June 6th, 2010
|05:25 pm - Obon trip to China, Takarazuka omiyage and some thoughts on TianAnMen 1989|
Ho-hum, another Sunday is here~
Just went shopping with a co-worker and got some furniture for the apartment. I used to only have a coffee table but I got tired of sitting on the floor and bought a taller table and chair so I don't have to kill my legs everyday. Also got this really cool cushion that has a back so when I do sit at my coffee table I can at least lean back on something.
Last weekend I went and bought myself a round-trip ticket to...*drumroll* CHINA~
That's right, in August we have a 1 week vacation for Obon and so I've decided to head to Beijing and spend the week with my family over there. I had initially wanted to save all my travelling for after my work, once my contract ended I had planned to go around Japan to Tokyo, Kyoto and other places with a friend then skip over to China together. We'd do some sightseeing and then when she goes back to Canada I had planned to stay in China and look for a job there for awhile, but China and Japan are so close and it's like that country's calling to me or something (or maybe that's just my family XD). So I figured what the hell, so what it'll cost a bit, I'll just buy a few less clothes and shop a little less for a few months (granted then I made the plan to go furniture shopping so...yeah OTL). I still plan to go to China after my work in Japan finishes since then I'll have more time but this August is going to be like...the appetizer trip so I can see my family and see how my birth city's doing after having hosted the Olympics. Tomorrow I'm going to go get my VISA and re-entry permit (need one of those if you're a foreigner working in Japan and need to leave temporarily) and then I'll be all set~ :D
In other news, my Japanese lessons have been going well. My teacher's totally awesome and I really look forward to going to lessons every Saturday evening even though Saturdays are our busiest days at the place I work. Every night after work I head over to this little cafe and study for about an hour to and hour and a half, currently I have to spend a lot of time trying to memorize all those hiragana and katakana characters but I'm almost done, just a few more weeks and I should have them all memorized and then I can spend more time on vocabulary and grammar and stuff. It's quite difficult to memorize all these characters (although they're quite fun to write) and even more so to the speed that I can look at a character and without thinking know how it's pronounced. My goal is to be able to follow the lyrics of songs in karaoke, that's the speed I want to achieve when it comes to reading hiragana and katakana.
Lastly, last weekend one of my students went to Osaka and Takarazuka for a vacation. While there she went to see their new show Trafalgar Square starring Yuuhi and knowing I loved Zuka too she brought me back some souvenirs :D A little military uniform handkerchief and 2 sets of Trafalgar Square face tissues, though I doubt I'd ever use them, they're so shiny and pretty *O* The chopsticks she got at a famous shrine and she even got my name carved onto them;
[EDIT]: Almost forgot about this since no one's mentioned it here and I haven't been checking the news that regularly, but last week was the anniversary of the June 4th incident at TianAnMen Square in China. Every year I feel a kind of deja vu over this incident because no matter how many years pass it's always the same thing. Some people use it as a chance to bash the Chinese government (again), some scream for the Chinese government to recognize the incident even though it's not like they're denying it happened in the first place, some people scream for the government to release the prisoners whom they caught over the incident and are still in prison though seriously, I don't know if they even should be released considering it's not like they were unquestionably in the right and completely just in their actions. It wasn't a good incident by any means, but I don't think it's as clear cut as people tend to think.
Everyone likes to point the blame at the government and say it was all their fault because let's face it, they're the government (and they're Communists to boot! *Gasp* A double sin on their part) and they were faced with these helpless students that were so innocent and naive and just wanted democracy for their country and for their voices to be heard.
Except, whoopsies, the demands weren't entirely centred around the question of democracy, nor was it just students, nor were the protesters all so innocent, nor were they completely helpless thanks to certain foreign interfering factors (otherwise how else would the so many of the leaders of the protests have managed to escape to countries in the Western hemisphere and are now living quite comfortably while some of their fellow supporters are still in prison in China after so many years?). Also, let's not forget it's not like the government completely refused negotiations from the start. They tried negotiations, government officials (several of them as a matter of fact) met with the protesters but they still refused to leave. Sure initially it might have been some students harmlessly protesting but by the end when the government was forced to take such severe action it was anything but harmless. Beijing was a chaotic mess with looters taking advantage of the chaos, and workforces in other major cities like Shanghai also threatened to strike in support of the protests, except whoopsies again, they forgot that the urban population of China, especially at that time was only a minority with the majority of the population just wanting to live their lives in peace and stability after having experienced so many years of turbulence and warfare. Personally I think any government ought to take the side of the majority of the population, not the minority, and just based on that alone I think the government was already too lenient in allowing the protests to go on for as long as they did. Take a look at what happened at Kent State University in the USA. Forget a few months, forget allowing students to gather in the capital city, the US sent the military right into the university campus within days of a protest seemingly on the verge of going out of hand and squashed it. If the CCP had done that they wouldn't have had as many casualties.
