Brittney Stewart

Special Education Aide, education

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When will China be free?

What will it take for China to end its human rights abuses? With the burgeoning youth of China becoming acutely aware of the oppressive nature of their government, how long do you think it will take them to change this, or convince the goverment to change? Will it be a revolution like Tunisia or Libya, if so would the U.S. aid the rebels? Will it happen in the next decade or continue to bubble beneath the surface?

  • Ann Lee

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    Oct 24 2011: As an American citizen who is exposed to both Chinese and Western viewpoints on this issue, I can say that the Western media magnifies the human rights issues in China. It does exist but it is not as severe as most Westerners believe. Most people who cry for human rights in China do so without ever going to China or even trying to understand China. Western media choose to selectively hear the minority dissidents and portray China in the worst angle possible. Just as Chinese media is somewhat censored, Western media can be extremely biased to a specific viewpoint. China is doing its best to change to be more democratic so please give it some time. Bear in mind it is the most populated country in the world so change is not a fast process. It does not need any outside forces to "free" or "save" it.
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      Oct 24 2011: we don't measure political killings and imprisonment by percent of population. and nobody argued the direction. the conversation opener question exactly asks "when will", and not "will ever".
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        Oct 24 2011: QUOTE: "...we don't measure political killings and imprisonment by percent of population."

        Who is this "we" you are talking about?

        And are you implying that even one political killing is too many?

        [If so, I heartily agree with you!]

        Now, if that is your position, would you mind providing a list of all the countries that have not engaged in political killing?

        Here is my list:


        Please feel free to add to it.
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          Oct 24 2011: we is me and my brother. anyone is invited to join.

          we do measure, on the other hand, the systems established to prevent such killing, threatening and imprisonment. as of now, the government has to use deception, secrecy and a massive propaganda machine to get away with killing one muslim terrorist suspect, who happens to be an american citizen. in china, the government can simply apprehend such individuals, and then execute them, not even pretending to be a nice guy.

          and no, it is not just style. if the establishment can do such things with ease, there is a much greater chance they actually will do. the price attached is low. in the US, a politician can lose the next elections if goes too far. they have their hands bound.
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        Oct 24 2011: So what you are saying is, if the government has to use deception, secrecy and a massive propaganda machine to kill a political dissident this is somehow better than if the government just does it "openly?"


        Because it indicates there are systems that, if they weren't circumvented, would prevent such things?

        That's not a particularly very high moral ground to be looking down from.

        Personally, I do not condone killing under any circumstances but I don't think world leaders will take my opinion into account when they make their decisions.

        A single political killing is enough to render the system, under which it was undertaken, equal in quality to any other system that engages in such practices. The difference, if any, is merely one of degree.

        Based on your other comments, I suspect you do not know how "things are done" politically here in China.

        The politicians here are not that much different than they are anywhere else. The days of Chairman Mao are long past and they are not given as free a reign as you seem to think.

        Have you ever been here?
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          Oct 24 2011: absolutely. if a criminal is on the run, it is much better than if he can commit crimes unchallenged. anyone argues that? i do want to live in a world in which criminals live in fear of getting caught. i better live in a country where politicians fear their citizens, then vice versa. of course, that does not mean i want government to do bad things. quite the opposite.

          and that last comment about who is where is quite cheap and older than dirt. the notion that a certain point of view is simply disqualified by the lack of personal experience is wrong on so many levels i can't even summarize. so better stop being that sneaky, and if you have any hard information about the level of freedom in china, optionally compared to the US, you just put that on the table. hinting that you are such a well informed person is not good enough.
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        Oct 24 2011: Krisztián,

        You seem to have hit your emotional threshold and gotten into the whole personal attack mode again (assuming I am attacking you and then "counter-attacking" in return.)

        Why would you assume asking you if you have been in China is "sneaky?"

        There is nothing "sneaky" about it. It's a question.

        Have you ever been here?

        All of the "other stuff*" is simply you imagining (wrongly) my motives. As for "hard information" what would you like to know?

        * " ... that last comment about who is where is quite cheap and older than dirt. the notion that a certain point of view is simply disqualified by the lack of personal experience is wrong on so many levels i can't even summarize. so better stop being that sneaky, and if you have any hard information about the level of freedom in china, optionally compared to the US, you just put that on the table. hinting that you are such a well informed person is not good enough.
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        Oct 24 2011: Krisztián,

        What part of your argument would you like me to refute?

        You haven't actually made an argument of any real substance. You have expressed an opinion or two.

        Collectively, you opinions imply you feel governments are "immoral," with some more so than others.

        My "counter-argument" to that is all governments operate within a similar self-defined mandate and the difference is one of degree. Which apparently you agree with.

        [And those two "opinions" sound remarkably similar to me - although one contains a degree of emotionalism and the other less so.]

        A murder who kills one person, and a murder who kills ten people, are both murderers. Or, on a more positive note, a good samaritan who helps one person, and a good samaritan who helps ten people, are both good samaritans.

        You also seem to think the US is more "free" than China. You have offered nothing more than an opinion and, as usual, once you make a claim, you expect someone else to provide "hard information" to refute it.

        My "opinion" such as it is is based on two points:

        - Governments everywhere impose restrictions on their citizens (you agree.)
        - I have lived in both countries and find China to be more "open" and less restrictive than the US.

        I am not speaking about some philosophical ideal, or political abstraction, I am talking about mundane, everyday stuff, like being able to do whatever you would like to do, whether in business, or in your personal life.

        And yes, if you "break a rule" in China, or in the US, or anywhere else, there will be consequences. The rules, and the consequences, are not a secret.
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          Oct 24 2011: if you believe china is more open and less restrictive, i give you a task:

          launch a campaign in the US, and call the US murderer for killing the indians, iraqis, afghans, whatever. see what happens. (help: nothing really, except you happen to meet mr bologna. in that case, you might get some pepper spray in your face.)

          then try to organize a similar campaign in china, and call them murderers for invading tibet. see how far that gets you.

          so again, we are not interested in the mere fact that there are coercion in all countries. we are interested in the details. what is forbidden in the US, and what is forbidden in china. that is the topic here.
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        Oct 25 2011: You are arguing the specific, I am arguing the general.

        And besides, you have to launch your revolutionary campaign before we engage in another "bet." (I'm holding out for my Guinness.)

        So what your saying is: You would like to have the freedom to call the Chinese murders, and you are feeling constricted because you can't come to China and do that.

        Fair enough.

        By the way, you do have the freedom to do it. And they have the freedom to dictate the consequences they will mete out.

        Are you okay with that? Or would you rather be able to choose your behaviour and the consequences?
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          Oct 25 2011: so now we have the thomas jones version of freedom. you are free to say whatever you want, then the state comes and smash your face. i certainly hope you don't hold any public office, and never will.
    • Oct 26 2011: I think judging how much freedom people want based on a few couragous individuals (dissidents) is inaccurate. Most information about freedom in China is not accessible because of government censors. On other hand people in Hong Kong can speak freely and they clearly showed they do not want to have their freedom restricted by rulers in mainland China.

      We know as a fact that, for example, the Internet in China is heavily regulated and access to information restricted?
      • Oct 26 2011: Yes, internet in China is regulated but to what extent can you say it is "heavily" regulated? It blocks some mainstream Western sites and screens certain contents. I know that the internet is almost like the symbol for free speech in the West but who says that the internet MUST be censorless? Traditional media was never censorless and even the Internet in some "free" countries can be censored or monitored somewhat. Even if internet is somewhat censored, there are many loopholes that people can pass through if they try.
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          Oct 26 2011: who says? there is no need for anyone to speak for everyone. i can say i do want to access all sites on the internet. i see no reason why should i not be able to access a site. i suppose many other people agrees with me. so who is the chinese government, who are you, and who are anyone else to tell me what sites i can visit? on what grounds? who am i hurting with it?
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          Oct 26 2011: Krisztián,

          You seem to think what you want is the standard by which the world should be governed.

          I admire you self-confidence but I doubt very much Hu Jintao will be calling you for an opinion on policy.

          Perhaps you should let him know you're available as an advisor.
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          Oct 26 2011: thomas, congratulations. you often misunderstand or misrepresent what i say. but this time your interpretation is the complete opposite of what i've actually said. nice job! :)
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          Oct 26 2011: Well, I must have picked up a trick or two from you. But let's just check to see if I have really misunderstood or misrepresented you:

          QUOTE: "who says?"

          Who says, what?

          QUOTE: "there is no need for anyone to speak for everyone."

          And who are you speaking for? "There is no need" is a universal statement. Which of course means, you are speaking for everyone.

          QUOTE: "i can say i do want to access all sites on the internet. i see no reason why should i not be able to access a site."

          You see no reason why you should not be able to access any site you like. The implication being that anyone who blocks you from looking at any site you like should not do so. They should govern themselves by your standards which includes universal access to the internet.

          QUOTE: "i suppose many other people agrees with me."

          Many do. I do. But I do not think the Chines people, or the Hungarians need to consider my opinion when making policy decisions.

          QUOTE: "so who is the chinese government, who are you, and who are anyone else to tell me what sites i can visit? on what grounds? who am i hurting with it?

