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“Chinese people are not more civilized than Africans” [TRANSLATION]

“Chinese people are not more civilized than Africans” [TRANSLATION]

[CULTURE] A Chinese blogger who works at a mine in Mauritania recently wrote a blog post, “Chinese people are not more civilized than Africans,” which attracted a lot of  attention from Chinese netizens. We have translated the post and a selection of comments left in response to it below:

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Chinese people are not more civilized than Africans

Published August 5 on Blog.sina.com.cn

By “北京老弟”

When Chinese people go to Africa and see the living conditions of poor people there, they often think that Africa lags far behind China. This happens especially when they see how lazy the people there are; they would rather bask in the sun than spend a little energy to work and earn a bit of money.

For example, a few days ago, a cargo truck delivered goods to the company, and management arranged for a few people who were off shift to unload the truck on the condition that they would be paid half of what temporary workers are paid. This was an entirely reasonable proposition; the company would save money and the workers would earn a bit of pocket money. However, no one was willing to do the task. Those who were willing to work abandoned their plans as soon as they saw that other people would not work. In addition, the workers’ union insisted that no one should unload the truck as this kind of work was not included in the employees’ contracts. In the end, the company was forced to hire people to unload the truck.

This kind of situation happens often enough that it is easy to conclude that Africa is backward and African people are poor because they are lazy and are unwilling to work to earn money. One of the locals asked why management had requested Africans to unload the truck while the Chinese were not asked to do the same. Actually, he didn’t know that the Chinese management, chefs, etc., had all carried cement bags at the site before. Those who earn a lot of money and those who don’t all work when they are required to. After all, supervisors have a sense of responsibility.

But, on the other hand, the way Chinese people think is also flawed. Is it appropriate to ask electrical machinery operators and welding machinery operators to unload a truck? This is something that management did not consider, instead assuming that all work is the same, so there was no problem with making such a request. I recall that earlier this year on May 1 (International Workers Day), a statutory holiday, the locals were all on holiday and did not go to work, but we Chinese people went to work as normal, and were in the office the whole day. Does this conform to labor law? Is this in line with Chinese, African or the company’s rules? I don’t know whether this happened because the management forgot that May 1 was a holiday or whether we were just supposed to work on that particular day. This kind of behavior (from management) shows that Chinese people are not more civilized than African people and do not necessarily have more legal consciousness than Africans have.

Local workers and Chinese people at the mine all live in the same residence compounds that the company has constructed. Each compound has a shared bathing facility and a shared set of toilets. After we finish work in the evening, we Chinese people shower together. When there are many people in the shower room, it is lively and cheerful. The locals are not used to this kind of interaction with other people in the nude. I haven’t been to their compound and seen them shower, but one of my black friends told that that they do not shower together. Other people do not enter when a person is taking a shower, so it was a waste that the company installed seven or eight other shower heads in the shower room.

If there are other Chinese companies that plan to establish themselves in Africa, I recommend that they install individual partitions with doors in the shower rooms. They should also ensure that the toilets have doors on them. Otherwise, the Africans will ridicule them.

I remember that when I first started working at the Mauritanian mine, Chinese people would take off their clothes outside the showers. The old man who was the guard would shake his head in disapproval when he saw this, but the Chinese people would respond saying that only men worked at the site, so it was OK. The old man said even though they were all men, they should be civil and polite. Africans see some of our actions as impolite and uncivilized. We look down on them, but they also look down on us.

Our canteen occasionally serves pork shank. Before the local canteen workers have even set down the serving trays on the tables, hordes of Chinese people immediately rush forward as if they haven’t eaten meat before. There was one Chinese person who grabbed five or six pork shanks with his bare hands, not caring whether he got burnt or not, and ran off. When the Africans who were by his side saw this, some laughed while some curled their lips in contempt. I was embarrassed. This incident undoubtedly influenced the Africans’ impressions and opinions of Chinese people.

This topic is serious — let me end on a lighter note. Everyone says that houses in Beijing are too expensive. You might as well learn from the huts Africans live in; their housing requires only 200 yuan per square meter to construct. Wasn’t there a young man from Hunan a few years ago who weaved a similar hut using rattan and transported it to Beijing ? This hut is superior from a wind-resistance and rain-resistance standpoint:

