All my friends in China know only too well (much too well) how much I love Kunming. As I get ready to leave China in a few weeks, it’s the one place I feel I absolutely must go back to one more time before heading home.

I had only one very brief experience in Kunming that I’d have to classify as not entirely delightful, and I always wanted to get it down on “paper.” It was brief, only a few seconds long, actually, but I still think about it.

It was in February, and I had just enjoyed a large bowl of Jiang Brothers cross-bridge noodles with the black chicken served alongside in a tiny clay pot. For about 28 kuai you get a swimming-pool-sized bowl of rice noodles in soup and a stack of little plates and saucers filled with different items you scrape into the soup – thin sliced chicken, pickled vegetables, cashew nuts and several things I could never identify. If Taiwan’s signature dish is beef noodles and Chongqing’s is hot pot, then cross-bridge noodles is Kunming’s. (Jiang Brothers is a chain, and there are even a couple here in Beijing, which I highly recommend for cheap, delicious semi-fast food.)

This Jiang Brothers is located on a tricky intersection where some busy streets converge, making it something of an island. There’s only a small spot where taxis can stop directly in front of the front doors, and if you don’t want to get your taxi there you’ll have to cross the street and walk a block or two away. This little space had in effect become a taxi stand; there always seemed to be people waiting there for cabs. So when I was done with my dinner and needed a taxi to get back to my hotel, I waited there, too. A couple of people were waiting ahead of me, and within ten or 15 minutes I was the next in line.

Then along came six relatively well-dressed guys, probably in their mid-30s. They looked like typical nouveau riche Chinese, most of them a bit overweight, carrying the small black purses you see so often in Shanghai and Hong Kong and wearing gold rings and watches. And all smoking, of course. I was now the only one waiting up at the front of the informal taxi stand, and they didn’t line up, instead stopping a bit further up the road.

What happened next is something we’ve all seen, and something I wrote about way back during my first few months here, namely the every-man-for-himself attitude that is among the first cultural shocks for any newcomer here. (And here I have to say that in Beijing this has improved tremendously over the past few years, and people have gotten much better about honoring lines and letting you out of elevators before they plow in, etc. ) A taxi approached and I hailed it, and the group of young men hailed it too, and instead of pulling up to the front where I was waiting the taxi stopped in front of them and three of the group of six got in.

Okay, I’ve been in China for a few years now, so this didn’t faze me at all. Sure, it’s a little irritating, and it might have been nice if they’d said, “This guy was here first,” but it’s definitely not worth fighting about. They had to split up, and now the other three were waiting for their taxi, and I thought that even if they get the next taxi and I have to wait a little longer, so what? And so I waited, and when the next taxi came a couple of minutes later the same thing happened – I hailed it and so did they. Only this time the taxi pulled right to the front and stopped in front of me. As the taxi approached and it was obvious it wasn’t stopping for them, I heard loud grumblings from the Gang of Three about the laowai stealing their taxi.

At first I didn’t think much of it. Even if they somehow thought they were next in line for the taxi, this isn’t exactly a place where line etiquette is religiously respected and fervently observed. People often cut lines and do what they can to be first. And I wasn’t cutting. I was next. So when I heard the word laowai being spoken more loudly and more harshly, and when I saw the Gang of Three walking over to me indignantly, clutching their black purses, I began to get a little nervous. But not a bit less determined to stand my ground.

Laowai!” shouted the heaviest of the three, who seemed to be the one bent on making a stir. He said I was stealing their taxi. I said I had been waiting several minutes before they came, but it was clear they didn’t want to discuss it. I stepped into the front seat, shut the door and looked up at “the leader” from the window. I didn’t look angry or scared or triumphant or happy. I just gave him the coldest, most dispassionate, most expressionless stare I possibly could, hoping to convey that I had done absolutely nothing for which I needed to account to him and that there was no way on earth I was getting out. The three men were now all shouting, “Laowai!” The second syllable cracked like a whip. And then they started to slam the roof of the car, adding percussion to their eerie chant. “Laowai! Laowai!”

I looked at the driver and asked if he wanted me to get out of the car. He said no. And then “the leader” went a bit too far and opened the door to the front seat. He was actually going to start a fight because he wanted the taxi. I truly admired the taxi driver at this point. He simply reached across and grabbed the door handle, slammed it shut, pushed the lock down and shouted something at the group. And then he sped off. He waved my apologies away and said it didn’t matter.

As I said, this incident is in no way your typical evening in Kunming. Quite the contrary. The people there are so laid back, so friendly and welcoming – but then, maybe that’s why I found this so unnerving, and why it caught me off guard. Those shouts of “Laowai!” are so vivid, even now, four months later. It took the rest of the night for me to completely shake it off, and it’s definitely “one of those moments” that will be with me as part of my mosaic of China memories.

(And to repeat yet again, it will be with me because it was atypical. Fighting for a taxi may be a common occurrence here, but what happened that night in Kunming was not.)

The Discussion: 97 Comments

How are we going to live without your stories from China, I don’t know.

June 28, 2009 @ 11:27 pm | Comment

Don’t think I ever had a problem quite like that…I usually had problems with the taxi drivers not wanting to take a laowai anywhere. I was, however, pushed out of the way as I went to open a taxi door–someone decided they were in more of a rush.

June 29, 2009 @ 12:06 am | Comment

Were they rip-roaring drunk?

June 29, 2009 @ 12:08 am | Comment

Diane, thanks a lot.

Matt, I actually think the first taxi driver was doing what you describe – avoiding the laowai in favor of the locals. Which is understandable to some extent, since a lot of laowai are more work for a taxi driver. And I, too, never had a problem quite like this one before, which I guess if why I kept wanting to blog it.

June 29, 2009 @ 12:11 am | Comment

Wesley, I really don’t think they were drunk. But they were SO full of themselves, especially Der Fuehrer. I mean, classic yuppy obnoxious and spoiled like a little brat. Otherwise, they were quite charming.

June 29, 2009 @ 12:12 am | Comment

“it will be with me because it was atypical”,

Atypical? Being hassled by a bunch of guys, usually drunk, with the fact that I was whitebread being a major cause of the trouble, happened to me about once a month or so in China. Not because I had a Langlang-style knack for getting into fights either.

June 29, 2009 @ 6:38 am | Comment

@Richard –

“I actually think the first taxi driver was doing what you describe – avoiding the laowai in favor of the locals. Which is understandable to some extent, since a lot of laowai are more work for a taxi driver”

Dude, I can’t believe you’re going out of your way to make excuses for this kind of thing. In the three or four times where I’ve actually has an opportunity to ask taxi driver who had no other obvious reason not to take a passenger why they wouldn’t take me, they made it fairly plain that it was because they didn’t think much of foreigners, not because of us being ‘more work’ but simply because of my skin colour.

June 29, 2009 @ 6:42 am | Comment

I don’t want to start a round of bad China stories, but… yeah, sorry, I have this one taxi story that happened quite near the beginning of my 6 year stay in Xi’an that I also can’t shake, because I don’t quite understand it. I was hailing a taxi with my 11 year old son with me. The first one seemed to ignore me, and stopped about 40 meters further down the road. I thought he was picking up someone else and hailed the next one. So happens the first one just felt he couldn’t stop in that particular place so stopped at a safer place, waiting for me. I was in China for about 2 weeks so had no idea, and started getting into the next cab, when the first guy came storming over, waving a knife, swearing at me, yelling, roadrage, scary loud craziness. I just bundled my son in, and tried to offer the guy the flag-fall, trying to communicate that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying and accepted that I’d made some sort of faux pas. The second driver just pulled me in and sped off. What sticks with me is how a situation like that could switch to such vehement hate-filled violence so quickly, and that to an obvious laowai, i.e. tourist WITH A SMALL KID. I still shake when I think about it.

The lesson from that was a constant awareness that in China things can kick into violent gear at the drop of a straw hat. I also cranked up learning the language really quickly.

June 29, 2009 @ 7:36 am | Comment

FOARP, I won’t jump to any conclusions about taxi drivers disliking foreigners. Many of them have excellent conversations with me and most in Beijing never hesitate to stop or skip me for a Chinese customer. I do think there are some who are afraid of lawoai because of the language issue. I notice when I step into a taxi some drivers will turn the radio before asking where I’m going and turn all the way around to look at me in case I need help describing my destination. They prepare themselves for a big deal, which again is understandable because some foreigners here, especially tourists, really do have a hard time explaining where they are going. But that’s almost irrelevant to this post and hope we don’t get hung up on it. Some drivers a jerks, some a excellent, like the one I finally got into.

June 29, 2009 @ 9:11 am | Comment

Oh we developing countries can be a tad trying.. China is still ok as the laws are strict. I’ve seen guys getting stabbed over scuffles like that. ‘Struggle for existence survival of the fittest’ – the stark reality of it can be seen when you want to hail a taxi or get into a bus. Although why is so unclear. I’m all for queues.

June 29, 2009 @ 9:54 am | Comment

Some Techniques In Babysitting Chilren

Today I want to talk some techniques to babysit children. I feel it is boring to talk about serious topics everyday, and frankly some of my topics may be too high-level for some of the readers here.

First, I must admit that my babysitting skills is first-class. But I very much hate babysitting, and I find no enjoyment from it. But here are some useful techniques for babysitting

1) Treat the child just like an adult. That means you should talk to the child just like you talk to an adult. Do not imitate the baby-voices like on TV. Try to give a very serious voice and tone, and pretend that you are talking to a professor. If the baby does not understand you, that’s ok, as long as you keep on doing that, it’ll raise his IQ score on IQ tests.

2) Do not play with the baby. No matter how lovely the baby looks, do not treat him as a toy. If you play with the baby, the baby may feel you are his toy as well, and will try to nag you to play with him all the time. Well, we know that a baby has a lot of free time, but adults do not have much free time. If you are being nagged by the baby constantly, you’ll waste a lot of time and get very very angry. And perhaps you may start to hit the baby and maybe even kill it. In fact, many murders and baby abusers shown on TV are not terrible people, they are simply tired of being nagged all the time and had no time to do serious work.

3) If a baby cries, do not try to meet his demands, unless it is life-threatening. A baby learns his lessons as he matures. If he learns that crying and throwing things is a good way to get what he wants, then he’ll continue to do that and be a very unreasonable person when he grows up. So if you should train the baby to know how to negotiate reasonably like mature adults. If he cries continuously, it is OK to ignore it. But if you cannot stand such cries, it is OK to put some clothing in his mouth to lower his cries, but be very careful not to hurt or suffocate the baby, otherwise it’ll be too cruel.

4) Always gives the baby showers at least once a day. Remember that a newborn baby has a very soft neck, so make sure you hold the neck gently when giving it a shower. I have heard incidents when the baby’s head is cracked off because the parents are too ungentle with its neck

5) It is best to breastfeed your baby with your wife’s breasts. It simply saves time and money. But if your wife cannot produce milk, then you can buy some milk powder, otherwise the baby’s cries at night will be very annoying. Milk powder is simply white powder that you put hot water on, and it’ll be very close to real milk. One brand I recommend is S26 from US supermarkets, it costs 3.99 for 10 gallons if it is on sale.

Those are some basic techniques. But overall, babysitting is a very troublesome thing. If the baby is 5 years or younger, then it is OK because baby at least looks very lovely. But when the baby is 7 or older, then it is not so attractive anymore. I remember my old American neighbor told me that there’s a famous American saying, “7,8,9 year old babies are as trashy as dogs.”. I agree with that saying, they are certainly very annoying, just like those democracy-lovers and Taiwan separatists that infest this blog.

June 29, 2009 @ 11:39 am | Comment

[…] If the above story is too sentimental and happy, and you need something more aggravating and disappointing, here’s one of Richard’s more negative but equally poignant China memories, though it technically doesn’t belong in this week’s Weekly Review: Laowai! […]

June 29, 2009 @ 1:24 pm | Pingback

@Math I remember my old American neighbor told me that there’s a famous American saying, “7,8,9 year old babies are as trashy as dogs.”

A famous American saying in an alternate reality perhaps…I mean, WTF?!

As an American I am willing to unequivocally state that I have never ever, not once, in my life, EVER heard this gem, or anything remotely approaching it.

Math, adjust your meds. Seriously.

June 29, 2009 @ 2:27 pm | Comment

Lisa, I’ve been telling him to adjust his meds for three or four years now. But adjusting the meds wouldn’t really help, because Math actually knows there is no such saying. The defining characteristic of most of his comments is flipping reality on its head.

We might be tempted to laugh at Math’s nonsense or even to find him kind of disarming. Let’s not forget he’s good friends with Hong Xing and they’re both cut from the same cloth. Math’s just a little less evil.

June 29, 2009 @ 3:00 pm | Comment

@otherlisa …”WTF”

exactly my thoughts on Math’s entire comment!

June 29, 2009 @ 4:55 pm | Comment

Maybe the poor bastard lost his girlfriend to a laowai!

June 29, 2009 @ 7:05 pm | Comment

7,8,9 year old babies are as trashy as dogs
Chinese idioms translated into English often sound awkward like that, especially when the translator’s English ability is limited.

June 30, 2009 @ 7:46 am | Comment

Just read this over on Facebook (thanks for reposting it there Richard, as this block thing is annoying). Bit weird to see things so quiet around here.

Fantastic post and one I think all us laowai can empathize with. It’s, in my opinion, a great story because it so crisply shows the contrast in attitudes. You’ve got three assholes, but you’ve also got a local business man (taxi driver) who stood up for his customer and went against racial ties in favour of the “right” thing to do.

That “laowai laowai laowai” chanting though is f’ing creepy.

June 30, 2009 @ 8:23 am | Comment

Ahh…gotta LUV those good ‘ol 暴发户!

June 30, 2009 @ 10:57 am | Comment

I am wondering if more and more people in China are led to believe what Chairman Mao once proclaimed: the Chinese people have stood up, and therefore they stand up to laowai zealously.

The Chinese govt led by example to stand up to laowai when they dragged Mexican travelers away from the airports and put them in quarantine for swine flu. It must be inspiring for the people in China to watch it on TV. It is a feat that made the people oblivious of the fact that they are deprived of the basic things which others take for granted, the right to vote, the right to search online, and are far from being able to stand up in their own motherland

June 30, 2009 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

El Chino, these plump, jewelry-adorned yuppies looking for a taxi seemed to bear several characteristics – “deprived” isn’t one of them. I know many people in China who really are deprived and in need, and they are way less arrogant and way more gracious to laowai than the Gang of Three were.

June 30, 2009 @ 12:44 pm | Comment

@Richard – I’m not talking about taxi drivers, I’m talking about a small but significant portion of the Chinese population who sees nothing wrong in openly expressing hatred towards foreigners, of whom the 3-4 taxi drivers who simply refused to carry me saying that it was because I was a foreigner form a part. Taxis are one of the two places (the other being the pub) where I learned most of my spoken Chinese, and I found the majority of drivers to be good sorts, like the one whose taxi you ended up taking.

June 30, 2009 @ 4:49 pm | Comment

FOARP, maybe we were living in different parts of China. I sometimes hear nasty but minor swipes made about foreigners but only rarely have I seen/heard anything approaching hatred. I see that on some message boards (and in some of the comment threads here). Maybe there is a “small but significant portion of the Chinese population who sees nothing wrong in openly expressing hatred towards foreigners” but I haven’t run into them anywhere yet in China. I think if the second taxi had stopped for them and not for me, the creeps describe in my story wouldn’t have given me a second thought; I wouldn’t have even existed for them. They didn’t hate me for being a laowai, but because I didn’t let them be the spoiled brats they seemed to believe they were somehow entitled to be.

June 30, 2009 @ 5:23 pm | Comment

@Richard – Well, all I can say is I’ve been in too many fights where I got picked on just for being white in the wrong place, been dissed on too many street corners, heard too many people describe things like mixed race marriage as ‘disgusting’, gone through too many ‘Look Who’s Coming to Dinner’ moments, seen a friend of mine’s girlfriend kidnapped by her parents so as to keep her away from him explicitly because of his race, and seen other people just disown their daughters for marrying foreigners not to think that there is not a significant portion of population that hates foreigners. I think you’ll agree that anyone who would say otherwise after going through that is a bit naive.

June 30, 2009 @ 5:49 pm | Comment

Let me put this another way. If a group of white guys in the UK surrounded a taxi with an Asian person shouting ‘Paki’ and hammering on the roof in the way described simply because the Asian man had taken ‘their’ taxi, the police here would describe it as a racially motivated assault (remembering that all that is necessary for an assault is for the victim to apprehend a battery), and rightly so. It doesn’t matter if these people are ordinarily racist, Michael Richards was probably telling the truth when he said that he was not ordinarily racist, it’s the fact that the first thing that comes out of their mouth when they are angry is a racial identifier used in a disrespectful fashion. Would they have done this if it had been a Chinese person? I think you’ll have to admit that it would have been a lot less likely. People for some reason expect racists to be carpet-chewing maniacs.

June 30, 2009 @ 6:02 pm | Comment

For an outline of what may be regarded a hate crime in the UK, here’s a good start:

June 30, 2009 @ 7:28 pm | Comment

I am not sure how to put this, so apologies in advance if it comes out the wrong way.

Firstly I would like to second FOARP’s comments. Racism is pretty rife in China. I think there maybe two main reasons why Richard has not had the experiences of it that we have had. I think firstly this is due to the type of job Richard has and the long hours he has to put in, which means he may not get the man-on-the-street type interaction. I think also it is due to the fact that both FOARP and I used to be English teachers during our early to mid-twenties. The going stereotype of the young western man in China is of the care free loose playboy who is going to steal your daughter/sister/girlfriend. We also have a good deal of money, compared to a Chinese man of our age, and it is also considered income coming from an easy job which is not fully deserved. I think therefore both of these factors contribute to us being more of a target of venom than perhaps Richard, who being older than us and occupying a more senior skilled position would be assumed to be more deserving of his status.

Personally I found Taiwan to have a greater problem with racism than the mainland. I noticed people tended to be more openly racist there, though there were never any physical confrontations which seem to be an issue in the mainland (from what I have heard, but not personally suffered). The Taiwanese tended to be more disparaging of foreigners in general, blacks and Indians in particular and also much more hostile towards mixed race relationships. I knew several people in Taiwan who had been dating local girls for years, but the ladies in question had not told their parents out of fear. There was also an incident where a colleague’s gf’s brother tried to get her to move away from their hometown in an effort to separate them.

June 30, 2009 @ 9:03 pm | Comment

Believe it or not, I wasn’t living in bubble-wrap for two years. I worked every day with Chinese people and had (have) many Chinese friends. I am all too familiar with the racism you describe and have seen it with my own eyes, and I heard people I considered friends with degrees from great schools in Beijing tell me how happy they were when they heard the news of the jets slamming into the World Trade Center (which I also heard from friends in Singapore). However, in my stay in China, this experience in Kunming stands by itself. I never saw public demonstrations of feelings against foreigners although I had heard of them from my friends who were here during the Belgrade bombings. I also saw it expressed toward the Japanese, here as in Hong Kong, and towards blacks, endlessly. I did not see what happened in Kunming, however, as racist, and reject FOARP’s comparison to people screaming “Pakis” at Muslims, because I’ve learned that Laowai is simply a standard way of referring to foreigners here without the inherent hatred that a term like “Paki” carries. I’m not apologizing for these guys, but remember, I was there, and they were totally indifferent to me until I took “their” taxi. If I had been a Buddhist monk, or dressed up as an Arab sheik, they would have pounded the roof screaming about that. I’m always referred to as laowai here, I hear it on the elevator and on the street and everywhere I go – and while this may be irritating, to be singled out and considered “different,” I don’t ascribe it to racism or hatred. The Gang of Three were being assholes. I cannot say they were being especially racist. Immature, obnoxious, etc. They found something to seize on, my being a foreigner, and jumped on it. And who knows, maybe they also feel some pent-up rage against white foreigners. Looking at China’s history and education system and propaganda, can you entirely blame them? That’s not to excuse them – I will never do that – but I want to be sure we don’t project our own stereotyped image of the Chinese onto these brats.

June 30, 2009 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

was there any major international incident happend at that time, like tibet protesting or olympic torch stuff like that, but anyway, i think that driver’s quite cool.

June 30, 2009 @ 10:58 pm | Comment

oh no, it was Febuary, nothing happend there then, might be the ChengGuans off duty, i suspect!

June 30, 2009 @ 11:16 pm | Comment

There is some truth in the assertion that the Taiwanese are more racist than the Mainlanders. One reason is that the Taiwanese government and the Taiwanese society are scared of foreigners. The mainland government is not as timid, and is not afraid of picking a fight with foreign countries. Hence Mainlanders are more confident, secure and less likely to become racist.

One example. There is a bar called the Carnegie’s in Taipei. It has a NTD 500 cover charge for local men, but lets white foreign men enter the club for free. If such a thing happens in Mainland and becomes well known, Chinese youths will be organizing protests immediately and the bar will soon go out of business. But in Taiwan, Westerners can actually get away with such an outrageous practice. No wonder there are a lot of pissed-off Taiwanese.

June 30, 2009 @ 11:18 pm | Comment

@Richard – I hate to dig up the age-old “is laowai a racist term?” argument, but I’ve heard it turned into an insult in enough people’s mouths to think that if it wasn’t a racial epithet in the past, then it has become one or is becoming one. The clue is in you ‘learning’ that it wasn’t one – may I deduce from that that when, on first arriving, you heard total strangers shouting it at you in tones of shock or disapproval, you, like most foreigners, considered that it might be a disrespectful term? At the very least, all racist epithets go through a stage when they are used as such but not recognised as such by the general populace, and you should consider whether laowai is such a term.

Of course, even if you do not accept that it is a racial epithet, it is certainly a racial identifier for white people, and you have made it plain that they were using it in a hate-filled, angry, and disrespectful fashion whilst threatening you with violence. I hardly think it can be ‘projecting my own stereotype’ to suggest that race played an important role in this affair, indeed you seem to accept that it played a factor when you say that they weren’t being ‘especially racist’.

My point about racial motivated crime is not that shouting racial epithets is a crime in and of itself, but that the use of racial language in the commission of an assault is enough in many countries including the UK for it to be prosecuted as racially-motivated. In my opinion this standard quite correctly fits the situation described.

