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The SAR is not charmed
January 23, 2012 12:02 PM   Subscribe

"Hong Kong people are dogs," mainland professor Kong Qingdong said (video in Mandarin with English subtitles; "dog" comments are around 1:06) in response to a widely-viewed video (Cantonese/Mandarin, no subtitles, but a English-subtitled news report is here) of mainland tourists eating on the Hong Kong subway, where eating is banned. This has incited an uproar in the former British colony, but is not the only flare-up between Hong Kong and the mainland recently.

Hong Kong mothers-to-be have protested an influx of mainland mothers (because of the Year of the Dragon*), who give birth in Hong Kong so their babies will have right of abode and education in the relatively free territory. And Dolce & Gabbana recently apologized after it was alleged that D&G store guards were prohibiting locals from and only permitting mainlanders to take pictures. Shops are accused of catering to rich mainland visitors over local Hong Kong residents.

*There is a separate Chinese New Year thread discussing more specifically the birth boom in general; I don't mean to be repetitive -- mods, I hope this is not too much overlap, please let me know if this is.
posted by andrewesque (88 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ack - forgot to say that the mainland tourist eating was told to stop eating by HK residents, resulting in a big fight, captured in the video - that's why it has gone viral in China.
posted by andrewesque at 12:07 PM on January 23, 2012


Good on Hongers for demanding basic manners in public spaces. Now if they could just do something about the Mainland penchant for spitting anywhere and everywhere...
posted by KokuRyu at 12:09 PM on January 23, 2012


Eating on public transport should be banned. The penalty for violations should be the public pillory.

I have spoken.
posted by Decani at 12:11 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


A descendant of the Chinese philosopher Confucius[1], Kong has been a vocal supporter of Communist Party of China orthodoxy, and he has expressed anti-America and anti-Western sentiments, calling the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “a bitch”[2]. A critic of the free press, Kong has famously lashed out at Southern Weekly and its related newspapers, often regarded as some of the more liberal media outlets in China, as well as suggesting that if China's “journalists were all lined up and shot, I would feel heartache for not a single one of them”[3][4].

While Kong has mostly espoused Party ideology, he is also known to criticize China's economic reform, calling the current Chinese government “shameless”[2]. Kong has also expressed admiration for the North Korean government, calling it “three times better than (China’s)”[2][5]. In response to claims of starvation in North Korea, Kong claimed that “the North Korean people are living at a lower standard, but who said that they are starving? Their living standard is about the same as China’s in the early 1990s. Were you starving in the early 1990s?”[2]
Professor Kong sounds like a real sweetheart.
posted by kmz at 12:13 PM on January 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


Hmm. I wonder how much the Hong Kong/mainland thing is a city/country thing you'd see anywhere you get an influx of outsiders into the local metropolis. The professor, on the other hand, seems to be in full on huffy Chinese nationalist mode.
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on January 23, 2012


That's funny, cause I can't imagine the converse, Hong Kong people are too savvy to use the word "dog" to demean anyone.
posted by polymodus at 12:15 PM on January 23, 2012


China is the only country I know in which people from one region get an entirely different set of rights and freedoms than those from another region. The border crossing between the regions is surreal. I wonder how much longer the Chinese will stand for it.
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:16 PM on January 23, 2012


I guess every city has their bridge and tunnel crowd.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:17 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is more on this at EastSouthWestNorth.
posted by Quonab at 12:22 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess every city has their bridge and tunnel crowd.

I had heard that term for years before I was told that it referred to people who come into the city via bridges and tunnels and not people who live under bridges and tunnels. I sort of assumed it referred to a mix of homeless people and trolls.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:23 PM on January 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


Eating on public transport should be banned.

I disagree, mostly because I am often in the position of choosing between getting somewhere and eating anything. I regularly down a Cliff Bar and Red Bull on my commute, and take my garbage with me. Nobody dies. It's eating like an asshole on public transport that should be banned. That, and toenail clipping.

Hmm. I wonder how much the Hong Kong/mainland thing is a city/country thing you'd see anywhere you get an influx of outsiders into the local metropolis.

