Friday, April 8, 2011

Chinese Harmony

I was reading some things today and one of the things that caught my eye had to do with the Chinese desire for social harmony and how strongly the government argues that it cannot permit any protests or disagreement with its method of governance. Whenever an activist or dissident attempts to raise his or her voice about their concerns with things in China (and there is certainly no lack of things to worry or be upset about in China - much like anyplace else on Earth), they are typically hushed up either through intimidation or arrest. The reason for this is that the government is unwilling to tolerate any dissent and would prefer that everyone simply live in harmony with one another. After all, there has been enough chaos and anarchy in recent Chinese history and there is no need to repeat it according to the government.

What the government typically neglects to point out, however, is that all of the disharmony that existed in the recent past is due directly to the government and its actions - most notably by Mao. The Cultural Revolution was orchestrated and directed by Mao (vis-a-vis his intermediaries in the Gang of Four who were subsequently assigned all of the blame after Mao's death so as to preserve Mao's stature) and that is the most grievous example of the social disharmony brought on by the government. This does not include the student protests in 1976 after Zhou Enlai's death, the protests in 1989 after Hu Yaobang's death, the Hundred Flowers campaign and the Great Leap Forward in the 1950's or the numerous bloody purges that took place as a result of Mao's desire for constant revolution to weed out any potential opposition. Furthermore, it is the distinct lack of any critical review of those times, official or unofficial, within China that allows for the ability to learn from those mistakes. Instead, they are glossed over as an unfortunate period of time in which there was much chaos (without probing too deeply into the actual reasons why) and a deep desire to only move forward and develop a deep sense of nationalistic pride.

Unfortunately, the only way in which harmony can truly be achieved is to come to terms with the past and to be able to move past it. Possibly the best example of this would be post-apartheid South Africa which, while not perfect (but what ever is perfect?), offers the vision of what can be achieved when the aggrieved can have the opportunity to reconcile with the aggressors. Perhaps this can never be achieved (after all, one of Mao's stated objectives during the Cultural Revolution was to destroy all of the relationships upon which society was framed) but, if it is not even tried, there can be no hope of ever moving past it and it will forever stain the social fabric of China - let alone prevent any chance at the social harmony that the government preaches ad nauseam at the remotest threat of disagreement.

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