Blanco Rojo (Kennesaw State University)
May 11, 2006
After eating breakfast, we visited the jade factory. Jade is very abundant in China and it has been used throughout China’s civilizations. Unlike many other countries, jade is more valuable than gold in China. Many of the artifacts from the ancient dynasties such as the Han or Qin were made from jade. I bought a phoenix ball(made out of jade) that symbolizes family harmony. There are three small balls inside the big ball (like layers) which represents a family’s generations. The importance and high value placed on family unity is a characteristic of many cultures. For example, Chinese influenced by Confucian thought, display a high degree of respect for their elders. Their immediate family consists of not only the parents and children but also grandparents. The emphasis on family unity is also found in Latin America. Children, even when they reach maturity age, do not leave their home until they get married. When parents reach old ages, it is the responsibility of the children to take care of them. Whereas in the United States many children finish high school and leave their parents home. When parents reach old age, they are put into nursing homes. Collectivism and individualism also influence social relationships. Collectivistic societies focus on the welfare of family and group. Everything revolves around the family and its main goal is to maintain harmony within the family. While China (and many other Eastern Asian countries) is a collectivistic society. Western countries such as the U.S. are individualistic. They focus on achievement and independence. I bought the phoenix ball because to me it symbolizes the many similarities that cultures have with one another. Next stop is the Great Wall of China!
The construction of the Great Wall of China began during the period when China was divided between seven states/kingdoms. The wall was unified during the Qin Dynasty, under the First Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di. The Ming Dynasty performed a great deal of reconstructive work. The side that we climbed called Badaling was one of the sections that were renovated by the Mings. The same side was also climbed by U.S. President Nixon during his visit to China in 1972. The Great Wall is more than 2,200 years old! Although the Great Wall was initially built by individual kingdoms to protect themselves from each other, after its unification under the Qin Dynasty, the Great Wall was used to protect China against invasions (especially from the Mongols). China regarded itself as the Middle Kingdom, which meant that the Chinese were superior from everyone around them. The outsiders were barbarians and inferior. Therefore, the Great Wall is a manifestation of China’s insecurity and fear of outsiders/foreigners. However, the wall provided to be inefficient when the Mongols and then the Manchus successfully invaded China. As one of the longest living civilizations, China contains so much history that no other country, besides India, can match. My roommate and I began to think to see fi the U.S. had something to the Great Wall of China. It is breathtaking in every aspect. In the past I have seen pictures of the wall and they really do not come close to its natural beauty and splendor. It’s unimaginable and beyond my understanding just how people with very limited resources could have built such magnificent and power structure. Just knowing that it was constructed purely with man power on the top of rough mountains and hills, which made the arduous work more difficult, makes it even more inspiring and admirable. I am amazed how the Great Wall has been able to survive and still stand, predominantly untouched. I do not think even today with all of our modern technology and machinery that another similar structure can be built like the Great Wall of China. It is just a stunning and remarkable accomplishment. To stand on the Great Wall of China is an unexplainable experience, you are left wordless. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day I would climb the Great Wall of China. By climbing it I feel as if I have become part of its long historic life. According to Chairman Mao Zedong, he/she who climbs the Great Wall of China are heroes. I am a hero!
May 12, 2006
When one studies the history of China, it is inevitable to come across the horrific pictures of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in front of the Forbidden City. It was a pro-democratic movement headed mainly by young university students. Many of these students were shot by military tanks. For this reason, to be able to be in the same place where young courageous students lost their life, was very significant and emotional to me. Walking on Tiananmen Square is truly an indescribable experience and one that you really have to sit back for a moment and breathe in order to try to absorb/comprehend its historical meaning and value. After Mao’s death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping became the leader of the Chinese Communist party. In an effort to take China out of the economic crisis, Deng opened China’s doors to foreigners and introduced capitalistic elements. After realizing how ruined their economy and state was, Chinese students wanted more from their government, they wanted to have a voice. However, despite its openness to capitalism, Deng reinforced the party’s position to maintain stability and unity under communism, sent the tanks to suppress the uprising. Today, China’s economy is booming and the party has gradually allowed some privatization and deregulation of its market (especially since its entrance to the WTO in 2001). The big question today is if China will be transformed into a democratic government.
