崛起的中国


随着中国越来越开放,新加坡人到访中国城市时能感受到的“亲切感”,也很可能是因为所谓的“华人社会”已越来越同质化,或说在价值观与生活习惯上,离西方更近了。对于到当地打拼的年轻新加坡人来说,中国提供的是机会而非诗意。
伟曼
《联合早报》记者

The Rise of China


While some people might think that embracing Chinese culture entails a different kind of cultural colonisation of Singaporeans by a rising superpower, I feel that Singapore has, after 53 years of independence, developed a unique DNA that would make it very difficult for us to be co-opted by any other regional power.
Yuen Sin
The Straits Times Journalist

袁昕:

22岁那年,我第一次独自旅行,记忆中上海的繁华街道,成了我对当代中国的第一印象。

那是2010年,上海也举办世界博览会。在夏日的高温下,受困于长长的人龙,等待入馆参观时,我只能自得其乐,以观察周围的陌生人来打发时间。不过,原来若见有人插队应心生厌烦,看到队伍中大伙儿为降体温,用舌头“集体”舔着排队区放着的大冰块时,也应为如此不卫生的举动露出惊讶表情,但当时的我也许因为抱着一种旅者才会有的心情,却能将之简单归类为“文化震撼”。总之,并没有太在意。

印象中当时报章网络也在写,上海世博如何上演各种中国人不文明的戏码,像疯狂盖章就成了世博一大景。那次一个人旅行,我也看到许多人手中握着世博护照,一入馆就略过各种精彩展区,一窝蜂冲向盖章处的奇特景观;只不过让人感受更深刻的是,那时候这一个被笼统概括为“中国人”的群体,其实说着各种方言,操着不同口音,他们来自各地,也和我一样到上海,看一看这浓缩了世界精华的博览会,并且了解他们不太了解的当代中国。

2010年上海世博会场地位于南浦大桥和卢浦大桥之间,伟曼还记得当时自己拿着大地图,一个人参观不同展馆的情景。整个园区范围非常大,得花两天才逛完。

同时,像上海这样慢慢与国际接轨的大都会城市,相信也开始感受到外来人口涌入后造成的社会问题和矛盾。在法租界一家西餐厅用餐,坐在旁边一对夫妇由于看不太懂英文菜单,屡遭同是中国人的服务员白眼对待;我很识趣地在点菜的时候说了英语,服务员彬彬有礼回应,但这“差别对待”却让我开心不起来。

因此,自从与中国有直接的接触后,中国对于我来说,就是复杂且多面向的,这个大家眼中的大国,也面对一套独特的挑战与问题。我不知道你怎么看待中国,但中国于我而言从来不仅是一种想象,更准确地说,不同的时间点、不同的城市、不同的场合,让我认识了好多个“不同的中国”。

像曾到北京探望一个在当地念书的新加坡朋友,我们一群人一踏进朋友公寓时,就看到客厅一堆装满的箱子。那原来是我们出发前在淘宝网上购买的服饰物品,当时网购在中国虽未像现在红火,但电子商务和网络营销可能为中国带来的发展契机,已备受讨论。那是中国“智慧零售”的雏形初现。

像到内蒙古希拉穆仁草原上围着蒙古包外营火大声高歌,在库布齐沙漠上与一群同是旅客的洋人打沙漠排球,这些也都原来不在我的中国想象内。最近,我到重庆找同事,我们一起吃晚餐,但不是享用重庆麻辣火锅,而是到他家楼下的日式居酒屋吃烤肉串和喝啤酒;在成都,我的爱彼迎(Airbnb)房东透过微信,和我热烈地聊起杨绛和村上春树等作家,我们在虚拟平台上建立起了某种友谊,这也都是我与“中国”有过的接触。全球化的趋势让世界变得更扁平,随着现代化与开放,中国也在复制着其他城市能供给我们的体验。

