It’s the 61st Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (National Day or 国庆节). Partayyy! That’s what it was in Tiananmen Square. Cotton candy, corn on the cob, massive floral displays, and… multi-colored plastic devil horn headbands. I have yet to discover their significance. But in essence, the mood on the square tonight resembled that of our Fourth of July. It was unfortunately (or fortunately) not the security-ridden atmosphere that I’d previously conjured up in my mind. Perhaps last year when China rounded its sixth decade the mood was a bit more conflicted, but I doubt it. All the controversial censorship, arrests, and injustices that plague the foreign press coverage on China feel like bitter annoyances when you stare into the crisp, glistening characters on two giant flat screens that illuminate messages of technological success, economic progress and a harmonious society. There is no looming sense of dissatisfaction here but one of overwhelming pride. After all, tonight’s square wasn’t empty but bustling with a smiling crowd snapping photos of their kids posing with Chinese flags and peace signs. And in the end, what’s not to be proud of? All the bad aside, because every country has its dark side, China’s unprecedented growth in the last twenty years is not to be taken lightly. Recognizing the pressures experienced in the past from both within its borders and abroad we might make rational sense not only of China’s rapid economic development but also of its political system. Of course there are many problems left to tackle here, but every citizen deserves a day to honor and rejoice in the successes of the country they live in.
Okay, so there’s a wonderful tradition/quasi-law here that you should give up your seat on a bus or subway for the elderly, sick, weak, disabled, pregnant, and those carrying young children. (That’s what the sign reads above). On the subway, there’s even an announcement on the loudspeaker every 2-3 stops that reminds passengers: “respecting the old and loving the young is a traditional virtue of the Chinese people” (尊老爱幼是中华民族的传统美德).
Now for the amusing part… when exactly does one classify as “old”? I’ve witnessed far too many unfortunate instances where a man whose hair turned white a bit too young is offered a seat. This kind of man will often refuse to sit, of course, which only encourages others to insist that he accept the seat, assuming that he is just being polite. You can imagine what kinds of problems arise when people try to decipher whether one is truly pregnant or not, although thankfully, most Chinese tend to be slim…
In a nutshell, I don’t want to be offered a seat.
When watching this game of musical chairs fails to entertain me, I’ll usually check the subway TV to see if anything other than “中国好声音” is playing (an exact replica of “The Voice”, because China loves loves loves to copy things, and is getting pretty darn good at it these days). Last night, I was lucky enough to drown my thoughts in a frightening Teletubby-like hypnotizing bunny dance.
Do yourself a favor and check out the video (http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMjI4NjgzNDY4.html). As you watch, imagine that you are riding the subway in dead silence while everyone around you stares up at the TV screen with this expression: