February’s Propaganda: Don’t be jerks to one another

In case you’re wondering, we’re back in regular classes starting Monday morning at 8am. This week new associates for the NGO arrived, so Jessica helped get their apartments ready, and on Thursday I’m doing the traffic/bike riding orientation and the trip to the bike market (for those brave enough to purchase a bike after their official introduction to Tianjin’s traffic scene!). Newly arrived folks really don’t seem to like it when we tell them you’re supposed to stay laying in the road if you get hit by a car and wait for the police. Hey, we don’t make the rules!

By the way, if you haven’t noticed yet, please check out the new-and-improved photo galleries! You can scroll through now, like a slideshow. (It “should” work on whatever browser, but if you’re having problems, try using Firefox, or just click here.)

And here’s your February dose of propaganda…

Public service commercials in any nation are perfect joke fodder, and this public service commercial from Shanghai is currently attracting scorn from the foreigner blogosphere, as can be seen in the comments on Sinosplice. It’s 6 minutes of Mainlanders not being unapologetically inconsiderate to one another in public (which we’re all in support of, by the way):

The little girl at the end says: “和谐城市心灵乐章” (hé xié chéng shì xīn líng yuè zhāng), which means something like, “Harmonious city, spiritual symphony” (?). “Harmonious” is a current official theme word/excuse/legitimizing concept for China’s ongoing social control measures.

Right at the beginning, when the foreigner couple poses for a photo, you can get a taste of the pollution haze in the background behind them.

8 thoughts on “February’s Propaganda: Don’t be jerks to one another”

  1. *laughs* You know how, in all the cheesy American romance movies, some random coincidental niceness brings two people together and they live happily ever after? That’s what I was seeing… especially when the boy chased down that lady’s shopping cart and the one man picked up the scarf for the other man… they all had that look like we show in movies to say “OH wow… look at this hottie helping me out!” *grins* I kept expecting some serious muggage…

  2. I promise, there is no shortage of serious muggage in China, at least in this city. As soon as temperatures went above freezing, couples started occupying the benches in the park outside our apartment. Once it gets warm, you literally can’t get a bench in the evenings from now until next winter, and many benches have more than one couple. Every evening is a giant snog-fest, but with an over the top cutsey-ness that I just chalk up to “snogging with Chinese characteristics.”

  3. I actually saw this on the TV the other day in Shanghai and almost cried. I know its so lame but it was like “yeah this is how China could be.” Then I realized how sad it is that they never learned such basic politeness or care for strangers. I thought it was kind of beautiful… haha

  4. It’s true, even obvious, that the general public on the Mainland doesn’t meet American or Western European expectations of basic politeness. But they aren’t trying to, official propaganda commercials notwithstanding. And unfortunately, like you’ve noticed, care for strangers isn’t among their set of expectations; the ‘Good Samaritan’ is a foreigner. That’s been one of the most shocking things for me during the time we’ve been here – peoples’ unapologetic public enjoyment of another’s suffering. Here’s how one of our Taiwan-American friends explained it, in a discussion about how “lying” is sometimes acceptable:

    In Chinese culture, there’s also the element of degree of relationship. To a complete stranger, you can tell a lie or be extremely rude and even watch [them] suffer, and it is totally acceptable.
    […]
    I do think Chinese people attach moral significance to lying as much as Westerners do: except, like you said, what they define as lying as different. If you lied to someone you have a deep, trusting relationship with, it would be deeply offensive.

  5. To be honest I think it has nothing to do with Chinese culture . I think Chinese culture was sucked out of the them starting in the 40’s unfortunately. I’ve been here 6 years and I just feel sad they aren’t taught basic civility. When I went to Taiwan I was so amazed at how kind they were to each other. Not only to foreigners but to each other. I was like yeah this is how it should be in China. I was surprised how much more “Chinese” they were in TW. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that if the CR had never happened China would probably be number 1 right now.

  6. You’ll find that some of He Liyi’s comments go along with some of what you’re saying – at least that the CR has a massive impact on the way people treat one another today.

    I’d say the roots of the way Mainlanders treat one another go much deeper, though obviously the CR is a major factor. Our first Chinese teacher put it this way: “You can’t understand China today without understanding the CR.”

    And of course, foreigners can appear to Mainlanders to be appallingly rude and lacking even the most basic levels of civility, even when we think we’re being nice, just because we’re often totally clueless of how politeness works in China.

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