Fair enough. New York saw an influx of Fujianese immigration, and more than once, I've heard members of the old-school, Cantonese-American population bitch about the Fujianese "newcomers" (they're loud, they push and shove, etc.).
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:25 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm guessing O'Reilly-Limbaugh disease is spreading. Quick, someone shut down the port in Madagascar before the whole world is infected.
posted by inthe80s at 12:26 PM on January 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


resulting in a big fight, captured in the video

That's a big fight? Did i watch the same video? All i saw was people arguing over each other. I honestly expected much worse. At least something along the lines of the "amberlamps/homeless tough guy" (forget the name that video was called) thing with actual violence. Not that i'm complaining, but i've gotten so used to "big fight" being actual punches. Maybe too many of those videos from here where people resort to punching before anything else really.
posted by usagizero at 12:26 PM on January 23, 2012


"The criminal Kong Qingdong shall be brought in front of the dog-head guillotine!" Immediately the crowd got emotional.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:26 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone know the implication of "dog" here? I mean I can come up with about eight things dogs might symbolize from an English tradition, but my knowledge of how the Chinese might view dogs in general (and how many nuanced synonyms Chinese might have for dog) I have no idea how much of a slur this is.

I mean I get that it's not good and Kong Qingdong track record suggests that he's up for all kinds of escalation, but I'm just curious how much.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:29 PM on January 23, 2012


The longer quote from the link I posted seems pretty clear on what he meant by 'dog'.

"For example, consider a Hong Kong person. You say that he is a Chinese person. According to what I know, many Hong Kong persons do not consider themselves to be Chinese. They often say, "We in Hong Kong, you in China." They are bastards. These kinds of people are used to serve as running dogs for the British people. Today they are dogs. They are not humans. I know that many Hong Kong persons are good people. But many Hong Kong persons are still dogs."
posted by Quonab at 12:33 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess every city has their bridge and tunnel crowd.

That's very literal. You can get on the Shenzhen metro, take it to the border, walk upstairs to border control, take the moving walkway across the bridge, go back through border control, go downstairs, and get right back on the HK metro. It's pretty neat.
posted by phooky at 12:34 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


@usagizero: sorry, I should have been more clear, "big fight" probably wasn't the best way to describe it. This page contains a translation of what was said, which I wish I'd found before I posted. Some of the language issues (sarcastically mocking the mainland woman, who doesn't speak Cantonese, for only speaking English) are touchy in HK, and the HK guy at the end goes and says "all mainlanders are like this" and that it isn't worth taking the time to talk to them.

I basically just wanted to make it clear that it wasn't a simple video of somebody munching on their candy bar in peace on the train, which would make both the extensive Internet discussion and Kong's incendiary remarks seem (even more) out of proportion.
posted by andrewesque at 12:36 PM on January 23, 2012


"Dog" as an insult is definitely pretty severe. It implies somebody is beneath you. Obsequiousness is often also a part of it.

Note also that Kong called HKers "wang ba dan" (literal translation, turtle eggs), which was translated as "bastard" in the subtitles, but I think it connotes something way stronger. Something more akin to "motherfucking asshole". I've only ever heard "wang ba dan" used in specific instances by my mom, and it's reserved for people who say, cheat on you, or Mao. Not just an annoyance. Tone does also matter a bit. I suppose you could say wang ba dan a bit more jokingly, but Kong was dead serious there. (And seriously trolling, of course.)
posted by kmz at 12:46 PM on January 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


In four years of riding the Hong Kong subway I never saw anything even close to a disturbance or argument. The worst behavior I ever saw was a loud Western tourist being a bit obnoxious. And that was it.

That said, I have seen some fantastic arguments in the street - it's a crowded city with all the attendant pressures that brings on personal space etc.

The Mainland vs HK thing to my mind comes from the same urge that a lot people there have to try and preserve what makes HK distinctive compared to the rest of China. And that includes things like queuing and other bits of culture that they got from the British.

Also, SARS was a Big Deal in Hong Kong - it killed a lOt of people and the public cleanliness campaigns that followed made a big difference in the city. Remember, the entry point for SARS was a Mainland doctor who hadn't washed his hands properly and then left the virus on surfaces he touched in an HK hotel.
posted by awfurby at 12:46 PM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, SARS was a Big Deal in Hong Kong - it killed a lOt of people and the public cleanliness campaigns that followed made a big difference in the city.

I think this adds a whole evolutionary behavior dimension to incident. I like it.
posted by polymodus at 12:48 PM on January 23, 2012


"wang ba dan" (literal translation, turtle eggs), which was translated as "bastard" in the subtitles, but I think it connotes something way stronger. Something more akin to "motherfucking asshole".

