What’s Going On?

It’s been a long time since my last post. I have been back in China for nearly six months now, and this is only my second post! Some recent adventures of mine have included:

Spilling water on my computer (a costly mistake) and having to take it to the Zhongguancun Technology Market to have it repaired. Zhongguancun is the specific area of the city I live in, but it is known as the “Silicon Valley of China”. My apartment is right across the street from Google’s China offices, as well as the headquarters of a few of the largest Chinese websites (which also makes them some of the largest websites in the world). The technology market I went to seems like it came straight out of a science fiction movie… aisles packed full of electronic goods, people repairing computers and unlocking iPhones, merchants shouting at you to come check out their products. Here’s a picture I found of it (not mine):

Zhongguancun Tech Market

Eating dinner with a bunch of classmates of mine at an upscale Yunnan restaurant, which, although a fancy place, featured insects on the menu and described it’s food as “Typical” and “Edible”. Side note: Yunnan food is my favorite kind of Chinese food. 

Yunnan Cuisine

Studying Chinese in a classroom setting has been really beneficial to me. Out of about 20 kids in my class, I am one of two Americans, with other students coming from Russia, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, and more that I may be forgetting. The class is conducted entirely in Chinese, and with so many people of different nationalities, often the only way to communicate with some classmates is to speak in Chinese to them.

My Chinese has improved in leaps and bounds since taking this course. When I read passages in class I like mentally noting the words that I didn’t know a few months ago, and realize that it is a very high percentage of them! I took the HSK level 3 test back in October (HSK is the international standardized test  for measuring Chinese abilities). Level 3 is knowing 1200 words, and level 4 is knowing 2500. I’m hoping to take the level 4 later this year.

These past few months have been insane for noteworthy Chinese news:

High ranking and enormously popular Communist Party official, Bo Xilai, was ousted from his position as party chief of Chongqing (one of China’s largest cities) by the Central Party, and he and his wife implicated in the murder of a British national who knew about the Bo’s secret overseas investments. The police chief of Chongqing brought evidence of the murder and the Bo’s involvement in it to the US Consulate in Chengdu, where he sought asylum. This was all over the news for days, with every newspaper running the exact same headline.

Blind dissident Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest and made it all the way to Beijing, where he also sought asylum at the American Embassy, which sparked a pretty big international relations controversy. This just days before Gary Locke, US ambassador to China, and Hilary Clinton were scheduled to come to Beijing to engage in talks with the Chinese government. The US denied his request for asylum, but did issue he and his family student visas to come to the States. The story of his escape is incredible.

North Korea hijacked 3 Chinese ships and their crews and is holding them for ransom. A bit strange, considering China is North Korea’s most important ally.

And of most relevance to me, and a bit scary, is that in the last two weeks or so, anti-foreigner sentiment has been brewing all throughout China. It all started with a video of a British man attempting to rape a Chinese woman (and subsequently having the living daylights beat out of him), which went viral on the Chinese internet. Shortly after, which Beijing denies is in response to the aforementioned incident, the Beijing government announced a crackdown on foreigners residing illegally in the city. While every country has the right to do this, the way they are going about it is a bit scary. They have announced that they will do random passport and accommodation-registry checks of foreigners around the city (“Your papers, please?”), and have set up a hotline and are encouraging people to report foreigners residing or working illegally.

Translation: Report Hotline. Illegal entry, illegal residence, illegal working.

I especially appreciate the imagery of the clenched fist, supposedly crushing the foreign devils out of China. Luckily, these days I am living on a residence permit and not a tourist visa, so I’m in the clear. Then, a couple days ago, another video went viral, this time of a rude foreigner putting his feet on the train seat in front of him, and laughing at and cursing the woman who was telling him to remove his feet. The best part was the policeman mocking him:

Police Officer #2:”What do you do in Beijing? Do you teach?”
Foreign man: ”I play the cello.”
Police Officer #2: ”Cello? Are you sure you’re not a ballet dancer? I thought you were a ballet dancer.”

And after all this, a national anchor for CCTV (China’s state-controlled TV network), posted this rant on his Weibo (Chinese Twitter):

The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on the disaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun. Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. and Europe come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spread deceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls to mask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China and send them packing.

In most countries, this would lead to his swift termination, but of course, nothing of the sort has happened. He was referring to that Al Jazeera’s China branch was shut down recently and their Beijing correspondent expelled from the country.

Despite all of this, I haven’t noticed anything different in my day to day life, but it’s interesting to watch as the national conversation becomes full of anti-immigrant sentiment. It really makes me sympathize with how Hispanic people in the States probably feel.

On a lighter, and unrelated, note, I have started a daily newsletter (Monday through Friday), where every day I will feature a different book excerpt. If you’re interested, you can subscribe (free) on the Facebook page I set up for it.

That concludes this post, thanks for reading!

6 Responses to What’s Going On?

  1. Karla Florence says:

    Thanks for the update, Jake. And, I am enjoying my subscription to “Murphy’s List.” Your recently shared excerpt from “The Salmon of Doubt” was hysterical! – Mom

  2. Chuck Hazelrigg says:

    Hi Jake, Enjoyed your update. Sounds like the language study is progressing well. I am not surprised. I observe also that your English language and composition are superior to many of your peers. Keep it up and enjoy. Chuck Hazelrigg

  3. Very informative update. I found your analysis of the crackdown on foreigners especially interesting. I agree that there seem to be similarities between China and the US when it comes to the “hivemind” mentality brought forth by immigration. Good luck in your travels!

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