China: Misunderstood and often Misrepresented

Today, I will talk about China.

(original broadcast can be found at BlogTalkRadio and Podbean)

China_relief_map
People’s Republic of China

For centuries China lead the world in arts and sciences. In the 19th and early 20th centuries that changed as the country encountered civil unrest, famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After WWII, Mao Zedong rose to power as a communist establishing an autocratic socialist system – this ensured China’s sovereignty, but imposed strict controls over everyday life and ended up costing tens of millions of lives. After 1978, Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders focused on a more market-oriented economy and by the year 2000 economic output had quadrupled. This resulted in much of the population seeing much improved living standards, along with relaxed governmental controls over personal choice – as a note, even though more freedoms exist, political controls are still very tight today. Since the early 1990s, China has also increased its global outreach and participation in international organizations, showing a slight deviation from its primary stance of isolationism.

That brings us to modern day China. The country is very complex, and due to its ideologies, and isolationist leanings is very much misunderstood throughout the world.

 

Now that we know some basic background information on China, I am going to cover some more detailed information about China – specifically on the people, the culture, and the government. To some people it might seem like a history lesson, or a country study lecture…I surely don’t want to bore my audience, so if you want to skip ahead, feel free; however, although the information might seem boring, it offers a solid foundation – the mainstream media today often skips the important information so they can quickly get to the punchline, or the story line – by doing so, they present their audience with only the narratives that they believe will get them ratings…and, often the stories are so diluted that the truth is completely absent and all that is left are opinions and emotionally inciting editorials and comments…I encourage all my listeners (and readers) to indulge in all the information so they can draw educated conclusions, and not just become persuaded by mine. I will get into those details now.

In order to understand China better, it’s important to understand the big picture…so, I am going to cover the basics before get too far along into its modern day positions and influence.

To start, lets talk about geography and demographics. China is a big country encompassing nearly 9.5 million square kilometers…and, despite its size, China falls within one time zone. It borders many countries in Asia, including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, India, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

Also because of its size, it has a very diverse climate…from tropical in the south to subarctic in the north…and, as you might expect, the terrain is quite variable as well, ranging from mountains, high plateaus, and deserts, to deltas.

China Great Wall
Great Wall in China

The majority of the countries 1.4 billion people live in the eastern half of the country…the western half is sparsely population due to the vast mountainous and desert regions. About half the population is between the ages of 25-54, with about 51% being males. In 1979 it was mandated that couple could only have 1 child as an attempt to control the population grow, that was changed to 2 child in 2016 as a means to address the rapidly aging population. The literacy rate is more than 97%, with the primary language being Mandarin. And, as a note of comparison, the obesity rate is only about 7.3% compared to the 35% rate in the US.

The ethnic population distribution is about 92% Han Chinese with about 56 smaller groups composing the remaining 8%. China is officially an atheist country, however, there are portions of the population that hold to some form of faith – including 18% Buddhist, 5% Christian, 2% Muslim, 22% folk religion, with Hindu, Jewish, and unaffiliated religions composing the remaining 53%.

Now, a little bit about the government and economy.

China Honor Guard
Members of a Chinese military honor guard march during a welcome ceremony for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace at the Ministry of Defense in Beijing, China, March 22, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen.

China is officially called, People’s Republic of China. The capital is Beijing, and the country is officially a communist state. It has 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, and 4 municipalities…it considers Taiwan its 23rd province, with Hong Kong and Macau as special administrative regions.

The legal system is based on Soviet and European models, and some new civil codes were recently adopted this year in 2017.

As I mentioned earlier, China has recently, within the last 30 or so years reached out to participate in many international organizations – there are quite a few, but notably, the UN.

As far as the economy is concerned, since the 1970s, China has evolved a bit from a very closed economy to a major international player. In 2016, China was the worlds largest economy, and today it remains so, along with the largest exporter and overall the largest trading nation.

As far as their infrastructure…without hitting too many details, let me just say, for the number of people on the mainland, it is quite impressive….99.9% of the entire population has electricity, internet access is excellent – coverage-wise anyway, and almost everyone has a smartphone…literally, from first hand experience, even people in some really rural regions have a smartphone. Transportation is on par with, or better than most of the world, with public transportation being very difficult not to find – extensive rail-lines, airlines, taxis, buses…and, private vehicle ownership is growing and comparable to other large nations. From my own personal experiences, there are few, and I mean very few homeless people…and housing is available everywhere and for all walks of life…and nearly everything is constructed from concrete and steel.

I will stop there…I really don’t want to give you too many statistics…most of the ones I mentioned are important to know…they help define the big picture.

I do want to talk about the military briefly. The military, or People’s Liberation Army consists of a ground force, navy, air force, rocket force, and strategic support force…it is the largest military in the world, with around 2.5 million active personnel…another 2.5 million reservists. Since the 1980s, China has been modernizing its weapon systems and equipment. They have also been working toward more advanced systems including kinetic energy weapons, high powered lasers and microwave weapons, particle-beam weapons, and electromagnetic pulse weapons. The also have made leaps and bounds in the cyber-warfare arena, as well as growing and expanding their space programs – oh, and of course, they have nuclear weapons.

Chinese-j-11
Chinese J-11

Well, that is the background information, now let’s talk about China’s role and position from an international perspective.

I would like to start by reiterating my opinion that China is generally misunderstood. There is a lot of misconceptions and unsubstantiated dialog that comes from the media and from our educators…much of what is being passed along is not based on facts, and is severely filtered to the point of it being propaganda in its own rite.

