China Town in Egypt
Farah Yousry Mowafy 900081265 JRMC 471 Blog Post#1 16/10/2011 From Flirting to Hardcore Politics With Kainan Xinhua’s take on Jan. 25 Wang Kainan, is no average Chinese. Selling colorful, shimmering gold and silver jewelry laden with gems and stones off a wooden cart in Cairo’s biggest shopping mall, City Stars, Kainan was prepared to show me ‘peautiful’ jewelry when I approached his cart. As he was helping me look at the jewelry, he said to his partner, “ta hen mei! Shen tai hao! ” Little did Kainan know that I understood he was saying that “[I’m] pretty and [have] a nice body”. “Zhen de ma?
Xie xie ni! (Really? Thank you)” I said laughingly. “O…,” was Kainan’s response, as he was utterly startled and embarrassed to the point of blushing! As soon as he comprehended the situation, I changed the topic and asked him about the price of an item. Then I tried picking up a conversation and asked him where he lives in Cairo to suspend the awkwardness. “I live in Ma’adi,” Kainan said. “My life in Ma’adi is a lot better than my life back in China. ” The fact that Kainan made a negative remark, even if mild, about China to a stranger like me is surprising given that “Chi fan le ma? which means, “Have you eaten” is the Chinese people’s way of greeting each other. For them, politics and religion are out of bounds, so they always choose to talk about a topic that would cause no schisms; food! I chose to attribute Kainan’s courage to his candidacy and ruthlessness rather than to his attempts at seeking redemption for commenting on my body in Chinese. Kainan is one among 60,000- 100,000 Chinese people living in Egypt, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
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The Chinese population in Egypt is fairly diverse ranging from street vendors, door-to-door salesmen, chefs, engineers, construction workers and journalists at China’s renowned news agency, Xinhua. “What we saw during the times of the revolution in Egypt was not similar to what our relatives back in China knew,” Kainan explained. “We saw an uprising, a mass movement that was so powerful. However, in China people saw it as a ‘riot’. ” Kainan added that while knowing what their Egyptian brethren had achieved would not tempt the Chinese people to have another go in Tain an’men square, the Chinese government was “extra cautious”. We knew that the government prohibited that any news about Egypt would be taken from foreign sources,” Kainan said. “Xinhua was the only authorized source. ” Taking a look at the photos broadcast via the Chinese news agency, it becomes easier to comprehend why people in China see the Tahrir rallies and the uprising as a mere ‘riot’. Xinhua seems to have a bias towards photos of individual protestors, fires, chaos, destruction and dissipation. Almost no photos highlighted the peaceful nature of the protests or the huge numbers of young people united in Tahrir.
The co-existence between the army and the citizens was also not represented. (Photos courtesy of Xinhua) Jin Jun Xie, a reporter at Xinhua, Egypt, explained the Chinese government’s decision of authorizing Xinhua as the mere source on Egypt’s Tahrir events saying, “most of the Chinese population, even those in intellectual positions, do not have a good English language. Hence, it is safer and more accurate for the Chinese people to receive the news from someone reporting on the ground like Xinhua and not from some journalist with mediocre English translating a story off an American website. When Xie was addressed with the question of why Xinhua named the events in Egypt as ‘riots’ or ‘unrest’ rather than ‘uprising’ like its western counterparts and why in many stories, the agency highlighted that Egyptians are actually “anxious to end the protests and get back to their normal life,” she said that none of this was intended to gloss the reality or mislead Chinese readers. “It is just a different perspective,” Xie said. “Cultural and even linguistic differences play a role on how each school of journalism cover events. ” =Xie talks more to me about Xinhua’s history and its establishment in Egypt: Read more next blog post!