China and its Discontents

Archive for the ‘Beijing’ tag

The “Jasmine Revolution” Never Even Started

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Published in the Trinity Tripod.

Over 60 years ago, Chiang Kai-shek envisioned China as a bustling economic and political power, albeit controlled by his own totalitarian state. Today, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has reshaped China from a rural, fractured, feudal society into a bustling economic and political power, albeit controlled by totalitarian government. Does this sound familiar? The CCP couldn’t have carried out Chiang’s vision better than Chiang himself. And now, with Taiwan functioning as a democracy, some in China want to follow their lead. Several weeks ago, members of an overseas Chinese-language website, Boxun, called for China’s very own “Jasmine Revolution,” a take on the more successful uprising in Tunisia. I say more successful because the Chinese “revolution” has so far been a dud.

The idea was for sympathizers of democracy to gather in designated public areas in major cities every Sunday, and then peacefully take a “stroll,” thwarting the police from figuring out who was a protestor and who was merely a tourist. Things didn’t go as planned. The first Sunday, Jon Huntsman, U.S. Ambassador to China and soon-to-be Republican presidential candidate, “strolled” into the Wangfujing shopping street in Beijing with his family, pretending not to know that there was anything political going on. A video of Huntsman caught in the act was later used by hyper-nationalists to prove a point about the U.S. meddling in Chinese affairs. The second Sunday was even worse. In Beijing, the meeting place was blocked off; police (uniformed and in plainclothes) outnumbered civilians at a ratio of 10-to-1; and some foreign journalists were harassed, taken to police precincts, and even beaten. This past Sunday was much of the same.

It might be tempting to draw comparisons between the Middle East protests and China, but to do so would be ignoring quite a number of differences. At the end of the day, the majority of Chinese citizens are satisfied with their government. If democracy was suddenly instituted in China, there’s no doubt the CCP would win by a landslide. Under CCP rule, economic development has changed peoples’ lives immeasurably. The Chinese wife of a friend of mine has this anecdote: “My mom could only afford a small piece of sugar for lunch during the Great Famine in 1960, but her daughter traveled in three continents before she turned 25.” Who would forsake a party with those results? Furthermore, most Chinese people haven’t even heard of the protests; the “revolution” mainly received news on websites that are blocked in China.

There are still many Chinese people who hold grievances against the government; but to date, there has not been an incident that unifies the farmers and students, or factory workers and professionals, reaching across socioeconomic strata to create the only force that can create political change in China. Even the Tiananmen protests 20 years ago never reached rural areas. Those fighting for political reform in China will have to wait a little while longer. Don’t lose hope.

Written by Will

March 8th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Happy Spring Festival!

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Celebrating the Spring Festival and Chinese New Year in Beijing has blown me away. The fireworks. The spectacle. The food. It’s nearly overwhelming. For the past five days, Beijing has been constantly rumbling with the sound of fireworks. New Year’s Eve, the city felt like a warzone. Every storefront was closed, so it was dark. China is just dirty and poor enough in some areas that you could almost imagine it to be a war-torn country. One of my friends remarked, “I’ve become so desensitized to the noise. If someone WERE to attack China, New Year’s would be the best time to do it. No one would pay any attention.”

It’s been a lot of fun, but I think I’m ready to get back into my normal routine and schedule now.

Written by Will

February 5th, 2011 at 7:06 pm

“America is Our Best Friend”

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I was really touched when my homestay parents asked me over dinner, “Who do you think is America’s best friend? China?” I responded, thinking in terms of real-politik allies, “No, probably not.” But they said, “America is China’s best friend. Japanese students don’t come to China and live with Chinese families. They live together in dorms. The Koreans don’t come to China and live with Chinese families. They live out on their own. Only Americans do. They’re unique. More Americans understand China than in any other country, and more Chinese understand America than in any other country; more students study in each other’s country than in any others. That is why we are best friends.”

Also something that I had forgotten: they mentioned that George Bush Sr. had served as ambassador to China in the early 1970’s under Ford (he wasn’t actually ambassador at the time, because the US still recognized Taiwan, but was the official envoy, and acted like an ambassador). Furthermore, they said Bush Jr. was in China during this time, biking around Beijing taking pictures. For some reason, this really surprised me, simply because the perspective you would have as a foreigner in Beijing prior to the Reform and Opening Up would be somewhat unique, as there were really no foreigners in China prior to that time.

At some function (it’s unclear in what capacity), my homestay father got to know John Tsu, who he described as Bush Sr.’s “Chinese teacher” (he was chairman of the Asian-Pacific Affairs Committee in the White House). I thought that was an interesting connection as well.

Written by Will

December 8th, 2010 at 4:24 am


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Greetings from Beijing Capital International Airport, the shiniest gleaming mass of marble I've ever seen. Pictures from the local neighborhood (Haidian) and Beiwai (Beijing Foreign Studies University) soon to follow.


Posted via email from williamyale’s posterous

Written by Will

August 20th, 2010 at 8:43 am

Posted in China,Travel

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