I was in Beijing for some work in late 2013.
Stayed at the Swissotel Hotel for five days.
It was early winter and there was a bit of snow falling at some parts of the city every other nights.
I didn't really like the place.
It was cold and I was bored and missing home. It was the last leg of my trip to China at that time.
The only really pleasant memory I have of that hotel was when I was smoking with my Indonesian and Filipino colleagues at a corner near the main entrance of the building.
It was our routine to hang out there several times a day for smoking sessions.
The no smoking regulation was strictly enforced at the hotel.
The corner where we smoked was also a bit sheltered from the strong cold winter wind.
The three of us enjoyed our little chit chats, especially when it involved bad mouthing our communist Chinese hosts.
They were our little bitching sessions.
Sometimes, another colleague from Vietnam who didn't smoke join us just to express his displeasure.
He claimed that the Vietnamese communists were nicer than the Chinese communists, which for me was a very hilarious thing to say.
The guy was the oldest and funniest in our gang.
Our complaints were nothing really serious though.
Difficult Internet access, overzealous government officials, not very friendly hotel staff etc.
Actually, I didn't mind the whole thing so much.
And our Chinese hosts actually tried their best to make us comfortable.
It's just that our standard of comfort was a little bit higher than theirs, I guess.
And maybe it was partly because things were starting to get a little bit tense at South China Sea at that time where the Chinese navy was flexing its muscle over the disputed territorial claims there.
Then there was this very tall and handsome young Chinese official who tried to be friendly with me.
Whenever he saw me alone at the hotel lobby or restaurant, he would sit with me and asked me questions about Malaysia.
He was particularly interested about the Chinese community in Malaysia.
I told him the truth, of course.
Despite several policies which seemed to favour the Malays and bumiputera ethnic groups, the Chinese community is the most prosperous and advance in almost everything.
And I told him that Malaysia is the only country other than China which have a proper Chinese school system.
In his context, China includes the mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
He was impressed.
These are his exact words which I remember very well,
"That's very tolerant of your government. Do the Chinese in your country appreciate it?"
I hesitated for a few seconds before saying "Yes".
I hesitated because it was just several months after the Chinese tsunami of 2013 general election.
Despite my inclination at that moment to say "No", I didn't, because it's not right to give the impression to a foreigner that we, Malaysians were so racially divided.
For better or worse, we are all Malaysians and we need to settle the problems among ourselves without letting outsiders' interference.
We simply have to do it that way or otherwise we would likely perish and Malaysia as we knew it may cease to exist.