In response to the Chinese political prisoner who is suing Yahoo!, I have the following to say:
Perhaps I have an uncommon perspective on this issue, but as an American I defend China’s policy to protect its interests in civil harmony. This particular arrest was not done without reason, and the accused might well have known better than to instigate social unrest and disruption. To the Westerner, social harmony doesn’t seem very important when compared to free speech, but the Chinese history and culture are extraordinarily different and simply can not often be argued in the same context with that of the west. Social hierarchy has existed here for thousands of years and has helped to maintain the stability of a huge population. Authority in China has a different meaning and acceptance because it is an essential part of the hierarchy. Americans and others from the west constantly challenge the very relevance and importance of that because of what I see as their lack of understanding of China and its people. Maybe that’s the real problem here.
The first lesson to learn about China is that China knows what is good for China. To declare American-styled ideals of free speech and democracy as the best solution is like trying to place a square peg into a round hole and it is, quite frankly, arrogant. It shows little respect or understanding for a country and culture that has as much to teach as to learn. In this country where the individual is subordinate to the collective group, to fashion the personal suffering of an individual who is suspected of criminal behavior against that group as an heroic voice of the true will of the people seems equally sensible.
My understanding is that, in this case, there may be issues of abuse of power and torture. As an American, I wish I had the moral high ground to judge this behavior with the self-righteous piety it deserves. However, current events in American history would prove my every effort to do so as hypocritical. I can look no further than my own homeland to criticize (and work to prohibit) such shameful behaviors and I should do so firstly. I condemn all acts of torture and abuse of power but how revealing it is about the people of the world that, from the under-developed nations to the world’s most developed nations, abuse of power and torture can be found as quickly as those who fault others for it. Shall I now rant about China’s participation in this global activity?!
I suspect Yahoo!, like many others, is under the powerful influence of money and seeks to improve shareholder value by any means necessary. However, China is more than a market. Woe to those who choose not to understand how that is true. China is a student of western markets but it is also a teacher of its own consumption. Woe to those who choose not to understand how that is true. What works well in one country does not always work the same way in another. I am a guest in this country and so I understand my obligation to observe and respect the local culture and law. I might even learn something by doing this. This would be my uncommon recommendation to all: observe and respect; you may just learn something that satisfies more than yourself.
4 thoughts on “does china know what’s best for china?”
Thanks for the comment.
Shall I instead argue that foreigners know what’s best for China and the American model of democracy is the one true solution? I won’t because others already do this every day.
There are complexities to developing China that are beyond the immediate view of westerners. Walk away from this blog entry thinking about how there might be flaws in any country.
Interesting post. And I generally agree that many people try to apply American or Western solutions when dealing with China. However the are other side might argue that the population of China is a relatively recent phenomena. And that just back in the Qing Dynasty it was just a fraction of what it is today. So therefore using the “it’s necessary and has been necessary to have a strong deference to authority because of the large population” as a premise to an argument is not very strong. However, many Chinese people believe this and may not even have a clear understanding of their own history. After all, there needs to be a justification for the controls that are in place.
And then you have lots of contradictory examples throughout Chinese history of the defying and skirting of authority as well as several 成语 the most famous being exemplified by the expression 天高皇帝远 （ heaven is high and the Emperor is far a way） 。 Hardly the deference to authority that you indicate。
However, the general theme of seeking first to understand and not blindly applying your own point of reference is a really good point to make.
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