          Again, the implication is "they" have no right to tell you what sites to visit BUT you have the right to tell them how to govern their own country. You expect the world to govern itself according to your standards.

          The fact that your worldview contains within it a proviso that no one should be "oppressed" does not negate the reality that your insistence it be adopted as a "universal standard" is a personal assertion the world should govern itself by your standards.

          Though you do not say so expressly, it is implicit in your comments.

          So you see, it does appear that "You seem to think what you want is the standard by which the world should be governed."
        • Oct 26 2011: Yes the Internet in China is heavily regulated. This is fairly easy to prove and you can read details here:

          A few interesting facts:
          "Out of the Top 100 Global Websites, 12 are currently blocked in mainland China."
          "Amnesty International notes that China “has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world."
          "Critical comments appearing on Internet forums, blogs, and major portals such as Sohu and Sina usually are erased within minutes."

          I am not sure if you are referring to traditional media in the West or in China. Traditional media in the West were never censored (they even published items that hurt past US presidents). Many traditional medias could be influenced or controlled by certain individuals and their ideologies but that does not equal to censorship. Now with the Internet everyone has an opportunity to express themselves and become "media" which is already happening.

          Since the Internet is one of the most important tools of human kind it is very important to keep it open so that everyone in the world can communicate and gain knowledge regardless of under what regime they live.
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        Oct 26 2011: Yes, the internet is regulated here. But, so far, there is nothing I want to look up that I have not been able to find. My understanding is that pornography and "politically subversive" content is blocked.

        I believe this point will be moot soon enough as the internet will become "unblockable" - the entire web will become a proxy server.
        • Oct 26 2011: Please read the article about the Internet censorship in China:

          Yes you might not need anything that is being blocked which does not really prove that major censorship of the Internet exists. For example:
          "Out of the Top 100 Global Websites, 12 are currently blocked in mainland China."

          It is great if Chinese government blocks pornography. I am not sure what do you mean politically subversive content since freedom of expression is basic human right?
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          Oct 26 2011: zdenek, no, it is not at all any more acceptable if they block porn. parents should be able to block porn if they so desire in order to protect children. adults on the other hand should be able to freely access such material.

          before anyone asks: yes, holocaust denial also should be legally accessible on the internet.

          before yet another person asks: no, child porn should not be accessible, but it is not an internet problem. child porn producers should be tracked down and stopped.
        • Oct 26 2011: Krisztian, I wanted to focus the discussion on China rather than porn so I didn't really object.

          I think theoretically porn should be allowed. Practically I see some serious problems with it. Unfortunately large number of women are forced to perform sex against their will. How can you ensure what you have online is legal in that sense. Government does not have resources to prevent this from happening.
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    Oct 24 2011: What makes you think China is not "free?"

    Because it is not like, say, America?

    What makes you think America is "free?"

    There are things you are not allowed to do in America; everyone knows what they are (more or less) and, as long as you do not do "those things," you are free to do whatever you want.

    There are things you are not allowed to do in China; everyone knows what they are (more or less) and, as long as you do not do "those things," you are free to do whatever you want.

    Guess which country has the most restrictions?

    Guess which country provides the greatest personal freedom to do whatever you want?

    I grew up in Canada, have lived in America, Kenya, and now live in China. When I moved here, three years ago, my perception of China was probably similar to the one you have now.

    To help with my visa application, I taught English for about eight months. One of the classes was called "English Corner." It was an open class, anyone could come and the format was group discussion. My role was to provide a topic and monitor the discussion.

    We talked about everything from democracy, and dating, to torture, and corruption. Which is not the point of me telling the tale. The point of the telling is, during one discussion, one of the students said of China (in response to a topic I have forgotten) "Why not, it's a free country."

    My emotional reaction to that statement was very telling. I didn't say anything (there was nothing to say) but I felt like a basic belief I held - one I didn't even know I had internalized - had just been revealed.

    China is just as "free" as any country in the world, including America. It's just that the restrictions the two countries (for example) place on their citizens are different. How they are determined is different. How they are enforced is different. You grew up in America (probably) so you feel "free" in your culture (unless you break a rule ... then you will go to jail.)

    People in China feel the same way about China.
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      Oct 24 2011: for example this debate is going on an american server, which if becomes a hard critic of china, might get banned there. this is not possible the other way.
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        Oct 24 2011: QUOTE: "...this is not possible the other way."

        Wanna bet?

        All you have to do is figure out what your government doesn't want you to say, say it, and see what happens.*

        Give it a shot.

        And the point will be moot soon anyway ... as the internet will be "unblockable."

        When do you think China will be free (assuming you think it's not?)

        * The "American Government**" attempted to shut down a small, local CANADIAN newspaper because it printed negative articles about the American President.

        ** To be fair, it was actually lawyers representing the government that tried to strong-arm the paper. Maybe the government didn't know about it. (Yeah, right.)
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          Oct 24 2011: yeah, we can bet. disclaimer:

          i'm not saying the US government does not try to silence critics. the difference is not the goal of the powers that be. the difference is the current state of the country, the mindset of its citizens, the legal system, and the traditions.

          i'm also not talking about a (not so?) distant future. the US is going to the wrong direction with the patriot act and with the war on terror brainwashing. china is going to the right direction. but it still needs some doing to reverse the current situation. those, who seek freedom, the US is still a much better destination than china.
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        Oct 24 2011: Okay. What's the bet? (A Guinness?)

        Here's the challenge: You decide what YOUR government will not allow you to say, and then say it openly and publicly; and attempt to recruit others to your "point of view."

        [That it is not really your point of view is incidental - the intention is to find out what happens if you say something YOUR government does not want you to say.]

        Oh, and if they intimidate, arrest or kill you - or block your site - you lose, and you owe me a Guinness! If they don't intimidate, arrest, or kill you - or block your site - I owe you a Guinness.

        QUOTE: "...those, who seek freedom, the US is still a much better destination than china."

        Freedom to do what?

        Would you like the freedom to, say, engage in profitable business? Then I recommend China (at the moment.)

        Would you like the freedom to engage in some revolutionary activity? Then I don't think I can recommend any place. Western democracies give "lip service" to freedom but just try to overthrow the government and see how far you get.
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          Oct 24 2011: so the essence of your point is the following

          my government does not allow me to steal some sensitive information about our politicians or government "business", and publish it (that's the only thing i have to fear doing). the repercussions are: confiscation of property, fine, harassment, threats, character killing.

          chinese government does not allow me to criticize tibetan invasion and occupation. repercussions: imprisonment.

          and these two things are somehow equal. it indicates that there is no difference between china and my country (which happens to be hungary). because they both control what can i say.

          i hope everyone else sees the essential difference between these. but i hope more and more people see that yes, what my government does is also immoral, though in a much less degree.
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        Oct 24 2011: No, that is not the essence of my argument. The essence of my argument is, that if you do what your government says you should not do, they will stop you.

        What it is they will stop you from doing is determined by each respective government. How they reach their decision is, I am sure, reasonable to them. Whether you agree or disagree with their choices and how they make them, is not particularly relevant.

        And, like it our not, you don't get a vote in how other countries choose to govern themselves.

        We can complain about it, highlight the errors, criticize, and point fingers all we want but it is not going to help. (Has it helped so far?)

        Cooperation helps. Criticism, particularly uninvited criticism, doesn't have such a good track record.

        QUOTE: "i hope more and more people see that yes, what my government does is also immoral, though in a much less degree."

        It is only "immoral" to you because it does not conform to your moral standards. It obviously does conform to other people's (or it would not be happening.)

        And I agree with you, it is a matter of degree. And, as far as I can tell, every government in every country (county, state, province, region, city, and town) engages in the same behaviour - the difference being only, as you say, a matter of degree.

        I am unaware of any functioning anarchist enclaves.

        I don't think it's going to change any time soon.
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          Oct 24 2011: yes it is the essence, as you repeated it yet again.

          here it is

          "What it is they will stop you from doing is determined by each respective government. How they reach their decision is, I am sure, reasonable to them. Whether you agree or disagree with their choices and how they make them, is not particularly relevant."

          either it is a tautology, which does not add to the conversation, but rather serves the purpose of a red herring, or it means that what each government do, does not matter. only the fact that they do ban some activities matters.

          if you were just dropping in tautologies, i'm sorry, it was my mistake to look for some actual meaning.

          if you meant what it looks like, then you just did what i accused you of doing: this is extreme relativism, and i don't subscribe to that. for me, the essential question is what governments allow and what they disallow. and that's what makes china much less free than the united states or hungary.

          with similar reasoning, we could argue that a bank robber and a torrent user are both criminals, and it is only a matter of degree. technically it is true, but it is very meaningless and consequenceless.

          whether it will change anytime soon or not, has no bearing on the fact. if a bad thing is not about to improve, it does not make it neither good nor acceptable.
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        Oct 24 2011: Krisztián,

        Based on this and other conversations we have had, you seem to have a hard time following a simple idea without getting ineffectually confrontational.

        My point IS a simple one, you even seem to share it yourself, and yet all of a sudden for reasons that seem to make sense to you, it's a red herring, a tautology, or whatever you feel like calling it at the time.

