93 - Consideration


Man walks out of a sidestreet, pulling a small cart on wheels. He makes no effort to look to see if he will obstruct someone else’s progress. This is China.

Car driver wants a parking space and sees a possible gap in roadside parking; brakes and turns—but makes no attempt to look in mirror at any time. This is China.

Judging from the dictionary, xin1 yan3 is the right Chinese for this. However, the lady wife says that describing someone thus is a shade critical, more like self-serving, but perhaps philosophical; she used phrases like “someone who thinks too much” and “old fox”. Comment from other Mandarin speakers welcome, please. In my own interpretation of the concept, it seems to encompass a loss of face, but I am having difficulty persuading my Chinese friends to discuss it—which, to my mind, confirms that there is a face problem with the subject. The boss says guan1 xin1 or guan1 ai4 is much nearer her idea of considerate and consideration.
Yet, in Britain (and, by extension, Europe and the west) being considerate is the essence of good behaviour. Britain has extensive common law establishing that the footway is a place with a right of passage, so obstructing it is an offence (both offensive and against the law). So, if you run a hostelry and you think the weather is good enough to support you having tables & chairs al fresco on the pavement, you either need to prove that pavement is yours or you need a special permission to use it (and quite possibly both). In China, you simply take the space. So where in Britain an obstruction of the right of way is a fundamental issue—at the basis of the society—it is not so in China.

Qingdao is having its annual Beer Festival. For many years the festival has used the ‘Beer City’ site and there has always been discussion about moving the site to free up what is clearly prime land for other uses. This year, the 22nd festival (so we might assume it has run since 1980) the site has moved. Unfortunately, it has moved a whole kilometre nearer us.

Shown here; red is old site, green is new site, yellow pin is where we live.
The blue roof inside a green edge is the Hai’er Museum and is excluded from the new site. Hai’er makes white goods, as do Hisense, also local.

Relating back to the previous paragraph, all around the new Beer Festival site there are opportunists selling things from carts—food, trinkets, hats, T-shirts. There is no apparent control of this behaviour and that in turn highlights the capitalist (opportunist) society found here.

By being closer, so the noise is louder. We realise we’re better off than if we’d stayed in the old flat on the outer edge of the estate. The noise cuts off at 22:45 on a weekday and we have no idea when it stops on a weekend. The noise starts again around 08:30. The noise levels are intrusive, akin to a music festival in Britain. The nearest edge is mostly fairground, which was on the northern third of the old site. The festival seems to me to have a smaller footprint overall. The northern rectangle is on the roof of our local supermarket (Lida, or Leader) [I like the dictionary suggesting that this might be li4 da4, big profit, but the boss tells me it is li4 da2, ‘beautiful attain(ment)’ or perhaps ‘beautiful dignity’. I prefer my version, but she says that would be Dali, not Lida. This rectangle is devoted to Qingdao beer (TsingTao as in the top pic if you’re buying it away from here) and the space has been operating for sales of drink and food since late April—it is forecast to close in October, when it’ll be too cold to sit & eat outside. The southern edge of this smaller space has a stage backed by a large LED screen (which could have been double-sided) and huge speaker towers. The long thin southern rectangle is then the Other Beers section, where ‘other’ seems to mean mainly German. Given that the typical capacity for beer of any sort is low and that the glasses are large (like the prices, in my view), the whole thing is a bit of a nonsense. The only good I can see coming form this is that the nearby watering holes will drop their prices to entice you in. Bear in mind that Qingdao beer is 3 or 4 yuan per 330ml bottle if you buy in quantity, and ¥15-20 in a lounge environment. Foreign beer could be ¥50 quite easily and especially so if genuine foreign beer. You can imagine how annoyed I am that ‘draft’ TsingTao beer comes in bottles; even some of my American friends recognise ‘draught’ as meaning not bottled.
None of this festival would be possible in Britain for any length of time due to what I would here call laws of consideration (for the peace of others). Here, the consideration is in the other sense¹ and I have been convinced that sums of money must have changed hands ‘to make the problem go away’. Meanwhile we suffer; the festival began on 11th August (liars; we’ve had partying continuously since June, but that may have been the TsingTao area being over-loud) and runs for two weeks. I expect they mean three.

Please can we have the UK 1974 Noise Abatement Act made valid in China?2

Consideration? Being considerate? Basically, it is as foreign an idea in China as planning is. This is confusing for students in Britain, where the promotion of a considerate society is a fundament of most schools’ mission statements; it is confusing for Chinese (and perhaps I should write Asian) students that what they consider absolutely normal behaviour be a cause for concern when they move to the west. It is confusing for my Chinese friends who agree with the lady wife that the concept of consideration translates as something slightly selfish and generally socially uncomfortable.

I hope this provokes response from readers, [5 years later, it still hasn’t] so that I might record reaction and change. I am not expressing opinion here as much as I am expressing observation  and what I have been given to understand from making (oral) observation of what I (think I) have seen.

DJS 210120814

Pictures show some of the sights common to both sites. The mermaid has transferred sites, as have the big barrels. Having your beer in a bag does not mean the bottle goes in a brown bag, it means the beer goes straight into a plastic bag.

Whether you then pour it into a cup or glass is up to you; portable and potable.


1 Law of contract: a contract exists if there is Offer, Agreement and Consideration. Consideration is an (often one-way) exchange of value consequent upon the content of the agreement. Rarely, there is no need for consideration, in which cases (I generalise) a deed (of covenant) replaces that element.

2 Control of Pollution Act [COPA] 1974, Section 62 ‘Noise in Streets’.


© David Scoins 2017