I have first hand experience with China, and I know and understand much more than I was ever taught in school, or in college, and I definitely never heard anything close to what I know to be true from any media source.

For starters, the majority of the people of China are in no way the same as the government of China…and, the government operates in a fashion that provides more successes than failures for its country. As a communist state there are a lot of negative pictures drawn in peoples minds and, I am not in anyway promoting communism, I am simple saying that the “evil Commie” mentality that came out of the 1950s, and that is illustrated by such brutal regimes as that in North Korea, are stretched, and perpetuated in part by people that know absolutely nothing about how China’s government operates and are typically basing their opinions on hearsay, and out-dated rhetoric – and, truthfully, they are mostly getting it wrong, and I mean seriously wrong. Again, I am not for communism at all…I believe strongly in the American way of life, and the rule of law established by the US Constitution. In America, there are about 325 million people and we have lived with those freedoms and we have learned from them, and we have fought for them, just as we have lived with capitalism and competition…all of these things have allowed us to become the greatest and most prosperous nation in the history of the world. China has 1.4 billion people…nearly 5 times the number as the US…China actually has more women that the US has people…America has built upon those principles of freedom for nearly 250 years…it is our way of life…in China, they have a much different past…they may have been around longer, but their history led them down a much different road.

US Tanks in Support of China - 1945
US Tanks in Support of China – 1945

I won’t go back that far, but I want to start around 1936 – China was just coming through a civil war and because of Japanese aggression, they were forced in the Second Sino-Japanese war…the Chinese had already endured famine and disease and a country turned upside down by internal fighting…this war with Japan was a near breaking point – the Japanese invaders did unspeakable things to the civilian Chinese population…I have seen the tunnels and holes the people lived in so they could avoid the Japanese…so they could keep their children and families alive during this time…I have also spoken with people who remember it…people who lived through it as children…in those holes and caves…not just for days, but years. Even after the Japanese surrender in 1945, civil war continued to ravage the country…it wasn’t until 1949 when Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the PRC that most of the fighting ended. To much of the population, it was a blessing…the country was drained financially, and living conditions were horrible…but, the establishment of the communist state offered peace, and the potential to rebuild and regain some form of normalcy in life. China had its sovereignty back.

Under communism, China did rebuild and slowly, since the 1970s, more economic reforms and freedoms have emerged. Today China continues evolving, and most people enjoy lifestyles comparable to the rest of the world.

I don’t remember learning any of this in school, nor college. It’s a pity because it allows for an entirely different perspective when you have more information available…and, when the information shows more of the big picture and not just focused propaganda.

Now for a different perspective on some recent dealings with China on the international level…it is no secret that China has been very supportive of North Korea – through trade and other means of support…and, it is no secret that as of late, North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un has gone off the deep end threatening to haphazardly throw nuclear weapons around. The US wants pressure from China on North Korea, so Kim Jung Un evens out and halts his nuclear ambitions. Now, China has been working with the United Nations and has stepped up a bit with their efforts to put this issue to rest; however, this issue is much bigger for them…they share a border with North Korea and if problems break out on the peninsula, they inherit millions of refugees. They also have no real desire for America to occupy the North and replace Kim with US military forces…in their mind, if the US military is right next door, and leadership changes in Washington down the road, they have a potentially threatening situation on their hands…and they really don’t want to take the chance. The media plays hard on China, yet they leave out the real issues, which often makes China look like they support Kim’s madness when they don’t…they just have a lot more to consider – from both sides – than the US does.

Let me reiterate for a moment that the Chinese people are not the same as the Chinese government…I think the media doesn’t differentiate that very often. The people of China look up to the US – even though the internet is often censored, they still see American films, and listen to American music…they generally have a lot of respect for Americans, and Westerners in general. Some of the news is censored, like I mentioned…and here is the problem…they can get most of the mainstream media programs…and, for the most part they take it as gospel…which is a shame…the people I have personally spoken to found it hard to believe that our own media programs broadcast stories and not always the truth…to them it didn’t make sense that there could be such widespread deception…additionally, all the rhetoric and dissension with the media and celebrities is destroying that good image I mentioned…it is a fact that many of them see it as a weakness in our culture…many are starting to believe our entire country is one big Hollywood movie…all the lies and all the hatred and the apparent lack of respect and real control by authorities, and the general lack of respect shown across all media outlets…it is truly a shame that our own citizens would rather dodge accountability and responsibility than show real integrity – in China, this epidemic in America is slowly tearing down any respect they once had for us.

So the next time the media spouts off about how “evil” China is for not allowing Google and Facebook into their economy, think about it for a moment…the media calls it overwhelming censorship (which, might be part of their motivation), but the Chinese government is also a bit uneasy about letting politically motivated social networks and media outlets perpetrate the same violence they inspire in America…in reality they know that opening up their economy to such irresponsible companies could lead to similar problems, just on a scale five times as grand…so, they want nothing to do with it.

So, I have spent some time defending some of China’s policies…I don’t want that to be my message. I just think if people had the whole story they might realize that there are bigger considerations than what the media is claiming.

Not everything is perfect in China, but things are much different than they are portrayed. Communism is not better or even equal to the freedoms we have in America. Right now, though, China is not ready to adopt our political system. At the rate they are going though, they will probably be ready for it when they get there.

Okay, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed the program, and please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. I hope to have you back for the next segment, which I will hopefully have out soon.

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