        My point is: Every government restricts their citizens (you have agreed) the nature of the restrictions is determined by the government and the culture within which it operates (I believe you even agreed to that) once we have established that, we have established all governments share the same quality, and the difference it a matter of degree (you have agreed.)

        That's it.

        Could we operate our governments more effectively? Sure.

        All of them.

        Do you get to decide how China will run its government?

        You can ask them.

        Does your opinion matter?

        To you, it does.

        Is there any part of that that you disagree with?
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          Oct 24 2011: yeah, and i've replied to that already. the point in this conversation is exactly the "how" part. how governments restrict their citizens. but you can continue to muddy the waters if it pleases you. goto 10.
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        Oct 25 2011: QUOTE: " the point in this conversation is exactly the "how" part."

        Actually, that is not the point of this conversation; that is a point that is of interest to you. And it's a valid point.

        But the point of this conversation is to determine, "When will China be free?"

        My assertion is it is free. Or as "free" as any other country.

        Your assertion is, it is not free.

        We disagree.


        I'm going to "disengage" from our little discussion as you have entered that enigmatic phase of your conversation were you say things that require clarification but you (typically) refuse to offer it when it is asked for.

        For example, in response to about five separate points, you have said "yeah, and i've replied to that already." What you have "replied to" already - is a bit of a mystery.

        As you say, it muddies the water.

        Let me know if I owe you a Guinness.
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          Oct 25 2011: this conversation is getting funny :)

          me: "my government [...] chinese government [...] and these two things are somehow equal."

          you: "No, that is not the essence of my argument."


          you: "My assertion is it is free. Or as "free" as any other country."

          hm. are you sure you are clear on your own opinion?
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        Oct 25 2011: QUOTE: "this conversation is getting funny :)"

        Hi Krisztián,

        That's one of your most endearing traits ... you are easily amused.

        You really do have a hard time following a simple point. It's fascinating ... I recall following you for about thirty posts once until the topic author got irritated; it was an intriguing exercise.

        I have no intention of doing that again, as fun as it was. So unless you have something meaningful to say I will not be responding to any more of your posts in this conversation.

        But thanks for the exchange it has been fun as usual.

        Enjoy the rest of the conversation.
    • Oct 26 2011: I think we need to look at human rights as defined by UN and see where China stands. From that point of view China does not seem to have much freedom esp. freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom to allow fair elections.

      Whether certain population, due to lack of knowledge or propaganda, believe that they have freedom does not make China free.

      I lived in socialist country for over 20 years and I think China follows similar principles.
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        Oct 26 2011: Hi Zdenek,

        So what you are saying is we should evaluate China using values established by people other than the Chinese? Additionally, if they, the Chinese, embrace different values, and choose to implement them in a manner that does not conform to externally established values, they are somehow deluded?

        Is that about right?

        Are you saying, that if the majority of Chinese support their system and find it functional and useful, they must be mistaken?

        And, while that MIGHT be happening in China, it is NOT happening in "The West?"

        [In my personal experience, the most inculcated nation I have ever been in is NOT China ... it is, in fact, a Western country. The dogmatic, almost mindless, adherence to ideals - and poorly understood ideals, at that - is palpable.]

        Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of things that can be improved here but I find it intriguing, and a little amusing, that people feel completely free to evaluate an ancient, and massively successful culture on terms that have been crafted by people from a different, newer, and arguably, less successful culture.

        "China" (for the most part) has the good sense to keep it's criticism of other cultures to itself. If you dig a little bit deeper, you will find that "China" has as many issues with, say, America, as America has with China. (In many ways, they view "The West" as immature.) However, they know that what "The West" has implemented, makes sense to "The West" and do not feel a need to interfere.

        The Chinese also do something very well: They learn from other cultures.

        I think The West is also learning from China and, I expect, at some point, there will be a synthesis of sorts.

        It is already happening.
        • Oct 26 2011: Hi Thomas,

          "So what you are saying is we should evaluate China using values established by people other than the Chinese? "

          No. What I am saying is that all people in the world, regardless of culture or location, share basic needs. These needs include freedom of expression, freedom of self determination (choice) etc. These are basic needs that we all have.

          It is common misconception that only people in "the West" wants these basic, universal rights. That is not accurate. Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by countries from America, Europe, Africa and Asia, including Republic of China:

          "Are you saying, that if the majority of Chinese support their system and find it functional and useful, they must be mistaken?"

          Given Chinese people do not have many options and freedom to express their opinions how can we then make conclusion that they support their system? Look at people in Hong Kong and how they defend their freedom from the system that is implemented in mainland China. I think that shows that Chinese do prefer freedom, if given to them, over some ideals.

          Also look at the Chinese recent history where various Chinese communist leaders like Mao used masses for their own purpose:

          "The movement brought chaos, as social norms largely evaporated and the previously established political institutions disintegrated at all levels of government."

          Is it fair for Chinese people to pay for mistakes of their leaders and hope for the best? Without decades of communist government ruling China would not need to catch up with developed world over the past decade or so.

          United States have many problems (and who doesn't?), however the degree of it is different. I have concerns about recent trends in war on terror and financial system, however because of freedom, people have the power to fix it. cheers
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        Oct 26 2011: Zdenek,

        This is not personal. Nor is it directed at you specifically but ...

        I really get tired of idealism. It is such sanctimonious claptrap.

        I have lived in every part of the world and this "idealism" that seems to be so important to so many of us is just a collection of ideas we think are "meaningful."

        What is REALLY happening, if you would care to take a look is people are simply living their lives, regardless of the idealism that is so dear to us. It doesn't matter if it's the slums in Nairobi or the heart of Shanghai or New York ... people simply live their lives.

        If it is important to you that the Chinese access blocked websites, fine, make that something you work to remedy but trust me, the Chinese don't really care what you think, what you do, or whether they can access the sites you would like them too or not. And if and when they do, they will change it.

        As is typical, you assume you understand China. I do not think you do. Nor do I think you understand the Chinese.

        For one thing, China does not need to "catch up" because of decades of communist rule, they need to catch up because of, amongst other things, "One Hundred Years of Humiliation" - Japanese and Western imperialism - which included, the British selling opium to the Chinese so that they could have their afternoon tea, and various countries, including America, essentially colonizing China and exploiting it's natural resources. And yes, Mao set the country back decades. Deng Xiaoping, on the other hand, catapulted China forward so that, in 30 years, it has become the second largest economy on the planet and will soon be the first.

        It is interesting that the Chinese themselves see Mao as an anomaly. Their view of themselves is millennia long both to the past and to the future. To them, Mao was a "blip" of minor historical importance which is not to say they are not mindful of his failings or his accomplishments (he was instrumental in ending imperialism).

        If you want to help, learn.
        • Oct 26 2011: Thomas,

          "As is typical, you assume you understand China. I do not think you do. Nor do I think you understand the Chinese."

          These are your assumption that are not correct. While I haven't travel to China, I have many Chinese friends and I have even wife from Asia so I think I do understand quite a bit about Chinese and their culture. One does not need to travel to the Moon to have a good knowledge about it.

          "I really get tired of idealism. It is such sanctimonious claptrap.

          ...people are simply living their lives, regardless of the idealism"

          This is really sad to hear that. I see quite the opposite and it is not my feeling but a fact that:

          - the whole Eastern block that had socialism collapsed because people wanted political and economical feedom

          - Lybia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain clearly show that people do value freedom

          - Hong Kong and massive protests in mainland China that were suppressed by Chinese military also show fairly large support, at least between educated, for freedom:

          "If you want to help, learn."
          Yes I think learning and education is fundamental necessity for progress of the society and I provided some relevant links that support my claims.

          Now I do think Chinese culture and history is unique and it has some great aspects. I think if Chinese people become free they will have political spectrum similar to one in Canada with free healthcare, good social net and even free education. They will become a great example to others. cheers
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        Oct 26 2011: Hi Zdenek,

        It is true, one does not need to go to the moon to understand ABOUT the moon. Seeing a moon rock would also add to one's understanding; but we could say that the first person in history who might be able to truly say he understands the moon (not about the moon) is Neil Armstrong.

        It may be sad for you to hear I get tired of idealism but it's not really sad at all. Idealism, of every kind, is a simplification: We create an idea, say capitalism or socialism, and we "perfect it" in our minds. Now, these perfected images are pristine in their purity.

        I have had people tell me capitalism is the perfect system it is only our application of it that is flawed. And I have had people tell me the same thing about communism, Islam, Christianity, socialism, and basically every philosophy, religion, and political system you would care to mention.

        They are all "perfect" if only we were to apply them "properly" (which usually means: SOMEONE ELSE has to do them the way WE think they should be done.)

        And of course, everyone is right: if we all did capitalism "perfectly" it would work; if we all did Islam "perfectly" it would work; if we all did communism "perfectly" it would work; and so on.

        You can see the problem right away, can't you?

        Except when it comes to the system you think "will work" - if we only all did it "perfectly" - THAT one is different. That one really will work, if we only did it right.

        Idealism is like looking at the world through a narrow hole, we only see a part of it.

        For example, you see China as not "free" - and if 1.3 Billion Chinese were to tell you they do not agree with you (and I suspect they would) you would (probably) assume they simply do not know what "freedom" is and you do.

