Home > General, Opinion > Translation: “Being Chinese is tiring, but being Chinese abroad is even more tiring”

Translation: “Being Chinese is tiring, but being Chinese abroad is even more tiring”

December 18th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I recently came across this short essay at MITBBS and found the original at bbs.cnxz.com.cn. It was written by a forum user, “马丁” yesterday. The essay raised a bunch of questions for me. How far do we push ourselves in pursuit of fame and fortune? Here is the essay in Chinese followed by my translation. What are your thoughts? Also, I hope someone helps translate the text at the very bottom (too hard for me).





当中国人累,当海外的中国人更累,因为他们多了攀比的内容和机会。要想不累,得改改思维习惯,即,不求完美,少攀比,多听听自己心灵的呼唤,做自己真正想做的事,静下心来,你会找到感觉和方向的,Good luck!

Translation below:

“Being Chinese is tiring, being Chinese abroad is even more tiring”

This age-old question may take a whole novel to explore, so I only want to express using few words; neither do I have much time to type something lengthy nor do you have much time to read.

Many Chinese (not all of them) pursue perfection (wanting everything, including fish and bear’s paw), love comparisons (compare local, foreign, students, co-workers, child, wage, education, position, social benefits, housing, car, wife, husband, lover, Chinese food, Western food, air, water, TV size, phone features … comparing to no ends, however long one lives, compare to the very end), cannot decide, worry about outcomes, whether this mountain or that mountain is taller; isn’t being tired inevitable?

In the China-U.S. relationship: 30 years ago, students managed to study abroad and return were like champions (状元 is the scholar who scored the highest in the Chinese official examination system tradition and is accorded power and fortune); a regular student having returned from Houston could manage to snatch up a popular movie star in Shanghai, get her to quit her career and stay at home as a house wife. Nowadays, are there still returning students that capable? Beautiful local girls have long been pursuing high-ranking officials and successful businessmen.

This reflects enormous changes that have taken place in societies on both sides. I don’t say which side is better, and I don’t want to compare. At least it can be said there is a large increase in the number of wealthy Chinese while putting aside how they obtained wealth and the issue of equality. Plus, with the U.S. economic crisis and rising unemployment, those Chinese who love to compare, will they find inner peace?

So, some people come up with various “perfect” approaches to exploit both sides: get a green card or citizenship or both and then return. They will send the child back to be raised in China while one separated abroad earning money (plus extra-marital affairs). The net result is uncertain. One will have to sum it up by one’s self.

Being Chinese is tiring, but being Chinese abroad is even more tiring. They have more to be compared with and exacerbated with even more opportunities. To not be tired, one has to change the habit of thinking, that is, not seek perfection, compare less, listen to the heart, and do what one really wants. Calm down, you will find your bearings and the direction you must take.

I think there is truth to what “马丁” says. That “bar” is certainly much higher today. Having a Western education alone is no longer a guarantee of success in China.

His main point still is that people should stop comparing. People should find content in what they truly want to do. In this context, he thinks the Chinese abroad having more in material wealth (and opportunities) are worse off.

Recently on NPR, I heard a talk given by Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute (believes in small governments) where he discussed about what makes people happy. His conclusion was that people are happy when their spent effort achieves success. They will not be happy, even given free money. He cited this based on massive data collected around the world. (By the way, AEI believes big governments are there to take money from the wealthy and redistribute to the poor. Since people are not going to be happy given free money anyways, there is no point for having big governments, so their argument goes.)

Certainly, an outlet for what “马丁” laments, especially for those who cannot find contentment on their own, perhaps may want to get their governments to more equally redistribute wealth.

Then, looking to the situation in the West, including the U.S., there is a great deal of comparison for sure. In the U.S. it is the obsession with comparing to a “rising” China. There is also a comparison to a U.S. before the financial crisis. The talks of forcing China to revaluate her currency and the rounds of “quantative easing” is really about “redistributing” some of the world’s wealth to America, isn’t it? Individuals and nation states are not that dissimilar in the pursuit of more wants.

Perhaps nation states ought to heed 马丁’s advice. Listen up, world. Find contentment within yourself before greed lead you down a regrettable path!

