Wednesday, September 23, 2009

China: A Contradiction in itself

I head to China tomorrow. Wow, even as I write that I can't believe it. I really have no idea what to expect, especially since my research has led me to a complex history that seems at odds with itself. Take Mao Zedong. His image is everywhere in China. The Chinese revere and celebrate him. But under Zedong's leadership, between 40 and 70 million people died, which according to some historians is more than the death toll under Stalin and Hitler. How can someone whose policies and reforms killed so many people be so avidly adored and honored? It just doesn't make sense to me.

Even the political and economic systems seem to be in conflict. On one hand China is Communist, but on the other it has a market economy. Deng Xiaoping led this economic reform and argued that socialism and a market economy are not incompatible. I would argue that ruling a country with an iron fist does run contrary to the ideas of a market economy, which depends on some level of market freedom.

It's funny because the Chinese also venerate their history, which is one of the oldest in the world, but they don't seem to care about the physical manifestations of that history. In Beijing, old homes, buildings, temples and landmarks were torn down at a rapid rate to make way for the new China. Under Zedong, each of Beijing's entrance gates--Xibian Gate, the Gate of Earthly Peace, Chaoyang Gate, Dongzhi Gate, Chongwen Gate, etc.--were demolished. Again, it just seems inconsistent from my perspective.

Even the country's official name, the People's Republic of China, seems to be an oxymoron, as the people have no voice because it is suffocated by the government.

I certainly don't claim to know all of the events that contributed to the China we know today and I can't begin to understand everything. But the small perspective I have gained as an outsider looking in is that the country is full of contradictions. Right now it doesn't make much sense to me and unfortunately I don't know that it will make any more sense after my trip because I can't freely ask questions and if I do, I'll probably get the generic, government-mandated answers. So I leave tomorrow on this journey and can't imagine what I will encounter, but I hope I will be able to share my perspective--which will only be a small slice of the truth--with you. Daughter.

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