This post is a little late because currently it is National Day (Week) in China. Nationals Day, October 1st, is really a week long 4th of July for China. Businesses and schools shut down for the whole week. What a perfect time to do a post on politics!
A little background on China’s politics: The People’s Republic of China is a socialist country with a single party, the Communist Party of China. The leader of this party is the General Secretary. This person is similar to the president in the US. Like how in the US there is lobbying, and politicians have to “win” votes, here in China governmental leaders must gain consensus for new policies from party members, local/regional leaders, and other influential people ($$$). One stark difference is that control over the groups is done from control of information. The information available to the general public is carefully curated and sites that are “Western” or promote more individualistic thinking are banned.
When I tried to find articles on China’s politics it was very hard to find one’s that are not international policy based (US-China trade relations). I think this speaks to one the extent in which US politics dominate the global field and two the lack of information on China’s national politics.
There are two topics that are connected to the broad sense of “politics” that I am interested in. The first is LGBT rights in China. From my very first day here, I have been surprised by the number of homosexual couples I see around in public. Probably because I never really looked into it and had preconceived assumptions about China, I was very surprised by the prevalence of same sex couples on the trains, in malls, etc. In one of my classes, LGBT members of the Shanghai community have come and talked about their experience. It is fascinating to learn that there are Chinese equivalent apps to those of Grindr or Her. In a country where Google, YouTube, and Facebook are blocked it seems like there is a community that has found a loophole through these apps. Overall the Chinese government is disregarding the LGBT community. While decriminalized there are not rights for these individuals. However, public opinion has been shifting. In an article by the Economist, it is stated that a study from Peking University revealed a big generation gap: 35% of those born before 1970 said they would reject a child who was gay; only 9% born after 1990 agreed. Some people believe gay marriage will be legalized in China within the next 15 years (still a long time)!
The other topic that I find interesting are the “re-education” camps in China for the Uighurs people. Uighurs are one of the minority groups in China. They are Muslim, and the government sees this as a threat to communism. These camps have been around for 5 years but are just getting international attention now. These camps act outside of the legal system and while called “re-education” camps they are concentration/detention camps that utilize manual labor etc. On a basic level, their purpose is to brainwash Muslims to renounce their faith. From an interview with a former “inmate” it has been revealed that some of the things he was forced to do were to study communist propaganda for indefinite periods of time and chant slogans giving thanks and wishing for a long life to Xi Jinping (the current leader).
These problems mentioned were not visible this week. While I feel like National Day would be a perfect time for a political movement, it is the opposite. This week is about comradery, nationalism, China, and Mao (especially Mao). I almost feel bad for all the leaders that have come after Mao because no matter what they do it seems like Mao is the only leader in the eyes of the people.