@Si – I lived on Taiwan for a year before coming to mainland back in ’03. This was in the days before I could really do much more than get by in Chinese, so I can’t say whether racism is more prevalent there or not. At least I never saw obvious evidence of hatred. As I said above, I have seen obvious evidence of it amongst a significant minority of the Chinese population. Richard referenced political stands like Chinese nationalism and anti-Americanism, but I guess it should be pointed out that many of the anti-foreigner attitudes described existed before even the Opium wars, and that maybe we should consider that, as nothing has actually happened in the meantime to dissuade such opinions, they may still be prevalent.

July 1, 2009 @ 12:38 am | Comment

@Serve the people – Such bars exist in great plenty on the Mainland, as you would know if you were anything more than a demented Markov chain programmed by someone with a sick sense of humour.

July 1, 2009 @ 12:42 am | Comment

I am afraid that I have to agree with FOARP here. Laowai can be uttered in many different ways, but it does have clear racial/racist connotations and carries a strong derogatory tone as well. I know that many people do not accept this line of argument, but I have been traveling to China off and on for the past twenty years and I have to say that racism is still very much part and parcel of the everyday experience, although it varies over time and from place to place.

One thing I have concluded is that many Chinese are very good at taking their cues from media and the government as to what constitutes acceptable behavior towards foreigners. In 1996, when the crypto-fascist book “China Can Say No” was published, I experienced slurs and insults on an almost daily basis. The year before the Olympics, however, I found that a lot of people – especially taxi drivers – went out of their way to be helpful in Beijing. I thought that this niceness was a spontaneous improvement until I found a pre-Olympics poster that stated exactly how to treat foreigners. But this can change at any point in time depending on what the government deems necessary at the moment. As a rule, people in Beijing are more sensitive to these shifts in policy, whereas you can large variations in attitudes in other parts of the country. One of the least racist places I have been to is actually Chongqing, and Beijing and the northeast ranks among the worst.

July 1, 2009 @ 2:25 am | Comment

not because of us being ‘more work’ but simply because of my skin colour.

Give me a break, you don’t have the right to ever use that sentence. Be glad the taxis even stop for you.

July 1, 2009 @ 6:05 am | Comment

and also much more hostile towards mixed race relationships.

Yes because the proper measure of how racist a society is, is how often they want sons-in-laws with Asian fetish.

July 1, 2009 @ 6:11 am | Comment

‘Racism’ – a touchy topic. We all experience it at some level and also have it within us (in may be not so explicit ways but at least in a subdued form). But in China my experience has been one of reverse racism – I find that most Chinese love foreigners- we always get treated with smiles, friendliness etc. even from women. I am yet to experience any nasty incident (really – 1 n half years now – Guangzhou and its simply great). May be people are nicer in this part. The same I can say about Singapore as well. Though Taiwan, HK, Korea etc. are not like that – people there seem to be a bit ‘off’ – certainly the smiles are missing.

About Taiwanese racism – I experienced it recently and just a little bit of cold shouldering was sufficient to put the lady in her place but it amused me as you know oriental women ….. yes I know men keep saying they are this hot that hot etc. etc. but frankly you have seen one you have seen all. (I already admitted we have racism within us in some form).

July 1, 2009 @ 11:14 am | Comment

@yourfriend, have you thought about changing your handle to something more…accurate and descriptive? Cause you’re not very friendly.

July 1, 2009 @ 1:22 pm | Comment

Ferin broke in again. I will fix it.

About laowai: It can have racist connotations, but it is so standard here, so commonly used that it’s hard for me to hear it as racist as I would “nigger,” “Paki” or “kike.” In my office, all my colleagues refer to the “laowai,” and without derision. Anyway, proving that these guys were racists seems like a difficult and fruitless task. As I said, it’s much easier to prove they were obnoxious and spoiled.

July 1, 2009 @ 3:03 pm | Comment

@Richard –

“proving that these guys were racists seems like a difficult and fruitless task. As I said, it’s much easier to prove they were obnoxious and spoiled”

Having a hard time with this one – are you saying that it’s easier to decide their motive based on their clothes (the ‘Jabba’ stereotype) than on what they were saying?

July 1, 2009 @ 5:00 pm | Comment

I’m basing it on the fact that everyone, including my doorman and colleagues and the Gang of Three, refer to me as “laowai” and I cannot prove or disprove that this incident was related to race. I think it was because they expected the taxi to stop for them, and no matter who it stopped for, they would have expressed their rage. Anyway, I think we kow where the other stands on this. Obviously the incident bothered me enough to blog about it and race is involved whenever you single anyone out by their skin color. But as I said above, I don’t think it was race that set them off, it was their being spoiled asses. Yelling “Laowai” and hitting the car was their way to show their childish demand for revenge, for punishment that the driver chose me and not them.

are you saying that it’s easier to decide their motive based on their clothes (the ‘Jabba’ stereotype) than on what they were saying?

I am saying it’s impossible to decide their motives. I was there, and while I definitely could be wrong, I thought the motive was their childish sense of entitlement. Race was thrown in because they knew shouting the word at me as they did would antagonize me. My take, for what it’s worth.

July 1, 2009 @ 5:22 pm | Comment

@FOARP – About once a month in most laowai’s lives, that sounds about right. (Racist incidents, that is.) I’ve been shouted at in the street more than once, been refused service about once every two months and in the most serious incident I encountered a gang, roaming around, looking for Frenchmen to beat up. (That was soon after the Olympic torch fiasco.) They made me drink something in honor of China, then they made me say “I hate France” and interestingly enough, “Fuck England”. As I had just watched them chase around some Australians – actually they did beat up the fattest one who couldn’t run, I did say what they requested, to my eternal shame… and was left alone.

I also think Richard’s life seems to have been remarkably free of racist incidents, but at the same time I actually don’t think racism towards whites is a big deal in China. Usually nothing someone thick-skinned can’t live with.

However, with regard to blacks, it’s a whole different story. There’s very little knowledge or respect in China with regard to anything having to do with blacks, and the prejudices are… dear God…

In short, for whites, nothing really special, but for blacks, it’s tough. I really can’t see how one can be black and have any sort of respect towards China…

July 1, 2009 @ 6:04 pm | Comment

My goodness, Richard, that is a great story. Vividly described.
What impresses me most, however, if not the stupidity or bigotry or resentment of the three men (the latter is probably most prominent as far as THEY go), but the nobleness and the strength of the taxi driver!
All of the while, it had been my impression that cab drivers were the most bigoted, provincial, conservative, and racist beings imaginative people imaginable. Not all, but the majority.
Your story definitely changes that.
Imagine, then, if this taxi driver you encountered is the silently majority amongst Chinese!

July 1, 2009 @ 9:19 pm | Comment


Perhaps Paki is too strong words to compare to laowai, but you can make a word derogatory just by shouting it. Imagine the same think happening in Berlin and you have three rude Germans shouting “Ausländer!” after you. Sure, you can’t prove in court that they were racist, but what do you think they are up to? I think there is a weird double-standard at work when we look at racism in China.

July 1, 2009 @ 10:18 pm | Comment

I tend to think of “laowai” as the equivalent of the word “darkie” or something along those lines, which is inherently derogatory and dehumanizing, but cast in such a way as to appear acceptable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard phrases like “tamade laowai,” which does not express any sort of “respect” or even neutrality.
I realize, however, that a lot of people might disagree with me.

July 1, 2009 @ 10:49 pm | Comment

Thoth, isn’t it wonderful when there’s a hero in the story? The taxi driver didn’t do anything that extraordinary, he was simply decent and no-nonsense. But what a great example he is.

