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False sense of crisis may be good for lazy expats

By Shell Zhang (Global Times)

08:39, June 11, 2012

(Photo from Global Times)

Benoit Cezard, a French photographer currently living in Wuhan, Hubei Province, is showing a project called "China 2050," which shows his imagination of foreigners' lives in China in four decades.

In his photos, several foreigners pose as doing manual jobs such as builders, dustmen, gardeners and street peddlers. The photographer explains his belief that China will become the primary economic superpower in the world by 2050, while the US and European economies decline. As a result, a large number of immigrants from the West will swarm into China in search of jobs, but will only do manual labor as this emerging power's population will be well off and enjoying their lives.

After seeing these photos, I feel really flattered by the author's overestimation of China's rapid economic development, although I still have my doubts.

The situation illustrated in the photos seems unlikely in near future. Even if China becomes a developed country, it still needs various people to help the society functioning, not only manual workers. No matter whether Chinese or foreigners, those with real talent should be able to find their suitable position.

Moreover, foreigners' mentality cannot be easily changed. Most foreigners come to pursue an easy and relaxing life, and they do get it here. They find jobs easily. Doing the same work, they are paid much better than their Chinese peers. Wherever they go, they are warmly received and treated as VIPs.

However, there are a few people, like Cezard, that worry about how long this situation can last.

After the recent wave of negative feeling sparked by online videos showing foreigners behaving badly, more than a few Chinese claimed some foreigners were actually incapable and came here just because they cannot find jobs at home.

Arguments were also aroused by foreigners who felt the comments irritating. The debates didn't last long, as other news soon took the headlines. But some foreigners started to feel a sense of crisis.

It's true that foreigners have many privileges in China. In the words of a Chinese proverb, "the moon seems fuller in foreign lands than in China." In recent years, many Chinese have been unconditionally nice to foreigners and think foreigners can do their work better. Foreigners in turn are used to it and many take it as granted.

Ironically, most Chinese people are used to it too, despite some occasional complaints. What's more, Chinese people are forgetful, while their tradition of hospitality is deep-rooted. So they would go back to treating someone nicely shortly after a fight.

In my opinion, it is only when China really becomes a superpower that Chinese people may be confident enough to treat themselves as equal to those from other nations.

At the current stage, it's far too early for foreigners to worry that their advantages will disappear in the near future.

From another angle, the sense of crisis may only exist among those who are taking advantage of the privileges they are offered, but with no real ability. For instance, English teaching has become the easiest work foreigners can get in China, but many of them are actually not qualified, and some are even not native speakers. The situation is better in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, thanks to the large number of foreigners and the fierce competition among them, but it happens a lot in many other places across China.

Therefore, it may be a good thing that foreigners do have some sense of crisis. If so, they will try to improve themselves. No matter what efforts they make, it will contribute to the society.

The author is a CCTV journalist. [email protected]

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