A comment left at MITBBS was rather interesting too. But this is too difficult for me to translate. Maybe a reader could translate for us and leave it in the comments.


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  1. silentvoice
    December 18th, 2010 at 10:44 | #1

    Instead of translating your last sentence word for word, I will try to translate the gist of it and take some liberties with it. Hope you don’t mind.

    “In a democratic system, parties will try to avoid solving a particularly difficult issue if that issue threatens a fundamental interest of the voting public. Violence will be the end result if they went ahead. To reduce conflicts with the voters, for example, their politicians have resorted to transferring the huge cost of sustaining social welfare to the State; rather than asking voters to pay. That arrangement, however, is conditioned upon the World continuing to fund that system. Once it ceases to happen, the so-called democracy touted by the West, and their facade of a well-run government and society, will collapse.”

  2. December 19th, 2010 at 00:03 | #2

    Thank you very much, silentvoice!

  3. SilentChinese
    December 19th, 2010 at 08:08 | #3

    How do you think China was able to grow 10% year-on-year for 30 years?

    The answer is in those competitive spirit.

    where do yo think the energy to propel that growth comes from?

    Tired? go live in a northern-european oil welfare state.

    except 1.3 b people can’t all do that. tough. so…in order to make our grand children and their grand children live in a better place. China probabbly need another 1-2 generations (30 years) of 10% growth to achieve being a first rate country. if that demands that many to be “tired”? tough, suck it up. life is not fair.

    the truth is this generation had it better than any of previous generations in a century.
    all one demands of them is hard work, not to give their lives or suffer atrocious deprivations so their country can merely survive. this generation wouldn’t even have the opportunities to being “competitive and tired” if it weren’t for their father and grandfather’s sacrifice. that should put every thing in perspective.

  4. nic
    December 19th, 2010 at 12:34 | #4

    I agree with a lot of what SilentChinese wrote. Many people who are (relatively) well of right now forget, that this is due to the efforts, eagerness and spirit of their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. I don’t know about the situation in China, but here in Europe I see a lot of young people who are quite well-off (even the ‘poor’ often don’t see a point in making an effort, since the social wellfare system gives them their booze, TV and playstation), and who are not willing any more to make any effort to study, start an enterprise, work hard, whatever.

    I think, to come back to the OP, that both extremes — comparing yourself all the time, or completely refusing to compare yourself to others — are no good choices.

    Rather, I think that from time to time you should try to observe what others are doing and achieving, then make up your own aims — and then care for those aims, instead of comparing yourself every morning and every evening. As soon as someone has come to the point that they have really made an effort, and really achieved something, they will increasingly become confident about their own path and their own actions, and draw inspiration from others instead of feeling under pressure from comparisons. (And then you have to start to worry about not becoming over confident … but that’s a whole different problem …)

  5. December 19th, 2010 at 17:07 | #5

    Agreed, SilentChinese and nic.

    Btw, Thoreau thought a lot about what the right “balance” ought to be.

    When the former Japanese Prime Minster Hatoyama came to power, he spoke of a need to balance globalization or something thereof.

  6. December 24th, 2010 at 18:49 | #6

    It’s basically a rant against greed and the ongoing lack of contentment invoked by always striving for more than the other guy has. The last paragraph, as explained by silentvoice, would suggest that these gripes are delivered with a nationalistic undertone. This gets to the heart of the problem of China’s ascendency: they don’t strive to become more prosperous in order that they, and therefore humanity, can lead better lives. Rather, they do it – both personally and nationally – for the sake of attaining a #1 status to which they have been taught to feel entitled. In other words, the writer is bemoaning the ‘ends justify the means’ philosophy that permeates the overseas (as well as domestic) Chinese community, whereby the ends is becoming more effortful for expat Chinese, and the means have a lot to do with beating the other guy by whatever measures (usually unethical) are necessary.

    ‘Goodwill to all men’, we often say at this time of year. The writer, I would suggest, would not extend this sentiment to anyone or any group that would stand in the way of his returning to China and getting the girl. He might say it, but he doesn’t mean it; in the same way that Zhongnanhai uses the word ‘peace’ and its derivatives as a strategic implement. Sad, and worrying.

    Happy 2011, everyone: it’s going to be another Sino-rollercoaster.

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