I came out of the Covid-19 madness alright. In fact, I was more than alright. The lockdowns and travel restrictions in South Africa gave me the solitude to sink, think and sync. After two years of ethnographic research and another two years of reading and writing – mostly done during Covid – I finally submitted my PhD thesis, passed the examination, and became a Doctor who could not help much with patients and viruses.
One sunny winter’s day, I travelled to Stellenbosch to give a guest lecture on China-Africa political relations to a class attending the university’s Winter School. Rather than listing a series of historical events that have influenced China-Africa relations, I planned to take an anthropological approach: to start the lecture with my own on-the-ground experiences and observations as a Chinese living in South Africa. Continue reading “CHINESE PEOPLE’S HURT FEELINGS”
“You guys must come from Taiwan…” said the foot masseuse as she submerged my feet in a bucket of hot water. She gave me a suspicious look. “You guys are very polite compared to locals. Too polite.”
My friend Danlei and I were in a typical Shenzhen foot massage parlour, with diagrams of the foot’s reflexology points on the walls and full-to-the-brim ashtrays on all of the reclining sofa’s armrests. The massage parlour was packed with people. At 9pm, most Chinese cities were going to bed, but Shenzhen’s night was just starting.
Danlei explained that we had recently returned from South Africa, not Taiwan. While we aren’t originally from South Africa, we had both just spent over a year in Cape Town, we explained. We had developed a strong emotional tie to the city, and considered it our African home. Continue reading “Wandering in Shenzhen: Danlei’s Post-Cape Town Chapter”
On Chinese New Year’s Eve, a group of Chinese friends and I were feasting on dumplings in Cape Town while watching the CCTV Chinese New Year Gala broadcasted live from Beijing. A song called ‘I have a date with 2035’ was on air. TF Boys, one of the most popular adolescent bands in China, were happily singing “We will achieve modernization in 2035…”, while a group of artists dressed in spacesuits danced on a dazzling stage. Continue reading “A date with 2035: What does modernization mean for China and Africa?”
In response to President Xi Jinping’s New Year message to overseas Chinese students at Moscow University, a Chinese academic based in Cape Town shares his experiences from the Cultural Revolution, his thoughts on China’s development, and encourages China’s young generation to work hard for “mankind’s common prosperity”. Permission was given by the Chinese intellectual to translate and publish his thoughts – first shared in a closed social media group for overseas Chinese students in South Africa – on WhoKou. Continue reading “A Chinese intellectual’s response to Xi’s New Year message to overseas Chinese students”
This is a presentation I gave on 1 February 2018 at the “Africa-China/China-Africa mobilities” workshop at the University of Cologne. In Vacation in the Third Space: Chinese tourists travelling on a European cruise to African islands, I ponder the issue of cross-cultural communication and understanding, drawing on the concept of “Third Space” (Bhabha, 1994). In the case presented, Chinese tourists, the Asian staff on the cruise ship, and residents of the islands visited (Mauritius, Seychelles, and the Reunion island) were able to create a ‘Third Space’ and engage in genuine conversations, despite cultural differences and ignorance.
Part II follows Don’t make the same mistakes as I did: Letter from a Chinese father – Part I, a letter that was written by Cape Town-based Mr. Chen to his son C.S.Y., who came to South Africa in 2015 to study at a local high school.
C.S.Y., my son:
You are given a healthy body by your parents. But if you don’t exercise properly, your body will weaken. Do you still remember what I used to say to you repeatedly when you were a kid? “I am a real man.” I am glad that you are equipped with a good body that can qualify you as a man. But your inner self is still lacking. It takes an eagle many failures and attempts over a long period of time to be able to fly high in the sky. You can continue your life living like a pregnant woman, but if you want to stand strong in the world and go wherever you want to go, you must have a healthy body and mind. Continue reading “Don’t make the same mistakes as I did: Letter from a Chinese father – Part II of II”
This letter was written by Cape Town-based Mr. Chen to his son C.S.Y., who came to South Africa in 2015 to study at a local high school. Mr. Chen sent his son the letter while C.S.Y. was back in China visiting his mom and grandparents in his hometown in Sichuan during the 2017-2018 school holidays. Mr. Chen stayed behind in South Africa for work.
Permission was given by Mr. Chen to translate and publish part of the letter on WhoKou.
C.S.Y., my son:
How are your holidays going at home? How do you feel about seeing your grandparents? People say that you cannot buy time with gold. Time flies, and here we are – you have become a grown man! When you first came to South Africa, I set a goal for you to master the English language. You have spent 15 months in South Africa, but how much English have you learnt? You seem to have spent far more time on computer games than learning the language.
There and then: Places and moments that shaped my here and now – Part III of III
Berlin, Germany, 2014
It started to rain when I arrived at the Berlin Wall, so I sat down at a cafe nearby. In the past few days, I had been randomly checking out segments of the Berlin Wall here and there, but in front of the cafe, I saw that one part of it was original, and protected as a historical site.
There and then: Places and moments that shaped my here and now – Part II of III
Beijing, China, 1988
1988 was the Year of the Dragon. Chinese people believe that the dragon is a wonderful mascot that represents royalty, authority, and prosperity. My parents were probably among those who desperately wanted a dragon baby of good luck, rather than an energetic rabbit born a year earlier, or a sophisticated snake born a year later.