The Forbidden City is truly a remarkable traditional Chinese architectural structure. It covers and area of 300 acres. The Forbidden City was completed in 1420 and since then it has housed 24 emperors. The last dynasty to occupy it was the Qing Dynasty, which was overthrown in 1911. After the communist takeover in 1949, the Forbidden City was opened to the public. The Forbidden City is full of symbolism and history. It contains 9,999 rooms, all preserved with its original luxurious furniture and brilliance. Outside and inside the Forbidden City there are two lions, a lioness and a lion. The gender can be differentiated by looking what each have under their paws, the lion has a ball and the female lion has a lion cub. Lions were placed in the Forbidden City to protect and guard off evil spirits. Many Chinese houses have lions on their front door. The imperial palace also contains many designs of dragons which represent the emperor’s power. The influence of Confucianism is also seen with the Golden Water Bridges (brings good fonshue) and the use of odd numbers all over the buildings. Nine is the luckiest Chinese number, hence the nine studs on doors and nine thousand nine hundred ninety nine rooms. Two of the most rooms are called the Hall of Middle Harmony and Hall of Supreme Harmony where special ceremonies took place. The Forbidden City demonstrates the greatness of Chinese society. Every part of the Forbidden City shows China’s beliefs and way of life. The White House or U.S. Capitol cannot match the superior architectural design or historical value of the Forbidden City. The entire building is mouth opening!
May 13, 2006
...We arrived in Xian (after the airplane was delayed, apparently typical of that particular Chinese airline) at night. Beijing and Xian to me are very different in many aspects. Beijing is a beautiful and fast pace city. Its high-rises show how modern and developed Beijing (especially with the Olympics arriving in 2008) has become. There are construction sites everywhere which demonstrate industrialization at its making. However, in Beijing, I noticed a sharp contrast between the well developed parts and the poor underdeveloped sections. For example, next to grand hotels with luxurious entrances, there are small unclean almost destructed houses or neighborhoods. Some of the streets also had a sewage smell. All of this portrays the augmenting income inequality that China is experiencing. The uneven distribution of China’s economic growth is widening and deepening the gap between the rich and the poor. Despite China’s rapid industrialization, it still remains primarily rural. Farmers who make the majority of the people in China are suffering the negative effects of modernization. Many farmers have lost their land (cannot own the land they work) to big companies who use the land to construct factories. Factories, as a result, are polluting rivers that are used by farmers as their main source of food growth. When the majority of people are suffering from increasing poverty, more and more people will become discontent and the probability of a rebellion against the government will be more likely to occur. Therefor, although China has already become a power country, its political government is not stable. In my opinion, the communist party should address the income inequality by giving farmers land ownership. Contrary to Beijing, Xian (once a capital to the Qin Dynasty) does not have many high-rises. However, to me and other group members that I have talked to, it is more developed and pacific than Beijing. Xian to me is like a small town where one can go for a walk at night without worrying about safety. The bright lights of malls, restaurants, and clubs form an impressive site, resembling that of downtown New York. Xian was the capital of at least to major dynasties, the Qin and the Tang dynasty. The contrast between the rich and poor to me is not very visible in Xian. I think there is a more equal distribution of income. I went to my very FIRST club in Xian and it was an interesting experience!
May 14, 2006
The Shaanxi Province where the city of Xian is located is home to China’s first dynasty, the Qin Dynasty. China used to be divided between seven kingdoms. The Qin Dynasty under emperor QinShihuang unified all the individual kingdoms of China into one and made Xian its capital. QinShihuang became China’s first emperor. He not only unified China, but also standardized China’s written language, currency, and measuring system. During the Qin Dynasty, the Great Wall was completed. QinShihuang was a ruthless and obsessed ruler. He began to construct his tomb at the age of thirteen. When Huang di died his concubines and all the workers who built the tomb were buried alive to prevent anyone from finding out where is tomb was. He was also wanted to reconstruct the same lifestyle that he maintained while living in his afterlife. He also had his workers make life size soldiers to protect his tomb. These 2,200 year old warriors were discovered accidentally in 1974 by local farmers northeast of Xian. A total of 6000 plus an estimated 4000 unexcavated warriors and horses were found. This site has been made into a museum composed of three pits. Pit 1 is the largest of the three. The museum covers an area of 20 hectares. There are four different types of warriors, first the high ranking general who was the bravest, second high ranking officers were the wise men, kneeling archers, and horse riders. All of these are marked with such detail, from their hair style to their uniform. No soldier has the same facial structure or expression. The sites where the warriors were found have been made into a museum called the Terra-Cotta Museum where everyone can visit and take pictures. Visiting the museum (just like the Great Wall) was an amazing indescribable experience! It really blows my mind to see such superior and outstanding accomplishments that were made thousands and thousands of years ago, still standing with same magnificence as when they were first built. No other country, not even India, has as much archeological findings as China. The Terra-Cotta warriors demonstrate not only the military power of the emperors, but also give insight of the Chinese belief of afterlife. The emperor’s burials contained all the commodities that (everything from food, pets, concubines, and valuable objects) that the emperor might need in afterlife.
