Saturday, 28 July 2018

China has first world infrastructure but ...

Guiyang from my hotel room. Old city and Nanming river
... I want to say "China has First World Infrastructure, but a Third World government" — mainly because it balances nicely — but it's not quite true. 
Sure, the first part is right enough.
I've travelled its excellent highway system and its comfy bullet trains. Both are marvels, built in record numbers at record speed. China has the largest freeway system and largest bullet-train network in the world now (iirc). In many ways the freeways are better than those in Europe, especially Italy's which we've crossed north to south (and back) recently and you can't help noticing they're showing their age. Same in the US. China's, by contrast, are sparkling new and have all the mod cons: rest areas, regular service stations, good signage. What else: airports, WiFi, mobile coverage, ports for containers and people — all these are large, top of the line. First world or better. 6-Star, if you like. 
But the second part about Third World government is not right. For a start third world governments are not nearly as effective and efficient as the Chinese one. No third world government has, to my knowledge, done a fraction of the nation building that China's has since I've known it — 40 years and more. 
Flip side: no third world governments are as brutally effective as China's in controlling its population and what its people can read, can see, can hear. 
So: "dictatorial"? Correct, but doesn't capture it all, for while it's dictatorial about politics it's pretty laissez faire in many other areas. 
"Leninist"? Yes, but that needs too much explaining. How different or similar is Leninism to Marxism or communism or even socialism (the last of which is all China will fess up to). 
"Fascist"? I think this one fits best. For fascism can be on the left or the right. Rome was fascist but not racist. Fascism's main thing is control. And that's what China is all about. Control. 
So on consideration I'm going to go with:
"China has First World infrastructure with a Fascist Government". It may even be — likely is — that the former is only possible because of the latter. 
Not so nicely balanced but more correct I believe. 
PS: why am I making a thing of "balance"? Because China teaches it to you. Poems are balanced: two scroll, read top to bottom, right to left, each side with equal number of characters, usually odd: 5 or 7 or 9. And in each side the characters are balanced with an equal and sometimes opposite thought on the other side. Common sayings, or chengyu (成语) are balanced. And so on. I know this is a thing in English too, especially as a rhetorical device in powerful speeches (vide: any speech by Martin Luther King Jr). It's just that it's far more so a thing in Chinese. At least that's my take. I haven't done an in-depthy on it.
Last night in Fanjingshan the restaurant served me their excellent tea in what I've named the world's largest mug. On it some words of Mao Tse-tung. Though they make sense as they are, it didn't seem balanced to me. I asked the boss, Lao Wang. He was impressed. Said not many people realised that it was missing two characters. Which are Guang Kuo (广阔).  "Wide". 

Above: next to a frosty bottle of Xue Shan beer, the world's largest mug. The writing, attributed to Mao, says "in the world there are great accomplishments",
channelling a nascent Trump, it seems. 
The missing characters, which had been scraped off, are 广阔 or "wide". 
Above: Boss Wang tells me someone scraped off the characters because he was an oldie with bad memories of Mao. He was stopped before he could scrape them all off. In that hatred of Mao that oldie (老人) is a in a small minority. Those that can recall Mao's horrors are dying out — and do let's recall that a direct result of Mao's mad policies (the Great Leap Forward) and revolutions (The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) about 100 million people died, but who's counting?  
The young kids, if they think of Mao at all, think of a kindly father. Father of the nation. 
More than that by the way: they know nothing of their history. Nothing of the Cultural Revolution, let alone the earlier Anti Rightist Movement or GLF. They know nothing of the Gang of Four. Nothing of June 4. They're happy, but. 
Enough of all that. 
I'm on the Hong Kong airlines plane back to Hong Kong. And free air. And where people still know — and commemorate — important events in their motherland. Most recently the June 4 vigils. 
I lived through the June 4 demos and crackdown and was in China at the time. It would have seemed impossible then that anyone could forget them. Let alone a whole nation. 

Sent from my iPhone