Thursday, December 27, 2007


The Chinese Government LOVE the phrase “creating a harmonious society”.
In every big presidential speech this phrase returns, like a boomerang they are throwing out that almost immediately comes back to repeat itself.

China wants their people to be happy. Calm. And harmoniums. When people are harmonious the society becomes harmonious. And no one will dream of criticising the Government. Or something like that.

In order to achieve this fluffy society the Government launches various “harmony” campaigns for the people. The campaigns can involve everything from “not spitting” to “not crossing the street when there’s a red light” to “welcoming a foreigner to our country”. At least that is the only explanation I can think of to why I was so warmly greeted when I first came here.

It happened in October 2006, when I’d only lived in Shanghai for about 2 months.

It was an early Sunday morning and I was sitting outside a huge mall at Nanjing Lu, waiting for a friend to come and meet me. The (otherwise very busy) street was still quite empty, and I was watching its modest amount of pedestrians walking on the other side of the pavement. Suddenly one guy (who was walking on the opposite side to where I sat) spotted me, and froze.

After staring at me for a stiff, five seconds, he started to run (with his face still turned to me) to the pedestrian crossing, where he spent a few, restless seconds waiting until the light turned green. He then crossed the street (still running) and finally arrived (panting slightly) in front of me.

“Hello!!!!!!” he said and smiled.
“Hello?” I said, slightly bemused.
“Where you from?” He continued.
“Sweden.” I replied. (He seemed harmless)
“I am from China!” He announced proudly. “Do you live here?”
“I just moved here 2 months ago”
I said and smiled.
“Oh… Welcome to China!” he said
“Thank you!”

As he started to slowly walk away from me, he suddenly turned and said:

“You are very pretty!”

I didn’t have time to reply because after he said that he started to run. He turned around a few times and looked and smiled at me, but all I could do was just to sit there, and stare after him. Not until he was safely (?) back on the opposite side of the street did he change his running pace into a quick walk (still with his head turning back to look at me).

Now this was a sort of cute little moment that I wouldn’t have reflected over more unless I hadn’t been approached at the metro station, only a few days later.

I was waiting for the tube at People’s Square when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and was greeted by a large Chinese boy with a huge smiley face.

“HELLO!” he shouted. (Yes, he SHOUTED!)
“Eh.. hi?!” I said and stepped back.
“Eh, yes…”

I barely had time to say “thanks!” before he was gone. Just like that. He just said it and walked away.

I am guessing that this means that as part of “a harmonious society campaign” the local Government that month had asked its citizens to welcome a foreigner to their country. That’s the only decent explanation I can think of. Since that day, no one has ever ‘welcomed’ me to China again.

But I wonder what it would take to make Swedes welcome foreigners in Sweden… Probably a little bit more that a Government campaign.

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