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China: Film director beats up foreigner at swimming pool

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:

天热,老爸要去游泳,我和朋友小军陪着,也该活动活动了。

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.

泳池里并不宽松,每条泳道都有人了,多数为每道两人,这也常见,没什么特别;最靠边的第一泳道只有一人,老爸便先顺着池边的金属扶手下了水;我正和小军放东西,忽闻一声凄厉怪叫,声音很大,(就是怪叫,不知还有什么别的词)有几分奇怪,回头看时,原来是第一泳道有一洋人咆哮,并对老爸嚷英文(混响太大,没听清)老爸听不懂,便移至第二泳道去了。

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.

心中不悦,有什么必要要对老人大嚷,此洋人太不明白尊老爱幼的道理;但也许他们国家不行此道,也未可知,不知不怪,不理他罢了。小军已经到另外一边下水了,于是我便活动一下身体准备选择泳道,但此时其他泳道再加上老爸和小军,都已经是二至三人,唯有这第一泳道只此一人;没多想,跃入其中;不想游至中段,看到迎面游来的洋人指着我说着什么;停下踩水对他说:讲中文!(对他国语言的使用是对他国文化的臣服表现)洋人继续指着我:一条一个人!你离开,明白么?(原话)

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)

我终于明白他刚才怪叫的原因,原来是不满刚才家父在此泳道游泳;又不是比赛泳池,这是公共游泳场,怎么就只能你一个人一条泳道?即使你们国家是这样,但在我有十几亿国民的中国,从来都是大家共享泳道;你这想法未免有些自私。另外值得注意的是从他的蓝眼睛里我并没有看到商量或是客气,仅仅是不容商榷的命令,不免有些令人气愤。我扭头问站在旁边的救护员:请问这游泳场有此规定么?救护员怯怯的摇摇头,我问洋人:请问谁规定的?他居然淡定的指着自己一字一顿的说:我——说——了,一条一个人!字正腔圆,那表情突然让我想到八国联军!我开始绷不住了:我们上去找人说。说完爬上岸。

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.

洋人也跟上来,足有185公分;骚高闷壮,充满挑衅的走进我并且抓住我的手腕:你想吵架么?(我估计他想说“打架”)我并没想动手,只想摔开他的手,老爸,小军这时看到,也从水里上来,他才把手松开;这时泳池的几个管理员闻讯赶来,我问他们:你们这里是有规定,一条泳道一个人么?管理员摇头:没有啊,人多的时候也是多人共用的。我说:那请你明确告诉他,在这里,是大家共用泳道的。这时我却在管理员脸上看到一丝怯懦;并没人上前与他沟通(这是中国英语不好的人的通病,还没开口就先自卑,甚至是恐惧)我坚持:说中文,他听得懂

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.

一个教练样貌的小伙子鼓起勇气走过去开始在泳池边和他沟通;我看这次既然有了正式的“规定”;便继续和小军在这条泳道游起来;没想到游至中段,这洋人竟伸跃入泳池伸开双手阻拦,并且推搡我们,回头看时,他竟竖起中指手势,岂能在家门口被异族歧视,还一而再再而三的侮辱,是可忍孰不可忍,打丫挺的!翻身报以老拳。于是水花翻飞……几拳过去,洋人便也老实了。想起了毛主席的话,原来也不过是纸老虎!

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!

我从水里上来管理员劝架:别跟他一般见识……他们老外不懂事!听了让人生气,好像是在说洋人的不是,可仔细一琢么不对,他们不讲理,凭什么不跟他一般见识;那是懦弱;祖传性懦弱!是自卑!习惯性自卑!是中国人一百多年的恐洋症媚洋症的顽疾!革命先烈几代人抛头颅洒热血不就为了给中华民族争取平等自由,让中国人在洋人面前不低头么?人家和你一般见识你就得跟他们一般见识到底!!

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!!

现在中国变成越来越重要的经济体,出于经济目的洋人也越来越多的来到国内;其中不乏有友善平等,甚至无私相助之人,在此我向这些为我国社会主义建设做出贡献的国际友人表示敬意!但也不乏充满功利主义,利己主义,远道的和尚会念经主义的某些个体(也许不在少数)的存在。

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.

大多是在西面混的不好,换个钱多人软的地方碰碰运气;到了中国简直就是天堂:原本不宽与的收入换做人民币居然消费力甚为可观,这里的民众又大多有“尊敬”外宾的传统;即使有点矛盾他们也会抱着 “让着”“不一般见识”的态度;(只要说句英文他们就足够怕了);还有很多主动热情说英文的“向导”(不知什么心里,以与外国人为伍交流为荣者,过去叫二毛子)甚至天天换女朋友也不是问题(总有前仆后继的姑娘往上冲)等等等等;原本在自己国家得不到的尊重和自信在这里得到了极大的满足……长此以往毕生娇纵,霸道也就在所难免!可怜,毛病都是国人惯出来的!

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!

在此望同胞自省,并告诫那些不规矩的老外——放尊重些!这是中国!禁止撒野!!!!!

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!!!!!

