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文章原始标题:Have you changed your impression of China and the Chinese people after you have been to China? In what ways is it different from what you knew before you went?

内容简介:我尽可能地保持开放的心态。有两点我很幸运: * 我有许多亲密的中国朋友(大部分来自新加坡、马来西亚或英国出生的中国人)在我搬到那里之前,他们能够在我搬到那里之前帮我纠正任何错误的观念。

Alice Gatto Trying to learn more about China because I live here
I tried to keep my mind as open as possible. I was lucky on two counts:
* I have many close Chinese friends (mostly from Singapore, Malaysia or BBC - British born Chinese). They were able to correct any mis-conceptions in advance of my moving there.
* I come from a fairly adventurous family, not in the “throwing yourself out of planes” sense but in the “willing to eat durian in rickety looking cafes” sense. My Dad had a long fascination with Russian culture and language, not exactly the most popular country in the west either.
I didn’t think that Chinese people were oppressed. I figured that if it really were an “Orwellian nightmare” (sorry George, your name is so over-used in this context) then how would Westerners and people from all over manage to live there fairly happily? Also my Mainland Chinese friend in the UK hardly seemed to be suffering from PTSD.

* 我有许多亲密的中国朋友(大部分来自新加坡、马来西亚或英国出生的中国人)在我搬到那里之前,他们能够在我搬到那里之前帮我纠正任何错误的观念。
* 我来自一个相当喜欢冒险的家庭,不是那种“把自己从飞机扔下去”,而是“愿意在看起来摇摇晃晃的咖啡馆里吃榴莲”。我父亲对俄罗斯文化和语言有着很长一段时间的迷恋,俄罗斯也不是西方最受欢迎的国家。

I did however, have some preconceptions. Pollution was one. When I arrived in 2015 it was indeed more polluted than it is today (both Beijing and Shanghai) but not on the documentaries I saw. I was taken aback by being able to “see” pollution though. In London I’m sure it’s just as bad as Beijing at it’s worst on some days, it’s just not visible.
The other one was “人山人海。“(people mountain people sea). Sure, if you go to a train station during any of the major holidays, or the “wrong” part of the Great Wall you’ll see tons of people. The big cities were laid out in a very spacious way though. Not like London and other big cities in the UK, which tend to be more cramped, especially in old cities.


I’m not sure if I had expectations or not but I was impressed by the infrastructure, especially the rail network and mobile payment systems. The UK is adopting cashless payments NOW (I mean in a universal sense, rather than some retailers).
I also didn’t expect that not one taxi driver EVER could speak or read English. At the beginning that was stressful. I did learn Chinese in advance of my arrival, but I was taught by a Northerner from Heilongjiang, so not only was my level really low anyway, but I also struggled with the Shanghai accent. I learned quickly to get my destination written in characters as I was taken to a completely different area - all because of my shitty tones.
I am moving to Shenzhen when eventually I’m able to go back(As Covid-19). This move makes me a bit nervous but I don’t think it’ll be anything like as stressful as those first few months in Shanghai when I was truly clueless. Although I find it nerve-wracking still (like a real life HSK exam) I can look for a flat on my own. I prefer being able to communicate with people directly rather than via a third party. Life really does become incrementally more convenient as you learn more of the language. Being illiterate felt weird, I mean I went from being able to read fairly complex texts in 3 European languages to being like a baby.
Beijing collage
Big kitty at water town near Shanghai:
Shandong, Qingdao, Japanese-style Airbnb:
At Dong Gao Di Xiao Xue, my old school (2018?)
In Shandong, Changdao 山东,长岛, July 2019


Wasut Pornpatcharapong Climbed Kilimanjaro, Went to DPRK, Trans-Siberia, and more..
I went to China in 2008 joining my university’s summer program in Beijing. 2008 was also the year of Beijing Olympics.
Since I studied in an American university using English language and I barely spoke Chinese back then, most of the information about China I received was mainly through the English language mainstream media. Early 2008, most English language media seemed to be unanimously reporting on China’s human rights problems just like today, but back then it was all about Tibet.
This was the news in 2008 when a protester tried to disrupt the Olympics torch relay in Paris. Similar scenes were also seen in other Western cities such as San Francisco. When I heard the news on some American entities tried to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, this picture came to my mind. How things doesn’t change after all these years!



