Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Chinese Paradox: Trying out two worlds at one time

It wasn’t that big of a news story. Lots of Red Banners, dignitaries, probably some over eating, and generally a party about Communism. Basically like all parties, except for the bit about Communism, and a lot more police standing round. Yesterday, in China, they celebrated a day they have been observing for over fifty years, since the new country began after World War II, basically.

What was news was that the day before that happened, they also celebrated a new holiday, Martyr’s Day. A holiday only recently approved to be celebrated in the top down style of the self-styled “People’s Republic of China,” one of the reasons for celebration was, according to the Wall Street Journal, to remember those that “died for freedom.
It’s a paradox much like China itself. On the one hand celebrating freedom, and on the other celebrating Communism. China is one of the emerging countries, one of the countries garnering the benefits of trade from countries like the US and European Union Countries, with Chinese cheap labor and mass producing products, to the dismay of some, and the happiness of kids at Christmas.
The oddness of the situation is rather telling. The Chinese are members of the United Nations group of Permanent Members, the Big Five, and an organization obviously fighting for peace. Yet, at the same time, in the “US and Them” struggle of rhetoric and sanctions and territory across the Atlantic Ocean, between the United States and Russia, China is very much on the “Them” side of the deal.
The continuing position of China in the world is still unclear. They claim in some ways to be phasing out the most restrictive parts of their brand of Communism, while they are at the same time fast becoming one of the world’s largest economies. They would certainly like the West to think that they are like them. But besides for a few fringe people in the United States, they simply are not.
Here, we are constantly unhappy with the government, complaining tweeting, etc. No matter what party you are in, somebody somewhere at the top is going to cook your goose, and then you’re going to tweet that goose. Helping to keep the government in check, and, in some ways, making every citizen a member of the oversight committee, is what that becomes.
Not so in China. The Communist Party rules. Red is the color of the day. The one child rule is still very much in effect, although exceptions are now allowed in some cases. Poverty is not uncommon, nor is an hour wait for a bus, taxi, or mode of transport to and through the large cities, where sickness and pollution are pervasive problems, as is overcrowding, housing, and job shortages.
There have been some attempts to change this, but there are still hundreds of small, unclean, and unheard of villages, the children from whom have few prospects. In a country that is soon to have the largest subway system in the world, the other side of the coin is that people still eat the scraps from the pigs.
Nothing stays the same forever. Communism was nearly unheard of in China one hundred years ago. And the China of a hundred years from now will look very different from today. The change is already coming, what that change will ultimately look like is up to men raised in the Red of Communism.
The paradox is there. Celebrating the sacrifice for freedom and the rise of Communism on alternate days. Much like China’s alternate faces. One of the mask of global competitor and modern country, but the other, at its heart, an old world ideology, with ideas locked in since the dark ages.
Yes, change is coming. But what type?

Andrew C. Abbott

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