China Hand Wannabe's

While I’m sitting here waiting for my wife’s menstruation cycle to end before I can have sex, I thought I’d knock this out.   You all know I look very much askew at anyone that is wont to call himself a “China Hand”, or “China Expert”, etc.  Especially us Americans.  We in particular have it in our DNA to want to be the EXPERT of SOMETHING.  Anything.    

In the Past, there were without question true China Hands.  John Davies and John Service come to mind.  Sir Robert Hart perhaps being the more knowing of the bunch.  (When Cixi requests your appearance, you're a China Hand. )As China has changed, alas so have the requirements for a so called “China Man”!  Shall we pin our ears back and make a stab at the Modern Day Meaning of such a pompous phrase?  What attributes should such a person today have?

Here goes:

First of all, the first rule of being a China Man Wannabe, is to understand there are only Wannabe's. Nothing else.   "Love for China" will  only get you so far.   It is not a substitute for knowledge.  and knowledge is not a substitute for understanding.  That is the first rule of thumb. Thus a China Hand is someone who does not go around claiming to be one.  If he does walk around with such a placard around his neck, ignore him, throw rotten eggs at him, maybe even take his girl from him.  There is no greater Arrogant Ass than one claiming to be the above.  Thus, a China Hand is one that inversely never pretends to be, simply because the more he/she learns about this place the more confused that person becomes.

Don't get me wrong.   There was a time when there were China Hands.  I would argue when China lacked modernity, it was much easier.  Simply being a diplomat used to suffice.  The Brits were probably the pre-eminent China Hands in the 60’s.  Sir David Wilson comes to mind.  (sputtering around Beijing in his diplomatic sports car and kilt during the 60’s….!)
However, there are indeed modern traits that one should strive to attain, that one must have(in my opinion) in order to even be considered as such today.

Socially speaking, China Guy never gets a table at a club.  Never.  (OK….Unless he has a boss or customer to take out, or several other laowai to split the bill with.) 

China Hand never has just one China Girl…because, well…..two is always better than one.

China Hand Wannabe also never lends his chick money.  That sudden mommy illness?  Can't help you.  That diabolical Cancer Treatment?  Nope. 

Linguistically, China Hand Wannabe can comfortably discuss Chinese history, modern politics, or culture with Chinese….in Mandarin.  Now, careful here, that is not to say one should be an EXPERT in Chinese everything, because if that is your life’s dream, it will take up a lot of time.  However, if you are crazy abt China you will certainly not come across as ignorant.  Frequently, you may even come across as more informed than your local peers, as you have more readily available, non-censored material at your disposal.

So sorry, but I’m NOT counting folks of Chinese Ancestry here.   You guys have a head start.  I didn’t fucking learn Mandarin til I was 23.  You did not.  We had to learn it the hard way, buddy….as grownups.  Our path taken has been somewhat longer than yours.  As such, we appreciate the journey more than you.  So you will ALL be excluded from this particular conversation.  (Besides, Chinese look at you differently anyway.  Not fair, I know.)

In terms of business, a China Hand is involved in business. Not a diplomat.  Why?  Simple:  It’s the best way to be close to the PEOPLE.   A diplomat might meet….OFFICIALS….but he’ll never get to know China THAT WAY.   Better to be a businessman.  Better yet, your own guy.  As an entrepreneur, you will be in control of your own destiny.  

(I once had a boss that did not know who Deng Xiaoping was.  I had another that COULD NOT find China on the map.  All within the last decade.) 

You will perhaps even have Chinese staff.   (an office?) A China Hand understands when his Chinese staff are either on the payroll of a supplier, or soon will be…and thus goes out of his way to guarantee he is the one choosing the local supplier.   He understands Chinese suppliers will always understand there is no 老大except said laowai.   Still….China Hand will hire as many female staff as he can….see above.  When’s the last time a Chinese supplier tried to take a female to KTV?  Or the club?  Or Dongguan?   This is why China Hand will hire an ugly woman, competent and preferably married.  

China Hand will not go bedding his staff.  There are more than enough to go around. 

China Hand Loves China….period.   The good the bad the ugly.  I’ve been spit at, kept from entering establishments because of my race(gasp!), had housing denied to me(same!), been cheated god knows countless times by every strata of society, from the school administration, bartender, taxi driver, landlord, restaurant, etc….and over time I’ve realized I don’t give a fuck.  I’m a glutton for punishment and keep coming back for more.  I’ve been humiliated by Customs(go to the back of the line!) more than the average laowai.  

A Real China Hand Wannabe doesn’t complain anymore.  He may be pissed.  He may  have a “WTF?” moment, but he has long since stopped “Blaming China”.   He knows China butters his bread and I have a big fucking slice.   He’s accepted his Fate, and is just fine with it.    

Call it an epiphany.  Or maturity.  (passive resignation?) He is reminded of how good he has it every time he comes back home to his nice big house, clean air and swimming pool.   In short, China keeps it Fresh.  With maturity comes acceptance of one’s FATE, and China is in one phrase, “the world’s biggest nightclub”…..enjoy it.

A China Hand Wannabe respects the Chinese…especially the taxi drivers…realizes they aren’t all crooks, (and indeed may just be new to the job)…he enjoys his conversations with anyone he can speak with.  Indeed, the highlight of your day may be the ride home from the factory speaking with the Driver.  Or the short taxi ride from the apartment to the club.

Further, a China Hand Wannabe does not have to write for a magazine, have a podcast, write a blog(???), or believe it or not, not even have his picture taken with a dissident(gasp!) 

A China Hand doesn’t look askew at those numerous, overly dressed laowai teachers….cause they are shall we say…”closer to the earth”…and there’s something to be said for that.  Laowai teachers are closer to the belly of the beast.   One can learn a lot about China when one doesn’t have an expense account.  Do they give us other laowai a bad name?  Sure they do.  But so does the non teaching population of China’s laowai society.   

China Man avoids KTV.  Have a customer?  Plenty of hookers at the club. 

China Hand has a long memory.  Understands where China was 25 years ago….doesn’t bitch if his subway is late.   China Hand Wannabe doesn’t even bitch if has to eat Chinese food once in a while(!)


So there you have it.  Again, in today's world, there are no China Hands.  Only Wannabe’s.  

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