Perceptions and Destinations

“BEIJING PEOPLE are very warm-hearted. In Beijing (北京), I saw people treat beggars not only to food but also to old clothes,” one said. Someone else added: “Shanghainese (上海人), though, are money-seeking. In Shanghai, once I asked somebody for direction and was lead to my destination, but I was charged for the privilege...”

This conversation, which is the opening of a fictional novel, takes place in a train station waiting hall where it is overheard by two rural migrant workers. Two migrant workers determined to search for a new career in Beijing and Shanghai respectively. On hearing this dialogue while waiting for the train, they both had a change of heart, arousing a dramatic change in their destinations. The one who wanted to go to Shanghai suddenly thought: “Shanghai is such a difficult place, and Beijing sounds so friendly. As a newcomer, even if I could not find a job, I would probably not be starved there”. While the one who wanted to go to Beijing thought: “In Shanghai you can make money even by giving a person directions, it would be impossible to fail to earn money there!” So they decide to exchange their tickets. The story ends with the one who went to Shanghai becoming an entrepreneur, and the one who went to Beijing becoming a beggar.

I read this story 20 years ago and I was so deeply impressed with and inspired by how much one’s perception directs one’s destination. From that moment on, I have especially enjoyed observing different people’s perceptions of the same facts or information and I always try to perceive one thing from different perspectives. I have gotten so much joy and inspiration from that. It is actually one of my missions and one of the reasons for my initiative to share various perspectives on China via Global China Insights.

I have conducted a number of interviews with different people for this issue, and many times I just could not help but think about the story, and I was impressed by a lot of my interviewees’ insightful perceptions: Mr. Daan Roosegaarde perceived the smog of Beijing as an opportunity for his business in China, and he achieved an innovative solution for the project (Feature interview); Mr. Huang Nubo (黄怒波) equated entrepreneurship to climbing a mountain as one needs to challenge the uncertainty during the process (Business China); Mrs. Xia Hua (夏华) was determined to renovate the men’s clothing field when other people competed in lady’s costumes and did not think there would be any demand for men’s fashion in China (Made in China).

I believe it is an art in life to perceive things from different angles because it provides people with an open vision to many possibilities and directions. If you follow a new direction, you might suddenly become aware of it and take the appropriate action: a rewarding destination might be waiting for you. In that sense, we can say that perceptions determine destinations.

Liu Jingyi