(1) Miscellaneous Aspects of Chinese Culture

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Jun 3, 2019 00:26
In one of my previous entries, I explained why Wu’s relatives (extended family) lending him around $200,000 is not difficult for us Chinese to believe, but some American friends still didn't think it was plausible. After reading their questions, I realized that there was a need to finish the rest of the context jigsaw puzzle, in order for them to understand this part of Chinese society.

First of all, I’d like to make it clear that the story of Wu borrowing money from his extended family comes from online sources and hasn’t been confirmed by the police yet. But most of us Chinese don’t consider it so wild that it couldn't happen. I’ll explain more about the context, based on the questions below in the “native-language-version” box.

As for question 1:

The size of Chinese extended families is usually much bigger than that of their US counterparts. In the past, Chinese people dwelled together most of their lives based on patrilineal relations. Today, in some areas, that is still the case. An extended family could be as big as an entire village, say, hundreds of people. $200,000 might not be impossible if you consider how large the number of lenders can be.

Also, lending $2,000 to $3,000 per person to their family’s pride really didn’t dent their wallets that much. I’d like to share a story that happened in my company. A guy managed to borrow more than $220,000 from dozens of colleagues over two years! All these lenders had no idea he’d borrowed money from so many people until it came to light last year, when he confessed to the police and asked for protection against harassment and threats from the gangs that had lent him more than $600,000 in high-interest loans!

As for question 2:

Some references appended to my previous entry have explained the reason. Many Fujianese people who managed to get out of the country weren’t actually poor. One of the main drives for illegal emigration was keeping up with the Joneses. Some people heard that their fellow townsmen who had emigrated to the US had struck it rich there, so they followed suit, hence the exodus.

Q1: So yes, I could picture relatives rounding up, say, $10,000 to get the pair of them to the US. But $200,000 is such a huge amount of money that it changes the whole equation. (What would you say about it?)

Q2: If the extended family had that much liquid money among their assets, and could afford to do without it for the time it would take for its recipients to earn enough to repay the loan, it's hard for me to understand why there was so much of a drive to get out of the country and why they were so naive and unquestioning about Wu's intentions.

Q3: College students and their families are not expected to reach into their pockets, pull out four years' worth of tuition, and drop it on the table as a lump sum before they can even think of attending a university.

Q4: And if Peking University was so prestigious in its own right, why the desperate need to go to MIT?


I've consulted the friends for the copyright. :-)