After a 6-week europe adventure, the 5-6 days of "stop-over" in Singapore did not prove sufficient for me to recover and get mentally prepared for the 16-day China youth program. I first heard of this program from Francis, my HK buddy who took part in the same program 2 years ago and had only the best things to say about it. And indeed it sounded pretty attractive to a person like me who's never really traveled China before. For US$200, i would join a delegation of some 200 "outstanding youths" (i use quotes cos i don't think i qualify for both words..haha) of chinese descent from 17 different countries. Together we'd visit travel to Hong Kong, Guongzhou, Xi An, Beijing and Shanghai where we'd attend seminars, visit top local universities & famous historical sites, meet with some government officials (previous years distinguished list include HK SAR chief executive Tong Jian Hwa and one of the top 5-6 men of the china's communist party, Qian Qi Shen). I thought it'd provide me with a unique first peek, albeit perhaps through the filtering lens of the organizer, of China my motherland.
There's no doubt that China has recovered from her recent dismal histories for the past few centuries and is now reclaiming her prominent position in the forefront of the world arena. Almost every week i’d find a long article on china’s economic development on BusinessWeek. With titles to the tunes of “The awaken dragon”& “IBM now, what’s next?”, it is hard not to notice China’s rapidly expanding economic might and with it a substantial political bargaining power. Indeed, many in the west are not at all comfortable with china’s meteoric rise. While it’s not the kind of extremist view of “Communist equals evil” common during the paranoid cold war era, china has plenty of critics in the west for its “backward” political climate, while the images of Tiananman incident and the supposed plight of falungong still linger in the minds of those who deem china as a oppressive regime. Of course, china’s swelling defence budget and the big trade deficit with countries like USA do not sit well with those who’s concerned with this new shift in the world paradigm.
Being educated in the States & studying in possibly one of the most liberal campus around (Michigan), I guess I should be inclined to agree with this common view that china has a lot of room for improvement for human rights and such, that democracy (the way it was understood in the west) should prevail eventually. However, I always find myself in a position defending, or at least taking a very firm neutral stand whenever i have a discussion with my friends where China is concerned. Perhaps this stems from a pride of my heritage, and its natural extension to defend it. But a more crucial and cognitively more conscious reason for my reluctance to take a stand in this matter is that no nation’s political landscape can or should be judged without a deep understanding of her histories, cultures, traditions; all of these me and my friend lack greatly when we plunged into our rhetorical discussion on what’s good or bad about China. We talk about “democracy” all the time in the States, but frankly I don’t think many of us has a common understanding of the word, much less the term “communism”.
With that in mind I wrote in my application the following words for my expectation for the trip,
“I am always regretful of how little I know about my heritage and hopefully this trip will educate me about the founding ideals that the chinese culture is built on. It’d also be an eye-opener to visit the local universities and enterprises and get a taste of the furiously expanding economic might of China. The meetings and discussions with government officials will also provide me with insights about the political landscape and the challenges that they meet in the face of this new found economic power in the world arena.”
China, here i come!!!