I just got back to Chendgu and will be hanging out here for a few days I think. My last couple days in Guilin were a lot of fun. I got to meet some really interesting people and feel like my Chinese was able to improve a lot just from the week I spent there by myself. One benefit of being a foreigner in China is I do not have to worry about offending people or asking too personal of questions. I just ask them anything I want and Chinese people do not seem to mind. There are so many stories I could tell right now. Like about one of the Chinese guys living in my hostel who was in Guilin interviewing for a job at Pepsi and really needed the job so he could convince his girlfriend that he was reliable so she would be willing to marry him, or the 4 girls from Nanning who wanted me to come visit their hometown because they have the best food in china. But the most interesting person I met was a girl who works in the city of Shenzhen.
First I should say a little about the city of Shenzhen. It is located in the south east of China and is right across the water from the island of Hong Kong. Today Shenzhen is one of the most developed and prosperous cities in China but that was not the case just 30 years ago. Before, it was simply a poor fishing village when it won the lottery of the century by being selected as the first Special Economic Zone as part of the Reforms of 1979. Deng Xiaoping, the leader of China after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, wanted to introduce market economic reforms in China but wanted to experiment in a few cities first before bringing the reforms to the country at large. Shenzhen proved a tremendous success and today attracts a lot of professionals from China.
So, this is where my friend worked. She actually spoke English quite well (definitely better than my Chinese). What was so interesting about her was the fact that she had such an independent and open mind. She was a Christian and talked about how her faith in Christ gave her a better sense of morality to treat other people better. She said that a lot of people in China will not think twice about cheating you if it will benefit them. She thought that Chinese people could learn from the example of Christ to treat people as you would yourself. She even had many negative things to say about the government, and how they constantly lie to the people rather than tell them the truth. She was the first Chinese person I had met who actually held these kind of views. Most others either did not think this is the case or simply have no opinions whatsoever.
But the most interesting part of talking to her over a few days was her thoughts on America and Taiwan. She greatly despised American foreign policy in the world and saw the country as looking down on everyone else. When I asked for some examples, she pointed to our immigration policy and how it is very difficult, time consuming, and expensive for Chinese people to live or visit the US. She said we think we are just so good that we want to keep everyone else out. Later, she went on to say that with China becoming stronger and stronger they might just do the same thing to Americans and keep all of us out.
It was pretty crazy how our conversation turned so quickly from a lively one to a fairly antagonistic one. It then got worse when she brought up the question of Taiwan. She wanted to know why America wants to divide the Chinese people by selling sophisticated weapons to Taiwan. In her mind, America is trying to control China by using Taiwan. When I told her that the US does not support Taiwan independence and hopes to eventually have a peaceful reunification, she did not seemed too convinced. She then made a very interesting point by referring to how Hong Kong was re-integrated with the mainland in 1997. At that time, there were a lot of fears that Mainland China would restrict the relative freedom that Hong Kong enjoyed under nominal British rule for so long. But China agreed to allow Hong Kong to have their own independent press as well as local government and enjoy relative autonomy for the next 50 years. This policy, from my understanding, seems to be fairly succsessful. My friend said that this proves that Taiwan should be reintegrated by the same kind of policy. It also shows that China really does not have bad intentions, but just wants a united country.
Granted, we obviously do not see completely eye to eye on this issue but it was very interesting hearing what she had to say. I try to do my best to avoid political discussions because it usually does not lead to anywhere constructive and a lot of times becomes a bit testy. But I really enjoyed getting to know this lady over the last few days I was in Guilin.
Today is the Chinese New Years Eve and I do not have any plans as of now. I think I am going to go to a local bar and watch the New Year festivites on tv. Apparently, everyone from around the country will be watching so I am curious what it is all about. I have been traveling now for over a month and still have about 3 weeks left before I have to head back to Harbin. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity where I can just travel anywhere in China that I feel like. In fact, I think on this trip, I will have seen more of China that most Chinese. Im pretty lucky.