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When A Billion Chinese Jump

By Chip Tsao | Mar 03, 2011

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If you are attracted to the eye-catching title of a new book by a British Beijing correspondent—“When A Billion Chinese Jump—How China Will Save Mankind, Or Destroy It”—and are feeling itchy to know the answer without buying the book and reading it through, just board a cruise ship at Ocean Terminal.

Unlike the Portuguese, the Dutch or the British, we Chinese have not been an historically sea-faring people. Life on a cruise ship, no matter how brief the journey is, seems somewhat like a big carefree confusion. European cruise liner companies have learned with pain after all these years that small and second-rate cruise ships without individual balconies are best for the Far Eastern market as Chinese customers will have the best chance of avoiding spittle landing on their heads from another compatriot admiring the view above him. And the smaller the swimming pool is, the less area for Chinese passengers to hang up their laundry on the edge, which is considered a daily norm.

Most needless to mention, rushing for the buffet table three times a day is as spectacular a scene as the notorious takeover of Triangle Hill in the Korean War in 1952, a battle we Chinese all feel proud of. No wonder the Dutch or Italian cruise liner management has quietly reduced the quality of the meals to something close to fodder. With the price tag pushing some HK$6,000 for a cruise journey these days, that is fair enough.

I have seen purse-proud Chinese customers insisting on playing mahjong in their cabin with their relatives rather than in the card room, ordering the manager and waiters, after a big quarrel, to dismantle the door to fit the oversized mahjong table into the room. Three years ago, there were Chinese dealers (you can always tell their nationalities by the small flag pin they wear on the lapel) working the casino tables for the purpose of explaining blackjack rules in Mandarin and Cantonese. Rumors have it that Chinese dealers collaborated with their own countryman passengers to cheat via a coded language—if the next card was an ace, for example, the dealer would say something like “what a nice day today” or “let’s build a harmonious society,” so that the customer would know when to split or double down—all without the knowledge of the smiling Caucasian supervisor sitting next to him.

The dealers have since been replaced with poker-faced Filipinos who can guarantee justice. I don’t know how much the cruise companies lost over this. When a few Chinese board for a five-day-four-night journey and cheat with their compatriot dealers on a cruise ship casino, it won’t destroy the world, just a cruise-liner company, be it a budget operator or the Queen Elizabeth II.

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