Domination or Freedom?
It’s probably fair to say that there was much more admiration in China for the West in the 1980s than now, and a lot less anger vented at the West. It’s probably also safe to say that more exposure to the West, by travels, by the internet, plus a more refined Chinese propaganda response to such feelings in China, have all helped the CCP to reverse that tide. Many Chinese people who were with the June-4 movements in 1989 are now their own sharpest critics. Last but not least, worshipping is an exhausting exercise. When Song Qiang et al wrote “China can say No”, it came right at the time when the Chinese love for us ran out of steam. The image of the West seems to have turned radically, grinto one of shameless charlatans who had almost tricked them into submission, hadn’t the PLA heroically quashed them at the 25th hour.
But there is no smoking gun that would suggest that the CIA, the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation or any other foreign agency had a big stake in June 4.
Besides all that, both Westerners and Chinese people see trend lines of economic and political power which weren’t as palpable twenty or fifteen years ago as they are now. These trends are of course also frequently exaggerated. Many Chinese people believe that China will be tomorrow’s superpower, while the West is bound to decline. Many Westerners agree – some bloggers, too. Some currents within Chinese tradition – even within Confucianism – demand that power must legitimize itself, but for many Han Chinese, this is only true when it comes to their relationship with their political and economical bosses and rulers. When it comes to Tibetans, they expect submission. JR can’t prove this point, but believes that many Han Chinese people feel good about the way China treats Tibet, because they believe that Beijing is doing so on their behalf. They may be under the CCP’s control themselves, but after all, there are some people who rank lower than the Han Chinese. At least to some extent, China’s rise (at hindsight) appears to, in the eyes of common Chinese people and intellectuals, legitimize the June-4 massacres, and the wave of repression that followed suit.
There is probably no consistent definition of political freedom among Chinese people, and almost certainly not to the extent that there is an idea about what economic freedom. The individual strife for the latter, as far as I can see, is frequently believed to be a zero-sum game. Economic freedom would only attainable at the expense of other individuals. That’s where compatriots would become adversaries, even if under national rules.
The hypocrisies that go hand in hand with such ideas (stuff such as “we are all one family named China”) frequently make Western observers – and maybe not only mental overstayers – go ballistic.
Why is that? And would some kind of emotional exhaustion be the only reason why the Chinese public has stopped “worshipping the West”?
To be continued.