Friday, June 5, 2009

The Significance of June 4

One day my husband randomly said that, "I am becoming more Asian," over some very bizarre (totally NON-Asian thing). Regardless, unless he understands the significance of June 4, he is definitely not becoming more Asian (well, Chinese).

Web-savvy & cynical: China's youth since Tiananmen - Yahoo! News

For those of us who had "lived through" June 4, albeit in the far away land called the US of A, it is very sad to see the new generation in China growing up without the slightest idea of what it is about.

"Young kids like us are maybe just more into popular entertainment like Korean soap operas. ... Very few people really care about that other stuff," says Lucifer, before mounting the stage at a Beijing club to belt out "Rock 'N Roll for Money and Sex."

Tiananmen veterans read the reaction as apathy and lament it.

"All those magnificent ideals have been replaced by the practical pursuit of self-centered comforts," says Bao Tong, former secretary to Zhao Ziyang, the Communist Party leader deposed for sympathizing with the 1989 protesters. "The leaders today don't want young people to think."

According to Bao, 76, China's youth are in the arms of the government being fed candy. They could continue this way if the economy remains strong and the government distributes wealth more equitably, he says, but he doesn't think either is likely.


Wu contends that China's youth know more than they let on, and while they tend to be fiercely proud of their country they are also highly critical of their government. He calls them "a double-edged sword with no handle," because their opinions cut in many directions and are not guided by any single ideology or organization.

Xiaoguang, the boy born that June 4, bears out the theory. He criticizes the United States for the "inadequate apology" it made after a mid-air collision between an American spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet in 2001. He is angry at CNN for allegedly exaggerating Chinese military brutality against Tibetan rioters last year. Both views parrot the government. Later though, he scoffs at classmates keen to join the Communist Party and grouses about corruption.

His convictions are worn loosely, like a fashion, and have not translated into action. Like many Chinese people today, he appears satisfied with his hobbies, pop culture and other distractions.

The China government had obviously done an awesome job in keeping the new generation apathetic about politics. But can we blame the young today? After all, nobody likes to live in political upheavals by choice (except perhaps for a few lunatics and power mongers). In the end, what do us peasants/peons want? Stability in life -- a cozy job, financial stability, raising a family. In the era when the quality of live continues to improve in China, why would anything even think about risking all they have for a political reform?

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