Thursday, December 9, 2010

Waving the Bloody Shirt (if allowed)

Something I'd been meaning to get around to mentioning:

>Some months back, I was invited to go on a weekend outing with some of my students, a Chinese colleague, and the colleague's daughter. We were to visit a local museum, or perhaps climb the nearby mountain--I forget which. The important bit is that the outing was called off without explanation. Curious about this, I asked my students what had happened. The weather had been nice; no revolution had yet begun; everybody involved was in good health. Apparently, all students were quarantined within the university that weekend. My colleague probably felt embarrassed to bring the matter up--as with so many other political issues. The reason being that there had been a demonstration in downtown Nanjing, so the undergrad students in their isolated, suburban "university town" developments were being deliberately kept from the fun. This follows a theory (I may or may not have expressed on this blog) that one reason for the university suburbs so popular in China now is the ability to cut the vast majority of students off from the city center in event of any event the government does not approve of. There are, of course, other reasons for such developments, but this anecdote now provided solid proof of this theory. Later, trolling the web, it turned out that the weekend had seen a number of anti-Japanese demonstrations (related to the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute).

While I find myself ambivalent at the idea of my fresh-faced young students being fascinated with a sometimes-racist nationalist protest of a matter that could be easily solved through diplomacy and concessions by both sides (and almost was)... I also feel quite sad that they were not allowed to see what a protest/demonstration is. Yet another example of how Chinese citizens, and particularly young people who are no longer children, find themselves unnecessarily treated as helpless, hapless children by their "strict father" government. I wish they could have been given the chance to see both what is nasty and base and what is exhilarating and uplifting in mass protest. They are old enough to discover their position on the matter for themselves. If the protest be an unreasonable protest which the government wished to keep from escalation, perhaps that should be seen as the consequence of frequent government sponsored anti-japanese "waving of the bloody shirt". Regardless, it is certainly not the fault of my students who are merely responding as they have been taught throughout their upbringing to respond.

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