Thursday, May 21, 2009
I experience two Chinas.
The obvious China brims with the economic prosperity. People hustling everywhere to make a Yuan. Shoulder-to-shoulder businesses lining busy Beijng streets hawk everything from police car red lights to Darjeeling tea; building cranes silhouette the sky in every sizable city I've traveled; three-story high video screens on buildings portrait active young people dressed in upscale clothes alongside government infomercials; a sign in the window of a newly built office tower advertises, "the California wine club meets here" hinting at the growing prestige of the heavily-taxed imported elixir. And China holds the mortgage to the United States due to the one-sided trade balance.
While the masses seem so focused on capitalism bent improving their living standard, they seem to meekly accept a government fist controling politics. I experienced that control first hand. In the Beijing area I had no problem using Skype to call my wife every day. Suddenly, in Shanxi Province while visiting Grace Vineyard, Skype wouldn't work. It was blocked. I couldn't call my wife. I was also redirected to nowhere when trying to reach certain web sites. A quick internet research revealed that lots of people had similar problems in various parts of China. Fortunately, I was able to figure a way around the Skype block and only missed one call to my wife. I kept wondering how all of those smart Chinese computer geeks deal with blocks. Perhaps the government simply hires them.
Later I heard that the goverment shut down Twitter and some of the other social network sites known for political discussion. It seems the government was being cautious with the approach of the 20th-year anniversery of Tieneman Square massacre. Obviously, this not-so-subtile control grated my American sense of freedom like fingernails on chaulkboard. But right now that's how business is done in China and I want to do business here to improve my own standard of living.