I listened to (half of) the latest Sinica podcast this morning. It’s really good and about a subject close to my heart – Taiwan.
I’m actually only part way through the podcast at the moment because I got thwarted by technical difficulties (probably due to not having read the instruction manual for my phone… at least I can answer calls now), but I strongly agree with so many of the observations made thus far.
One thing I’d like to add here before I try to work out what happened to my download is about the 素质 argument that seems to be popping up a lot recently. Roughly, the argument is that Chinese people do not have the quality/class/manners/social consciousness/consideration (unfortunately 素质 doesn’t really translate well) needed for democracy to work in China. When I first heard this, it was because Jackie Chan said it a couple of years ago. The way I took it was that he was saying Chinese people are intrinsically rude by nature, which I don’t buy at all and find insulting, not to mention racist. Firstly, I think whether or not people are polite and considerate of others has nothing to do with their genes and everything to do with their upbringing! They might not spit in the streets and most do flush the toilet, but there are an awfully lot of rude people in Perth where I live, yet we manage to do this thing called democracy just fine. Why right off a whole group of people like that? Improve education, provide support to parents in bringing up their children and have public awareness campaigns. The latter is already happening. Secondly, I find it offensive to imply Chinese people do not have the capacity to choose their own leaders. What about the current leaders then? They are also Chinese. By the same argument they are probably do not have the 素质 to lead a country let alone bring about a “harmonious” society. The whole thing is so patronising!
While I don’t buy the 素质 argument, I do worry if there were democratic elections in China right now, the country would fragment. It has nothing to do with the intrinsic nature of the people and everything to do with the enormous territory, population, cultural diversity, different wealth and needs of provinces and the gaps between city and country life and rich and poor. This was first suggested to me by a taxi driver in Jinan and I think I agree with him. I really worry that any kind of democratic election in China, if not done slowly and very carefully, would most likely lead to an extremely violent civil war. China’s long history is littered with such wars. This really scares me.
Ah ha! Successfully downloaded… enough of worrying about civil war and back to listening!