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Mainland Chinese attitudes: International revelations

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  • Mainland Chinese attitudes: International revelations

    I guess I've just had far too many experiences with the mainland Chinese. Some of them have been bad. Call me jaded and cynical. I think it more along the lines of "wisdom".

    Two recent newspaper articles from the International Herald struck me recently. I quote them here, as they have some very relevant, though hidden, appropriate comments when it comes to dealing with mainland Chinese.

    In Hong Kong, no looking back at Britain
    By Keith Bradsher
    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    HONG KONG: The Hong Kong government on Thursday closed the pier through which British governors had arrived and departed for decades, as a British diplomat said a few blocks away that although his country remained committed to its former colony, relations with Hong Kong had become "just another foreign relationship."

    No senior Hong Kong officials showed up for the speech by Stephen Bradley, the British consul general. Some went instead to the airport to greet the arrival of two pandas, donated by the Chinese government to live at a Hong Kong amusement park. Donald Tsang, Hong Kong's chief executive, was off visiting a trade show in central China.

    With the approach of the 10th anniversary, on July 1, of Britain's return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule, three more indicators of dwindling British influence and increasingly pervasive Chinese sway came together on one day: the closing of Queen's Pier, the British diplomat's speech and the arrival of the pandas.

    Hong Kong is still home to 265,000 holders of British passports.

    Annual trade between Hong Kong and Britain has quadrupled in the past two decades, to $13.5 billion. British companies still control the dominant airline here, Cathay Pacific, and much of the pricey downtown real estate that is occupied by shops offering international brands like Tiffany and Chanel.

    But while Prince Charles came for the return of Hong Kong in 1997, the Chinese government has pointedly not invited leaders from Britain or any other country to attend the 10th anniversary celebrations.

    President Hu Jintao of China is expected to preside instead over a ceremony that will emphasize Hong Kong's Chinese heritage and permanence as part of what Chinese officials like to describe as the motherland.

    In a rare speech examining Hong Kong's progress since its return to Chinese rule, Bradley ticked off a series of British cultural events to be held here this year, including an exhibition of treasures from the British Museum. But except for the release of a commemorative book, all of the events are to be held in August or later. The government-run museums and concert halls of Hong Kong are booked solid with shows of Chinese art, Chinese archaeological finds and Chinese music during the weeks before and after July 1.

    "The colonial relationship is far behind us," Bradley said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club. "For us, Hong Kong is just another foreign relationship now, just as for Hong Kong we are another country - though of course we retain a special affection for and a special interest in Hong Kong, which I like to think is reciprocated, at least by some."

    Hong Kong's economy is now closely intertwined with mainland China's, not Britain's. Investment banks, shipping lines and insurance companies that used to see Hong Kong as a base for doing business across Southeast Asia now use it as their headquarters for operations focused on China.

    Queen's Pier will be dismantled - and later rebuilt at an undetermined location - as part of a land reclamation project for the construction of a harborfront highway with a shopping mall on top. The project will partly block the harbor views of another British institution, the Asian headquarters of HSBC, which in any case has already been literally overshadowed by a much taller Bank of China tower nearby, designed by I.M. Pei.

    Some residents are still nostalgic for Britain's 157-year rule of Hong Kong. A retired Hong Kong Chinese couple came to Queen's Pier on Wednesday afternoon and spoke fondly of the days when British governors still used it.

    "I miss the British very much - the British government contributed a lot to the development of Hong Kong," said the husband, a retired building manager. He initially gave his name but later asked that it not be used, an increasingly common occurrence in Hong Kong as many grow nervous about the extent to which mainland China may someday tighten control.

    The couple was the exception in coming to say farewell to the pier, which was largely deserted except for a group of older men who had taken over the benches for chess matches, and showed no interest in discussing history or politics.

    By contrast, the demolition of the downtown Star Ferry terminal last December, to make way for the same land reclamation project, triggered scuffles that pitted the police against protesters, who saw the building as a part of Hong Kong's own heritage.

    Near the end of his speech, Bradley held up a small white porcelain pot decorated with a blue image of a pavilion with weeping willows by a lake. He explained that it was made in China around 1790, filled with tea leaves and sent to Britain, where a later owner had an English artist apply a layer of gilt to the corners.

    British influence in Hong Kong might prove like the gilt, eventually wearing off with the passage of time, Bradley said.

    But he added his hope that, "Hong Kong is not like this container at all, but is a real amalgam from which the non-Chinese elements simply cannot be extracted but are integral, and have become part of the Chinese clay from which the pot is made."
    Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

    "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

    (more comments in my User Profile)

  • #2
    And, the other one, which has great relevance not only with immigrants to Europe, but also, the ones (including "monks") to America:

    Milan dispute mirrors tensions involving many Chinese communities
    By Elisabeth Rosenthal and Elisabetta Povoledo
    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    MILAN: A battle of cultures, businesses and lifestyles is being waged in Milan's Chinatown, one that has been quietly escalating in recent weeks. The symbols of the war - and its unlikely booty - are the blue metal pushcarts that the many Chinese wholesale clothing merchants have long used to ferry huge volumes of cheap shirts, shoes and jeans, to the idling vans and cars of local buyers.

    The owner of a store called "Sea of the East" said seven or eight of his pushcarts have been confiscated and he has paid countless fines to get merchandise back. "It been really bad the last six months. How can we work?" said the owner, a Chinese citizen who has lived legally in Italy for eight years, but who would identify himself only as Chen for fear of harassment. Despite a supposed truce last week, a young Chinese worker leaving the store with a cart was surrounded by half a dozen police officers within a block and fined €40, or $55, paid on the spot.

    The pushcart war began with complaints from local Italians, which prompted the city administration, elected last year, to crack down on practices that had long been tolerated and that are at the core of the Chinese businesses. The pushcarts, the Italians say, are a hazard for old people and schoolchildren. The waiting cars and vans, they note, are private vehicles that are not licensed to ferry commercial goods. The police began to hand out fines - lots of them.

    And while the politics here on Via Sarpi is local, there are also larger issues at play: such tensions are growing in many countries, experts say, as Europe struggles to accept and, perhaps, integrate burgeoning Chinese communities that are increasingly prosperous and empowered.

    "This used to be a Milanese neighborhood with stores to buy thread, bread, electrical things - the kind of stores neighborhoods have," said Corrado Borrelli, a business consultant and longtime resident of the neighborhood that centers on a street named after Paolo Sarpi, a 16th-century statesman. "It's not just about the carts.

    The Chinese have taken over the neighborhood, they have stolen spaces from Italians, but they haven't developed relationships with the residents."

    "They shop at their own stores - their culture closes them off," he added
    . "And there are small things, like they speak too loudly."

    Earlier this month, long-simmering tensions burst into the open when 300 Chinese protesters clashed with the police on the streets.

    The protesters carried the Chinese flag - for lack, they said, of a more appropriate banner for the rally. Although leaders of the Chinese community have since met with the mayor to try to resolve the issue, resentment is rampant among the Chinese, who feel they have been unfairly made targets, and solutions are far away.

    "They held up the flag because it is a symbol of belonging to something," said Angelo Ou, a prominent local businessman whose father moved to Italy in the 1930s. Ou was one of four representatives of the Chinese community who met with city officials. He noted that the protests had caught the interest of the Chinese government and that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had reportedly requested a report on the riot and on the situation of the Chinese in Italy.

    "In other years, this would have been seen as a minor moment, but it's significant that even Chinese officials addressed what happened," said Daniele Cologna, a sociologist who teaches Chinese at the University of Pavia.

    Italian officials have played down the events, explaining that the growth in the wholesale trade in a historic neighborhood of tight-knit streets necessitated greater control of the area.

    "There was no reason to enforce the laws before," said Riccardo de Corato, the deputy mayor of Milan. "That changed over the last four to five years, when retail businesses became wholesale. We're not passing new laws targeting Chinese, we're just enforcing the traffic codes."

    He said he was "surprised that within minutes they were on the streets, with flags and megaphones."

    "All for a fine," he added, "18 people ended up in the hospital."

    Still, Corato said, a new breed of young Chinese immigrant had "upset the equilibrium" in the area, where Chinese and Italians had previously coexisted, "upsetting the unwritten rules of nearly a century."

    The new immigrants, he added, "don't learn Italian" and tend to isolate themselves. And criminal gangs of Chinese youth are on the rise, he said.

    Ou, the Chinese businessman, said he was perplexed by the government's hardened attitude. "Just 15 months ago the previous mayor came to Chinatown and gave a dinner for 500, thanking the Chinese for their contribution," he said.

    Chinese have been moving to Europe, and to Italy, in growing numbers since the 1930s, said Ou, who has a Chinese father and an Italian mother. Then, as now, the vast majority came from the area around Wenzhou, a city on the southeastern coast.

    Through the 1990s, the Chinese opened small factories - mostly leather and textile workshops staffed by immigrants - or worked in restaurants. As is the case with Italians who migrated to the United States a century ago, one family member followed another, asking little in the way of public assistance.

    "Italy was transformed from an emigration country to an immigration country," said Arturo Lanzani, an expert in urban planning at the Milan Politecnico. "In Via Sarpi in the 1990s, we had a case of cohabitation where the Italian majority well tolerated the immigrant minority, which was mostly Chinese."

    But that has changed dramatically in the past five years, Lanzani said. As it became easier for Chinese to leave their homeland, numbers swelled. Officially, the Chinese community in Milan numbers 13,000 in a city of 1.3 million, but some officials say that, including illegal immigrants, the number could be nearly double that.

    As China has became wealthier and begun to export more and more, Chinese stores in Milan started selling wholesale goods - legal and illegal - that had been made cheaply in China. As the immigrants prospered, they began buying up local real estate, paying high prices to Italian landlords and property owners. They often bought small shops that had gone out of business in the face of competition from an influx of supermarket chains and megastores. Consumed with building businesses, the Chinese were neither political not organized.

    "The Chinese community, which is very industrious, has better things to do than demonstrate," Cologna said. "It doesn't make itself heard much, which is why the riots made waves."

    Protests, he said, "damage their business dealings."

    But the city's campaign against the pushcart set off a new type of reaction in the Chinese community.

    Tired of what they saw as an unfair persecution of their business practices and perhaps emboldened by their financial success and pride in the rise of their country of origin, the Chinese merchants reacted.

    "These people on the street are second-generation Chinese who are totally integrated and speak Italian - did you see how they were dressed?" Lanzani asked. "They have an awareness that they haven't abandoned a poor country. They are proud. They are cosmopolitan Chinese with a strong double identity."

    Some of the Chinese immigrants said they had no desire to become Italian citizens. Jessica Cheng, a Chinese citizen who was loading large plastic bags of clothes into the back of a station wagon in an alley off Via Sarpi to sell at her suburban store, said she did not want an Italian passport, although she speaks Italian and has lived in Italy for seven years.

    "The Chinese one is fine, and then to travel back to China I don't need a visa," said Cheng, 28, who was fashionably dressed in jeans and had streaked purple hair.

    In fact, more prosperity and greater ease of travel to and from China have meant that many arrivals in the past 10 years have kept close ties to their homeland.

    Ou said many businessmen send their children back to China for language training during summer vacations, and young children are often sent home to be cared for by grandparents.

    Some experts say that the Chinese in Milan have been unfairly singled out by the authorities, and that the authorities have been considerably more lax with native Italians. When laws are enforced in such an inconsistent manner it becomes a case of discrimination, Lanzani said.

    On Via Sarpi last week, Chinese merchants raced clandestinely from stores to cars idling in alleyways, lugging huge plastic bags of clothes because they could no longer use their illegal pushcarts. Meanwhile, in front of one of Via Sarpi's traditional Italian butchers, cars were double-parked, clogging traffic, all with seeming impunity.
    Italics mine.
    Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

    "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

    (more comments in my User Profile)


    • #3
      It's sad to see an entire nation of people lose one of their greatest cultural elements in just 50 or so years, "RESPECT". They no longer respect others or even themselves. The only people whom the Chinese do seem to have a deep respect for is their own family, and even that is dwindling. It seems respect was one of the unspoken things that went out with the "four olds" durring the CR., or maybe it was already gone before that. Sad, very sad.....
      "Winners turn to losers, losers are forgotten..." - A Tribe Called Quest


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