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If I say this, you might not believe it – every Monday morning at 10 a.m., most Chinese high schools have a flag raising ceremony. Mine was one of them. All the students gathered in the playground to sing the national anthem as the red five-star flag was hoisted. Then we listened to a speech given by a student representative in a red scarf. A passionate statement on “how to be a good student in good times” or “why respect for teachers is important to young students”.
Although the ceremony seemed solemn and rigid, in reality most of the students did not take this tedious event seriously. I remember how some boys would chat, get confused with each other and make constant noise. They never really sang the national anthem, as you can imagine.
But not me. I am still amazed, even 10 years later, to remember how I would sing so loudly and with such devotion. The way I stared at that flag that goes up every Monday morning with “hot blood,” as the Chinese saying goes. Especially during the words “When the nation is on the line, facing the greatest peril, every Chinese is on call to get up and go out.” Sometimes I even wanted to cry.
This is how I grew up. When I was in elementary school, every “good student” wanted to join the Young Pioneers of China, a youth group sponsored by the Chinese Communist Party for children between the ages of six and fourteen. In high school, you would be expected to become a member of the Communist Party Youth League. The whole trip is so selective. To be accepted into these groups, you had to be the top student in terms of academic and ethical performance. All the young children who did so were proud to be members of this elite pre-CCP youth league.
I am of course one of them. Growing up in a small town in Inner Mongolia Province of China, as a Mongolian minority, I always wanted to step out of the environment I lived in and see the world as a whole. I studied hard and passed a very selective test, and was admitted to a special high school in Beijing for non-Han minority students who came from different parts of China, such as Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet or Yunnan.
I did well. I learned how to recite Basic Ideas of Marxism perfectly, something you need for college entrance exams in China if you are a liberal arts student. I could tell you things like “surplus value is equal to the new value created by workers beyond their own labor cost, which is appropriated by the capitalist as profit when products are sold” . Don’t worry about figuring out what this complicated jargon means, we’ve got a fixed and correct answer. I did not doubt what I was told at that time, and I felt blessed to have this opportunity, as a student of the non-Han Chinese minority, to study in the powerful capital of China.
The turning point in my attachment to the party and its ideology came during a course in journalism and communication theory that I took at the Shanghai University of International Studies. I had an unusually outspoken liberal professor. One day we had a heated argument about these rules and beliefs I had about the company and the party.
“Why does China have to follow collective ownership?” ” he asked me.
“Because China is a country ruled by the democratic dictatorship of the people,” I replied quickly.
“And what is the popular democratic dictatorship? he challenged.
“Democracy over the people and dictatorship over the enemy,” I say.
“What is democracy and what is a dictatorship?
He asked a follow-up question to each of my answers. I fought back with what I had learned from those high school textbooks. But the arguments eventually took me in a different direction.
In an effort to find the holes in his theory and argue, this semester I carefully read all the books he recommended to us – texts like On freedom by John Stuart Mill, Four theories of the press by Wilbur Schramm, 1984 by George Orwell, and so on. Each week he would assign us several chapters of a book to read and ask us to submit a report on what we agreed and disagreed with.
He was also the supervisor of our campus newspaper. That’s how I really got to know him.
We once did an investigative article about overloading our dining room with poor quality food. This annoyed the school officials, who of course “invited” him for a conference after that. I think he must have argued so hard, just the way he challenged my questions in class. Eventually he saved our story from being killed, and that’s probably when I started to understand this rebellious figure and why he was always so outraged.
Fortunately, in the Chinese higher education system we have a lot of professors who hold opinions like hers. But few of them express their point of view as openly as he does. I also heard that he was denounced by one of his former students to school officials about his “anti-party tendency”. He once made a joke about it in class.
My feelings towards the party became more complicated, although as a “model student” in order to maintain a high GPA, I still studied hard to get top marks in my compulsory theory course. of Marxism.
But I began to notice how the world Karl Marx had described was different from the one we Chinese actually lived in. Why, for example, does Marx say that workers can achieve moral and political victories through strikes and are independent unions illegal?
Why does Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution say that citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of expression, while we are questioned or arrested if we demonstrate in the streets?
I became more and more confused by the contradictions between what the CCP said, what was written, and what it did.
For me, the question was not whether communism is a good or bad ideology, as it is still an open question for me today, depending on how many years I have been trained for. believe him.
My biggest disappointment about the party and government I had trusted so much was: Does China, led by the current CCP, still live up to its own declared ideals? Has it come to the point where a party founded almost a century ago by young people full of ambition for progress has become a place of increasing hypocrisy, authoritarianism, inconsistency, exploitation and lies?
Today, the CCP celebrates its 100th anniversary. There are speeches, parades and all kinds of propaganda in China, so that people memorize some history of the birth of this party and the efforts of these early pioneers.
But that sounds almost sarcastic to me. I watched one of the propaganda TV shows produced by China Central Television Network this year. It tells the story of Duxiu Chen, who founded the CCP 100 years ago. He was the first person to introduce the idea of ”democracy” to China, he supported individualism and a Western moral system that values human rights and science. He was the first secretary general of the Communist Party, but was later expelled when he himself became a dissident.
When I watch this TV show, I still feel touched when I see how Chen fought so hard to promote these ideas to the Chinese. I think a part of me still hasn’t changed, I still care so much about China and its lovely people.
And then I suddenly began to understand why, ten years ago, this girl wanted to cry while listening to the national anthem. It was because she loved her country and loved the people around her. The words that said if your homeland and your people are in danger, you should go out to protect them – those words resonated with her. This young girl was carried away by the biggest logical trick of the CCP, which performed well in China: If you love your country and love the people around you, you should love the CCP.
An old friend of mine actively shared some opinions with me yesterday when he heard that I was writing an article about my relationship with the CCP. He was a classmate of mine at this minority high school, who later graduated from Fudan University in Shanghai, one of the best schools in China. He said he had negative opinions about the party when he was young but changed his mind completely after majoring in political science.
“I think the CCP represents the interests of most people, unlike the two-party system,” he wrote. “You see how well China is doing in economic development. China’s policy on minorities is unique and great, and you and I have both benefited from it.”
I don’t know how we ended up so different, even with similar backgrounds and life paths. But who knows?
Maybe he’s right, since I’m the one far from China.