May 20, 2006
Today was a fantastic day! I had the chance to spend the afternoon with a Chinese family. The study abroad program has been phenomenal; we have visited China’s greatest archeological findings and architectural structures. However, being able to visit a Chinese home and meet their family is an outstanding feature of the program and more than I could have asked for. My excitement about spending an afternoon with a Chinese family began to build since the itinerary was introduced to the group in April at the orientation. Kelly, Susan, and I visited the family of a Zhengzhou university student who is twenty-nine years old and whose English name is April (because her birthday is in April). She is graduating and getting her master’s degree in medicine this June. April and her oldest sister came to pick us up in their own car. Her older sister is an editor for a magazine, which she gave us an issue but is all in Chinese. On our way to her house we asked several questions about her family and future plans. April is originally from Xian, where most of her family still lives. Her family is composed of three sisters and two brothers. Based on current Chinese standards, she is considered to have a large family; however, during the period when they were born, the one child policy had not been implemented and there for it was normal to have more than one child. April also has a niece named Linda (a Spanish name!). Although April is married, her husband is in Xian, where he works. They do not have any children, and according to April she does not plan to have any family until she gets her doctorate degree. April plans to get her doctorate degree to become a doctor (just like her father and grandfather) in Guangzhou. April asked us our age and if we were married or if we had a boyfriend. Each of us told her about our family and our major.
Her apartment had a small living room with a television, a bathroom, two rooms, a dining room, and a kitchen. These were all smaller than our dorm rooms. We were introduced to Linda, April’s niece who spoke English. At first she was very shy and did not speak very much, but once we started asking her questions and making conversation, she gained confidence and began talking and singing. We were given bananas and melon as appetizers and orange juice and Coca-Cola as drinks. While we were in the living room with Linda, April and her sister were making dumplings. All of us wanted to help, so we volunteered to help make dumplings. Although, we did not see how they made the dough, the process is rather simple and fast. To me the entire dumpling making process is very similar to the making of Mexican gorditas (they look like round stuffed doughnuts) and flour tortillas. After cutting the dough into little pieces and rolling out those pieces into small circles we placed a small quantity of a mixture of vegetables and meat in the center of the circles and glued them together like a closed taco or seashell.
Time to eat! There was so much food on the table that one did not know where to start. Chinese always served many dishes and have a lot of leftovers because it is not appropriate to have an empty plate. We ate roasted duck, colored eggs (for lack of the correct name), ham, fresh and boiled cucumber, peanuts, sweetened tomatoes, and dumplings. The roasted duck was delicious! Using all of the food provided, we then made burritos/tacos! For dessert we had watermelon and ice cream. It was the best lunch I have had so far on the trip. While we were eating we spoke about what is regarded as the ideal beauty for Chinese women. According to April, Chinese men like women who are thin and who have pale/white skin, that is why many Chinese women use umbrellas to protect their skin while walking during the daylight. We also talked about the social discrimination between males and females. All Chinese pregnant women want to have male babies because they believe males have greater capabilities and intelligence than females. Males receive more upper level positions than females in the workforce. As far as dating relationships, boys and girls are now more direct in communicating their attraction for each other. The girl or boy can directly go to the person and express his or her feelings. After eating lunch, we went to a flower fair/market. When I saw all the beautiful different types of flowers, my mouth just dropped open! I love flowers! I was stunned to see so man flowers with colors I have never seen before, all at the same place. I saw yellow, white, red, bright pink, and bluish/greenish roses. April said that as the host it was her duty to provide for us and therefore, she could not allow us to pay for anything. After the flower fair, we were brought back to the school’s campus. I gave them some of the gifts that I brought from the U.S. We were all so happy! Before we departed we exchanged emails to keep in touch and help each other practice Chinese and English.
