What's with the Chinese?
The question: What price is China willing to pay to be economically competitive?
The answer: What ever it takes???
With China growing as an economic and political super power, not only in Asia but the world, it is increasingly being forced to question some of its long standing beliefs and political ideology. More specifically, its belief that all “Foreign Devils” should be kept a maximum possible distance and all interaction with them should be at an absolute minimum. Then how should they deal with the emergence of a situation in which they find themselves forced to actively seek out, and employ, foreigners or risk sinking into economic obscurity? This is a question that plagues not only the Chinese government but the Chinese people in general. For one to merely begin to understand this question, and therefore learn to understand/accept the way TEFL teachers are treated in China, one must look at the past, present, and the possible future associations that China has or will be faced with.
In the 1270s The Mongol Hordes swept down from the Northern Plains laying waste to an already shattered Song Dynasty, effectively ending what is considered one of the golden ages of China. In a period that saw the likes of Kublai Khan, the Chinese people found themselves imprisoned in their own lands. Prohibited from holding any form of political office, forced to wear a distinctive hair style, ruled by officials of Arab, Central Asian and even Italian lineage, an intense distrust of Yi (Barbarians) was bred early in the young ethnic Chinese. For roughly a century the Chinese suffered under yolk of their foreign oppressors until an apathetic Mongol bureaucracy was overthrown and replaced by the Ming. At this time, in a move similar to that of Japan a short time later, China closed its borders in an attempt to preserve peace. Even if this aim wasn’t entirely achieved, at least the resulting problems were internal ones. That is of course, until the barbarian took a new form: a white skinned form.
With the closure of China to all incoming trade, and a relatively self-sustaining economy with a large market base, a substantial trade surplus was rapidly developed with regional colonial powers, such as Great Britain. Unable to penetrate China’s trade barrier and unwilling to abandon a market with as much potential as China’s, Britain sought for an answer to their problem. They found it: Opium. Beginning in the 1830s the British started to ship mass amounts of opium to China through the special trading port of Canton. By the end of the 1830s Britain had become one of the largest drug-traffickers in the world, and China it’s largest consumer with nearly all men under the age of 40 addicted to opium. In response to this growing epidemic, opium was outlawed in 1836 and draconian laws were enacted in an attempt to curb opium addition. In addition to these measures, steps were taken to block the source of the opium. To accomplish this aim the official in charge of the implementation of the anti-opium laws, one Lin Tse-hs�, sent an elegant plea to Queen Victoria of England in the hopes that England would cease all involvement in the opium trade. Unfortunately, such an outcome was not to be. In response to the refusal, China was further closed and all foreign ships were turned back. England’s Answer? The Opium War. A war which lasted 6 years from 1836 to 1842 ended with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking. Included in this treaty and those which came shortly after, treaties which are aptly named the “Unequal treaties”, were the territories of Hong Kong, Kawlloon, the opening of five other trading posts and the clause of “extra-territoriality” (any British national who committed a crime on Chinese soil was tried under British law and exempt from Chinese punishment, similar to the laws imposed on the Japanese by Commodore James Perry and his Black Ships). Further to these humiliations, China was forced to sign similar treaties with both the U.S.A. and France. These, along with later alterations, which prohibited China from levying more than a 5% tax on imported goods, effectively striped China of many of its sovereign rights.
The aftermath of these treaties was anything but desirable from a Chinese point of view. Not only were they humiliated on an international level, but an influx of cheap foreign goods played havoc with the Chinese economy, which ultimately collapsed, and caused a rash of hunger and riots. With the riots came frustration and hate, which needed a direction to vent. That direction was west.
Along with various other similar incidents, such as the U.S. Marines involvement in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and the Treaty of Versailles in which the Chinese province of Shangdong was handed to the Japanese, one likely reason for the current hostility felt towards the west can be found in the events of the 1925-1945.
In 1925 Kai-shek worked his way to the head of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), a party backed by various nations such as the Soviet Union, Germany, and the United States, and with his “Northern Expedition” proceeded to unify “All Under Heaven”. After coming from the west, sweeping through the north, the KMT (backed with German Advisors) drew south and massacred their former allies, The Chinese Communist Party (CCP). By 1934 the KMT had closed in on the CCP outposts, but as they prepared to strike, the CCP started to run. They didn’t stop for a year. In what’s known as the Long March, what remained of the CCP, which stared off with 100,000 people, marched over 6,000 miles and lost of 94% of their men, women and children. Ironically enough, it was the Japanese which saved the CCP from complete extinction.
Using the “Marco Polo Incident” as an excuse, the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1937. The KMT being forced to fight on two fronts didn’t have the man power to purse two enemies. This effectively removed a sizeable amount of weigh from the communist shoulders. By the end of 1946, with the KMT battered through war and the CCP strengthened through it, the communists was able to push the foreign sponsored party back, and eventually the KMT took refuge in Formosa (now Taiwan). However, the Chinese people did pay a heavy price for the CCP’s respite. In total, the Japanese killed as many as 20 million Chinese.
Shortly there after, in October 1947 Mao Zedong declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China. Ever since, it’s been a different world.
China re-opened to the world in 1978 and for the past two decades China’s growth has been some what of a phenomenon. With such numbers as 7.5 percent in 2001, 8 percent in 2002 and 9.9 percent during the first quarter of this year for China’s registered GDP, China has grown faster than any other in History. With new industries constantly emerging, automobile and petrochemicals interests poised for massive expansion, China is on verge of developing into a well-rounded economy
In addition, China’s WTO accession will precipitate an enormous impact on not only the everyday life of the average Chinese, but the way the country as a whole will have to participation in the world outside the "Heavenly Middle Kingdom”. With new business opportunities in abundance, the current supply of skilled labor, both in a technical and linguistic sense, will rapidly dry up. This in turn will create a large market demand for teachers and experts, in a large range of disciplines and languages. While as a member of the WTO China will be under an obligation to follow the rules and, it’s hoped, start to develop a more stable business/working environment. In yet another sign it may be opening its doors, China is slated to host the next world Olympics. This, along with a drive to increase general English comprehension in the mass population, definitely makes China a place for TEFL Teachers to look out for. But in a country where the only predictable thing is that it will be unpredictable, it’s anyone’s guess.
With these incidents, the Rape of Nanking, and various other such situations, it’s not overly hard to see how the Chinese might have developed their current view of foreigners. Constant progress, in the way ex-pats are being treated, is apparent and new steps are being taken to insure that China becomes and more internationally responsible country. Now all China needs is the patience to finish the task and necessary experts to fill the knowledge gap. Still, in a country where some people have yet to see a white skinned person and will occasionally flee screaming at your approach, it’s hard to be constantly levelheaded in your dealings. Regulations on where foreigners can live and an attempt to generally control all aspects of the TEFL teacher’s life, will, and do, make most people think hard about whether the want to go and teach in China. However, with China’s current economic growth, being more open to foreign owned businesses and people, and a trend for it to play a more active role in the international community; this just may be the time to throw your chips in with China. A population of over 1.1 billion, the necessary raw resources, and a continuing drive to recruit more skilled labor, it may be that in the near future the tables will be reversed. The sleeping dragon is awakening.