The future of China: stuffy old men vs. energized citizens

JISHOU, HUNAN — The common American assumption about China’s government is that it’s repressive, hellbent to maintain its power despite all internal or external pressures to change. But, from the perspective of someone inside China, the general population does not seem to fear the government, despite its ability to detain or “disappear” troublemakers. Among my students, associates and friends, there is a quiet willingness to criticize the government, remark on the corruption of party officials, and play along with seemingly illogical demands from higher ups while basically doing nothing about them — the Chinese version of the colonial Spanish motto,”Obedezco pero no cumplo,” — I obey, but I do not comply (with royal edicts). To be frank, I was not entirely sure my conclusions were correct until I read a lengthy essay in The Diplomat tonight by Gordon Chang, a writer for Forbes. Turns out I’m a better political and social analyst than I thought. [Reading the comments after the essay, though, it seems not everyone agrees with me or Chang.] Chang’s argument is cogent. Prosperity and electronic media have emboldened the Chinese populace as never before, as it plunges headlong into the 21st century. Meanwhile, the powerful elite men ...
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