Visiting April’s family was truly an honor and a priceless learning experience. They were very hospitable and made each of us feel like celebrities. April told us many times to “feel at home” and I did feel like I was at home. The concept of offering everything one can to guests in one’s home is found in many cultures around the world. For example, like the Chinese, Mexicans, and Americans are also very hospitable and accommodating to their guests. When my family invites people for lunch or dinner, we open the doors of our home and give them the best of what we have, and this is what our host family did for us. They made sure we had plenty of food and drink and were always asking if we needed anything else. In addition, many of the traditional medical practices used in China are also used in Mexico. All of these brings me to the conclusion that we are more similar than different. All we need to do is to open ourselves to one another in order to get to know one another better. One thing that I was disappointed at was Linda’s behavior. I have always had the impression that because of Confucianism, Chinese children hold their elders with very high regard and respect. When we were cooking, Linda was playing with the dough and when her aunt asked her to stop and let her press the dough, Linda would not allow her and talked back at her by saying that her aunt did not know how to do it properly. Her rudeness and disobedience was surprising to me because of her young age and because my aunt or any other family member would not permit me to talk back at them. As China modernizes and urbanizes, its traditional values are being diluted and forgotten.
Kelly Smith (Georgia State University)
May 17, 2006
Standing in a line and eagerly waiting, the English language program students created an excited environment for both them and us. I was both excited and a little intimidated by the notion of meeting and speaking with Chinese students, but the intimidation soon subsided upon talking to my guide around the campus. Xiong Yafan, her English name being Emma, greeted me with a huge smile and a “Hello”. Emma is a leader in the English program studying to complete her degree in English. She plans to go on within the Chinese University system in order to receive her master’s and perhaps her Ph.D. She is from a small town just outside of Zhengzhou where her family still lives and she can visit them on the weekend. When she is not working on her mass amounts of schoolwork, Emma enjoys playing tennis and volleyball, listening to American pop music, and watching Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives on television.
Since beginning her English studies nine years ago, Emma’s English has become near perfect. She is confident when she speaks, which shows through her tone. Her interest in English began when she heard an American pop song and wanted to learn to understand it. Some of her favorite English novels include: Gone With the Wind, Sherlock Holmes, and Pride and Prejudice (none of these being easy reads for someone who’s first language is English).
When asked about China’s one child policy and how it applies to her family, she replied that she had a brother also and that her parents had chosen to have children instead of following the policy. But the effect of the one child policy can be seen by noticing that even though Emma’s family chose to have more than one child, her grandparents on each side all had six siblings. When considering that difference on a larger scale, China’s one child only policy has stopped the once exponential population growth.
Asking Emma if she was a member of the communist party, I thought would be a touchy subject, but she was surprisingly open to the question. She said that as a child until she started college everyone is a member. Once reaching college-student age she and everyone else decide whether they would like to remain in the party. But since China has a one party system, Emma’s position–much like many others–can be seen as neutral to the party system. She does have strong opinions when asked about the changing look of China and its openess towards commercial business growth. Emma claims that businesses like Jeep moving their operations to China will help the economy and in turn help the people of China. The spread of capitalism and capitalistic thought is a natural progression for China.
After seeing the cities and talking to some of the people of China it seems that China is geared and ready to be a major competitor in international business. But is the rest of the world ready to compete with China and its over 1.3 billion people?
May 29, 2006
China seems very different to me after coming here when comparing my view of it before I left and when I was younger. But after coming here I have gained a totally new perspective on China. The biggest change to my perception was the noticeability of the size of the population in China. The 1.3 billion people in this country would allow one to believe that the streets are jam-packed with people, leaving very little personal space, but it is not like that. Hearing the different population numbers for cities like Beijing, Xi’an, and Zhengzhou, where they are all much larger than Atlanta always made me think that the overpopulation would be tangible, but all of these cities seem no different when it comes to just the amount of people you see when walking around.
The most evident difference between China and home is the use of bicycles instead of cars. After seeing the mass usage of the bicycle makes me wish that Atlanta utilized bicycles rather than too many cars. The lack of serious traffic shows the positive aspects of having a different kind of mobile society.