Huh. How does something so seemingly innocuous get such a connotation?
posted by adamdschneider at 12:56 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


The thing about people from mainland China is that they, in general, just don't give a shit about your rules.

I was in a cab once in Beijing where the driver, fed up with traffic, drove in the oncoming lane. During rush hour. He also jumped a partition and drove in a bus lane for a while. And on the sidewalk intermittently. It was fucking awesome (I say now, safely alive and intact). I have been in super trendy places in Shanghai, rich people places where cocktails cost more than they do in New York, and I have seen people spitting, littering, butting in line. I once saw 3 little girls cross a crowded 8 lane highway, standing on the lines while cars whizzed by. Nobody cared.

But in China, it totally fits and makes sense. It doesn't seem offensive, it doesn't seem rude. At best it's a little off putting. I don't know, I can't explain it. It might even be my favourite thing about China. It's just how it is, and everybody knows this and the system works. It obviously doesn't work anywhere else, but in China, it works.

Chinese people don't give a shit about your rules.
posted by tracert at 12:57 PM on January 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


@awfurby, do you happen to know where that info about the entry point for SARS? I'd love to know more about that.
posted by SteveFlamingo at 1:01 PM on January 23, 2012


There's a great comment on Reddit along the lines of tracert's comment: "Because China".
posted by benito.strauss at 1:03 PM on January 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


adamdschneider: Huh. How does something so seemingly innocuous get such a connotation?

This was kind of a fun read.
posted by hanoixan at 1:05 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


This Hong Kong/mainland China tension is nothing new, it's just gotten more visible over the years, and arguably it's getting angrier.

The Hong Kong MTR system is one of the cleanest and most efficient subway systems I've ever had the pleasure of riding on, and no one who uses it on a regular basis likes seeing it dirty. People who eat on the train generally are eating candy bars or small, easily disposable snacks, and with the exception of a few children I've never seen people leave their trash behind when they go. It's quiet, even when you're jammed into each other with your nose in someone's armpit, and people generally aren't jackasses. So it's kind of a point of pride that Hong Kong's got this fantastic system, it's clean, cheap, and can take you freaking anywhere in a matter of minutes. So if the people in the video look a little worked up when they see tourists eating in the train, it's probably because to a local, it's a lack of respect for public property (even though the train's privately owned) and for the others riding the train.

For a first-hand perspective on mothers coming over to Hong Kong to have babies - the idea is, going by popular opinion among my own family, is that by having a baby who automatically qualifies for Hong Kong citizenship (and an HKSAR ID card) makes it easier down the road for a whole family to apply for and obtain HKSAR ID cards/permanent residency, which aren't easily available to Chinese nationals any other way (one of the regulations for ID cards is living in Hong Kong at least seven years before becoming eligible, and/or owning property in the seven-digits worth). Families that do this also generally don't live in Hong Kong, so they pay no taxes for essentially having the ability to use the public health system/obtain government subsidies at will (Scheme 6000, anyone?). I believe you can also hold a Chinese passport and successfully obtain a Hong Kong passport, but a Hong Kong resident can't obtain a Chinese passport without surrendering the Hong Kong passport. I think. So there's this weird element of getting both your cake and eating it too, but only on the mainland side.

It's strange. My own family isn't quite enamoured of Chinese nationals coming over to HK - I generally subscribe to the 'don't be an asshole' philosophy, something I struggle with myself, so I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, no matter where they come from.

It's not easy, though - I once personally witnessed a five year old boy from China pull down his pants and take a shit in the middle of the Sony Store in the Harbour City mall in Tsim Sha Tsui. I was with my mother at the time: I was weirded out (because I couldn't understand why a little boy was crouched on the ground with his bum out), she was mad (because she nearly stepped in it after), and it took me ten minutes to switch my brain from 'ugh, tourists' to 'okay, the kid needs some more schooling in where/when to evacuate his bowels, that's more to do with upbringing than nationality'.

Grossness aside, it was also kind of hilarious, because this occurred right after it was announced Sony had their databases hacked and lost all those credit card numbers. So maybe the kid lost his account and just had to express his displeasure.
posted by zennish at 1:08 PM on January 23, 2012 [21 favorites]


The Wikipedia note is here. The study it cites is no longer online it looks like. This report from WHO (pdf) has some of the details.