Image from Blog Post
中国人不比非洲人更文明

中国人到非洲看到当地穷人的吃穿住,常感慨跟咱国内比差距很大。尤其是看到他们的懒散懒惰,宁可晒太阳也不愿出点力气干点活计多挣点钱,更是觉得不可思议。比如这几天卡车运来物资,公司安排停产没事干的工人卸车,按雇用临时工费用的一半发放补贴。本来这事可以做,公司省一半钱,工人在工资之外多了点零花钱。只是卸车要出点力气流点汗。结果没人干,有愿意干的,一看别人不干也算了。加上工会在一旁指手画脚横加阻拦,说卸车不是工作合同份内事不能干。没辙公司只好雇人卸车。

这种事见多了,容易得出结论,难怪非洲落后非洲人穷。宁可不挣钱也不干活。有当地人问,为什么要我们卸车中国人不干?其实他还真不知道,我们这些他们眼里的patron、chef们,都有在工地上抢运水泥的经历。有钱没钱都要干在工作需要的时候。毕竟还有主人翁责任感荣誉心。

换一个角度,中国人的思维方式也有问题。比如让电工焊工机械驾驶员去卸车,是不是不合适不妥当。这个当领导的没考虑。让你干什么你就干什么,哪儿那么多的问题。我想起了今年五一节法定节假日当地人都放假休息没上班,我们几个中国人照常上班在办公室一整天。这件事是不是符合劳动法,是不是符合中国或者非洲或者公司的法规制度?不知道是领导忘记了五一节这码事,还是认为这一天不该放假休息就该工作。从这个角度看,中国人的文明程度以及法规意识不比非洲人强。

举个例子,矿区当地工人和中国人一样,住在公司修建的宿舍院落内,每个院子有一个公共浴室、公共厕所。咱们中国人干完活晚上就在公共淋浴室冲凉洗澡。人多的时候嘻嘻哈哈热热闹闹。当地人完全不习惯这种人与人之间的“赤裸相见”。我没去过他们住的院子没见过他们冲凉,反正有个黑朋友告诉我,他们不可能在公共浴室几个人光溜溜一起冲凉。如果里面有一位在洗,别人不会进去。公共浴室七八个喷头其实浪费了,一个就够。

如果有中国企业到非洲去干活,修建这种集体宿舍的时候,最好把淋浴间里加上隔断搞成各自独立的淋浴房,洗澡的时候关上门不让别人参观。包括厕所不要敞开式而要隐蔽式。不然会被人家非洲人笑话。

我想起头些年在毛里塔尼亚矿区施工时候,中国工人在水管子旁边脱光了冲凉,当地看门的老头看了连连摇头说这样不好,中国人说反正工地上都是男人怕啥。老头说都是男人也要讲文明讲礼貌。其实咱们中国人的某些行为某些做法在非洲人眼里,不文明不礼貌不咋地。你看不起人家,人家还看不起你呢。

比如我们食堂偶尔有煮棒骨吃,帮厨的当地人把托盘拿出来,不容放到台子上,咱们的人就一拥而上八辈子没吃过肉似的疯抢。有一位两只手捧走五六个也不怕烫。非洲朋友在旁边看着有嬉笑的也有撇嘴的。我是觉得难为情。说起来没啥小事一桩。但非洲人冷眼旁观,对中国人的印象和看法多少会有点影响。

话题太沉重了,弄个轻松好玩的。都说北京房价贵,不妨学学非洲人的蜗居,平米造价有二百块钱够了吧。头几年不是有个湖南小伙子用藤条编织了一个类似的蜗居搬运到北京么,从不透风不透雨方面说,这个更具优势:

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Selected comments

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lm5701: This may have something to do with the fact that Africans were colonized by Westerners. People from Hong Kong are slightly more civilized than mainlanders. Mainlanders will even eat other people when they are extremely hungry.

lm5701:这可能与非洲人被西方人殖民过有关,香港人比内地人要文明些的。大陆人饿极了连人都敢吃的。

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[Blog owner](in response to above comment): I’ve heard that some Africans are cannibals.

博主回复:听说非洲有食人族

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周伯农庄: I worked in Africa for two years. I think that even though Africans are poor, they are happier than Chinese people. I often see old farmers sitting beside their fields and looking at their crops with radiant smiles. Taxes in Africa are very low and life there is stress-free, while the opposite is true of China. I have never seen naked African men or even bare-chested ones. But you see naked African women bathing together in broad daylight along rivers everywhere. It seems as if it is only a matter of different customs.

周伯农庄:我到非洲工作2年,我觉得非洲人虽然贫穷,但比中国人有幸福感。我经常见到一些老农,坐在田边,笑容可掬看着自己的庄稼,一脸的幸福模样。非洲的各种税费很少,生活压力小;中国则相反。非洲男人几乎没见过祼露身体的(包括上身),但非洲女人祼露上身光天化日在河边集体洗澡随处可见。看来只是习惯不同而已。

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吃药治病: I have a feeling that the Africans took advantage of that holiday to be lazy. However, Chinese people really do need to be more cognizant of the law. The other disparities are due to cultural differences. Africans are very superstitious, and they strictly abide by their superstitions. Because of this, Chinese people appear to be more care-free. You can’t say one approach is superior to another. But many Chinese people really must learn to become more civilized and polite.

吃药治病: 我怎么觉得非洲人就是那法律当借口偷懒呢?不过中国人确实得加强法律意识。至于说别的,文化差异吧,非洲人还有很多迷信的东西,他们就会严格遵守,中国人就显得百无禁忌不拘小节,这个也不能说哪个好哪个不好。不过很多中国人也真的该学学文明礼貌了。

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[Sina.com netizen]: The title of this post should be “Africans are more civilized than Chinese people”.

新浪网友: 标题应是:非洲人比中国人更文明。

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DavisQWang: Actually, our experience is similar to that of the African natives. It’s just that the West educated Africa (what we call colonization), so Africans have an understanding of human rights, division of labor and privacy.

DavisQWang: 实际上,非洲的土著和我们的见识是一样的,只是非洲受了西方的教育(我们叫殖民),所以懂得了人权、分工和隐私

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caijing3016: That house is amazing!

caijing3016: 这房子盖得牛啊

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ingjingzhiyuan: China has become richer in the past few decades, but it has also become less confident. There are people who say good things about the US, Europe, Africa and even North Korea, but they always criticize this or that about their own country. In reality, all countries have positive and negative aspects. Do not underestimate yourself but also do not delude yourself.

ingjingzhiyuan: 近几十年来,中国富裕起来了,但反而没有自信了。说美欧好,说非洲好,说朝鲜好的都有,就是自己国家的这也不好,那也不好的。其实每一个国家都有他的好的一面,也有他的不好的一面,不要妄自菲薄,也不要夜郎自大。

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新浪网友: When female workers are bathing together they rub each other’s backs.

新浪网友:女同事在一起洗澡还互相搓背呢。

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mouse_too: You should not despise China because of this. Public baths are a cultural phenomenon — China, Japan and Korea all have this custom. You shouldn’t pay too much attention to what other people think of you.

mouse_too: 这个没必要妄自菲薄,公共浴室也是一种文化,中日韩都有这个习俗,不需要太在意别人的眼光。

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About Tendai Musakwa

Tendai Musakwa is a Zimbabwean journalist and researcher. Currently based in Shanghai, Tendai regularly translates Chinese news articles and microblog posts for the China Africa Project.

7 comments

  1. 50 cents brigade

    Just be proud of who you are. There is no need to ape the west or any culture. China should find and define its own way. In India, eating with their hand is a norm. Helping and going out of your job scope is a sign of good managerial skills. Bosses looks for managers who put the company interest above all. Have you heard of flat management heirarchy model. All workers should work for the good of the company. Bonuses are paid out of company profits. Without the company, there will not be any jobs for the union. Any how, I believe this chinese has misintepret the meaning of being civilized. This topic is more about working atitude. It just show that the africans have learn bad western working model of union. Union in the USA is destroying American competitiveness. It is sad that the chinese is now aping the west. Soon china will lose its competitiveness which has already started. Best of luck to the chinese people. As for the africans, they are beyond salvation as western union is so rooted in their lives, they will remain a servant to the west.

  2. Did anyone actually read this article? Making a statement about how the Chinese workers came into work on a holiday and “stayed all day” while the Africans stayed home? How is this illustrative of Africans being more civilized than Chinese? If anything it’s the opposite!

    Also, mentioning the disparaging looks and comments that Africans made about the Chinese communal shower while describing the shower as “lively and cheerful” demonstrates a clear bias.

    These are just two glaring examples in a short article of thinly veiled propoganda.

    Africans are more civilized than Chinese when it comes to manners, pure and simple. This article does nothing to illustrate this point.

  3. Here is a non-China Asian perspective for you to read and judge yourself: http://theseoultimes.com/ST/?url=/ST/db/read.php?idx=7333

  4. Jerky Wilkerson

    That was a very interesting piece on cultural differences. Both the Chinese and the Africans have nothing to be ashamed of.

  5. Heavens – they serve pork in the canteen for everybody, in the Islamic Republic? Pork is totally haram – and Islam also influences the cultural taboo on open nudity and what is considered decent. Perhaps the company would have a better time and a more harmonious interaction with the African workers if they tried even the slightest to show respect for local customs, even if that respect is just ‘awareness.’