        As I say, there is a lot of room for improvement here. And the improvements are coming. But I think you are wrong when you say, "They will become a great example to others."

        I think they are already a great example and they will become greater. cheers
        • Oct 26 2011: Hi Thomas,

          Personally I don't subscribe to any ideology but rather I look at the basic human rights and needs and see how in practice these needs are satisfied by various form of governments and markets (same with religion for that matter).

          I think democracy and capitalism is far from perfect but it is the best system that works (even thou it sometimes needs an adjustment). The actual implementation of these system differ to some degree between countries and how well democracy works also depends on how involved its people are in politics and local/national government organizations. Theoretically you can vote a dictator to be in charge in a democratic country. I think it depends on how well educated and motivated people actually are.

          I think I presented several concrete examples of how people everywhere in the world, including in China (Tiananmen Square protests, Hong Kong) do want freedom, whether it is a majority or substantial minority should not matter. I acknowledge that China has large number of people in rural areas that do not probably care about all this unless they know the implications and are able to participate in how their society is run.

          What is unfortunate and one of the reasons why I think China is not currently a great example to the world is the impact China has in security council. So not only Chinese communist party limits freedom of its citizens, they also prevent others get their freedom. A good example is how China votes against stronger measures that are aim at dictatorship in Syria.

          Once China becomes free in sense that I described then I think they have so much to offer to the world. Economic growth by itself, in my eyes, does not make any country great.

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        Oct 26 2011: Hi Zdenek

        "Basic human rights," however it is you define them, are an ideology.

        I mentioned that China has "issues" with "The West" - one is that "basic human rights" are not being honoured in The West.

        How can this be?

        It is because "The West," represented by you, for example, and your personal ideology defines "basic human rights" one way; and China, represented by Wang Xiaobin, for example, and his personal ideology, define personal freedom a different way.

        QUOTE: "I think I presented several concrete examples of how people everywhere in the world, including in China (Tiananmen Square protests, Hong Kong) do want freedom, whether it is a majority or substantial minority should not matter."

        Yes of course you have pointed out that which supports your point of view, why would you do otherwise?

        I have also pointed out that the majority of Chinese would not agree with you. That you choose to assume your definition of "freedom" supersedes theirs, and is affirmed by a minority of Chinese who do agree with you is quite typical of those of us who champion a particular ideology.

        I get it, you think China is not free; and by the ideology you espouse, you cannot see it any other way (this is another reason I am not a fan of ideology.)

        I do not share your opinion. One point three billion Chinese do not share your opinion and I don't think any of us mind THAT much that you hold it.

        And again, that does not mean I do not support your call for greater access to the internet, for example. I actually do.

        However, I am not going to judge an entire culture based on one practice (or ten) I am not a fan of. I would not do that with America and it's atrocities (torture, killing activists and so on) why would I do it with China?

        I choose to look at China as it is, not through some narrow hole defined by a personal, or collective, ideology.
        • Oct 27 2011: Hi Thomas,

          "It is because "The West," represented by you, for example, and your personal ideology defines "basic human rights" one way; and China, represented by Wang Xiaobin, for example, and his personal ideology, define personal freedom a different way."

          Please read the United Nations bill on Human Rights. It is NOT the West as it includes many countries from Africa, South America and even Asia including Republic of China. If you do not consider this to be a concrete fact against your notion of the "The West" then I have nothing more to say. "The West" might be one of the first to have the closest implementation of these basic ethical principles but people in Libya, Iran, Hong Kong, even China have same universal needs.

          "I have also pointed out that the majority of Chinese would not agree with you."

          I have provided concrete evidence but you only make claims. Can you give me links to evidence that supports your claims? Will you ignore tens of millions of Chinese people, including ones in Hong Kong, mainland and Taiwan (which China claims ownership of) and their need for freedom as defined in UN chart? Or will you think a a few individuals in Chinese leadership can determine the future of millions or billions in China, Taiwan, Tibet and elsewhere? Who gave them the right and ability to have say on what people are allow to do and what they are not?

          I think if you don't see concrete facts that I presented here with links to articles in Wikipedia then we can agree to disagree.

          Best luck to your endavour in China. I hope to visit the country one day as well. cheers
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        Oct 27 2011: Hi Zdenek,

        I do not check links provided in online conversations. I am sure your links support your point of view. And, if you are interested in "concrete evidence" that supports my point of view, it is not hard to find. (I do not think it necessary to provide links as I am relating my own personal point of view, which is supported by my own experience and observation. It does not actually need external verification. I do not expect you to "believe it" or "disbelieve it." You can understand, not understand, agree, or disagree. That's good enough for me. This is, after all, a conversation.)

        However, if you like, I could direct you to "concrete evidence" that the world's most corrupt, irresponsible and deadly nation is .... take your pick: America, China, Nigeria, Hungary, etc.

        You see, this is my problem with idealism: once we settle on one "worldview," we simply see the world in terms of a simplified set of values. It is, of course, a much easier way of dealing with an amazingly complex situation: we look at what we see; we stop thinking; and we measure what we see against a brilliantly conceived set of "universal" truths. Things "fit" or they "don't."

        If they fit, they are good. If they don't, they are bad. Easy.

        It actually is very practical. And I have no objection if you choose to see the world in those terms.

        I do not wish to do the same.

        And again, I am not saying I do not, for example, support your goal of open access to the internet. I do.

        I am saying, I do not wish to apply a value system, no matter how brilliant it is, to a group of people (or an individual) who don't (or doesn't) want to embrace it themselves.

        That you feel comfortable do so is fine. I disagree with the practice and your conclusions based on it.

        If you want to campaign for you basic human rights (however you conceive them) I support you.

        I do not support you in your assumptions that people who choose different values are any more "right" or "wrong" than you are.
        • Oct 27 2011: Hi Thomas,

          "However , if you like, I could direct you to "concrete evidence" that the world's most corrupt, irresponsible and deadly nation is .... take your pick: America,..."

          I think this conversation is not about what certain American presidents or individuals did but rather this is about whether China has freedom or not. American government created many problems in the world esp. with invasion of Iraq but that is not directly related to the topic of this discussion.

          " I am relating my own personal point of view, which is supported by my own experience and observation. It does not actually need external verification."

          I use my own experience but mostly I depend on objective rather than subjective data. I learn from verified historical records, current knowledge from independent resources before I make claims. I think personal experience can go only so far.

          "I do not support you in your assumptions that people who choose different values are any more "right" or "wrong" than you are."

          Did most people in China chose values or were those values impose on them by communist party that took over China by force? As long as people do not have choice then they cannot "choose" any values can they? Did people in Hong Kong choose socialism or did they choose political and other freedoms?

          I think we are going in circles here =)

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        Oct 27 2011: QUOTE: "I think this conversation is not about what certain American presidents or individuals did but rather this is about whether China has freedom or not."

        Yes, that is what this conversation is about - whether China has freedom or not. And we have established you think China is not free (and you have the data to prove it.)

        Give me a minute ... I'll conduct an informal survey here in the office and see what an average group of Chinese people say ... I'm back.

        One hundred percent gave an emphatic "Yes, China is free!" [Now, they are laughing about the question.]

        See, again, you demonstrate a lack of understanding regarding China: You assume their values are "communist" and were "forced" upon them. They are not and they were not. And the communists did not take over China by force: They expelled the imperialist interlopers "by force." That's not quite the same thing, is it? And ....

        Chinese "values" predate communism by more than 2000 years. The Chinese view communism as a minor "experiment" (and one that did not work out all that well.) Now, they are trying something else (market reforms) both have been integrated into a preexisting Chinese framework. That is one of the great strengths of China - their core is solid and they try "new things" to see how they work.

        By the way, if your argument is that communism was thrust upon the people "by force" - which is not necessarily an accurate assessment (again, learning might be a good thing) - we could use the same argument that American (or the French) values were imposed on those people by force.

        It's not a very compelling argument, is it? And, as it happens, it is spurious.

        • Oct 28 2011: Hi Thomas,

          " I'll conduct an informal survey here in the office and see what an average group of Chinese people say"

          It is good to see you take this seriously. Unfortunately one big question remains: how can you ask people who are not allowed to express their opinion to answer your survey honestly? As I said I lived in socialism for 25 years so I know people are scared to say what they think in public.

          I agree with you that substantial number of people will say yes, China has freedom. Many truly consider that to be true. Others are scared. Many do not understand the question and many say no. However we don't discuss numbers but whether China is free or not?

          A few times you seem to suggest that human rights is an ideology. I think we can agree that humans (and animals) have basic physical needs: to eat, to sleep, to breath. They also have basic psychological needs: live in groups, ability to express themselves (i.e. freedom of speech) and ability to control their lives. Now do you consider these ideologies or basic needs that every human being has?

          "The Chinese view communism as a minor "experiment" (and one that did not work out all that well.) Now, they are trying something else (market reforms) both have been integrated into a preexisting Chinese framework. That is one of the great strengths of China - their core is solid and they try "new things" to see how they work."

          Can you please explain who is "they" ? Are you referring to General Secretary or Politburo? Or did all people voted or had say in how the country will be run?

