Sunday, 3 May 2009


I've just returned from my 12-day stay in China, where I visited Xi'an, Kunming and Lijiang. I've missed drinking water straight off the tap. It's been a trip where I've learnt much more than I'd bargained for.

We toured companies and talked to people deep in the action of Xi'an's incredible economic expansion over the past decade or so. Quite a bit of life's philosophies were shared by these people spearheading the up-and-coming force that drives the growth of Xi'an.

China has attained a somewhat positive state of economy where the basis of her capitalism is in service to the people. Many enlightened enterprises understand the important roles they and their competitors play in the business economy, and believe that the goods they produce must firstly be good for their consumers, which is in contrast with the inefficient communist economy and the selfish nature of American capitalism.

The importance of 关系 was also clearly highlighted as I observed its extension to relations with not only competitors and partners, but the government. China's government structure is complicated. If I were to set up a firm in China, I would have to establish good relations with each government department before I can be cleared or directed to the next relevant department. It isn't as straightforward as the system in Singapore.

I've also found that social grace is pretty much lacking in China, and there are reasons for this. I've noticed that if I were driving on a road, it's okay someone to cut my lane (the way we would totally frown upon in Singapore) because it's mutual - later on it will be okay for me to cut someone else's. Traffic is all about give and take. Likewise, it's okay for me to stand in the way or shove someone aside for my own convenience, because someone else will scold me or remind me about it, and nobody feels bad for being reprimanded or being told what to do there. As a result, acts of social awareness and being considerate is very low, as nobody really bears the brunt of failing to think ahead of their actions.

I also suppose we are prone to judging them socially in a negative manner because of the advanced nature of their development. If someone behaved in a socially obnoxious manner in the slums of India or Africa, I wouldn't think so much of it. But in a modern civilisation like China's with so much promise, I can't help but think that there is still quite a bit lacking.

Lijiang is a beautiful town with many plains, farms and mountains that have, quite unfortunately in my opinion, been marred by an expanding and modernising economy fuelled by tourism that is disgustingly milking their culture for money. Aside from the small city area that has clubs blasting Chinese techno with girls dressed in ethnic costumes grinding each other, the villages have extremely scenic views of nature with horses and boats to ride on.

After more than a week of immersing in Chinese culture, I think my English started going down the drain. While my Chinese has definitely improved in leaps and bounds (it's still not fantastic, but this is compared to how incorrigible my Chinese has been in the past), I'm becoming more prone to thinking in terms of Chinese and the translation process in my head sometimes messes up my thought processes because of the language switching. I've even got a couple of Chinese songs irritatingly stuck in my head because of the KTV sessions where nobody sings English songs.

But I think Chinese language is very naturally poetic.

I think I've also learnt the price of self esteem and dignity. There are some pressing things I will need to think through, re-evaluate and deal with, and with urgency, because I don't know how much more of these thoughts circling my mind I can take.

Although the weather here can't compare at all to China's, I'm just glad to be back right now.

Audio Candy:
陈淑桦 - 东方之珠

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