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Kai's Diary, April 29: A Perspective on Freedom (Part 2)


Part 4 of 4, in Kai’s essay, ‘Lack of Trust’ concerning Western bias and the pursuit of understanding in the time of COVID

Kai and Xiaolin enjoying a sunny day in Eling park

Kai and Xiaolin enjoying a sunny day in Eling park (Photo by Kai/iChongqing)

In China, things remain good, nationally, hovering about 300 cases caught in quarantine from international imports, 4 in serious conditions. It’s the world’s largest COVID-free bubble, and students study, business thrives, people eat at restaurants, and we continue to wear masks on subways, flights, and in crowded areas and monitor temperatures, show QR codes to indicate healthy, to keep it that way. It’s been months since anyone died of it. We’ve got great treatments and a lot of resources to spare because of our early diligence and vigilance. I don’t see a summer vacation to Canada or anywhere else happening, sadly, so I’ll try to stay busy writing and hope for a chance to see my family again when I can. At least we have video chats and online hockey with my dad. My grandma is well, loving her Blue Jays baseball games and hockey when there’s no ball game. She said she’s really proud of my book and supportive of me to keep writing. I want to see them again soon.

I had an appointment to get a Chinese COVID vaccine but canceled due to a bad cold, sore throat that went to my lungs. It feels like bronchitis, so I’m on meds for a week and have just two classes left before I have a week off for midterm exams. By then, the May labor day holiday will be a scorching hot 36 degrees. Chongqing’s summer starts early: shorts, T-shirts, and an average of 40 degree days until November. There are worse places to spend a pandemic as long as I don’t turn on the news.

Geopolitics? I will don’t want to be writing about this. I don’t want to get into it. I’ve been happy, not arguing on the internet for a few months, just focusing on my life. My rationale has been pretty clear: anyone I could have swayed to prepare for the pandemic was prepared, and any information I could have given to help people make responsible choices such as mask, social distancing, and vaccine decisions were made for the most part. When I talk about China, people sour my punch.

Ok, so I might still have something to say, now and then, on COVID. Still, I was happy to let my work stand and move on to my own recovery, to new projects, but it’s clear now that the pandemic is still blooming. I would be remiss to lose track of something I have spent so much time on top of, and with China so often coming up negatively in Western news, I need to say my piece, as unpopular as it may sound. Having encountered so much bias against China while trying to help inform my friends and readers about the pandemic has really had me thinking about why. Having read about the #StopAsianHate movement has made me angry at the racism in the West and want to push back.

If 2020 and COVID made everyone an amateur epidemiologist, or virus specialist in lay terms, 2021 and being an ex-pat in China is requiring I become a miniature ambassador, delicately representing the best of the West and diffusing the anger my students feel overhearing that their favorite brands are embarrassed to be working in their country while graciously accepting the business of the world’s largest capitalist market. Recently these brands engaged in a tough conversation about accusations of slave labor, genocide, concentration camps in China’s western region. Loaded words. If true, proven, and verified, these are serious allegations that should have to be explained, amended, ended. One problem I find in dealing with Western and Chinese issues is transparency. The West expects everyone to work like them, aspire to become them, and operate like them. They feel the relative privacy, secrecy, and opaque governing and security of the Chinese implies something to hide. This is not a matter of factly correct, but try to tell the West that, and they might blow a gasket. At least, they will most likely fail to understand. Western people like to talk about freedom and use freedom and democracy interchangeably. This is why they can’t imagine another society, another civilization, could function so smoothly. After seven years in China, I do believe that the people here are happy, with their own system, with their society. I often think their culture is much happier, having seen for myself they don’t like to complain, often are grateful for simplicity, and truly seem to enjoy the company of their family. They view each other as a large extended family of sorts, and I am honored to have been accepted into the fold. My wife and her family have been nothing short of wonderful for me, and my life here has been truly blessed. As much as the West fails to understand and often respect Chinese society properly, it is another kind of happiness nonetheless. But I want to go farther, out on a limb.

In the West, we feel democracy is the goal every country should aspire towards, even though many popular plans and ideas never become law because a small group of hyper-rich corporate elites makes more money depriving us of what we want. Things like health care, good environmental policy, and working wages for ordinary people, or gun control in America, an affordable housing market, etc., consistently poll over 75%. In a proper democracy, that means we should have them. The fact we don’t show me we don’t really have the democracy we believe in, but rather, a form of corporate oligarchy controlled by a few techs and media giants and a giant military-industrial complex aiming for global domination under a thin coat of paint, a thin veneer of choice that leaves us arguing at dinner tables and ruining family gatherings like it really matters what color we choose. They have their priorities, and we are free to choose the window dressing as long as it doesn’t challenge their powerful stranglehold. And this whole machine is really intimidated by the rise of China, a country set to double or triple America’s GDP by 2030, and frankly, will do anything to slow China down by any means necessary. That doesn’t make them right. In fact, I’d argue the opposite.

The problems are with nuance and difference and not being able to or why we shouldn’t want to judge everyone with the same stick. Although in the West most people assume China has a single-party system, I even assumed that, it’s actually multi-party cooperation and political consultations under the leadership of the CPC. While no system is perfect, I don’t believe many recognize the remarkable accomplishments China and the ASEAN nations have brought to their people in recent decades, or, to their peril, that Asian prosperity is changing the single story of Western dominance to a polyphonic orchestra that will allow for the rise of an African Union, a South American Union, and many voices and stories to be heard. The CCP that is a popular target, “it’s not the Chinese people we have an issue with, it’s their government,” being a popular line — but a clever ruse to insinuate ‘regime change,’ when in fact, if you ask the Chinese people how they feel about their government and their futures, stats and facts clearly show: they are overwhelmingly more positive than any Western nation. To my limited knowledge, in China, anyone could join and decide to pursue a career in government. And what is preferable? A stable government with qualified leaders with decades of experience in education, politics, and management, or a system where any TV show host can mock disabled journalists for a cheap laugh and get elected without any qualifications or ability to govern? I feel like the pandemic made that pretty clear. We see the places where COVID was taken seriously and scientists listen to prosper, while those where it was underplayed and ignored flounder. I know, I’m probably rambling to myself but if you’ve hung in this far, let’s see how far the rabbit hole goes.

Freedoms are an interesting idea too. Only in America would people insist freedom means anyone can carry an automatic rifle into a McDonalds’, and school shootings occur daily across the country. In China, we have another kind of freedom, the freedom to feel safe in a country without guns, the freedom to send our kids to school without worrying their peers will murder them. Police in America shoot and kill more than 1000 people every year, especially targeting certain racial, ethnic, and economic groups brutally. In China, police don’t even carry guns, and we aren’t scared to approach or interact with them. We have the freedom to pursue meaningful careers with an affordable cost of living, growing economy, buy homes and support our families, retire well and leave a legacy for our children. We have affordable health care, excellent education, and new policies of mass tree planting, electric cars, a campaign to clean our rivers and air, poverty alleviation, the best trains and infrastructure in the world — the freedom to be happy.  I say this not to brag, but because I think we could learn a lot in the West from China, but I understand if you don’t believe me. The problem is a lack of trust. 


To be continued in part 3.


A Tour in Chongqing, A Gain in Vision

A Land of Natural Beauty, A City with Cultural Appeal

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