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I spent a whole last month in US upon the invitation of a Midwest US state government, giving me second chance to take a good look at this country, hated by many and loved by more. |
In a period of 20 days and in a manner what we Chinese call“cast a passing glance while riding on a horse, I visited New York City, James Town and Richmond of Virginia, Princeton University in New Jersey, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles before leaving US from Hawaii with one day stop-over in Tokyo. This was my second trip to US. The first one was in 2002, but restricted to conference halls and hotel rooms, leaving little impression.
U.S. is a land of abundance. Though,most commodities are readily available here in China, but only at much higher prices. You know what I've found? We are robbed! For instance, customers will have to pay up to 25 yuan ($4) for a scoop of Haagen-Daaz ice cream in Shanghai,But in any US store, it is sold at as low as 75 cents and totally lost its visibility in the midst the many ice cream brands, all grossly decorated up in a way like street-walkers by the cruisy Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. My favorite NIKE sportswear was offered only $19 at 20% off in a suburban factory outlet. I paid 288 yuan for the same product in an upscale shopping mall in Shanghai.
US TV was funny. I was amused by the exaggerated facial expression of the anchorpersons who read out news faster enough to catch a tornado and the background music literally drummed up the sensation of the whole story which, to me, wasn't a big deal at all most of the times. Seems that I can almost understand why US media only reports negative stories about China . But that wasn't necessarily a bad thing to someone. In the hotel gym where I stayed in Chicago, I met a guy who is in his early 40s. He told me that he found China's rising power is intensely erotica. Oh, my goodness, I never expected that China's development would end up in someone's masochistic fantasy.
I would say most Americans are nice. Everyone seems to be very courteous, patiently waiting after you and leaving enough space at airports, bus stops and in stores. And I never saw anyone shouting and yelling in public. My hostess in a Richmond museum talked to me about the massive earthquake almost in tears. During my stay in D.C., people went out to cheer for the veterans parading on Memorial Day. They left no rubbish behind. My Princeton friend told me that in US schools, civic duty is taught early on and anger management is considered a very important part. I would also add people know respect is a merit. People seem don't want to bother others. That's the reason why most US buildings look very ordinary from outside but jaw-dropping,eye-popping when you enter it. Visit Wynn's, one of the landmark Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, I will have you on my side. A building in downtown Los Angeles triggered controversy and court action simply because its metal structure is all too shiny.
But US hypocrisy is also evident. I went to a dance club on Saturday night in suburban Los Angeles. Realizing most entertainment venues in US requires proper dressing and ID check, I changed my shoes and pants, got my passport .. I waited patiently for more than one hour in the long queue; almost 90% of the club-goers were Hispanics. While I was waiting to get in, I saw people would jump the queue in droves and thrust something to the guard's hand before entering. Even blind people could tell that was bribery. In China, we never bribe dance club guards.
But as I showed the guard my passport, he didn't bother to read it at all and told me that he wouldn't let me in because my passport didn't give detailed description of my height, weight and eye color. Nah, how could he tell that my passport didn't give full descriptions, which it actually didn'tsay, before reading it? The reasons could be the either or both of the following: 1) he was expecting bribery money 2) this bar don't welcome non-Hispanics. But even the police officer who witnessed everything at the door way showed no sympathy to me, saying that, it was this club's RULE to request full physical description upon entry.
So this is law-ruled and –based US. They were more sophisticated than a hundred years ago when US looted and robbed wealth from countries like China. Now things have changed, what they did is to set up systems and justify their actions by quoting a line from relevant laws and international agreements all designed in their best interest. According to media reports, during a meeting, Carlos Gutierrez, the US Secretary of Commerce challenged Madame Wu Yi, the then Chinese vice premier, saying that US was “negotiating with thieves”, referring to the issue of privacy running rampant in China. Wu fought back “We are negotiating with robbers.” She said that at a time when every DVD player manufactured in China would pay up to $15 as royalty to patent holders. 300 billion USD out of China’s foreign reserve evaporated overnight under US pressure to appreciate renminbi as bunches of US financers and scholars argued its necessity and based their reasoning on US financial needs. In comparison, our way of doing international business is too naive and needs systematic and strategic thinking.
To contain China's development, the West devised the Kyoto Protocol; lofty cause of environmental protection was reduced to a political tool. Unfortunately, US, unlike other developed countries in Europe, U.S. is not conserving either. That's the reason why President Bush belatedly signed on it. Whenever you go in US, you will find plastic shopping bags are still widely in use, and much bigger in size. Disposable table wares are still widely used as opposed to the recent ban of plastic bags in supermarkets in my country. Americans throws away electronic appliances once they go out of order, partly because it would cost more to repair them.
Not only Sharon Stone's Karma remarks are resoundingly stupid, some world leaders are not any smarter. German Chancellor Angelica Merkel said, during a visit to a new energy plant, people in developed countries could no longer afford milk and other meat products because people in developing countries, such as India and China, are changing their diets. Indians are eating two meals a day instead of one meal as they did in the recent past. President Bush echoed her “alarming finding” by saying that the rapid growing middle-class in India are consuming too much world's fossil energy. But he obviously ignored the fact that a typical Indian middle-class family made $800 annually. Guess what is the figure for US? US official figure says $50,000 is the threshold. A German commentator wrote in his column that he would "prefer Chinese to holdfast to their values" : to remain optimistic while leading a impoverished life.
Would such racist remarks cost these politicians jobs in their own country? Or it could win them more support because such malicious remarks are targeted at foreigners? So while U.S. demands us to conserve more, are we justifiably ask them to reconsider their suburban way of life? Will Americans sacrifice their cherished “individual space” and embrace urban life: live in big cities, stay closer, so you don't have to drive to supermarkets every time you need something. Remember, cars don't purify the world't air even if it is ethanol-driven but only to starve people desperately for food.