New-Old China - Editorial
New-Old China - Editorial
১৩ আগস্ট ২০২০ ২:০০ অপরাহ্ণ
"May we walk with you and practice English?"
This was the courteous question by two Chinese college students standing within the twilight outside the Kwangchow Hotel compound for foreigners in September 1979.
My wife and that I had become familiar with the request during a journalists' tour of old China the week Chairman Deng Xiaoping opened the door to foreign visitors. This followed a 30-year blackout imposed by former Chairman Mao.
We readily agreed to steer and to speak English. We sauntered to the steps of nearby Kwangchow University. We sat for hours within the dark - streetlights off due to energy shortage -- discussing the futures of China and America.
This memory flooded back recently during a personal luncheon hosted at the Punta Gorda Holiday Inn by retired U.S. Senator Iowa Roger Jepsen.
He graciously invited Sun publisher Derek Dunn-Rankin and me to interrupt bread with three distinguished members of the Chinese Association for International Understanding.
They were Zhang Zhijun, adviser appointed by the Central Committee international department; Ms. Jiang Lin, director of yank division, the international department of the Central Committee; and Zhou Yongming, councilor of International Understanding.
They paused here -- on a journey from Brazil to Canada -- to renew Zhang's long-held friendship with the Jepsen. The senator became involved in Sino-American relations while serving in Washington, D.C. He and Mrs. Jepson have a winter home here in Riverwood.
As I wrote in 1979 following my visit to China:
"Chairman Mao in 1966 closed all schools and colleges for a decade during his Cultural Revolution. He sought to wipe out all memories of China's 5,000-year-old imperial past and to curb a surge to the non-public enterprise.
"For a decade, many teachers and "capitalist roaders" were killed and millions more sent to figure camps. Colleges were shuttered. Not one student was graduated. Ownership of farmland was abolished.
"Deng Xiaoping succeeded Mao after the latter's death in 1976 and reopened the faculties. He allowed a person to have a little "private plot and a private pig" for private profit.
"Deng startled the country - and therefore the world - by ordering all pupils from class through college to find out English. it had been a subtle recognition that the language of commerce is English.
Talk within the Dark
"Our visit is the first opportunity the Chinese have had to use their new, language skill.
"Li and Chang are typical of the new generation. they're hooked into the official Four Modernizations program - progress in Agriculture, Science, Technology and Defense.
"They are convinced that through "socialism, populous China will catch up with the 'capitalist' nations.
"'When?' I asked.
"Chang -- just entering college at age 26 due to Mao's Cultural Revolution -- thinks his people expect an excessive amount of timely from modernization. 'There are going to be changed for the higher, but not as fast as most think.'
"Li is younger and has been relatively untouched by past ideological struggle. He thinks China will leap into the fashionable world overnight.
"'What does one expect from modernization?' I asked. He replied, 'A nice family, a well-furnished flat, a refrigerator and an automobile.'
"'What will happen if you've got not obtained this stuff by the time you've got children of your present age?'
"After a thoughtful silence, he answered, 'The revolutionary spirit is robust within the Chinese people!'
"Modernization may be a great challenge for the Chinese, but the high degree of voluntary compliance is a sign of their determination to succeed.
"'It is going to be a triumph for socialism,' declared Li.
"'Don't ditch the Cultural Revolution, I cautioned. 'You can't modernize without tons of capitalism.'
"Again, there was an extended pause within the conversation. Chang replied, 'I have thought much about this, and sometimes I feel capitalism isn't so bad.'
"As we parted, I gave our young guides my business cards for his or her English instructor. On the backs, I wrote, 'Give Li (or Chang) an A in English.'
"The genie is out of the bottle. Change is coming to China. The question is whether or not millennia of custom, and decades of brainwashing, are often reshaped adequately.
"If - big if - China can obtain the capital to harness her natural resources -- and backs faraway from communism enough to completely use her enormous human energy -- she is going to dominate the planet ."
Since those memorable first days of a reborn China, that nation has surged into the fashionable world - but not without travail.
The first point of interest on our tour was the five-block-long "Democracy Wall" where the Chinese were permitted to stick posters expressing politics.
We weren't allowed to approach the wall because the week before our arrival a Chinese student was killed there during a political argument.
Democracy Wall was only a block approximately from Tiananmen Square where is found a mausoleum containing the embalmed body of Mao. Four, long lines of tourists - continuously night and day - walked briskly past Mao during a glass coffin.
As we were foreign guests, Chinese visitors to Mao's sepulcher smilingly opened the queue to us.
When liberated college students in 1989 staged their pro-democracy demonstration at Tiananmen Square - with their improvised "Goddess of Democracy" statue patterned after the American Statue of Liberty - I got goosebumps.
I remembered what young Li -- 10 years earlier -- said would happen in 10 years if economic progress was too slow in coming.
Chairman Deng broke the communist mold, but in 1989 he ordered the People's Liberation Army to slaughter several thousand Tiananmen Square demonstrators and imprison many ringleaders.
Today, political dissidents in China still are confined to labor camps without legal recourse. However, American-style capitalism -- that my Kwangchow friend Chang thought not so bad -- has vaulted China into an economic power second only to us.
With 1.3 billion people, the most important army, and therefore the second-largest economy after the U.S., China may be a de facto major power.
China and therefore the U.S. are the best customers of every other, although China this year sold us $103 billion more goods than we sold them.
This translates to many American jobs being relocated to China. State banks there make low-interest loans to exporting industries, subsidize Chinese currency, and levy high tariffs on imported goods.
Japan succumbed to the present sort of subsidized banking and money management until it's economy collapsed ten years ago. A vacuum was created that China rushed to fill. Storm flags are flying.
American and Chinese economists are working to balance out trade and job problems that are muddled by political/cultural differences.
Technology created their problems, but can also solve them.
China invented the wheelbarrow and windmill, but until recently has lagged behind in technology. Now, this has changed with the successful launching of astronaut Yang Liwei for 14 earth orbits. Plans are well along for Chinese satellites and a visit to the moon.
Senator Jepson's recent guests are a replacement generation of Chinese leaders with global savvy. Hopefully, they portend a replacement Chinese policy of mutual cooperation with us and other western nations.
Socialism is waning during a new China, and democracy is gaining - a la Hong Kong and mass communication. The world's largest country - sort of a giant ship -- turns slowly, but inexorably.
As the famous American statesman Franklin opined once we began a journey of democratic capitalism in 1776, "We must all interdepend, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately."