Saturday, April 22, 2006

Different

So some heckler jumped up and heckled Chinese top guy Hu Jintao at the man's arrival for his unofficial pajama party with our President. She was apparently a Falun Gong supporter. Maybe Falun Gong's a cult. Maybe it isn't. In China? It's a cult, because the government says so. End of discussion.

Some folk don't know what to think about President Hu's visit. Is China evil? Is it a dangerous Commie state, or one that's taking longer to open up that did the Soviet Union and its solar system? Is it good or bad that China has become more open to Western ideas, especially ideas on economics?

But even dumbasses who think that Communist countries are inherently dangerous, just because they're there, or that Communism equals totalitarianism, and that our Local Superpower hasn't taken a totalitarian turn, understand one thing pretty clearly. You don't want to fuck with a country of 1.2 billion people, especially since they're not just armed with bamboo stakes. Military classicists will add the famous corollary about land wars in Asia.

The Chinese aren't like we are. They're different. I recently had an opportunity to visit China briefly, and although my head was down for most of the week (I was on the staff for a large and busy conference), I did get to step out a bit, and to talk pretty frankly with many (lets say between 50 and 100) Chinese persons from various walks of life. I was surprised, for a variety of reasons, by the candor of the persons I spoke with. I'm now guessing that surprise was a result of something deeply ingrained in many Americans; I expected, deep in my greasy little heart, for the Chinese to be so wildly different from us as to be incomprehensible. That, I think, is the driving force behind many Americans' opinions on China and Asia in general. The operating system there is just plain different--economically, socially, culturally, politically, religiously. That doesn't make it bad (I'll cheerfully concede that in many ways, from our perspective, it is bad--but it's not being different that makes it so). The problem is compounded by Americans' nonexclusive tendency toward an inability to see shades of grey.

For example, this country was founded on a framework that specifically encodes religious tolerance. This has led to a number of abuses by both the government and by religious sects. That doesn't mean all religious sects are bad. It means some are. Some have gone so far as to try to inject their principles into government--a clear violation of the social and political contract, despite the inability of millions of dumbasses in this country to understand that, and their infinite ability to turn it into some kind of slur on them.

There is no such framework in China. Buddhism and Taoism are prevalent there, and no small number of Chinese have converted to Christianity. I don't know enough about Falun Gong to know if it's a cult. But compare the uproar over attempts to impose Christian values on our politics--in a culture where there is a political tradition of religious tolerance--to what the Chinese government sees in the Falun Gong movement as a political threat (in a culture where any large movement of people has to be viewed as at least partly political), and it's pretty easy to understand where the Commies are coming from.

Not that everyone here wants to.

There's another problem here, that plays on American sensibilities about China, and it also boils down to "different." Except not really.

You see, we've been encouraging the Chinese to open up their economy to capital. And so they have. And now they're kicking our ass--our trade deficit with them is huge. So we're pansying up, because it appears, for the moment, by that measure, that they're better at capitalism than we are. Boo-fucking-hoo. We went through this with another large Asian country not so long ago--anyone remember the Japanese kicking our asses economically after we bombed them into submission, then helped them rebuild? The American tendency to ask for a change in the rules when we're getting our asses kicked is positively revolting. It's no wonder the Chinese are confused by our requests for a rules change--we taught them the fucking rules. They just did what we told them to. Now? We're a whimpering pack of nancypersons. You go, China.

More on China later. I have, it seems, broken the blogging habit, a thing of which several of you have complained. Up to now, I've chosen to respect the tremendously huge silent majority of those of you who haven't. Oddly, in that time, I've gotten a lot more work done, too. Hmm. In any event, I compiled during my trip a page and a half of bullets on China, on which I will expound in the fullness of time. Rejoice or weep, as suits you.

4 comments:

Dweeze said...

I like Chinese
I like Chinese
They only come up to your knees
But they're cute
And cuddly
And eager to please

Wheeze said...

Hi.
I have no agenda in posting here. Merely an acknowledgement of my presence is sufficient.

Do the Chinese folk like pulled pork? Just curious.

See you Friday.

Swami said...

You're starting to sound almost diplomatic, Landru. Bizzarro diplomatic, but still...

I always figured you be back blogging eventually.

I'm not worried about Evil Commies anymore because Evil Islamists are the new bogeyman.

Oh crap. You still have that word verification ordeal. xtrdssg Extra dissing?

whispers said...

I seriously was about to complain that you hadn't blogged in a while.

My boss is Chinese. Chinese and Japanese people are really culturally quite different from Westerners. I know that's obvious, but you don't really appreciate it until you have to interact with one in a big way. The Japanese at least have been brought up in a happy capitalist society. (Outsiders may not sense the mild irony there.) The Chinese are just...different.

None of us can figure out the boss here. For fun, we pretend he's a spy. Is that racist? Or just silly? I figure since I make the same lame joke with Russians that it's not racists, but anti-pinko/Commie nostalgia.

I would get on your case to add my blog to your blogroll, but let's face it - I'm even more boring than you are, and the blog is even less interesting. (Hmm...I think I'm in Snuffluffagus mode here.) I think I'll add a post about how Royal Mail is enjoying watching all the DVDs ScreenSelect (aka British Netflix) has been claiming to be posting (aka mailing) to me, but have been drifting off to limbo for weeks at a time.

So - when you were in China, did you see my boss? He just came back yesterday. I know you didn't meet him in London, but he's hard to miss. He's a shortish, skinny Chinese guy who weighs something like 40 kg. I'm sure that'll narrow it down.