EVERYWHERE in our great world Chinese people are to be found. When I was a college student at the University of Wyoming at Laramie in 1979 there was a wonderful Chinese family restaurant in that Wild West town.
The food was delicious, not expensive, and the daughter was shy and beautiful. I can still picture her in my mind to this day 31 years later.
In Santiago, Chile, in 1997 I enjoyed another Chinese restaurant – this time among the Spanish-speaking Chinese – and the food was prepared with fresh South American ingredients.
In 2006 I traveled from Rangoon to Lashio in the north of Myanmar and there, a superb Chinese chef cooked for me a memorable supper of simple elegance, with fresh green beans, garlic chicken, chili and eggplant. This man loved giving me the best possible plate of nourishment his high art form could muster. You could see in his face that he was proud of what he had prepared.
Many times in China during the 1990s I was the only foreigner they had seen in a long time, in rural Guangdong Province – and one time in that most beautiful of Chinese places – Suzhou – and again the shy beautiful daughter of a Chinese family rushed around to make sure I was comfortable and the family smiled and made me feel welcome as they served the best food they could.
No matter your skin color or nationality; no matter where you are in the world, Chinese people will make you feel welcome and you will be provided with good food. This is a characteristic of Chinese people – and it is not the directive of the Peoples Republic of China – rather it is a pattern of behavior and cultural tradition handed down for 5,000 years.
These are the eternal characteristics of the Chinese people and they are worthy of our notice and praise. Here in Phnom Penh as the development of Cambodia happens before our eyes, Chinese people are playing important roles in the funding of infrastructure projects from power stations to special economic zones.
So while there is a palpable commonality about Chinese politeness and hospitality wherever you go in the world, the Chinese people are so varied and so diverse that it is sometimes hard to believe their ancestors originated from the same Middle Kingdom.
Take a man from Liaoning Province and compare his speech and behavior with a man from Guangdong Province. Not only is the language they speak completely different, but the dress code and the attitudes are too. Thus under the common umbrella of Chineseness – we have the full spectrum of uniqueness.
Yet there is a glue that holds this vast cross-section of humanity in concert – and that is a respect for one’s family, for one’s elders and the kind of universal acceptance I’ve found, even though I’m not Chinese, everywhere in the world. Here in Phnom Penh, the Chinese are important whether they are Khmer-Chinese, like some of the powerful local families – or the Malaysian Chinese who run the Chinese language Sin Chew Daily Newspaper. Malaysian Chinese particularly have made Cambodia a priority for the expansion of business – and a good thing too because Malaysia has a highly developed, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural successful economy that can offer real gifts to emerging Cambodia.
Or the Hong Kong and Macau Chinese who are here employing Cambodians in the garment trade. These are some of the sharpest businessmen in the world who polished their skills when Hong Kong and Macau served as China’s windows to the world.
And the newly arrived people from China looking to connect their companies between Cambodia and the mainland and enjoy the growth as Cambodia develops. It is also important to understand what China is.
The world’s largest country in population, China has more than 1.3 billion people, more than four times the population of the United States, which has 310 million people.
For the simple moral reason that we’re all members of the human family and because China has a time-honored civilization, we owe China our respect, no matter who we are and where we’re from.
Implicit in the respect that we give to China and the Chinese people, what ever nation we come from, is respect that we may also expect to receive.
The global Lim Clan, for example, through their reach into every feature of the Earth’s landscape – because a common Lim characteristic is that of a respected professional – will be a powerful force for goodwill, a stabilising force that helps balance the desires of the nation-states where these 75 million Lims call home: The United States, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and every other country in the world.
Thank you, all 75 million members of the Lim clan, not just for what you’ve done up to now, but for the force you will become for the promotion of balance, brotherhood, kindness and family values in the years to come.