We Are All People: An American’s Reflection of a Day in Tianjin

September 15, 2020



I am in a unique position where I had the privilege to return to Beijing almost exactly one year after my first trip there. The experience was something completely different. There is a lot I want to talk to you about, but I feel that it is my responsibility to share my interactions with the Chinese people — especially in today’s political climate.

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My friend, Maggie, strolling in Downtown Tianjin

Once again, we have found ourselves lead by a government that consistently villainizes the country of China. While there is much room for criticism of the government, we need to remember that the citizens of China are no different than you or me.

As foreigners, you stick out like a sore thumb. For an introvert, this can be a nightmare when every subway ride consists of someone wanting to practice their English on you, take pictures with you, or ask you questions about your life. However, when I stepped, back I realized what a unique privilege this was. I sat down on the subway and a small boy looked down at my shoes and in excellent English said “Your shoes are beautiful.” Taken aback by the youngsters Anglo-Saxon language I looked at him and said “Thank you.” He then smiled, giggled, and turned to his mother who whispered something in his ear. “My name is King. What is your name?” And we continued engaging in elementary conversation, simply thrilled that we could break down a barrier and communicate with each other in even the simplest language.

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Tianjin Eye

I remember my friends and I were walking back to the bullet train from Tianjin to Beijing, and I saw a plump police officer standing on his podium. This is a usual sight, found on almost every block. However, I noticed there was a small, stray dog standing at attention by his side. I looked at the dog, and then up at him. Our eyes locked and he smiled for a moment, knowing the comicalness of this tiny dog standing at attention below him. This was perhaps the most memorable moment of my entire voyage. Here I was, an American, laughing about a dog with a member of the feared Chinese police. At that moment, we were simply people.

Whatever your thoughts are on China or any country for that matter — remember that we are all people. Be proud of your country, yes; but be prouder of being part of a borderless humanity

Featured Photo: Tianjin Binhai Library