          "By the way, if your argument is that communism was thrust upon the people "by force" - which is not necessarily an accurate assessment (again, learning might be a good thing) - we could use the same argument that American (or the French) values were imposed on those people by force."

          Can you explain how communist party become ruler of China? Did they win election? In America, elected representatives arrived at US constitution.
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        Oct 27 2011: Hi Zdenek,

        QUOTE: "Best luck to your endavour in China. I hope to visit the country one day as well. cheers"

        Thanks. Things are going well. It is definitely a good place to be doing business right now. We just (yesterday!) secured distribution rights for an American made industrial product with huge market potential.

        Let me know when you want to come and I'll see if I can arrange some adventures for you. Give me a bit of notice and, if I can make some time, I'll give you a tour myself.

        It is a very cool place. Very different but cool!

        • Oct 28 2011: Hi Thomas,

          It sounds exciting and I wish you luck. Thank you for your invitation.

          I definitely see your excitement about China, its growth and opportunities.

          I think if we were talking about US we would agree on many more things because I am concerned about some of the anti-democratic and anti-socialist trends in the US.

          I believe and support many great things that Republic of China (and other socialist oriented countries including Canada) did. I think it is the right of every individual to receive free education, healthcare and same opportunities. It is also good if China focuses on long term objectives that benefit most people.

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        Oct 28 2011: Hi Zdenek,

        QUOTE: "As I said I lived in socialism for 25 years so I know people are scared to say what they think in public."

        When I arrived, in China three years ago, I expected it to be how I imagined "a socialist" country to be. My views were formed by people recounting tales of oppression (that really did happen.)

        However, just as your country has, no doubt, changed, so too has China. And I am sure my views were amplified by hearing only "one side" of the story.

        And the reality is, China is not how I expected it to be.

        That is not to say we cannot compare China to the West, draw meaningful conclusions, and make improvements. We can. In fact China is doing that constantly. That's why they are the "rising star" on the planet.

        QUOTE: However we ... discuss ... whether China is free or not?

        Yes, we are. But whose definition of freedom shall we use?


        The UN's?


        That the Chinese see themselves as free seems to "bother" people who assume they are are not.

        The Chinese are not afraid to express themselves. There may be some who are. But no one I have met is, in the least, afraid to discuss anything - Taiwan, Censorship, politics in general, corruption, etc.

        I suppose people who would like to overthrow the existing system might be afraid to talk openly but that is true anywhere.

        QUOTE: "... you seem to suggest that human rights is an ideology."

        It comes down to a definition of the word "rights." And is more than can be attempted in 2000 characters.

        QUOTE: "Can you please explain who is "they" ?"

        "They" are the Chinese people; using institutions set up for the purpose of governance. The system is MUCH more democratic than you might expect. Two recent books that might help you understand are:

        - "China's Megatrends" by John and Dorris Naisbitt, and;
        - "When China Rules the World" by Martin Jacques.

        QUOTE: Can you explain how communist party become ruler of China?

        Revolution. They expelled the "imperialists."

        Just like America did.
        • Oct 29 2011: Hi Thomas,

          I will have a look at the two books you mentioned. However the book with title "When China Rules the World" makes me feel the author has already bias and makes me ask why should one nation rule the world? Is that China's goal? (I don't think it is)

          I suggest that you read some books on revolutions because I see that all socialist countries had revolution lead by people that then became dictators. You can see that esp. in Cuba, North Korea but also to some degree in China. Again no free elections.

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        Oct 29 2011: Zdenek,

        Martin Jaques also has done a TED talk about China:

        Jaques is an author, and he has some interesting ideas, but he also wants to sell books (as does his publisher.) I suspect that has something to do with the title. And I agree, China has not demonstrated an inclination to "rule the world."

        You are right, China does not elect it's leaders but this is not "a communist" or a "revolutionary" thing; it is a "Chinese thing" (that has been modified in modern times.)

        China will very likely never be a western-style democracy, however, that does not mean it is not democratic.

        Read the books and we'll talk some more.

        I think you will find them interesting.
        • Nov 2 2011: Hi Thomas,

          I keep coming across articles like this so I thought I will share it with you:

          It is sad to see such a state of affairs. Perhaps you consider this as a necessary price to pay for economical "revolution" but I don't consider it fair to those people.

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        Nov 2 2011: Hi Zdenek,

        Yes, thanks for the link. I am aware of the situation. Do you think this is fundamentally different than, say, the American auto industry being unable to pay their workers (and having to be bailed out by the government?)

        That is what will undoubtedly happen here too. The government will "bail them out."

        I think my point is that whatever we "see" in one system, we can also see in any other system if we care to look.

        I do not think any system is exemplary.
        • Nov 2 2011: Hi Thomas,

          When American auto industry or any other business sector is unable to pay their workers, the workers are laid off and receive employment insurance. The article notes that large number of workers were not paid for months. Yes both Chinese and US government can provide bailout or not but the unfortunate fact that Chinese works have less protection than US counterparts is surprising.

          Both systems are different in many aspects so I would expect to see things in one system and not in the other? =)

          "You are right, China does not elect it's leaders but this is not "a communist" or a "revolutionary" thing; it is a "Chinese thing" (that has been modified in modern times.)"

          I don't agree. Obviously many Chinese people do want democracy and democracy allows for Chinese culture and values to take place as well through e.g. strong social programs. Chinese people are not "made' for a particular ideology but rather should have choice in which one they want to embrace rather then get one from a group of communists that believe their ideology is the only one good for Chinese people?

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        Nov 2 2011: Hi Zdenek,

        Have you noticed that, no matter what you "see," you perceive it in a particular way?

        Your assumptions are colouring the way you interpret every story, every situation, and circumstance to affirm what it is you already believe to be true.

        Let me be blunt: You do not know very much about China AND you do not know China.

        That does not mean that what you are "seeing" is not actually happening; it is. What it means is you are using what you see to affirm a preconceived notion you have about China and your preconceived notion is less than complete.

        There are one-point-three billion people in China. China is emerging from a period of stagnation that was partially imposed upon them by imperialists and partially self-determined by spectacularly bad policy choices (primarily made by Mao Zedong.)

        The population is in flux; at the time of writing about 51% are urban and 49% rural.

        In 30 years, the country has become the second largest economy in the world and will soon be the largest.

        China is "bailing out" many Western economies that are faltering. They have orchestrated the single largest transition from poverty to wealth in human history. They have the best and the largest road system in the world. They have the largest and most modern cities in the world.

        They are extremely democratic in how they make their decisions. They are integrating every institution that will enable them to be be more effective (including a more robust "rule of law," "private property" and so on.)

        They do not have a "Western-style" democracy. And the transition is not being made without certain "problems."

        What do you see?

        You see the problems and the fact that they are not a Western-style democracy.

        Until you see "it all" you will not have much to offer that might be useful or valid.

        There will ALWAYS be problems - in China and in "The West" - and China will likely NEVER be a Western-style democracy. You can rail against this or you can accept it and learn something new.
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      Oct 27 2011: I don't expect all countries to be as perfect as America...(joking)

      My bone to pick with China is that to me, from my standpoint is not free.

      I can google Tiananmen Square and get answers.
      Freedom of speech is one of the most near and dear to my heart ideas man could espouse.

      Total lack of human rights. Leaving baby girls out to suffer exposure does not constitute a free nation, it imposes a restraint on people's consciences and morals.

      That's unacceptable to me.
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        Oct 27 2011: Hi Brittney,

        Of course you are quite right to feel strongly about such things. How do you feel about American kids going to bed hungry, starving to death, or being murdered by their parents? How about American babies being born addicted to narcotics; Kent State; "Seattle;" America torturing prisoners, America blocking access to "subversive" websites, and so on?

        You see, it's quite easy to point fingers. You (probably) feel somewhat offended by me pointing out these things that ARE transpiring in a country that you "hold dear." You probably feel quite "free" and like you are a citizen of a noble and just country (that makes some mistakes ... Hey, who doesn't?)

        Well, that's pretty much how the Chinese feel about themselves. And they do get a bit tired of the West's incessant whining.

        It is also how young people here feel when you point fingers at the country in which they feel free and of which they are justifiably proud to be a part of.

        You know the old saying, "People in glass houses ...."

        How about this: You work on America (it definitely needs some work) - you learn a little more about China (and it definitely needs some work too) - and when you get America all fixed up, if you still have the energy, you can come over here to China and help out. You would be most welcome.
      • Ann Lee

        • +1
        Nov 1 2011: Brittney, you are picking incidences and generalizing it to the whole culture. "Total lack of human rights" is a large overstatement. Just think about all the cruelty and wierd stuff you hear about in the news in the US. How would you feel if someone generalize those incidents and say that America is not free just because some group of people decided to "leave girls out to exposure"? Tiannamen square? During the Vietnam War there were university student protests all over the country and government used violent forces against peaceful protesting. When is America free? Why don't we just not have government at all? Instead of dwelling on the high and noble theoretical notion of "free," why don't we do something substantial to increase true wellbeing and happiness in other cultures by aiding them to develop in their own direction? Instead of being condescending and judgmental, please understand, respect, and accept cultural and historical differences of another country and culture. Every country deserve a chance to grow as their own and there is no right prototype society for all countries.
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    Nov 5 2011: Look at the bright smile on my face ,please.Then you'll find how stupid and ignorant you are.I'm a Chinese girl and I love my China forever.