One of the more disheartening differences between home and China is the variance of the type of homeless or beggar that approach me. In Atlanta I mainly come across people who are simply down on their luck, but here in China it is so different. A woman and her two year old son were begging for money outside of the mosque and once she came to me she decided to drop her son from about her shoulder height with the hopes that it would make him cry and would evoke sympathy from me. Instances like this one make me think of the advice that many of the beggars are not true beggars and see it as a job, whereat the end of the day they go home to go to sleep and wake up to do it all over again.
After coming to China and completely changing my perception of, I am excited to see what the future holds for it. This new open door policy to foreign businesses fascinates me. And the excitement over the Olympics of 2008 as seen through the building projects and even through the sale of hats reading “Beijing 2008" is palpable. It will be interesting to see what changes will occur to China over the next decade and beyond. I have already decided to come back and see for myself the changes that have been made.
Sterling Metz (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Today we started off bright and early with a trip to a Terra-Cotta factory. After yesterday with the Pearl factory, I had had enough. I went through the Terra-Cotta “factory” pretty quickly and went outside. I am not trying to slight the ancient Chinese and their tireless work at making terra-cotta, but they didn’t even work the kilns at this location any longer. I know, I asked. This means that all the statues that were in this place were forged somewhere else. That is what I call upsetting. I didn’t have some grand sense that I was getting a piece of history, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to at least feel important. In a book assigned for Dr. Reynolds The Phenomenon, this leads into a point I would like to make about the Chinese people and capitalism. A lot of policymakers in the US thinks that China being a mor capitalist nation is a good thing. They have a phrase for “pseudo-capitalism.” The technical term is “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” I would have a term I like better. Confucian Capitalism. All of the work ethic and value traditionally associated with Confucian values and apply it to a capitalist model. What this creates is an unrelenting peddling class. You can walk through 15 watch salesmen and the 16th will send his best effort at you. It is something I have never seen. The customer service is almost frightening. At every museum, every monument, ever statue, every western hotel, every mall has a mob of people looking at you as if you are meat to have the fat trimmed off. It is unreal and at times feels like a tide that you must either stand against or have your money washed away. Now that I have been senselessly and tirelessly verbose, I can actually talk about what I did see. The terra-cotta warriors truly do earn their space as a wonder of the world. The amount of effort to create one five foot clay man is something impressive. The amount to take four thousand is something else entirely. To then dig out a chamber and carefully organize by military formation is an epic accomplishment. I have previously said that old stuff is not necessarily my cup of tea. This does not mean that I cannot appreciate this accomplishment. It is this ethic I was speaking of in the ideology above. I think it, regardless of what edicts about the past have been issued, is the number one stereotype I have developed as I have seen the culture. The Chinese can work with such diligence. Granted, I think a great deal of the labor was done by slaves (not entirely sure), I can’t buy that that was.
The second part of the day was something really interesting as well. In Xian there is a modern history site that deserves a special place. It is the place that signified one of the turning points in the rise of Communism in China. The place I speak of is the Hot Springs. Originaly a bath house built to house a favorite concubine in the classic tale of an emperor putting love before his country. In the mid-twentieth century; on of its temporary inhabitants was a man by the name of Chiang Kai-shek. Mr. Chiang held a position of pretty supreme authority amongst the nationalists, and I am sure I will learn far more about him in my History Since 1840, but I would like to talk about the history of the site a little more. This was the place where he was captured by his subordinate General Zhong and made to effectively stop trying to stomp out communism and start worrying about the Japanese that were walking all over Manchuria, on their way to Beijing. Apparently you used to be able to see where the bullets were actually fired. I am trying to think of an American equivalent to this, but stuff that cool just hasn’t happened in American politics. Imagine if some leftist group snuck onto Bush’s Texas ranch and made him stop the war in Iraq. I guess you first have to imagine a widespread poli-military revolutionary movement with a goal of overthrowing our current system. I think the mere fact that such an organization persisted in the twentieth century reveals something about American culture which is at odds with the traditional accepted norms of China. In China, it is expected that the current administration will be overthrown if they are not concerned with the well-being of their subjects. This is not the case of the American social contract. While we have apparently declared the right to throw off the yolk of our leadership if it goes awry, we prefer to keep our sovereignty and instead just either deal with it for our relatively short election cycle, or in serious cases (like extra-marital affairs) we can impeach and possibly remove our president. The idea of a mass people taking up arms and storming Washington to get their ideas heard is unquestionable. Perhaps the best answer is that China is one of the only remaining unitary powers and thus was subject to the lack of questionability. Perhaps one of the strengths of the pluralistic system is that it permits civil disobedience in a way that a single party system cannot allow. The natural single party response to this is that when making policy, all views are attempted to be reviewed. While in a peaceful period I have no problem with this. I do question what effect an anti-war movement would have on a unitary system. I think that labor strikes would likely entertain the same sort of rather uncompromising responses as an anti-war demonstration. I think that the most likely reason for such a squelching (at least as provided by the single party) would be that out and out protest is a rather barbaric way to get your view across. If you have discontent, express it to party members and let the party come to a solution internally. This does seem a little idealistic, but so does democracy. It is questionable how much of our right to protest we actually have, but that is an entirely different debate for an evening that doesn’t have an early morning following it.
