Sunday, March 28, 2010


Right, two rather different subjects today.
First off, another wedding photo, these two were by Xuanwu lake, they didn't seem to mind us taking photos and I even got a wave as we walked off.

Look into the distance...


Nazis! Yes everyone's favorite Indiana Jones baddies. Found this car on Nanluoguxiang in Bejing. The photo isn't too clear but over the swastika it says 'Adolf Hitler'. Peering closer at the car we found something even more disturbing...

The boot was full of teddy bears. Normal teddy bears, not even Nazi teddy bears. It was like they were about to start shooting some sort of Marylin Manson video. As usual - bizarre.

It's hard to decide how informed the owner of this car was. A friend of mine at the time saw the guy that owned it, he sold the teddy bears out of the boot. He was Chinese and my mate attempted to ask if he knew who Adolf Hitler was, what he stood for, if this guy understood how extremely offensive many many people would find his 'nazi car'. Unfortunately he didn't speak Chinese so the conversation didn't go far.

I suppose for China Hitler is a complete abstraction. World War II is generally seen as the war against the Japanese. General knowledge about this sort of thing is also depressingly low. When I was teaching last I found that my students - all second year business students at Nanda (one of the best universities in the country) had only a hazy knowledge of Chinese history. The Opium War often got confused looks, the civil war that preceded the Communists taking control was a mess of...was it the Japanese? the Taiwanese? So ignorance could be the reason for someone vaguely having an idea that this person and imagery were very strong and powerful at one point in the west - so something to be emulated.

However I think that may be too lenient. In general I have found Chinese attitudes towards race to have been mixed. My friend was shocked at the start of the year to receive an offer of a job with the finishing sentence being 'Black men don't apply'. It got us all into a debate over what exactly was meant by this, bearing in mind China has comparatively little racial history - colour of skin has never really mattered as such over here. Groups have regularly been enslaved and prejudiced against but almost always on the grounds of ethnic/tribal grouping.

With this is the Chinese habit of very much saying things as they find them, Chinese people refer to themselves as 'yellow', us as 'white' and so to them using the word 'black' is less loaded then in the west. Here is has no history to it, China has it's own values and stereotypes linked to 'black people' which are totally different from western ones. They don't have the spectre of segregation or the KKK or lynchings hanging over their history. So when someone says 'Black men don't apply' what I presumed she was trying to say, in bad English, was 'people from Africa who don't speak standard British/American English don't apply.' Here there is no taboo on making that generalisation. 'Jewish' equally has no history of persecution, intolerance, nationalism. So when someone says 'Hitler persecuted anyone of Jewish background' it could be merely an abstract event that happened a while ago to a general group of people.

I suppose my idea here is that many ideas and things will have only come to China recently. So their reading and understanding of them will lack the values and attitudes we automatically ascribe to ideas and rememberances such as the Nazis. So Hitler becomes just a man in history who tried to wage war on the world, killed many people of the same ethnicity and was very powerful, well whack put him in the same category as Genghis Khan. And who would protest against the idea of a Genghis Khan car? It would be odd, but why not.

You can see why I normally stick to quick photos and witty comments, I try and think an idea through and I end up confused and in two different places. Hopefully you understand the vague gist of what I'm trying to say.


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