    A reply to you,Brittney.(I should have replied earlier)
    Hahahahahahah..........not only ignorant but also a little arrogant .
    How much do you know about me?How much do you know about my country?Only because you've heard of some uncertain information,you act as if you were the leader of the world.
    Be humble,please.What the world need are truth and peace not rumors.
    Thank you,though your concern was excess.I'm so proud of my country.Because of her prosperity,the world's eyes begin to fix on her.What an honor!Thank you,my China.Thank you,the world!
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      Nov 5 2011: I am happy that you are not one of the many Chinese girls left out to die of exposure because of the One Child Policy, no matter how ignorant you think I am.
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        Nov 6 2011: Brittney,

        And what kind of response were you expecting from a young Chinese person?

        Something like:

        I am happy your mother was not a drug-addled prostitute who gave birth to you with a pre-existant addiction to heroin and HIV/AIDS because of the social vacuum you live in that is called "America?"

        The nice little house you live in, your friends, and Justin Beiber concerts, are not indicative of all that your great nation represents. You live in a bubble. Look outside before you criticize something you obviously know very little about.

        Clean up your own backyard.
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          Nov 6 2011: Hi,Thomas
          Have you received my best wishes to you and your friend?Remember me?
          Anyway I should have replied to her before you,actually I did,but due to the problem of my computer's speed,ouch,I had to send it again and again and again.But no matter how hard it was,I'm trying to wipe up the stupid spots which are ridiculous since I am for the truth and I love my country so much.
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      Nov 6 2011: Hi Hope,

      Yes, I received your message. Thank you.

      Don't take Brittney's comments too personally. It would be very difficult for her to have any other view of China than the one she does. Western media is not well known for it's balanced coverage of world affairs. (In one study about 30% of Americans could not find Canada on a map!)

      She is young and unlike you knows very little about what goes on outside of the country she was born in.

      You will notice, she writes in English, as do you.

      Do you think she could respond to you in Pu Tong Hua?

      That should tell you a lot right there.
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        Nov 6 2011: Yes,I desperately hope that one day my mother tongue will be spread worldwide for it is so beautiful.
        Brittney and I are all young.I know there are too much for me to learn in this world and I also know when a person is young ,she'll more likely make mistakes.
        I wanna send Brittney a precious present---a proverb in my country''知错能改,善莫大焉".It means mistakes are not terrible till you've corrected them.
        All that we do is to build a better world and I do believe it's getting better and better.
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        Nov 6 2011: The privilege and chance of the young has always been to - in all nations - to continue the tradition of former generations, to develop their own traditions and views. in the relation between west and east the youth of today has a new chance to overcome stereotypes and false perceptions - because of the new direct internet media; the distortions of the media can be overcome - the distortions which are existing in both systems. mediated information is always distorted. in former times media coverage in each nation could and sometimes was used to make internal poliy by foreign prejucdices - in the us, in europe and everywhere. this might end by the global media - and such talks on TED.

        Hope and Brittney lets continue the dialogue to overcome accusations without knowledge, but still to have the strength to bear criticism. I love China for its culture and people, I have been doing and teaching KungFu for many years and feel close to the Chinese culture, staid in temples and have chinese friends asf. - still I would critized the human rights policy of China. As I criticize the death peanalty in the US. And of course there is a lot to improve in Europe as well.
  • Oct 30 2011: Well, it should take some times. It will take few more generations.

    The leaders of the previous generation still have great influence in the governance. We have to wait till they pass.

    Also, the higher level in the government has already become more open but still lower level (province level or below) sticks to the old 'mode' of governance. The reason is the officials in these levels are not yet well educated inaspect of human rights or freedom. Note that when these officials were in their teens and 20s, China was experiencing cultural revolution which had a great influence in their thoughts.
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    I just came across a review of one of Edward de Bono's books; here is an excerpt I thought was apropos:

    There is no longer any time left to sweeten the message - it has to be stated plainly: Americans have never really understood what "thinking" actually entails.

    De Bono clarifies immediately the difference between perception and thinking: perception is data-collection, thinking is what you do with the data. He observes that Americans claim to be the champions of freedom, yet everywhere their thinking is bound up in orthodoxies, naive assumptions and, above all, a fearful lack of practice at seeing the true range of options and alternatives in any given situation. In this sense, Americans, rather smugly, appear to make "free choices" but in reality only choose from the options they already know about. True freedom of choice exists only where perception has fully exposed the range of possible choices and alternatives. – Kim M. Jones (Reviewing Edward de Bono’s book, “Free or Unfree?: Are Americans Really Free?)


    I would suggest what he is saying is not limited to America but it is certainly evident there.
    • Nov 1 2011: Agreed, many Americans tend to just follow mainstream and not try to challenge what is presented to them. Comparing to Europe, America is quite conservative and close-minded, as seen in differences in religious and secularism between America and Europe for example. Even though America is "so democratic and free", the true power and decisions still lie in influence of the rich and influential. Members of the Congress can be "bought" by businesses.
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    Oct 26 2011: Let the People of China decide what Free means to them , instead of defintion of Media Mughals or Power Mughals
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      Oct 26 2011: let me add that we would like all people in china to decide, not just a few.
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        Oct 26 2011: Agreed if it's all that would be perfect , that perfection will never happen so atleast majority of total people
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        Oct 27 2011: QUOTE: "let me add that we would like all people in china to decide, not just a few."

        They have. Or, at least, the vast majority have. And that's probably as good as it will get. There will always be people on "the fringes" that would like things to be "different."

        The majority are quite pleased with the general trend of China's growth. There are problems emerging - not the least of which is a growing divide between "rich" and "poor" but the gap is much smaller than, say the United States.

        To address what seems to be an important point for some posters here, there is also a movement towards increasing access to global information. But there is still massive support for regulation of the internet. This is not seen as an infringement on personal freedom. It is seen as social responsibility. (It is not important whether we agree with the rationale or not - it is their choice, and they are happy with the choice they have made.)

        That the western media chooses to focus on "the few" and on "violations of freedoms" - as defined in "Western" terms - is such an obvious practice it has been reduced to a truism.
        • Oct 27 2011: Hi Thomas,

          "The majority are quite pleased with the general trend of China's growth."

          Did people in China have the opportunity to vote or freely express their thoughts and beliefs or is this based on official media? Here we are not talking about economic growth but about freedom. Something that free people in Taiwan and Hong Kong expressed numerous times.

          If it would be only a few that want freedom then why China needs such a massive effort to block the Internet and to put down protests in their country? Why do they need to jail people and why they do not let people vote their party if it is the majority that wants this kind of system?

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          Oct 27 2011: yeah, the western media. the bastards. for example they focus on the bank robbery, but they don't mention that they guy has kids, had a job many times, helped his landlady carry out the garbage, gave to charity once, and so on! media! focus on the good things too!
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      Oct 27 2011: Hi Zdenek,

      I think you are right, we are going around in circles.

      I get it: You think China is not free and you can point to all kinds of things to "prove" your point.

      I think China is as free as any other country and I can point out that anything you see happening in China, is also happening virtually everywhere else.

      I assert you do not understand China (beyond what you have learned that supports your view of it.)

      You assert you do understand China.

      We do not agree with one another.

      Is that a fair conclusion?
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      Oct 27 2011: QUOTE: "yeah, the western media. the bastards. for example they focus on the bank robbery, but they don't mention that they guy has kids, had a job many times, helped his landlady carry out the garbage, gave to charity once, and so on! media! focus on the good things too!"

      Do you have a point?

      Are you suggesting the media are providing a balanced account of world or local affairs; that they aren't providing a balanced account of world or local affairs; that we can believe them if they are reporting on things that support our worldview; that we can't believe them if they are reporting on things that do NOT support our worldview? What?


      Ah, I forgot my own decision to not respond to anything you wrote unless it was meaningful ... but, what the heck, I've written it out already.

      By the way, do I owe you a Guinness?
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    Oct 24 2011: Give China time, it is doing OK, despite the human rights abuses. There are a lot of people to manage in China. Hmmmmm. Which one are you Brittney?
  • Nov 5 2011: Continued #2

    The only reason some service sites (Facebook, Google etc.) are blocked by Chinese ISPs is because the internet is too powerful, the government MUST help local businesses to survive. Traditional businesses can be effectively protected by things such as Tariff or Quotas, but because internet is so free, without blocking them the Chinese website companies will not stand a chance. In the grand scheme of things, this is almost a necessity to protect Chinese interest, as practically anything on the Internet can be labeled as “Made in the USA”. When the westerners are always distasteful of the goods “Made in China”, Chinese do not want those internet services to essentially KILL Chinese internet industry. The country’s huge base of internet users represents a HUGE profit for the Chinese sites, without the blockage will all flow to the US. (Come on, these sites are the most profitable things these days, how do you think they make money for offering “Free” services?”

