Got together with Daisy last night and strolled by the river for several hours. Listening to her talk about China in different facets was fascinating. There are so many aspects to life here that we can't imagine when it comes to politics.
First of all a few things to be clear on. The actual number of communist party members is small. Out of the 1.4 billion people here there are only about 96 million members of the party (less than 7%). Daisy is in an awkward position and it was tough to listen to her discuss the topic. I'm learning a lot about China's history of the last 100 years. There's been a lot of bad stuff happen. Like, a ton.
In my opinion we can't really understand a nation unless we understand it's scars. That's easy for Americans that have an average American history knowledge. Depression, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, Watergate, 911, etc. I'm just learning about China's scars. I knew a little about what's happened here, but I had no idea how deep some of these scars go, and they have a huge impact on the people here. How about a list?
Mass Genocode in the 1930s of Chinese populace. The Japanese army committed horrendous atrocities. I got about halfway through the book titled The rape of Nanking (Nanjing). I had to stop. What world history class in the states doesn't go into depth detailing the Holocaust? I had no idea what happened here. 6,000,000 deaths? That's the number we've all been trained to regurgitate when it comes to the Jews. It could have been more here. I've seen wildly varying numbers, some much higher than 6 million. F me.
From 1959 to 1961 more than 30 million people starved to death here under Mao. They call it the great famine. There's a lot of people walking around here that survived this. Again, that's a scar that leaves a mark for generations.
In 1966 Mao brought forward the Cultural Revolution. It lasted 10 years. This was China on China violence. I've heard the term, but didn't really understand the particulars. Mao labeled all the educated "bourgeois" as evil. They locked them all up and attempted to purge the country of capitalism. People were put in jail with no trial. Some were reported by family members. No trials. Others voiced criticism about policies that lead to starvation. Also jailed. How many died? Again, no one can know for sure apparently. At a minimum it was millions. And again, this wasn't that long ago. This is in my lifetime. F me.
Talking to Daisy about what's going on right now has to be viewed with that list above in mind. The locals fear a return to a Cultural Revolution mindset. President Xi just named himself president for life. He had former president Hu taken from their congress last week and nobody really knows what happened to him. It's not like Hu is going to be allowed to make any public speeches. The locals here are a bit scared.
There is no local media discussing any details. None. I'm reading about this on NPR. I should take a moment to point out that I'm not scared for myself in any way. I'm safe. China doesn't want a war with the states. If it got weird they would ship us out. That's a given. President Xi has been talking tough, but that's not a new thing. He's been posturing for a while.
Daisy is concerned. She's debating leaving the country quietly next year. She has a visa that allows her to work in the states and isn't thrilled with what's happening right now. She's different than the typical Asian woman in her forties. She's independent, smart, and has spent a lot of time in North America. She speaks her mind (to me) and has opinions that would run counter to party members. She declined the opportunity to join the party, but members of her family are in the party and hold government offices. She's concerned about what might happen to them if she was identified as a criminal for any reason.
Daisy is brave. It's obvious after chatting with her. When I asked her who her role model was she immediately identified her grandfather. He was a party member that was jailed during the Cultural Revolution. Listening to her talk about what her grandfather saw is heartbreaking. I don't think I can type those details.
When I chose to come here I was under no allusions that China was this wonderful place with no problems. It has some great aspects that I like quite a bit. I'm learning a lot in my new teaching position. I'm digging the new food experiences. It's been great meeting new people and learning about who they are. It's been great absorbing Chinese society as a whole. All of it. The good and the bad.
Getting together with Daisy tomorrow night for dinner. Looking forward to meeting her cat, Happy. Debating bacon in the pockets to make that great first impression.