To Sum Things Up…

It’s the longest winter I have ever seen – it turned to snow shortly before Christmas, and the snow has been with us ever since. But when I went home through the white countryside late this afternoon, the sun was shining. Most days have been overcast during the past weeks, with frequent snowfalls. The noticable thing was that the sun has set only minutes ago. There is an air of spring, in terms of daylight.

Some of the lessons I’m teaching are currently China-related. The material was probably compiled in the days when  China was still worshipped, rather than it’s political system condemned. Then again, to be fair, even the material we used as students decades ago, during the cold war, painted a rather respectful picture of the Soviet Union, too. So maybe school material concerning China won’t reflect the mainstream media’s take in the future either.

China-skeptical isn’t the word to describe the mood of many of the students (all still minors). In my own mind, I welcome the turn away from the naive public attitude of the past decades. The regrettable downside of that is that the pendulum of public opinion never seems to seek a position from where people would observe and analyze a situation calmly, rather than wallowing in positive or negative feelings. Frankly, I’m glad that my main subject is English.

I stick to the material, and to the usual methodologies. But when there was another rather derogatory comment from a student last week, I wondered aloud about how rapidly the once reverent public attitude towards China here had turned into instinctive rejection, just as America was rather disliked five years ago and is now in pretty high esteem again: “Do you really think that either country changed quickly enough to justify such rapid changes in perception?”

If any reader should believe that this blog is about “China-bashing”, I can assure him or her that it isn’t going to change. I’m enjoying posting here the way I do. But indoctrination isn’t my line of business.

For a while, I have asked myself if I should add Liu Xiaobo‘s statement of December 23 to the class material. It would be legitimate – a teacher has such liberties in designing lessons. There is no need for a wall between school and the real world. I’ll make up my mind some time this month – advice will be welcome. I haven’t made up my mind yet because I distrust the intensity of my own feelings.

I feel that it is hard to think of another voice from China which could do better in describing the country’s development during the past three decades than Liu Xiaobo’s. No text of this size and nature can describe China’s sitution – or any country’s situation – comprehensively. But Liu’s statement – which apparently didn’t make it to the ears of his judges – might come rather close to such an end.

16 Responses to “To Sum Things Up…”

  1. I cannot remember that we ever read something on par with Liu Xiaobo’s statement of December 23. Not even close. The political stuff in our English class was mostly related to racism in the US and South Africa. Also some stuff on the Northern Ireland conflict.

    The main problem for most people in discussing China is the presentation of the country in the Media. I think most people in Germany have absolutely no idea about China and reading Liu Xiaobo’s text without having a serious amount of context will not help the understanding in any way.

    Topic idea for your class: Influence of American media on the modern Chinese society in Shanghai/Taiwan (clash of society norms, youth culture, young Chinese in Shanghai who refuse to speak Chinese in favor of English). Or some background about the British part of China (Hong Kong and Singapore). Your students seem to know about the negative side of China (and they will continue to be educated about that by the news). So you might want to show them some cool stuff about China.

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  2. The most obvious factor here is the time constraint. I wouldn’t want to spend more than 45 minutes on any issue off the actual topical road. In my books, Liu Xiaobo stated both China’s achievements, and its shortcomings to date.
    Obviously, his statement alone (I’d use a German translation from Die Zeit) can’t tell why many Chinese may not want to see the back of the CCP any time soon. Just using his statement would confirm the view that a decent person in China will be locked away, and that’s all to learn from his story.

    I’m thinking about including the number of ww2 deaths in Europe, Asia, and this picture in my material. The big leap forward would have to be included, too. One can’t leave the CCP’s control of everything from the Chinese school curricular to the Chinese media out of the account either. It would have to be a rather guided program – and maybe one I’d hand out and leave it to every student if they seriously want to deal with it at home, or put it right into their trash cans there.

    The real objective of the lessons isn’t about politics, but to train the student’s working skills /methodology. As far as that’s concerned, it doesn’t really hurt that the official material leans on CCP propaganda material to quite a degree. I won’t add anything of my own to that material unless I believe that it helps to make attitudes more fact-oriented, at least while it lasts. But if I should make the effort at all, I’d also need to address the students’ actual disaffirmation with China. Propaganda, from any direction, would do a bad job at that.

    I don’t need to make my mind up yet. Thanks for your suggestions! I’ll keep them at the back of my mind for now.

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  3. I think it was close to the year 2000, maybe 1999 when we discussed China in geography. There was not that much about it and it was mostly a comparison to Japan in an economical sense. We also learned about the cultural revolution and the great leap, but that was more a listing of the events and numbers, not a discussion what really happened there. We discussed the no longer existing Soviet Union in great length however. China was absolutely non-existent in our English curriculum.

    Maybe you can write some lines telling me what is taught about China in today’s classes. I’d like to know.

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  4. So far as it is geography, it’s the one-child policy, agriculture and its productivity, arable land (and grassland, steppe, deserts and highlands), rural and urban industrialization, and infrastructure. I reckon that such issues will be much less “politicized” (i.e. less charged with emotions) once it comes to India – should be interesting to compare the progress of the teaching units about both these countries at hindsight.

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  5. I am not surprised that your (German?) students are awash in negative sentiment toward China these days, after all this is what western media, German media in particular have been feeding them with. One can only do so much to try to instill some senses to chip away people’s boneheadedness, one can only do so much to tell people to keep an open mind. At the end of the day the vast majority of us remain boneheaded jerks who think we know everything.

    That said, I am interested in hearing what you have to say about the so-called sudden change in attitude of the Germans toward China. China is only loveable when it appears weak, insignificant enough to be adored for its exoticness. Now China is this menacing devil, big enough to threaten our German way of life and our jobs, it is the new Satan! Am I right, justrecently?

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  6. Juchechosunmanse: your suggestion that our economic relations with China China may corrupt our way of life would be my own concern, rather then the (German indeed) students’. They aren’t quite grown-up yet, and way-of-life issues, as far as I can see, aren’t the issue in the media.

    That said, I’m sure that many of them – rather subconsciously – draw a connection between globalization and China – and globalization, in developed countries, may create a lot of jobs that require pretty sophisticated workforce. It’s easy to tell that every country has its share of people who won’t be up to such a job. But these are feelings, rather than understanding, and I won’t try to make such feelings speak.

    As I wrote before, the real objective of the lessons isn’t about politics, but to train the student’s working skills /methodology. The subject happens to be China, which suggests itself, given the country’s significance, but it could have been Cameroon just as well, in terms of training.

    The students aren’t to blame, and the media, I believe, are to blame in two ways. It isn’t simply that they are painting a rather gloomy picture now – in part, they should have done that much earlier. In the past decade and a half, they hardly pointed out how China was governed, and when they mentioned human-rights violations, it was frequently given a “cultural” context. I was never happy with that, but didn’t make it an issue in China-related topics. When your heart is too much in an issue, chances are that you mishandle it. I remember a good-hearted but small-minded barefoot teacher who told us as students that “Islam is a very AGGRESSIVE religion”. Had I taken him serious, I’d probably have started an argument with him, which wouldn’t have made things better either.

    I’m aware of our own ideological traps, but during the China-hype, I felt a slight bitterness once in a while, knowing that Chinese students are continuously indoctrinated – not only by their media, but even by their teachers. And that’s why I do feel better about the recent – occasional – excesses in our media, then about the previous, starry-eyed ones (about which I never heard Chinese people here complain).

    China isn’t really my main concern in this matter here. How to make young people judgmental is. I know that people, especially young people, are often easy targets for messages of hatred. It’s not my job to boost such messages. But when such issues arise, I believe it’s my job to train the students to handle them.

    I believe that the media are what they are. It isn’t my job to educate the editors. It’s my job to educate their readers. But I do believe that the way China’s government nationalized the Olympic Games did a lot to catalyze the change in perception.

    Footnote: I don’t think that German media are particular acid in their China coverage. I don’t know if you speak French, but I know that Adam Cathcart does.

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  7. Justrecently,

    Thanks for trying to answer my question. So what makes you think the economic relations you (Germany and the west by and large) might “corrupt” your (western) way of life? Is it China’s authoritative style? Is it its not-so-transparent, clandestine ways of doing business and handling things? China’s rampant corruption? China’s less-than-robust labor practices? You might not like China or how it goes about doing stuff (and we might not like you either), but how is that going to impact your way of life as long as your conviction remains strong that your way of life is the best way of life (and the only proper way of life according to many western pundits and commentators)? The way I see it, many people in the west (particularly in Europe. I used to think the Europeans are more progressive than the Americans, I guess I was wrong) are feeling threatened by China because China is so fundamentally different from the west in many ways: It is not Judeo-Christian, civilization-wise it is not European-based (unlike the New World countries), its inhabitants are not caucasians and its political system is authoritarian. The “icing on the cake” is the widely-shared perception that China is big and powerful enough to challenge the west. Had China been a relatively insignificant country like Fiji, the west would have had no issues with it at all and you would not have worried about your way of life being “corrupted” by China.