Today I carried out what I said I would do yesterday: to be the master of ceremony at a party hosted by the English students. For the life of me I could not and still cannot remember the name of the absolutely stunning girl who set it up. She was a short, petite freshman English major. She claimed she had only been speaking English for one year, but I know many Americans who don’t know their language well enough to correct themselves on good versus well. We, as Americans, were left relatively in the dark as to what we were to do while there, save for our performance. After looking at our talents for what seemed to be hours, we decided we were best off trying to teach them “Southern English.” When it came time to present this we thought it was mostly hilarious, but we absolutely bombed. It was fairly awful. After the translation of the party into English, I was able to dance a little, but also talked to the other host. I will definitely not claim to have entirely noble intention, but I did get quite a bit from our conversation. I will do my best to recall most of what was said, but it was a sprawling conversation that took about two hours and had numerous periods of miscommunication and silence, as we both played with our vocabulary, trying to twist it into something we count on the other person understanding. I will start with the questions I found most interesting. I will let it be known that I will be paraphrasing for elegance as I am sure the actual stilted conversations would be rather dull.
To start on an incredibly humorous note, I used the word “extra” in one of my efforts to help her find a word. She looked at me rather puzzled. I spelt out the word and she still did not understand my word. I then tried using words to explain it, using the example of leftover pizza. She quickly caught on and attempted to assimilate it into her vocabulary, to which I imagine she was successful because she seemed to be successful in virtually everything she did. I think this is rather humorous. Americans are extravagant. Americans are an extraordinary people. Americans drive an extra large car, drink extra large drinks, wear extra large pants, and are in general, extra. She, however, had not found a need for the word yet. The power f this revelation was rather humbling. This simple case study in linguistics carries with it a meaning that I hope every other American on this trip was able to find in their travels.
Upon seeing a young couple necking, I laughed to myself. She quickly asked me what I found funny. I responded how different my perception of Chinese girls was from what I was actually seeing. I explained that in our understanding, Chinese girls are very traditional, shy, and prudish. What I saw was another of the numerous couples making out, cuddling, or taking part in some other public display of affection. When asked about this schism she commented that many girls are very shy, and she listed herself as an example. While she admitted that she had issues with being shy, she said she is working very hard to step beyond the veil and embrace a western view. This was something I had expected to hear, but I didn’t realize that it was not a self-driven desire to assimilate, but a recommendation pushed on her by her parents, teachers, and peers. It is expected that the English majors become American in culture, whatever image of America it is they are getting. In America, girls are being encouraged to stand up and be less sexual. They should be aware of their power, but not flaunting their bodies. American women should also be self-motivated. I see another cleavage here, and I don’t think I could have found the word to explained it to her, no do I think I wanted to. Her naivety about America was almost cute. I did try to fight the stereotypes, but this one I couldn’t challenge. I think that if she needs to create a personal revolution of self and hopefully discover someone more outgoing, then more power to her.