当然,也还有身为新加坡华人,对于中国的微妙情意结。

自从与中国有直接的接触后,中国对于我来说,就是复杂且多面向的。

《联合早报》副总编辑兼联合早报网(中国)主编韩咏红2017年12月在国家图书馆举办的“从十九大看中国”讲座上指出,在国际政治舞台上,中国已开始有意识地输出“中国智慧”和“中国方案”,在软实力的领域,中国影视娱乐节目的受欢迎程度也超越港台;中国的文化魅力让一些新加坡人希望新中两国是较为亲密的双边关系,但也因为新加坡人的国家认同感日益增加,部分国人还是认为新加坡与中国应该是“普通的国家关系”,这两种不同的看法,有可能在本地华社与非华社之间构成紧张。

目前,中国的崛起并未从根本上促成本地华文大环境的改善,但至少在学者圈里,区域华人重新汉化,东南亚华人身份可能越来越强烈,是短时间就可能发生的改变。对于新加坡这个多元种族国家来说,即便外交政策论述明晰,中国影响的渗入仍是必须谨慎观察的趋势。

不过,对于新加坡华人能够理性地去认识中国的变化,我还是乐观的。例如,你应该也看到本地歌手向洋和董姿彦如何勇敢地踏出了第一步,在《中国新歌声》等节目绽放光芒。当时,大家都为他们感到骄傲,但不少人并不是一味地倾向中国,只是觉得中国变酷了,而是很切实地思考崛起大国对各领域发展带来的影响。

我们一方面接受中国这个大舞台能给我们这个小国更高的能见度,并且带来经济利益,但同时,国人也心里有数,认识到这游戏有它一定的规则,“能拿下第二名就已经是冠军”的声音就是本地网民对这些选手的“另类肯定”。我猜想,向洋的“红毛派”身份,董姿彦优秀的双语能力,以及他们在台上唱着的西洋爵士,也让新加坡人更容易对他们产生亲切感与认同。

你对新中关系有什么期望?
{{data_qns1.q1_ans1}} 中国崛起,新中关系应该更亲密
{{data_qns1.q1_ans2}} 新加坡和中国应该是“普通的国家关系”
总调查 : {{data_qns1.q1_total_vote}}

此外,随着中国越来越开放,新加坡人到访中国城市时能感受到的“亲切感”,也很可能是因为所谓的“华人社会”已越来越同质化,或说在价值观与生活习惯上,离西方更近了。对于到当地打拼的年轻新加坡人来说,中国提供的是机会而非诗意;新加坡开埠时期随闽潮移民“下南洋”的南音和潮剧等传统文化,反倒在本地扎根落户后,近年来获得新生命,为新加坡华人的文化自信注入一记强心针。

如今走在中国城市街道上,我的自在其实不源自于任何抽象的文化认同感。我认为,那更多是因为我通晓双语,能够在必要时迅速做语码转换,有时候甚至模仿当地人的腔调,尝试融入。

这份自在也不会影响我在看待中国时的客观。身为新加坡人,我在评价它时少了近乡情怯的感觉,更多的是一种开放的心态。

伟曼

Dear Yuen Sin,

When I was 22, I travelled overseas alone for the first time. It was the year 2010, and Shanghai was holding the World Expo. I can still vividly remember being stuck in those much-documented vast queues of that expo, and consider that to be my first encounter with contemporary China.

That summer trip also broke the stereotypes that I had of the country..

For example, I remember reading reports about how Chinese nationals visiting the expo were behaving in an "uncivilised" way. Some netizens criticised the unseemly rush by some into the pavilions to get stamps on their passports..

But though I had witnessed the same scenes described in the media, something else left a deeper impression on me. I realised that these visitors at the expo were from different parts of China and, like me, they were in Shanghai to get a glimpse of what was considered to be a condensed version of the best of the world, and to understand the modern China they found themselves now in..

During that visit, I realised that a fast-progressing China was facing its own set of challenges.

Wai Mun toured the Shanghai Expo on her own. She remembers that it took her two whole days to cover the vast expanse of the expo space.

I have since travelled to many Chinese cities, and now know China to be a place that is complex and multi-faceted. On a trip to the Xilamuren Grassland in Inner Mongolia, my friends and I sat around a campfire outside a yurt, and we sang at the top of our voices. In the Kubuqi Desert, we played desert volleyball with friends on the same tour.

