Until now, the only Chinese people I’ve seen around Sri Lanka have been diners, laborers, prostitutes or dignitaries in the papers. Every now and then something will drop from the sky (like the Lotus Theatre) but the Chinese aren’t like Indians. You don’t see them at House Of Fashion or really engage in conversation. Recently, however, some friends (of a friend) came down from Beijing and we got to hang out. They were quite cool.
It is somewhat silly to meet people from somewhere else and report that they’re essentially normal. All you’re really reporting is your initial ignorance. When it comes to Chinese people, however, most Sri Lankans haven’t met any. I eat in proximity to Chinese people at Min Han, but not with them. I see Chinese laborers in Trinco or near the Expressway, but we don’t chat. I see Chinese prostitutes in the dodgier restaurants or walking to the casinos, but there’s no intercourse.
Sri Lankans do hear about China, a lot. But, until now, I haven’t really met a Chinese person.
They Are Cool
It may seem stupid, and this is a sample of three people out of over a billion, but Chinese people are damn cool. They have better hair, gadgets and clothes than me. They also have interesting social networks which they seem to be on all the time, including this thing where you leave voice messages to a group. They’re attracted to WiFi like moths to a flame.
The kids I met were also exceedingly polite, spoke slightly idiosyncratic but perfect English and were highly educated.
The One Child Thing
The people I met were all only children, as is like everybody in China. Meeting them the one insight I got was that their kids won’t have any aunts or uncles. They bemoaned this, and it’s kinda crazy if you think about it. I have enough aunts and uncles that I could crash at a different house every day of the week. This is a significant social safety net, not to mention the wealth of contacts and opportunity a big family entails.
Another thing was that being an only child involves significant pressure. For one thing, if you don’t reproduce, your family line is essentially done. Indian/Asian mothers/grandmothers already lay on the ‘BABIES!’ thing pretty thick, but it seems much worse when applied to an only child. I can only imagine the stress if you’re gay or just not interested.
On the plus side, though, this generation does have a wider family and significant resources devoted to them. In the middle to upper classes at least, the Chinese youth are highly invested in, and it shows.
We didn’t really talk about politics, and they were refreshingly non-judgmental about Sri Lanka. They’re aware that the government does some dodgy stuff internally, but mainly count themselves blessed that misfortune hasn’t come upon them. I also heard Han Han‘s idea that the main gripe with power is not having it. This might seem cynical, but they’re honest and in many ways more self-reflective than many in the externally judgmentally but internally hypocritical west. We didn’t talk about politics much and I won’t get into it that much.
Apparently China doesn’t really have beach or waves like here. It also gets very cold. The food is not what we would consider Chinese food, at least in Beijing. They seem to like Colombo, I felt really quite proud to show them around. I dunno. Chinese people are cool. I want to go check out China soon.