Monday, June 27, 2011

What is the Chinese student's viewpoint on America?

What is the Chinese student's viewpoint on America?

This was one of the lessons that was covered in our Chinese textbook last week. It's interesting because I know that much of the American viewpoint on China is misinformed or swayed by the media. I think that the Americans can also justify lots of things on the media as non-biased because of the fact that the media is not owned by the government and that we have freedom of speech. However, I think sometimes in America, we are ignorant of the fact that the media's portrayal of foreign countries often has underlying political propaganda and other agendas. If anything, I don't think a lot of the negative articles written about China accurately portray the amount of wealth and the transformation of the citizens in Beijing. Yes, we know that there's "tremendous economic growth" in China, and that it is "slowly catching up to America" but it really wasn't until I got here and spoke with local citizens, from students to elders, that I realized how amazing of a feat that was. Prior to the cultural revolution, people have described to me that China was comparable to present-day North Korea. How did a country like this, in such a short span of three or so decades, become a global superpower? How can it be that some of the adults right now in this nation, who own multiple apartments in Beijing that sell for nearly 1 million USD for a two bedroom apartment, once grew up in an impoverished country that had just about nothing? (using my vocab here: 一贫如洗)

Chinese students once worshipped America for its freedom, its democracy and human rights. I think these are areas where even citizens today willingly admit that they admire about America. But now that China's economy is so strong, and so powerful, I can sense a feeling of nationalism and patriotism that isn't unfounded. Sure, every nation's citizens have a sense of pride for their nation, and I'm sure Chinese people always had nationalism. However, from some of the interviews I conducted, one especially with a friend of mine from Tsinghua, I remember him saying something along the lines of this: This is why our people are so proud. This is why our parent's generation is so proud of this country. They literally rebuilt this country in a span of 30 years. After centuries of being colonized, mistreated, and overpowered by foreigners, we're finally back on top. Every year, there's so much change but everyone is working together to make this new China. There's no longer a need to worship America, but rather the viewpoint of China-US relationship now is more economic partnership than anything. We have our differences, and many are cultural; America needs to better understand us as a nation and as a people. We know more about your history and we've read your constitution and watch your films and listen to your music; your country knows little to none about us as a people. He told me of how although most Chinese students despise US foreign affairs and policies, and feel like they only get in the way of other people's business using the name of "democracy", they still admit that there any social and economic norms that they can learn from America, and that America also has a lot to learn from China. This is a statement that he is now able to proudly say, and say without worry.

Although politics is a sensitive topic that really has no absolute right or wrong, after having this conversation with my friend and others, I feel like I have a greater realization of foreign countries. Chinese students are no longer pushing for a drastic change in government policy, because they know that at the speed with which China is growing, the amount of social progress has also been tremendous as well, and that it would be asking for something that is unrealistic for China to completely democratize right now. Many people are happy with the government; they sacrifice some rights which Americans view as unalienable, and get extreme efficiency, security, and amazing economic growth. For a nation that was impoverished 30 years ago, I think many citizens are more economic oriented and are willing to achieve economic goals at the expense of certain rights for the time being.

extra curricular activity: peking opera actor comes and teaches us
how to appreciate peking opera and then paints some of our faces!

fervently love the communist government

the drum tower (which is across from the drum tower),
next to some hutongs we went to

quiet picturesque eh? 

tsinghua university... wait what i wish i went here

monkey king!
pouring tea! it looked cooler than this pic can describe..

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