Tuesday, 24 July 2007

China would fragment if democracy were adopted. Why? Lack of education in the vast majority of the population is a major reason, according to a classmate I listened to tonight.

We were asked by the lecturer to say why we had enrolled in the media practice degree. Going around the class, half of which comprises Chinese (one male, the rest women), the usual comments about China popped up. The situation was improving, a few said. Recently, journalists had reported negative stories, which would not have run even a few years ago.

But this girl said something I have long thought and had never before heard from a Chinese person. The rigid control exercised by the Communist regime was necessary, she said, so that everyone spoke with the same voice (her words). I made my interpretation.

She started out by remarking on the education level of most Chinese and the large population. I had background, too. A Chinese man I worked with in Tokyo told me that differences between China's regions were as great as between Europe's countries.

The woman did her bachelor's degree in Australia, returned to China, and has now enrolled in a postgraduate degree here. Her English is better than that of many Chinese students I've encountered.

Why the interest in Chinese authorities? The class is 'Legal and Ethical Issues in the Media' so our focus is on two areas that are not necessarily close but may overlap. Freedoms enjoyed by Australians, and by our press, are clearly of compelling interest to Chinese students. "We can talk about these things, but we cannot write about them," (in China) said another young woman.

It's hard for Westerners to comprehend the woman I first mentioned. But it's the truth. Given freedom to elect governments and freedom to print what they want, Chinese people would find themselves (if not in civil war) at least hard-pressed to retain unity. I believe this is true.

It doesn't condone repressive government, but it explains the status quo.

My contribution entailed bemoaning lack of freedom of the press in Japan. I've written about it on this blog, recently in relation to the assassination of Itcho Ito, the (now-deceased) mayor of Nagasaki.

The photo was taken by my great aunt during her sojourn in Japan straight after WWII. It shows typical farm labourers (both women). Her caption (bless her, she described each photo she took, and stuck them in a number of albums): "Just look at the load."

In China, everyone still carries a similar load. Until education (a severe constraint in nineteenth-century Britain also) improves we'll likely see China remain Communist for the next hundred years (echoing a recent pronouncement on democracy by the government).

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