China…News From the Inside

Marie Walden of Deep End of the Gene Pool is one of my favorite bloggers…smart, insightful and above all controversial. I like that. But a blog she wrote recently about athletics in China really made me think. She intimated that Chinese athletes were taken as small children to be trained in some location far from family. I couldn’t agree with what she said and left a comment. Then when my son, his wife and two girls arrived home for a holiday day before yesterday, we began discussing the China they know. They will be the first to tell you that it is polluted, that there is a huge population, that living condition are not perfect. But they will not tell you about oppression or a military presence in their lives. In fact they would make fun of me if I even mentioned it.

The thing that strikes me over and over is the world’s willingness to judge a culture based on what they have read or seen on television. As with all things, the truth is not to be found in these places. It is only after you have seen, smelled and heard what is a country’s culture, that you can come to an understanding. For example, when you see people standing on what the Chinese call the center of the universe praying to their ancestors or lighting incense at a Buddha Temple do you really understand that Communism cannot take religion away from people. Don’t call these people “godless” unless you are very sure of that.

So what did I see while I was in China?

Shanghai American Schools
Preschoolers
2007

I did not ever during the time I was there feel like the people were oppressed. They would express their dissatisfaction with things both in print (yes I do understand censorship) and in conversation. There are still scars left from the Cultural Revolution. But there is a lot of difference between being angry with the Internet or angry over what happened in the past and wanting to overthrow the government or undermine it’s power. Their law is enforced strictly and quickly, they don’t allow treasonous rhetoric. If you think that people’s human rights are abused you are probably right. People of color in the United States know exactly what that means. Their government fails them at times. But then our country is not perfect…they, like us, are trying to make things better for their people but because of the masses of humanity, it is a slow tedious process. It also could be that manufacturing exported from the United States may be one of the biggest offender when it comes to human rights. I have seen sweat shops from the outside and I can only imagine what is going on inside.

People move about freely, traveling great distance home for holidays like Chinese New Year. Bus station, train stations and airports are crowded with vacationing families wanting to travel home. People gathered in the People’s Square in Shanghai shopping for shoes and fur lined coats. Uncle, Aunts and friends gave generous gifts to children. The obligatory “Red Envelop” is given to all employees. It reminded me of our Christmas Holiday in every way.

China, like the USA, probably does imprison people that are perceived to be a threat to their communist way. Political imprisonment is never a good thing. It stifles freedom of speech and discourages basic liberties…our government would do it to you if you were for example, to espouse a preference for communism and tried to train to over throw our country or in any other way illegally promote it. We are holding political prisoners right now because of the paranoia that followed 9/11. This type of thing will happen to you in China too. I might say that a government of any kind with that many citizens is going to have a lot of problems with malcontents! We do in the United States.

Their military is made up of young men that apply and must qualify for entrance. The brightest and best are accepted. We saw young men marching in Tienanmen Square when we were in Beijing. Our guide explained the process for admittance. When the camera that was filming them was finished, they stopped and broke into laughter. They became the boys that they really were. They are not particularly well outfitted, if the base near my families home in Pu Dong is any example. Uniforms do not fit and the military base does not look prosperous. But considering the size of the country, I would think the world should be very careful when it comes to China.

If an opportunity is presented for a child to go to camp to be an Olympic level athlete, Chinese parents might send them away to do that. We would do the same! They, like us, want the very best education and opportunities for their children. Our perception of what goes on in relationship to the athletics is misguided and not probably not true. In fact when you read Jacques Poirier comment on Marie Walden’s blog you will find that he said, “Sports and National Pride are very big in China.” and gave some very good information. I invite you to check his website too. It is wonderful.

Twins
China 2007

You know that the Chinese people are only allowed to have one child and that child is doted upon beyond any thing we can even imagine. (It seems that they are allowed to keep twins if the picture above is any indication.) Babies don’t even wear diapers because they are always held and they are learning to be potty trained from the day they are born. Parents and grandparents care for the children as though they were the most precious thing in the world because they are. So you must know that the loss of that one child is unthinkable.

child eating in the
vegetable market.

When the earthquake hit, I am told, the officials that were responsible for the schools that collapsed were held accountable for the inadequacy of the structure. The whole country cried out in grief for the loss of the children. Expatriate school communities in the Sichuan Provence and other regions in the countries pulled together. The Shanghai American School raised $75,000 for them…in the eight grade level alone. The generosity of the people was phenomenal.

I know we have seen a nameless, faceless mass of people in the past. China has been an enigma. But not anymore. They are finding ways to become a part of the world community. It would appear that because they have opened the door a crack, the world came rushing in and there is no turning back the clock. Hopefully, they will find ways to allow us to see more of their country. It is a beautiful place and they are beautiful people.

Actually, being given the opportunity to visit China was one of the great privileges of my life. I have walked on The Great Wall and I have made dumplings with my son’s Ayi. I have walked down the “anything street” past houses that are beyond repair and people were working on the street. I have eaten on the top of what was once the tallest building in the world at the Hyatt Regency. I love it all and would go back in an instant. The opportunity to see this country from the inside was indeed life changing.

I might add that I do prefer my democratic way of life and all the liberties it affords me. I would not leave this country forever. But I do not stand in judgment of other forms of government. Each culture is trying to find was works for them.

And I do realize that China may turn on us one day. A country of this size can influence the future of our world with a nuance. They are simply huge.

b

Note: The picture on the heading of my blog is one taken from the Shanghai Pu Xi side of the river looking east toward Shanghai Pu Dong. The tower you see in the back ground is the Pearl Tower and houses their television communication system…I think! The barge in the foreground is a restaurant and is modeled after the emperor’s barges.

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