amw (amw) wrote,

venting about Chinese elites, for posterity

I want to talk more about my culture/ethnicity/heritage/whatever and how it plays a part in the places i want to visit when i travel, but i will leave that for a future post. I still want to write a Köppen post about travel planning too.

But right now i just want to record for posterity another reminder of how exasperating Chinese elites are.

Every now and then i get a bit of nostalgia for life in China because the weather was good, the food was cheap and delicious, and it was easy to get to parks and natural areas using public transport.

And then i remember by far the most annoying thing about the country. Yes, it is the authoritarian government that runs the country. But it's more than that, it's the attitude of the elites in general. They not only make up the bulk of the government, but also much of the manager class in private industry.

They are incredibly condescending. People in the west might recognize this as represented by tedious diplomatic statements like "foreigners should not meddle in Chinese affairs" or "people who criticize Chinese government do not understand Chinese culture" or some such thing. But it also happens inside China for non-political topics, where you are expected bow to the greater authority of whoever is above you. You are not to publicly question that authority, ever. And people in power are never to show that they were wrong, not unless they are making some final exit confession in the wake of another leader taking control. It can never be publicly acknowledged that the elites could make a mistake, because that would be a loss of face. So, any change that happens, happens through secretive, private agreements, and nobody important is ever held accountable. This kind of backroom dealing is why China remains corrupt, and why its criminal justice system is considered a farce, even by people who are legally Chinese (Hongkongers).

But if you point this out, you are accused of hurting the feelings of the Chinese people. "You don't understand because you're a foreigner. China has been ruled in this way for thousands of years. No foreigner could ever understand." Bla bla bla. As if people in other countries don't share the concept of face, and as if we don't have exactly the same kinds of institutions. For God's sakes, the Catholic church is practically the template for this kind of structure.

Anyway, as usual, getting in an exchange with someone who has bought into the whole elitist Chinese rhetoric makes me want to bash my head into a wall. "Well China's not bad because America's worse. Oh, you're not American? Well you don't understand because you don't speak Chinese. Oh, you speak Chinese? Well you don't understand because you've never really been exposed to Chinese culture. Oh, you lived in China? Well, you are just the stereotypical expat, nothing unique about what you have to say. By the way, you should not lecture Chinese people about how to live. Oh, you think CCP is lecturing Chinese people about how to live? Let me change the topic to some completely unrelated thing so i avoid having to answer that question..."

It's just infuriating. These people have internalized their superior attitude so utterly and completely that it's just a joke to them to have a conversation with anyone who they deem unworthy. Let's bat the conversation over here, let's digress over there, let's avoid discussing any topic of substance, let's not address the point. "Oh - look over there, a bird! Isn't it pretty?" It's so pathetic. Like, if you want to be an asshole then just own being an asshole. You'd still be an asshole, but at least i would respect it.

So, times like this i am like. Yes. I am very glad that now i am outside China i don't have to put up with this nonsense any more, except for the odd occasion when i stupidly get into an internet debate. When i lived there i had to deal with it at work too. Not with all the bosses, but with enough of the bosses that it pissed me off.

It makes me think about the stories i have heard from indigenous people or women in male-dominated fields. About how everything they say is ignored, or written off as naïve or ignorant. The experience of constantly being told that that they could not possibly understand complex matters of business or politics or statecraft. This thoroughly patronizing treatment at the hands of those who have the power. Chinese elites like to say that it's "cultural", but really it's just the same old shit that oppressors pull everywhere.
Tags: china, politics, rants

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