5) Rise of the Noveau Riche 新贵
Besides rude behaviour, Chinese tourists also have a reputation of being very materialistic.
However, this has more to do with the fact that they are “newly rich” rather than the fact that they are Chinese.
As a brilliant person on quora explains:
China’s economic conditions in the last 15-20 years has made it easy to make a lot of money, thus leading to the current rise of the nouveau riche. Generally speaking, this class is business-savvy, but they are not particularly well-educated nor do they possess the “well-cultured” behaviours and attitudes that people from old money naturally inherit.
So compounded with the culture of maintaining face, Chinese people from new money have to prove their status in society by showing off that they’re rich and influential.
Consider this from another angle: Chinese women buy three times more Maseratis and two times more Ferraris than Western women. Why? Because it’s a status marker of their earning potential, their independence, and their power. In a society that still values men over women, successful Chinese women exert their power by subverting traditional notions of gender – thus, showing others that they are equally, if not more, ambitious and capable as men.
In China right now, conspicuous consumption is not really about compensating for low self-esteem, but rather about vying for social status when one’s social position isn’t always tenable.
I would venture a guess that the reasons detailed for China are similar to the ones for Japan and South Korea, the latter two countries with economies that have also experienced great economic growth relatively recently compared to Western countries.
I don’t think there’s anything intrinsic about Asian culture that compels Asian people today to purchase luxury goods – it just so happens that we live in a time when economic conditions in East Asia have introduced conspicuous consumption as a means for the newly rich to attain social status.
Further reading: Fear of a Chinese Luxury Consumer Market by Minh-Ha T. Pham
Ending off, while I have had negative experiences with people from China, I’ve also had very good encounters.
Throughout my life, teachers from China have inspired me greatly. My favourite teacher in secondary school is Zeng Danlin. She is from China but she is one of those rare teachers who care about student’s welfare and saw the best in me. I was a really rebellious kid back then but she talked a lot of sense into me. In 2011, when I had problems with my bf, she counselled me as well.
In year one in university, the professor who taught me my first ever public policy course and inspired me to pursue a minor was from China. His name is Yu Wenxuan. He is nothing like those mean Chinese people who cut queues and take advantage of others. Instead, he is very civilized, kind, funny and good tempered. Everyone loves him.
In 2006, I attended an exchange program in Huangshan (黃山) and Shanghai (上海). The students and teachers there were VERY HOSPITABLE and attentive to us. I’ve been to several countries for conferences like South Korea, Budapest, Hong Kong, etc. I have never ever received this extent of hospitality and care. Till today, I still keep the many gifts they showered upon me and have many wonderful memories there.
During the first three months of junior college, I was in science stream. I struggled a lot with chemistry because I was just not naturally inclined in that subject. The students who were the most patient and helpful with me were the PRC scholars and Malaysian scholars. After first three months, I switched to the arts stream so I could play to my strengths. However, I still have a very good impression of the scholars in 08S30. To all those who curse Chinese scholars for spoiling the bell curve, I would say that they actually work much harder than many of us. So, they deserve the good grades that they have.
They are the reason why I have chosen to write this post. To share with my readers about the circumstances which shaped the mentality and attitudes of PRCs. Hopefully, after reading my post, you will be more empathetic, understanding and tolerant towards mainland tourists.
More importantly, you will be reminded that these ill-behaved tourists do not represent every single person in China and that there are still nice people.
I know it is hard to not get irritated with China people behaving badly abroad or anything. I myself am no saint and get upset too especially at Ocean Park when my queue is cut or when I get pushed around. However, we really have to think about our privilege compared to the type of circumstances they were born in and put up with.
I am not saying they are right and that we should accept such behavior. In fact, I think that people who come to Singapore for holiday, work or study, should do their best to abide by our social norms.
However, I hope that after reading this post, readers can reexamine stereotypes against people from China and correct them. It is one thing to be against a particular behavior and another to be against one entire group of people because of the bad news you read from the media and the bad eggs you encounter.
If you would like to know more about China, do check out my other post on visiting Harbin, one of the coldest tourist destinations in China.