China thoughts

I’ve just spent a couple of weeks in China, mostly exploring sanitized tourist locations, although there were occasional glimpses of raw police state reality peeking through for those willing to see it.

First, of course, there was the delight of experiencing the wonderful history of such things as the Great Wall and Terracotta warriors, sights not to be missed if you do travel to mainland China.

Then there was the smog, the slums, the all-pervasive superstition, the grinding poverty, made all the more poignant by an accompanying avarice, the lashings of conspicuous state-sponsored irony with no outlet for mockery – mass murderer Mao’s grinning visage decorating the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Tiananmen square, for example.

All of what follows is anecdotal and my personal experience so, although I think it accurately represents what is going on, others may differ.

When we arrived, I was surprised by the fact that the motorcycles and scooters were all electric: there were no gasoline powered motorbikes. The reason, I was told, is that the government is eliminating pollution by banning gas powered motorbikes. The batteries in these green machines are charged with electricity produced from smog spewing coal-fired generating stations. And the roads are clogged with cars – gasoline powered cars – if you can see them through the smog, that is.

The good news is Chinese citizens are now allowed to purchase their very own condominiums, costing, in the city, around $50,000 per square metre. The only problem is the land the condominium sits on is leased from the government and, in 70 years, will be reclaimed, along with the condominium, by the government. The ultimate inheritance tax.

I saw  some of the grinding poverty I mentioned above, but not, I suspect, the worst of it. The Chinese middle class (and you thought communism was classless – remember, some animals are more equal than others) live in what we would regard as slums. Multiple families crammed into a unit, communal toilets, minimal privacy, dirt, the pervasive smell of urine, noisy, damp and cold – but each entitled to a green electric scooter.

One person I talked to mentioned that he was shocked that Europeans and North Americans take delight in ridiculing their governments; “we trust our government”, he declared proudly. I assume this was for the benefit of a hidden microphone. Another person – a mother – told a story of a school class where the children were expected to take school trips, something for which the teachers were paid extra. A mother whose children took frequent trips because she was a travel agent declined the offer and was told by the teacher – whose income would be reduced by the absence of the child – that the child would “be treated meanly” if she did not come on the trip.

The omnipresent superstition was both irritating and oppressive. Although Christianity is growing in strength, Buddhism is the still prevailing religion. I visited a number of Buddhist temples and was greeted with the sight of people bowing down before idols. I had a cursory acquaintance with Buddhist beliefs before I arrived in China but, after being accosted by the image of literal idol worship, I decided to look into it a little further. One of the convincing things about Christianity is that once you accept a few basic tenets, the whole edifice hangs together logically. Not so for Buddhism: it is utterly incoherent The goal is to divest oneself of desire thereby removing suffering, reach nirvana, cancelling the cycle of rebirth – Buddhists believe in reincarnation (since the population is increasing, where do all the  new  people come from?) – and enter a state of non self-awareness: become nothing. No transcendent God, no transcendence at all, no Creator, no gift of salvation, no explanation of why the universe exists or why we are here, no hope really, just ancestor worship, a desire for obliteration and – Karma. Karma plays a large role in everyday life: what you do comes back to haunt you and that determines your luck. Much store is placed in the concept of luck, particularly financial luck. Rub a Buddha statue’s belly, to bring good luck and prosperity; a dragon statue typically has an open mouth to attract money, so place it in your window to become wealthy. This is a place where fortune cookies are taken seriously. Were I not a Christian, I would have come away with the impression that Buddhism makes a compelling case for atheism.

China has embraced capitalism. Or, more accurately, I think, it has adopted all the worst aspects of capitalism and purged any of its roots or benefits. I am tempted to call it  capitalism lite but it is actually capitalism dark.

This photo of an advertisement in a shopping mall sums up the prevailing attitude in China, another failed utopia, whose unfortunate inhabitants pine for this for their children:

Chinese pianist calls Americans “jackals” in a song performed at a White House dinner

It’s all part of the new political civility.

From here:

A Chinese pianist struck a sour note at a White House state dinner with a rendition of a well-known anti-American anthem.

With the Chinese and U.S. presidents among the dozens of dignitaries watching, Lang Lang belted out ‘My Motherland’, the theme tune to the Chinese-made Korean War film ‘Battle on Shangangling Mountain’.

The song has been a propaganda tool in China for decades and includes a disparaging reference to Americans as ‘jackals’ who will be shot with hunting rifles.

You can hardly blame the Chinese for treating the American government like half-witted wimps considering the same government gave a benign nod to the building of a victory mosque on the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam.

Here it is:

Forced abortion in China

In the people’s paradise of Communist China, the state – an institution whose malevolence increases in proportion to the amount of power it wields – dictates how many children a couple may have. The preposterously named “family planning commission” of the Siming district decided that Xiao Aiying was about to have one too many, so they murdered the eight month old unborn baby – what we, in the enlightened West call a foetus – in her womb.

From here:Add an Image

An eight-months pregnant woman was dragged from her home and forced to have an abortion because she had broken China’s one-child-per-family law.

Twelve government officials entered Xiao Aiying’s house where they hit and kicked her in the stomach, before taking her kicking and screaming to hospital.

There, the 36-year-old was restrained as doctors injected her with a drug to kill the unborn baby.

Her husband Luo Yanquan, a construction worker, yesterday described the moment officials burst into his family home.

‘They held her hands behind her back and pushed her head against the wall and kicked her in the stomach,’ he said. ‘I don’t know if they were trying to give her a miscarriage.

‘Our ten-year-old daughter has been excited about having a little brother or sister but I don’t know how I can explain to her what has happened.’

He recalled how a month before the child was due to be born officials told the couple they weren’t allowed to have another baby because they already have a daughter.

His wife, who was filmed in hospital with large bruises on her arms and her dead child still inside her, said: ‘I have had this baby, feeling it moving around and around my belly. Can you imagine how I feel now.’

Her harrowing experience in Siming, near the city of Xiamen, south-west China, on October 10, comes a month after the government in Beijing said there would be no relaxation in strict family planning laws.

Most Chinese families are allowed only one child to reduce the 1.3 billion-plus population and cut unsustainable demand on resources.