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The “smart” Chinese

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By Leonardi Paramitha | | Updated: Mar 22, 2023

[Indonesia] Leonardi Paramitha, Zhejiang University of Science and Technology

Because our forebears were Chinese, we are called “Chinese” by the native Indonesians and so I do believe I am. The native Indonesians usually think Chinese people “smart” because there are many successful Indonesian Chinese entrepreneurs in Indonesia. After I arrived in China, I’d like to find out how smart the Chinese are. Having lived in China for some time, I reckon that the Chinese people are “diligent” and “clear-minded.”

Leonardi Paramitha [Photo provided to]

Achievement is Due to Diligence

With the aim to explore China’s history, culture and tradition, I came and studied at Zhejiang University of Science and Technology (ZUST), where I’ve met many classmates from both China and across the world. Day by day, I gradually witnessed the “diligence” of my Chinese classmates.

Let me explain you why. At my Chinese class I learned a Chinese proverb, “Achievement is founded on diligence and wasted upon recklessness.” I didn’t really understand its meaning until I stepped in the library at the end of the semester, where Chinese students have occupied almost all the seats, reading and studying devotedly. I asked one of my classmates, “Why are there so many students in the library today?” She replied, “It is just another ordinary day. If you came late, you wouldn’t find a seat.” I couldn’t believe it. The next day I came there at 8 o’clock and found it almost full.

Sunset at West Lake in Hangzhou [Photo provided to]

Everyone studied there all day long until the closing time. Then I told my mom and dad that the Chinese students here studied really hard and devotedly, so they got good scores. They were quite self-driven for their own courses.

Later, some Chinese store owners further enlightened me of the meaning of the proverb. When I wandered around the Donghe Apartment building at 3:00 am, I noticed that many owners were already setting up for business that day. Some breakfast snack shop owners were preparing foods, some supermarket staff were piling up goods, and some were tidying up their stores. I had no idea what they were doing and wondered why they didn’t wait until 6:00 am then open at 8:00 am. One day I asked one of the owners, he said, “Then it’ll be too late, students go to class at 8:00 am, but many working people have to catch bus at 7:00 am.” Until then did I realize that many working people had worked even harder than us students. Back in Indonesia, many elders often told me the diligence of Chinese, and they said, “Chinese people had experienced tough times, they had lived through poverty and crises, without basic food and clothing. Although most Chinese people nowadays are enjoying stable income and sufficient materials, they are still being diligent and working hard every day for a better tomorrow.”


Before coming to China, I’ve read many books about China, and was impressed by one phrase: the “hard-working and simple Chinese people.” What exactly does simple mean? Does it mean plain clothes, food, or living? I guess none of them. More exactly, it means a pure heart! I see the pure heart and open mind of the Chinese people in their daily lives.

Zhejiang University of Science and Technology [Photo provided to]

When I visited Hangzhou for the first time, I was immediately fascinated by the urban environment of this modern and high-tech city – wide avenues and sidewalks with scenic surroundings, a contrast to that of my home country. As most populous countries do, Indonesia has a terrible environment, except its capital. Being a big city, Hangzhou is neither China’s capital, nor as international as Shanghai or Beijing, while it enjoys terrific environment. The ZUST Anji campus, where I study, is even better. With fresh air, blossoming flowers and chirping birds, it is a perfect example of the ecological call that “Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.” I am so happy to be here. Seeing crowds on roads and campus, I realized that that Chinese people have been pursuing the harmonious co-existence of human beings and nature, instead of paying attention only on rapid economic development. The pursuit of preserved nature and that of quality life are the purest internal pursuits of a better future.

Having lived in China for a while, I’ve found two interesting phenomena. One is that Chinese people are getting fonder of electric vehicles, including electric buses, cars and motorcycles. The other is that Chinese people prefer walking and cycling more, especially riding those shared bikes. China has implemented a series of policies encouraging public transportation and electric cars, which are warmly echoed by my Chinese classmates and teachers. They say, “We prefer walk if not far; if it’s a bit farther, we ride shared bikes; if it’s far, we take public transportation.” In this way they have reduced the transportation pollution and practiced green travel. I hope that my country would follow suit and take actions, instead of just learning knowledge from books. Good environment means more than planting trees and flowers. For cities with advanced technology, we should think how to use modern technology to facilitate people to manage the environment actively and conveniently. In my opinion, most Chinese cities have done a good job in this regard. The Chinese government and Chinese people have been making efforts together for the mankind’s better future.

Zhejiang University of Science and Technology [Photo provided to]

Far from my hometown, family and friends, I’ve been studying in China by myself. However, I did not feel lonely. Instead, I have so many things to do and to learn. Every day is full of surprises. In his letter replying to the international students at Peking University, President Xi Jinping said, “Seeing is believing. You are welcome to go around China and learn a real China. Please share your ideas and experiences here to more people and play an active role in strengthening friendship between peoples.” Studying in China, not only have I witnessed the social development and humaneness of China, but also made many hardworking and humble Chinese friends. Studying in China is one of the most precious experiences of my life. Back to my home country, I would never forget my growth in China and would share my wonderful experiences here with my friends. Long live the friendship between China and Indonesia!

The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).