Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Posts Tagged ‘Culture

Quick Hits

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Proof of creative, rebellious minds at work here in China.

Another example of hypocrisy:  the BBC’s shock at China’s effort to build national pride before the nation’s 60th anniversary. Do we in America not do this every year around Thanksgiving and Christmas?  I mean, duh.

Written by Miles

September 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Locked out

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For whatever reason, even my VPN has been failing to get past the Great Firewall of China as of late. There have been a slew of topics I wanted to comment on, including some very interesting personal experiences. Since, I am logged on now by pure luck, I will be brief.

I think one of the most fascinating things happening here in China, today, is the dialogue Chinese people are having within their own communities debating patriotism versus nationalism. Don’t get me wrong, there are roughly zero people who weigh in on nationalism’s side. The Chinese see their recent reactions to the protests, their calls for boycotts of French companies, their condemnation of all Western media as anti-Chinese… they see these things as rational steps in defense of their beloved mother.

An article in the New York Times talking about the protests read, “‘Before I came here, I’m very liberal,’ said Minna Jia, a graduate student in political science at U.S.C…. ‘But after I come here, my professor told me that I’m nationalist.'” That’s the thing. Chinese see themselves as very rational and independent. But as the article goes on to point out, rightfully so, these students studying in the States, these students protesting in big cities along the Eastern coast of China, are all those who have benefit most from China’s opening up. In effect, they are the cream of the crop, the bourgeoisie of China, looking to protect what has been given them.

For years, Chinese have been told horror stories of the way their parents grew up. It has helped them to appreciate what China has accomplished. It has also embedded in them a faulty notion of entitlement. It’s a land of Only Children, and they act like it. Greed is palpable. Self-esteem is fragile. There is no room for criticism, they do not know how to accept it because they have never been in a position to give it out. In Chinese culture, there is no complaining, no protesting. It’s unacceptable to question the government. Therefore, when they see outsiders doing just that, they are shocked.

I have written before about how this country has surpassed America in term’s of global hegemony. China has officially bought, bribed, and blackmailed its way back to superpowerdom. But this is about as far as it will ever go, until the people within this country develop a culture the world can accept or strive for. There is nothing here the world wants to aspire to… corrupt government, a devastated environment, a mute press, a cowardly civil society. Until China can realize what once made it the historical superpower of the past– a vibrant culture– it will never overcome being the world’s sweatshop.

Written by Miles

May 8, 2008 at 3:32 am

A Look at Asia, Tourism and Tension

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My cousin recently ventured into Burma, after we parted ways in Vietnam.  He later told me the contrast between the two was nearly indescribable.  On the one hand, you have Vietnam, rolling in new money and racing ahead at reckless speeds.  On the other, Burma, idle and eroding, sinking into dictatorship and economic stagnation.

It had me thinking of the Asian countries I have visited in the past two years, in comparison to each other, and in comparison to some of the places I have been in Africa.  It’s a unique system of development in this corner of the world, one very dependent on its geography.  There’s massive China.  South Korea, Japan and Taiwan have all followed similar paths, straight down to Singapore.  Then there’s the peninsula with Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, all lead by Thailand in regional power and leadership.  The island nations, they have their own type of development, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc.

Common to them all is the boon of tourism.  Unlike Africa, people think of Asia as a “safe” place.  It’s long been part of the backpacker circuit, and has been further pushed and developed in the last 20 years than ever before.  The situation is slightly different in China and Japan, who are welcoming more tourists but also sending out an all-time high as well.  Meanwhile, the peninsula and the island nations are facing a huge influx of transient visitors, some relying greatly on their financial input.

Often, upon returning from trips, I have written of the downside of tourism.  Primarily, the 3 P’s: pollution, poverty, and prostitution.  I think I should expand on the notion of prostitution, because it is not just young women being forced into intimate interactions, but entire populations.  There is a cultural prostitution, a sense that everything is for sale in these places, and it is tragic.  The more tourist flood in, the more enormous cameras dangle from necks, the more tour buses, stupid guides with little flags, groups with matching hats, youth just in search of a party, elederly in search of 5-star hotels… its enough to make me sick.  It’s enough to make entire nations sick.

Here are two articles that I think point out the contrast in what has become the search for “authentic” places.  The first discusses how Luang Prabang, a sleepy city in the center of Laos I visited just over a year and a half ago, is dealing with a record number of tourists streaming into its quiet streets.  The second article talks about Myanmar and the situation there, in which a society is being “preserved” to such an throttling extent that it is now starving itself to death.  It’s two ends of the extreme.  And after reading the article on Myanmar, thinking of my cousin, I realize that soon enough that country will open its gates to the floods of foreign visitors and let the rainfall of cash wash away any seeds of culture still in the land.

Lastly, I wanted to follow up on my premise that China has silently regained sole superpower status on our globe.   The article is a wake up call, but I think we, especially the U.S., have hit the snooze button a few too many times to reverse course now.  A U.S. government spokesperson recently spoke of silent diplomacy being used against China.  Ha!  What a crock of shit!  Our soft and hard power are being shown to be exactly what they are, weak.  Our moral legitimacy is in peril, our thirst for war has lost us allies, and with our economy in the toilet, our nation has become a clinger, desperately holding on to resources and the last clutches of geopolitical hegemony as they slip through its grip.