Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Foreigner's T-shirt Advice Raises Hackles in Nanjing
A foreigner in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, enraged local people for wearing a T-shirt that carried "10 admonishments to Chinese." Locals said their national self-esteem was hurt and asked the foreigner to remove the T-shirt and apologize.
A foreigner in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, enraged local people for wearing a T-shirt that carried "10 admonishments to Chinese."
The admonishments included "Do not stare at foreigners," "Do not say 'hello' or 'OK' (in English) to foreigners," "Allow foreigners to check in at inexpensive hotels," "Charge foreigners the same as Chinese" and "Do not change foreign currency from foreigners."
Locals said their national self-esteem was hurt and asked the foreigner to remove the T-shirt and apologize. After mediation by local police, the Westerner promised that he would not wear the T-shirt again.
Thanks in part to China's long history of suppression and humiliation by Westerners, there is a particular sensitivity in the Chinese national psyche to things involving dignity.
The people of Nanjing were angered because, reading between the lines of the T-shirt message, they saw a message of unwarranted arrogance and white supremacy.
Their spontaneous action to safeguard our collective dignity is respectable provided there was an intention to humiliate.
Devoid of that motive, we can see little harm in the exhortations on the T-shirt. They are, by and large, a list of things that genuinely annoy foreign visitors travelling in this country.
They are frank suggestions that could help improve our hospitality to foreigners. In this sense, they are more constructive than humiliating.
It is indeed embarrassing to be instructed, especially by an outsider. But, if the instruction makes sense, there is no harm in taking the advice.
It is true that foreign travellers are charged more money than their Chinese counterparts at some tourist attractions, which goes against government rules. The T-shirt reminds us we have a little more to do to fully honour our World Trade Organization obligation to offer national treatment to foreigners.
In most places, foreigners still have to stay at designated hotels, which are generally more expensive. Beijing has taken the lead in opening all hotels to foreigners. The T-shirt just tells us that our foreign guests want this to be true everywhere.