Your licence fee money at work

I’m a big fan of the BBC, and think their news services are second to none. However, the current ‘participatory media’ craze has swept through the Beeb a little more than most, which can lead to some real classics of unfiltered opinion. Browsing the BBC website, I came across a Have Your Say thread where people could send in questions “to callers in China and Chinese living across the world.” Looking at the most recent comments, there are some that truly deserve closer attention. (N.B. These are all real comments, I swear.)

Added: Friday, 14 July, 2006, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK

What is your long term plans? Would they include returning to your homeland when civilised government is in place? How did you manage to leave a war torn country on the other side of Africa and get to the UK? Do you feel happy in a country when so many of the inhabitants dislike foreigners?

Roy Smith, Tauranga, New Zealand

China is on the other side of Africa? That’s an A* in Geography GCSE by today’s standards. “War-torn”, however?

Meanwhile, in Cliche Corner we have this pair of gems:

Added: Thursday, 13 July, 2006, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK

How do the Chinese use the concepts of Yin and Yang energy to bring much needed balance in todays busy and stressful lifestyle?

What advice can Chinese people give to the materialistic people in the west, who no longer have any belieg system or spirituality, and lack direction in all their goals?

Declan Philips, UK

Added: Thursday, 13 July, 2006, 21:45 GMT 22:45 UK

Chinese society is traditionally very polite and modest. What then do your elders think of the current fashion in western countries where women are selling themselves as glamour models and exposing themselves in magazines? Do you find it degrading and insulting to women who are usually the respected head of a household in China? Would you like to see young Chinese girls acting and dressing like people here, ie models and people like Jordan, Jodie Marsh etc where they are practically naked?

Donna, Essex

Traditionally, Chinese women were not the “head of a household”. They were viewed as a “curse” on the family for being unable to work like males, and were sold off as property in arranged marriages. The only time a woman’s life in traditional rural China got any better was when a young wife entered the household, who she would then treat like a slave. Top marks, though, for putting Jodie Marsh on the frontline of the East/West values conflict. I don’t think even Martin Jacques has done that yet.

Added: Thursday, 13 July, 2006, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK

What do Chinese people think about Indian food?! Is it too hot and spicy for your taste? We use many of the same spices, eg ginger, garlic and chilli. Are Chinese people very conservative or adventurous in their tastes? Which type of food do you prefer, apart from your own?!!!

Karim, Leicester

Eat some Szechuan, that’ll answer your question.

I can’t help thinking that these commenters are in need of a small “China explainer” like in the classic Tintin book The Blue Lotus, where a three-panel section dissolves centuries of prejudice by explaining that Chinese do not spend all their time eating bird’s nest soup and thinking up torture techniques. Although the portrayal of scheming, buck-toothed Japanese in the book might create more problems than it solves.

Still, I can’t make fun of all the comments. Here’s one that, secretly, I’d love to know the answer to:

Added: Friday, 14 July, 2006, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK

Did you/ do you have problems understanding the irish accent?

Imran, London

I’m English, and I still have trouble with it. Working with a couple of Northern Irish people has improved things though, so it has.

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