SARS killed 299 people in Hong Kong, almost as many as the rest of mainland China.
posted by awfurby at 1:19 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


SteveFlamingo, this article also provides a pretty description on how SARS spread.
posted by phyrewerx at 1:23 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I just realised 'first-hand perspective' isn't correct - the phrasing in my comment above should be 'local perspective'.

no squeezing out babbees for me

Though having been through the whole hospital-health-medical care grinder in Hong Kong recently, I can attest to the fact that goddamn the public system is getting crowded, and lots of support staff are heading for the better-paying privately-owned hills. It's a little disingenuous for the papers to wail about how Chinese mothers are clogging up the health care system when the system's already been showing signs of distress for some time - from my (limited) observation, if a Chinese family's going to have their kid in Hong Kong, they're usually rich enough to head for the private sector. Though to be fair, maybe there are some not-so-rich families going to the public sector - it's expensive to live in Hong Kong, not so much to actually visit.
posted by zennish at 1:35 PM on January 23, 2012


The tension here is a bit more complicated than just locals trying to protect their clean transit systems from dirty Mainlanders as many in this thread seem to suggest. The guy screaming about Hong Kongers being dogs is getting worked up about the treatment that Mainlanders get in HK relative to other "foreigners". Notice how he keeps saying that HK people are wolves to Mainlanders and dogs to foreigners. The question here is whether the HK man in the subway video would have reacted in the same way to a white guy who was eating in the train. Mainlanders would say no. Based on the derogatory stuff the subway guy said in Chinese, I would tend to agree. But I wouldn't go as far as calling anyone a dog. Then again, this guy's like a Chinese Limbaugh--he's just trolling.
posted by reformedjerk at 1:37 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gong Xi Fa Cai to all celebrating it today.
posted by infini at 1:37 PM on January 23, 2012


the system works

For certain definitions of 'works.'
posted by yoink at 1:37 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Christ what's that, the asian Bill O'Reilly?
posted by elpapacito at 1:47 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a great comment on Reddit along the lines of tracert's comment: "Because China".


You know, I really did not expect to see an /r/mylittlepony link in this thread, but that is a really good comment.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:52 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


For those looking for more information on the 'single SARS point of entry to HK', here is the article in the Oxford Medical School Gazette cited by Wikipedia and now on Archive.org.
posted by adrianhon at 1:53 PM on January 23, 2012


Chinese people don't give a shitabout your rules.

Yeah, that's gonna work to the point until we stop giving a shit about their rules too. And, I'm in Taiwan now, which kind of needs treaties, which contain rules, for that reunification thing China goes on about from time to time to work.

Not that I'm saddened if it won't work.
posted by FJT at 2:12 PM on January 23, 2012


And now it's on like Kong Qingdong.
posted by kyrademon at 2:20 PM on January 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Thanks awfurby & phyrewerx
posted by SteveFlamingo at 2:30 PM on January 23, 2012


"Hong Kong people are dogs," mainland professor Kong Qingdong said (video in Mandarin with English subtitles

What is this, the opening scene of a Jackie Chan movie with the mainland Chinese filling in for the British?
posted by ignignokt at 2:43 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


there are similar cultural tensions when PRC tourists visit Taiwan
posted by Bwithh at 2:56 PM on January 23, 2012


Transcript:
Kong: If that is the case, then Hong Kong should not bother to maintain any relationship with the mainland. We the mainland will no longer provide you with water and vegetables. You live on your own, or you can look to your British daddy.

Or we can form a relationship with Taiwan. How you like that?
posted by polymodus at 3:05 PM on January 23, 2012


Chinese people don't give a shit about your rules.

So if Hong Kong residents are dogs, people from mainland China are honey badgers?
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:14 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The question here is whether the HK man in the subway video would have reacted in the same way to a white guy who was eating in the train. Mainlanders would say no.

I don't know - the video only shows the aftermath, after the food was consumed, and only shows the man after he's already been worked up. Maybe he's a particularly angry man. We don't see how the food was being eaten, and it could've been eaten really messily or really neatly. Maybe he got food splattered over him or something - if that were to happen, I'd argue he'd be angry no matter what colour the tourist was - or even if the person eating was a local. There's too many factors to judge, the video's too short, and we've only the news reports and the like to tell us what happened before. If the tourists were eating granola bars or something, he's way, way out of line.

