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Is neutrality all it’s cracked up to be?


I’ve always had an open mind regarding China preferring to not take sides and view what goes on from, what I felt was, a neutral position. The recent events in Tibet were something of a test to keeping that position as we didn’t know exactly what was happening but my neutrality survived. However, after what has happened since then and reading and hearing articles in the media I have been pushed off my smug neutral perch. The position has simply become untenable.


The China-baiting has started and the anti-China hysteria is getting so loud it is hard to hear yourself think. Slagging from the media goes on and politicians continue to pontificate and make judgments based on supposition. None of which augurs well for good relations, healthy debate and discussion.


During my years of working in China I met many Chinese people [I hope that isn’t too much of a surprise] of many ages; students, their families, parents and their grandparents. Of the older people every one of them had a story to tell of the old days of China; of the Japanese invasion, the civil war, the liberation of the people, the calamities of the 1960s and 1970s and the Cultural Revolution in particular. None remembered the hardships, injustices and cruelty of those days with any fondness as many had suffered very badly during those years and some had lost friends and relatives, either to famine or to darker means. Amongst the students, who had grown up free of these problems, there was a determination to not let it happen again and a fierce loyalty to both country and government. Everyone was conscious that the modern China came into existence as a poverty-stricken nation, almost doomed to failure through lack of resources. An expression often heard is that ‘it was built on a bowl of rice’, and that’s not far from the truth. Looking at their recent history it seems that peace, freedom and prosperity had been within reaching distance of the people many times but on every occasion something or someone had snatched it from them and turned good fortune into disaster or worse. Their labours were rewarded by yet more misery. Yet despite these memories every one of the people I spoke to had confidence in their lives, in the future and in their country. Life is no longer supported, or restricted, by the Iron Ricebowl [a principle established shortly after the CCP came to power], people are free to set up their own enterprises and to earn a living the way they choose. The people of China have good reason to be proud of their county as the PRC has lifted more people out of poverty than any other nation. There is still a long way to go but their record stands tall against that of other countries in the west [e.g. USA, UK] where the prevailing system now does the opposite. Most of those I taught are no longer students and some run businesses of their own employing others; in the same way as their parents and grandparents struggled to find an existence in the rice fields, they strive to find their place in international markets. The China of today is not the same as the China of 5,000 years ago, 500 years ago, 50 years or even five years ago. Even in the few years I knew it there were visible changes occurring around me and most were for the better [actually I don’t recall any which were not but I’ll assume ‘most’ for the record]. China may not be on a par with western countries with their unstinting drive for perfect democracy and an unblemished record of respect for human rights, but it is probably much closer than most western people realise, a lot is a matter of perception and interpretation.


Meanwhile, if we want the PRC to move forward and continue to open out to the world possibly dialogue may prove useful. It certainly holds more promise than name-calling, mudslinging, assaulting torch carriers and demonising all things Chinese.




Related posts – The b-word, Xizang, Take Note,

Posts of a similar vein on other sites – Violet Eclipse, San Francisco Chronicle,



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