Taxi Cab Politics

In a taxi ride home recently, I (JM) chatted with the driver about the usual things- how long had I been here, isn’t Chinese difficult, and so on. Surprisingly, the cabbie came out with:
“America is my favorite country.”
“Really? Why is that?”
“Americans understand human rights. Our country doesn’t. If someone here says you’re wrong about something, then you’re simply wrong. No one can argue.”
“Well, the two countries are different. America’s government likes to protect human rights.”
“If we didn’t have America, the world wouldn’t even know what human rights were.”
At this point, I was a little surprised at his strong opinions, especially in critique of his own country. Most people are overwhelmingly in favor of all that the government here has accomplished in recent years while developing the country. I pointed out the huge advancements China had undertaken in the last few decades.
“Yes, now we have food to eat. But the government is still the same. It won’t ever change. We won’t ever have the freedoms that Americans have. I think they have it the best.”
It really gave me pause to hear this from him. Where did his ideas come from? Did he have any firsthand experience that conditioned his negative opinions? And was it as hopeless to change the current order as he made it out to be?
I don’t have nearly as much perspective on his own country’s problems. I do hope, however, that the future will bring some resolution to long-standing challenges that the Chinese confront with their wealth distribution, huge population, and cultural differences with the law-loving West. Human rights aren’t an absolute, but there will likely be more and more demand for some form of them by the populace here as they continue opening up to the rest of the world beyond.


2 Responses to “Taxi Cab Politics”

  1. 1 Chris Burgwald November 11, 2008 at 3:16 am

    Wow! I don’t have the first-hand experience of China and its citizens that you do, but this definitely flies in the face of my preconceptions about Chinese self-evaluation! Interesting.

  2. 2 asimplesinner November 11, 2008 at 5:44 am

    We do well to understand that “America” in the minds of many is as much a concept as a place. As much a goal as a destination. As much contrast as their is between the two parties (and sometimes between members of a given party itself) power transitions and peaceful debate and election happen all the time. It is a value to the American electorate.

    Your taxi-man understands this.

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