Monday, November 17, 2008

China ho!

Baby Crumpet took me to China (Shenzhen & Hong Kong) visit mom, grandma & my brother. We ate well and visited a theme park that re-creates all the world's famous monuments (see pictures)

The really interesting story was - we were there on the night that Obama won.

With the time difference it was Wed. morning in China when the polls started to close on the east coast. I initially had a hard time finding coverage because the Chinese news channels treated it as an important - but only as frequent updates - news rather than wall to wall coverage. I finally found a station in Hong Kong that was covering it full-time plus it took in the ABC feeds from time to time so I was able to follow the whole thing and knew Obama had won before lunch.

So what was China thinking?

The media was overwhelmingly fascinated by Obama. They could not get over the fact that ''non-black'' people would vote for him. All the live coverage of the polls had a reporter breathlessly point out ''look, there are white & brown people voting for Obama - not just black people!''. Keep in mind this is a country that has never had an election in its 5,000 years history. The media never mentioned McCain. Not once. To them this was about Obama.

I spoke to as many people I could about the election - family, friends, cab drivers, waitresses. They all supported Obama - which is not usual because the Chinese normally supports Republicans because they see the Democrats as anti-trade. In this instance they didn't like McCain because they thought he was too old and too much a war monger, which is bad for business. Plus they thought Palin was an idiot.

But it was really all about Obama. The people on the street were otterly amazed that a black person could win the US Presidency. They're shocked. It breaks every pre-conceived notion that had about America - that it was racist, elitist and everything pre-arranged by power brokers. The fact that people of all colors & background supported Obama and his victory was truly from people's will seem to have stunned the average Chinese I spoke to. On a simplistic level more than one person told - if a black person can win then a Chinese person can be the US President. But most saw it as a transforming event, a new world leader they can respect.

There was a downside too. Many people thought that for sure Obama will be assassinated, they simply do not believe the white Americans will allow a black person to be president. Others thought what happend in the US didn't matter to China at all, that they control their own destiny and America's time is fading. This is not to say they're hostile to America - in fact in all my life I've never met a single person in China who hates America - they just think America no longer matters, like, say Greece.

It was an exciting day. On one hand I wished I was back home in Seattle and share the excitement (I heard people were dancing in the streets). On the other hand I was grateful to witness history from a deeply important ''other'' culture. I wish I could have been in both places at once + a third - an Arab country - say Lebannon or Syria and talk to the people about it. What a fabulous time we live in.


Blogger cmp said...

Wow, Crumpet is a true globetrotter just like her dad. She could not be more adorable. Are you guys on Facebook??

9:38 AM  

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