Monday, 4 July 2011

China today-a view from the West and from China.

Many commentators note that  the Chinese political system  is characterized by being Secretive, Authoritarian and Bureaucratic.

China is socially open and politically closed.  The ''forbidden city'' continues to be a metaphor for Chinese society. The Party controls everything. It is impossible to find out really what is going on and even the timetable of the top leaders is kept secret -where they meet and when they will visit different places is kept from the public. . Some newspapers like the China Daily is mere propaganda and often the opposite is written of what is really true. China needs to be presented in a certain way.  This public image  is determined by the Party and media is used to send out that message. Blogs are banned and although the social media is trying get beyond the firewalls  freedom of expression is severely limited.

China is authoritarian and power rests with the Party and in the upper echelons of the Party. In order to get close to power and privilege  one needs to get into the Party. 4% of the population of 1.3 billion are members  and almost 70% of the party are male.  Even today in this seemingly'' liberal climate'' young males stream into the party. It is a way to social promotion, influence, power and money. Policy is controlled by the party ad not only does it control media and policy but it also controls the market. The majority of companies listed in the stock exchange are companies affiliated to the party and private companies remain a minority.

It is a very bureaucratic society and 1 out of every 28 people work for the Government. The amount of paperwork  even to buy a shirt in a market in Beijing is incredible-you need 3 pieces of paper or receipts. One for the seller, another for the cashier and one for oneself. Control, following the rules of the system is supreme and it is estimated there are over 30,000 security personnel  controlling the internet.  Internet policing has become a new expertise in the Chinese system.

 Chinese society of 1.3 billion people is held together through all these controls. The recent arrest and torture of a group of lawyers testify to the tight control and crackdown the Party exercises over dissent or opposition.

However, it  claims  the world continues to misunderstand it and the following poem written by a Chinese intellectual exemplifies the fraught historical and present relationship between the West and China.

What do you really want from us?

When we were the sick man of Asia, we were called the yellow peril.
When we are billed to be the next superpower,we are called the threat.
When we closed our doors,you struggled drugs to open markets.
When we embrace free trade, you blame us for taking away your jobs.
When we were falling apart,you marched in your troops and wanted your fair share.
When we tried to put the broken pieces together again, free Tibet you screamed.  It was an invasion!
When we tried communism, you hated us for being communist.
When we embrace hate us for being capitalist
When we have a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet.
When we tried limiting our numbers, you said we abused human rights.
When we were poor, you thought we were dogs.
When we loan you cash, you blame us for your national debts.
When we build our industries, you call us polluters.
When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.
When we buy oil, you call it exploitation and genocide.
When you go to war for oil, you call it liberation.
When we were lost in chaos and rampage, you demanded rules of law.
When we uphold law and order against violence, you call it violating human rights.
When we were silent, you said you wanted us to have free speech.
When we are silent no more, you said we were brainwashed xenophobes.
''Why do you hate us so much'? we asked.
'No'you answered, 'we don't hate you'
We don't hate you either , but do you understand us?
Óf course we do,'you said 'we have AFP,CNN and BBCs.........'
What do you really want from us?
Think hard first, then answer. Because yio only get so many chances.
Enough is enough, enough hypocrisy for this one world.
We want one world, one dream, and peace on earth.
The big blue sky is big enough for all of us.

End of poem.

The challenge of our human family is  to continually move out of our comfort zones to dialogue and mutual  understanding.  It is easy to throw stones or even missiles at one another.  Otherwise, we may all perish.  Building a safer and better world, for each and all, is a noble and urgent task for all men and women of good will in the West and in China.


  1. I like the Poem John - I think viewing China purely in Western eyes fails to understand the cultural and political complexities, and how 'modern' forms of governance may not necessarily be the best. The financial crisis has shown that the World's 2% continues to control more than 60% of world's resource on the blood of the majority. I hope you are enjoying your trip, Elias

  2. What is the name of the poem-writer? I want to quote him in a paper for university.