(This Is China-54) April 7, 2019 – Chapter 55 from THIS IS CHINA



PERSONAL NOTE: I DECIDED to share my book with friends and students in mainland China. It is too costly to order a copy from USA. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, Steve, USA April 7, 2019    stephenehling@hotmail.com      blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com

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Chapter 55

It was getting dark now and I was hungry, anxiously waiting for David. I wasn’t sure if he knew where to find me or locate the hotel. I told the two female desk clerks I was waiting for a friend before I could check in. My anxiety was killing me as I watched more and more young people were checking in and there might not be any inexpensive rooms left by the time David arrived. In the lobby a door opened into a shop selling all kinds of beverages and snacks. It had nothing to do with the hotel. I saw people going to the elevator, around the corner from the front desk, assuming there were other businesses inside the same building. Most of the hotel guests that evening were young men, some with backpacks. By about 7 PM after a long wait David suddenly appeared at the entrance. David was happy to see me. We hugged briefly. Now I could get a room, take a shower and have time for a late dinner or something. But something was about to happen to me at the front desk that would baffle and haunt me for a long time to come.

“Sorry we cannot accept your American passport,” a female desk clerk told me, calmly. “Your American passport not acceptable here.” She did not speak a word of English. But her Chinese was simple enough, I understood every word coming out of her mouth. She added: “We have to follow the instructions from the Fuzhou police. Especially this time of the year.”

“What?” You have to be kidding, right? I was shaking my head. This is unreal, I repeated it to myself. Simply unreal.

David somehow knew what he had to do to save the evening and get a room for us to stay for the night. We sat down at a sofa, away from the desk and David was emptying his wallet and his pockets, looking for something.

“I cannot find it,” he said.

“Find what, David?”

“My ID card.”

“You must be kidding, right? You cannot find your ID card?” I could not believe my ears. I repeated, “You cannot find your ID card? David, you have too much junk in your wallet and your pockets. You need to spend some time and go through this pile of junk, David.”

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What I saw was a pile of business cards, money, receipts and God only knows what else he had been carrying around. And he could not find his ID Card. What was most pathetic was what he said to me, with no sign of anxiety on his face or in his voice: “I have no idea where my ID card is at the moment.” How did he survive in the big city or travel to places for his job without his ID card? Incredible. I listened to him with disbelief. Without his ID card, there was no chance for him to book a room in the hotel since they had refused to accept my American passport.

We left quietly, sad like a dear friend had just died in a terrible accident, and in a short distance to next block we found another hotel. The name was very familiar to me. I had seen one near XMU campus. Maybe we might get lucky this time. The desk clerk repeated the same shit: “Sorry we do not accept your American passport.” Now I had to fight for myself. By now I was not about to sit quietly and accept this shit again. In fact, I shouted angrily and without reservation, and said, in broken Chinese, “Your president of China, Mr. Xi welcomes many foreigners to come to visit and explore and work in this country. And he welcomes many tourists to come and visit China. You cannot do this to me! I am an American tourist!” I felt better releasing my anger and unloaded what was foremost in my mind at the moment. The clerk repeated, “Sorry we cannot accept your American passport.” What was strange was they did not ask David for his ID card.

“Did the Fuzhou police tell you to do this also? This time of the year?” I was being very angry and sarcastic to the desk clerk. They had no visible reaction to my ranting. They said nothing to me. To them I was another fucking crazy tourist behaving very badly in China.

In China, it is paramount to follow rules, no matter where they come from. Especially if you are at the bottom of the social or work ladder. The hotel desk clerk is following the rules given to them. It is not important whether you understand it or not. You basically do what you are told to do and you will be okay. You are not allowed to think differently, or deviate from the routine or whatever you were trained to do. Fear of losing jobs is written all over their faces, and if the boss wants you to stay and work overtime, you are not allowed to say anything. Forget overtime pay. In most companies it does not exist. They manipulate you like they would the robots in their absolute control. This is China.

College seniors literally beg for internships and are doing it for free. Forget any kind of compensation. When the students told me about this kind of treatment they were getting from some businesses and companies I told them to demand at least a bed to sleep somewhere in Xiamen. I mean the least they could do is to provide the students

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a bed to sleep in. In China, you have to remember: the least you ask for something, the better your survival with the companies. Students thought I was too aggressive and demanding, and they would never ask the bosses for a simple bed to sleep. Instead many of these students paid dearly to live in hotels in the city. If you are lucky, they might offer you some kind of internships and you work yourself to death and pay your own lodging and food. And after 3 months or 6 months they let you go. If you are very good, they might invite you to stay and pay you very little for a year or two, if you can last that long. This is China. And the cycle of bullying, manipulation, exploitation, and poverty continues!

Told what to do, the hotel desk clerks had no feelings. They had no emotions. They were cold like the corpses or icy-cold beds in winter in southern China. “Sorry we cannot accept your American passport.”