Kevin, you may be right, but it is so ubiquitous, even, as I said, in my office among colleagues, right to our faces. Does common usage soften it, or are they all saying the equivalent of “darkie.” Hemuken, I don’t disagree, and there was definitely a racist element to their shouts.

I just remembered a very similar thread we had a long time ago about this topic when I was in Taiwan, only the word was “waiguoren.” Amazing how the content and even the wording of that post from three years ago matches this post, only my attitude then was a lot more critical.

July 2, 2009 @ 1:56 am | Comment

@Kevin – I don’t think everyone who uses it means any harm, or even the majority of people. That said, if you read Mark Twain or P.G. Wodehouse they casually use language which is regarded as racist today, now, neither Twain or Wodehouse used it a racist fashion, but plenty of their contemporaries did. So are you going to say that the word ‘nigger’ wasn’t racist language in the 1880s or 1920s simply because Twain and Wodehouse as well as their contemporaries saw nothing wrong or necessarily hateful about using it? Language which attaches to you solely because of your race, which is disrespectful, and often used in a hateful fashion, is racist even if the majority of people do not recognise it as such.

@Thoth – The majority of Chinese people would never do such a thing. Most days, my experience was that being a foreigner rendered definite advantages, although this was much more due to curiosity, the impression that foreigners are rich people, and as a desire to impress foreigners, than any special love of foreigners – this is entirely natural.

@Resident Poet –

“I also think Richard’s life seems to have been remarkably free of racist incidents, but at the same time I actually don’t think racism towards whites is a big deal in China. Usually nothing someone thick-skinned can’t live with.”

I’m not going to make any presumptions about Richard. In general (and banally obvious) terms, I would say that someone who is fluent is much more likely to be a good judge of such things, that length of time spent in-country and variety of experience serves to remove naivety, and that some people have the knack of getting into trouble everywhere whilst others somehow always manage to avoid it.

My impression is that something between 5-20% of the population are racist to varying degrees. This doesn’t surprise, as this is similar to, for example, the percentage of people in the UK who voted in the recent EU elections (only 35% of the population) who cast ballots for the BNP. This racism is not a huge problem 95% of the time, but acting as if it doesn’t exist simply because so many Chinese people deny it exists is simple-minded.

@Hemulen – Entirely agree. The Chinese people are, of course, far more the victims of racism than they are the perpetrators outside the borders of the PRC. Some people will naturally be unwilling to allow that the victims of racism can also easily be the perpetrators. Others are naturally motivated through sympathy towards their friend, colleagues, and loved ones. They may also be swayed by the opinions of a people who have been brought up to see themselves as historical victims and the inheritors of entirely virtuous and faultless traditions traditions.

July 2, 2009 @ 2:03 am | Comment

kevinnolongerinpudong, phrases like “tamade gonchandang,” prpbably have been more said in China. Would you suggest that gongchandang is a discriminated word?

July 2, 2009 @ 2:17 am | Comment

@Richard – Personally, I’d much rather be called ‘Waiguoren’ than ‘Laowai’, and I’d pick ‘ta’ or even ‘Yingguolao’ above both. ‘Laowai’ goes a step further than ‘Waiguoren’, because whilst all foreigners are ‘Waiguoren’, not all ‘Waiguoren’ are ‘Laowai’.

Personally, I don’t like the attitude that anyone who is not ethnically Taiwanese must be a ‘Waiguoren’. The fact that the law both in Taiwan and on the Mainland makes it practically impossible for someone born abroad to become a citizen entrenches this attitude. In the case of Taiwan, even once they become a citizen this still does not mean that they will necessarily enjoy all the rights of a native-born citizen, as Robin Winkler found out earlier this year.

July 2, 2009 @ 3:13 am | Comment

It is not impossible for some bars in Mainland to practice reverse discrimination against Chinese patrons. But they are isolated cases and not well known. If they become known, they will be forced out of business quickly.

The Carnegie’s is a different matter. It is the best known bar in Taipei. It also has presence in many other Asian cities. Their no-dogs-and-Chinamen-allowed style policy is no secret in Taiwan, and yet the people there are not able to do anything to stop it. I met quite a few white men who proudly brag about their right to enter the establishment for free.

It is really sad to see this happening in this day and age. If I lived in Taiwan, I would be a racist myself.

July 2, 2009 @ 4:07 am | Comment

Ferin, if you write to me and make a promise you won’t hurl personal insults at people I’ll consider letting you back. Until then, I have to stick to my guns.

July 2, 2009 @ 6:29 am | Comment

Sorry Ferin, I have to delete. And FYI, Hong Xing is banned for crimes against humanity.

July 2, 2009 @ 6:32 am | Comment

When does unfamiliarity or curiosity about foreign looking people derives into racism?

When is racism more on in your mind, than in those staring at you? When does your experience of racism in you own country/culture tarnish your perception to other countries reactions to people and cultures that just look different?

To perceive the difference or feel curious about it is not racism. You may call it umfamiliarity, ignorance even silliness. To discriminate or despise because of that difference, that is racism.

Maybe even purposefully faking you feel no curiosity is a form of hypocrisy, and also a hidden form or racism.

Also, there are jerks everywhere, and China sure has a good bunch of them, but that is because of a relative big population. I don’t think in percentage they fare worst than any other nation. And to my personal experience I found that in Asian societies is harder to find jerks than in western societies. It may be the upbringing, social customs or politeness.. I don’t know.

Speaking of unfamiliarity with foreign looking human beings, when the young, tall, thin, blonde, blue eyed Swedish women tourists started to visit Spain in the late sixties, it was quite a sock for the local male population.

You may define the… attention to those foreign looking human beings as racism, but those foreign looking human beings didn’t complain at all the attention they received. 😉

And yes, here we have also a special argot word, somewhat similar to laowai.

Guiri: generic name used in Spain for foreign and/or extraterrestrial visitors.

Depending on how it is pronounced it can be derisive, friendly or just funny.

More information here

Sorry to say, funniest definition is in Spanish. You may give it a try though.

Does it sound racist to you? In that case I am sorry for you.

But don’t worry too much. When we spaniards travel to other countries we become automatically also Guiris; local Guiri variation of course 😉

July 2, 2009 @ 2:13 pm | Comment

@Serve the people – What you mean is “not well known by me because it fits my world-view to see Taiwanese as slavish as compared to Mainlanders, and because 90% of the things I know I picked up at TieXue or Strong Country, or off the back of a Cornflakes packet”. Let’s take Nanjing, the biggest clubs there – Scarlet’s, the Jinling hotel, Rick’s (this is going back a few years), Castle Bar, Born in the 70’s, Next to Heaven, Yes, etc. etc. etc. all discriminated in price in some way. Numbers of protests: zero. Do I agree with this practice? No. But I know that it is much more a product of proprietors wishing to attract high-spending expats than some form of colonialism.

By the way, Carnegies is a total meat-market. I always preferred B1’s or Loxy’s (which also discriminate on price, but you wouldn’t know that, would you?)for a night out with friends, happy days . . . . . .

July 2, 2009 @ 6:59 pm | Comment

Wait, I’ll have a dig around to see if I don’t still have the ‘foreigner card’ which would get me money off on drinks and free entry with a guest at Scarlet’s. Not knowing anything about Taiwan is something I can kind of understand if you’ve never been there, especially if you’ve grown up on the mainland, but not knowing bugger-all about the place where you actually come from is a whole other story.

