China & Chabuduo

Cycle Canton tour of Haizhu District in Guangzhou, China

Cycle Canton tour of Haizhu District in Guangzhou, China

Beijing-based British writer James Palmer recently penned the most insightful essay I’ve read about China for Aeon magazine, and I pray that you take the time to read it:

What Chinese corner-cutting reveals about modernity

As soon as I read the lead, I was hooked. After all, any foreigner who has rented an apartment in China can easily relate to how unbelievably quickly everything falls apart—no matter how new it is or how much you shell out for it. Lights repeatedly go out. Stoves take multiple tries to turn on. Key to the apartment suddenly doesn’t work after a locksmith fiddles with it. Doorknob is ready to fall off. Random man comes in to check the gas and tells you to watch out because the wiring only lasts for a couple years before deteriorating and potentially leaks gas. Chabu-fucking-duo. Such is the state of my former apartment—only a few years old, mind you.

Of course, James’ essay goes much deeper.

I’m happy that he is finally calling out the Chinese for cutting corners on everything, and while I’m sure they are not alone, it’s especially frustrating for any outsider to experience first-hand how prevalent such carelessness is throughout work and life in China.

Time and time again, I was amazed to see the utter lack of standards or sense of quality pervading even what should be the most professional aspects of society. While that admittedly did make seizing opportunities easier in China, it’s not an attitude I wish to adapt or remain surrounded by, and I am relieved to see that James has spelled out some of these frustrations.

In fact, why I left China has a lot to do with precisely this phenomena of corner cutting and plain not-giving-a-shit-about-anything attitude—something every local seemed to possess and something that inevitably I couldn’t stand any longer.

So thank you, James, for calling out the Chinese on their bullshit. Let’s hope things will get better for everyone’s sake (and survival).

READ: What Chinese corner-cutting reveals about modernity