(Badaling Great Wall– a section of the Great Wall.)
Seeing as how I’ve managed to survive unscathed after 6 weeks in China, I must really run a poll. This question had been killing me for ages, and after reading sites like Sankaku Complex, I must really wonder what the world thinks about China. Well, this is what I think.
Before anything, here’s a short poll:
Now, I am a student after all, so it’s in my nature to try and learn more things. Before going to China, I read up on its history, from its dynasties to the Opium Wars, from the Treaty of Shimonoseki to Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Gaige Kaifang’, which essentially meant that China stopped being isolationist. To be honest, I didn’t have a good impression of China either at first, what with the recent melamine scandal and the toys and the usual Sankaku Complex news flooding my sight, spreading the image that (I quote) living in China is like ‘playing Russian Roulette’. After going to China, I was rather disappointed at the appalling lack of melamine poisoning and exploding fruit. It was rather …regular. I expected to at least get some propaganda on the streets but I didn’t get any. If I only gained my knowledge from Sankaku Complex, I’d be expecting to die about, well, 4 days into the immersion programme. Now that it’s ended, I can safely say that China …is fine.
I know, little may agree with me, or rather, opponents can criticize me easily. “What do you mean by fine? They’re communist!” Now, as the conclusion of my stay in China, here are some common faults and issues with China people find, and my opinion on them.
- China is communist, so they’re evil!
True. China is run by a communist party. Some people say that if China ever gains power, the world would be screwed, since China’s ideologies might spread outwards. Coupled with their recent increase in military strength some people have started to attack China and criticize her movements.
However, the problem I see with themselves calling themselves communist is that the only thing you could have called ‘communist’ would be the single party system, of which is also crumbling into power by many. What is the aim of communism? To break down the social classes. This was something Chairman Mao tried to aim for – and almost succeeded. When Deng Xiaoping took over, as the leader of ‘New China’, the aim was no longer to aim for true communism, but instead for increased economic development. In fact, he did much better in this aspect than Mao managed to. Between the years of 1980-2000, China’s GDP increased twofold.
I would call China communist in the same way I’d call Singapore authoritarian, or the way I’d call most countries ‘controlled democracies’. The way I see it, the world is slowly shifting towards the lovechild of communism and democracy: socialism. What? Socialism essentially takes the best of both worlds and places them together. True communism is impossible. So is true democracy. What we can aim for is a controlled democracy, a democracy where the government still has control. America already practices a political system that resembles this: the 4-year election system.
Besides, no system, as I have said, can be truly democratic. Let us think back to the original definition of democracy: free speech, free rights. Of freedom- that’s good right? More like too idealistic. We couldn’t possibly let everyone be free to do as they please- hence our political systems. Then we look at the current definition (according to Wikipedia, anyway) that democracy is giving everyone equal rights to vote. But all the countries, no matter what political system, give the same kind of rights to its citizens when it comes to voting, right? Something one might want to consider.
However, I do admit that there are events in China’s history that I absolutely despise. For instance, the Cultural Revolution under Mao’s rule was completely uncalled for and a great waste of culture. Deng Xiaoping’s quelling of a riot at Tiananmen Square was too, too violent and cruel a measure. The way I see it, if China ever becomes a superpower, the whole concept of ‘communist China’ would, and will have to die to allow way for a more socialist and recognized system instead.
- China produces bootlegs and everything they have is low quality, etc.
Now, when it comes to bootlegs, I won’t deny or defend China. China’s bootleg industry is large and thriving. Across the street from our school in Beijing there is an anime shop, and IO dare say most, if not all of their figurines are fakes. It hurts the most when you own the original figure in question – and then see the cheap, putrid knockoffs. Derp faces everywhere.
The second part, however, I beg to differ. While China may have had scandals such as the melamine milk scandal as well as what seems like a collection of fail items, one must remember that you pay for what you get. The cheapest of bags – I bought one made solely from cloth, sewn by hand for about $9 Sing dollars – kept snapping when I forced my arms out, so I had to sew it back twice during my 6-week stay. However, that is the kind of bags they sell for cheap. As prices go up, you can see the noticeable quality difference. Isn’t this the same for most countries? For instance, I see many Chinese items in Singapore, but of poor quality: why not use the better ones we find here? Simple – price difference = reduced profit.
One must also admit that, like the joke goes, most of the world is made in China. Honestly, how many items do you own that are not made in China? A journalist once did an experiment to see how life would be like for one year without products made in China. The results are surprising. A broken coffee machine would remain broken for months. Her son had to beg his aunt to buy some Vader mask for Christmas, and so on. While scandals rock and ruin China’s reputation, the quality of items made in China for other companies as well as the unsung heroes, such as Huawei Electronics, can attest to the fact that living in China is, contrary to Artefact’s belief, not playing Russian roulette.
- China hates Japan/America/etc.!
Ah, crap. Not this again. Previously I’ve already written about anime culture in Japan and its rampant growth, if not long existence. Now I’m here to write again. I admit that China was in a horrible state of affairs following the Opium Wars, Sino-Japan wars and the World Wars. After China was crippled by 13 ~15 years of resistance against invaders, Mao Zedong took power and China became communist. From then on China had a policy of isolationism following the domination of Chinese territories claimed by the Western powers.
However, after the Gaige Kaifang, overseas culture began to flood into China. You can tell the difference by looking at the different clothing styles between the two eras: in the 1980s, soon after the Gaige Kaifang, jeans and denim and other western clothing became the rage. The traditional Eastern clothing was being purged from popularity. In fact, before that time America and China were already on close terms before the two countries drifted apart due to conflicting ideologies.
Now, skip back to 2011. Foreign cultures are abundant in China. There are craploads of anime magazines and merchandise in China. I bought about 9+ magazines, with freebies, wall scrolls, and even a plush Palmtop Tiger (which looks exactly the same as the one in the anime, by the way.) I couldn’t help it- a lot of it is made in China already, bootleg or not – drastically reducing costs due to lower import costs. The students we met at the Beijing school have an interest in anime too – but frankly I couldn’t keep up for long, what with the names in Chinese. In fact, I dare say I bought much more anime stuff in China than I do on a regular basis. There is no actual proof that China detests America either. I mean, ever since Deng Xiaoping took over the policy actually changed to seek co-operation from the West. China was getting a dose of Western ideas. China and the USSR split, and Deng’s policy was for economic reform and openness to the west, leading to the US formally recognizing China in 1979. For the past 30, 40 years China has been working to get closer to US, the same country which helped them so much during the World War, in their time of need, when China was still under siege from Japan, the 13 years of bloody fighting. Why would China hate the US? Hating Japan, perhaps for the older generation, yes, but for the US?
I’d love to write more about my six weeks in China. Of the lessons, the fieldtrips , the experience of living in dorms. But, I must remember this is , after all, an anime blog, and all of that, I’ll just have to keep to myself. Until then, remember that knowledge is power, but just like the prisoners of Plato’s cave , seeing it is hard.