On some days one just has to sit back and appreciate the arcs of chaos and development that emerge out of Northeast Asia.
Let’s start with just one cluster of chaos, the Huanqiu Shibao’s “Society” page. It’s not high society we (or they!) are concerned with today, but instead a few reminders of a certain tendency toward cruelty that can ensnare families. Like this story (call it sensationalistic, but you can’t doubt it) about a child who was chained to a street pole in Hubei and offered up, in that manner, for adoption. So his father was beaten up by people in the street and the journalists showed up to meet his grandfather. If China was the United States and they had political campaigns, this kid would be anecdote #1 about how there’s still a long way to go.
Since it’s been about a year since Deng Yuchao killed a lecherous official in Hubei, Huanqiu Shibao decides to run an extended story on how she’s doing today. Unlike many other people her age, at least she seems to be finding gainful employment.
Just in case anyone forgot we’re dealing with a slightly different political culture in the PRC, Xinhua provides this photo gallery of the May 23 festivities on the Yangtze, where almost 1800 swimmers dove in to relive the good old days:
But wait! The whiplash isn’t over by any means. We reel back into the “society” page to find a dolorous story of two female cell phone thieves who trampled a baby to get what they wanted. Fortunately a nurturing cop showed up as the personification of harmony:
Then there are stories (with photos) of reporters getting beaten up, water mains bursting on the 3rd ring road in Beijing, and a truly bewildering set of photographs from the scene of all things Chinese: a pedestrian overpass that appears to combine commercial activity with enchantment, protest, and mob politics:
Somehow I think we can all take solace in the fact that China may be even more interesting than 1789 Paris.
Finally, we have a cultural debate over Shandong school children wearing Japanese-style kimonos (or was it Han-era clothing?), which is presumably meant to coincide with the spreading prevalence in Chinese media of softening stance toward Japan. A rather striking editorial came out today in that regard, entitled “For Asia to Rise, Sino-Japanese Cooperation as a Foundation 吴建民：亚洲崛起，中日合作是基础.” But none of this means that all things are great with Japan. An editorial yesterday described the dangers of China developing modern society along Japanese lines:
社会高速发展时期, 大山可以被炸平，河流可以被改道，在新技术条件下，你可能承担数十倍于父兄时代的工作量但是，给你一 辈子的时间，你也不能长得比父兄高一倍。所以，在社会 大发展时代，人总在不断寻找着自己可以承受的极限。 和中 国很相似，日本也曾用30年时间实现了战后经济腾飞的“奇迹”。然而，如果审视这个奇迹的背后，我们会发现，日本社会同样经历了这种变革需求与人自身承受能力的激烈冲突。 而作为这类冲突的副产品，便是各种超越道德底线的犯罪和极端行为。
In a period of rapid development, great mountains can flattened with explosive and the path of rivers can be diverted; under the conditions of new techniques, a person can undertake many times the workload which his father’s generation had done. However, in all the time allotted in one life, you can not grow more than twice as high as your father and his brothers. Therefore, in an era where society is undergoing huge development, people are ceaselessly searching for their own limits. And China is very much like this.
Japan experienced a 30-year “miracle [奇迹]” period of postwar economic boom. However, if we look behind this miracle, we can discover that, in this period of history, Japanese society has undergone a fundamental change, and what people need — and what people can afford to bear — has become a zone of intense conflict. Such conflict has by-products, and beyond the moral bottom line lies all kinds of crime and extremism.
While I think we’ve now come full circle for today’s entry, there is, of course, the cloud of war hanging over the Korean peninsula, and even over the recent US-China economic talks. Fortunately only 23% of Huanqiu readers polled think there will be another war soon in Korea, and in the meantime I would urge you, if North Korea’s relations with China interest you, to keep an eye on my Twitter feed and check out the big news page linked below.