Over million have smartphones.
China has, by some measures, even surpassed the U. Therein lies the values gap. The hubris of some Americans about their own political system seems to me especially natural, even forgivable, in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Tiananmen, of course, with its incredibly potent imagery: a million people in the Square, Tank Man, and the Goddess of Democracy. Looming ever present in nearly every conversation about American perception of China in the last quarter century — now in the background, now in the fore — is the bloody suppression of the student-led protests in Beijing.
Fun fact: The first democratic elections in Poland were held on June 4, , the very day of the crackdown on the Beijing protests. The years that followed the end of the Cold War would see gathering in American foreign policy a new ideology that would come to supplant the realist school that had dominated from the time of Richard Nixon. Some of its basic assumptions — not all, but some — are shared both by liberal interventionists and NeoCons. They may have debated tactics but the impulse was to spread American values and institutions, whether or not doing so would serve a specific and definable American interest.
That could be done the Gene Sharp way, or the Paul Wolfowitz way. Neither way was something Beijing wanted done to it. In May of , U. And things looked like they might have taken a turn for the worse, had not September 11 taken the pressure off. Meanwhile, the Chinese economy was in high gear, chugging along at double-digit growth rates right up to the eve of the Financial Crisis. The Sino-American waters were probably never calmer than in the years between and Perhaps history will see as an important turning point in these attitudes: during the same year that China staged its first Olympic games, the financial crisis, which China weathered surprisingly well, walloped the West and much of the rest of the world with what was arguably its signal event, the bankruptcy filing by Lehman Brothers on September 15 — happening just three weeks almost to the day after the closing ceremony of the Beijing summer games on August Meanwhile, a sense of declinism gnawed at the American psyche.
Factory conditions became a growing concern as Americans realized that even the most sophisticated electronics they sported — everyone had an iPhone by then, right? Remember, too, that excitement over the political potency of social media was also enjoying something of a heyday in this period of liberal hegemonic ascent. They have of course very different views as to whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing.
But can we really be surprised that, able as they are to open to the op-ed section of any American broadsheet and find this idea that internet freedom is the key to toppling authoritarian single-party rule, the Communist Party leadership would conclude that their approach to censorship is correct? But what I suspect really has Beijing freaked out, what really seems to have confirmed that America still has its cherished liberal hegemonic ambition, was the Arab Spring.
Is Beijing so wrong, looking out on the smoldering wreckage of Libya and Syria, at the mess that Egypt still remains, to want to avoid that outcome at whatever price? Kissinger once famously said that even a paranoid can have enemies. What does all this foreign policy stuff have to do with Chinese attitudes toward their government? They encourage the basic state-as-family metaphor, something that in the Chinese case is part of the deep structure of Confucian political thinking and is therefore probably easier to nurture than to extirpate.
But most people I know who are known to bitch occasionally about their own parents get awfully defensive when people outside the family offer unsolicited criticism. This seems especially to be the case with mothers. And so it is that many ordinary Chinese citizens, online and inevitably aware now of the timbre of China discourse in English-language media, tend to elide criticism of the state and Party with criticism of China, and take it personally.
I tend to like the latter phrasing. But the simple truth is that by many, many measures of human development, the great majority of Chinese people are undeniably better off today than they were before Deng inaugurated reform.
No thinking Chinese person of my acquaintance believes that the Party or its leadership is anything close to infallible. Most can be quite cynical about the Party, the venality of officials, the hidden factional struggles, the instinct for self-preservation. They still believe, and not entirely without evidence, that the Party leadership is attuned to public opinion and will respond when the will of the people is made manifest. They support reform, not revolution.
In the case of all of them, regardless of what I think of them personally, I regard it as a black mark on the Chinese leadership each time a dissident is locked up for ideology, speech, religious belief, or what have you.
There are of course exceptions: some , Americans have, in the last five years, spent time working or studying in China; there are several thousand enrolled in East Asian Studies graduate programs, or taking serious upper-division undergraduate coursework on China, or pursuing an academic discipline that focuses on China; and there are probably a few thousand more who, for personal reasons, have taken more than a passing interest in China and have read a good number of books on contemporary China or on modern Chinese history, have undertaken the study of Chinese, or have otherwise immersed themselves in trying to gain a deeper understanding of China.
