Foreign Visitors Need to Reconsider Their Attitudes?

Source: China Daily

Two events recently have created an intense debate online about the disgraceful behavior of foreigners living or visiting China.

Examples of bad practices of foreigners are not new, and authorities have sometimes turned a blind eye. But things are changing and foreign expatriates should start to reconsider their previous privileges while living in China.

The first case happened when Mark Kolars, a foreigner employed as a visual effects specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) since 2012, was dismissed two days after it was revealed that he posted racist comments against Chinese people on his LinkedIn profile. For this reason, he has been fired and ordered to leave China.

The second case involved a group of foreign kids standing on seats and jumping from one place to another in a Shanghai subway with their parents happily looking at them.

The video soon went viral on the internet and received harsh criticism from Chinese netizens who felt disrespected.

The most recurring thought is how foreign media have always reported very openly about the inappropriate behavior of some Chinese tourists in the past, and how those reports are often used by international media to paint a dark picture of all Chinese tourists traveling abroad.

On the contrary, China has always been tolerant toward some Westerners that have acted with a sense of impunity, believing that they are free from any social constraints. Westerners who are used to be very respectful of the rules of their own countries (where they can be punished for their mistakes) in many cases change their behavior as a consequence of being outside their home country.

So the question is: Why foreign people feel that the behavior, which is considered embarrassing and immature in their home country, would be acceptable in China?

The answer could be found in historical events from the period of Western imperialism. During the colonial era, the colonized were considered as "uncivilized." Thus, Western people had the "duty" to teach the locals to be more civilized. This idea, in the last two centuries, somehow justified the abuses and mistreatment of local people, who were "low-status" in the eyes of imperial powers.

The legal system at the time also gave colonizers the privilege of imposing their own laws on occupied territories, while exempting them from respecting local laws. This system led to forms of racism and disrespect for the life and cultures of local communities. While the colonization era is over, the Western attitude toward populations previously colonized is endured even today.

China has been growing for the last 40 years at a speed never before witnessed in human history. China's meteoric rise is already a case study in many business schools, and the country's power and influence on the global stage are unstoppable. For these reasons, foreigners from anywhere in the world regularly flock to China, chasing opportunities that are not available anymore in their respective countries.

Foreigners coming to China should consider themselves as guests and be grateful for the opportunity that China is offering them, to develop their own career benefiting from the prosperity of such a vast country.

When moving to a new country with a different language and culture, the most important part is to respect the local culture, and behave in the same way that one would expect from foreign visitors. Unfortunately, this common knowledge is still not realized by some foreigners coming to China.

China is embracing more open immigration policies to attract foreign talents through the issuance of green cards and easy access to scholarships. This kind of approach toward a more globalized world deserves respect from foreigners. It is time for some foreigners to understand that the time of unrestricted privileges is long gone.

Views within this article are solely those of the source, China Daily.