Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

A Sustainable Chinese Future

In the last month I have posted three times regarding China, whether to protest the imprisonment of Shi Tao or the sad debacle of Liu Xiabo, the Nobel prize winner, currently also incarcerated.

I have heard from people who feel that I am anti-China. I am not. In fact, I spent years studying Tai Chi Chuan and Traditional Chinese Medicine. I embrace a lot of the lessons that emanate from Chinese culture.

In particular, I Look China has posted several times criticizing my choice of  contention. I will agree to disagree. Doing sometime illegal is exactly that and the proponents know what they face. However, non-violent protest is a mark of a society’s maturity and its own personal comfort level with itself.

There are two aspects of China that I feel critical about. The first is human rights and democracy as these previous posts make clear. But I am also worried about the growing and (so I thought) unchecked industrial growth, and in particular, the impact on the environment.

So I was really excited to hear that there is a thriving Greenpeace in China. It is an organization facing a massive expansion, one that dwarfs the industrial United States. I am also quick to recognize that the steps taken here in the US are clearly not enough, and fighting the small rich oligarchy here is incredibly frustrating.

But the knowledge that Greenpeace is established and respected in China offers hope not only for the environment, but also that it is possible to be critical in China.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com


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3 thoughts on “A Sustainable Chinese Future

  1. I’m not sure democracy is the best form of government. I grew up hearing that it was and no other system worked as well. However, I never visited or lived in other countries. I had no knowledge to compare and had to accept what I heard as if I were blind and deaf.

    Until recently, I also didn’t know that America’s Founding Fathers couldn’t stand democracy and equated it to mob rule. Instead, they founded a Republic that about 10% of the population was allowed to vote in. Women and Children were considered chattel and several of the original colonies were slave states. The Founding Fathers never intended that everyone above a certain age have the right to vote since the firmly believe this led to mob rule, which seems to be the case.

    Since 1999, I have visited China often and discovered that there are different kinds of freedom. I have also seen how China’s experiment in Socialist Capitalism is working and compared to the US, it may be a better system. More time will tell. What if the US keeps having this bursting economic bubbles and China avoids the same tragedies. The US has had about ten major financial crises since the US Revolution. It seems that capitalistic greed causes most if not all.

    A few examples:
    Freedom from worry
    Economic freedom
    Freedom of Expression (possibly limited)
    Freedom to choose the profession you want to work in.
    Freedom to educate oneself and prosper.
    Freedom to fall in love and marry who you want to.
    Freedom to live where you want (which is somewhat limited in China but even that is changing).

    Political freedom (Again, it doesn’t seem to matter how many people are allowed to vote. The elected leaders still do what they want. Moreover, does the US really have political freedom when the Electoral College and a few hundred people really decide who the president is? After all, Gore had the popular vote by a million people but Bush won through the Electoral College. Some democracy. At least in China, the people know the truth of the situation).

    Freedom of the Press (Is that really an individual freedom or does it just allow corporations and political special interest groups the right to lie, which is often the case in US elections. Freedom of the Press also led to Yellow Journalism, which often glorified violence, death and suffering.

    Freedom of religion (I also question if this is necessary considering cults and tragedies such as Jone’s Town in Africa. Last, I heard there were 32,000 Christian sects and most say they are the only ones that are right and everyone else is doomed. China allows freedom of religion to seven religions and bans cults such as the Falun Gong. Singapore also restricts religious freedom but we seldom hear of that if ever).

    As for peaceful demonstrations. Several centuries ago, the White Lotus Society (a religious cult similar to the Falun Gong) started out with peaceful demonstration in China. When that didn’t work, and the Society didn’t get what they were asking for, they resorted to violence and revolution which led to the downfall of the Yuan Dynasty and the birth of the Ming Dynasty, which was extremely puritanical for most of its history and even resorted to a brutal spy agency to maintain control and kill off any who protested peacefully as the original society had done.

    When you go back and look at the list of freedoms, the Chinese enjoy most on the list and most Chinese don’t care about politics or religion. They are concerned with family and the quality of life where China’s government has delivered and keep delivering.

    Maybe the Chinese have it right. Let government do its job and allow the people to have economic freedom while offering protection from outside forces that would act the bully to force China to do what it doesn’t want to as England and France did in the 19th century Opium Wars.

  2. Pingback: A Chinese Spring? « Left Coast Voices

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