29 comments

  • Mike

    French translation of the article here:

    Passons à tabac les fidèles descendants de l’armée des huit coalisés
    http://www.chine-nouvelle.com/forum/read.html?q=6%2C114018%2C134418#msg-134418

  • harlen

    And also, the blogger said he dealt with a Westerner, not a “white man”.

    He could easily have identified the guy’s race, but chose not to. So before we go off a long tangent about races, consider that he was voicing his complaint about preferable treatment of foreigners and not some kind of ethnic conflict.

  • Henry

    The argument takes on a racial element because it seems that this Westerner thought he could get away with bullying Chinese people. Furthermore, the pool staff were too scared to confront him because he was a big laowai. I really wish Chinese people would treat us Westerners the same as they treat Chinese. No special treatment, good or bad. Maybe then these stories would not be so common, and Chinese would not privately resent Westerners after kow-towing to them in real life.

  • J.

    One time at a swimming pool in Taiwan, a Taiwanese high-school student dropped a 20 pound roll of lane marker chain on my head. I was the only one in the swimming pool and looked either completely incompetent, or vicious. Several other times, I have been swimming in a lane alone when suddenly I was smashed into by an oncoming swimmer, when I thought I was alone in the lane. All of these events caused a fair amount of shock obviously, because I was not expecting. I think it’s sad that many people in the pool here in Taiwan are extremely discourteous when getting into the lane with you. The common etiquette is to wait at the end of the lane until the swimmer reaches the end, then they will know that there is now another swimmer in their lane. It is unfair, rude, and low brow to just jump in and start swimming in the lane without gaining acknowledgment from the other swimmer.

  • Doug

    It can be really frustrating to swim head into someone who doesn’t bother to warn you that they are joining the lane with you. I suspect that this is what the “blue eyed monster” was angry about.

  • […] China: Film director [Ning Hao] beats up foreigner at swimming pool “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 大多是在西面混的不好,换个钱多人软的地方碰碰运气” Von John Kennedy (Global Voices). […]

  • Ning Hao’s arguments are as shitty as his movies.

  • Nick

    I actually know Ning Hao and have worked with him in the past. I can’t say I know him like a brother or anything, but the image he presented to me was of someone who was quite internationalized and well-traveled. He got us beers and cigarettes while we were on the job – actually leaving the office to get them himself while we slogged an all-nighter on No-Man’s Land. He came back, we got a bit drunk, and he talked about ancient European boats and his time in Germany and some foreign friends of his who take him horse-back riding. But you know the strangest part? Not ONE ignorant generalization came out of his mouth. That’s the kind of guy he came across as. Just someone with some interesting things to say. He never asked me “foreigner questions” either. Howlonghaveyoubeenhere doyoulikechina etc. He was an impressive dude, and the people who manage his production company impressed me the same way – smart, respectable individuals who respected me in the same way.

    That’s why seeing this was surprising….and not: http://news.xinhuanet.com/ent/2010-04/27/content_13430064.htm
    Basically, blogger Zhao Baohua tore him and three other directors a new asshole for making art that demeans China. And with Ning Hao’s trouble getting movies, and the other three directors’ less than positive receptions at the box office, and the fact that the man hasn’t posted for over a year and a half in his blog, there are rumors either Ning or his publicist cooked this up.

    In which case: Careful. You could have named the swimming pool; you didn’t. You could have named the foreigner; you didn’t. Without cites, and with invective about the Eight Allied Armies and using violence to teach the foreigner a lesson, you’re making it look like pure nationalist-baiting, race-baiting, even. That marginalizes you to the slobbering patriots in-country, destroys your credibility in artistic circles (just today I heard comments from industry people that you did this because of Zhao Baohua’s post), and makes people view you as unbalanced abroad. You’ll notice that you got picked up within days of the post. And I know you’re reading this. The language barrier is very porous.

    1200 comments on the entry so far.

    If it did happen, good on him for giving a dickhead a beatdown. As much as I don’t like to grant it, that can work on a limited scale between individuals sometimes. The robber who comes into your house deserves a baseball bat. But when, EVER, in the history of mankind, has that ever been an effective starting point for cultural change? The baseball bat statement isn’t a metaphor, I’m being literal. If you start pointing at everyone not of your race or nationality and scream “thief! get him!” or even “many of them are thieves! get them!”, then we got a problem. Rwanda’s national radio took Ning Hao’s tone in 1991, and we all know how well that ended up.

    Ning Hao, even if this is all true, what you did was analogous to baking a delicious cake and then serving it with used kitty litter sprinkles. You’re not helping.

    • tom

      Doubt it.

      “Basically, blogger Zhao Baohua tore him and three other directors a new asshole for making art that demeans China. And with Ning Hao’s trouble getting movies, and the other three directors’ less than positive receptions at the box office, and the fact that the man hasn’t posted for over a year and a half in his blog, there are rumors either Ning or his publicist cooked this up.”

  • […] Global Voices Online: Film director beats up foreigner at swimming pool […]

  • tom

    the swimmer had to be an American or a German

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