Though you're entirely correct - there is (and always has been) an underlying tension between mainland/Hong Kong interactions, which almost certainly influenced the shouty-ness, but I'd be hesitant to say that was the deciding/definitive factor in what caused the whole mess. This doesn't, however, mean that I agree with his language or his choice of words - even if someone's being a rude jerk, it doesn't give you license to be a rude jerk right back at them.

Who knows - I'm trying to give both sides the benefit of the doubt here, but I've probably more preconceptions built into my head than I think.

On preview:

Kong: If that is the case, then Hong Kong should not bother to maintain any relationship with the mainland. We the mainland will no longer provide you with water and vegetables. You live on your own, or you can look to your British daddy.

Well, the Brits do have those hot accents. Phwoar.
posted by zennish at 3:17 PM on January 23, 2012


What is this, the opening scene of a Jackie Chan movie with the mainland Chinese filling in for the British? I'm thinking more Jet Li, maybe one of the Wong Fei Hung movies.
posted by Artw at 3:19 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting. I've heard the speculation on Hong Kong radio that this guy is implicitly endorsed by the Party, given that they have such strict control of what gets to air, and would *never* allow the same thing to be said about Tibetans or Uighur people for instance. It might be a subtle warning on what they consider our insufficient loyalty to the PRC (the study shows only 16% identified as purely Chinese) despite 14 years since the handover.
posted by monocot at 3:27 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking more Jet Li, maybe one of the Wong Fei Hung movies.

I was thinking of Drunken Master II - oddly enough, a Wong Fei Hung movie!
posted by ignignokt at 3:40 PM on January 23, 2012


I love how foreigners are depicted in Wong Fei Hung movies.
posted by Artw at 3:50 PM on January 23, 2012


There must be quite a few people in Hong Kong of mixed British and Chinese descent-- primarily with 'British daddies', we might guess-- and in that context, Kong's rant is classic racism of the most dangerous kind.

If that really gets going on the mainland, watch out.
posted by jamjam at 3:51 PM on January 23, 2012


It might be a subtle warning on what they consider our insufficient loyalty to the PRC (the study shows only 16% identified as purely Chinese) despite 14 years since the handover.

Link to article and the study itself.
posted by monocot at 3:58 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


tracert: "Chinese people don't give a shit about your rules."

I've been on the mainland for 18 months now and the spitting just doesn't get any better. Does every man here have a congenital lung disease? Manners are non-existent and the only way you get people to queue is to call them out on it publicly and shame them into not queue-jumping. I'm British, manners is the oil that lets society function, and we'd win gold in the queuing Olympics. I have lost patience with a society that just doesn't care about basic hygiene or anyone else (no, you should not let you kid take a dump in the produce section of Ren Ren Le because you can't be arsed to go find a bathroom). I'm not seeing these behaviours in other Asian countries, this is a Mainland specific behavioural issue.
posted by arcticseal at 4:06 PM on January 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


At the risk of turning this into a country vs. city debate, the cities are experiencing a massive influx of people from rural areas where certain habits of hygiene are not a necessity. As China goes through its growing pains, I'm sure these less hygienic habits will be reside out of necessity.
posted by hobbes at 4:26 PM on January 23, 2012


Incidentally, when I was in high school (Sydney, Aus) I often heard the term 'mainlander' used derogatorily by a lot of second generation Chinese students, especially those from HK. A 'mainlander' was somebody who was a bit nouveau riche, loud, crass and tasteless. For a lot of westernised Chinese, these newer immigrants stirred up a lot of insecurities about race and class.
posted by quosimosaur at 4:33 PM on January 23, 2012


Middle-class HKers and nouveau rich mainlanders is my take on it, not so much city versus rural. I wouldn't be surprise if they were richer than me and drove a better car.

But yeah, it's been brewing for a while, especially with the way the service industry caters towards mainland dollars. It's practical and smart but also poignant of the power dynamics. And sad to say but I think the typical HKer does get a bit xenophobic towards fellow asians. Witness the uproar of the court battle to allow Filipino maids to gain residency, despite meeting the residency requirements.

The different reactions by the chief executive candidates are interesting too.
posted by tksh at 4:49 PM on January 23, 2012


White-plate vehicles are not under the jurisdiction of traffic police. They can run a red light without being stopped. They do not need to pay toll fees on express highways or bridges or tunnels. All toll collection points must open a toll-free pass for military vehicles. They can park in any public parking place without paying fees.
posted by XMLicious at 4:58 PM on January 23, 2012


Thanks for the link to the poll results monocat.

