There are some very strange interactions on Twitter, it’s common for people to disagree, in fact, living in China and posting about how my life is, it more than common, it’s ubiquitous. There isn’t a day goes by when I’m not engaged with someone, usually someone who has never set foot in China, who feels they know enough about the place to call me a liar, a paid performer, a staff member of some invisible army getting paid a pittance for their work or simply just a fraud.
I know I see China through a positive lens but that hasn’t always been the case, I’ve definitely had moments of homesickness, moments of despair even when I hated being in China, but I’ve never, throughout the time, hated China or hated the Chinese. For example, I lost my mother whilst in China and couldn’t get back to see the family at the funeral, that caused an incredible amount of pain but I had known Mum was on the way out and had visited her a few months before. Much more despairing was losing my son to cancer and being unable to visit my family or attend his funeral because of Australia’s Covid19 restrictions. I definitely hated being in China those times, but it wasn’t the fault of China or the Chinese. In fact, it was friends and family here helped me through those dark days.
A few years ago, through no fault of my own, I lost my last job in China. An administration screw up, I was mistaken for someone else and, before I had a chance to appeal the process, I was terminated — Chinese labour laws stepped up and I was offered reinstatement, which I declined, but negotiated and accepted a settlement without going to court. I was satisfied that China’s labour laws protected me, even though I am a foreigner here and the company I would have sued was a British government owned organisation. Once again, those were dark days but a Chinese lawyer, and the Chinese legal system protected me.
I’ve now retired in China, I do a little writing, a little editing, I get involved in some charity work and help to raise funds for disabled people in the city I now call home. I live in an apartment I paid cash for and have very low living costs. All in all, it’s a pretty good lifestyle, I usually travel for one or two months of every year and am often found riding a bike around the city, or popping over to another city to spend a couple of days there. I’ve lived in China over 17 years and been married for 12 of them. My wife is a Traditional Chinese Medicine therapist with skills in acupuncture, moxibustion, traditional massage and a range of other treatments. Meaning when I get off the bike after a long ride, she has a cure for all ailments. Something to rub on to take away the pain, drink to ease a headache or eat to help digestion.
All in all, it’s a good life. If everyone can spend their working years in the kinds of employment that I was lucky enough to enjoy and then retire several years earlier than anticipated but owning an apartment, no debt and enough money to ensure a comfortable, although not rich, lifestyle, then I’d love them to be that lucky, I know I am.
Hardly surprising then, when I live in a country that has given me a good income, a good lifestyle and a family that has made me feel welcome by accepting me into their lives, I have some good things to say about that country.
So, when I received an unsolicited direct message from someone describing themselves as a former Australian Department of Foreign Affairs public servant, I was somewhat surprised. No introduction, no preamble just the words: “You’re a tool alright”. These words have two meanings; one of which is in response to my own Twitter bio page stating I am not, as I have been previously described, a “tool of the CCP propaganda machine”. No one in the Communist Party of China or CPC, as it should correctly be called, has ever asked me (or paid me) to say, do or write anything favourable of China. The other meaning of the word “tool” is much more offensive, in Australia it’s used as a derogatory swear word as in: “he’s such a tool”. It’s interchangeable with many words, all of them derogatory, insulting or downright abusive.
Apparently in Australia nowadays, there’s only one path to choose and, as subsequent messages indicate, I didn’t choose it, by not choosing it, I’m assumed to be working for the Communist Party.
Now here’s a really interesting thing. If the Communist party found a use for me and employed me, I wouldn’t hide it. The party has 95% popularity in China, meaning more than 20% of the world’s population are satisfied with how they work. It has lifted more than half the population from poverty in 40 years, it’s built an infrastructure system that is so incredibly advanced that most people who haven’t been to China can’t believe it’s real and assume it must be a lie. The same party has, with a zero tolerance of Covid-19, saved untold millions of lives, assuming the results were similar to the USA, at least 3 million people would already have died. Whilst making all these incredible achievements, Chinese people have seen lifestyle improvements, income improvements, health education and safety improvements. Overall, I’d actually be very proud to work for or with the Communist Party of China but at the same time, I’m proud of my own heritage, I would forever remain a British citizen helping my adopted country — is there anything so wrong with that?
I have written about my experiences in China and apparently this is what has upset my interlocutor so much. My work for CGTN (I’ve written only three articles over two years) is offensive to this Australian and that’s all he needs to know about me. He does however, like China because it has some beautiful scenery!
In fact, the entire discussion, with only a few messages passing between us was one of my most surreal experiences, he had contacted me for one purpose and one purpose only: to insult me because I have a different opinion to him. He’s not the only one, he just happens to be the most recent.