A lot of people nowadays cry for the CCP to 平反 the victims of June 4th, which means kind of like re-addressing someone that's been wronged or giving someone who's been wronged justice. Yeah, sounds great, except...hmm...that depends on whether or not one believes they've been wronged in the first place. To the true victims of the incident who whole heartedly believed they were doing the right thing or those innocent bystanders that got caught in the crossfire it is truly a tragedy that their lives ended under such circumstances. For those who instigated it and had other things up their sleeves, in my eyes they're criminals. Criminals have no place to demand justice. Because of those criminals victims were created and their loved ones had to suffer and for that crime they ought to be punished as according to the laws of the PRC.
While I hate it when Western media bashes on China for being Communist/repressive whatever, I don't necessarily back the Chinese government for some of their actions. Whenever you have a protest as big as Tiananmen, of course you're going to have people mixed in with not so good motives, but that doesn't mean that they were the majority of the protest movement either.
Also, to put Kent State shootings into context: the shootings of the students at Kent State by the National Guard caused NATIONWIDE protests across the country. As in 4 million students going on strike, and over 400 universities and schools being shut down as a result of the protesting. IMO, sending in the military was not the smartest idea, and arguably made things worse for the government on the protest front.
Also, having personal experiences as a student activist wanting reform at my own college, I am pretty cynical whenever people mention government officials or anybody representing institutional power "being willing to negotiate". Usually, what that means is that they meet with you... but they don't really give a crap about what you are saying and dismiss you entirely in an incredibly condescending manner.
I mean heck, if this was true of just a college, I'm sure it'd be exponentially more true when you're used to being in control of a huge country.
Personally, I think if the government had taken the student protesters more seriously in the beginning of the conflict, then it wouldn't have escalated the way it did.
But nobody ever takes student protesters seriously. Sigh.
My point is that I don't necessarily think that marching on the capital is a stupid or dangerous idea, considering that is has proven to be historically effective. Perhaps not in China, but certainly in other countries. So protesters who march on Beijing might do so with the thought that although previous marches on the capital have not been effective, well, there's a first time for everything.
When your numbers shut down the city and cause chaos it is both a stupid and dangerous idea, especially considering in hindsight they could very well have possibly been wrong. So if they were in fact effective and the government HAD caved to their commands, whether that would have been good or bad for China's development is highly questionable. Like I said, protesters aren't necessarily right by default, protests being effective isn't by default a positive thing.
Edited at 2010-06-06 11:02 pm (UTC)
I think the government DID take the students seriously. They sent several government officials to negotiate and I personally think that was one of their mistakes. They should have had one negotiation, heard what they wanted and ended it at that but instead by agreeing to more negotiations it let the protesters think that as long as they stayed there the government will continue to retreat until all of their demands are met. Deng KNEW that the demands being made of the government would cause the country to collapse and if one looks at what happened in the former USSR in 1991 one would realize that Deng was right to refuse the demands of the protesters. Students tend to be idealistic and think they can change the world by themselves, I used to think that way too in university and I too joined in protests up on Parliament Hill, but looking back the causes were unrealistic. I, like my fellow students, wished for a perfect country and wondered why it seemed so easy to achieve yet the government couldn't achieve it, but now I realize that no such thing as as perfect country exists. So perhaps Deng didn't take them seriously at the time because he knew China wasn't ready for it, but if those demands were anything along the lines of wanting a better life for the citizens of China then Deng delivered in the end because it was due to his economic reforms that China has become what it is today.
As for the looters who were mixed into the protest at TAM, of course they weren't the majority, they never are, but like the saying goes, the few bad apples ruin it for the whole bunch. What it does show is that the situation had gotten out of hand and that there were those who thought they could get away with conducting in a criminal behavior. That's dangerous for any country because if that fire isn't put out quickly then control can easily be lost.
What happened at Kent may have caused nationwide retaliation but it doesn't change the fact that compared to TAM there were very few casualties. If the US government had allowed the protests at Kent to brew into what it did at TAM then I'm willing to bet the casualty number would have been far superior. Likewise, my point for bringing up Kent was not that it was the right thing to do but that by acting on it quickly and not teeter-tottering with the protesters like the CCP did for weeks on end, many lives were probably saved. Think of it as looking for the silver lining on a storm cloud.
At the end of the day, I find it ironic that in the previous decades prior to 1989 Mao was the one that got impatient with developing China and ended up making two of the biggest mistakes in his life. By 1989, it was no longer the government that was impatient to develop but now it was the students' turn, after having just had a decade or so of peaceful development. I personally see it as lucky that Deng was the one in power at the time. He had seen much, had experienced much, and despite the fact that he handled TAM rather poorly, at least he didn't allow it to destroy the country and cause another decade of turbulence with possibly millions more lives lost if the USSR is any example.