    Freedom of Speech Part 3 and final – Freedom of protest
    Are you allowed to do a demonstration INSIDE the White House? What about INSIDE the Wall Street? Even those in the “Occupy” movement don’t dare to do these, why? Will you be allowed to try to burn yourself to death in front of the White House without being arrested by the Secret Service Agents?
    The fact is that demonstrations happens every day in China everywhere, some are for wages, some are for social securities, these are in fact all legal. Three things are illegal however:
    1. Protest in restricted areas, such as Tiananmen Square. In fact Tiananmen Square is NOT a public place, but rather like the front lawn of the White House. Yes you may be allowed in but you are not allowed to protest without being arrested. You are Free to non-violently protest in any other public places, hold a sign, put up a booth, what have you. Police will even help you to control the crowd and direct traffic.
  • Nov 5 2011: Continued.

    So anything such as separating Tibet or Taiwan or Hong Kong are extremely offensive to All "Han" people, the same way as Canadians are offended by people or speech trying to separate Quebec, or British by separation of northern Ireland.
    I do agree that the communist government is a little extreme in jailing people for being a separatist. In North America, the government will not jail you, but will sue you until you are broke, have bad credit history and never be able to find a decent job. And if you are a Muslim, you will be on the FBI watchlist.

    Freedom of Speech Part 2 - Freedom of "Internet"
    Most Chinese not only do not understand English, but most have no interest in English content, such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and even Google, let alone BBC, CNN among others.
    We have Tudou (for Youtube), Weibo (for Twitter), Xiaonei (for Facebook) and Baidu (for Google), as well perhaps over 200 national and regional channels of content. All understands what the Chinese want, not what the Westerners want the Chinese to want (what a mouthful~).
    If you believe that the social networks have given people more freedom and better connected, then the Chinese have never been freer before to connect with family, friends etc.
    You might even think that the government blockage of western service is for propaganda purposes, you can't be more wrong. Since all western media are allowed in Hotels etc. where Westerners frequent. Things such as BBC, CNN among others. You could go to any big hotel in Beijing or Shanghai and have access to those.
  • Nov 5 2011: Probably in this discussion pretty late, but just want to share my Chinese opinion on this matter, since it seems some Westerners don't seem to understand what CHINESE WANT. I grew up in China, educated in Oxford, England and Canada, and have lived in Canada for 10+ years so I think I'm exposed to and understand both cultures pretty well.

    Freedom of Speech Part 1 – Separatists are not allowed
    To all Chinese people, The first and foremost of what is "China" is the entire cultural society, as we call ourself the "Han" people, or "Hua" people. The word "Chinese" as defined by the nationality actually doesn't matter that much.
    The most important aspect of this culture is defined by the racial "Unity" as being essential for racial survival, as China has been invaded by foreigners many, MANY times, famous ones such as the Mongolians, The Manchurians, the 8-country Western aliance army (which is essentially modern day NATO countries), and the Japanese (Actually just on this topic, Tibetians too, Yes, It's true, as well as many other minor "races" that makes up China today (~52 total)).
    In order to survive, we cannot afford to be divided. Every time in history when the land was divided, disasters happen, invasion, death and poverty forces the "Han" people to unite again. A few examples include the "Waring nation" period, the "Three kingdom" period, the "North and South" governments, and those traitors that lead the Mongolians, the Manchurians and the Japanese army into the country.
    Therefore, throughout the 5000 years of history, this policy is by far the most important policy for any government. And just to repeat, this is NOT a policy the Communist party imposed in the last 50 years, but rather it's the policy imposed by the entire "Han/Hua" race for over 2000 years since the first imperial of Qin.
    When you have this in mind, then you will understand that "Freedom of Speech" is in fact practiced in China, AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT SUGGEST DIVIDING THE LAND!
  • Oct 24 2011: I think the main flaw in this question has to come from the view that China is not 'free'. Freedom is simply one persons perspective on a situation, and not a universal truth. The 'freedom' we have in the west may be of a very different nature to that in china. However who are we to say that it is better.
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      Oct 27 2011: That reminds me of Voltaire. Man is free at the moment he chooses to be.
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        Oct 27 2011: QUOTE: "That reminds me of Voltaire. Man is free at the moment he chooses to be."

        Even in China?
        • Oct 27 2011: I'm don't think that's exactly what I meant. I mean that what volataire would have thought of man being free may be very different from a Chinese view of freedom. Where in the west freedom may be the ability to speak against the government, elsewhere it may be that freedom comes from equality or a 'freedom from suffering'.
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      Oct 27 2011: Hi Benjamin,

      Yes, that's exactly right. And it is a point that many people do not seem to understand: different cultures, and different people define "freedom" in different ways.

      In the West "freedom" is usually interpreted, in part, as freedom of the individual to do what they want; in China "freedom" is interpreted, in part, as freedom to fulfill one's responsibility.

      The West interprets "Chinese" freedom as restrictive ("'They' have to do what they are responsible for, so they are not "free" to choose otherwise.); China interprets Western freedom as adolescent or childish ("I want to do what I want, and if I can't do it, I'm going to pout and stomp my feet.")

      The West views "Chinese 'freedom'" as restrictive; the Chinese view it as responsible (and a privilege.)

      China views "Western 'freedom'" as irresponsible and selfish; the West view it as individual liberty (and a right.)

      A difference is the West feels it is their right to define Chinese freedom in Western terms; China, while they do have an opinion, also have the maturity to keep it to themselves.

      I expect that might change as China becomes the most powerful nation on earth. But maybe not.

      Another difference is that Westerners, in general, seem incapable of defining freedom in any terms other than their own, again, demonstrating what to the Chinese is seen as an intellectual weakness.

      For example, Westerners will have a tendency to read a sentence like that and retort with a whole series of "Yeah buts." Yeah but, look at what you cannot do in China. Yeah but, look at the bad stuff going on in China. Yeah but, look, China is not like the West. [No kidding!. Who would have guessed?] Yeah but, if the Chinese knew what "real freedom was" they would choose "Western freedom." [Like the Chinese cannot actually see what Western freedom is, and might choose to reject it for a more socially responsible form of freedom.]

      Personally, I do not define "freedom" in Western or Chinese terms. So I just notice.
  • Nov 6 2011: Thomas,

    I applaud you (and many others) for having a global mindset.
    However, it's still much too difficult for the entirety of Chinese population to achieve that for a long time.
    After all, it's still very much a developing country with 20%+ poverty (poverty as in do not own a house, even the poorest in China owns a TV now a days, yes, even in Tibet).

    The good thing is that majority of the government has ALREADY achieved the global mindset, in that they are trying to be a good global player, while balancing the domestic situations.

    The biggest thing happening now is that the government is spending $100B+ till 2020 in DeNOx, retrofitting power plants and other pollution sources. Remember that NOx are like 5x more damaging than CO2, so this is a much more effective way of saving the environment.
    I don't think these are advertised heavily, but it's a part of the 12th 5-year plan. The law come into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. The target is the same as best of international levels.

    Granted, average Chinese have no say in this matter. There were no national referendum on this matter, so no we are not free to make these decisions. But, how many average people understand these events anyways?
    It's the government's job to make decision like this and it's the right thing they are doing.

    And just to be more frank, this is a GREAT way of spending that money, and stimulating domestic green economy. MUCH better than bailing out European banks from their undying greed. lol.
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      Nov 6 2011: Hi Guang,

      Yes China is certainly developing and there is a lot of poverty here but it is not poverty like we see in, say, India or Africa. The poverty here, for the most part, still affords one quite a comfortable and dignified way to live.

      And, when it comes to actual government policy, the Chinese have as much "say" as do Americans. The Americans elect their officials, at which point, the officials make whatever choice they feel is in their best interest (this usually means they follow a populist line of some kind because they want to get re-elected.) In China the officials make national policy decisions as well but they do not have to worry about re-election. They do not have to engage in (as much) "politicking."*

      This is seen as a "bad" thing in the West. It is seen as a "good" thing by those that think policy should not be held hostage to an ill-informed public (such as "the average" American or Chinese person.)


      * People in the West do not understand the concept of "Mandate of Heaven" and I do not wish to explain it but it plays a strong role in the minds of policy makers.
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    Nov 6 2011: To me the question "when will china be free" is the wrong questions. It does not help to cause for self-determined and bottom up change. Just take the questions: when will the us abolish the death penalty? when will saudi arabia be democratic? when will africa be a place without hunger? when will iran allow women to be free?

    Does those questions lead to humble dialogue betwen opposing parties - or to speachless fundamental oppositions?
  • Nov 5 2011: Continued #8

    S***, this has been a long essay, because I’m really frustrated by the fact Westerners seems to think Chinese system is so backward. Yet it’s the western system that’s inefficient and dare I to say “non-democratic”, because the elected officials are very much incompetent. Just because you can cast a ballot with a few predetermined choices does not mean it’s a democracy. Democracy means understanding what the people wants and ACT like it. Not just say it. And really the whole system is a marketing show, and those with the deep pocket / most “campaign contributes” will more likely to win because of more air time / advertising etc. People do vote to familiar faces after all.

    So China is as much “free” as the western countries, as long as you place our culture to #1 place you will understand the system.

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      Nov 5 2011: Ni Hao Guang,

      There is a 2000 character limit for a reason. I didn't even read all of your essay ... and, based on the bits I did read, think we probably share similar views.

