That was the nicest way I could think to put it.

 Forget self-censorship and beating around the bush. Let’s get right down to brass tax: Why is it that I always feel pressured by my Chinese friends, colleagues, and random acquaintances to believe in the “Glory of China”?

Hey, China! I’m here. I’ve lived in disparate cities all over your territory. I’ve traveled thousands of miles from home. I’ve spent thousands of dollars keeping my parents at bay by traveling a collective twenty-eight hours between China and my home country and back again, twice every year. I’m still here almost two years later. I get that China has its good points. This is not lost on me. Please do not tell me to go home.

What I’m talking about is far more than national pride. I’m proud of my home country, too. But this? This is freakin’ zealotry. Wait, scratch that. It’s vapid robotic propagandism. And I don’t get it.

It’s in human nature to question things, to be curious. I see that twinkle. You’ve probably seen it, too. In the eyes of those scientific researchers and NGO supporters and tycoons of business and wide-eyed teenagers – they know there’s something more out there than the bullshit they’re fed. Which they then double dip and shove in our mouths.

And yet, not one of them will utter a single word. Not a single defiant, non government-approved word. The twinkle fades. With the ongoing push for decentralization of the Chinese government, you would think progress would be quicker in coming.

Hu…who?

But instead, while editing examples in a Chinese grammar textbook for foreigners, I am privileged with being forced-fed obviously unbiased, completely unprompted thoughts like these:

“Upon coming to China, many foreign correspondents were impressed with the stature of Mao.”

“There has been such magnificent change and progress in China during the last twenty years that visiting foreigners were all greatly impressed.”

“Recently, the increase of the United States’ B-2 presence around China’s borders has posed a serious threat to Chinese security.”

Okay. Being an American these days, there are sometimes when even I don’t like me. But seriously?

And yet – somehow – I still find myself buying into it. My friends and family bring up stereotypes of China (which do not find themselves completely lacking basis in truth), and I still swoop in on the defensive! Nay! I tell them. How dare thee affront the dignity of this righteous and determined nation!

Then I trudge 7,000 miles over some ocean and a couple of insignificant island nations only to find myself churning out treatises like this to fill that hollow pit. You know, the one that the Chinese idealogues have carved where my logical reasoning skills used to be. And let me say this: cleaning up the mess of brain matter left scattered about from the lobotomy of my sensibilities ain’t no picnic.

Looks like you got a bit of it on you, too. Sorry about that. Right…there. Nope, that’s not it. A little lower. A bit to the left. No, that’s too far left. Geez. People can never find brain matter on their faces without a mirror, can they?

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About Rachel

Once a great traveling-bard-slash-philosopher, Rachel lost her mandolin to a migrant kiwi picker in a roadside dice match in the Yangtze River Valley. Penniless, mandolin-less, and blindly wandering the spit-laden streets of Beijing, she's now subjugated by the man and wants to know if the NAACP will grant her official permission to sing the blues.

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Discussion

8
  1. It’s in human nature to question things, to be curious. I see that twinkle. You’ve probably seen it, too. In the eyes of those scientific researchers and NGO supporters and tycoons of business and wide-eyed teenagers – they know there’s something more out there than the bullshit they’re fed. Which they then double dip and shove in our mouths.

    And yet, not one of them will utter a single word.

    It’s a frigin’ tragedy is what it is.

  2. I should send you my picture of the “Propaganda and Education Room” from my old neighborhood.

    You should also hear some of the things my students have said in the last year to me about China… none of it what the government wants to hear. I can’t repeat it for fear of deportation. I’ll save it for the book to be banned in the Middle Kingdom later.

  3. I’m late on this mail, but you really have missed someting enormous. Any intelligent Chinese peson is not going to share with you their innermost thoughts on their government and society. It took me years to get this. I promise you – get close (very close) and you might get it. Do you really think that people with such good maths do not think deeply, and analyze the world as you do?

  4. Also late on this mail. Apologies.

    @rob: I’m not sure what ‘maths’ has to do with it. After all, mathematics is logical, and logic would dictate a ‘greater good’ kind of ‘realism’ that is greatly favoured anyway. Seems like anyone with good maths would be in full agreement with most of what goes on.

    However, I agree that it takes a LOT to get a chinese person to open up. And when it DOES happen, hell, i’m not sure it’s even worth it because it’s gonna take ten years of friendship, and it’ll still just be one person in a whole gazillion, and they might just be one of the special ones, the deep thinkers common to every country. You could spend ten years on the next person too, but that’s a good deal of your life gone, and you have the true opinions of 2 chinese people. big deal, huh?

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