A couple of days ago, one of my Chinese Malaysian friends, a university lecturer interested in culture and history, visited me.
I made tea and chatted with him about China’s history and other topics. Naturally, we talked about the currently rocketing cost of living.
He said living in Beijing was expensive. He was staying in a hotel affiliated with Peking University, but he complained about the costly lodging fee, which sounded not so bad to me as I am already accustomed to sky-high housing costs here.
I now live in a second-hand apartment in an old compound built between the 1970s and 1980s on the West Third Ring Road in Beijing. It’s a small, cheap Soviet style block, only 50 square meters large. I purchased it because it was close to the National Library of China.
He was shocked when I told him that such a low-end house in a cheap part of town, the walls covered with fly-posters, could sell for more than two million yuan ($309,600).
“You could almost purchase a luxury villa in Kuala Lumpur with that amount,” he said. I was really green-eyed when he added that it would only cost the local equivalent of 300,000 yuan to buy an apartment like mine there.
I invited him to dinner at an ordinary restaurant. Three regular dishes and two bottles of beer cost me more than 100 yuan, once again astonishing him. He said he might only have to pay about 30 yuan in his hometown for the same meal.
When I told him the average salary of graduates from most universities here was only 2,000 yuan a month, he said they could earn at least 5,000 yuan in Malaysia. Many Chinese Malaysians adore the Chinese mainland but I could read sympathy in his eyes.
“I wonder how you bear life here, with less money but everything more expensive?” he asked.
“But how do you know we can’t manage that?” I retorted.
Despite this expensive life, we can still rent our own homes, go to restaurants, and treat others to banquets.
In the past, we had to queue for a long time just to buy a fried bread stick with food coupons. Some of my classmates had to share a crowded 10-square meter room with four other family members when I was a middle school student in the 1980s. Moreover, most of us only wore new clothes on the New Year Day holiday in our childhood.
After enduring so much, what else could we not stand?
Never to fear that the Chinese cannot bear their hard lives. We Chinese are one of the most indomitable races in the world when it comes to survival. Our ancestors, who were shipped to virtual slave labor in the tin mines in Southeast Asia, even endured the miserable circumstances there and made great contributions to the local economy.
We can’t shrink from facing problems like inflation and low incomes, which are nowhere near as arduous as earlier generations endured.
I often felt that the outsiders could not completely understand China. Some of them really harbor a special affection for the nation and are willing to assist, but they could not help in urgently needed respects.
Some hold that the strength of China is expanding since the emerging economy successfully hosted the Olympic Games and its GDP has grown sharply. But this is not the reality on the ground and we still have many problems. In contrast, some believe that Chinese people led a unbearably tough life. But they worry too much.
After all, there must be reasons for the hardships, some of which are destined to be endured by my generation.
I have been to several countries, where the excellent public services and harmonious society are really admirable. But I never thought of residing elsewhere, even if life could be better, because it wouldn’t be my country. The people there strived for hundred of years to realize their current rosy lifestyle.
I am a Chinese, and I am also destined to put up with some trouble for the sake of my country.
The author is a researcher with the Research Center for Public Policy, China Society of Economic Reform.
Source: Globle Times