      Might I recommend "bullet points" the next time you have so much to convey.

      I do appreciate you put "Han" in quotation marks as, I am sure you know, "Han" is essentially a constructed identity - it is made up of many, many different ethnic groups each of which could just as easily identify as something "other than" Han.

      But the point is, identifying as Han has been a very powerful catalyst for China and does form a core precept of its self-image.

      Personally, I would like us to identify as "human;" not Han, American, African, male, female, or Canadian. I do not expect that will happen anytime soon; it is much too "useful" to motivate people "for something" if they can also be pitted "against" something else. Capitalism against socialism. Democrats against Republicans. Good guys against bad guys. Atheists against theists. Han against non-Han. And so on.
      • Nov 5 2011: Hi Thomas,

        Ya I've read most of your posts and I really appreciate a westerner stand up and defend the country. Thank you! I think it definitely takes a person to live in China for a while to really see what's happening and changed since cultural revolution and 1989.

        Sorry for the long post(s), but I'm sure you wrote more than I did lol. Your posts and other people's views motivated me to write something in like an hour. First post here on TED. Fortunately my firm got a huge project for Chinese clients right now (10B+) so lots of my colleagues who visited China are changing their opinion of China from those images imposed upon us by Western Media.

        Regarding the topic of "Han" people,
        I'm Canadian now and I can say I'm proud to be a Canadian and contribute to this society. But "Han" is such a powerful identity among Chinese that it crosses nations. Even the Taiwanese will identify them as "Han" people without question. Indeed "Han" is a constructed identity, constructed from 2000+ years of History. In fact, most educated Chinese today have extensive knowledge about at least last 1000 years of History (especially the bad ones) and a general knowledge of the 2000+ years. Correct me if I'm wrong but same cannot be said about most Greeks, The Persians (Iranians), the Egyptians, and perhaps the Israelis.

        To understand what History to us is, you only need to look at the Holy Bible, which, in part is a History book (hopefully not unintentionally offend anyone).
        Yes. The "Han" concept is effectively a religion, constantly being refined and redefined.

        I'm off topic here but the Point is that IMO the government is only a tool to advance "Han" interest. The current government has done a superb job in this regard, providing the institutions and security. It's exactly the way that a typical "Han" people would want, given that we know what the history looked like in the last 2000+ years, and the projected future.
        This is my definition of "Freedom", not whatever the UN says.
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          Nov 5 2011: Hi Guang,

          Yes, I probably have written more than you ... but I paced my self! (Like an endurance cyclist.)

          I agree, the Chinese government is doing an excellent job of promoting Chinese ideals and values. This, is one of the things "Westerners" have a really hard time understanding. They assume Western values are the only "good" values and anything that does not conform to them must be "bad."

          This is, in itself, a typical Western mindset (polarity, right/wrong, absolutes, etc.) Westerners are usually so immersed in this type of thinking, they cannot even see it.

          Of course, it is not an "Eastern" mindset at all.

          While I was born and raised in the West, I do not consider myself Western. Nor do I consider myself Eastern.

          I think of myself as living (first) and human (second.)

          It's much easier to cross boundaries that way.
  • Nov 5 2011: Continued #7

    Finally, the central government is not ruled by one person, but by a state council of over 100 people (think US Congress) as well as a Permanent Council of ~20 people (think US Senate). Normal day to day operations are decided by Permanent Council members (mostly are seasoned governors, Department heads etc.). The 100+ “Congressmen” typically hold office in their own province, and only get together once a year or on emergency basis to make large decisions for the country, such as the “Five-Year” plans. In fact, some of these “Congressmen” used to be workers, bus drivers, cleaners etc, but have demonstrated their ability to lead and moved up the ladder to where they are now. They are some of the most respected characters in the country and some are legends.
    Each Province, Each City also has their own annual meetings of their “Provincial Congress” or “City Council”. Same principle applies. Average citizens are allowed in City Council meetings. (Not sure about the others but they are all televised, i.e. open to public).
    So No, you CANNOT hope to change the government in one day, like those in western countries, or for a long time. But the system is certainly most fair and modeled after corporate systems. You CAN actually influence your local “Congressmen” and voice your opinions directly or through peaceful protests. But most likely, because the officials are sooo seasoned and competent you do not need to do that.
  • Nov 5 2011: Continued #6

    Freedom of Elections
    Just where do you think the officials come from anyways? They don’t live forever. Just because the presidents of China typically hold office for a long time (~10+ years) does not mean there is no fair process of election.
    There are two election systems in China. One is Western type election, One is “Corporate Ladder”.
    For some rural areas, the elections happen in villages and typically done by voice only (i.e. no official ballot). But since everyone knows everyone it’s OK. The elected official can then have a voice in the city hall of a bigger city (which actually governs the villages).
    The second source of government officials comes from fresh new people. Each year, the country holds a very stringent entrance test for young professionals. You must pass the test in order to become a government official. The process is very competitive and names are closed from the scorers so no bias (except some under-the-table deals of course). You must pass the entry test, then pass a competency test for the chosen field of government in order to officially be government employee.
    Then it becomes a Claim the “Ladder” game. You have to slowly work your way up even to President of China. In fact, the current President of China climbed up the same way as the previous president. No one is from a prestige or rich family (remember it’s only been 60 years since the founding, no family is that powerful yet, unlike the Regans, The Bushes etc.)
    What the westerners do not understand is that it’s NOT POSSIBLE for someone random to seek the office. There is NO such thing as career politician because there is no need for those. Everyone who’s in power today have worked their ass off to fend off the competition and achieve their status. It’s much MUCH fair than the Western election system. AND you are guaranteed that the governor of a province has 20+ years of experience managing the cities, government run businesses etc, so they know how to balance a budget
  • Nov 5 2011: Continued #5
    You are free to look for jobs, send in resumes and hold a high-end job. No one is forcing you to work in textile industry. Just because somehow the western media ALWAYS only show those textile or electronic assembly workers does not mean this is forced work. Those people are all uneducated and unskilled workers and those are high-paying jobs for them, which they can then support their family and children. The alternative is that they can work on farm land all year round and make like 1/10 th of what they make now.
    It is unfortunate that those people are poor, uneducated and unskilled, and probably will never have the chance to be something different, but through their hard work, their children can go to college and move up in the society. Remember Chinese literacy rate is still much lower than US, but are growing very fast BECAUSE of these hard-working unskilled labors. They in fact CHOOSE to work so their children can have a better future, same as YOUR PARENTS AND YOU.
    Also, you are Free to start up on your own. Own a restaurant or shop. In fact that’s a norm. There are still not a lot of Chains in China so many people have a fighting chance. You can of course be an entrepreneur as long as you can. Most people just don’t have the knowledge to do so.
  • Nov 5 2011: Continued #4

    Freedom of Movement, Education and Job

    Chinese people are free to go to any country they choose to (and can afford to), such as myself. Applying for Passport is very easy, using your birth certificate or citizenship card and get it in a few days. Much faster than Canadian lengthy process. Applying Visas are much much harder and imposed by Foreign Governments. China is NOT North Korea!!!
    A rural area farmer is free to move to the big urban centers such as Beijing or Shanghai, in fact this is the major source of urban workers for tasks such as textiles, construction etc. They are free to purchase a property in Beijing or Shanghai, as long as you can afford it. This is the major reason why Shanghai and Beijing housing prices are ~10x of the national average.
    You MAY need a permanent address in Beijing in order to hold a high-end job in Beijing thou. However, this is imposed by the companies themselves rather than a law. Imagine if you are a large firm in Beijing, would a person without a Beijing permanent address pass your background check? Probably not.
    On a related note, Education is free for everyone up until Middle school (grade 9). If you pass the high-school entry test you can go to high school for free. Otherwise you can either go to tech school or pay up. College is not free of course but plenty of scholarships.
    Some good schools do not accept non-local students, but this is very much true here in Canada. When I was in High school here I was rejected from one school because I’m not living in the area. All Colleges in China accept all students in China as long as you pass the test. You are free to choose your own major, minor, interest what have you.
  • Nov 5 2011: Continued #3 (Really hate the word limit now :(

    2. Violent protest or the appearance of violence, to the public or yourself. Including a tank of gasoline and try to burn yourself to death in front of a crowd. Fa-lun-gong as an example. Are they allowed here in the North America? I don’t think anyone is allowed to bring a tank of gas or firearm into the White House can they?
    3. Separatist protests as I discussed in Part 1, which include the “Tiananmen Square” event, “Falungong” event, among others. When you try to divide the country you always need to go against the government. Unfortunately people often mistook “Separatist” as purely “Anti-Government”, and correlate this to think that Chinese government will put anyone in jail for speaking up against government practices such as corruption. The fact is that the Chinese government allows such protests as against corruption, and each year the government’s internal affairs takes down more corrupt officials (this is called “Shuang Gui”, look it up) than all the other countries combined. In United States, the corruption is legal and called “Campaign contributions”. How come no one protest for those?
    To sum it up, as ordinary citizen or organization, as long as you are not a separatist, protest peacefully in non-restricted areas, you are allowed to request police assistance (requires city approval of course, same as here in Canada).