Joe doesn’t like sports.  Joe doesn’t like girls.  Joe doesn’t like people in general.  Truth be told, Joe has little to no interest in anything except computer games.  In an attempt to get Joe more engaged with the process of learning English, I’ve recently turned to assignments that involve Joe writing about his life; his friends, his family, his home, etc.  These painful conversations usually consist of me asking Joe what he thinks about any given subject, China for instance, and him responding with, “I don’t know,” a phase I regretfully taught Joe during one of our first lessons.  I then go on to ask simple leading questions such as “Is China big or small?  Beautiful or ugly?  Modern or traditional?”  At which he responds with yet another, “I don’t know.”

Joe is an only son.  Joe’s father is an only son.  Joe’s grandfather is, you guessed it, an only son, and while the vast majority of Chinese people born after 1980 are only-children (there are infringements of the one-child policy but they are few and far between), it’s relatively unheard to have three generations in a row of only sons.  Coupled with the fact that Joe’s parents are relatively wealthy compared to most Chinese, Joe is perhaps the worst case of “little emperor” syndrome I’ve come across in China.

Joe is street smart, very much so.  I recently invited Joe and a few Chinese friends who speak English out for dinner in the hopes that our conversation would induce a desire in him to join the conversation.  The plan backfired, as Joe quickly became the life of the party, dolling out cups of beer and expensive cigarettes, cracking jokes about his bitchy math teacher, and altogether carrying on the conversation, most of which I couldn’t understand because it was all in Chinese.

Joe is a terrible student; according to my friend Tony, perhaps the worst in his class.  He has no hope of passing the multiple examinations needed to move on to the next stages in the Chinese education system, and yet because of his father’s position in the government, as no need to.  Joe’s father will use his ‘guanxi,’ or connections, to ensure that Joe moves on to the next stage of the education system despite his poor scores.  When Joe is finished with his education, he will most likely be provided with a high paying government job, of which he will never be fired from regardless of whether or not he does a good job.

Joe is the embodiment of what the vast majority of hardworking young Chinese students resent about the present state of Chinese society, where the population, economic growth, and socioeconomic gap creates an atmosphere of ultra competitiveness.  Joe is the beneficiary of what we in the Western world, an increasingly in China, would define as corruption.  Joe’s favorite English word is “fuck,” of which he uses at least a hundred times per lesson.  Joe and his class are in the fifth level of English studies, and he routinely forgets how to say the English alphabet.  In his own words, Joe doesn’t, “give a fuck.”