Foreign friendly practices in China also applied to Chinese
Published: May 23, 2018 06:58 PM
The news of an 11-year-old Filipino girl who went missing in Shanghai went viral Sunday and Monday on local social media platforms. I happen to have quite a number of expat friends on my WeChat who, along with many of my Chinese contacts, helped spread the information. Luckily, the girl was found Monday afternoon after she was spotted on a metro train by local authorities.

Her mother confirmed the good news to the Global Times but declined to reveal more details about her disappearance. As far as respecting their privacy and protecting the child, media will not dig any deeper into this case.

But during this incident, I noticed many online comments that "foreigners are always better treated," "foreigners are superior to Chinese," and "Chinese people are over-friendly to foreigners," reflecting an age-old stereotype that still exists in cosmopolitan Chinese cities like Shanghai.

Such netizens apply a zero-sum concept to everything. If foreigners here are treated well, then it must mean that Chinese people are being ill-treated. You win and I lose. They narrowly focus on their own comfort zones and project their personal insecurities on anyone who is different.

If the missing girl was not a foreigner but from another part of China, these same naysayers would have changed their tone to "Migrants are wasting Shanghai's public resources," "they should stay in their hometown" and "stop stealing opportunities from us."

In fact, I'll wager that if the missing girl was a local Shanghainese, they would have said "she must be from a wealthy or influential family," and "police are only serving the rich."

My WeChat contacts also include a large number of local parents with school-age children. Thus I have good reason to claim that everyone here is treated equally - foreigners and Chinese citizens alike. The Filipino girl just happened to be the latest missing-persons case.

Parents and teachers know how challenging it is for adults to effectively communicate with tweens and teenagers. Unsuccessful dialogue can often lead to big problems such as running away from home and even suicide attempts.

Whenever a child here goes missing, other parents spare no efforts to help find them, because they know how painful it must feel. Warm-hearted netizens help spread information online while Shanghai police try very hard to track down the kids with the help of surveillance systems.

I have never found any difference in the treatment of foreign, Shanghainese or migrant children. A child is a child no matter what their nationality. What's more, when a child is eventually found, messages asking the same kind-hearted information spreaders to delete their previous posts will appear, as many private details and photos of the child and family were required to help find them.

I have witnessed and experienced the rational development of China's WeChat community help-each-other ecosystem. At the same time, different voices exist but these cynical people also have the right to express their opinions.

I would say that quite a number of expats in China also seem to have a "victim psychology." For instance, it is interesting to see and hear foreigners speak to the Global Times new video program platform that "Chinese law enforcement officials are stricter to foreigners when there is conflict between the two sides."

I bet 99 percent of Chinese people would say this statement is a fallacy. Chinese society is very friendly to foreigners, as our 5,000 years of history and culture has taught us to treat guests from afar as friends.

In the poverty era, when we did not have enough food at home, my mother still gave guests a full bowl of rice. My brother and I had to pretend that we already ate enough food, even though that rice was all we had for the week.

Old habits die hard. I have reason to believe that China - and Shanghai in particular - will always be friendly to foreigners. As such, Chinese (and foreigners) should be more inclusive before rushing to judgements.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Illustration:Lu Ting/GT