你會稱自己為 香港人/中國人/香港的中國人/中國的香港人 : (按次計算)
You would identify yourself as a Hong Kong Citizen/Chinese Citizen/Hong Kong Chinese Citizen/Chinese Hong Kong Citizen


HK is a city with a distinct local history, culture, and system of government and the poll also allows people to split the difference. Of course many respondants are going to select something that reflects their local residence. You could probably pull off something like this in Texas too.

The transition in 1997 was seen by many as a kind of warm-up for the eventual reunification with Taiwan. The PRC built up a lot of credibility from how smoothly that transition went. If they keep letting this Kong Qingdong flap his mouth about cutting off trade and services though they'll be flushing that earned confidence away. People in in Taiwan will take notice. The man is off his leash. Frankly, I'm amazed it's gone this far.
posted by Winnemac at 5:00 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just struck by the hatefulness of that rant. I'm surprised that this sort of thing is sanctioned in a country that so prizes unity and harmony.
posted by Edgewise at 5:01 PM on January 23, 2012


All I can think of is that poor little girl from China. It must be a traumatic experience to be involved in a middle of screaming match then got kicked off the train first time visiting Hong Kong. All because of eating instant noodle in Hong Kong subway.

All the grown ups could have handle the situation better. The mom should have just smile and comply when told to stop eating in the subway instead of telling Mr. Hong Kong to "mind your own business." Mom's friend should also just shut her mouth and stop making such a disparaging remark as, "Mr. Hong Kong's Mandarin is very bad." Mr. Hong Kong should've kept his cool, instead of starting to scream "Yes, my Mandarin is bad, but this is Hong Kong! You should speak Cantonese!" Then it all went down hill from there.

Now what do we have? Civilized Hong Konger vs. rude Mainlander, or Elitist Hong Konger vs. poor defenseless women and children from Mainland? You can read all the flame wars here, here and here.

Oh, Happy Chinese New Year!
posted by Carius at 6:43 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kong Qingdong should be handed a chalk, a chalkboard and Analect and made to copy Analects on the board until he understand the meaning of "gentleman."
posted by Carius at 6:49 PM on January 23, 2012


Popular Ethics: "China is the only country I know in which people from one region get an entirely different set of rights and freedoms than those from another region."

There are lots of examples of this. The people of Washington DC do not have representation in the US Congress. Puerto Ricans have slightly different rights from people in the mainland US; Guam, even more so. Probably any list of colonies would give similar results.
posted by jiawen at 7:14 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is this, the opening scene of a Jackie Chan movie with the mainland Chinese filling in for the British?

It would appear that Jackie Chan was unsuccessful.
posted by dhens at 7:36 PM on January 23, 2012


I've been on the mainland for 18 months now and the spitting just doesn't get any better. Does every man here have a congenital lung disease?

The Chinese national spitter that I know does so in banks, libraries, and supermarkets. The explanation I got had something to do with expelling toxic bad energy, so if they smell a bad smell, or even see a homeless person who looks like they might smell if you were closer to them, then the spit expels any contamination.

Other Chinese nationals have chastised this same person for losing their vital fluids.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:46 PM on January 23, 2012


The Chinese national spitter that I know does so in banks, libraries, and supermarkets.
posted by StickyCarpet


!!
posted by Winnemac at 7:55 PM on January 23, 2012


Good grief. A friend of mine used to pithily sum up China by saying that they all hate each other, but what keeps them together is that they all hate the rest of the world even more.

Maybe there's more to it than I thought.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:25 PM on January 23, 2012


My culture's equally made-up and learned by living in my society's manners are non-existent

FTFY, articseal.
posted by tzikeh at 8:36 PM on January 23, 2012


tzikeh, not quite sure what point you are trying to make. Perhaps you could clarify?
posted by arcticseal at 8:41 PM on January 23, 2012


Sure. You said:
Manners are non-existent and the only way you get people to queue is to call them out on it publicly and shame them into not queue-jumping. I'm British, manners is the oil that lets society function, and we'd win gold in the queuing Olympics.
You learned British sociocultural manners, but "manners" are not universal.

In India, for example, if you meet up with a group of people, you must greet the eldest person in the group first. If you don't, that's rude. And you can't say "hello, everyone" or "bye, you guys" or anything like that to a group of people; you have to say goodbye to each person individually.

In Pakistan, if someone offers you something, and you don't refuse it the first time they offer it, it's rude.

