In order for me to present some of my future rants, it is imperative that the reader be fully cognizant of the rigidly defined social strata within The Great Motherland of the Whole World. This is the only truly enlightened system of social order and you should immediately lobby your government to implement these changes within your country, in order that the whole world can gain Great Peace with Chinese Characteristics.
Note that the usual English transliteration of this concept has some minor mistakes in it, just as Gong Fu became Kung Fu and so on. The original Chinese name for this is the Peking Order, and strictly refers to the sequence in which restaurants in the capital serve their customers.
Money and other acceptable bribes taxes flow upwards freely, but never in the downward direction. Influence and control flow downwards freely, and never in an upward direction. It is permissible, in set and strictly defined circumstances, for people to change stratum. Acceptable taxes include cigarettes, expensive foodstuffs, alcohol and imported products.
A simple way to determine someone’s stratum is what I call the bus theory – where they stand in terms of seating on a bus – I love a mangled metaphor or six. Chinese public transport is a phenomenon that is best left un-experienced, unless you are seriously masochistic. Chinese believe in the principle of universal hyperspace, i.e. that every enclosed volume can actually contain more than what the boundaries circumscribe. As each stratum is defined below, their bus status will be defined as well.
Do not think you can tell a person’s stratum by their clothing: the poorest of Chinese peasants will own only one set of clothes, but it will be a suit with leather shoes. Nor can you tell by the level of education they have received: some of the richest and most powerful Chinese I have met have had VERY little formal education, and some of the best educated people are plummeting down through the strata faster than you can say “Open your eyes up and pull your finger out!”
The government stratum is the highest echelon in China and operates above the law. The law is the basis of government, so anyone who works for the government is above the law by definition. Sometimes a Party member commits the mortal sins of either underpaying their bribes tithes Party fees or disobeying what we in the West refer to as the 11th commandment; “Thou shalt not get caught”. In these limited and infrequent cases, the official in question does fall just below the level of the law, effectively by being removed from the government stratum altogether, and thereby allowing the law to apply to them.
The most frequent examples of this are the cars with white number plates and a red first letter completely ignoring (to an even greater extent than the norm) the traffic rules, and wildly blaring their horns and lights to inform anyone impeding their progress that such impediment is an obstacle in the rapid progress of the Great Security Blanket For All Enlightened Souls and no individual should stand in the way of Progress As Defined By Me, Your Party Official.
The less frequent examples of this include slavery, industrial poisoning of comestibles, outrageous wastes of public funding on prostitution-related enterprises and the like. Newspapers feast on the carcasses of such men, proving that the baser elements of society are identical throughout the whole world, which is no surprise because they were also invented by the Chinese.
The government stratum also includes police, army, and managers of state-owned enterprises and public schools. Interestingly it also includes great Heroes of the People, most of whom are duly awarded an honorary governmental position of some sort in order to ratify this status.
People at this level never have to concern themselves with buying alcohol or cigarettes, their desks are laden down heavy every day with gifts from adoring peasants vying for a drop of magic guanxi lotion to rub on their blistered hands.
Their preferred entertainment is similar to that of all stand-over men: select a local establishment that hasn’t paid up lately, run up a huge bill, and walk out, daring them to say anything!
Bus status: These people have a chauffeur driving their government-provided vehicle and force buses to pull over to let them through.
Anyone who owns a private business with more than a handful of slaves serfs workers gets some social privileges. This is because they have had to build an extended family of government sponsors (see Students of the Noveau Riche), thereby elevating them in the social order. Having realized this elevation, they throw their weight around at every given opportunity. It is not uncommon to see these men lining up the waitresses in a restaurant and loudly lambasting them for serving their fish 5 degrees cooler than their preferred temperature, or urinating all over a shop because they didn’t get sufficient discount.
Their preferred entertainment is getting ridiculously drunk over an expensive meal and then going to KTV, after singing terribly for an hour or two taking their KTV girl of choice to bed for the night, then going to work the next day to abuse their workers some more.
Bus status: These people drive their own ridiculously expensive car and honk furiously at any bus that dares to slow them down, or just simply overtake them on the wrong side of the road and pretend they have the government plates affixed.
The Chinese word for teacher is LaoShi, and this is also in use as a general honorific for anyone who belongs to a higher stratum than you. In this stratum lie Chinese teachers (not foreign teachers, even though the same designation is used to refer to them to their face. Usually) and the elderly, as well as revered writers and other rip-off artists.
Their life is not too unpleasant, and in order to keep their status they need to be respectable, so the assholiness of the bosses is never found in this stratum. They make good friends, and everyone wants to be their friend. However, like all Chinese, they are still as unorganized as all hell – there’s no getting around that disposition.
Their preferred entertainment is reasonably priced BaiJiu with a conservatively priced dinner, KTV without the girls, then home to their cot to keep the fleas warm and the mosquitoes fed.
Bus status: People will usually give up their seats near the doors for these people IF they are aware of their status, so generally just the elderly get this treatment unless someone on the bus personally knows the LaoShi.
The Liberated People
The great smelly, unwashed masses sit in here and despite their petty insistences that there are numerous levels within (such as farmers being lower than bank clerks), they all effectively have the same status and capabilities when examined from the essential criteria of power, influence and bribery.
Whilst they are fully aware that they are not at the top of the social pyramid, they mainly concentrate on the fact that they are not at the bottom either. They are ALWAYS concerned about face, because a small change in face can mean a change in their stratum. Well, unless they have to queue for anything that is, then they immediately revert to a mongoose-like state; even if it’s for a goddamn free balloon.
Their preferred entertainment is gossiping, cheap BaiJiu and street food. If they want to sing, then caterwauling in the park is free, as is the dancing.
Bus status: Fight for a seat tooth and claw.
