Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Through the looking glass

I typed up this article over lunch today and I thought to myself, should I post it. It's very long and personal and maybe no-one will read it. But then I thought what the heck. If I am going to be ignored then I might as well be blabbering something while that's happening. So here goes.... Send.


Watching the World from China is a unique perspective. Over the last 8 years in this country my views on the World have changed which makes me question whether this is the result of the Chinese propaganda machine or lack of the propaganda from Western nations such as Australia. I would like first however to explain that this is not a sociological study, not is it something that I have done vast amounts of research on. It is purely a representation of personal experience and observations from my life.

Growing up in Australia from the age of four I consider myself first an Australian Immigrant then a subject of the British Empire in Hong Kong. My ties to Mainland China has always been slightly prejudice as Hong Kong people were in the 70's. I make this point not because this article will look at China but because I want to make it clear that I am not trying to spew forth pro-Chinese propaganda myself.

Prior to the turn of the century my views of the world were pretty much the same as most Australians. I viewed Australia as the "Lucky Country" and view the British as annoying elder brothers. The US I viewed as the retarded cousin who married into a rich family that we had to put up with. My views on China at the time were that it was a huge expanse of peasants who were culturally raped by the Mao era. I believed that the last bastion of true Chinese culture came not from China itself but by those who had fled and brought with them the pre-Communist beliefs. This was in the back of my mind but honestly it was filed away so well that I barely gave it second thought in the 90's as I never thought I would come to be in China.

When I arrived in China in 2000 I knew that it was not a backward country, but I could not shake the feeling that touching down in Shanghai I would see rice fields and farmers wearing straw hats ploughing the water soaked fields behind an ox. When I arrived, I was taken to the Bund on my first day and saw something that could have come from an episode of Buck Rogers.

So for eight years I have worked and loved here, raised a family and I look outwards to what could have been and see things that an Australian wouldn't necessarily see. I feel things that in the circle of friends from my uni days would frown upon as insensitive and I ask myself, "Am I
odd one out or are they the ones that are disillusioned? Am I no longer able to see what is right and what is obviously wrong?"

When I talk to people in China about Taiwan, I ask them. "Do you really believe that Taiwan is a provence?" and from people who are born, educated and are about 25ish in age, they will tell you without hesitation. Yes! I sometimes ask if they feel democracy is better than communism and they will once again reply without hesitation that democracy is not as good because people do not always make decisions that are for the good of the people.

Hearing these honest opinions repeatedly in a country that censors the Internet, prohibits foreign media and where people do not vote is interesting because in Australia the freedom of speech, the freedom of information, and the right to elect those who will govern you is the basis of democracy. But are Chinese people oppressed? At least in Shanghai and Beijing and other major cities, they do not appear to be. The seem to continue their daily lives, earning money, dreaming of owning their own home, meeting a partner, having kids (or kid I should say). The need to vote does not seem to be as precious as democracy says it should be.

From inside looking out through my magic looking glass this is what I see. I see an American Empire making decisions for those who did not elect them in such as the Iraqi's, the North Koreans, the Taiwanese, the Tibetan's, Israeli's and the Afghans. I see Islamic fundamentalists
executing infidels but mostly white Americans, I see rioting in Tibet from monks for independence from China on the streets of Tibet and Sichuan but fail to see how overturning cars and destroying property in their home country will prove that an Independent government will make things better for the local inhabitants. I see the Islamic nation of Malaysia having it's first fair democratic election, the aftermath of which is political infighting, racial conflict that caused by the constitution and a parallel monarchistic system that chooses to flex it's muscle to destablise the national government. I see the removal & execution of a tyrant that resulted in anarchy and 4000 American troop deaths and a landscape littered with exploding devices and the nuclear
threat emerging from Iran that was formerly suppressed by that tyrant who in turn was originally armed by America. I see all this through the looking glass that is limited to only what I have experienced and seen before.

I ask this question from a Communist nation who is not being attached by anyone with WMD's, who is not interfering with domestic conflicts except when expressly asked to (ie they are talking to North Korea but not doing anything to ease the pain in Sudan) and who are experiencing double digit economic growth in major cities (as well as the inflationary affects thereof) and are increasingly harming the environment but not at a level that "First World" nations are yet. They
are also restricting the independence of Tibet and Taiwan (Of course if Queenland seriously wanted to be it's own country then I am sure there would be some resistance as well), arresting journalists, relocating entire towns beneath the 3 gorges dam and artificially manipulating the value of the RMB.

And the question I ask is What is Good and What is Evil? Are my views the result of being brainwashed by an oppressive regime for eight years or is it because I am now free from political spin that influences popular public opinion?

To be honest, I do not know, and until I find out I cannot with certainty distinguish right from wrong. Perhaps if I relocate to Fiji my view of the world will change again.

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