I have been complaining about Beijing's bad air, and soon I will complain about some other aspects of China's preparations for the Olympics. So it seemed a good time to make a point that has finally occurred to me in clearer form than before. I think I now can explain why, despite the pollution and congestion and overall ceaseless hassle of big-city life in China, I always tell friends or visitors that I "like" Chinese people in general.
The reason is that, most of the time, people in China treat me as ... a person.
Not always and in every circumstance as a foreigner, though I obviously am that. I hear the Chinese words for "look, a foreigner!" and feel the general ripple of outsiderness much less often than I hear or sense the counterparts in (richer and more sophisticated) Japan. In some rural areas, my wife and I have been the first foreigners that locals had ever seen in person. They were interested but got over it.
Not as a walking bag of money to be taken advantage of, except in the markets, where any potential customer can be treated that way.
Not as a walking English-conversation school, which was the case twenty years ago.
Not as the object of dark looks or special rudeness, since everyone pushes everyone else out of the way.