    The globalization/job loss argument is a valid one. Having said that, I don’t think most people in the developed world (certainly not your young students) understand/realize that they simply will not allow themselves to be paid 50 cents an hour making those stuff the Chinese/Vietnamese/Indians/Mexicans/Brazilians are making. So you get those jobs back to Germany. In order for companies and the overall economy to stay competitive, will the German public be willing to sacrifice their standard of living and be paid much less? If I were you guys I would be laughing now: Isn’t it cool to have a sophisticated work force to take on stuff that many other countries can’t? Isn’t that Germany’s niche (or so people like me in places afar think)?

    I agree with you that “When your heart is too much in an issue, chances are that you mishandle it”. When we are so passionate about something, no matter what “something” is, our judgement is likely to be clouded. It goes both ways, love and hate. That probably explains why as you were saying before the German media had a 180 degree turn from painting China as a rosy place many years back to depicting it as a shithole today where only nightmares take place. Neither is warranted. Because of your own beliefs and convictions you might like what see they are churning out these days, but as an intellectual (as I believe) you must have equal concerns, or am I wrong? I can’t believe “how to make young people judgmental” is your focus. Who are you to pass on your own judgements to your students? Who are we to do that to anybody? As a teacher don’t you think your priority is not to teach what and how your students should think (which is happening in China) but guide them to be open-minded and to be receptive toward different ideas/opinions/cultures etc.?

    Of course you did not see the Chinese complain back then (granted very very few Chinese speak German and very few people had means to access this kind of information in the past so I’d argue most people just didn’t know what you said about them), would you complain about some compliments you had received, whether you deserved them or not? I am increasingly tending to think at the end of the day the Chinese should not mind these constant noise coming their way and get used to it. It will take a while for them to get used to it and I believe they will. I am not saying they should completely brush them off, there are legitimate, valid and well thought-out criticisms/advices once in a while that the Chinese should just heed. I am saying the Chinese (and Koreans too for that matter) should develop thicker skin and not be bothered constantly by what outsiders say.

    I disagree with you on the implicitly suggested notion that there is only one way (your western way?) of looking at things. I see nothing wrong with putting things in perspectives (or “cultural context” as you said). I have no qualms with depicting an event as what it is: Jailing the likes of Liu Xiaobo and Tan Zuoren is wrong, evil, stupid, whatever you choose to call it. But there is more to it than this. Even the Chinese government is not monolithic entity that outsiders tend to believe it is, let alone the huge, diverse and chaotic China. To believe “our way is the only way” is not only cocky and stupid but also dangerous (how many silly religious wars had the world (especially Europe) been blessed with already?).

    We have all been indoctrinated and brainwashed in a way, I don’t think the Germans are much better. I would even go as far as saying anyone who is very judgmental, anyone who holds extremely strong beliefs and convictions about stuff (could be anything) has been indoctrinated/brainwashed by his/her upbringing/culture/politics etc.

    The western media is what it is. I don’t believe the Olympic Games was the turning point(By the way nationalizing the games? Since when has China behaved differently, I mean prior to the games?) as this kind of negative coverage has been lasting for more than a decade at least. I myself am getting tired of complaining about it. It is what it is and people just have to learn to either deal with it or ignore it. I don’t speak French or German (like I said before I did give it a try but I failed and lost interest eventually) but I get the idea by casually reading Deutsche Welle and Spiegel. Compare that to what you get on American media (even VOA) you see what I am talking about. Geez, what a bunch of……

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  8. 1)
    So what makes you think the economic relations you (Germany and the west by and large) might “corrupt” your (western) way of life? Is it China’s authoritative style?