However, back then I bought the narrative that China is a place where there is no personal freedom at all.
This doesn’t sound like a place that I should go for a summer program, but I thought I should go to see with my own eyes how “oppressive” China is so that I have hands-on experiences to tell others about the Chinese oppression.
I was pleasantly surprised!
Out of curiosity, as soon as the plane landed in Beijing and I got a cab, I asked a cab driver in Chinese whether he felt oppressed under the communist. His reply shocked me as he said “It’s OK” without sounding worried in his tones at all. Really? But I was told that China is an oppressive place!


Days went by and as a young avid adventurer, I ventured more and more in Beijing to make the most of my little time there. I started to change. The shopping streets were full of people eating and shopping without looking oppressed. People there just went on with their lives, trying to better themselves, as all of us do all over the World.
Let all these photos tell the story instead of my words. I took all those photos in 2008 in various places in China such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin, and Hangzhou. The people in all those photo didn’t look like they live in a complete Orwellian society as lots of Western media like to portray.
The Chinese people also seemed to know a lot about my country, Thailand, as well, and when my broken Chinese back then started to give away that I wasn’t a Chinese and they asked me where I’m from, they all bombarded me with questions about Thailand. Chinese people are probably one of the most curious group of people I have ever met!
If you could, I would suggest you visit China once! I’m sure it will be such an eye-opening experience in a pleasantly surprised way!!


Alice Gatto
I never thought of Chinese people as being oppressed. Maybe it was my family and friend group. I knew very little about China but was very curious. Since university I have had Chinese (overseas, mind you) friends which helped a lot as they gave me lots of cultural tips.
The only thing I was worried about was not being able to get coffee in China! I was told by my Malaysian friend that coffee would be hard to come by so I took 6 packs in my suitcase… needlessly contributing to the 46 kilos I still don’t understand how I dragged to the airport…
turned out even the coffee thing wasn’t true. Being British, I also love tea. I was very touched when my colleague (at the Beijing primary school I worked at from 2018 - 2020) randomly gave me my favourite Hangzhou Longjing tea and Fujian black tea. I miss China!

我唯一担心的就是在中国买不到咖啡!我的马来西亚朋友告诉我,咖啡很难弄到,所以我在行李箱里放了6包... 不必要地增加了46公斤,我仍然不明白我是怎么拖到机场的...

Wasut Pornpatcharapong
Great to hear that there are still many rational people in the West who won't believe evrerything the media say about China. I have to say that for those who traveled abroad, they tend to be much more open-minded and accepting of cultural differences. I sincerely believe that if we all put down those kinds of rhetoric and embracing each other regardless of our differences, how much better could our world be.
Yes, Longjing tea is good! I went to Hangzhou and there was one alley where shops only sell Longjing tea and there was one person in front of each shop putting a tea pouring show to attract passerbys.


Alice Gatto
I was given a kilo of the stuff as a leaving present!
When i left for China 6 years ago I don’t think there was the anti-China sentiment in the UK that is being encouraged by the media now. Sure, China was mis-represented but not in as an extreme a way as now. More on the scale of nothing but polluted skies being shown, rather than a totally made up situation as in Xinjiang…
My American friends reported that their parents were seriously worried about their going to China. My family just said they were concerned I was going so far away. I think some of that is what I call “McCarthyitis” - my friend and her husband were travelling in the States and an old couple asked her husband came from, he answered China, and they asked in horror, “You mean RED China?”

我的美国朋友说,他们的父母对他们去中国感到非常担心。而我的家人只是说他们担心我要去那么远的地方。我认为这就是我所说的“麦卡锡主义”——我的一个朋友和她的丈夫在美国旅行,一对老夫妇问她的丈夫来自哪里,他回答是中国,他们惊恐地问“你是说 红色中国 吗?”

