It is almost a utopian scene to describe a world that everyone works, lives and strives for the betterment of everyone else. This “imagined community” in which all work together sounds like something only possible if you are smoking something the hippies call Ganga. This image of communism is such a stark contrast to those states that claim foundation in this belief. For many, the path of loving and supporting this political system ended in tragedy and heart ache. The fallen world we live in distorts any earthly man made utopia that we all desire.
Jung Chang’s book “Wild Swans” is a story of three generations of heartbreak and longing for something better. I first read this book about 15 years ago and it helped lay the foundation for understanding the generational brokenness that this country has endured. I doesn’t take long for one to recognize this has gone one in many households and is a secretive history that might cause some to look down on that individual. The cultural revolution was one of Mao Zedong’s most effective and long lasting tools. Setting the student masses on their teachers, parents or anyone they felt was different from them brought terror to a country, and kept Mao in charge despite all of the other radical ideas he had tried. He used these masses to keep others from taking his power and unfortunately shaped the direction of the country.
Through several generations of purging and propaganda a level of distrust was created that can be seen today. When westerners answer questions we often give away more about ourselves that most. For example when asked our name we often respond giving a short bio. The question was, “what is you name?” The chinese answer would be “greg” , not even a last last if that wasn’t asked. In China, even today we only answer the question that is asked. This idea of being friendly and sharing who you are in not something that is natural for Chinese. Having to worry about neighbors turning you in or witch hunt style accusations being levied on those you have issue with, keeps people from sharing more than they need. Unfortunately there are moves to regain some of this type of neighborhood scrutiny that an open blog is not appropriate to share.
This reminds me of a story my first Chinese teacher told me about her family. She is from the far northwest corner of china. This area is an area for Muslims and outcasts. As a foreigner I can ask innocent questions and it is understood as not too probing. I said “has your family been there for a long time?” She responded with a story of how her grandparents were land owners in Sichuan province (where the pandas live). When communist took over much of China’s interior was much like an feudal system with land owners and workers. She went into detail on how they were targeting during the distribution of wealth and thus needed re-education. They were marched from the middle of the country to the northwest and worked in labor and re-education camps. Of course her grandparents were never the same after this experience.When they were finally released they were required to stay in that area so they could help bring communism to the local people. She casually mentioned that her parents had experienced some intensive attention during the cultural revolution. (Though she didn’t want to get into it) She called the northwest her home and she recognized that something was lost in her history and family. Not wanting to bring shame to her country she quickly moved on not wanting to describe what was obviously a traumatic time.
“The Cultural Revolution not only did nothing to modernize the medieval elements in China’s culture, it actually gave them political respectability. ‘Modern’ dictatorship and ancient intolerance fed on each other. Anyone who fell foul of the age-old conservative attitudes could now become a political victim.”1 China current government began in revolution and that continued to express its displeasure for not achieving the harmonious utopia that was promised. Chinese desire to have a strong country and be seen as influencers of society. They tolerate a lot to achieve their place in the world. They believe authority and power comes from a strong (often overbearing) leader.
We all come to God with brokenness and need Him to help us see beyond it. For Chinese who are fearful of saying and doing wrong, coming to Christ is sometimes seen as looking for some strong leader to tell them what to do. This becomes almost an obsession for young people to find the correct path that God wants them on. The desire a strong and powerful leader that helps bring peace and stability in a fallen world. Christ does do this and as we all know, so much more. He not only leads but bring restoration to the brokenness this world creates.
(Thanks for patience this week as I am working off my phone this week)
1.Jung Chang. Wild Swans: Three daughters of China.(William Collins, 2012) 413