A few days ago returned to Shenzhen after living almost exactly a year in America where I was recovering from an illness. I had heard the Chinese people were turning more and more xenophobic, and that foreigners were less welcome than before. I got this information from the American new media, and from my friends who remained in Shenzhen. It was with more than a little trepidation that I boarded the plane to Hong Kong.
My fears were completely unfounded. So far I have not encountered a single unfriendly face. When I hobbled up to the news stand a couple of blocks from my house, the woman who runs it had a Shenzhen Daily and a Global Times out and waiting for me. Though she doesn’t speak a word of English, and I barely speak a word of Mandarin, it was clear we were like old friends meeting after a long absence.
At the barbecue place close to my house the waiter remembered me and I didn’t even have to order. He brought me 5 mutton skewers, 3 oysters, an ear of grilled corn, and 2 ice cold Tsingtao beers, my standard order that he remembered from last year.
On my way to the bus stop yesterday one of the parking lot guards recognized me from behind. We shook hands and exchanged what I assume were pleasant greetings, though neither could understand the other
While I get lots of stares while walking the streets I get the impression it’s because it’s unusual for a westerner to be seen in my neighborhood. None of the looks seems at all hostile or unwelcoming.
I tried to enter a café a couple of days ago, but was unable to navigate the three steps up to the entrance. A waiter I did not know came out and let me use his shoulder to help me up. When I left, he did the same thing to help me down the stairs.
Where the rumors of anti-foreigner feelings originated I have no idea. They are certainly untrue.
My suspicion is many of these thoughts originate with American politicians who are forever posturing against the Chinese for producing goods for less money than they can be made in America. They try to vilify the Chinese for “stealing” American jobs. They threaten to levy tariffs on Chinese made goods so it will become economically feasible to produce them in America again.
This, of course, is complete rubbish. Taxing goods made in China so they are more expensive will only hurt American consumers. The jobs will not return to America. Instead they will move to India, Bangladesh, or Vietnam.
When the Chinese government hears this kind of political rhetoric in America it responds with similar threats to tax American made goods. In the end, usually nothing happens. There might be some hard feeling brought to the surface between the politicians of the two countries, but the political hot air has not reached most of the people one encounters on the street.
I read that the government is starting a crack down on foreigners who overstay their visas or are working here illegally. I hardly consider this to be an anti-foreigner trend. I consider it an anti-crime trend. As long as foreigners obey the laws and respect the Chinese people, there should be no problems.
In conclusion I must say that little if anything has changed between the people of China and foreigners over the past year. Everyone remains friendly and hospitable. China is a great place for a visit or a long term stay. The Chinese people are wonderful, thoughtful, and friendly.