Thursday, April 3, 2008
quick notes on China
Believe it or not, China might just be the freest country in the world. In this man's opinion you can do anything you goddamn want here, except challenge the government. There's corruption, sure. Those who rule have to be bought a drink. (Anyone reading this who wants to pretend that their country isn't corrupt is probably on the wrong blog, ha ha) Otherwise, if you want to turn your street-facing apartment into a noodle shop, off you go. If you want set up a bicycle repair cart on the street corner, or a barber's stool, or a fruit stand, no one will stop you. The results of government crackdowns are occasionally apparent. Traffic is no longer an uninterrupted chorus of car horn beeping. The footpaths are no longer covered in spit. Adult-run gangs of child beggars seemed to have disappeared. Bloody fascists!
There isn't any. Lone women walk the streets late at night. I followed my mad buddy Lulu as she plunged through pitch-black back alleys in Hohai and it never occurred to either of us that anything bad might happen. It's that kind of place. Like anywhere, it's possible to get mugged. I know a chick to whom this happened. And one time I witnessed an attempted mugging in broad daylight in Beihai Park. Everyone was astounded at this extraordinary event. (Funnily enough the sight of a tall laowai, which is to say, me, walking in their direction was enough to cause the muggers to flee. Were all crime so easily put paid to, ha!) I have never heard of anyone being burglarised. I expect it's the complete absence of smack addicts. There is also no public drunkenness. The Chinese are not drinkers. Sydney CBD at night is far more dangerous than pretty much anywhere in Beijing or Shanghai. Apparently in Xian there are lots of bag snatchers. I went there and nothing happened.
My buddy Maya took me to an art district that's been established in an old industrial estate. By way of modern art, urban Chinese are asking who they are. It was terrific. The Chinese art scene blows me away. A few of the pieces were about censorship. I wondered at this. To a far greater extent the exhibition seemed to be about money and sex in the new China. To this end there was an installation featuring a giant gold penis. There was also a statue of lingerie-clad female legs, the upper torso of which was a bas-relief 100 RMB note. And there was a large canvas that consisted of a close-up of a mouth fellating a penis with speech balloons from above asking if the fellator speaks English. Keep in mind that this is a government run art district. Forget under-the-radar, this is all in the open - officially approved vicious criticism of modern China. I expect one could get censored in China. I expect one can get censored here too. The point is...?
I'm starting to wonder if it matters what government you have. Depending on your definition, China is 'communist', or 'fascist', or a kleptocracy, or simply the imperial system of old. A strong case could be made that China is libertarian. Without exhaustive study, I declare that the government seems amazingly unobtrusive. But whatever... China is fresh, alive, exciting - people are unfettered. Anyone who wants to bang on about the superiority of 'democracy', knock yourself out. Every democracy I know has a privately owned Reserve Bank precisely designed to keep everybody in debt peonage. I don't know about you, but nearly everyone I know despises their job and would love to quit. But they can't. They're shackled to debt. They are not free. Oh, all right, they're free - free to choose between "I will ensure the independence of the Reserve Bank" candidate A and "I will ensure the independence of the Reserve Bank" candidate B. Fantastic. Meanwhile, in China, (which the Jewish media assures us is a repressive dictatorship that we must all boycott) people are emphatically not shackled in this Western 'democratic' fashion. Nobody says - the hype about China says more about the hype-merchants than it does about China.