    No, I see no fundamental problem in relations with authoritarian countries of any size – but mind you, I can only speak for myself.
    I do see a problem in relations with totalitarian countries, unless the policies of such relations are well considered. I won’t try to analyze if totalitarianism is an innate factor in Chinese civilization – as a hint though, I’d like to point to a summary of Tu Wei-ming’s view of Confucianism, compared to legalism (summed up by Wang Zhicheng):
    “Tu believes that a thoroughly politicized Confucianist society would be more into persecution and coercion than a purely Legalist society, because Confucianism didn’t only dominate peoples’ body, but also wanted to control peoples’ minds, whereas Legalism only wanted to control those who didn’t obey the law.”

    What I see, apart from the theoretical discussions, is a ruling party which advocated the dictatorship of a certain social class in the past, and which has replaced it with the advocacy of China getting its due position in the world more recently – naturally, there is no ultimate definition yet as to what such a position would look like.

    Let’s take the example of technology theft. It’s no nice thing, but naturally, tech goes from where it is to where it is a scarce good. So far, it is still from abroad to China, than the other way round. I have no problem with the phenomenon itself – it is natural, and it is for the owners of it to protect their technological edge (or the security of their data networks) by the means it takes. But there is a difference between a spy, hacker, or thief from an open society, and from a totalitarian society. If I was in a position to serve my country or one of its companies by tapping useful information, I could easily say no. Rule of law makes it safe for me to refuse. If I was a Chinese national, it would be quite a different story, unless I’m well-connected, and my connections actually back my refusal.

    Another aspect is the way the CCP cultivates historical mortifications. China is in no endangered position – it has its nuclear insurance, and lots of business people all over the globe that are ready to do business with it at some terms. India is no less different from the West than China – but it isn’t a mortified country. When the BJP government tried to tell the poor that “India shines”, they were sent into opposition, because people wouldn’t allow politicians to take them for a ride at such a low level. And nevertheless, most Indians I know are immensely proud of their country and its achievements so far. They just don’t expect their country’s achievements to “make good” for the past. They don’t use pliers to get dressed in the morning.

    I’m arguing that we (say, Germany) must define our policies, because doing business with China isn’t doing business with a normal country of reasonably relaxed people. Such arguments may not please you, but I’m arguing with people of my own neighborhood. It isn’t progressive to think of ones own society as one which can’t fall behind, or which is immune to corruption or carelessness. When a businessman tells me that our system is “dysfunctional”, and “look at how the Chinese are rising”, I see a conflict on two fields. One is about political freedoms vs mere materialism. Another is about class background. It may be in my dialog partner’s interest to get rid of those bothersome needs to sell ones own interests to a skeptical public, but it isn’t in the interest of most. Some of what may offend you here is really a conflict within my society. But obviously, I have no desire to brush that conflict under the carpet. Why should I?

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    2)
    Isn’t it cool to have a sophisticated work force to take on stuff that many other countries can’t? Isn’t that Germany’s niche (or so people like me in places afar think)?
    Sure it is. But for what it’s worth, what a sophisticated move of yours it is to try to make me show off my country’s strengths!
    You see, Caucasians, Africans, Arabs or Turks, just like all human beings, have to struggle to cope with the demands of life. And while most Germans are up to the jobs of the present tense (and hopefully to the jobs of the future), who if not a teacher should understand that not every human being will be up to it? Theat needs to be taken into account. If you want to have a discussion with a white supremacist, you’ll need to look for another blogger to quarrel with, Juchechosunmanse.

    I think the rest of what I could write here can be found under 1)

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    3)
    I can’t believe “how to make young people judgmental” is your focus. … Who are you to pass on your own judgements to your students?
    I believe that I have described some of my approach here. Obviously, that won’t be enough to judge if I can separate my personal opinion and the way I am teaching. As I’ve pointed out before, there were teachers in my very young years who did a pretty bad job at that. But I believe that to base ones judgment of my teaching skills – and my professionalism in general – on my personal opinions isn’t clever. And for the record, because a frank defamation requires a frank response: don’t conclude from your own attitude on mine. And from now on, let’s not attack each other personally, if you want to continue this discussion.

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    4)
    Of course you did not see the Chinese complain back then (granted very very few Chinese speak German and very few people had means to access this kind of information in the past so I’d argue most people just didn’t know what you said about them)
    I was referring to Chinese people in Germany.

