China

Beijing life – a bizarre coincidence and a political taxi ride

Sometimes it seems that Beijing life can be a bit too interesting.

Three days ago, I met with my landlady in the early afternoon about the lease. Then a few hours after, I got a text from somebody. This is what it said (in Chinese): “Hello, this is the landlord. I’ve changed my number. I just want to tell you to send the rent to my spouse’s account – #######.”
Now, right off the bat, it seems fishy. It turns out it was a fraudulent text, which isn’t too uncommon since a couple of people I know told me they’d gotten similar ones in the past.
Yet the bizarre thing is that that I got this scam text was soon after I’d actually met with my real landlady. I called her after getting the text and she said it wasn’t her and it was a typical scam.
The coincidence was so striking I even had a slight bit of suspicion but my landlady has never texted me and the rent is due next month, plus this kind of text is common, as people told me.
I’d also never gotten a scam text before, though I’ve gotten lots of spam texts advertising different things such as “massage services.”
Living in Beijing has made me quite suspicious, which is not a good thing, and more vigilant, though I’d never fall so easily for this kind of trick anyways.
Then two days ago, in a taxi on the way to work, I made a remark to the driver about how heavy the traffic was. This was a sign of progress, he said. “It’s better to have too many cars than no cars. It means the economy is good.”
And from then, we had a discussion, while mostly stuck in traffic, about China’s development, governance, and even a brief mention of Hong Kong’s Occupy movement at the end.

Among the “highlights” of our exchange though it was all in Chinese and my Chinese certainly isn’t very fluent.

-On Beijing’s development (Driver: too many cars is better than no cars. It’s a sign of progress. Same with all the people flocking to Beijing. Me: Maybe it’d be better if surrounding areas like Hebei province and Tianjin were more developed. Then less people would need to crowd into Beijing.)
-On the economy (Driver: it’s grown fast in the past and it’s slowing down, but that’s alright. It’s like a kid growing up who is now a teen. Me: Yeah, slower growth is alright. The massive growth in the past hasn’t been all good for people, such as empty housing and too many factories.) 
-About the merit of the Communist Party’s rule (Driver: China is a big country with so many people. You can’t compare it to Singapore. Even Obama and Bush could never rule China properly. China is so stable and that’s because of the Communist Party).

At the end, he asked me if I supported the Occupy Central (anti-govt) movement in HK. “It’s complicated, but I think some of the reasons [for it] were right,” I replied. He gave me a hard stare before we exchanged goodbyes.

It was a decent exchange though things were a bit awkward when he starting complimenting the Communist Party’s rule and his testy reaction when I told him what I thought about the Occupy Central movement.
Anyways I guess it never hurts to have a random political conversation with a stranger before work once in a while.

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8 thoughts on “Beijing life – a bizarre coincidence and a political taxi ride

  1. I’ve always heard that the discussions of taxi-cab drivers in every city tells a lot about the city and its people…and this fits in with my rides in Beijing. Beijing and Xi’an are my favorite places to get into a taxi and have discussions, Xi’an especially because discussions are more philosophical and much less focused on the economy & money. Enjoyed this, cheers!

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    1. Oh, that seems quite cold. So not even if you talk to them? Though on the other hand, it’s good not to feel obligated to talk if you’re really tired.

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      1. Most of the time I don’t even try talking to them anymore! But a few months ago the taxi companies in Suzhou changed their cars to a new model and I asked one cabbie how the new car was, if he was happy with it, etc. He only grunted “I don’t like it” so, once again, I wasn’t encouraged to keep talking hahaha.

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  2. I never ask about politics as a visitor to a country but I do enjoy it when locals (often taxi drivers) start talking about them unprompted. Similar to another commenter, it feels like a snapshot of life, even though I know it’s totally random and could have been a completely different discussion had I been 3 minutes later and gotten into another cab. Interesting nonetheless!

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