Chinese sign in Cairo
Any discussion on forbidden topics is worthwhile. And this topic seems to be at least semi-forbidden on websites easily accessible in China. Social unrest is widespread and continues to grow. China is built on denial. Not on the Nile. There is no river in Beijing. I wonder if there has been any precipitation by now since fall. It was pretty bad in 2000, I remember. They dug huge canals all the way from around Nanjing and Wuhan to bring water for Beijing and Tianjin. Imagine a new canal dug through a city center, 100 meter down. That’s what I saw somewhere in Henan in 2007 or so. Maybe most people don’t take part in uprisings yet. As anywhere, people are concerned with their family and their livelihood. Not with the government. Unless something bad enough happens, you don’t need to take action. Maybe you’ll discuss something, like Premier Wen visiting the Beijing Petition Bureau. They do seem to feel the need to address some problems publicly, and not only through suppression. They continue to suppress many words, such as eleven or civil society. Actually I’m not sure if eleven is still sensitive, but it wouldn’t surprise me, since a certain dissident who was sentenced to eleven years on Dec. 25, 2009, got a lot of publicity lately. Any comparison of China with countries in volatile situations is worthwhile. It’s important not to end up in the Nile, or in denial. That’s a nice little joke I heard from our friend Liam, very nice if you’re far away, I guess. To a very large extent, China is built on denial. The same could be said about other societies, like Austria. But maybe at least there is less denial now than 30 or 40 or 50 years ago. In Austria, maybe. It’s a dialectical process, maybe. There is still a lot of denial. But in China denial is at the base of the system. In private talk, if you’re a friend, people will tell you what they went through in the 1950s, -60s, -70s and so on, or what they are doing now, even if it’s against official policy. But is there enough public discussion of past and present grievances and problems? This is already very close to the question Adam (see below) has put in his post. Adam is right, saying that China is very special and very stable and so on often gets very obnoxious. I am very wary of any big-time supportive international collaboration with institutions in China. Just look at what happened at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2009. The organizers cooperated with China’s GAPP, the general administration of pressure and prodding to toe the government line in publishing. The Ministry of Truth. Maybe they had to, to stage a China-themed fair. And the ensuing scandal was good, except for a few officials. Any kind of discussion is good, any kind of publicity, if there is a lot of denial. I wonder if the Robert Bosch trust fund and other Western sources of funding for cooperation with China learned anything. In December there was a discussion in Germany and Austria, after an article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung suggested that Chinese Studies institutions staid away from the topic of the Nobel Peace Prize award for a Chinese dissident. Maybe some of them do, if the people in charge are too closely affiliated with the Confucius Institutes situated right inside the Chinese Studies department, as it is usually the case now. In Vienna, this wasn’t a problem. There was a big discussion on January 11 at the Sinology department of the East Asian Institute, one of the most engaged and open events at Vienna University in a while, probably. Bei Ling, author of the Liu Xiaobo biography was there, reading and talking to an enthusiastic crowd, in a very interesting discussion about the roles of intellectuals and public institutions. Professor Weigelin was fully in her element. Prof. Findeisen and Dr. Wemheuer contributed important points on literature and society. Who would have thought that in January, people around the world would spontaneously think of 1989? At least for me it feels like back then, very sudden change sweeping through several countries. So of course there are many comparisons. It is nice to live in exciting times, and important not to end up in the Nile. May they have peace and better times in Egypt soon!
Shanghai Scrap (2/1/11):
Comparing Egypt and China wrong questions, meaningless answers
From Language Log