So my 2 months in China is up, we have left the country and are back in Bangkok. I have long had a fascination with China, admittedly that fascination was, like most peoples, born of its historical facts, and whatever I had seen in the media. I had/have a few Chinese acquaintances and have always thoroughly enjoyed their and other Chinese peoples company.
My thoughts before this trip (and be warned, there is a lot of generalization about to go on here), were that the Chinese are hard working, dedicated, intelligent and super friendly. I am happy to announce that I was right! There is a lot of controversy regarding the Chinese and in particular their government, not only from outside its borders, but from inside too. I cannot claim by any means to be up to scratch on the political and economical workings of this and other nations, but I can comment on what I have seen while travelling within its borders.
For the most part, the people I have met are ridiculously friendly and helpful, and they love a foreigner, which is great, because I am one. Also they seem happy, a far cry from what we often see in the media, most people seem really happy. Sure there are gripes about government, about corruption and control, and a lot of those gripes are very valid. After being here for a little time however, I can’t help voicing the following opinions, probably unpopular, but then, they are only my opinions.
There is a lot of control in China, media, one child policy, the Tibetan issue. There is however, a lot of freedom too. Things which may at first seem silly, start to add up and form a larger overall freedom we are lacking in the West. Smoking is not so ridiculously prohibited, the same with parking a car, walking over an avalanche, driving the wrong way up a road cause you need to get there, standing on a train for 2 days because it’s cheaper, letting your kids piss in the street. These and a hundred other things left me with a feeling that, it is us, in Australia and other western countries, who are the ones living in an Orwellian society.
No government is perfect, I am yet to live or travel through a country where people didn’t have a complaint about their leaders, generally corruption and idiotic laws. It is the nature of the people to be dissatisfied with their masters. We believe we have more say in our countries over our fate, but generally all we are doing is changing one leadership we are unhappy with, for another leadership which, inevitably, we will be unhappy with.
I have heard a few people in and outside of China mention the one child policy, after being in China though, I have to say I kind of understand why it is in place (although possibly not for much longer). Yes it is prohibiting peoples right to reproduce, but it is doing so to ensure that people can have their right to eat. The stories which you hear of late abortions, babies in bins and what not (I am dubious about a lot of these, you see proud grandparents and parents walking around with their little angels, regardless of the sex), are not a government initiative, they are atrocities commited by the very people complaining about their rights.
And corruption, well show me a government without corruption. The media control, especially internet, is annoying as hell, but is not unique to China. Movies, and particularly games, are screened, and sometimes banned in our countries, not to the same degree, but the control is there, and when it isn’t, well how many times have you heard about violent/sexual movies or games causing some mass killing spree or other. So how do you say who is right or wrong, it seems like someone will always be unhappy about it.
Tibet – The elephant in the room
Then of course there is TIbet, I know this is a touchy subject, so I will try to be as delicate as I can. On one side of things, I cannot deny that the Chinese government is a harsh one, its laws and penalties strict and unyielding, but I can also see that to stop a population of its size from spinning out of control, it needs to be harsh. No where in China are these laws and penalties harsher than in TIbet and its outlying regions. Playing the devils advocate, I tried to draw a simile between China and other developing nations. If for example, half of the U.S.A decided it wanted to be its own country, what would happen?
I was speaking to a Chinese girl in Tagong (the Tibetan region), about the political furor surrounding Tibet. She was studying the country at university in Chengdu, and as such had a much more well rounded grasp of the situation. Even she conceded, that while not ideal, Chinese occupation had benefits over the previous government. According to her, there is a naive view of Tibet prior to Chinese involvement. Apparently Tibet used to have a large divide between rich and poor, and most Tibetans were uneducated, and living below the poverty line, with very little hope of changing their lot. Now however the Chinese government is actively pushing education and advancement in this region.
There have been similar attempts through history, of dividing or integrating borders, India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, England and Scotland, and so many more which are beyond the scope of my general knowledge. The point I am trying to make is, regardless of their histories, no nation wants to give up land, no nation wants to be divided and weakened. Perhaps I am missing something, but what makes China and TIbet different? We are very quick to look at China and judge, we judge their control of minorities, but what about our treatment of immigrants? What about our treatment of indigenous populations, what about our treatment of homosexuals and other subsets of society, it is still illegal for gay people to marry in Australia. Is that really freedom?
For me, China was an amazing place. I am not saying I agree with all its policies, just that it is not a black or white issue. It is not always an easy place to travel, but it is an exceptional place to experience. I loved its people, I loved its culture, and I loved the smaller liberties usually denied me in Australia. It is on a par with India for its unique and friendly nature, and I hope to go back and explore more of its vast expanse in the future.
If you have the option, go to China.
Do you disagree with my assesment? If so, let me know why.