Taiwan and not to the PRC, because Taiwan is not a part of the PRC—no one is saying anything about that here.  I think most Chinese don’t know about it, but those that do daren’t speak up against it.  Protesting Taiwan’s claim to the Islands would be acknowledging that Taiwan claims to be not-China.  I guess for now the PRC only wants to argue over the one set of Islands.

I could go into more detail about the dispute itself, the history, or the things I’ve heard the Chinese say about it, but it all boils down to childishness.  It’s no difference than those women making a scene on the bus, and what is worse is that this mindset is being passed on to younger generations.

Furthermore, though the Chinese are adamant about their rights to the Islands and their love for their country, a poll on the popular social networking site Weibo asked this question, “If your child were born on the Islands and could choose a nationality, which nationality would you choose for your child: the PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Japan?”  Though they protest their rights adamantly, the majority of respondents to the poll chose a nationality other than the PRC.  (Read the article here

What does that mean?  The Chinese don’t like their country, but don’t like other people to make it look bad.  That’s actually not that unreasonable.  However, it’s all being dealt with so foolishly, and I am ready to be done with it.  Americans are certainly foolish in copious amounts.  However, if I am going to be surrounded by shenanigans, I would rather be surrounded by the shenanigans of my own country, rather than a country that allots me no credibility whatsoever (more on that later).

Anyway, later perhaps I will write more about why I will be glad to see China shrinking into the distance out the window of a good ol’ Boeing 7somethingorother.  That’s how I feel today.

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