Jia Jia(贾葭) is an editor and commentator with the iSunAffairs Weekly in Hong Kong.Link to the original is here.
A while ago, my neighbor’s Japanese car had its tires slashed, and a note was posted on its windshield that read: “Driving a Japanese car is equal to treason!” I advised him to take it easy. Although Japanese cars are fuel-efficient, driving them can be risky in China. Later on he switched to an American car, saying that young people have never protested American goods. I said of course, if they protest American goods, they can start by taking their computers apart and returning to the abacus.
With regards to America, it seems that everyone’s stuck between love and hate. When I was small, the image of imperial America was extremely evil where milk flowed in abundance but people died of hunger left and right. When Bill Clinton visited China in 1998, a female student named Ma Nan (马楠) at Peking University stood up and denounced the appalling human rights condition in the US. She was supposed to file a question, but she sounded more like she was delivering a lecture. Later on, she married an American man, gave birth to a son, became the mother of an American, and departed China for good where “the human rights are at least five-fold better than in the US.”
There are a lot of Chinese, I tell you, who desire to become Americans. Take for example the TV show “Beijingers in New York” (《北京人在纽约》). Even though the Beijingers in the show are faring poorly in the city, they still believe that New York City is half heaven.
The so-called American dream holds that so long as an individual works hard and never gives up, he or she will inevitably reap the benefits of a better life. Examples of this American dream coming true abound; suffice it to say there have been several Chinese-American Cabinet members and several Chinese-American Nobel laureates.
A typical Chinese dream used to be for farm dwellers to move to the township, for township dwellers to move to the city, for city dwellers to move to the provincial capital, and for provincial capital dwellers to move to the capital Beijing. What about Beijingers? Well, they had no choice but to go abroad. In the 1998 Chinese romantic comedy film Be There or Be Square (《不见不散》), Ge You (葛优), a typical good-for-nothing from a Beijing hutong, becomes a happy truck driver in America where there is no urban management enforcers, no Bureau of Commerce and Industry enforcers, and he can park pretty much wherever he likes.
Stories of Chinese getting rich in the US are everyone’s favorite. Even dimwits want to make money off the American stock market.
The problem then comes to: How does a Chinese citizen become an American citizen? Singles always have hopes to marry an American and thus reinvent themselves. But what about those who have already married? Well, Chinese people are known for their diligence. Stowing away in a big container on a ship going from Fujian to the US is one way, but it is illegal. There are a lot of other ways, readily available and perfectly legal. For instance, to deliver a baby in America, the return on such investment is considered greater than robbing a bank. If we cannot become Americans, then we can at least become the parents, or the grandparents, of Americans. As long as the children can get a green card, the parents can then get in line to wait for one. After five or six years it will go through.
The only drawback is, it is a time-consuming process, and the children cannot assume the rights of a citizen until they turn 18 years old.
And so the best way to smash through this process is to immigrate through investment, and the agency middle man estimates that a million RMB will do. Based on the prices of housing and commodities in Beijing, a millionaire is nothing but a hobo. Within Beijing’s 4th ring road, pick any lighted window at night, and it is worth at least a million RMB. Based on the average price of commercial housing in Beijing, an apartment of 100 square meters within the 4th ring road is worth at least 3.5 million RMB.
Any Beijing resident, if he or she is determined to embrace the imperialist America, can sell their apartment and immigrate to the US without a hitch. In theory, any person who owns an apartment within Beijing’s 4th ring road is a potential American citizen. With that amount of money, who would be so stupid as to pay a premium to buy low-quality real estate in a city where the air is unbreathable and the traffic is so bad that you cannot drive faster than 15km (about 9 miles) per hour? Not to mention that when bulldozers rumble [to demolish one’s property], even the Super Girl and the Sister Fairy will have to make way.¹
If the INS had no control over immigration quota, I am sure the American western seaboard by now would have been ready to seek independence.
Nowadays, a typical Chinese dream is to go to college, take the civil service test, make money, and immigrate. Or, go to college, become a white-collar worker, make money, and immigrate. Or go to college, become an engineer, make money, and immigrate. For Beijingers, it is much simpler: sell the apartment and immigrate. Being the capital, there are always people from Shanxi or Zhejiang to fill the space up right away. In the past, I always thought that those who sought residence overseas were people made of special materials who took pains persuading the rest of us to love China and love socialism. Now, thanks to skyrocketing housing price, Beijingers have the opportunity to enjoy clean air and dependable education of their young—in the US.
We might be born Chinese, but we will die American. No question about it.
¹Li Yuchun (李宇春) and Liu Yifei (刘亦菲) respectively, two darlings of popular culture.