Why do so many foreigners go to China and think China is good?
Ruslan Popov, Lived in HK and Shenznen
Updated Oct 28, 2016
I've lived for substantial time in 3 Asian cities (Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen), and they all surprised me on the upside. In the case of China, here's why I like it:
it's modern, and continues to develop all the time. They have modern cities, excellent transport infrastructure (highways, airports, high-speed trains network which is unmatched in the world, excellent public transport and taxis), excellent hotels, malls, restaurants and cafes, beautiful parks, etc.
There’s a feeling of safety and freedom in Chinese cities, which impress with their size. There’s no one to tell you what to do, and you can see from the behavior of the diverse crowd, people just do what they want. In most places you won't see any police. In some others they are present in security posts. They just do their job, i.e. sit there silently and behave reasonably, adding to the security and order. Do you know that police in China doesn't have firearms? They are just like a part of the crowd, only doing their job.
friendliness of Chinese people. You will always get help, no matter that you can't speak a word in Chinese besides 你好, or they can't speak English. They'll spend their time and go out of their way to explain you how to get somewhere, or how to buy a train ticket, they'll patiently and enthusiastically explain how to get what you need. They'll be positive and practical all the time while helping you.
they are non-dogmatic. The people are simply pragmatic and hardworking, they want to live good lives, and feel responsible for their well-being. They are not brainwashed (something which is actually more typical to Western countries, and you can see it on Quora too). The main philosophy of China is just common sense and being a good person.
business is in the genes of Chinese. Small shops and restaurants are ubiquitous, which makes me think self employment and small business must be a major kind of employment. The government creates excellent business infrastructure. For example, the hi tech city area in Shenzhen is very impressive and has lots of spaces to support innovations and startups. China hosts some of world’s biggest trade shows and exhibitions. It’s easy to see trends in the world economy here.
they are connected and communal. It’s easy to talk with people and make friends, especially if you are open and respectful.
technologically, China is of course advanced in many ways. For example, electric transport has been very developed here for years. You can find electric bikes, personal transportation vehicles (like kick scooters or mono wheels), electric taxis and cars, even electric buses (the photo below is a bus charging station).
some things are convenient. The Chinese messenger app (WeChat) is very advanced and makes it easy to make payments and much more; it’s a technology marvel. For example, in some cafes you can scan QR code on your table, which brings up the menu on your phone; you can make an order and it will be sent to your table. You can pay with your mobile phone almost everywhere, you don’t need cash or credit card. It’s fine to leave your wallet at home if you have a phone with you.
still kept (and in some cases even exaggerated) some of its sweet traditions. Well, their language itself is ancient to begin with. In the very developed Chinese cities you'll see many people still trying to live simple ways. Outdoor tai chi, dragon boat festivals, traditional medicine, etc., add charm to the urban culture.
it’s vast and intellectually stimulating. It’s very geographically diverse, has rich history, and Chinese are passionate about learning and self development, they’re smart and focused. I love book shops here and book cafes; Shenzhen’s central book store claims to be the largest in the world.
To give a more balanced answer, I'll mention a few negatives. They are not big, but are a part of life, too:
air pollution in some cities and regions. People are used to it. Most of the time it’s not terribly bad, and unfortunately air is more or less polluted in most (if not all) cities of the world. I take break from cities and travel once in a while to other countries or areas in China (such as Yunnan, Hainan) where the air is clean.
internet problems. Although the networks are fast, but due to traffic monitoring some sites are blocked (Google, popular social networks, and some news sites) or work slowly. This Internet control has not only political purpose, but it's good for the development of Chinese Internet companies.
you shouldn't be lazy and start learning the language and culture.It is very worthy. Although you always get help and generally friendly attitude, you need to do your part and learn at least the basics of Mandarin. Unlike in HK, in the mainland little effort is made to translate anything into English (beyond road signs and metro announcements). It pays a lot to know at least common phrases and basics of characters writing (汉字). It is a lot of fun actually.
Overall, China is fast pace, generally efficient, straightforward, but you need to get used to it and learn ways of doing things. They may be not what you are used to coming from another country.