Recently, I went to Chongqing to visit a colleague but, instead of heading for the popular hotpots, we went to a Japanese izakaya for dinner, and had skewered meat with beer. In Chengdu, I communicated with my Airbnb host on WeChat - the popular Chinese social media platform - and we talked about our favourite authors such as Yang Jiang and Haruki Murakami. We had somehow established some kind of friendship on a virtual platform.

All these different experiences seem to demonstrate that, with modernisation and the opening up of China, the country is also capable of replicating the same experiences that other cities can provide. Globalisation has truly made the world flatter.

I realised that a fast-progressing China was facing its own set of challenges.

As a Chinese Singaporean, I also sense that there is a delicate complexity to how we perceive China from the outside.

At a talk titled "Understanding China: The 19th Party Congress" held at the National Library in December 2017, Lianhe Zaobao associate editor and zaobao.com editor Han Yong Hong made a similar point.

While China's soft-power charm offensive has caused some Singaporeans to hope for closer bilateral ties between the two countries, others, amid a growing sense of national identity, feel that relations should be kept as those between friendly states but without the common ethnic element coming into the picture.

She pointed out that these two different views may cause tension between the local Chinese and non-Chinese communities.

What are your views on Sino-Singapore relations?
{{data_qns1.q1_ans1}} Singapore should recognise the reality of a rising China, and forge closer bilateral ties by associating itself more with the ethnic Chinese identity
{{data_qns1.q1_ans2}} Relations should be kept as those between friendly states. The common ethnic element should not come into the picture
Total Votes : {{data_qns1.q1_total_vote}}

It may be that the rise of China has not noticeably changed the predominantly English-speaking language environment in Singapore, but academics, at least, have been wary of the possibility of a resinicisation of the Chinese in the region and how that might strengthen the identity of the ethnic Chinese in South-east Asia.

Some also think that for a multiracial country like Singapore, the growth of China's influence has to be observed with caution.

I am, however, optimistic that Chinese Singaporeans are able to view the changes in China through a rational lens.

For example, you might have seen how many in Singapore rooted for local singers Nathan Hartono and Joanna Dong when they participated in Sing! China. It wasn't just a matter of thinking that China had become cool.

Even though people accepted that China was providing Singaporeans - citizens from a small country - with a big stage to shine, they were at the same time aware that the game had its own rules. Some local netizens commented that the Singaporean contestants would already be "winners in their own right" even if they finished second. It was a kind of "alternative affirmation", since many knew it was impossible for a Singaporean to emerge as champion in Chinese competitions like these.

I am, however, optimistic that Chinese Singaporeans are able to view the changes in China through a rational lens.

Singaporeans are realistic in assessing the impact of a rising China. At the same time, Hartono's "English-speaking" identity, Dong's bilingual capabilities and their choosing to perform Western jazzy numbers instead of the usual Chinese songs heard on the show, probably also made it easier for Singaporeans to identify with them.

Some also think that for a multiracial country like Singapore, the growth of China's influence has to be observed with caution.

Also, while it might be true that some Singaporeans feel a certain "closeness" when visiting Chinese cities, my view is that it might more likely be due to the fact that people there are now very much like their counterparts in the West in terms of values and living habits. With the tides of modernisation come the effect of cultural homogenisation.

Some also think that for a multiracial country like Singapore, the growth of China's influence has to be observed with caution.

For Singaporeans who venture to China, they see a land of opportunity. There is less of that poetic imagination of the past, and more pragmatism.

Some also think that for a multiracial country like Singapore, the growth of China's influence has to be observed with caution.

On the other hand, a stronger Singaporean Chinese cultural identity seems to have emerged in the past few years. Traditional art forms that originated from China, like Nanyin music and Teochew opera, have developed and been given a new lease of life here.

Some also think that for a multiracial country like Singapore, the growth of China's influence has to be observed with caution.

When I visit China now, I am confident that the sense of ease I feel walking on its streets does not originate from any form of abstract cultural identity.

