Of Americans and their Chinese debt
I recently watched a documentary about China and had to laugh at one of the interviews. “They should pay us back what they owe us!” a middle aged Chinese woman remarked while sweeping the front part of her house. “We don’t live beyond our means like they do!” she continued in a contemptuous tone while her companions smiled coyly in that special way only known to Asians. I immediately sat up. It was clear who she was talking about. The United States of America. Oh, how times change!
One of my most memorable memories growing up in Kenya was our collective obsession with America and the American twang. Anyone who spoke with a twang immediately got our attention. People instantly assumed that they were well off, better educated, cool and all those adjectives that imply some kind of superiority. What followed then was that anyone who went to the states, even those who only had a stopover on their way to Timbuktu came back with a twang. An acquaintance of mine who to the best of my knowledge had never been able to string two sentences in English together stunned us on arrival from her three month visit to the great USA. She had metamorphosed into an American with a drawl most residents of Alabama would be proud of. To top it all, she had managed to forget her brilliant sheng and most things Kenyan!
If the American accent was what most Kenyans wanted to associate themselves with, the Indian accent had the exact opposite effect. I have never met a Kenyan speaking with an Indian accent. This is despite the fact that very many Kenyans have studied and continue to study in Indian universities.
Change of world order?
This fascination with America is however not limited to Kenya. Here in Germany, things come to a standstill whenever there are American elections or anything big happening in America. News, TV talk shows, radio are all usually flooded with Americans and American stuff. One can sense the awe and the respect that America generates in this part of the world. I have been asking myself if this party is about to end. Are we about to witness a world where ni hao is the coolest thing one can know? I somehow doubt it.