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.
Southern China welcomed my parents to its humble shores this past week, leaving them with one critical question among many: Just how many red Chinese lanterns are produced every year for the holiday? I’m waiting for their thick roll of film to be developed into hundreds of fascinating images and lots and lots of red— every hotel, home, and highway are speckled with round paper lights during the New Year. My parents have always fallen into the “adventurous” category, if there was ever reason to sum people up by adjectives, and they continued to prove their endless love for the unknown on this trip, where a sketchy taxi ride, snake shops, and raw fish found their way into my mom’s travel journal and hopefully many future conversations. Thanks for making the trip guys!
Now on to the numbers… here’s a list of stats published recently that may give you a glimpse into what life’s like for the average, decently-educated Chinese citizen over here, according to a reader’s poll conducted by 南方周末. A translation follows below:
45.94% of readers fear that their friends and family will ask about their salary when they return home for the New Year.
65.15% of readers plan to return home to their parents’ house for the New Year.
84.13% of readers don’t know that trains can’t offer meals under ¥15.
78.96% of readers chose to buy train tickets online this year.
47.05% of readers are riding a train home for the New Year.
36.59% of readers plan to watch the New Year Gala on TV this year, even if Zhao Benshan (a popular sitcom actor and director) does not participate in the performance. (There was some conflict between Zhao and the new director of the show this year, leading to Zhao’s refusal to participate.)
88.14% of readers are not optimistic about future policies directed at air pollution.
82.95% of readers do not have a sense of security.
83.04% of readers don’t know how to apply for technical training (for their career) or public employment services provided by the government.
20.05% of readers believe that the biggest change brought about by China’s accession to the WTO is the growth of career opportunities in exporting.
64.75% of readers say that they come into contact with second-hand smoke nearly every day.
70.17% of readers say that today, eating enough is not a problem, but trusting what they eat is still difficult.
72.77% of readers are busy making a living and are rarely concerned with the drafting of legislation.
I’m not sure how many readers participated in the survey… it is good to note that this newspaper is one of the more sophisticated and liberal in China, so readers tend to be well-educated and better-off than average citizens. I have no doubt that the answers are a fairly accurate representation of the general consensus in Chinese society, though how such sentiment will influence future policy is still unknown.