Archive for March 18th, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good Ganbu: Coca-Cola hurts Competition and Kids

Earthquakes are Dangerous

Earthquakes are Dangerous

Comrades:

Earthquakes are dangerous, and nothing can be done about them. We will rule nature of course, but not quite yet. No matter how conscientously the construction companies, under the wise leadership of the good local ganbus, build the schools, they will collapse when an earthquake of such a magnitude as the Wenchuan Earthquake of last year strikes. Besides, compared to some other dangers, the dangers of earthquakes are small.

For example, Coca Cola is much more dangerous. They tried to take over motherland brands like Huiyuan and distort our markets. Fortunately, the motherland is now very strong and won’t allow foreign companies to push the Chinese people around when they go shopping.

I think you made sort of a reasonable decision and successfully defeated the imperialist plot, but your measure was only 50% good, and still 50% bad. Because you haven’t banned Coca-Cola from the shelves of our nation yet, and too many people still fall for this imperialist opium.

Little Xue Xiao for example, aka Cola Boy, has lost his right arm during the earthquake. That’s bad enough, but the really terrible thing is that this poor kid is addicted to Coca-Cola!

I, the good ganbu of the older generation implore you, the generation on duty now, to rid the shelves of that fizzy drug from America once and for all, and to replace it with good national brands. As you all know, our own stuff is much healthier.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Mental Overstayer (I)

His visa may be perfectly alright. He may have a green card. In the worst case he may have invested heavily, and with the wrong local partners. He has arrived from somewhere abroad, and lives in some foreign country now. He may even earn a good amount of money, more than he would in his home country. But he may still be in the wrong place.

To be clear, these are a lot of maybes. But this is a small, speculative study, mostly about what can go wrong abroad, not about what is going fine. Let’s head into it with Westerners in China.

Westerners in China

I know many Germans who came to China to learn the language, to teach there, or to work there, sometimes for a foreign-invested company, sometimes for a Chinese company. And there were a lot of happy backpackers travelling the country for up to six months, and China never ceased to amaze them.

The backpackers, and arguably the language learners, are the happiest bunch of people staying in China. They sip the cream from the coffee of globalization and return home again with tons of photos, diaries, happy memories, and sometimes with improved language skills. Westerners who stay in China for longer, to teach English for example, and to learn more about the country than a backpacker probably will, can be happy people, too. But they may also get frustrated more often, because teaching is about interacting with people who have something to gain or lose. The students, for example. Or Chinese teacher colleagues or superiors, when they see the Westerner as a strong and different competitor. Teaching is about work and results, and when you stay in a place for some time, you will inevitably have to deal with conflicts. And when you are no backpacker, you can’t just turn away and try something else, somewhere else.

Then there are Westerners who work for foreign-invested or for Chinese companies. They are frequently referred to as foreign experts. Their stories are often more complicated. That’s especially true if their employers only have tasks for them in China, but not at home, or in Rio de Janeiro. If the employee has no other choice because he has to make up his mind very quickly, he will go to China. If he is in high demand from other companies and might switch to another to escape the China job, his employer may offer him great career prospects at home after a successful stint of, say, two years in China. But anyway, if people don’t really like the idea of working in China, but do so just because their bosses at home want them to, chances are that their job will be more unhappy, and less successful than it could be otherwise. Sometimes, foreign experts are mental overstayers from day one. Of course, not every foreign expert is an unhappy expert.

And then there are the disillusioned China fans. When people who have only been there on a package tour are lecturing JR about how great the China is, JR imagines that they would probably be the greatest China haters if they stayed just a little bit longer. Some do stay longer, and become semi-professional China-bashers. Disappointed lovers spell real trouble. JR likes to refer to them as China borderliners, although this is of course pretty blanket. Obviously, China borderliners are likely to be borderliners in any place anyway, their home country included. Borderliners may love you today, and hate you tomorrow. China borderliners may love China today, and hate it tomorrow. We might say that they are mental overstayers from day two, three, or four after their arrival. But just for the record, not every disillusioned China fan is a borderliner.

When does a Westerner in China become a mental overstayer? That’s hard to tell. Lisa Carducci for example may never become one. One possible explanation could be the three-years-old playing hide-and-seek state of mind which can hit all people in certain situations, no matter how intelligent or stupid they generally are. If and when it hits depends on where someone’s soft spot is. JR thinks that Carducci switches into the three-years-old playing hide-and-seek mode when it comes to China as her country. Have you ever tried to play hide-and-seek with a three-year old? If not, let me tell you how it will most likely go: the kid runs into a corner of a room, turns his face to the wall and says “you can start searching now”.
When Carducci sees something unpleasant – something unpleasant which is specifically Chinese and no part of the global durned human comedy, she turns to a corner, closes her eyes and believes that the ugly turd on China’s image is no longer there. Of course, you won’t see her literally standing there in the corner. You will probably hear her and her likes utter a line like “well, this has cultural reasons”, or “this is because the Western imperialists were so mean to the Chinese“.

There are many Carduccis in China. The good thing is that they don’t do much harm.

The mental overstayer does harm. If he’s trying to play things nice and politically correct anyway, he’ll do himself a lot of harm. If he decides that a turd thrown at him by someone Chinese should be thrown back at the polluter himself, it sometimes makes sense. If he throws it at any Chinese national who comes in his way, it makes no sense. The indiscriminate mental overstayer will usually hit someone – or anyone. When you are in a place in China, chances are that there will be a lot of Chinese people, and your turd can hardly miss them. Generalizing the problem a bit, JR thinks that the mental overstayer, trying to play things nice or not, will end up doing everyone around him long enough at least some harm. No matter if he eats the shit nor throws it around, he will start stinking and catch unhygienic diseases. If he starts blaming his host country for that, he has finally become an inveterate mental overstayer.

To be continued.
Update (September 2, 2010): Continued »

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