Chinese Stories in English
America is a "Backward" Country
by Huang Lihong
[Note: Most of this article was previously translated by Tea Leaf Nation and David Wertime, and published on the Atlantic' Monthly's website. We're publishing our more complete if less eloquent translation to fill in the gaps. Besides, we think the article is worthy of inclusion on more than one website. – Fannyi]
Pass it on: Nobody should go to America, a stupid, backward country.
I've been in America a long time. I regret the choice. From the beginning I was hoodwinked and mislead by the Western media into wrongly believing that America is a modernized nation. I overcame incredible hardships to get to this "formidable" country, hoping to study advanced American science and technology in service to the fatherland's greatness. It ended in a huge disappointment.
(1) America is Really a Big, Undeveloped Countryside. When I was in high school, our teachers taught us that more industrial development means more environmental destruction. For example, an industrial city should have factories, smokestacks and dust everywhere. That's the mark of industrialization! But America? You very seldom see smokestacks, just a few small ones occasionally as decoration on single-family homes. Everywhere you look, there are rivers and lakes with water clear enough to see bottom. And there are no paper mills or steel mills or such things on the riverbanks. The air is as fresh and clean as it was in primeval times, without the slightest trace of industrialization!
(2) Americans Don't Understand Economics. The country has high-speed highways all over the place, leading to almost every little town, but almost no toll booths! Such a fantastic, tremendous commercial opportunity wasted! I've been itching to take some concrete and build a few. There's no doubt I'd be able to afford an ocean-view villa on the West Coast within a month. Also, you can see peaceful, undeveloped lakes everywhere beside the highways. The government would rather let water birds live there and shit in the lakes than make a ton of money from lake-view garden developments. Obviously Americans have no head for economics.
(3) American Buildings are Too Primitive. Except in a small minority of big cities, there are no high-rises built from materials like cement and concrete. When I was just arriving in America, as the airplane was landing, I saw a vast, vast stretch of single-story buildings. (Some say they were small, single-family homes.) I thought I'd arrived in Cambodia.
Speaking of cement and concrete, I absolutely couldn't believe that America has almost no concrete buildings. Their houses are built mostly out of wood and a few other strange materials. From their use of primitive materials like wood to build houses, you can see that Westerners' construction standards are stuck at the level of pre-Qing Dynasty China. Those were feudal times!
(4) American Thinking is Unsophisticated and Backward. When I had just arrived in America, luggage carts at the airport cost 3 U.S. dollars. I didn't have any change. An American saw I had a lot of luggage and paid the three dollars, pushing the cart toward me. And they're opening doors for you all the time, and always asking if you need any help…. We used to do things like that last century, in the fifties and sixties, the "Learn from Lei Feng" times. Now we all feel it's just too backward! Those days people were hypocritical, but we aren't that way any more. No artificial behaviors, that's what it means to be modern! So Americans' thinking is decades behind us, and there's no indication they'll be able to catch up.
(5) Americans Don't Know Enough to Eat Wild Game. One day a fellow student and I drove to another city. Suddenly several deer ran out into the middle of the road. My friend slammed on the brakes, almost causing a wreck. I've heard this kind of thing happens all the time. Sometimes a car can get totaled by a deer. The American government doesn't know how to control this. It spends all its time attending to a fight with Iran but doesn't even take care of its own roads. I really don't know what Bush was thinking while he was stuffing himself. And it's not just deer. They say there are still bears and foxes in the woods, not to mention wild birds and squirrels visiting their kitchens any old time. Americans just don't know enough to eat wild game. They don't even have restaurants serving wild game. Leaving aside the fact that game foods are delicious, they could make a ton of money just selling the antlers of those deer they kill on the roads! Americans live with these animals every day, but they still want to create animal preserves. It's downright primitive!
(6) Americans Don't Understand Self-Respect. College Professors don't act the part at all. They completely lack scholarly demeanor. Professor D is reportedly a renowned American psychologist, but during classroom breaks he pigs out on cookies with the students and chats about the movie "21" and Zhang Ziyi, the beautiful Chinese actress. He has no academic dignity at all, and it really disappoints me. Further: No advisor to doctoral candidates (an impressive position) ever puts the title "PhD" on his card. They don't even know how to show off their position and status. The people taught by such professors don't know how to strut their stuff even when they become high-ranking officials. Who's going to bow and scrape before officials like that, who don't even know how to posture? Therefore, in America even the most craven commoners have the audacity to curse their officials. We see in China that our in loco parentis officials get respect. Even a mere Section Chief in our country is more grandiose than the American president. No wonder people say a first-class citizen in China gets turned into a third-class citizen in America.
(7) American Elementary Students Don't Have Lofty Aspirations. Grade school students never want to become officials. They take turns being class leaders and everyone is responsible for everything. They don't have things like class representatives or secretaries or the numerous committee members we had when I was young. They have almost no homework. Even when they do have some it's nothing at all like grade school kids in our country have. The schools put too much emphasis on character development, suborning the kids to be worthy citizens first and leave distant aspirations for later. Worthy citizens? A completely obsolete concept.
(9 [sic]) Americans Create Hassles for Themselves by Seeing Doctors for Minor Illnesses. First they have to make an appointment, and then the doctor writes a prescription after seeing them. Some people still have to consult with a pharmacist. Then they have to go to a store to buy the medicine, instead of just taking the flamboyantly written prescription to the clinic pharmacy like we do. I really don't understand why America separates buying medicine from seeing the doctor. The clinics (and doctors) just make diagnoses and write prescriptions, and don't sell the medicines. It's clear that they don't know how to make money. Why tell the patient the name of the medication? Seeing a doctor and buying medicine are part of a single process, and if they monopolized the process they could increase prices 8- or 10-fold. You couldn't have a better business than that, but obviously capitalist market economics truly live no more. Sheesh.