In Japan, if you hand someone something with only one hand, that's rude. You *always* have to use two hands.

Sitting with one leg crossed over another is incredibly rude in countries with a high Muslim population, because another person might see the sole of your shoe. Showing someone the "basest" part of your body is almost obscene.

Spitting in China is not rude. It's rude as far as you're concerned, but not there. Don't impose your ideas of what is mannerly and what is rude on other cultures.
posted by tzikeh at 9:18 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think pooping in the middle of the Sony Store is always rude.
posted by shii at 9:29 PM on January 23, 2012 [12 favorites]


Anecdata, but out of my two years' daily public transit ridership in Shenyang I can't recall a single time I saw anyone eating anything. 'Course this was all on the bus, before they put the subway in - I wonder if that has changed anything? Maybe it goes without saying but rail travel is an important element of many lives in mainland China, and it's so de rigeur to eat noodles on the passenger trains that cars will frequently have public spouts that dispense boiling water. I wonder how hard it would be to accidentally/subconsciously map that "trains are a place for eating"?
Not that this conflict is about noodles, of course. There's some more info and a post-mortem with Kong Qingdong here.
posted by metaman livingblog at 9:30 PM on January 23, 2012


shii: I think pooping in the middle of the Sony Store is always rude.

I think that you cannot hold a toddler/small child responsible for not knowing the difference between where it is culturally acceptable to poop and where it is not in a country where it is culturally acceptable for children to poop in public.
posted by tzikeh at 9:42 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up in mainland China. God knows I probably did some public pooping when I was a toddler. But you know what? As soon as I got a little older, I realized: that is fucking gross, and incredibly unhygienic. I'm pretty sure poop is unhygienic in every culture.

And no, I wouldn't hold the little kid responsible. It's the parents' fault.
posted by kmz at 10:05 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


tzihkeh, thanks for clarifying. I've lived and worked on 3 continents and 16 countries, have married into a Chinese family so I try hard not to be the ill-adapted white guy in the room. Chinese colleagues I work with will admit that the manners of a lot of their countrymen leave a lot to be desired. As I mentioned, I haven't seen this behaviour in other Asian countries that I've spent time in.

Spitting is falling out of favour primarily due to public health concerns. The Chinese government has been running anti-spitting campaigns since before the Olympics. Guangdong province then introduced campaigns on making public spitting illegal. Fines are now imposed in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. Queuing is actively encouraged, with informational videos on the Shenzhen metro, however it's having little effect.

As for children pooping where they shouldn't, then it's the parents' responsibility to manage this. I have witnessed parents coaxing their children to poop in the street despite there being public restrooms within 100 yards. I mentioned the example I witnessed in Ren Ren Le, when does it become good manners to let your child crap in the grocery aisle? That anti-social behaviour can't be excused by saying it's a different culture.
posted by arcticseal at 10:09 PM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some of these tensions are showing up in Singapore as well as increasing numbers of mainlanders join the workforce.
posted by infini at 10:17 PM on January 23, 2012


At the risk of turning this into a country vs. city debate, the cities are experiencing a massive influx of people from rural areas where certain habits of hygiene are not a necessity. As China goes through its growing pains, I'm sure these less hygienic habits will be reside out of necessity.
Actually, clean cities are a historical anomaly. 150 years ago the streets of New York, for example, covered in horse shit.

So I think it's a mistake to assume that cities need to be clean. Throughout history they've been filthy and disgusting by modern standards.
posted by delmoi at 10:52 PM on January 23, 2012


So I think it's a mistake to assume that cities need to be clean.

Um, they do if you don't want cholera and shit. Come on.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:59 PM on January 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


In Japan, if you hand someone something with only one hand, that's rude. You *always* have to use two hands.

Nope. Not true. I've lived here for well over half a decade. The two-handed handing thing is only used in very polite/formal situations such as exchanging business cards or what have you. One-handed is not rude, it simply isn't explicitly polite like the two-handed+bow is.
I don't know why, but these "other countries do X" generalizations always infuriate me when they're inaccurate. I guess it's the failed attempt at showing knowledge that you don't actually have so as to increase your own authority.
posted by GoingToShopping at 11:20 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Some of these tensions are showing up in Singapore as well as increasing numbers of mainlanders join the workforce.

