Public displays of affection can be awkward. Snogging lesbian teenagers on the Beijing subway may be something one wants to take a photo of and put on a social network site for the world to see. But the reality is you see this kind of thing in any big city in the world. Does the fact that this happened in Beijing make it more shocking, because of the conservatism and strict social control in China? Such a view is what gives Beijing its “gawk factor”, which basically means that a westerner in China, especially the parachute tourists, will take a sight like this and stare more than on the streets of, say, Berlin. But when will Beijing lose its “gawk factor”?
First time visitors from the west, if they decide to attend a rock concert in Beijing, Shanghai or Wuhan, may have a similar reaction, lavishing it with praise such as, “This is wonderful, for China!”, “I thought the communist regime, the autocracy and the repression couldn’t produce rock or punk!” or, “This is amazing and they’re singing about Zhongnanhai!”