Sunday, October 10, 2010

Liu Xiaobo--a Follow UP

One of the lessons I taught my students in the reading magazines and newspapers class in China was the value of reading stories about the same topic from different countries. I first heard of this story from a former student of mine who is currently still in China. She wondered if I had heard about this story and what I thought and she mentioned it would have made an excellent topic for my newspaper class. She was exactly right.
One of the first sources of information I check regarding what is going on in China is EastSouthWestNorth by Roland Soong in Hong Kong. I have found his blog to consistently take a middle line response to many of the issues that occur with China.
I also checked ChinaSMACK, and found that this topic was not a post although it was commented on in the comments section. This shows me that this is not a topic being discussed in China currently. I also consulted with Danwei (a blog which is generally blocked in China.
The next source for me to consider was the news in the US. For the most part the response of American newspapers was expected. Yeah, a dissident from China got the award! Oh look, China is not happy about it! Yeah! Ha Ha! Just as we always suspected China is back to her ways of censorship again!
I then looked at some articles from an English language newspaper in Norway. There were several articles, but the article announcing the news mainly just gave some details about Liu Xiaobo and explained the significance of the prize.
To me, I wish China could trust her people to come to their own conclusions on some controversial issues. I wish that there could be room for a public discussion and that the country would not need to block the news from her citizens. I wish China could have greater faith in her people to not believe all that the West stands for. I wish the Chinese people could see through western hegemony and present a counter view of the world events that serves to challenge the west. I wish China were truly able to engage in that dialogue. As a country that is developing economically and is being called to take on more social responsibility, I wish that this could be taken on her own terms. In order to engage with the west, I do think that reforms will need to take place. I also have some trust that China is aware of this and that these reforms should come on her own terms. Chinese reform should not be initiated through western pressure. Western pressure on this issue to some extent is a lack of respect for China. It is also wrong of the West to think that China will only change if she is pressured to do so by the west.
I also feel some disappointment in my own country for her predictable response. The news people in the United States want to hear about China all relates to dissent. American journalists love to report on protests or attempts to challenge Chinese communist rule. Few stories talk about the humanistic side of China. The majority of stories we are told about China serve to reconfirm the idea that Chinese people do not have freedom or human rights. And yet, for the most part, this is not actually the case. We can easily point to many isolated incidents where China does seem to not value human rights. The one Child policy, the forced relocations... the list goes on. However, there is always the equally valid moral justification that supports for the good of the people it is ok to sacrifice the rights of a few. In most cases, the United States places too much value on individual rights. I take the ownership of guns as an example here.
In short, I do believe we can learn a lot by looking at how different countries approach the news from different viewpoints. I also believe that few people in any country take the initiative to do so. Without the consideration of the viewpoints of other nations we also never learn how other nations see us, and it is often through their outside perspective that we can begin to see both the strong and weak points we possess. I believe it isn't just China who needs to do this. I would further like to add that this is what I gained from living overseas. When I hear something, I have learned not to take it immediately at face value. There are multiple perspectives and until these are also considered, it is not reasonable to come to a conclusion. Being critical also means learning to challenge the responses that come predictably by many.

A list of articles relating to Liu Xiao Bo from a variety of sources:

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