Yeah, it's 1 million people on "green" cards - that's all the different flavours of the Employment Pass, Student Pass, Dependent Pass etc - not necessarily 1 million Chineee nationals; in fact, most EP-types are from Malaysia and India, with a fair sprinkling from China. What's really interesting to me, though, is how the PRC's seem to supplanting all the help in kopitiams etc; they seem to have somehow subverted the "natural" flow from the many Hokkien communities in Johor state.

Incidentally, the good professor did include Singapore as well in his original rant:
"In Singapore, you can get fined $5,000 for smoking. Places that rely on these laws show that the people lack civic consciousness. They cannot get anything done unless you impose punishments. This shows that the people have no quality and are asking to be whipped."
(Again, factually untrue I think; while I've never bothered to check this, I doubt if the fine for smoking is as high as 5000 bucks. It's certainly 500 bucks for eating in the MRT)
posted by the cydonian at 1:33 AM on January 24, 2012


Regardless of the amount, if I recall correctly from what I've seen over the past 4 decades of evolution in the region, Lee Kuan Yew *had* to crack down hard to clean up singapore and way in the past, things not dissimilar to what Kong is saying have been said. There was a LAT cartoon about the way teh Singapore river was cleaned up in the 1970s.
posted by infini at 1:45 AM on January 24, 2012


ps. I've paid a SGD 250 fine in a honey pot cigarette disposal capture by two plainclothes loiterers - all trashcans in the area had been removed and they said it wasn't their problem.
posted by infini at 1:46 AM on January 24, 2012


"In Singapore, you can get fined $5,000 for smoking. Places that rely on these laws show that the people lack civic consciousness. They cannot get anything done unless you impose punishments. This shows that the people have no quality and are asking to be whipped."
So this guy's a libertarian now? Defending the PRC by claiming that people in Singapore are oppressed by anti-smoking laws? Funny.
posted by delmoi at 2:31 AM on January 24, 2012


I'm British, manners is the oil that lets society function, and we'd win gold in the queuing Olympics.

So Japan would get the platinum?
posted by juiceCake at 8:00 AM on January 24, 2012


Japan is basically super-England. Anything we do - tea, politeness - they do 5 times more.
posted by Artw at 8:12 AM on January 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Japan is basically super-England. Anything we do - tea, politeness - they do 5 times more.

Japan even drives on the left, despite never having been a British colony or part of the Commonwealth! (Although Wikipedia does tell me that Japan built its first railways with British assistance.)
posted by andrewesque at 8:19 AM on January 24, 2012


GoingToShopping: "I don't know why, but these 'other countries do X' generalizations always infuriate me when they're inaccurate. I guess it's the failed attempt at showing knowledge that you don't actually have so as to increase your own authority."

So totally true. I think my students sometimes get sick of me inserting "usually" or "often" or "although of course there are exceptions" or other such disclaimers into every other sentence, but I'd rather that happen than they get a sense that there are "facts" that are absolutely true about China. Or absolutely true about most other things, for that matter.
posted by jiawen at 9:54 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sitting with one leg crossed over another is incredibly rude in countries with a high Muslim population, because another person might see the sole of your shoe. Showing someone the "basest" part of your body is almost obscene.

Yeah, this isn't quite true either. First: "countries with a high Muslim population" could describe dozens of countries on several continents, all with discrete cultures and traditions. I've studied, lived and worked in Muslim countries, and have often seen people (usually men) cross their legs, in all sorts of situations. Most times they slip their crossed foot out of their sandal, exposing a (usually very clean) naked sole, which is either more comfortable or more polite or both. Non-Muslim men do this, too, fwiw.
posted by sundaydriver at 3:36 PM on January 24, 2012


Artw: "Japan is basically super-England. Anything we do - tea, politeness - they do 5 times more."

Even Japan's version of fish and chips (tempura) is better! I have yet to see Japan improve on the pork pie though.
posted by arcticseal at 5:21 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This could have been an interesting opening scene for a Yellowthread Street book.
posted by detachd at 10:02 AM on January 25, 2012


The question here is whether the HK man in the subway video would have reacted in the same way to a white guy who was eating in the train. Mainlanders would say no.

A couple of years ago, I (a white guy) was yelled at by a HK'er on the Shenzhen subway for drinking bottled water. Coming from Shanghai, I hadn't realized that a) food/drink wasn't permitted on the Shenzhen subway, and b) that anyone in mainland China would give a shit about the rules.
posted by twisted mister at 3:49 AM on January 29, 2012


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