I happened to have seen a video, months later, by ADVChina, labeled Adventure Talk Show on 2 Wheels, a dialogue by a pair of motorcyclists speaking on various topics on China, a China you have never seen or heard before. Both guys are white foreigners, in their late 20s. And they discussed many concerns and restrictions and lack of freedom they have experienced as foreigners living in China, despite the fact both have married Chinese women. Without a proper Chinese ID card, you cannot do anything in China, no matter whether you are married to a Chinese woman, or that you have lived in China for many years. The two men repeated that a few times: without a Chinese ID in China, you cannot do anything. One has lived in China for seven years, the other for over ten years, and they still could not get a Chinese ID card. One jokingly said, “Everything I own now belongs to my Chinese wife because I do not have a Chinese ID card. Imagine, if there is a divorce, I would lose everything because everything is now in my wife’s name: she alone has the Chinese ID card.” “You Will NEVER Be Chinese” was the name of the video. And so without a Chinese ID card, the hotels have the right to refuse you. This is China. It is different if you are foreigners in a tour group with a Chinese tourist agency or a Chinese in charge of your visit to China. They can help you to register in a hotel because they are responsible for your presence in mainland China.

After rejected twice by two different hotels, Chinese-owned, David had a plan and quietly he pulled my luggage for a taxi. “We will go to my hotel.” That was all he said. Cold air was everywhere. I was feeling very cold. Cold-blooded like the desk clerks in the hotels and I was emotionally drained. No feeling whatsoever to what David had just told me: “We will go to my hotel.” Going in one ear and out the other, like raindrops on a slippery road. I was hungry and I was looking for a warm place. The taxi drove us far away from the train station, like flying to another planet, like to

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another part of the city until we were at the entrance to a big hotel. It was very dark by now and I was hungry for food. David with my luggage went straight to the front desk and the girls smiled at him and they seemed to know each other. He said something to them and immediately they issued him the card to a room. I followed him like a hungry dog. He said nothing and we took the elevator and went to a room.

Wowowowowowowow! I could not believe my eyes. It was palatial. What a room, how did David do it? I said nothing. He said nothing. He told me to clean up briefly and we were on the way to dinner. Outside the hotel, a chauffeur was waiting to take us to a restaurant for dinner. The chauffeur opened the door to the car and David told him where to go. We went to a big hotel for dinner. I followed David to a private room and there he ordered a sumptuous meal for us. I sat there with disbelief of what was happening to me. I wasn’t dreaming. This is China.

“Hi David, what is going on?” I finally broke my silence. It was like watching a silent movie about David. Like one of those rags-to-riches stories that I had seen on American TV, or read in newspapers or popular magazines, now appearing with more frequency in the Chinese mass media. Within the last year or so I have read many out-of-this-world stories of young graduates or professionals in China making it big, some very big, starting their own companies or businesses, mostly related to e-commerce. One could say or suspect their hero or source of inspiration is Mr. Jack Ma, whose life story reads like a fairy tale, once a school teacher, now one of the richest men in China. A new book by Duncan Clark, “Jack Ma: The House that Alibaba Built” talks about how Ma built one of the world’s most talked about and profitable companies from the ground up in less than 10 years and radically and single-handedly, in the process, helped to redefine retail business in China and in the world. He had appeared on American TV and mass media innumerable times to share the secrets of his success—someone rejected, he claims, by Harvard University at least 10 times. The young people in China are saying to themselves: If Ma can do it, I can do it, too! And many young people are doing it. And for many young people, Shenzhen is the place to be! This is China.

David did not make a big deal about the hotel or the chauffeur or the dinner. “My company, the one I work for now, has signed a contract with this big hotel so we can put our guests or clients there. That simple. And the chauffeur is always there if I need to go somewhere to do business for the company.” No big deal to him but it was a very big deal to me, that he now has certain privileges at his fingertips. I was impressed that he has worked hard for all the privileges in less than 3 or 4 years. And that, to me, is quite an achievement for any young man in China today. This is China. A new China.

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David had to visit his office the next day, a Friday and he brought his little nephew to the hotel. We decided Peter, an English name, would be good for him. Little Peter had many little secrets he would whisper to his uncle. He would lean against David and whisper to David’s ear. He was a very happy child at the right age of 4. He obviously enjoyed spending time with his uncle and he had many things he would only confide in him, so he whispered to David in front of me. We went to visit his grandparents and there little Peter was eager to share with me his toys, actually something he had created with some plastic blocks: the shape of an animal or a car or a war machine. I saw something in Peter and I decided to take him to a toy store to buy the things he might like to play with. At the store, he picked a train set and a big bucket of wooden blocks. On the bucket are pictures of things that Peter could make using the blocks. And when we arrived at grandma’s apartment, he could not wait to make his own creations using the blocks. I saw in little Peter an engineer in the making. At the dinner table, he had a small bowl of rice and he ate heartily the rice and his favorite vegetables. All by himself. Not many children I knew or met in America would eat vegetables like Peter. And I know Peter will grow up to be strong and healthy the way he enjoys the vegetables and the simple dishes his grandma cooks for the family.

This is China.


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