For Singaporeans who venture to China, they see a land of opportunity. There is less of that poetic imagination of the past, and more pragmatism.

Instead, it is more due to the fact that I am bilingual. I am able to code-switch when I need to, and can sometimes even imitate the accents of the locals and try to blend in.

This sense of comfort will also not affect my objectivity when it comes to China. Unlike older generations of Chinese Singaporeans who might regard China as "closer to home", I feel no emotional conflict when asked about my views on China. It is easy to stand firm in my identity as a Singaporean, and evaluate China with an open-minded attitude at the same time.

Wai Mun

Dear Wai Mun,

On the first day of Secondary Two, my Chinese teacher appointed me the Chinese subject representative after just a mere glance at the class register.

The reason? My name, comprising two words including my surname, branded me as being more “Chinese” than the rest of my peers. After all, such names are more common in China, and hark of ancient Chinese poets like Du Fu or Li Bai, not Chinese Singaporean names which tend to either come with a Western name like Cheryl or comprise three words like Lim Xin Yi.

Whenever the dreaded response to my name – “Are you from China?” – came about when I met someone new, it would spark a vehement denial.

Yes, my parents are Chinese-educated, but they were born in Singapore, I’d emphasise. In fact, one reason they gave me such a short name was quintessentially Singaporean – to save me time in exams.

When Yuen Sin was in Primary 1, her mother would write “letters” to her in this diary in Mandarin, and she will try to respond. This jotter book has her Chinese name, the second character 昕 means dawn or the morning light.

I turn 26 this year, but unlike you, Wai Mun, I grew up with a sense of awkwardness and discomfort with the idea of China. As a teenager, never once did I view an association with China as something that would boost my social capital among my westernised Singaporean peers.

In fact, while I have traversed the world, visiting countries from Morocco to Montenegro, I have never once stepped onto China - the home of my grandparents.

Even as my mother - the only one among three siblings to be born on Singapore soil - spoke highly of China’s rise, the impression I got of it was that of a developing country, stymied by a population that was lacking in social graces despite its eagerness to flaunt its new wealth.

As someone comfortable speaking Mandarin with my closer friends, I was aware there were circles of people who looked down on those like me. English seemed to be the language that cosmopolitans excelled in to get ahead in the working world, while Mandarin was the dominant language of the heartlands.

I grew up with a sense of awkwardness and discomfort with the idea of China.

In the self-conscious hierarchy of identities that I had assembled in my adolescent mind, embracing my Chinese Singaporean roots was already an act that placed me on a lower footing compared to those who consciously disavowed their Chineseness from the outset. Why exacerbate it by tracing links to a country that not many hold in high esteem?

As a result, the greater the sense of pride I took in my ethnic identity, the more China felt like a looming spectre to be held at arm’s length.

Have you ever tried to disassociate yourself with China?
{{data_qns2.q2_ans1}} Yes
{{data_qns2.q2_ans2}} No
Total Votes : {{data_qns2.q2_total_vote}}

Sometime between 2010 and 2017, the cultural tables slowly turned. While I spent my undergraduate years in Britain, other friends – especially the ones who resisted speaking in Mandarin even during mother tongue classes – started travelling to Shanghai or Beijing for internships or study programmes, and spoke breathlessly of their experiences.

The words “Alibaba”, “Taobao” and “Jack Ma” crept into the mainstream consciousness in Singapore, and even the Western media started paying more attention to Chinese actresses like Zhang Ziyi and Tang Wei and supermodel Liu Wen as China’s soft power began to gain traction.

Speaking well of China no longer felt uncool, now that more people have come out to admit that it may even be trendier than us cosmopolitan Singaporeans. Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said he felt like a “suaku” (country bumpkin) on a trip to Shanghai a few years ago, when he paid in cash at a roadside hawker stall while other customers simply used WeChat Pay on their phones.

There was a similar effect when the Mandarin-spurning, Anglo-Chinese School boy Nathan Hartono competed in Sing!China in 2016, reversing years of rejecting his mother tongue with this prodigal return to his Chinese roots.

