China Daily just published my latest column, titled A helping of guoji jiaoliu over tasty noodles in Hangzhou. Here’s an excerpt:
Years ago in September when I first started working in the city of Hangzhou, I had an unexpected encounter at one of my favorite pulled noodle carts.
One night several Chinese soldiers with short buzz cuts and light-green buttoned shirts displaying their military ranks sat down at one of the plastic tables beside me, as I was enjoying my usual bowl of vegetarian pulled noodles.
They asked where I was from. After I told them, the tallest and most muscular man of the bunch said: “I don’t like America. Americans don’t respect China.”
His words unnerved me. I knew Americans weren’t universally beloved around the world, but it was the first time anyone had ever admitted it to my face in such blunt terms. On top of it, the admission came from a man trained to fight and defend his nation against other countries, such as my own.
I didn’t doubt this man’s resolve to safeguard China – there was a razor-sharp look in his dark and steady eyes. Yet he also smiled at me at the same time. This expression of friendliness, though at odds with his response, moved me to continue the conversation, even if my fledgling Mandarin Chinese was still on shaky ground.
So I attempted to suggest an alternative explanation. “Americans just don’t understand China. If they really knew China, they would like China.” It was a very simplified version of my own journey from an outsider wary of China to one who had gradually come to embrace and appreciate it. “We just need more international communication.”
Read the full piece here. And if you like it, share it!