I just came back from a very involved conversation about the Chinese Communist Party.
Still kind of in shock, because at the end of it, a random guy approached us, informed us that he couldn’t help but overhear, and invited us to dine with him sometime.
Among the three of us, one guy held a deep belief in the merits of the upper level CCP and a mild disdain for the corrupt middle. The rest of us were rather against the general direction of government in China. (I must say that I probably have an incurable relationship with cynicism…)
In any case, it was difficult to tell if the guy truly had propaganda-induced opinions due to his odd, roundabout logic. According to him, he doesn’t read the news. He claims that he uses logical reasoning to determine the trustworthiness of various government officials, but he doesn’t seem to think that the fact that his logic is based on nothing is a problem. There’s a decent possibility that his “I don’t read the news” shtick was an exaggeration - perhaps he meant that whatever news he reads is bound to be in Chinese, and we weren’t likely to trust his sources, so it was pointless for him to bring them up.
That was actually part of my original goal for learning Chinese — I wanted to read the news in as many languages as possible, specifically in Chinese and English so that I could make comparisons. Sometimes the Chinese articles will leave out a few subtle details (or add a few) that change the entire tone of the piece.
(For instance, compare the reporting on a couple of kids racing luxury cars: English, Chinese. The Chinese article calls the kids ‘富二代’, which is a negative term for the offspring of the rich. They also quote the kids as saying, “开好车老外眼红”, which means “those foreigners are just jealous of the awesome cars we drive”. The English version mentioned neither their race nor the quote; it was a largely dry article that came off as a bit of a police report. Unsurprisingly, the two articles led to very different responses from their respective audiences.)
Back to the guy — he claims he hasn’t heard of the Falun Gong persecutions or the melamine milk scandal. This I found especially odd — netizens were up in arms over the milk scandal and despite the government’s attempts at shutting things down, the entire ordeal was far from quiet. It sort of makes sense when you take into account his personality, as he says he spent most of his childhood doing math problems and not consuming the news.
I guess a great part of the issue is his personality. Sure, some students from China have been influenced by the party rhetoric, but very few of them are as “hardcore conservative” (quoted verbatim from him) or as socially awkward as he is. There were moments when he seriously channeled Sheldon… and I admire my friend for being able to put up with him and for making a serious attempt at drawing him out of his shell.
Some of his opinions are just…out there, and it’s definitely not the type of stuff someone who has listened to a lot of CCP propaganda would necessarily possess. For instance, he likes to make judgments about people’s intelligence. The best way to describe this is to invoke the Big Bang Theory, specifically the episode where Sheldon insults the intelligence of a group of physics students, claiming that they won’t amount to anything. He’s a TA for a class and claims to have done similar things with his students, which I find unfortunate.
I suppose one interesting point he brought up was to consume the media — consume whatever it is the CCP puts out and pick it apart. Yes, it’s certainly possible that the CCP produces media twisted to support the party, but it’s much more elucidating to watch the media, analyze it, and figure out what their tricks are. The latest fad seems to be time travel historical TV shows, which could potentially strike my fancy…
unless I notice glaring elements of propaganda and get turned off, heh.
And finally, it’s interesting to see how my own identity has been shaped by growing up in the U.S. If my parents had stayed in China, would I question my government nearly as much? Would I feel a certain normalcy in complaining about those at the top? What would’ve been instrumental in shaping my opinions of the world? Is my sensitivity to racism a trained thing, something I spent years tuning while living in California? And would it have been different if my parents had gone to Germany or Japan or the UK? (those three countries were the alternatives for my dad at the time)