This recent change in perspectives may well be purely instrumental – done for economic gain as China grows richer, for example – and may also be brought about by the technological development and modernisation of Chinese society, as you have pointed out.

Speaking well of China no longer felt uncool, now that more people have come out to admit that it may even be even trendier than us cosmopolitan Singaporeans.

But at a personal level, they served as a catalyst for me. A sense of assurance and affirmation came from a group in the mainstream that said it was okay to embrace “Chineseness” – be that of the China or a Singaporean variety.

Even though I was late to the game when it came to uncovering the nuances and idiosyncrasies of a modernising China, and began picking up books and watching documentaries on China only when I was in university, it felt like a case of better late than never.

Reading about issues of class and migration in journalist Leslie T. Chang’s book Factory Girls and Lixin Fan’s documentary Last Train Home opened my eyes to the stark complexities of life in the flux of modern China, and to the sheer diversity of the different groups of people in this huge nation.

At the same time, they stirred a sense of curiosity about my own roots, and prompted me to turn to translated copies of books by Chinese Singaporean writers like Yeng Pway Ngon, which told of historical developments closer to home with a distinctly local consciousness.

This book documents the lives of ordinary residents in Shanghai along Changle Road. A friend had passed Yuen Sin this book after she told her that she liked reading books about China.

While some people might think that embracing Chinese culture entails a different kind of cultural colonisation of Singaporeans by a rising superpower, I feel that Singapore has, after 53 years of independence, developed a unique DNA that would make it very difficult for us to be co-opted by any other regional power.

After all, some Chinese Singaporeans even think of Chinese nationals as being of a different race. This was pointed out by National Institute of Education lecturer Yang Peidong in a 2013 essay, when he noted how some Chinese Singaporeans call out prejudice against Chinese nationals as “racism”. It shows how distinct and distant new generations of Chinese Singaporeans have come to think of themselves as opposed to those from China, he said.

These days, I no longer feel self-conscious about my name. The character ‘Xin’ means dawn, or the morning light, and there is something about the spareness of my two-worded name that I find rather beautiful. I will choose to have a unique name like this over being mixed up with thousands of other Cheryls and Andreas on this island any day.

Perhaps it could even earn me some social capital when I finally visit China one day.

Yuen Sin

伟曼:

在中二开学的第一天,我的华文老师只扫了一眼班级名册,就选了我当华文课代表。

你猜为什么?因为我的名字连名带姓只有两个字,这让我比其他同龄人显得更“中国人”。毕竟,这类名字在中国更常见,有点中国古代诗人杜甫或李白的韵味,不像新加坡华人,更趋向于使用像“Cheryl”这样的洋名或是像“林欣怡”这样的三字姓名。

每次有新认识的人看到我的名字,那个我最怕的问题就来了——“你是中国来的吗?”每每这时,我总会发出最强烈的否认。

我会强调说,没错,我的父母是华校生,但他们在新加坡出生。事实上,他们之所以给我起了这么一个短名字,恰恰是因为一个很新加坡式的原因——希望我能在考试中省点时间。

记得念小一的时候,袁昕的母亲总会透过这本册子,给袁昕“写信”,而她也会回母亲的信函。这本册子上也写着她的中文名字,“昕”是黎明的意思,或指早上的晨光。

我今年26岁,但我不像你,伟曼,我是在一种对中国倍感尴尬和不适中长大的。我十几岁的时候,从来不认为和中国有联系会是一个为我增加社会资本的事,让我在西化的新加坡同龄人中享有什么优势。

我去世界各地旅行,从摩洛哥到到黑山共和国,但就是没去过中国——我外祖父母的家乡。

我妈妈是外婆家三个孩子中唯一生在新加坡的。即便在她大赞中国的发展时,我对中国的印象仍然是一个发展中国家,一个虽然在彰显它的新财富,其国人却缺乏社会文明的国家。

我能用华语很舒服地和我比较亲近的朋友交谈,而我能感觉到,有些人会看不起像我这样的人。英语被视为都市人想要在职场出头的语言,而华语是邻里的主要用语。

我是在一种对中国倍感尴尬和不适中长大的。

我就这样在自我意识强烈而常感不太自在的少女时期形成了对身份等级的感知,而这让我感觉,拥抱自己作为新加坡华人的根,让我和那些从一开始就有意识地撇开华人身份的人相比,低人一等。既然如此,又何苦追寻自己和一个很多人都瞧不起的国家的渊源,进一步自取其辱呢?