She asked me a question that was perhaps the only moment of tension in the entire two hour discussion. She asked me what I thought of China. This was a question I could answer a hundred times and normally would have, had she not added a caveat to her requested answer. She said, “Really.” All of the sudden, I suddenly felt like I was in a diplomatic negotiation. Maybe it was a misnomer of how she learned how to translate, but I pulled my cards up off the table. In the flash of an instant, I began heavy analysis into what she was implying with this question. On one hand, it might be that she legitimately wanted to get an authentic American opinion she could hold onto and study, allowing her to take her own perceptions on China and try to get a side slice of America via their perception of something she knew very well. While even likely that that was her train of though, I prefer to think she unintentionally let her hand slip a little lower than intended. I think she had some critiques of China that her sharp mind caught through whatever Chinese image she was supposed to have. I played it as such. I quickly responded with a mildly insightful, but generally not exciting, response I knew would not give her the daring critique I imagined she was anxiously awaiting. I quickly fired back the question at her, seeing if she would give me the answer she so desired from me. Her response made it seem as if someone pulled a string on her speak and say. “I think China is the best country in the world.” I think you would be hard pressed to get a different answer. Maybe its simply their sense of nationalism, but I don’t believe that someone fascinated by American culture, with its ripe level of cynicism, and not find something worth commenting on in China. That is just my opinion, I could be wrong.
The field trip to East Zhengzhou has probably raised the most power feelings I have yet felt in my trip. There is a typical Hollywood bastardization of history called The Last Samurai. If you take the movie at face value and do not examine its historical inaccuracies, it does examine a problem I personally identify with. The problem is effectively progress versus value. The movie personifies progress as Omura, the right hand of the emperor’s modernization movement. The feeling looks to elicit a gut feeling of loathing for this character and does so rather well in my opinion. The reason I bring up this example is because I felt this feeling twice during this field trip. I am very careful here not to blame China for this feeling just as I did not blame the Japanese emperor for hiring Omura to guide the modernization of their country. What I blame is something I have hated for about 5 or 6 years, a relatively long period of time in the lifespan of a 21 year old. I blame the desire for unconstrained progress. 2.2 billion dollars was spent on a new school. 2.2 billion dollars was spent on an aircraft hanger that was called a “Conference Center”. The city is preparing to almost double its population in fifteen years. The infrastructure required was something almost incomprehensible. Where my problem lies is what makes me curious. I am not a devout environmentalist, but hearing that it will be coal powered did make me sick to my stomach. The city plan is necessary to deal with the internal population shift. I heard a statistic that China is building an infrastructure the size of Houston every month. Month. This is a statistic as comprehensible as the distance to Alpha Centauri or the speed of light. The growth of this nation is absolutely frightening. It reminds me of a song lyric along the lines of:
“It’s the structure of the future
as demise comes see thing through
it’s progress ‘til there’s nothing left to gain
as the death of new ideas
makes us wallow in our shame.”
Upon reflection of the culmination of my trip, I feel what I have been feeling in smaller doses throughout my stay on campus. The campus is laid out in a cookie-cutter fashion with the living sectors, the academic and administrative sectors, and its short trees, needing years of development to make the all stucco campus seem humane. The students go through almost automated routines, studying things that many of them question their interest in. I see the dark side of capitalism; something that has motivated things deep inside me for many years. I blame this feeling, as I said, not on China, but on the west. I blame it on the bastardized Smithian tradition of Capitalism. The west has made an art out of obscuring the truth of power and money to serve the interests of those in power, and I fear that China is on the road to that same end. The main difference is that darkness is so much more pure when rooted in the noble traditions of the Han. It feels as if China is losing everything that initially made me so excited to come here. I can look at paper see East Zhengzhou as the antithesis of the religious sites and the Shaolin temple, but I feel something similar. I feel it at every tourist site and every temple. The society is having its soul stripped out. The spirituality that I found when I researched traditional China has been replaced with materialism awash in capitalism. It sickens me to see such a proud people try to embrace such a corrupting system We discussed today that when the CCP was formed it was an agrarian movement. Today the membership consists of businessmen of all shapes and sizes, attempting to jockey for power. What happens when members who qualify for the party begin to have their voice bought? I fear intensely for Chinese society. I fear for the students who have to stand in line to get a job, only to raise their voice and be washed away in a tide of economic reform. I fear for the Chinese state, for they are trying to take the western model of economies and aspects of the western political model (most of which is actually being imposed upon them) but as little as possible of the western culture. The girls on campus are shy, sexless creatures forced to bear the burden of traditional upbringings while slowly getting a creeping view of the western liberated female. The males are desperate for male culture. Economic prosperity can breed inequality. Inequality breeds resentment and resentment breeds revolution. I am not suggesting an immediate revolt, but there is a danger I hope is being perceived. This seems like a long intellectual foray from a trip to see the future, but I can’t shake what I felt.