(10) American Public Opinion is Ass-Backwards. I sometimes lose my patience with the ignorance and stupidity of Americans. Like when they're told we have TV stations and newspapers in our country, and they ask in surprise, "China has newspapers!?" Really, what nonsense. Not only do we have them, our Chinese-language newspapers are processed and produced with meticulous care by propaganda departments. Reading our domestic newspapers is so tasteful, like listening to a concert filled with hymns of praise. It's not at all like American newspapers with their messy public opinions, daring to curse even the American president by name, let alone lesser functionaries. Something I learned as second nature in China is that common people aren't worthy of respect, but you can't make thoughtless remarks about our comrade leaders. If you publicize the leaders' scandals, then who'll want to be a leader? Besides, the state has a lot of money invested in cultivating and maintaining officials, and if you kick out a bad official the loss to the state is tremendous! So irresponsible American public opinion leads directly to the anarchy of a primitive society: It's ass-backwards!
(11) Americans are Spiritually Empty. The thing I can't stand the most is: A portion of Americans say some kind of prayer before eating. Americans naively say, "God bless America." It's complete nonsense. If God blessed America, would he let the country be so backward and primitive, and would he let the people be so unsophisticated and naive? Besides, is venerating God worth a fart? It'd be better and would result in more material benefits if they spent the time venerating the bosses where they work! On this point, how can these people be compared with our modernized countrymen? Thousands of years of Confucian culture in our country is no longer a part of our modern lives, having been tossed aside by us without a second thought. And yet we're immeasurably self-satisfied at the mention of our ancestry, without a shred of a guilty conscience. In the midst of our nostalgia we see money as everything, and there's no emptiness whatsoever in our spirits.
(12) Americans Have No Concept of Time. No matter what the circumstances, if they have to wait in line, they don't know enough to crowd up behind the person in front of them. They have to maintain a certain distance, and the rest of the people stand faithfully to the rear. They don't know how to "fill the gaps". See how intelligent we Chinese are: even in crowded situations we have the knack of squeezing into the line. This saves a lot of time, you know, and we don't have to get so tired standing in lines. And if someone we know gives us a leg up on the crowd, why, that saves us even more time. Those Yanks just don't understand these things.
(13) American Stores Have No Common Sense. You can return things several weeks after you bought them, without giving any reason. Why don't they argue with me a little before letting me return something? Absolutely no sense at all!
(14) America Isn't Safe. Ninety-five percent of families have forgotten to install anti-theft bars/doors/windows; and the strange thing is, where are all the thieves?
(15) Americans are Timid. Ninety-five percent of drivers have never dared to run a red light, and ninety-nine percent don't dare to cut anyone off. Ninety-nine percent of adults own a car, but the way they drive is very strange: You don't hear horns honking even when there are a lot of cars on the road. The streets are so quiet they're not like streets at all, with none of the excitement and character of [Chinese] provincial capitals. In our China, if you didn't honk your horn, who'd know you have a car?
(16) Americans are Emotionally Indifferent. Ninety-five percent of employees never look for an occasion to empathize with their superiors because they believe that their superiors' life-changing events have nothing to do with them. In our China, when wouldn't the hoi polloi do everything possible to show their concern for their leaders? Or to put it another way, who would dare not to? See how thick the essence of our emotional connections is!
(17) Americans Just Don't Get It. Ninety-nine percent of them get promoted in school, get jobs, get raises, have operations, all without knowing enough to get help from connections or send "little presents" of cash. They really don't understand how the world works! My friend's mother had an operation last month at the Harmony Hospital in Hankou, Wuhan, and gave a "little present" to the consulting surgeon to express her appreciation.
(18) Looking at this photo, I have ample reason to look down on
America: Obama and his staff with eyes glued to a screen in the
White House Situation Room, monitoring real-time satellite video
of the hunting down and killing of bin Laden. My feelings are:
First, subordinates in America don't respect their leaders.
They go so far as to squeeze their stately president into a corner
to sit. Poor Obama doesn't even have the prestige of a village
chief in Imperial China.
Second, the stately White House Situation Room is just
another room. It's small and lacks luxurious decorations, not at
all appropriate for a great power. I'm afraid the office of any
county administrator in Imperial China would be much bigger and much more luxurious.
Third, there are no fruit plates of beverages in the meeting room, no expensive smokes fit for an emperor – poverty-stricken, miserly, and they say this is the world's number one economy! Bah! I have ample reason to disrespect America.
(19) The new U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, and his family took an ordinary civil passenger flight from Seattle, arriving in Beijing at about 10 p.m. on August 12, 2011, after a 12+ hour flight. Mr. Locke carried a pack on his own shoulders and a briefcase in his hand. He declined the use of a special car, instead taking an ordinary commercial vehicle to the ambassador's residence. He is like a model Communist, living a plain, hardworking life and saving the taxpayers money.
While Beijing officials are lining up to send their sons and daughters to attend famous universities in America or England, Ambassador Locke sent his daughter to a school for migrant workers in Beijing. Most of the students at that school are registered residents of Henan Province, their parents having come to Beijing from there to look for work. The clothes Ambassador Locke's daughter wore were no different from what the other students wore. Ambassador Locke said, "I'm a migrant worker, too."
The Chinese text was published together with the "Unexpected America" blog post translated here.
The two Chinese texts are available here. "Backward America is first, followed by "Unexpected America".
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