People tend to like siding with protesters by default for whatever reason. My mother was a professor at a university in Beijing, she too sided with her students at first, it's just a natural instinct especially since the first group of protesters were students, however, that doesn't make them right by default. I especially question the dedication those student leaders had to the wellbeing of the country considering they all escaped to other countries after TAM. You don't change a country by escaping, no one changes a country by escaping. Ghandi didn't flee to another country and preach from abroad, Martin Luther King also didn't flee, all the revolutionaries who managed to successfully change their country and inspire their people risked their lives and led from within. Abandoning a country doesn't show me one is dedicated to it, and just by that act I have no sympathy for those student leaders as individuals.
I agree with you that China isn't ready for mass democratization, and that a sudden democratization would lead to a USSR-like collapse, so I'm not bashing Deng for what he did right or wrong. I also agree that Deng's economic reforms helped China become what it is today. (However, if you look at Chinese society today, it is also incredibly materialistic, and I would argue that the moral decline of Chinese society is also a pretty steep price to pay.)
I really don't think you can make the comparison of Kent State to TAM. The actions of the National Guard at Kent State are pretty universally condemned, especially because the National Guard did NOT have orders to shoot the students. The Presidential Commission on Student Arrest, ordered by President Nixon after Kent State and the subsequent 4 million student protest, concluded that "Even if the guardsmen faced danger, it was not a danger that called for lethal force. The 61 shots by 28 guardsmen certainly cannot be justified. Apparently, no order to fire was given, and there was inadequate fire control discipline on Blanket Hill. The Kent State tragedy must mark the last time that, as a matter of course, loaded rifles are issued to guardsmen confronting student demonstrators."
Yes, compared to TAM there were very few casualties. But the point is that there should have been NO casualties at Kent State at all. Even the Presidential Commission recognizes that. If the US had allowed the protest at Kent to brew, I'm pretty certain that there still would have been and should have been no casualties. Unless the casualties were again inflicted by the National Guard. But that goes back to the first point, which was that the National Guard was ill-prepared to face unarmed student protesters in the first place. The Guard was armed with bayonets and loaded guns. The students were armed with rocks. Not a smart choice.
For example, the 1968 Student Strike at San Francisco State was the longest student strike in US history, lasting for five months. No casualties.
The thing about Ghandi and King was that they were both assassinated. It is one thing to be assassinated in the public eye, because then at least you win something for your cause. It is quite another thing to be jailed forever in some no name jail and have the media forget about you, because China has no independent media to speak of, and we all know that Western media is fickle. While you might not change a country by escaping, you certainly can't change a country by sitting in jail with no media coverage. (If you're going to argue that Nelson Mandela changed his country from sitting in jail, I would agree. I would also say that the difference was the media coverage.) Everyone agrees that Ghandi, King, and Mandela were great individuals. Not matching up to Ghandi, King, or Mandela doesn't really say much...
Actually whether or not orders were actually given at TAM to open fire onto the protesters is debated. I know in the West the belief is that absolutely they were ordered to shoot the protesters in order to disperse them, but that wasn't actually the case. The soldiers were ordered to shoot above the protesters to disperse them, not at them, however because when the soldiers arrived many protesters surrounded them and some started to attack the soldiers resulting in injuries and even deaths...well when you have a gun and you see a fellow soldier and possibly friend getting killed I wouldn't say there's no possibility they ignored orders and shot into the protesters instead. This was why after TAM China invested in riot police because before TAM nothing like that had ever happened before under CCP rule, so they didn't have riot police with rubber bullets or water hoses, they HAD to send in the military. It's interesting you would quote a Presidential Commission on the conclusion of the Kent incident because the CCP can just as easily release something to that effect but hey, no one'd take them seriously because haha, they're Communists and we hate them.
As for the San Francisco student strike, although I don't know much about it I would imagine they didn't threaten to shut down the entire country and cause it's collapse did it? Did they conspire with students in other cities, gathering into their strike workers and shutting down an entire city and on the verge of shutting down several of the most major cities in the US? Because that's what China was faced with by the end of the TAM incident. Beijing had effectively shut down, because by the end of the protest it wasn't just students. When the USSR's president went to Beijing for a visit at the time they couldn't even get him into downtown Beijing.
I used Ghandi and King as examples because they're two of the most well known, however if you look at any other example it's the same. Hell even from China, that first generation of CCP leaders, they had every reason to flee, the country was in turmoil, by staying one can't be sure if one'd see the sunrise of the next day. People like Deng and Zhou were already outside of China studying abroad, they could easily have just stayed in France and not gone back to risk their necks, but they did. If they had tried to rally the people from France I doubt it would have worked quite as well. Ditching your supporters and escaping after you caused a big mess somewhere and leaving others to clean up after you, that doesn't sound very upstanding to me. Coming out every year or so on the anniversary of the incident to bitch about the CCP in foreign media because of it also doesn't sound very upstanding considering they were the ones who started it all.
Thats cool, girl! Going back to the roots... sighhh.
Hey, the upside of not having any furniture to sit on is that it very much resembles a traditional Japanese home and you could have a good old style tea ceremony! ^__^