Is it fair to treat foreigners more kindly?

By Wendy Min Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/10 20:18:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


Incidents of foreigners getting preferential treatment over citizens in China have recently been doing the rounds. There have been stories showing guests in the country receive much better customer service or privileges while boarding trains, purchasing tickets or studying at Chinese universities. Instances of quick recovery of lost or stolen items of foreigners by police have run alongside a different response when it involves a Chinese citizen, igniting jokes over social media.

It is not hard to highlight a few examples of unequal treatment. I'm not too interested in whether this is true or not since not one country is free from inequality, racism, misunderstanding or discrimination, whether this involves foreigners or becomes a tug-of-war between people of different ethnicities within a country. What I am more concerned about is whether we are able to take a step back and give the majority of people a break.

Whether it is laying the red carpet for foreigners or discrimination against one's own people, I do understand why some Chinese would feel this way.

I have never felt that being Australian has automatically helped me gain any advantage or a kinder and quicker response in China. Neither was I given VIP treatment nor bullied. There were cases of superior customer service and a fair share of the more ghastly examples. Maybe it is because I look Chinese and can speak the language so I am not really a foreigner. Maybe foreigners who look "real" and on a short-term visit to China are the main recipients of such advantages.

I remember getting slightly pissed when, as a certified teacher, I was turned down multiple times as I applied for casual teaching positions since my face is "not white enough." I was left disappointed and shaking my head in disbelief when the people who told me so were Chinese. Then, you hear about cases of foreign teachers working at expensive international schools who actually had charges back home.

As unfair as it was back then for a once hot-tempered kid like myself, it was simply one of those temporary moments when I felt left out. It was just interesting to feel stuck in the middle and become stereotyped by both Chinese and foreigners. To know how others perceive you when you identify with them becomes quite an event to reflect upon.

The same group of people who mock and joke about another nation or hold generalized opinion about an outsider would be the very group of infant keyboard warriors to hurl abuse when they themselves become the victims of mockery.

"Come on, this is not racism" can also be justified as a downright endorsement of discrimination. I couldn't care less if their behavior came from newfound wealth and thus desperation to be treated on par with developed folks or a sense of arrogance and anxiety, reading negative online comments about "blacks" or hearing names directed at other nationalities. It is equally offensive and wrong when I hear folks in the West calling all Chinese students spies and labeling all Chinese as rude, loud brainwashers. Absurd, right to the core and so very unfair!

The real owners of China are the Chinese. I know very well that although I speak and look like one, I remain a guest of this country. As China opens up more and shows greater acceptance of the outside world, I hope everyone could make contributions to the country in their own way.

There is no need for any blind-worship of foreigners (in fact, no worshipping is needed for anyone except for yourself). There is no need to fast-track customer service for any particular group regardless of where they come from. Any sense of superiority is in itself an illusion. We are all human beings and should treat each other with decency and care. There is no need to treasure one over the other. So what is next? Should we become one-sided in the name of patriotism or should we exercise some reason in agreeing that we should try to treat all people with the same degree of positivity while reducing VIP treatment?

The author is a freelance writer. She was born in China, raised in Australia, educated in China, Australia and France.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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