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    5)
    I disagree with you on the implicitly suggested notion that there is only one way (your western way?) of looking at things.
    I know that pointing out things which are only said implicitly isn’t easy. But before I can reply to your statement, I would need to know more specifically what leads to your perception.
    For now, I can only say that minor students don’t need their teachers’ opinions – they need training in building their own opinion.
    And among grown-up people, I speak my opinion, and listen to theirs.

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    6)
    Even the Chinese government is not monolithic entity that outsiders tend to believe it is, let alone the huge, diverse and chaotic China.
    Chinese among themselves have many conflicts of interests. But they don’t have a great deal of conflicts among themselves when it comes to the mortifications of the past. That’s the problem I see with your country. Harmony can’t be created by fearing foreigners. Harmony can only be created by addressing ones own conflicts, and remain able to defend oneself against genuine aggression from outside, if it emerges.

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    7)
    this kind of negative coverage has been lasting for more than a decade at least.

    I’m a frequent reader of papers from different political angles here in Germany. If you are referring to American media, I won’t argue with you. If you refer to German media, I can tell you that I read the first really negative pieces in August 2007, when the chancellor’s office and several ministries were reported to have been hacked. But that wasn’t when the tide really reversed. That came with the Olympic Games. And I’m not saying that our press had it all right – they wrote what sold. They were catalysts, rather than opinionmakers. And as the time was apparently “right” in a commercial sense, they have stayed with it so far.

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  9. Maybe the China debate is to heated to learn about methods of doing something?

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  10. It’s still possible to work with the topic. There are distractions in every school subject anyway, even if it is math. But of course, in this case, the potential for distractions is in the topic itself. That wasn’t necessarily foreseeable three years ago.

    Did they mention Medienkompetenz during your school years? These days, it’s resounding throughout the lands (OK, schools and kindergartens). The idea behind it seems to be that you can’t keep the media out of young peoples’ lives,which is true, so you need to deal with it. Media that can appeal to basic instincts become too well-marketed. The funny thing is that people of your and my age are probably reasonably media-savvy, even without much teaching about it in school. Unfortunately, Medienkompetenz often refers to teaching kids the technical use of the media, rather than the use of information itself.

    What strikes me most is that most people who are seventy-plus years old can spend five hours a day watching television without dumbing down. Becoming stupid takes a lot of exercise, too, and their exercises probably started too late.

    That said, I’m optimistic that every generation will learn to live with its times.

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  11. Medienkompetenz was mostly about printed media and some TV. We didn’t touch radio broadcast really. But there was no internet in our classes. The internet was still unusual for for most of our teachers then. I think our teachers did a good job in teaching us about the media.

    >> Unfortunately, Medienkompetenz often refers to teaching kids the technical use of the media, rather than the use of information itself.

    I wish that was true. I’m also reading and writing in some internet forums and there we get the same questions all the time from new visitors. Young and old visits alike don’t know how to use basic search features, let alone the wonderful parameters that can be used for searches on google.

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  12. Justrecently,

    First let me clarify that I was not seeking to attack you with my comment that “who are you to pass on your judgements to your students..”, I think that was a legitimate question/concern of mine. I genuinely do not believe one should pass on his/her judgement to other people. The same applies to countries, that’s why I am fundamentally against the west demanding China and others to be more like them. If you thought I was aiming at launching one of those bickering contests (like the ones with stuart), sorry you are wrong. Nor have I mistaken you as a white supremacist (where did that one come from??), I wasn’t being fresh, I just found it unbelievable that some Germans would complain (or have concerns) about having a sophisticated work force, a luxury that China and many other countries don’t have. By the way I still don’t understand what you were trying to say about the whole jobs thing. Are you saying that because lower-end jobs have been outsourced to the developing world to which China belongs, the Germans are only left with more brain-demanding, high-end jobs and that they are afraid that they are not up for them? It is a concern for sure, but a ludicrous one in my opinion (no offense). I mean here people are worried about not having A job, any kind of job at all (please pay me 50 cents a hour to make the crappy stuff you complain about, I will do it!) the Germans are worried about not having the skills for better-paying jobs? Well, I guess you can always pick up something other people don’t want to do for a lower pay. And I honestly believe you Germans will do a better job, whatever the job is, than most people.

