When I was teaching in China, some of my students would become defensive at my criticisms of a regime that consistently silenced voices of dissent through the easy back-and-forth of scalpel to sledgehammer; a regime that appeased a vast majority of their populace even while exploiting them with the vague and omnipresent threat of looming, senseless violence; a regime that was justified by its own people on the reminder that not so long ago the terror and famine that blighted the Middle Kingdom was much, much worse.
These same students would often become smug when news of corruption, censorship, violence and lack of representation in America came, exaggerated through state-run television, to China.
“See?” they seemed to say, “America, the great country that it is, is just as bad as China.”
But neither point is true; we are not, now, such a great country and we are not just as bad as China.
Today, as I watched a video of a police officer pepper spraying non-violent peaceful protesters at UC Davis's campus, my three year old daughter came up to me and sat in my lap.
“What are you watching?” she asked me. And...More >>
A Hong Kong-based show broke the news recently that Jiang Zemin, former Paramount Leader of the People's Republic of China, has died. They have recently recanted this statement, but the internet is flowing with rumors about the possible death of one of the most influential men in the history of modern China.
The government in China has responded to these rumors with heavy-handed censorship, clearing all micro-blog posts referencing Jiang and blocking searches containing his name (the inconvenient and amusing consequence of which is that Chinese net-users are unable to search for “river,” the meaning of Jiang's surname).
Censorship in China is not unusual, but it may be surprising to Western readers that the Chinese government would be concerned about rumors surrounding the innocuous death of a former leader. What is it, exactly, that China has to fear from people talking about this?
As one leader passes, it becomes a time for Chinese people to more openly reflect on their merits and failings, and to speculate about the future of politics. @Edouroo on Twitter quoted Li Datong, the former editor of a Chinese democratic magazine, remarking that “the leaders of China have become weaker and weaker; Jiang Zemin was weaker...More >>