In the spring of 1985, my friend Nichole wrote me, “I’m sitting in the square of this town selling shoes. Hundreds of people have come to look at me. Business is brisk.” When she returned we talked about her trip in my sitting room at Xiamen University. At the time, Nichole was a forty-something student of Chinese who spoke with a French accent.
It was common for foreign students to pack a bag or two and head out on their own, often to the minority areas. The government wanted foreign journalists and tourists to travel as part of a … Read More
In the mid-1980s, foreign students traveling in China were much less fettered than journalists were. They often left their badly-taught Chinese language classes armed with a determination to see the minority areas (which were usually closed to foreigners) and their university ID cards (which along with a bit of arguing would often get them into Chinese-only hotels). They encountered a lot of prejudice against the “national minorities” in China. I talked with one young Australian who described the well-educated, official Uighur interpreter and the shocking way the Hans on their trip treated her.
My friend Nicole describes the autonomous regions … Read More