Wasut Pornpatcharapong
I met a lot of Brits when I traveled in lots of places myself, and I might be biased by the sample as the Brits I met are the one that love traveling abroad, but they were all open-minded and rational on cultural views. The rhetorics in America on China was consistently bad, but intensified during the Trump administration. In 2008, the “Free Tb" movement popped up a lot in America, and now they shifted the focus to Xinjiang to try to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. It's the same old trick.


Kelvin Lee
Us Malaysians still have pretty complicated view about China. Western media is pretty prevalent here, so unless we get a balance dose of media or have travelled to China, we tend to get the same mistaken impression. Fortunately I didn't have to lug tons of coffee over, but concern of halal food was right on the top of the list when I was travelling there , as I travelled there with fellow Malaysian who are often of the Muslim faith. Fortunately it wasn't as difficult as we expected, at least in Hangzhou area where there is a large Muslim street that serve halal food.


Wasut Pornpatcharapong
Thanks for sharing perspectives from my Southern neighbor. It really takes real experiences or healthy doses of different viewpoints to really see China for what she really is. It's worse for us Thais though as Chinese Thais are much more assimilated to the mainstream culture than Chinese Malaysians due to the nationalistic policies during the Cold War. As a result, our boomers were raised with the prevalent anti-communist views due to our cooperation with the US at the time and thus viewed China negatively, and this passed on to younger generations as well.


Alice Gatto
You should go to Xi'an if you haven't already — delicious food to be had on the “Muslim food street.”


Wasut Pornpatcharapong
I missed the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an! The most famous food there is the mutton soup (羊肉泡馍), but I actually prefer the meat bun (肉夹馍).


Tan Ah-Kow
I think the coffee thing was true back in the day. I remember going to Shenzhen and Guangzhou and I couldn’t find coffee anywhere except in some swanky hotel. But that was waaaaay back in the day.


Alice Gatto
That explains it. The friend who mentioned it is around my age and has lived in the UK for at least 10 years. She's been back to Malaysia in that time, but hasn't been to China, and is perhaps relying on accounts of a relative who last visited 10+ years back…


Hu Shi Xiong
Oddly I've never thought of them as oppressed.
I guessed early frequent interactions with them during 90s made me thought they were probably similar but poorer . They never complained about anything like that so oppression never came to mind .


Wasut Pornpatcharapong
I was a college student back then and barely traveled abroad, so the only viewpoint about other cultures I knew was either from the books or through the media. Even though my ancestry is actually Chinese, not a lot of Thai Chinese that I knew traveled to China back then either. So, the media played a very big part in the formative view of China for me, and as a student in an English language medium, I relied heavily on English language sources about China.
This wouldn't have changed if I didn't speak better Chinese or have not actually seen China with my own eyes.


Tony Leung
I attended the Guangzhou Huaqiao Xuesheng Buxi Xuexiao in the early 1990s. More than half of the student body were Thai Huaqiao. Most of them were of Chaozhou ancestry. I heard it was the same for the Beijing and Xiamen sister schools. I did not know anything of Thailand until encountered my fellow classmates.


Wasut Pornpatcharapong
In the 90s it was rare for Thais to travel abroad as there were not as many cheap flights prior to the boom of low-cost airlines. My family also went back to Hainan island, where my ancestors came from, only once (and my dad, who was busy at his work, didn't go with them). So, on our side, we didn't know much about China either.
Many Thai Chinese are of Chaozhou descent like you said, and the Chaozhou (Teochow) dialect is very influential in Thailand as most of the Chinese loanwords in Thai language came from that dialect.


Robert Leo
Dang brave kid you, I don’t know what would happen if I ask in any country whether they were oppressed, it will be a Borat moment.


Thye Kim Meng
2008 is a long time ago. China have moved a century since then.


SW Chan
Last time to China was 2011/10 as tourist. Very good impression at the airport in Shanghai when received by young and polite good looking staffs and officers in the sophiscated buildings with good quality service. It was such a big constrast to the careless and poor service from the staffs at the quite old airport of San Francisco a few years prior to this. Four black staffs served with a careless attitude, one of them very evasive and loud sent us to the wrong spot, very different from the two helpful Asians staffs.
Multi-levels highways, sophisticated malls, squares, huge residential complex, commercial buildings stood straight into the skies.


