Tag Archives: China

From ashy to classy

I have been back in New York for almost a week now, but my mind has been going over the last two months I have spent in China. It is inevitable; between the Olympics, Mitt Romney’s ridiculous campaign platform and the article on China that I have been working on, I have been forced to reflect on my perspective and seek some sort of reconciliation which is at this point elusive.

I have great faith in China’s potential and I am not afraid to say that I am so profoundly proud of the distance it has traveled. Of course, my background is a de facto bias on that front, but at the same time this faith in China’s future in no way detracts from my love for the great US of A.

I complain a lot about Americans, their wanton arrogance, their shameless stupidity and the endless slew of other defects, but ultimately, it is both a privilege and luxury to be American sometimes. There’s a reason why so many before us has come to this country and there are still reasons for the millions who risk much to touch American soil today.

I have written before about the jarring contrast of poverty in other cities around the world. Nowhere is that more evident than Shanghai, where panhandlers languish as untreated and unidentified illnesses leave their limps rotten, swollen or deformed, laid out in front of immaculate office buildings on the mile long stretch of sidewalk that janitors are to mop each morning. They are left ignored as luxury cars pull in and out of the driveways each morning providing dramatic contrast. This is the world in which I contemplated a future.

In my more ideal and romantic moments, I liken my own growth to that of China. From a naive child limited by circumstance, I have become a person who has managed to chart a course in life beyond boundaries that I could not even have previously conceived. I am proud of myself just as I am proud of China’s progress. Do you know how far China has come? Without going so far as the Revolution, let’s just talk about my childhood. The entire Pudong skyline was constructed within a span of a little less than 10 years; it has damn near emerged from the dark ages to the dynamic society it is today. Say what you want about the censorship and uniformity, there are at least organic perspectives in China rather than the recycled drivel that gets shoved down the throat as the cloak of democracy is falling apart at every seam. What’s worse, really? And maybe that’s why I can be so indignant and defiant of these assertions. It has not been an easy climb to endeavor yet so easily dismissed.

This summer, I found myself somewhere between where I started, amongst locals 老百姓 whose struggles are a distant memory, and where I may hope to reach, amongst the successful [mostly] expats I have met whose lifestyles I can’t help but seek. Both are humbling; both push me to go further.

And this is where I am on China: she has come a long way but there is still so much for her to achieve. I hope that she can overcome the setbacks and reach a height that has yet to be conceived. Thus, it is not surprising that there can be so many conflicting takes on China. China itself is grappling with its still present past and its future.

Audemars Piguet, with the alligator strap

This little gem dropped in my inbox this morning via some heritage zealot (no i’m just kidding, you are heritage).

It’s not that I take issues with the idea of hipster white girls running all over Williamsburg, Brooklyn wearing Chinese heritage, either. And it’s not that I’m upset that some European or American (I’m sure) decide to reinstated these watches in a foreign market for 10x what it was worth (before the marketing). But equivocating it as heritage just does not sit well with me.

As much as I am averse to American heritage “revival”, it’s mostly for 1. the pseudoness, 2. exploitation and unoriginality, 3. lack of aesthetics in so-called “designs”. But this is cultural. These watches were first launched and produced in 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, a period that my family only remember with bitterness and smug distance. I just don’t see how it could be “heritage” when Chinese people aren’t trying to claim ownership. Furthermore, and maybe I’m overanalyzing the issue here, it almost glorifies this ascetic proletariat lifestyle which is especially heinous when you’re charging SUCH a margin on it. I’m sure the quality is better now than it was 40 years ago when Mao was all anti-capitalist glitz, which makes the crystal backed jawn freaking absurd. I mean, I get that it’s a revival, but whose heritage are you declaring when you say “heritage”? My mother certainly does not look back upon her gear as a teenager with any sort of longing fondness. It was a product of Communist uniformity and an imposition of power, not culture, you feel me? Secondly, and this point is unfortunate, but, Chinese people don’t look at items made on home turf with the same pride as Americans or Europeans whose HERITAGE created luxury do. Like, Chinese people have as much disdain for “Made in China” as any American, and it’s due to China’s status as a manufacturing exporting country. If you think exported goods are poorly made, the factories sell the products, that didn’t make the cut for overseas markets, to the Chinese (at a lower price, sure). And would it only be heritage on a Chinese person? Because, I reassure you, given $325, there is scant chance a Chinese person would buy this watch.

Applying the word heritage to an unknown country/culture whose heritage you clearly know nothing about is just like the faux-relating that get “wannabe” white boys who drop n-bombs beat up. Ya know? You understand my parallel?

Or, at the very least, this is bizarre.