Bad behavior bad for China’s image

The past week saw many discussions arising from misdemeanors of young Chinese nationals in our country. Two of the incidents, just three days apart, incensed the public, Tsinoys included.
I want to think that the culprits’ ethnicity was not the main consideration. That even if the malefactors are American, Korean, Japanese or some other foreign nationals, reactions would be the same.
But, I have to admit, in the recent incidents, ethnicity made a difference during this time of heightened tension and resentment against new Chinese immigrants. Recent news reports showed them working in jobs traditionally undertaken by Filipinos. Valid or not, many believed these Chinese were being given special treatment and were stealing their jobs and taking unfair advantage of business opportunities, adversely affecting Filipinos.
Disputes over the West Philippine Sea, especially new structures built by China in disputed waters, were churning the troubled waters even more. Both Chinese nationals and Tsinoys had become unwitting collateral damage in these troubled times.
Back-to-back incidents
The first unfortunate incident happened Feb. 9. It involved a 23-year old female student, Zhang Jiale, who threw taho (sweet soybean curd) at a policeman at the Metro Rail Transit-3 station.
Zhang was stopped at the turnstile at the MRT entrance and was requested to consume her snack before entering the station. After the bombing in Jolo, Sulu, police are on heightened alert in public places. All forms of liquids are banned inside public transportation.
Instead of complying, the incensed Zhang threw the taho at the police officer, which led to her arrest. Zhang was charged with direct assault, disobedience to an agent of person in authority, and unjust vexation before the Mandaluyong City prosecutor’s office and detained at the Mandaluyong jail. She posted P12,000 bail but was subsequently arrested by the Bureau of Immigration.
The second incident happened Feb. 12. It involved another Chinese national, Zhang Yang, 19, who worked in the booming online gambling business. He groped the private parts of three female teens who took the horror ride in an amusement park at Pasay City. Five policemen who investigated the case were subsequently relieved of their posts for urging the victims to agree to a settlement instead of filing molestation charges.
Would the two Zhangs have dared to commit such unruly behavior in the United States, Japan, or even back in their home in China? In terms of gravity, the first incident involved a direct insult against a person in authority, a policeman. Fortunately, the policeman was trained in exercising maximum tolerance because of the exigencies of his post. Authorities know banning liquids inside public conveyances may not be received kindly by passengers. In other countries, Zhang could have been shot by policemen who could justify that they were defending themselves, thinking that what was being thrown was acid or poison.
Our own Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s reaction, drew more flak and angered even more people.
“Aw c’mon. Let’s not be trivial. This can happen anywhere to anyone in any country. Aggression by taho? Defense by the same?” he said on social media. “Boy, we really need arms deals to flesh out our sense of nationhood and sovereignty, this non-issue trying to be one is pathetic.”
Most netizens couldn’t fathom how our Foreign Affairs Secretary, the front liner tasked with dealing with the governments of foreign nationals, can consider the issue trivial and a non-issue when it is a public servant in uniform who was insulted and treated with such indignity and arrogance.
More discussions
“This is not an isolated issue either, but more symptomatic of a general psychological issue,” commented RH in Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran’s chat group. “Remember that Chinese couple who threw hot water at an AirAsia stewardess who warned them against preparing cup noodles pre-takeoff?
“What about the bus in Chongqing that plowed into the Yangtze River after a passenger kept slapping the driver out of annoyance at not being let off at her stop? The couple who beat up the 7-11 cashier in Japan who told them they couldn’t open food from the store before paying?
“Such incidents are not unique and happen too often with Mainlanders to just be chalked up to ‘Oh it happens everywhere.’ NO. It happens mostly with mainland Chinese. Why is it that we never hear of such incidents with such regularity from other countries? Why is it when there’s a parent allowing her kid to defecate inside a subway, it’s almost always Chinese?”
Another responded that this is because mainland Chinese outnumber all other foreign nationals added together. So, you hear about the Chinese troublemakers more often.
An interesting article by Helen Gao in the Chinese NY Times was shared by RH. Gao described young people these days as “當年“小皇帝”已變成長不大的“巨嬰 (the little emperors then became giant babies who failed to grow up).” Gao was critiquing the book written by 武志紅 《巨嬰國:國內心理學家系統透視中國國民性》(The Country of ‘Giant Babies’: A Domestic Psychologist’s Systematic Examination of the Chinese National Character).
The book is now banned in China because it supposedly harms the cultural image of China.
Instead of banning it, China should popularize the book to wake the Chinese people up to the reality that their much vaunted 5,000 years of civilization seemed to have gone down the drain and completely forgotten or ignored by the “me” generation: spoiled progenies of one-child families.
Not all agreed with the detention and the possible deportation of the taho girl.
A friend ML writes: “I assume she is a student just like millions of students everywhere. Young. Impulsive. Certainly a hothead. And she apologized. That’s important.
“She has been jailed by police, now detained by BI. That’s enough to teach her a lesson. Why can’t we let it go and move on? Not all Filipinos are well behaved. Some behave worse.
“There are larger issues at stake. We have done little to address many of our problems, like unemployment, poverty, illiteracy.
“Instead of rolling up our sleeves and doing something about them – which requires hard work and long-term persistence – we flex a macho arm and take it out on a girl who can’t fight back – which is easier to do.”
Respect and civility
Racism is indeed rearing its ugly head again because of tensions involving new Chinese immigrants and conflict in the disputed territorial waters of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea.
This was said by Meah Ang See, a guest speaker, during the open forum at the recently held Carlos Chan lecture series during the Philippine Association of Chinese Studies general meeting. It was on Feb. 9, before news of the taho throwing broke.
The Chinese cook who beat up the Filipino waiter and the Chinese wife who hit the Filipina maid are both employer-employee issues but since the victims are Filipino and the employers Chinese, both incidents became racial issues.
See emphasized that at this point, most Filipinos know how to differentiate Tsinoys from the new immigrants.
But if issues continue unresolved, even Tsinoys can become collateral damage to the new tensions, as evidenced by inflammatory articles written recently by Frankie Sionil Jose and Solita Monsod.
These incidents should teach us all a valuable lesson: respect the dignity of everyone we encounter, whether they are holding government positions or not.
Basic respect and civility should be innate behavior and we join our Filipino brethren in condemning bad behavior, regardless of ethnicity.
The Chinese nationals themselves are fanning terrible racist rants against Filipinos because they think nothing of the taho throwing incident.
They seem to encounter such behavior frequently and dismiss it as common occurrence. They agree with Locsin that it is “trivial” and dismiss the act (both the taho throwing and the groping) as small matters.
Which is sad. Unless these people learn that no matter how tolerant Filipinos are, there is a tipping point and we don’t want to witness Filipinos resorting to violence to defend their dignity. The misbehavior of Chinese nationals hurts not just the image of the mainland Chinese but damages China’s image above all.

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