Thanks to the government providing seriously subsidized education for students as well as artificially extending the college duration by a year – all designed to keep the population out of the countable workforce so the unemployment rates don’t look too bad – there is a vast abundance of students. [note from editor: and also because most of these punks are too lazy to get a job]
Many are from the middle class, and so like to think of themselves as belonging to higher strata, but in reality they are source of bribe money as they struggle to pass their schooling, and have no choice but to bribe their teachers to actually achieve a pass.
Although I referred to the great unwashed masses in a derogatory manner above, the unfortunate reality for many students is that there is but one shower allocated per thousand students, leaving bath night to be a weekly allocation at best. This results in somewhat fragrant classrooms, and certainly provides added incentive for their bicycling as it gives them a chance for an air bath.
Preferred entertainment is drinking re-capped bargain BaiJiu that closely resembles kerosene and playing cards, as well as that universal student favourite, ‘hiding the sausage in public places because we have no room of our own to go to’. At their age, abortions are free, so you can skip the cost of contraceptives and save that for the kerosene BaiJiu. After a few years they discover the real meaning of infertility rates, and joyously celebrate it with abandon until their late twenties when their parents demand grandchildren, and they duly uncover the massive cost of getting Mr. Sperm introduced to Mrs. Ova.
Bus Status: If they dare to find a seat, an adult will soon set them straight about where they stand. Thus the vast majority can be found riding their bicycles, if riding is the word to describe the drunken, un-coordinated random weaving that so characterizes bicycle riders all over China. These bicycles serve a useful role in the Chinese economy; they provide much-needed jobs for the Chinese thieves and second-hand bike retailers, thereby keeping both of these state-sanctioned employee types out of the ranks of the unemployed.
Meat is very important to most Chinese people, and verily they eat not only EVERY part of the animal, but also EVERY animal as well. Livestock have a variety of rights, mainly the right to be caught and consumed at any age. Many forms of livestock are actually PAID by the government – a small yearly salary to be sure, but a payment never-the-less.
Preferred entertainment is crapping in public places provided that the mothers have left some space for this after dangling their ass-naked leaking offspring everywhere that they think someone might otherwise choose to walk.
Bus Status: If you are stupid enough to argue with a pig occupying a seat, or, even more ridiculous, its less intelligent keeper sitting beside it, then you will merely provide a free source of amusement for the rest of the passengers. The keepers know where the first bus stop is, and will walk to there so as to be able to find preferred seating for both them and their charges. Quite frankly, if given a choice, sitting next to the animal is usually the more pleasant experience.
Similar to livestock, they have the right to be cheated, robbed and lied to at every opportunity, as well as provide a marvelous opportunity for extortion. I have carefully placed them below livestock, because livestock don’t have to pay bribes for their basic existence.
The foreign businessman in China is an interesting beast, and is indeed one of the natural wonders of the world. Despite being subject to rampant xenophobic abuse and outrageous extortion, he still retains the insane idea that he will be allowed to make money in China, and some actually manage this despite the hostile environment. The best bet is to be a well-paid employee of a joint venture, so that your management takes all the risks, and you get to live like a king. Actually operating your own business brings its own interesting set of Chinese Characteristics, which should only take about 5 years to master the basics. After 10 years foreign businessmen discover that a foreigner cannot earn guanxi, and they realize that all those expensive dinners, presents and whores haven’t earned them the slightest bit of respect in anyone’s eyes – they then begin to realize a profit.
Preferred entertainment is finding a foreign food restaurant that is too expensive for most Chinese to afford, so they get left in some peace while they eat.
Bus status: Any foreigner businessman stupid enough to get on a bus will automatically be assumed to be a teacher, because only teachers are so poor as to require public transport. See below.
If there was such a thing as inedible animals in Chinese cultural thinking, then they would be placed above foreign teachers. A foreign teacher is still subject to paying bribes, but because of their vastly reduced earning potential, the bribes are scaled down accordingly. Forced to beg for their visa’s, subject to constant Mafia-style shakedown police visitations to ensure their cages prisons bugged apartments are suitable for supporting life and contain no luxury items (which would be officially recorded to notify all and sundry that this Laowai can afford a higher standard of bribe now), these poor people occupy the lowest rung on the social ladder in China.
Preferred entertainment is reading www.mylaowai.com and other quality blogs, and chatting up students for free or at least heavily discounted sex.
Bus status: When lucky enough to find a seat, most Chinese will assume the Laowai speaks no Mandarin at all, and so won’t attempt to relocate them, however, they will freely discuss him/her in unsavoury terms quite loudly so as to ensure all the passengers get some value for money by playing ‘Let’s see who can say the most horrible thing about the Laowai without them realizing it‘.
Mind you, this game has some value for the Laowai who CAN speak the language. When a student boards and decides you are a captive audience for them to practice their pitiful oral English, you can reply to them in Chinese, creating a horrified consternation in every passenger as they realize that you have probably understood a good percentage of what they have said, and stoically bore it, as well as piss the student off because they can’t get to practice their oral English for free.
If no such student boards, you can always turn to the most verbal antagonist and ask them (in Chinese) if they know what the time is, while grinning madly and twitching your facial muscles. If you can, froth a little at the mouth too – a crazy man gets given a LOT of personal space – and THAT will instantly shut up the whole bus / railway carriage while they struggle to force their limited minds to find a new topic of conversation.
However, do this near the end of the journey, as otherwise, after a suitable period to gather their thoughts and pick up their shattered face from the floor, you will subsequently be bombarded with questions like: How long have you been in China? Where are you from? Do you like China? Do you like Chinese food? How much money do you make? How many wives do you have right now? Is it true that foreigners can also drive cars? Do foreigners ever take a bath? How do you deal with all that body hair? Are any of your uncles apes? How many times have you had sex today?