Friday, July 12, 2013

Having a "China Day"

All of us foreigners living in China have what we call "China days" — days when some aspect of life in China just stacks up so high that we want to explode in anger and frustration. It took me two years before I had my first one, and they were very rare for me until the past six months.

What's interesting is that Ma Lei has started having them. They're usually provoked by things she reads about on the internet, rather than by anything that happens directly to her.

Today she read a story about a child who was beaten so badly he had to go to the hospital for treatment, then once he was patched up again he was sent straight back to the loving parents who had beaten him so badly. Then she read about an elderly Chinese couple who refused to acknowledge their own granddaughter, because the father was an American. ("Their minds are stuck in the Mao Ze Deng times," she said bitterly.)

Last night she heard a radio call-in show on which a 50-something man had called in to complain that his son had disowned him and refused to let him see his grandson. The reason was that, when the son was growing up, the father had spent most of his time with his mistress rather than at home with his wife and child. Now — without expressing any regrets for his own actions — the old man wanted advice on how to force his son to reopen communications.

Another caller, a young woman, had married a man who had regularly beaten her while they were dating. The man has recently started beating their child, and the woman wants a divorce. The man won't give it to her, and China allows divorce only by mutual consent. The host of the show told the woman she was an idiot to marry that guy and have a child with him. What the heck did she expect?

After hearing all those stories and some more I'm forgetting now, Ma Lei went on a rant against China. "Why are there so many stupid people in China?" She asked. "This whole country should hurry up and die! China doesn't deserve to live! There are too many people here, anyway; a few of them need to start dying off." (I was reminded of my semi-facetious Rule #1 of China: There are too many of you!)

As she always does, she expressed these sentiments in ways that were more funny than serious, but the sentiment was real. She's getting fed up with her own country.

This actually saddens me a great deal, though of course I totally agree with the reasons she feels this way. I'm glad she has the right values, and I'm glad she is idealistic. Nonetheless, I don't want her to hate her own country or lose sight of the great things about it.


  1. As well as being married to you, going to the U.S to visit will have opened her eyes to other ways of living. Its a shame in some ways but also good because she at least can now make informed judgements on the rights/wrongs of her homeland. Sadly this country is not alone with these problems and perhaps as human beings we all need to "get out" of our comfort zone and see how the other half live. It might make us all a lot more tolerant!


  3. You should hear what I hear from blacks from Africa who love it here compared to their home countries. Also look at a book, 'Out Of America: A Black Man Confronts Africa by Keith B. Richburg, a black Washington Post Asian correspondent in Beijing, last I heard from him.