As the Chinese New Year draws near, EastLondonLines took to the streets to find out what local Chinese residents hoped the particularly auspicious year of the dragon would bring to China.
“What I really want is for China to be more democratic,” says Chun Yang. “Perhaps this sounds unrealistic, but I am 23 years old, and I haven’t voted once in my life. I never hear about how and where I can vote, and no-one wants to talk about it.”
Yang, a Goldsmiths student studying a Master’s in Media and Communications is just one of many students and residents living in east London who hope this year will not only be a particularly lucky year, but one that will bring many changes to China.
The year of the dragon is believed to bring good fortune, prosperity, and independence throughout the coming year. According to Singapore news site, Straits Times, the year of the dragon is also expected to bring a baby boom, for many Chinese people regard having a ‘dragon baby’ as especially lucky.
The opinions of local residents showed a distinct divide in perspectives, not only between university students, but also between students and local residents.
While Nancy Lan, 23, from Lewisham and waitress at Fishy Business in Brockley, hoped for “society to become more stable, and for the economy to get better,” Freddie Fei Wang, 25, Goldsmiths student studying Image and Communication, favoured a more conservative perspective: “I wish for there to be no more complaints from Chinese people about their own country,” he said.
Many Chinese students opted for rather Eurocentric and perhaps ideological changes to the running of China, including: the right to speak out without worry, more educational and economic development, and the right for every Chinese citizen to benefit fully from the medical system.
However, there were also other rather unexpected suggestions, including calling for recycling schemes to be organized in rural areas, and hoping for Chinese people to be more willing to donate their organs – a wish that is unlikely to come to pass due to religious and mythological beliefs that are embedded in Chinese culture, where one’s body must not be damaged after death for fear that something bad will happen in the afterlife – yet it is still an intriguing wish.
But where opinions differed most, were the thoughts of Chinese residents who had left China to reside in England, and who had therefore loosened their connection with their homeland.
Ying Miao, 36, works at Tian Fu Supermarket in Deptford and moved to England over eight years ago to search for work. She said: “I don’t wish for more power, but for the right to speak to the whole world on what is best for China. Many countries have some opinions of China, some right and some not. I hope we will have the right to choose what happens this year.”
The idea that ‘China knows best’, contradicts the views put forward by other students and residents who have only recently moved to England, and seem to see China in a different light.
However, what is really called to our attention, is the way thoughts are affected by how individuals choose to identify themselves – for one resident, this could not be more true.
Ngoc Ma, 40, who is half Chinese and Vietnamese, and a shop assistant at Viet Hao Supermarket in Deptford told ELL that he was unable to comment on what he would like to see happen in China this year because he no longer identifies himself with his Asian roots.
“I have lived in England for 30 years now, so it is hard to say because this is my home” he said. “I don’t look back at China or Vietnam as my home, because I have been here too long. This is where I was brought up, and where I spent my childhood.
“For me personally, I wish for luck, prosperity, good health, and that everything will work out in the New Year.”