China has a bad reputation. I would like to gripe and say that this bad reputation is warranted, but in some respects it is not.
When you have a government famous for its censorship, there is an assumption that said censorship is effective. That of course isn’t the case, and you can see this clearly when you notice that lots of Chinese people not only have VPN’s installed on their phones, but also the facebook app. Some bars even proudly announce on outdoor signs that they have wifi that is already set up with a VPN, boosting that it is good for Google, facebook, and Instagram.
An Orwellian nightmare it is not.
Some of the dissenting is merely suggested. One of my favorite students in China was once speaking at length about Confucianism. Religion has had a rocky history in China since the cultural revolution, and it was outright banned here for the longest time. So, it turns out, was anything that exemplified “the old way of thinking”. During the cultural revolution China wanted to be forward thinking, and did so by prohibiting anything that represnted the old ways of life. But now, fifty or so years after the cultural revolution, China finds itself lacking a proper culture of its own, and so these ‘old ways of thinking’ are now creeping back into the culture. My student recounted all this to me with an air that suggested he thought the government to be a little dogmatic and stupid in how readily it changed its mind. And of course, all the while having a wink and a nod for the government that can do no wrong.
Another student wore a six inch silver cruicifix at all times, and wanted to talk about all things political. He made the other students uncomfortable by bringing up Tienanmen square, where I am told nothing of interest ever happened ever.
Here’s is the one that I found most interesting. A person who works for the mall where my school is located speaks English extremely well, and is surprisingly affable for A Chinese person. I met him through a colleague, and every now and again he stops for a chat. During one of these chats he expressed gratitude to America for killing Mao’s Zedong son during the Korean war. I had no idea what he was going on about, but it turns out he was not being sarcastic. Mao is something of a controversial figure, and is no longer viewed consistently with reverence. Some people like him, others don’t. Apparently, according to this gentleman, Mao was a terrible person who put the country back several years, and had his son taken over it would have been many more years of the same thing. Instead, thanks to the killing of Mao’s son by the Americans during the Korean war, which ultimately led to other people taking the reins of power in China. This led to him talking about the failures of what Mao put into place and the successes of modern capitalism.