Life in China

One of the things that worried me about coming to work in China was the whole political situation here. I had visions of the “Great Firewall”, and wondered how far they’d progressed from Mao suits, waving the “Little Red Book”, bicycles, and clamping down on Tibetans.

Well, the thing is, I probably worried to much. China is backward in many ways. The paperwork (or more accurately the randomness with which it will appear) will make you think “Remind me again why I have to do it for that?” The hideous over-staffing is remarkable (they have people to tell you where to park your bikes, when people cope on their own, no problem). If they were efficient, China would be scary, trust me on thatBut they aren’t.

China is a paternalistic, top down, society. It’s not communist. Trust me on that. It just isn’t. Paternalistic? Yes. Paper hungry? Totally. Determined to know what you’re up to? Absolutely. But I’ve never been worried about what “the people in charge” think of me. Asking them to explain stuff gives me a good idea where they’re coming from, and saying “So tell me about…..?” is a good way to get people (even adults) thinking about issues.

The other thing they respond to is being open, and balanced, about stuff in your country of origin. I’ve had students ask me what people thought about Margaret Thatcher, George W. Bush, The difference between British and American government, what the difference between Christians and Catholics where, and why the Puritans left England. If you give them honest answers, they’ll respect you for it, and respond when you ask about China.

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