    OK, I have to admit that I don’t see what the fundamental difference between “totalitarian” and “authoritarian” is. I am not a scholar like you and I am certainly not qualified for that kind of theoretical discussion, would you just tell me in layman’s terms what the difference is and why China is totalitarian but not authoritarian? I can tell you have some serious beef with China, which is fine, but I don’t understand what you are trying to advocate here: As bad as China is for those reasons you have and have not mentioned, should Germany try to influence China to change for the better (“better” is as far as you are concerned)? Should Germany simply cut off ties with China?

    Also I wish you could elaborate more on the China vs. India comparison, I totally didn’t get it. I have known quite a few Indians and I have interacted with many, to me they are not that different from the Chinese: proud, nationalistic and insecure. I want to quickly point out that India is far less alien to the western eyes. India being an Indo-European civilization and the fact that India was a British colonial which was heavily influenced by the British and that it is a democratic state today make India fare much better than China before the western public.

    I do share your concern about the “mortifications of the past” issue. I think given time the Chinese will grow out of it. I have seen some encouraging signs. There have been conflicts already. Didn’t you see what the reaction was to the book “China is not happy” last year? Overwhelmingly negative.

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  13. Junjie: a few Knowware booklets could probably answer many such questions. Extremely good explanations and instructions, at less than five Euros a copy, I’d say.

    Juchechosunmanse: to be clear myself, I appreciate the opportunity of having this discussion with you – that´s what the internet is for. But before taking it further, I want to stay with a single issue, until there is a common understanding – the one of “passing ones judgment on”.
    I’m passing my judgment – or opinion – on to grown-ups, not to minors, i.e. in a school class. The only time one might say I chipped my own opinion in there was when “I wondered aloud about how rapidly the once reverent public attitude towards China here had turned into instinctive rejection” (see post). That was neither my personal opinion, nor was it meant to defend China – it was meant to call for a more factual attitude, because that was technically needed.

    My job is to pass on the ability to judge (and to come to ones own conclusions). I´m not passing on an ability to share my views. My own views are unknown in the classroom.
    As I have said before in this thread: I don´t indoctrinate people. Read carefully.

    If you don´t understand that concept, I can´t see how our discussion can be useful.
    Let´s tick this off first, before carrying on. I´ll reply to the other points of your latest comment afterwards. If my explanation still lacks clarity, your questions are welcome.

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  14. Thanks for making that clarification, now I understand what you meant. Yes, as a teacher one should try to pass on the ability to judge. However I think it is almost unavoidable that when we would mix our own judgment and our own parameters to look at things when we try to make kids form their own judgment.

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  15. 1) I think it is almost unavoidable that when we would mix our own judgment and our own parameters to look at things when we try to make kids form their own judgment.

    It’s quite avoidable in this case, in terms of politics anyway, because the material leaves issues of government and politics almost completely out of the account. I remember it was similar when I was a student myself, and when Russia was a topic. But of course, every teacher brings some of his own focus into the classroom – in terms of methodology itself, and, obviously, style. The first thing is inevitable, and the second is desirable. It doesn’t hurt if class is entertaining, so long as it helps to meet educational objectives. For the same reason, no teacher should teach a class for longer than a year, in the same subject. Different brains need different teasers.

    2) jobs and sophistication

    You can think of some students’ (and some of their parents’) worries about being up to the jobs available as luxury worries if you like. That’s a matter between you and them, and they’ll never know. To me, the picture is different. No matter at which material level or standard of living they are, people want more, rather than less, and much more than that, they fear the experience of failure – no matter the income (being unemployed spelling failure). Declining real income (which is happening here) won’t kill people. It only leads to new challenges. Right now, export is the main driver of our growth, but obviously – and as you know yourself – it leads to frictions with net importers.

    Certain behavior of people can’t be explained without understanding it (understanding doesn’t necessarily amount to condoning, let alone encouraging it). Obviously, I need to try to understand the motives of the students I’m teaching, not least because teenagers aren’t always the most stable personalities. Many are insecure, no matter where in the world and under which conditions they are growing up. In my Tuesday comment, I referred to my interpretation of how they react to the buzzwords “China” and “globalization”.