July 2, 2009 @ 7:54 pm | Comment

I don’t want to change topic, but I had no idea that there was an on-line forum named after Bismarck’s “Blood and Iron” speech, “TieXue”. I wonder if the people using that site has any idea what kind of connotations that name has in the rest of the world. What’s next? When will we see a forum called shengcun kongjian or zuizhong jiejue?

July 2, 2009 @ 10:26 pm | Comment

zjin, I’m not sure I follow your logic. You are emphasizing the first word of each phrase and then trying to draw an equivalence between the two. But anyone can see the difference between, for example, me exclaiming “fucking Republican Party” and “fucking foreigners!”
Essentially, no matter how one understands laowai, it is a bit abnormal for such emphasis to be placed on one’s foreignness so repeatedly and relentlessly. Building off of the darkie parallel, how would my chinese friends in the US (or Chinese people that I don’t know in the US) like it if I referred to them constantly as “Chinaman”? “hey, Chinaman!” I imagine that everyone would think I was a dick, even if I hadn’t left my home for 50 years and thought that was an ok way to refer to Chinese people. In the same sense, when I am constantly referred to as laowai, I just think that the person is, well, either not very friendly or not very smart.

July 2, 2009 @ 10:30 pm | Comment

@Hemulen – I’ve been reading Black Mass by John Gray, and on top of an interesting article over at Matt Steinglass’s blog, it’s set me to wondering: just how much is Chinese Nationalism an ideology? Bismark was an expert of realpolitik, he was not an ideologue. At most his beliefs were militaristic and, although pre-dating Darwin, were definitely based on survival of the fittest, as is shown by the Blood and Iron speech. Chinese Nationalists, on the other hand, often seem to lack his realism.

July 3, 2009 @ 2:50 am | Comment

@ Richard 41

You said: “I cannot prove or disprove that this incident was related to race. I think it was because they expected the taxi to stop for them, and no matter who it stopped for, they would have expressed their rage.”

I doubt they would have expressed their rage “no matter who the taxi stopped for”.

They picked on you because you were an easy target. . . A foreigner by himself. . .

And the incident was most definitely racial.

A bit like when I got assaulted in Shanghai by a cunt who refused to slow for me when I had the green on a pedestrian crossing, called me a cunt when I walked out in front of his car anyway, then jumped out of the car and punched me when I asked why he was calling me a cunt, screaming at other passers by “Foreigners are bullying Chinese people!” in a nasty attempt to make the incident racial and turn everyone against me.

July 3, 2009 @ 6:55 pm | Comment

@ Hemulen 44

You said: “Perhaps Paki is too strong words to compare to laowai, but you can make a word derogatory just by shouting it. Imagine the same think happening in Berlin and you have three rude Germans shouting “Ausländer!” after you. Sure, you can’t prove in court that they were racist, but what do you think they are up to? I think there is a weird double-standard at work when we look at racism in China.”

Absolutely! Completely agree.

There IS a massive double-standard at work when discussing racism in China.

Something of the same double-standard applies when discussing anti-Caucasian racism in general.

July 3, 2009 @ 7:00 pm | Comment

I never doubted the incident was racial. But I do think they would have been just as furious if a Chinese person got the taxi and not me. I was there and I saw them, and they expected to get that second taxi. I’ve seen Chinese people break into fistcuffs with one another over stuff like this, so it is wrong to think it would/could never have happened had I not been a laowai. We can argue this forever, but at the end of the day we can’t say what motivated these people, not for sure. I think I know, you think you know. Let’s leave it at that.

July 3, 2009 @ 7:23 pm | Comment

@Think Ming – My experience is that people are unwilling to discuss so-called anti-‘Caucasian’ racism in the west because so many of the people who do complain are blatant racists nursing a sense of victimhood. ‘Caucasian’ is a funny group which seems not actually to include the people of the Caucasus, and I’m glad it’s a term we don’t really use here in the UK. I am white, British, European, but I am not from the Caucasus, nor do European/White people have their origins in the Caucasus mountains – the idea that they do is the product of an early racial theory now discredited.

July 3, 2009 @ 9:11 pm | Comment


Thanks for the links, I’ll check those out. As for ideological content, I think that Chinese nationalism is as inane as most other nationalisms. One thing that sets Chinese nationalism apart, though, is the frequently made assertion that Chinese nationalism is fundamentally progressive and inclusive. This is one of the few remnants of Maoism that is still very much alive. Just read the section on nationalism in the little Red Book and you basically have the talking points of your fenqing next door.


You make it almost sound like the three men were either racists or a bunch of arrogant a**holes, but not both. That doesn’t really make sense to me. I mean, if you meet a racist from your “own” tribe, they are usually not the most pleasant people to deal with to begin with. They have all kinds of prejudice towards people in general, racism being just one of them.

July 3, 2009 @ 10:45 pm | Comment

@ FOARP 62

Then call it ‘anti-white racism’. The terminology is unimportant. That it exists seems very obvious. Dismissing people who complain about it as (probable) ‘blatant racists’ seems a bit weak, but whatever.

But then I am speaking as a white person who has been spat on (as far as I could make out simply for being white) in places as diverse as Chaozhou and Cap Haitien. That is, I have more experience than most of getting outside my comfort zone and experiencing racial nastiness.

Of course many people are uncomfortable with the idea of anti-white racism, but will happily harp on about whites being a source of racism.

It’s a bit like how many people are uncomfortable drawing any kind of parallels between male and female circumcision – despite the blindingly obvious similarities between these two peculiar and cruel cultural practices.

Some topics are taboo while others are a source of endless fascination.

Richard is reluctant to call these guys out as racists (despite some rather strong evidence that they were) because it is taboo for a white person to call out a non-white person as racist (even when the latter is conducting a racist assault).

On the other hand, I routinely hear American Born Chinese whine ‘racism’ if they feel a Chinese waiter in Shanghai is being more attentive to me than to them, or if some Chinese girl at a function gives me her name card but neglects to give the same to them. Now they could be right (I don’t analyze some of these things as closely as I could), but they sure do complain a lot.

I don’t complain a lot, but I’m not going to deny the existence of something that seems fairly freaking obvious.

July 4, 2009 @ 12:20 am | Comment

@Think Ming, not to put too fine a point on it, but you can compare male and female “circumcision” when the male version involves amputating the entire member.

Yes, I know male circumcision is a controversial issue and I have heard the arguments, but please…that kind of comparison doesn’t help your cause.

Sorry for going off-topic here. Back to it.

July 4, 2009 @ 3:05 am | Comment

Richard is reluctant to call these guys out as racists (despite some rather strong evidence that they were) because it is taboo for a white person to call out a non-white person as racist (even when the latter is conducting a racist assault).

ThinkMing, I am going to ask you not to put words in my mouth and say why I think such and such, as if you have any idea what you are talking about. I have called Chinese people out as racists, and Americans and Muslims for that matter. Your paralleling of male and female circumcision is not tolerable and reeks of ignorance. Do you know what female genital mutilation consists of and the lifetime trauma it can cause, compared to the male version? Lisa summed it up pretty well.

Lisa, it is going off-topic but I’m kind of glad Think did so, because it shows how his thought process works.

July 4, 2009 @ 11:02 am | Comment

I agree that male circumcision is far less traumatic than the female version. (And according to some even with potential benefits.)

When done to children though, it’s still barbaric, simply because it’s a bodily invasion without the patient’s permission. (Who is not of age to give it.) Some may say that we also vaccine children without their permission, but in my view the science behind vaccines is far more thorough than the “science” behind circumcision.

Let the babies grow up for Christ’s sake and then they may choose for themselves a religion, whether or not to be circumcised etc.

Which is an opinion I am sure all here adhere to 😉

July 4, 2009 @ 11:57 am | Comment

I guess I should also say that the same discredited theory which has pre-hominids arriving at different areas of the globe and then evolving into the various human races (with white folk evolving in the Caucasus mountains) is widely accepted in China. Folk over on the execrable China Daily forum (Chairman and Changabula) argue in favour of it, and as recently as 2004 it still appeared in textbooks.

July 4, 2009 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

Which to me brings up the issue of whether or not someone can get too worked up in the service of a good cause…

Morally, probably not. It’s hard to blame the people who are getting sick, angry, hysterical over seal puppies clubbed to death or the dark side (is there a light side?) of the sex industry, to give just two examples. Yet these people are often derided and called really awful names like hysterical, ecologist, feminist and I know not what else.

Which means that politically (in the widest sense of the word, meaning, in a dialog) it’s true that pushing your cause with too much zeal might actually be detrimental.

Ah, the irony…

July 4, 2009 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

@ The Other Lisa 65

And your response is typical. . .

Did I suggest the two practices were equivalent?

I said people were ‘uncomfortable drawing parallels’ between the two practices.

Your odd response reinforces my point, and is typical of the bizarre ways society conditions people to think. What a strange world it is when a person gets called out for suggesting that there are parallels between male and female circumcision – two practices that involve adults mutilating the genitals of their children for religious/cultural reasons.

By the way, I am happy to follow your lead and use the term ‘genital mutilation’, but lets use that term for both the male and female versions of the practice shall we? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander and all that. . .

Oh. . .and that gets me thinking, and takes me back on topic. . .

Maybe we need a term other than ‘racism’ to describe anti-white racism, while sticking with ‘racism’ to describe racism perpetrated by white people? Would that make the concept of anti-white racism easier for everyone to cope with?

July 4, 2009 @ 12:43 pm | Comment

@ Richard 66

You said: “Your paralleling of male and female circumcision is not tolerable and reeks of ignorance.”

And I find your claim intolerable and reeking of hypocrisy.

I said parallels exist between the two practices. I did not say that they were exactly equivalent.

You said: “Do you know what female genital mutilation consists of and the lifetime trauma it can cause, compared to the male version?”

Yes I do know exactly what female genital mutilation consists of. You probably realize as I do that the term describes a variety of practices, as does male genital mutilation – or do you prefer me to say circumcision?

I assume you disagree that there are obvious parallels between the practices?

Perhaps I am in a minority, but to me adults deciding to mutilate the genitals of children for cultural/religious reasons (or pseudo-science) is just plain sick.

I see this as a blindingly obvious reality. You clearly don’t.

You said: “it is going off-topic but I’m kind of glad Think did so, because it shows how his thought process works.”

Great! I’m pleased to have given you this worrisome view of how my thought process works. From here on in you can just dismiss me as a white-supremacist, misogynistic, misanthropic, maladjusted crank. At least you won’t have to think too much!

July 4, 2009 @ 1:01 pm | Comment

Think Ming, I am willing to accept that there are some “parallels” as you said in that both practices involve genitals, but the way you put it, to my mind, trivializes the practice of female genital mutilation. We are talking about amputation of the c1itoris here, not removal of the foreskin. You can argue about choice – and yes, babies have no choice – and I have heard the arguments pro and con – but in order for the two practices to be comparable, you’d need to be amputating the p3nis (sorry, I’m trying to avoid spam/filter issues). Whatever you want to call “male circumcision” is up to you, but the term “female circumcision” utterly distorts the reality of the practice and what it entails. That was my main objection.

July 4, 2009 @ 2:31 pm | Comment

Poet, I was about to agree with you that that male circumcision is barbaric but can in no way be compared to female genital mutilation, which shouldn’t be called “circumcision.” But I see Lisa makes the point better than I ever could.

Think Ming, I’m not sure who you are, but I want to request you be a little nicer.

Lisa, don’t worry about the spam filter, I’m not filtering anatomical words or even curse words.

July 4, 2009 @ 3:14 pm | Comment

Oh deary me. . .

By pointing out the obvious similarities between male and female genital mutilation I am guilty of “trivializing” the practice of female genital mutilation.


My apologies. . .

I must really hate women to have made such a ridiculous claim, and no doubt my aim was to trivialize this barbaric practice.

Of course your claim that the penis would need to be amputated to make male genital mutilation “comparable” to female genital mutilation is absolutely reasonable. In fact I never heard anything truer in all my life. Thank God we have level minded folk like you around to keep my clitoris-loathing, womb-envying self in check.

You have shown me that there is nothing to be gained by asking ourselves why we are outraged by female genital mutilation but completely accepting of male genital mutilation. In fact, anybody who asks this question definitely has a misogynistic agenda, and may even have mental health issues.

Oh yes, and we must use different terminology when describing genital mutilation of males and females. This last point is vitally important!

July 4, 2009 @ 3:14 pm | Comment

Ahh. . . That last post of mine was meant for The Other Lisa. . .

As for Richard’s request that I be a little nicer. OK, why not?

I will try to be nicer for a while.

July 4, 2009 @ 3:21 pm | Comment

Think Ming: Are you Italian? 🙂

Chill out mate 😉

July 4, 2009 @ 3:28 pm | Comment

Thanks. Just to be sure, your comments will be held for approval. Hope you don’t mind the delay.

July 4, 2009 @ 3:29 pm | Comment

Wow, Think Ming, interesting conclusions you drew from my comments there! Defensive, much? Cause I didn’t say any of the stuff you seem to have your panties in a wad about.

Though, you know what they say. It’s never about what it’s about. I’m not going to speculate about your motivations. I think your post allows us to draw our own conclusions.

July 4, 2009 @ 3:33 pm | Comment

All I can say is I’m now sorry I ever raised the subject . . .

July 4, 2009 @ 3:43 pm | Comment

Yeah FOARP, me too. 🙂 But at least you’re polite about it.

July 4, 2009 @ 3:45 pm | Comment

Thanks Poet. I just read about our maverick vice-presidential loser, making this July 4th more memorable than most.

July 4, 2009 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

And I knew I shouldn’t have said anything.

Seriously, and perhaps I didn’t put it well the first time – it’s one thing to make the comparison. It’s another to suggest an equivalence. I think if you are going to make the comparison, it behooves you to be clear about the differences. Not everybody knows what the practices are, and part of that is because the term “female circumcision” is really misleading. There’s a lot more awareness now, but that took a lot of effort, and a part of that was about changing the language surrounding it.

I was sincere when I said that Think Ming should call male circumcision whatever he felt was appropriate to call it, and if he feels that’s “genital mutilation,” go for it. But the term “circumcision” has a particular meaning, and what happens to girls is not “circumcision.” It just isn’t.

July 4, 2009 @ 3:57 pm | Comment

As an ongoing part time resident of Kunming, I can say that many of the “newly rich,” middle class have a great deal to learn about behavior in social settings. What’s interesting is that my encounters with folks in the environs of Kunming, people living on small farms and in small villages generally have a better command of social graces. These are all generalizations, but in my experience the generosity, hospitality, warmth and sensitivity of rural Yunnan residents have been above reproach. This has not been my experience with the “monied” classes of the city. Between their inability to behave according to any civil code, their sheer ignorance of anyone or anything beyond some consumerist zeal, and their misbegotten nationalist fervor they are, at best boorish and an annoyance, and at worst, a glaring pain in the ass.

Richard, I envy your time in Kunming since currently I am back In San Francisco (the other city I love). I hope that you savor the charms of the city, partake in as much of Yunnan cuisine (rubing, loa nai yang yu, etc.) as you can because you will not find anything like it back home and make plans to return as soon as possible.

July 6, 2009 @ 11:22 am | Comment

The growth of right-wing nationalism in China, and its concomitant racism, is a nasty phenomenon. I am not sure racism is more prevalent in China, but xenophobia and insularity possibly are. This is historically true … just read any 19th century accounts by western travellers in China (mind you, back then the Chinese had genuine grounds to hate foreigners).

When I lived on the mainland I did experience racism on odd occasions, but these were more than compensated for by the far more common examples of kindness and friendliness from locals. Racism is prevalent in Hong Kong too, but it’s more subtle, and the locals, as someone else has commented, are colder and more offish.

But put it in perspective. I wouldn’t say racism, and maybe not even xenophobia, is more prevalent in China than, say, Britain.

Take one example of xenophobia — in my hometown of Nottingham during the recent municipal elections the candidate for the right-wing UK Independence Party was a shop-owner who proudly boasted of putting a sign in his window stating, “This shop refuses to serve customers who can’t speak English”. Intriguingly, this shopkeeper/candidate was of Pakistani origin, as xenophobia in the UK these days tends to be less colour-based and is usually aimed at asylum-seekers, refugees and foreign workers from other EC countries. Now my point is that if shopkeepers here in Hong Kong, or Beijing, or Shanghai, posted notices refusing to serve customers who couldn’t speak Chinese I for one would be royally fucked and would be ranting to high heaven about Chinese racism.

July 6, 2009 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

, I can say that many of the “newly rich,”

You’re just setting yourself up for a heart attack if you keep hanging around people you don’t like.

This would be akin to going to California and spending all your time with Disney’s pre-teen stars.

July 6, 2009 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

Richard — great story, these will be missed. Love the cabbie, he no doubt has to put up with obnoxious yuppies every day.

My sense: probably racist, but also there’s a gang mentality there, a don’t-lose-face in front of a friend/associate thing, especially to a lone white fellow who is an easy target.

I’m from the U.S. South, and I can’t imagine anything like this happening today (with different actors) in any metro area of any size. Maybe in front of a backwoods honkeytonk at 2:00 AM with a group of sexually frustrated, skinhead type of racist, highly intoxicated rednecks, but not in any city with more than, say, 1,000 people.

July 7, 2009 @ 12:20 am | Comment


I am extremely disappointed at your refusal to post my follow-up comments here. It has been several days now, and my comments have not appeared yet comments elsewhere on the site continue to be updated.

Why is this circumcision issue so sensitive? Your bizarre censoring of discussion of this issue just confirms my original point about weird societal double standards.

I really do hope that The Other Lisa gets to read what I wrote to her. I took the time to write it and she deserves to be able to read it if she is interested in bothering.

I’m not demanding that everybody agrees with my opinions on this issue, but I am certain that many could benefit from thinking long and hard about why society has these double standards and whether they are really justified.


July 9, 2009 @ 7:54 am | Comment

Ming, I thought your argument was too personal and mocking so I held your last two comments. I thought we were not going to get anywhere if you can draw an equivalency between complete mutilation and what amounts to impairment (and the latter is still debated, especially because male circumcision has been proven to help defend against AIDS and other diseases). But the main reason I blocked you was language and tone. I’m happy to give you a second chance, but you can’t just come in here and mock people.

Lisa’s traveling now and is offline. Maybe there’s merit in what you say, but the way you said it was careless. But I think we know where we all stand on this subject, and prefer that comments in this thread stick to the subject of what happened in Kunming.

July 9, 2009 @ 10:56 am | Comment

@Richard – In fact is has been far from ‘proven’ to do any such thing, what has been shown is a statistical correlation where cultural factors etc. might have an equally large effect. However, I really don’t understand Ming’s insistence in discussing this here.

July 11, 2009 @ 6:25 am | Comment

[…] general discussion on race in China, an old one on China blogs which has been done to death here, here, here, here, and here. However, this translation by Roland Soong of a story on today’s […]

July 16, 2009 @ 7:07 am | Pingback

The comment about Carnegie’s in Taipei being “racist” based on whether it charges white men or not appears incorrect — I used to have to pay the door charge until I eventually I got a VIP card. The door charge is also something only applicable after a certain time of night – it’s a pleasant place without a charge for happy hour, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch, etc. That said, if a guy goes into Carnegie’s during those late-nite hours without being charged they probably are what’s known as a “regular”.

July 29, 2009 @ 4:35 pm | Comment

[…] general discussion on race in China, an old one on China blogs which has been done to death here, here, here, here, and here. However, this translation by Roland Soong of a story on today’s protests in […]

January 15, 2010 @ 2:31 am | Pingback

“…because Chinese either look up to westerners as emperors or look down on them as livestock. ”

I like that statement. Friendship can only arise between equals. Any other way is just a form of subservience, in one direction or the other.

By equal I do not mean same status, affluence, education or cultural background, but equals as persons.

March 1, 2010 @ 7:14 am | Comment

Strewth. Just read that piece (the translated part). Good job I can’t read Chinese…and so the comments are out of bounds for me.
I can now see Merps fascination with the Nazi Party in pre-war Germany.

Luckily all the Chinese I have come across treat me just like…well, a person. Helps being part of a multi-culti society, I suppose – no one is more equal or less equal than anyone else….mostly.

As it is, my wife is happy with me and I’m happy with her 🙂 Our daughters are stunningly beautiful, so genetically we’re a good combination.

Race – such an outmoded 19th century concept….

March 1, 2010 @ 7:26 am | Comment

It’s definitely a kind of racism, it’s also a resentment caused by so many years of anti-western propaganda. Lu xun said in 1919(I think) that friendships between Chinese and foreigners were so rare because Chinese either look up to westerners as emperors or look down on them as livestock. Lu xun perfectly defined my struggle in forming decent friendships with Chinese people: friendships mind, not just convenient arrangements.

Take a look at this super-popular article on tianya entitled 中国女人, 请不要上老外的床 and the overwhelmig support it gets from commenters

If you haven’t got time to read it in Chinese, I translated it here. If anything, if anything I make it sound less of a rant than it is.

March 1, 2010 @ 10:16 am | Comment

[…] make a difference (I hope) for the reader are never about current events, but about my personal experiences in China and the people I meet […]

May 19, 2010 @ 9:34 am | Pingback

Just browsing the internet for references to Carnegie’s in Taipei, I came across the above. Ordinarily I would just read and move on but the two comments above implying a ‘racist’ admissions policy merit a reply. I managed Carnegie’s for 6 1/2 years and implemented a VIP membership card system for regulars very early on. This was in response to being overwhelmingly busy at weekends and on Wednesdays and in order to facilitate entry to regular and loyal customers. Occasional customers were then charged an entry charge and received drinks coupons in exchange. AT NO TIME whatsoever was race considered when applying the ‘cover charge’. Everyone, except VIP card holders was charged on the applicable nights and NEVER was a charge applied on the basis of race. The poster that asserts this is wrong and very mistaken. Equally, if any white male customer asserted that they were afforded entry on the grounds of a self-perceived racial superiority, then they were also very wrong and stupid for thinking that to be the case. As I was the person responsible for door policy until 2008, I take offence at the accusation of racism. I can only surmise that the assertion was based on ill-informed and perhaps prejudicial hearsay.

Bob Marshall

October 1, 2010 @ 5:53 am | Comment

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