I got an email from one of my 16-year-old students today. He and I have been emailing back and forth since I left Tangshan and started traveling in late March. Now he's no fool, and is cautious about what he reads and believes from Chinese media. (wise boy) However, the isolation of reality with the Chinese frightens me. I suppose what frightens me most is witnessing intelligent, independent-thought-driven people in China left in the dark. For us ("us" in this case being Canadians, I think), if we choose not to believe a thing it's because there is evidence to the contrary and we can point to it. We can see both sides of the coin. Not so for most Chinese people. Their "coin" has been riveted to steel and involves a government-run laser-light show that promotes the side showing.
Because of this, it amazes me when Johnson (my student) comes to me either telling me what he thinks, or asking questions. He has no basis, information-wise, to divide his opinion from the norm. Imagine a book that tells two sides of a debate, except each page reserved for the side that the Chinese government doesn't find convenient is blacked out completely. That's essentially how it goes. It's crazy to think that some of my students are looking at the black pages and going "I'd rather side with uncertainty than what's being said". They're tossing their away a government-generated "truth" in favour of a void.
This post was prompted from an email I received this morning, which contained: "Today I found a terrible fact: the Austrilians think that Taiwan is a country!! China has announced for lots of times that Taiwan is a part of China! Do you Canadians have that idea, too?" A bit of background: that teenage class was taken on by Jeff, an older Australian man, when I left. So clearly something is being discussed in class that has prompted Johnson to take whatever they were discussing as Australian gospel. (That's another thing... if I say "I think food in China is too spicy", that response would be tantamount to saying "Canadians think that food in China is too spicy".)
Ouch. How can I answer his question? 1) Prior to just looking it up (like, 5 minutes ago), I had no knowledge of Taiwan's history or political situation, and 2) is it right for me to give him the information I have available? He's asked an earnest question, and deserves an earnest answer. However... I worry that things I tell him could sow the seeds of further mistrust in him, and is that fair? Granted, China faces this problem now more than ever. Information restriction was quite easy before the Internet, but more importantly (and ironically) before English became a large part of their education. There aren't many Chinese newspapers outside of China, so 10-20 years ago what English media was saying wasn't a big concern because Chinese people (in China, obviously) couldn't read it anyway. Now that's changed, and I think China's heading towards a kind of information-based revolution. John (as in Zhuhai "John and Linda" John) believes that China is aimed right at a more traditional revolution. It's inevitable, he believes, given the hundreds of violent protests that occur every year... in China. (Not that you'd hear about them...)
I have to say that I think he's right.
In the bit of research I did on Taiwan, I came to the conclusion that despite PRC (People's Republic of China) influence and its enormous shadow, it is a somewhat independent country. Nice strong conclusion, eh? They have democratic elections, and their own president. However... technically, the UN recognizes Taiwan as being a part of China, and there are anti-secession laws preventing its independence. Counter-however... Taiwan has its own military. A huge issue is the US' Taiwan Relations Act, and the fact it sells arms to Taiwan. (Who don't they sell to?) So... if Taiwan makes a move to officially become sovereign, China will react militarily... prompting a counter-counter-response from the US. ... but not from the UN, which does not intervene when it comes to border or land disputes. Anyway, they recognize Taiwan as being a state of China.
For a nice propaganda-soaked read, check this out. Scary, but very typical.
For a more middle-of-the-road look, I found this interesting.
In other news, I went to tai ji quan on Thursday. The teacher, for the summer, is doing it under the Sapper Bridge near Parliament Hill. It was great. Lots of discussion about philosophy, and learning about the Chen family style and lineages, as well as application and some resistance push-hands (tuishou).
And what - the - fuck. Hamas TV martyrs Palestinian mickey mouse. Time to add some chlorine to the global gene pool, methinks.