I lived half my life in China, half in US. The US media coverage about China is stuck in the cold war and laughable at best. Yet people eat it up.
Here’re 10 myths about China you often hear that are patently false👇
Note: I’m not interested in value judgments. Reality doesn’t care about what you think how things should be. Read this only if you want to expand your horizon and understand other versions of “truth”. The latter may require temporarily suspending your own belief system.
Myth 1: The Chinese are oppressed and hate their government.
If you ask most Chinese if they feel oppressed, they will laugh you off.
Chinese government has one of the highest approval rates in the world. Economy has thrived for 4 decades, lifting a generation out of poverty. Society is stable and safe. Social mobility is better than most part of the world.
For most people, what more do you ask from a government?
How about free speech and democracy? You say. Don’t the Chinese care about those?
Hate to disappoint you, but most people don’t give a f*ck. The Chinese value stability above all else and willing to pay a lot for it. They think government control of speech and media is mostly good for “social harmony”. And nothing is more important than economic stability.
Myth 2: The Chinese government are communists.
The Chinese governing party are communists in name only. They are shrewd pragmatists who have embraced free markets. They will happily adopt new ideas that benefit the economy, as long as it doesn’t threaten their control of the country.
Myth 3: The Communist Party will be overthrown by “the people”.
China has 1.4 billion people so competition for everything— school, jobs, housing, etc— is fierce. Most smart people are too busy trying to get ahead in society than becoming political radicals.
People in the west listen to their media and think the Chinese live miserably and will “rebel” if given a chance. Rebel against what? Higher living standard and social mobility?
Chinese media is no better, of course. They exaggerate everything to make the US look like a disaster.
The media in all countries are simply mouth pieces of prevailing ideology. If you listen to them, you have no chance at independent thinking.
Myth 4: The Chinese want democracy.
Only a tiny fraction in China clamors for democracy. They are hailed as oppressed heroes by western media. But these people do not matter in China at all.
If you ask the Chinese if they should adopt democracy like the US, they think you’re out of your mind—
Oh, you mean running expensive dog & pony shows called election campaigns, giving every meth addict who can’t hold down a job a vote, letting new government throw all the projects from previous government in the trash bin, and then 4 years later doing it all over again?
Nationalism is alive and well in China. People find it puzzling—and annoying— that the US tries to lobby everyone else to adopt their own system. The state media encourages that lining of thinking of course.
Myth 5: The Chinese economy will collapse.
Chinese economy has a wall of problems just like everywhere else. It’s got a dysfunctional banking sector, inefficient state-owned companies, poor governance, corruptions, rigidities of all sorts as legacies from central planning era…
But don’t miss the forest for the trees.
None of those problems cancel the fact that it’s one of the most dynamic economies in the world, which is also becoming increasingly resilient as the growing middle class lifts domestic demand.
Myth 6: Tibet is oppressed and needs to be saved.
This is a favorite indignation among my spiritual leftie friends in the US. “Why doesn’t the Chinese government allow religious freedom?”
Why would they? Do realize that unlike Christians in the US, Tibetan religious upper class before communists were the political and economic ruling class— they were the government. Why would the Chinese government allow that given they are all about centralized control?
Tibet is not an abundant place. High altitude, harsh climate, barren land except some parts in the south. It’s always been a net recipient of subsidies from the central government.
Most people in China would tell you after the communists took over, Tibetan social structure became more equal, infrastructure improved and living standard much better for the average person.
That’s their narrative. Of course they are biased. But the religious freedom warriors in the west are no less so.
Myth 7: China will let Taiwan be independent if America insists.
When you’re the central authority of a large tribe, you need the trust from your tribe that you have the power to defend its safety, dignity and status. If you lose that trust, you’re dead.
No leadership of China will survive domestically if they allow Taiwan to go independent. They will fight this one to their death and some more.
On the other hand, what do the Americans get fighting for Taiwan? If they start a war with the Chinese on this, it would become another Vietnam in best case scenario. What for?
China is 120% committed to its position on Taiwan while the Americans are halfhearted in theirs. You can deduce the rest.
Myth 8: Other countries in Asia love America and hate China.
Smaller countries in Asia increasingly rely on China for their exports. Individually they need China more than China needs them. And they cannot act collectively because these countries’ interests are too often opposed to one another.
So they want the Americans to be around to balance the weight of China in the Pacific, in case they get bullied by the latter. But they have no loyalty to either.
Myth 9: The Chinese government won’t survive [Internet / blockchain / insert your favorite tech savior]
The Chinese are used to being governed by a centralized authority. It’s been like that for thousands of years.
They believe when the central authority is strong, the country prospers. When it’s weak, the country is thrown in chaos. The history of the past 200 years has only reinforced that belief.
Technology has changed things on the margin, but also given the central government more tools to exercise control. None of this is going to change in foreseeable future.
Myth 10: China can’t innovate because it’s not free.
The Chinese system over-values conformity, stability, and risk aversion. None of that is good for innovation and it’ll always be a weakness.
But it’s a big country with a big market and many smart people. Entrepreneurs who survive the cut-throat competition in China are truly cream of the crop.
The governments at all levels do not hesitate to throw big money into incubators and startup zones. Their system is rigid so they will waste a lot of money in those. But again, what they lack for producing fearless originals, they make up for it in numbers.
It is too easy to live in our own ideological box and believe that’s the whole world.
If you think the Chinese are brainwashed by their government propaganda, know that you are brainwashed by the system you grew up in, too. Thinking you somehow have more “free will” than them is pure ignorance and hubris.
Freedom lies in the ability to hold conflicting points of views and see them as what they are— opinions. Idiocy is forgetting that your opinions are nothing more.