Lam Mary
As Chinese immigrants in UK, we have admired the western countries’ living environment , the superior medical technology, the scientist, sophisticated education system, high efficiency and people oriented culture.
From the long augment and inefficient execution of Brexit, the weak preparations and poor controls of COVID-19, more and more oversea Chinese know more about western culture, media and politicians.
As compared with Chinese system, we know China will win eventually. Western countries are not beaten by China, but beaten by their own system.
The endless dispute by politicians, no systematic and sophisticated long term and short term plan in government (due to party changes), not goal oriented, not listening, not to understand the competitor, these could not be changed by a president. What a pity!

政客们无休止的争论,政府中没有系统和成熟的长期短期计划(由于政党的更迭) ,没有目标导向,没有倾听,没有了解竞争对手,这些都是总统无法改变的。真遗憾!

Francine Rizza China travel expert with extensise knowledge of the country
I have been visiting China many times now over many years, I just love the country for the culture, its people, art, landscapes, safety, respect. In a way I think that the Chinese still have a network of extended special friends they refer to as their aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandmas who are not actually related whom they respect much as we did in western society when I was a child. The Chinese attitude to being honest is pretty outstanding as is their willingness to help people they think may need a helping hand or even a ride. We are elderly Australians and have always found the Chinese very trustworthy, perhaps this is ingrained tn their culture.


Jeremy Hayes Bar owner (2011-present)
Before coming to China I didn’t have an impression of the place, just a curiosity about it. On the flight over I was reading some guidebook and came across the statement that it was illegal to whistle in the street in China. I threw the stupid book away and went back to my original idea of finding out about the place from my own experience. I only intended to stay for about a year but I’ve lived here for 10 years now. It’s a really nice place, endlessly interesting and full of really lovely people. I have lived in three other countries outside of my birthplace, and I could say the same things about the US, France and Japan. The world is an interesting place and I think it always will be if you keep an open mind and don’t judge people or places without knowing them. And whistle from time to time.


Aaron Ong studied at University of London (1983)
I am a foreign born Chinese. I have 2 children who are 100% Chinese too but were ‘English tutored'. They only know China as a back country from what they saw in TV.
In 2001, I took them to China visiting Great Wall and Forbidden Palace and showed them the almost 5,000 years of China's past as compared to America's 200 years of its founding.
They came back full of respect of China's past and took up Chinese language too.


Andrew McGreevy, former History Professor at Ohio University (1982-2020)
I have been to the PRC twice, the last time in 2012. I think being there reinforces the idea that China is a great country and has done great things. My view is that it is in America’s best interest to have a foreign policy that makes for a peaceful world. Both America and China are great countries, both America and China have made mistakes. It is in the best interests of both countries to manage the relationship much better.


Jonan Ng Bachelor Medical BioScience
No difference, because China is just a normal country like any other country. There is no oppression or genocide.
China is safe. When I was in primary school, I was brought home safely by a random passerby after I lost my way home.

【回答】医学生物科学 学士

David Barry Lived in East Asia for Many Years.
I lived there for eleven years. Now I know that China is a better place to live than my home country of England in many ways and far better than what I hear of what goes on in the US.
China is safe and stable and the people are friendly and intelligent. You are safe from violence and you can walk the streets at all times without fear. Women are safe in China and so too are children.
Today an ignorant quoran who had never been to China wrote what he believes China is like according to his morbid fantasy from the brainwashing US backed media. He envisions China as a smog ridden, oppressive country. I know that China has many beautiful areas of natural beauty, and the cities too have clean air. There is religious toleration; I went to Church, stayed in Buddhist temples and visited Taoist temples. Social life was free and life in real terms is much freer than the west.


I lived in many cities and travelled in the countryside. I also had many Muslim friends, including Uighur friends and know that Muslims are safe in China.
I don’t know what idiotic demons possess the minds of many westerners ( the media really), but I think it so crazy when people who have never been to China state to me that my experience is wrong and their hateful dark fantasies are the truth. The madness of the anti China sentiment in the west will add to their downfall.