Introduction This book is a true story about me, a very ordinary Chinese who was never physically tortured or prosecuted by ‘the evil communist regime’, but still had to ‘escape’ from China for a better […]
The next excerpt from Barry Li’s The New Chinese is part history part statistics. Let’s just say outright that the numbers he provides from 2010 – 60 million native Cantonese speakers, 365 million native English speakers (one million for every day of the year!), and 960 million native Mandarin speakers – are incomprehensibly scary. How does the number of native English speakers from UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and all the others not even match half that of Mandarin speakers? If there were 960 million native French speakers in the world,
This read through of Barry Li’s The New Chinese: How They Are Changing Australia has now brought us to Chapter 2 – ‘From the Gold Rush to the Property Rush’. I’m attempting not to make it a dry, analytic recap; rather I try to add my thoughts and comments to Barry’s own, from the perspective of an Australian who’s studying Mandarin and spent a bit of time here and there in China,
I’ll admit: when I looked at this section title and glanced very briefly at the text I did wonder how I was going to make a blog post about this topic, and one not too dry at that. Then some words caught my attention – Qing empire, Honolulu, Opium Wars – and I realised a lot more could be found in this than just a clarification of definitions.
Why should I read this book? What a good question, Barry Li.
This is the third part of my elongated discussion of Barry Li’s book The New Chinese: How They Are Changing Australia. The first part was about his parents, then next himself, and now me – yay! (I’m Australian, in case that point’s been missed). But please don’t feel excluded if you’re not an Aussie from DownUnder, because “if you feel you are surrounded by Chinese, or your life is impacted by the Chinese in some way, or you seek to profit from trading with China” then I imagine this book is also for you.
I come to Barry Li’s book, The New Chinese: How They Are Changing Australia, with a little bit of background knowledge of China and the Chinese, having studied Mandarin for several years at high school and university, and having been to China four times, most recently having lived in Beijing for eight months. What I’m searching for here is something that fills the gaps of my knowledge, such as the difference between the psyche of Chinese people in China and the Chinese people in Australia. I’m certain there must be one; the world of urban Australia dining on breakfast until early afternoon, coffee and chatter spilling out onto footpaths sometimes seems realms away from the myriad of China’s alleyways, where tiny ‘hole-in-a-wall’ restaurants serve noodle and rice dishes without ceremony; where a central subway train arrives at least ever six minutes and bank cards are nearly obsolete to mobile payments; where large sections of the community still purchase fresh produce every day from local outdoor markets, the refrigerator used scarcely. I’m having trouble adjusting back to Australian life even after just a short time away – how does one who has lived a majority of their life in China transition to life here, or is it not so much of a step? That’s what I’m reading to find out.