China maintains a prominent presence in the news, whether it’s about the booming economy, factory workers, dissidents or foreign relations, for a country that prefers to keep a low profile, they are not doing very well at it. When I decided to go teach English in China, my main reason was to develop a better understanding of what life is really like there. What I wasn’t prepared for was that you know less about what’s going on in China from inside then outside, and that very few people hold an opinion about controversial topics, whether for lack of interest of for safety reasons. Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was how Westernized it had become. No, it is no longer a communist country, that much has been established, and it is hard to even notice the oppression still inflicted on the people, most are content to live their day to day lives, enough attainable goals have been made for them that they’re kept busy. Yes, they do work very hard, but that can be attributed as much to their massive population and the competitiveness of the education system and work force, but it is convenient for the government, since the people are so occupied trying to get into a good school, find a spouse, make enough money to buy a house, keeping up with the Chan’s by buying the latest gadgets and fashion, that they have no time to worry about the government; and they needn’t really, because the life their living is pretty good, as good as any Americans, maybe even better in these economic times. The government even makes it worthwhile to be loyal, at little cost to you, if you become a party member, which requires taking a test, a few interviews and life-long devotion, you will be provided with better opportunities in the work field, easier funding for small business and no officials breathing down your neck. The only people that have to worry about it are who we see on TV, those living in rural towns, this is where it becomes obvious that, although China has progressed vastly in a short amount of time, there are still many that have been left behind. These are the ones most likely to work in factories, live in abandoned underground bunkers in Beijing, or be one of the myriads of orange jumpsuit clad street cleaners making their own brooms.
The still present restraints of the people became apparent when I was teaching adult classes, and I was naive (more like stupid) enough to bring up politics in the classroom. The results of which was being fired from one job and being bluntly told that it wasn’t appropriate to talk about those sorts of things, it didn’t help that some of the students were party members, which made it an absolute no-no to condone such discussion. What I was able to learn was that the propaganda machine is still in motion as much as ever. When asked about the Chinese dissident receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the reaction was that it was an embarrassment to China, about the unrest in the Middle East, that they were terrorists trying to uproot a stable government, and no one seemed to know anything about Weiwei.
China is a mystery, and after spending one year there, it’s even more so. The people of China are in a bubble, they realize that there are things they’re missing out on, when they hear about elections in Taiwan or go to Hong Kong to have their babies, but it’s a bubble that’s hard to get out of, and if they cause trouble inside it it’ll make their life miserable. So they’ve decided to compromise, forget politics and human rights and try to have a comfortable life, hoping that as China becomes a bigger world player and starts opening up, with more countries looking in, that policies will slowly start changing and life improving. In the meantime, ignorance is bliss.