Escape from PC madness in the West: a reason why I love living in China

It's nothing new to anyone from the West that the influence of PC (politically correct) thinking has hit an all-time high. But do we need that PC attitude to influence China?

It’s nothing new to anyone from the West — namely Anglo countries — that the influence of PC (politically correct) thinking has hit an all-time high (or low). But do we need that PC attitude to influence China?

Being politically correct means speaking, acting and, increasingly, thinking in a way that doesn’t offend anyone. It largely centers around perceived sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and it aims to protect and give voice to minorities. That’s great, and in theory it’s a nice idea, but it doesn’t work like that in practice.

As an able-bodied, cis-gendered white male, I’m wholly unqualified to discuss this issue, according to liberal Western norms. In fact, coming to live in China has been a huge relief, because people here tend to be much more relaxed, they call a spade a spade, and they just want to get on with their lives. I like that. “You’ve put on weight” (ni pang le) is a common and somewhat endearing phrase used in China — that would never go down in the West.

Back in New Zealand, it feels like a crime nowadays just being a white male, especially if you’re cis-gendered (happy with your birth gender) and heterosexual. You’re reminded that you are apparently more privileged than women, people with darker skin, or anyone not questioning their sexual or gender identity.

“White people are the majority, they have all the power.” That’s one of the arguments in Anglo countries, and I definitely agree that those in the majority have it easier than others. Now I live in China where, as a foreigner, I’m in a definite minority. But I still benefit from “white privilege,” a painfully PC friend told me recently. I can’t escape!

Just last week the Anglo world went insane over a TV show in China that they argued infringed on PC sensibilities.

Apparently, media in China need to be well versed in American history before creating content in case it might offend someone on the other side of the world and in a completely different cultural sphere.

How dare you perform a skit in China without first taking into account all of America’s history and without first analyzing how your content may affect someone in New York!

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In the West, helping a woman if she's struggling to carry heavy stuff could very well be considered sexist.

Being “politically correct” has been a big thing in Anglo countries for years now, but it has arguably hit fever pitch with almost everything becoming out of bounds. And it’s filled with contradictions.

It’s not politically correct to label people, but at the same time it’s not politically correct to do certain things if you’re a certain type of person or treat certain types of people in certain ways — but without labels, how is one to know? Confused? Me too.

Don’t hold a door open for a woman or help lift a woman’s bag if she’s struggling on a plane because that could very well be considered sexist. Definitely don’t tell a woman she is beautiful or that her clothes or hair look nice today — that would be sexual harassment.

Don’t assume a Chinese person likes eating rice or noodles or give them chopsticks when they come over for dinner — don’t you know that’s racist?!

Honestly, I can’t keep up with all the things I’m not allowed to do or say anymore. The Anglo world is fast becoming a place void of color and humor.

That’s why I really hope that, despite the Western media’s uproar over the Spring Festival Gala Show last week, China doesn’t buckle to the pressure to wrap every person and every issue in cotton wool as a way to protect anyone from getting their feelings hurt.

I followed the New Zealand general election closely last year — as I do every time — and was really happy when Jacinda Ardern, a 37-year-old woman, became our third female prime minister. Now she’s pregnant and her husband is about to become a stay-at-home dad. That’s awesome!

But some people had a legitimate concern, though, when they asked whether the huge changes — physically and mentally — while pregnant may affect her work.

Unfortunately, in a PC culture, asking such questions that posit men and women as different in any way — physically, at least, we definitely are — leads to accusations of bigotry and sexism.

In the end, as is the case in New Zealand and other Anglo countries, people just become too scared to discuss things openly, which is where the nature of PC culture rears its ugly head.

In effect, I guess, I hate what PC culture has led to, not necessarily what it stood for originally.

That’s why I hope PC thinking doesn’t infect China.


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