结果,我越是以自己的种族身份而自豪,我就越觉得中国好像一个影子在变大的幽灵,我必须和它保持距离。

你会刻意与中国人做区别,突出自己新加坡人的身份吗?
{{data_qns2.q2_ans1}}
{{data_qns2.q2_ans2}} 不会
总调查 : {{data_qns2.q2_total_vote}}

时间来到2010年到2017年,文化的角力慢慢出现了变化。正当我在英国度过大学时光,我的一些朋友,尤其是那些之前在母语课堂上都抗拒讲华语的人,开始去上海或北京实习或学习,而他们对这些经历赞不绝口。

“阿里巴巴”“淘宝”“马云”这些词汇开始出现在新加坡的主流认识中,就连西方媒体都开始关注章子怡、汤唯等中国演员,还有超模刘雯,中国的软实力开始吸引人们的目光。

夸赞中国不再是件很“不酷”的事情了,越来越多人站出来说,中国比生活在新加坡都市的我们更时尚。人力部长林瑞生说,他几年前去上海时,感觉自己是个“山龟”(乡巴佬)。他当时还要拿现金付钱给路边小贩,而其他顾客都用手机上的微信支付轻松搞定。

还有一件事也有类似的效果:英华自主学校毕业的向洋2016年参加《中国新歌声》,这个多年来抗拒母语的大男孩华丽转身,回归自己华人的根。

这个近年来出现的观点转变或许纯属出于功利,譬如是为了中国的经济增长,也可能如你所说,是因为中国的科技发展和现代化。

夸赞中国不再是件很“不酷”的事情了,越来越多人站出来说,中国比生活在新加坡都市的我们更时尚。

但在比较个人的层面,它们对我来说是一种催化剂。当主流中的一个群体说,拥抱“华人身份”——不论这是指中国还是说新加坡式的华人身份,这给人一种保证和确定感。

虽然在这场发掘现代中国的复杂层面和细微特质的行动中,我成了迟来者,而且我直到进入大学才开始通过书本和纪录片来了解中国,但我想,亡羊补牢,为时不晚吧。

美籍华人记者张彤和撰写的《工厂女孩——在变迁的中国,从农村走向城市》,还有中国导演范立欣的《归途列车》让我看到在现代中国的洪流中,那些充满鲜明复杂性的生活,还有在这个恢弘的国度,不同人群具有如此不同的面貌。

与此同时,这些也让我对自身的根源更加好奇,也促使我去阅读英培安等新加坡华文作家的英文译本。这些作品以本地视角讲述历史发展,也更贴近我的生活。

这本书介绍了上海长乐路居民的生活日常,是袁昕的朋友在听说她喜欢看有关中国的书籍后,赠给她的。

虽然有些人可能认为,拥抱华族文化是一个崛起中的大国对新加坡的另一种文化殖民,但我觉得,已经独立53年的新加坡已经形成了自己的独特基因,它让我们难以被任何区域强国所拉拢。

毕竟,有些新加坡华人甚至将中国人视为不同的种族。国家教育学院讲师杨沛东在2013年的一篇文章中指出,一些新加坡华人指出对中国人的偏见是一种“种族歧视”。他说,这体现出新一代新加坡华人在看待中国来客时,认为自己和他们是截然不同且有一定距离感的两种人。

如今,我已经不再为自己的名字感到难为情了。“昕”是黎明的意思,或指早上的晨光,而这个只有两个字的名字也让我体会到一种简洁之美。比起每天要被人和这个岛国上成千上万的“Cheryl”或“Andrea”混淆,我会更想要一个独一无二的名字。

或许有一天,当我终于踏上中国的土地,这个名字甚至能带给我一些社会资本。

袁昕
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