In the course of the ongoing mass immigration, the question of integration has been raised by everyone: Politicians, journalists and also the regulars in the bar puzzle over, talk about and discuss how the hundreds of thousands of Afghans, Ethiopians, Algerians, Bosniaks, Eritreans, Iraqis, Moroccans, Serbs, Syrians, Pakistanis and everyone else on a pilgrimage to the German welfare handouts can best be ‘integrated’ into Germany. To be honest, what this ubiquitous word is actually supposed to mean is not quite clear to me.
The idea is, apparently, that the immigrants who are hiding behind the veil of the right to asylum should learn the language, acquire German culture, celebrate the same festivals, learn the history of the country, possibly even talk about the German drinking culture and thereby finally become good, perhaps even better ‘Germans.’ At the same time, of course, they should retain as much of their own culture as possible and introduce it into the new emerging society. After all, Germany is being ‘enriched’ by this very fact, at least that’s what the social engineers in the unified parties, the brought-into-line editorial offices and the countless statist think tanks say.
Now, I am also – among other things – a refugee. More precisely, an economic refugee. I went to Asia about four years ago. I quit my employment, gave up my accommodation and, on the day of departure, duly deregistered my residence and myself from the Federal Republic of Germany. I had decided to take this step because I was fed up. I didn't want to have to pay any more taxes for a corrupt regime that would use them to support torture prisons in foreign countries, protect criminal banks from bankruptcy, let bad criminals go sailing in the Caribbean for the purpose of resocialization, to finance left-wing thugs directly, and right-wing thugs indirectly through the ‘Verfassungsschutz’ Intelligence Agency. Furthermore, I didn’t want to keep paying into a pension system from which I would, at most, receive a bowl of soup, should I ever reach the mystical retirement age.
The fact that I ended up in China is due to love – in two ways. First of all, my love for Chinese cuisine and then – more importantly – the love for my wife, who is called ‘Little Happiness.’ I also owe to my Little Happiness my permanent residence permit in the Middle Kingdom. And the ‘permanent’ is relative and tied to the duration of our marriage. Should ‘Little Happiness’ one day no longer be mine, I could face expulsion.
Seen from these vantage points, I have a lot in common with immigrants coming to Germany. Like me, they're looking for a better life. In contrast to me, however, they believe they can find that better life in Germany.
What also distinguishes us, is the way we were received. They were officially invited by the German federal government with the approval of the official opposition. The population – at least parts of it – gave them an enthusiastic reception with balloons, teddy bears and cakes at the train stations and did not hesitate to make the beds for the much-traveled young men. No one invited me, except my wife. My arrival at the airport was not acclaimed by anyone except my wife. Nobody makes my bed, not even my wife.
Above all, however, the Chinese state has a rather different attitude towards me than the German one towards its asylum seekers. The latter provides housing, pocket money and medical care for the newcomers. Teachers of German, psychologists and cultural advisors are there to ensure that the ‘new citizens’ are integrated as soon as possible.
Nobody cared about my integration, and nobody is bothered by it. Yes, even the idea that (western) foreigners should integrate into China would seem quite strange to the Chinese. The fact that a foreigner could speak their language, which is not easy to learn, seems unimaginable to most of them. It is also almost impossible to delve into the subtleties of the almost 5,000 year-old culture, to understand the subtle hints and ambiguities, to raise the tea cup to a level commensurate with the status of the person opposite, or to comprehend, let alone to imitate correctly, the implicit cycle of celebrations and behaviors during the 14-day spring festival.
At least I speak Mandarin. After a fashion. But I can communicate and get along. I have some Chinese friends, am polite and friendly, but ‘integrated’ I am not. I will always be a foreigner.
Integration is therefore neither encouraged nor required. However, there were three things I was asked to do: First of all, in order to apply for my residence permit, I had to take an extensive health test, which of course I had to pay for out of my own pocket. An HIV, TBC or hepatitis C infection would have resulted in my being quarantined and subsequently deported – also at my own expense. At the same time as I received my residence permit, I was given a list of the facts that would inevitably lead to its repeal. Criminal acts of any kind were at the top of this list. Every criminal offence means deportation, but this may only be carried out after a corresponding period of imprisonment. Thirdly, not quite a week after the residence permit was issued, the tax collectors rang my doorbell. Though my small company is based in Hong Kong, and so the taxation of my income does not fall under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic, the residence permit was implicitly accompanied by registration as a permanent resident of an apartment, and in China the tenants pay the taxes on the respective rental income of the landlord directly themselves.
Now I don’t want to promote the tax state here. But China's approach seems more logical to me. The country considers the practical aspects of immigration: the possible consequences for the health system, internal security and tax revenue. The cost-benefit analysis is all that counts. This is more auspicious than the discussion of any kind of integration, which depends on the good will of at least two sides and is therefore, at the end of the day, hardly calculable.
Translated from eigentümlich frei, where the original article was published on 21st February 2016.