Life in School - and Beyond             November, 2009

 

note:  This was written more than ten years ago, when I began teaching full time in China. Some slight editing and updating.  My students were all undergrads in business, marketing, civil engineering, or urban planning.  These notes are early observations on student life at ZUST in Hangzhou.  I can't say this email feels inaccurate years later.   Life goes on, in and out of school, but the beat goes on, too - stress upon stress, and not stress of one's own making.   Smoking and environmental cancer are big contributors to early death.  But stress is also an environmental constant.

The middle class Chinese diet is full of the stuff that doctors in the US tell us we should eat- lots of fish, lots of vegetables, fruit, a little liquor (ok, maybe not a little), a little meat, nuts, grains.  But adult Chinese die at about the same rate as Americans, and now, from mostly the same causes - heart, and cancer.  Why don’t Chinese people live forever?

The National Day Singing Competition - Zhejiang University of Science and Technology, September, 2009

note:  this post is from 2009, a few weeks after I came to ZUST to teach full time and I was still awed by most everything.  As it turns out, there were no more singing day competitions. This one was part of the celebrations of 60 years since the founding of the PRC.  Still, an impressive event.

One of the emcees wore a black tuxedo with diamond -  I wanted to say rhinestone- studs along the collar and piping.   The other wore a white tux with black piping.  The women emcees wore serious prom type dresses, or serious I-am-a-grownup-take-me-out-dancing dresses- a slinky reflective gold long dress for one, a more demure white for the other. 

An Evening in Middle Class Life        October, 2009

There is a pattern in the west of seizing on negative China stories as definitive proof than revolution, or collapse, or the Second Coming are just around the corner.   Debt and moral vacuum and lack of trust and cheating.  But China is a big country, with a big middle class that is vested in ongoing stability.  This is just a dinner story from ten years ago, with government friends from Hangzhou and Shaoxing.  This is just middle class people relaxing and enjoying the holiday. 

This story is also about middle class CCP members, and such an observation seems sorely overlooked in most discussions of China's future.  I have no systematic data, but my educated guess is that a Venn diagram of Chinese middle class - however you wish to define them - would show great overlap with CCP membership.  There are about 90 million CCP members.  With some dual member households, let's speculate that comes to 60 million households.  These are the people holding nearly all government jobs, heading up non-government organizations, teaching in high schools and universities, and owning many small and large businesses.  Let's give those 60 million households one child and a grandparent or two, or four, and that is roughly the same as the size of the middle class.  CCP is the middle class, and when writers talk about emerging democracy and civil society and middle class demands for voice, we should remember who we are talking about.  The CCP is the bourgeoisie.

The Ideology of Occupation   January, 2019

In the last couple of weeks, two student groups were battling at Peking university, one of China’s most prestigious institutions.  These were battles of words, not fists, but all the more intense for that.

Some might dismiss the conflict as a minor student skirmish over ideology. But the Chinese government reaction suggests that there is a lot more going on – that occupation by a ruling elite can have a light touch, except when it finds itself threatened.   Existential threats, even small ones, must be put down.

To be sure, the conflict at Peking was not a contest for student body president, or a fight over which gendered pronoun to use in addressing a classmate.  It was an ideological fight over who gets to interpret Marxism, and the fight illustrates the extent to which CCP, like every dynasty before it, can be understood as an occupying force.  SupChina has the story-  One Marxist student group is backed by the Party.  The other's WeChat account is blocked

Source:  Socialist Worker - A Time of turmoil shaped Karl Marx’s ideas

Single’s Day – Next Year in Xinjiang

 A pair of sharply discordant messages about today's China came across my desk today, and I was left scratching my head.  How are both these things part and parcel of China now?

One message came from a report from McKinsey that analyzed trends emerging from this year's "Single's Day" self-indulgent shopping mega-spree.

Source: https://investorsking.com/alibaba-singles-day-sales-hit-8-6-billion-first-hour/  and Visual China Group/Getty Images

 

The other message arose from an expanding cascade of reports about the growing repression of China's Uighurs, and the ugly moral and spiritual vacuum -- and the expanding nihilism -- that are pervasively described in these reports.

External view of a Xinjiang "transformation through education" camp during construction  Source: Bitter Winter

Similar and different – an occasional reflection

As huge economies with large and diverse populations, occupying about the same land area at about the same range of latitudes, China and the US have many similarities.  Similarities extend to many elements of culture and institutions, good and bad.  The similarities are often surprising; the differences confuse us, but may be a source of new perspectives. 

 

Domestic and foreign affairs in 2018 – Xi, CCP, DJT, GOP – Part 6 of 5

Public Morality  - not our finest hour

 

We come to public morality.

"...the spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the mind which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women."

 Learned Hand  “The Spirit of Liberty” speech at “I Am an American Day” ceremony, Central Park, New York City (21 May 1944)

 

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