Monday, June 27, 2011

What is the Chinese student's viewpoint on America?

What is the Chinese student's viewpoint on America?

This was one of the lessons that was covered in our Chinese textbook last week. It's interesting because I know that much of the American viewpoint on China is misinformed or swayed by the media. I think that the Americans can also justify lots of things on the media as non-biased because of the fact that the media is not owned by the government and that we have freedom of speech. However, I think sometimes in America, we are ignorant of the fact that the media's portrayal of foreign countries often has underlying political propaganda and other agendas. If anything, I don't think a lot of the negative articles written about China accurately portray the amount of wealth and the transformation of the citizens in Beijing. Yes, we know that there's "tremendous economic growth" in China, and that it is "slowly catching up to America" but it really wasn't until I got here and spoke with local citizens, from students to elders, that I realized how amazing of a feat that was. Prior to the cultural revolution, people have described to me that China was comparable to present-day North Korea. How did a country like this, in such a short span of three or so decades, become a global superpower? How can it be that some of the adults right now in this nation, who own multiple apartments in Beijing that sell for nearly 1 million USD for a two bedroom apartment, once grew up in an impoverished country that had just about nothing? (using my vocab here: 一贫如洗)

Chinese students once worshipped America for its freedom, its democracy and human rights. I think these are areas where even citizens today willingly admit that they admire about America. But now that China's economy is so strong, and so powerful, I can sense a feeling of nationalism and patriotism that isn't unfounded. Sure, every nation's citizens have a sense of pride for their nation, and I'm sure Chinese people always had nationalism. However, from some of the interviews I conducted, one especially with a friend of mine from Tsinghua, I remember him saying something along the lines of this: This is why our people are so proud. This is why our parent's generation is so proud of this country. They literally rebuilt this country in a span of 30 years. After centuries of being colonized, mistreated, and overpowered by foreigners, we're finally back on top. Every year, there's so much change but everyone is working together to make this new China. There's no longer a need to worship America, but rather the viewpoint of China-US relationship now is more economic partnership than anything. We have our differences, and many are cultural; America needs to better understand us as a nation and as a people. We know more about your history and we've read your constitution and watch your films and listen to your music; your country knows little to none about us as a people. He told me of how although most Chinese students despise US foreign affairs and policies, and feel like they only get in the way of other people's business using the name of "democracy", they still admit that there any social and economic norms that they can learn from America, and that America also has a lot to learn from China. This is a statement that he is now able to proudly say, and say without worry.

Although politics is a sensitive topic that really has no absolute right or wrong, after having this conversation with my friend and others, I feel like I have a greater realization of foreign countries. Chinese students are no longer pushing for a drastic change in government policy, because they know that at the speed with which China is growing, the amount of social progress has also been tremendous as well, and that it would be asking for something that is unrealistic for China to completely democratize right now. Many people are happy with the government; they sacrifice some rights which Americans view as unalienable, and get extreme efficiency, security, and amazing economic growth. For a nation that was impoverished 30 years ago, I think many citizens are more economic oriented and are willing to achieve economic goals at the expense of certain rights for the time being.

extra curricular activity: peking opera actor comes and teaches us
how to appreciate peking opera and then paints some of our faces!

fervently love the communist government

the drum tower (which is across from the drum tower),
next to some hutongs we went to

quiet picturesque eh? 

tsinghua university... wait what i wish i went here

monkey king!
pouring tea! it looked cooler than this pic can describe..

Sunday, June 19, 2011

First Impressions


Academics & Activities Relating to HBA:
HBA is as difficult as people have described it, at least for the first week. My entire chinese class from Yale that's at HBA took Heritage Level Chinese L1 and L2 last year. At HBA, we all got placed into Year 4 (L1+L2=Year 1). Though our verbal and listening skills are on par with the degree of difficulty, our written and reading abilities are years behind. Classwork has taken me anywhere from 4-6 hours a night, in addition to a total of about 5 hours of class per day. During the first week, HBA has been like a prison camp, and sadly, with all the hundreds of new characters ~400 this first week that we've learned and been exposed to, we have rarely if ever been able to use it with locals due to our hectic schedules.

Aside from all the excessive negativity from above, I've improved my reading and written ability dramatically in just one week alone. It covered basically how much we would cover in about a month or more of school at Yale. All of the learning comes at the cost of sleep and time to do other things like exploring Beijing. Nevertheless, I think it's definitely worth it; it's just really rough at first, and students have been completely burnt out by the weekend. On a brighter note, Friday, I placed 2nd place on a "pronunciation competition", which is the first of a series of weekly competitions that HBA hosts, where the teachers choose participants from each grade level.

Extracurricular Affairs:
Beijing Language and Culture University (北语) is very close to all the other universities in Beijing, and is located conveniently next to Wudaokou (五道口), which is a subway station/area with lots of malls, restaurants, bars, and clubs. A large group of us students went out Friday night as a reward for ourselves after a long week. We went to some of the popular bars/clubs for many study abroad students called "Propaganda" and "Sensation". Having never been to a club in the states, I can only say that it was kind of awkward in the clubs here in Beijing. It was fun, but many of the actual locals would stand on the outside of the dance floor and just kind of creep around or just look at everyone else who was dancing. Even the dancing was just very different from what I've seen in the states. However, all of the music is mainstream pop music from America.

in chinese, it says, "no graffiti!
whoever does so will be spanked!
Saturday, three other Yale students and I decided to go to on our own excursion instead of going to the Great Wall with HBA because we've all already been there multiple times. We decided to go to the 798 Art District. We took the subway and then a cab there, it was a lot of fun. This entire district used to be factories and such, and a lot of "starving artists" displayed their artwork here and also used the buildings as a form of art. Most of the artwork was modern/post modern works. It was interesting to see this artwork and compare it to a lot of the artwork that you would see in places like the MET, Yale Art Gallery and such. 

this was a laser art exhibit
this work is called "fantasy love"
There were also some of art..

Afterwards, we went to this shopping area where they have a lot of fake goods and you have to bargain with them called the Silk Market I think... Anyways, we bought a lot of random stuff that we probably didn't need just because it was fun to bargain and it was cheap. Added another shotglass to my collection, and got an I "heart" BJ shirt. This morning (Sunday) I woke up and took bus 307 from BLCU to 中关村南站 and wandered around for a long time until I found the church that I was looking for. I attended the english service at Haidian Christian Church and it was very pleasant to have found a church here in Beijing, though it is actually one of the "approved" churches that are regulated by the government.

I will take more pictures next week of interesting things!
Random pic: I was actually at Lanzhou, China for a week before coming to Beijing. This is a picture of "兰州拉面" which is a nationally famous beef noodle soup: