On a recent trip to the swimming pool, the commercially successful and well-known film director Ning Hao ended up getting in a fist fight with one swimmer who wanted a lane to himself in what Ning says was an already crowded pool.
In his June 3 post, ‘Thrash these faithful followers of the Eight-Power Alliance!’, which now has over 800 comments, Ning aims his harsher criticism not at the swimmer, a foreign citizen, but at the pool employees who he sees as displaying a character defect which a prevalent Chinese nationalist view holds responsible for the hundred years of humiliation:
It was hot out, so dad wanted to go swimming. My friend Xiao Jun and I felt like we could use the exercise, so we went with.
The swimming pool was far from empty, there were people in every lane, two in most, a common enough sight and no big deal; in lane one off to the side there was only one person, so dad climbed down the metal ladder on the side of the pool and jumped into the water. I was still with Xiao Jun finding a place to put our things down when I suddenly heard some shrill shriek, quite loud (it was shrieking, I don't know how else to describe it) and quite strange for an instant. When I looked over, I saw that the person in the first lane was a Westerner who was now ranting, shouting at my dad in English (the reverb was too loud, I couldn't make it out). Dad didn't understand, so he just moved over into lane two.
I was quite unhappy at this. Why was it necessary to go off on an older person like this? This Westerner has no concept of respecting the elderly. For all I know, maybe that's just not something they do in his country and he doesn't know any better, so I just ignored him. Xiao Jun had already jumped in on the other side, so I started warming up while I chose a lane. By this time, though, with dad and Xiao Jun in the water, all lanes already had 2-3 people in them, only lane one had one person in it. Without giving it anymore thought, I jumped in. Before I had even swum halfway down, I saw the Westerner swimming straight at me, pointing at me and saying something. I stopped and started treading and said to him: speak Chinese! (speaking in the language of other countries is a display of submission to the culture of said country) The Westerner kept pointing at me: one person per lane! You get out, understand? (his words)
Finally I understood the reason for his rant earlier, he was upset that my father had been swimming in this lane. This was not a competition lane, and this was a public swimming pool, so how is it that there can only be one person in each lane? Even if that's the case in your country, here in my China there are over a billion people, swimming lanes are for everyone to use. This idea of yours is really a bit too selfish. Also worth noting is that I couldn't see any willingness to discuss or be polite in those blue eyes of his, instead all I saw was an order that wasn't up for debate; naturally, this was somewhat infuriating. I turned and asked the lifeguard standing nearby if such a regulation exists at that swimming pool, the lifeguard just nervously shook his head. I asked the Westerner: whose rule is this? Then he actually pointed straight at himself and, word-by-word, said: I——told——you, one person per lane! Talking to me in that over-pronounced tone of voice, his expression suddenly reminded me of the Eight-Power Alliance
! I began to lose my cool: let's take this out of the pool. Having said that, I climbed out.
The Westerner followed. Built and buff standing tall at 185 cm, he walked up to me provocatively and grabbed my wrist, saying in Chinese: ‘you want to argue?’ (I figure he meant ‘fight’). I had no intention of making a move, I just wanted to break his grip on me. At this time, dad and Xiao Jun saw what was going on and came over, only then did he let go of me. Then several pool management personnel came rushing over and I asked them: do you have a regulation here that only one person can be in a lane at a time? One manager shook his head: no we don't; when the place fills up, people have to share. I said: well then would you please tell him clearly that the lanes here are for everyone to share? At that, I saw trace of cowardice in the manager's face and no one stood up to talk to him (it's that failing those of us in China with poor English share, abasing ourselves before we even open our mouth, then from that to feeling afraid). I persisted: speak Chinese, he understands.
One kid who looked like a swim coach got up the courage to go over to the swimming lane and talk to him. It looked like there finally would be some proper ‘regulation’, so Xiao Jun and I went back to swimming in that lane. I didn't expect that again, before I'd even swum halfway down, that Westerner actually leapt back in the pool and spread his arms to block the lane, shoving us back. When I looked up, he was actually giving us the middle finger. Discriminated against in my own home by someone of another race, insulted not just once but repeatedly, I couldn't stand it any longer, this guy needed a beatdown! I stood up and started throwing punches. Water started flying around…after a few punches, the Westerner started to smarten up. I thought of that Chairman Mao saying, turns out he was just a paper tiger!
Management came over and tried to mediate: don't stoop to his level…those laowais
are just ignorant! Hearing that just made me angry, it was like they were saying the Westerner wasn't in the wrong. If you stop to think about what was wrong with this picture, it was they who were being unreasonable. Why shouldn't I stoop to his level? This cowardice, it's been passed down through generations! It's self-abasement! Habitual self-abasement! It's the chronic disease of worshiping foreigners and fearing them at the same time that has afflicted the Chinese people for over a hundred years! Didn't several generations of revolutionary martyrs shed both blood and life in fighting for equality and freedom for the Chinese nation, so that Chinese people would no longer bow before Westerners? If people are going to pick a fight with you, you need to see it through to the end!!
Now that the Chinese economy is becoming increasingly important, greater numbers of Westerners are coming to China with economic aims. Of those, there is no shortage of friendly and equal, even selfless and supportive people, and to those international friends making a contribution to the socialist construction of my country, I show my respect! But nor is there a shortage (and possibly not a minority) of full-on certain utilitarian and egoistic individuals in existence who hold all things foreign in holy reverence.
Many of these are people who struck out back home in the West, now trying their luck in a place where the money is flowing and the people are easy; coming to China is like heaven for them: having gone from having such low income to now where the consumption power of the renminbi
is quite considerable, many of the people here still maintain a tradition of “honoring” foreign guests. Even when some conflict occurs, they still rush to “let it go” or the attitude of “seeing eye-to-eye” (all you have to do to put the fear in them is say a few words in English). Then there are those many ‘tour guides’ so active and enthusiastic to speak English (I don't even know what kind of mental state that entails, in the past those proud to be associated with foreigners were called fake Westerners
), and even when [foreigners] change their girlfriends on a daily basis, that's not a problem (whenever one girl gets shot down, there's always another one ready to rush to the front line), and so on. Where back home they didn't get much respect or have much confidence, here they are satisfied to the maximum……anybody who lives in such a way for too long will inevitably become spoiled, and ending up feeling like you can do whatever you want would be hard to avoid! What's pathetic is that we indulge this kind of defect!
My hope is that my compatriots will allow for some introspection, and warn these misbehaving laowais: be more respectful! This is China! Your tantrums are not allowed!!!!!