Friday, May 2, 2008

Chinese American

I've been reading (and commenting) a lot on the Tibet/Olympic Torch fiasco lately. I'm not really surprised at the protests and controversy since every torch relay has drawn protesters. What surprises me the most are the comments from Chinese people, both in news articles and blog posts. A part of me always thought that since I'm ethnically Chinese and lived in Taiwan for the first ~9 years of my life, I would find lots in common with mainland Chinese people. Having visited Chengdu 4 times in the past 12 months, I'm beginning to feel more "at home" in China. However, I never discuss politics with any local Chinese people, and after reading news/comments, I am confused and saddened by what appears to be the public opinion about the West. Maybe I'm more American/Canadian/whatever then I thought.

During college, I took several Chinese history classes even though I was an engineering major. Imperial history was interesting but impersonal; one class we studied the life/culture of commoners during the Ming dynasty. What disturbed me most was modern Chinese/Chinese-American history. It was one tragedy after another, from the Boxer Rebellion to the Rape of Nanjing to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. On this side of the Pacific, the Chinese were treated poorly even though Chinese immigrants helped build the transcontinental railway.

Back to current events, a couple of things I took away from all those history classes seem relevant:

1. A lot of white people (including Americans) and the Japanese beat up on China
Maybe this explains why there seem to be a huge mistrust of non-Chinese opinions, especially Western media. Every time a foreigner questions news censorship in China, the typical response is that all Western media is biased and anti-Chinese. To me, that is totally ludicrous, but how do you communicate with people that equate differing opinions as dangerous or outright lies? I don't talk politics when I'm in China, especially about Taiwan. Since I was born there, I have very strong opinions. What I don't understand is why the average person in mainland China cares one way or the other.

2. Democracy doesn't work very well with Chinese people
For most of its long history, China has been ruled by emperors until the Republic of China was formed after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912. However, I feel that the period from 1912-1949 was even more chaotic then before, with warlords vying for power followed by the war with Japan.

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