Dear China: Take it easy, motherland

Rensi Ke

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It was already 10 p.m. when I came back from the Instant  Play Festival on Saturday  night. It took me another 46 minutes to grab a cup of toffee nut mocha in Reid, to  have a short chat with my Chinese friends, to upload a few photos  and videos of tonight’s plays to Facebook and finally, to Google the latest news about my column topic for this week: Oct. 1, Chinese National Day.

I know it’s bad to procrastinate, especially when I have such a politically and culturally significant national holiday to write about: what I am supposed to write is a tribute essay for the 60th anniversary of the foundation of my country, People’s Republic of China.

With a trace of guilt I opened a new WordPress window to write my column, but  two minutes later I stood up and headed to the kitchen. Sorry, motherland: I’m hungry.

Compared with my friends from  a neighboring country who even forgot the exact date of their National Day, my feelings of guilt might seem ridiculous. But it wouldn’t be that surprising if you know how much more concerned we  Chinese  are with this holiday.

In the  third grade at elementary school, I got an essay  assignment for my Chinese class to write about the newly-built bridge in my hometown which was built  as a tribute to  the national day.  Later, when I became a member of  the class committee in charge of publicity, I  made blackboard newspapers every year  for National Day, which enabled me to write my patriotic essays  on the blackboard  decorated with  the painting of Tiananmen Square, the five-star national flag and clusters of fireworks.

My personal tribute was of the humblest sort when compared with  the seven days of national celebration, which is literally translated as “Golden Week.” Firework displays, TV galas or concerts and the grand military parade in front of Tiananmen Square when the anniversary year is  a multiple of five.

This year will  unsurprisingly  witness the  most gorgeous  national day celebration ever in the history, not only because 60 years marks the full cycle of life in the Chinese zodiac. The number six carries  the auspicious connotation of “success in every way”  and “we will try our best to create a festive environment at an economic cost,” as was promised by a government spokesperson.

Even though I am  abroad, it’s not hard  for me to sense the economic cost my  government put in preparation for  the carnival-like national day holiday: the biggest military parade, the biggest evening gala, the patriotic movie “The Great Cause of China’s Foundation” with a cast of 172 domestically and/or internationally renowned stars, and numerous provincial “tribute projects,” varying from the country’s biggest building “Long Xin Ge”  which covers  10,378,426 square acres and countless roads, railways and bridges opened  to traffic on Oct. 1, among which many are completed at least six months in advance.

My  government always generously invests in occasions that might be a boost to the international image of China, such as last summer’s Beijing Olympic Games, but the government’s struggle  for a “good face” by hiding negative news from the world  is apparently  condemned by the Western media.

Regardless of  our upcoming National Day, Western journalists  have been  covering  how China limits access to numerous websites including even  Facebook, how officials  took away  babies for the violation of  birth control  (one child) policy, and how lead  poisoning hampered  children’s health in a town of the province where I am from!

At  Whitman, most students are not familiar  with or interested in China.  When  we discussed Marxism last  Tuesday  at the Anthropology History and Theory seminar, I found that none of my classmates could tell the difference between socialism and communism. After class, I had a classmate tell me how she disliked a book about China  because there was “too much propaganda.”

During house dinners, most of my American housemates were understandably quiet when asked about their impressions of China. Many stopped  after  commenting that China is an overpopulated country.

When I talked to  my Japanese friends,  I  learned more about the  Tiananmen Square Protest in 1989 and their opposition against excessive government control in China, which I think is a common impression of China in the international  community.

Although I insist that the Western media has for a long time been somehow demonizing China by focusing on sensational  issues to get readership, which not only caused misinterpretations in the West  but also stirred up dissatisfaction in China, I do feel that China is partly responsible for the  faulty Western coverage.

If I were  the minister of the  Department of Publicity (not the negative “Propaganda”), I would not block blogs that address social problems; I would not  associate “Cao Ni Ma” (literally “grass mud horse” in Chinese,   a rare species of alpaca dominant within the Mahler Gobi Desert in Mongolia, but  phonetically identical  to “f*** you mom”) with the  ideas  of “sabotaging social stability.” Chinese social stability is  even  more fragile than  a newly-born baby, judging from the government’s long list of “sensitive vocabulary.”

One more thing: take it  easy, motherland. Enjoy your birthday without thinking about impressing anyone else. We  aren’t badly in  need of 100 “tribute projects” generated by one single province; we are actually deeply in doubt of the quality of those projects completed more than six months ahead of schedule.   Oh, but I made a mistake: I should send those words to  my government, not  my motherland. My government is not my motherland.

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