What, though, do we really know about these people? Does it distort? This is not an indictment. These are people who I very much respect — indeed, the very people who these days comprise most of my personal circle of friends — and they are people who have my sympathy for what they must often endure in reporting from China. Seems only natural that this kind of treatment of a journalist anywhere would beget less than rosy coverage of the institutions doling it out.
Negative coverage begets more of that nasty treatment, and so on in a most un-virtuous circle. Should the journalists be faulted for focusing on the things that power, whether political or corporate, wants to hide? Journalism is not about the quotidian.
Reporters tend to focus not just on critical intellectuals but on the more outspokenly critical ones, on the full-blown dissidents, on the very vocal activists, on the writers who challenge the establishment on human rights issues, on freedom of speech, on rule of law, on religious policy, on minority nationality policy and so forth. They set out to excite so no wonder that many of them are exciting. They play to the American love of the underdog. They flatter American values.
Dissidents and the more stridently critical intellectuals certainly are part of that dynamic. The general impression is that Anglophone media is pro-dissident, and so dissidents will tend to go on record with or speak at greater length with Anglophone reporters; moderate or pro-Party intellectuals will tend to decline interviews and comment, and the impression that Anglophone media is biased in favor of the dissidents gets reinforced: the narrative that they want is buttressed while the other is marginalized or weakened.
Authoritarian states like China tend to get reported on unfavorably because they behave like authoritarian states. They censor the Internet. And of course journalists in the Anglophone world are themselves on the front lines of these speech and press issues. Related to this, and implicit not just in a lot of media reporting but in general American discourse on China, is the imbalanced and frankly unfair comparison between Chinese realities and American intentions or ideals. I would hope that everyone would acknowledge at least that history, broadly construed, has a bearing on how much and how fast a polity say, China can change in a given span of time.
And, without doubt, there are some for whom motivations include nativist or nationalist ends — perhaps to critics of the Party or to the state it rules no better than self-perpetuation, but not the same thing. They come from two different camps. One camp is critical of the policy of engagement and dismisses as naive fantasy the idea that widening trade, tourism, cultural exchange, bringing Beijing into multinational institutions and so forth would bring about political liberalization. The other camp is more defensive about China, and argues that China is basically fine as it is and should be left to find its own way forward — that the U.
I hold with neither of these, but take lessons from both. The fact is, some American policies and attitudes actually work athwart movement in that positive direction.
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I do believe that Enlightenment values are the desired end state — not, I hope, out of faith in some grand metahistorical teleology, or out of unexamined post-Cold War triumphalism. They are open-ended and self-corrective, as the scientific method is. They may have been stumbled upon by historical chance, or perhaps they really did emerge inevitably as a teleological narrative unfolded; that can be debated.
But that they represent ultimately an absolute good is not, for me, really in question. I believe that China is only a generation or two from being able to fundamentally change in the direction of more pluralistic politics, greater freedoms of expression, of faith, of assembly.
When no one has a living memory of chaos, after all, the now routine invocation of that fear by the Party and its apologists will fall on deaf ears. A political culture may limit, in the present, the range of possible change.
But on the evidence of the obvious, political culture itself is changeable — and so, therefore, is political possibility. A great article but anyone with a brain would pick the U. Having good character means that you have such admirable traits as honesty, responsibility and courage.
It is beneficial for you to have good character. Being honorable and honest in the work you do and in your relations with others are essential in your life. South Korea stayed the course of liberal democracy, overcame famines, warlords, remnants of traditional socitieties etc. So sorry to interrupt your pages of drivel with a simpler thesis: Lots of non European counties with no organic, indigenous forms of liberalism became liberal democracies.
Stop excusing a totalitarian cult that has been in power for half a century and as such, has washed the minds clean of its subjects. This author included. Arabic English. Important Links. Follow Us. App Download. US UK. Thank you for subscribing! Please check your email to confirm your subscription. Our Stores.
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