Another white guy spends 30 days in China and thinks he knows things (or China Q/A)

3 minute read 15 May 2012

I've been asked over and over again about my experiences in China during my 30 day trip so I thought I'd round up some of the most asked questions and answer them here:

How do [those people] live under such repression?

Just fine, actually. They distrust and dislike their government the same as we distrust ours--and they're pretty vocal about how stupid and corrupt the whole fucking shell game is. Sound like anywhere else in the world? There is no such thing as communism or capitalism in the 21st century global economy. Don't get too smug about your freedom in an age of global terrorism, indefinite wars, patriot acts, and the NDAA. All governments seek to control their peoples interactions 'for the greater good.'

So how was it living under the repression of The Great Firewall?

It's there, it sucks. The firewall and VPN slow everything down to a crawl where the internet isn't already slow or over-saturated anyway. The sad thing to report is it's effective. Even smart people I talked to at hackerspaces obviously knew about VPNs, and had used them to get around the firewall, but for their day to day use it was way too much of a pain in the ass for them to actually load one up. Non savvy types I talked to understood vaguely that there were sites they couldn't see but it didn't matter to them. This actually brought about a revelation, which is that the Great Firewall is as much or more for business reasons at this point, as censorship. Why would anyone go through the trouble of loading a firewall to see Twitter or Facebook when their friends are all on Weibo and Douban? Who needs Paypal, you can pay your rent on Alipay. Need to get to Amazon/Ebay/Etsy? Oh thats called Taobao here.

Did we feel safe [from petty crime]?

Definitely. The cities really felt entirely open to us. We weren't warned against any districts and we walked (and occasionally stumbled) home at all hours of the night through hutongs that were dimly if at all lit. Our helpful guides explained that it wasn't that there isn't crime, but for whatever reason everybody prefers to leave Westerners the hell alone.

Did we feel safe [from the government]?

Again yes. Yes we're terrible 'hackers', but they did ok all of our visas. And Mitch's message really wasn't particularly radical--mainly bringing news of the death of the western economy, not the eastern. The most radical message was to quit your job and to not live for your parents or your country but to live for yourself and that THAT was the way that you could ultimately help your country and your parents most. Further nobody we talked to refused to answer our direct questions about political or other issues or talk about how dumb, corrupt, and slow moving they thought their governments were.

What was my biggest revelation?

The Tourism industry isn't for westerners... like at all. Its for the Chinese. Someone would talk about how some district was all (puke) tourists. Inevitable I'd end up there, and it was FUCKING SWAMPED with Asians! Maybe you'd see one other westerner get swept past you in the flow of people and you'd make brief eye contact before losing them in the crowd. Theres a billion of the fucking Chinese and they've been working hard for 20 years and they want to see their own god damn temples and lakes and mountains!

What was the worst (most annoying) thing?

Many things. First, everybody smokes EVERYWHERE. Something like 80% of their population must smoke. Second, there is often no paper towel --or occasionally napkins or toilet paper. Also the 'anarchy' of the place was really annoying. I've never seen a more capitalist people than the Chinese. It was interesting to see how the 'a united china' propaganda on that side of the ocean is actually targeted at them, not us. The government is trying to keep one billion people generally calm in a society that appears to be largely built on a 'it's every man for himself' attitude. There is definitely no respect for lines, which really annoyed my German DNA. Even if the line is generally forming, a couple assholes are in front slyly attempting to cut directly there.

Also I hate Chinese food, but that was my problem, not anyone else's.