Wary Observer

Month 2 down. It’s time to take stock.

Things made in China do not say, “Made Around the Corner.” Dogs run around, unleashed, beside their owners, and they maintain a reasonable proximity to passerby traffic. Despite their small size—poodles are popular here—they do not bark or try to intimidate like the poodles and Chihuahuas back in the US. The price of winter coats goes down during the fall, not up like in the US; I chalk that up as a victory for the socialist part of China’s socialist market economy. Gratuity is factored into the final price and every restaurant, including McDonald’s and KFC, will clean up after you. The metro system is fast, clean, and routinely cramped, sometimes to the point of bursting, on which occasion you have no choice but to wait for the next train and hope for better luck. Apartments reign supreme in Nanjing, so I have no idea what houses look like in China. Life hasn’t been very different from living in the US, save for the obvious language transposition. Oh, and I’m much closer to North Korea now.

Despite the enjoyment I derive from headlines, every now and then the near-constant stream of catastrophes and military buildups around the world begins to wear me down and demands I find reprieve. Turkey is clamping down on journalists; Russian ships have arrived in Syria; Aleppo continues to burn; The Kurds and Iraqi military are moving on ISIS in Mosul; Anthony Weiner’s dick and the FBI threw another curveball at Hillary’s emails, and by association, her campaign; Trump rejoiced at the idea of Hillary’s imprisonment, his supporters continued to chant “Lock her up!”

The FBI found nothing.

Now we’re back to charges of voter fraud, evidence for voter intimidation, and continuous claims of rigged elections. Vote because it matters. Don’t vote because it doesn’t matter. We’re back to hyperbole and doomsday prophecies, the latter more typical than the former around election season, and the former more apparent in our everyday lives, which is concerning. Hillary can’t be the Antichrist because God is sexist and only men can be the Antichrist.

Though I’m on a different continent, not even I am spared the drama of this election season, thanks to the internet and globalization. Other foreign teachers ask me what is going on, or what the latest events over the weekend were in the US, when I see them again on Monday. I have no shortage of material with which to update my fellow curious expatriates, everything in between illogical Facebook diatribes and carefully sourced news stories. I no longer preface updates with “Can you believe?” because everything that may have, at one point, been considered unbelievable, is now remarkable in its believability—how could Trump NOT have called Obama the founder of ISIS? How could Clinton not talk specifics behind closed doors to bankers and fling slogans at the podium to regular people? Why would we expect to find anything but the buildup of American grime, ready to be exposed by Wikileaks, ahem, Russian agents, of course.

I am much closer to North Korea, by the way.

This is a point worth repeating because, while there may be incidents of riots or protests at the wake of the election, I am currently in a country that is ready to challenge America’s regional hegemony. Regardless of a Clinton or Trump presidency, I suspect China will not change paths, though I expect to see a more aggressive China with a Trump presidency, since he has signaled his intent to withdraw from the region and back away from our traditional allies, if the rent is not raised. Island-building and claims to the South China Sea would continue undeterred, with South Korea and Japan staring down China, in effect trying to measure how far it’s willing to go. China could more easily sidestep the sanctions on North Korea, giving the leprous nation a sorely needed economic boost. If this would come at the expense of curbing North Korea’s nuclear development is not clear, since America’s involvement in the region and its backing of regional allies currently acts as leverage against further nuclear development. Contingency plans dealing with North Korea’s collapse might see China’s absorption of the region, rather than a reunification of the Koreas.

That’s all hypothetical. All I know is that I’m much closer to North Korea.

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