    3) Indian and Chinese people

    I don’t think that India’s Indo-European background (some seem to refer to it as Indo-Germanic) are the main issue. It’s probably true that there are striking similarities in grammar and (maybe) genetics – I can’t judge that myself. But those who really know the subject seem to refer to their own findings or views as theories rather than as something proven. In terms of thought, I see more similarities between the Judeo-Christian side of the West and China, than between the West and India.
    As far as Christianity and Islam are concerned, it is very much about submission. You have (or had) to believe in certain “truths” to become a fully respected human being. It’s easy for me to believe that many founding fathers of modern China (Republican and PR) have gone through some or a lot of Christian socialization and above all, education. It wasn’t all that alien. Unfortunately, the Kantians, different from the Jesuits and Protestants, felt no need to build schools in coastal China, the way the missionaries did. You haven’t necessarily seen the best of the West before rejecting any (unfair indeed) Western demands of “becoming more like them”.

    I take it that you refer to Indians who do business with China or interact with Chinese when saying that they are insecure or nationalistic. From the Indians I know (I didn’t meet any in China), it’s different. Many foreigners become rather inhibited in China – just as many Chinese themselves. Maybe they’ve always been, maybe they are becoming that way there. I’ve seen Germans becoming either halfhearted or arrogant in China, while they had been quite balanced in Germany. Btw, just think of what you refer to as “bickering contests” with Westerners. I really believe that East and West need each other there, even if nowhere else, and would miss each other, if either of them decided to leave the threadmills.

    As for India, it’s a pretty foreign civilization for us west of it, too. Missionaries had pretty free access there, but my impression is that they left a much smaller impact there, than in China. When widows are reported to be buried alive, or broken poor farmers kill themselves with pesticides, you can be sure that it looks pretty foreign to us. If commonality in terms of philosophy, values, or thought, were the reason for a rather conflict-free relationship, world war one couldn’t have occured – it was one among kindred spirits. Like in any war, conflicts of interests were important drivers, but the British were mainly Anglican, the French mainly Catholic, and Germany a mixture of Catholics and Protestants. In terms of values, there wasn’t much between them either. The only problem the German founding fathers (or their sons) had was that they, too, needed pliers to get dressed in the morning. That, plus the self-pity and moral self-cultivation that are inevitably two components of the same package: “The Romans pushed us around, the French, the Russians, the Swedish and Danish (during the thirty-years’ war and after), then the Americans… oh, and don’t forget the mean Vikings. But what a lesson we’ve taught the French in 1870!”
    I don’t think at all that Westerners and Chinese have such big issues with each other because we’d be that different. We see too much in each other which resembles our selves.

    4) Mortifications of the past

    I’d like to agree with you, but my impression is that those who were critical of “China is not happy” were mostly official or semi-official authors, just as when Jiang Zemin was asked about “China can say no” many years ago, I seem to remember he said that he hadn’t read it, which reads criticism or rejection to me, too. On the other hand, the forum entries I read last year were mostly supportive.

    5) Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism

    Wikipedia authors may do better than me, but in basic terms, I’d say that authoritarianism counts everyone in so long as people don’t stick their neck out. Nobody is required to show active support for the status quo or powers that be, by joining certain political study groups at work or danwei level, for example. Authoritarian leaders don’t try to secure your mind – think what you want, but don’t mess with your dictators. China is often painted as just that kind of country, but the CCP actually “asks” people their opinion to get desired answers. (“China is not happy” is probably rather more than what most of them would ask for.) Besides, authoritarians may put up with a partly or completely independent judiciary – Robert Mugabe does, for example. (That said, you either have to mess with your dictator, or to die quietly otherwise, if you are a Zimbabwean who is undernourished.)

    Maybe this, plus what I wrote earlier, might make my view of the difference between authoritarianism and totalitarianism clearer.

    6) should Germany try to influence China to change for the better (“better” is as far as you are concerned)? Should Germany simply cut off ties with China?

    If I had a big plan here, I’d probably be a pretty totalitarian type myself. I think we need to understand the relationship between us and China, in order to cut it back (I don’t think that any countries would need to shun each other altogether) or expand relations further. China has a pretty comprehensive approach itself, and we need to react to that, to make sure that we don’t allow Beijing to divide us (on a rather crude level, it would be “you meet the Dalai Lama, we won’t buy Airbus planes” / “you met the Dalai Lama last time, we won’t buy Boeings”).
    I think my blog posts taken together (or read at random) can show my own leaning. I’m offering my views to compatriots, Westerners, and beyond (Chinese people included of course, when they jump over the GFW). It isn’t like a standard situation in a game, like playing soccer and being awarded a penalty. It’s more like basketball to me.

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