There is nothing scarier than an angry dentist. I was fifteen minutes late for my appointment. Never. Again. My god, he practically attacked my mouth with his drill.
This, of course, was after I was already heavily scarred by the taxi driver on the way to the dentist. The following conversation occured:
[news broadcast on some nuclear deal in the background]
The taxi driver (blurting loudly): “Americans are such oppressive bastards! They think it’s okay for them to make nuclear weapons, but no one else is allowed to develop them. I always wonder why the oppressed countries like Iran and North Korea don’t band together and just kill Americans.”
My father: “…”
Me, in the back seat: “…”
Taxi driver: “Honestly, if they see an American, they should just kill an American! See ’em and kill ’em! See ’em and kill ’em!”
My father: “…”
I shove my American passport deeper in my bag.
His rant eventually segued into how he wishes Mao were still alive, or someone like Mao would come into power again. Deng Xiao Ping, he declared, should be shot dead for the path onto which he’s led China. Mao created a nation. Deng created corruption in the government. And greed. Deng created that, too.
The taxi driver served in the Chinese army in ’76 (a year marked by Mao’s death and Deng’s coming of power) and those, according to him, where the “good ol’ days”. No corruption. Everyone worked as hard as they could. According to him, “I had nothing in those days, but I don’t know why–I was just happy. The country went to shit after ’95.”
“Everyone’s talking about the economic growth of China,” he opined at one point, “but it’s all just foam–illusory. I live in an army-provided apartment. It was worth about 100,000RMB when I first got it. Now, people tell me it’s worth 3,000,000RMB. But what does it matter? I sell it and then what? Can’t even buy another apartment for lower than 5,000,000RMB. This country is rotten through and through. We need another Mao.”
Respect for Mao is easy to find among Chinese people. Fanatical love for Mao? Very rare these days. I mean, what era is he living in? As my sister commented after hearing this story, “some people just need to get with the program.” Communism? So passé.
The taxi driver did, however, make one interesting point. He was talking about the corruption within the Chinese army these days. Hard work doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s all about whether you can pay. If your son can’t get into a great college, it’s 200,000RMB to get into the army. If the captain mentions to you that your son has a bad leg and shouldn’t have even passed the physical exam, it’s another under-the-table transaction to clear up the problem.
He went on to list the positions in the army and the amount of money it takes to get to each one. I wish I could remember/have the translating ability to write it all down in English. Alas, my translation fails when it comes to military terminology.
The army is a good thing to be in in China. Army cars have the word “jiun” on their license plates, setting them apart from civilian cars. A few weeks ago, I was in a taxi going home when a bus (bus!) suddenly cut in front of us, its tail exhaust pipe belching clouds of black smoke.
“Well, of course,” my taxi driver commented drily, “it’s an army bus. It doesn’t need to conform to any road regulations. If a civilian car was spewing smoke as bad as that, it would be fined so fast it’d make your head spin.”
But speaking of corruption, the government in general is corrupt here. No one is surprised by this fact, but I’m constantly shocked by the extent of it. Government owned companies (coughCOFCOcough) have resorts called “leadership development centers” at the edge of town. These resorts are equipped with golf courses, pools, restaurants, and hotels. They’re only for company use, mind you. A bunch of my friends were invited to one of these leadership development centers this past weekend, and apparently had the most flamboyant meal of their lives. (An example: their wine was the same wine Hu Jintao used to entertain Obama.) I told my coworker about this later, and she seemed very unsurprised. “All the big government owned enterprises have these resorts,” she told me with a shrug. “They’re all fantastically rich because they just get blank checks from the government.” She then rattled off to me a couple of the big companies that were known for this, Sinopec, the petroleum giant, of course being one of them.
A friend of mine who’s currently interning for one of these said government owned enterprises told me an interesting tidbit. Apparently, his company has never taken an intern before, and so doesn’t know how to pay. “They told me to get 9000RMB worth of receipts,” he told me, “so they can get reimbursed and pay me.” Receipts can be of anything. Shoes? Sure.
But enough of that. This Friday, I’m going to China Doll’s opening event, which promises to be interesting. The last time I went to China Doll (the fourth of july) was a bit of a fail. Unnecessarily pretentious and overpriced (drinks ran from 60RMB upward), we nevertheless stayed for a good hour or so. My friends talked the establishment into giving us sangria, which the boys complained was too sweet, but I thought was absolutely delicious. So. Good drinks. And hopefully, since this is their official opening event and there’s a guest list, the drinks will be free. China Doll, according to a Columbia U. source, is owned and operated by the wife of the man in charge of Blackberry in China.