China is a place of some very weird contrasts and contradictions.
The place is clearly an explosion of capitalism. High rise buildings dominate the skyline and even if you did not know that the economy is growing by a staggering 12 percent a year, you could not miss the fact that this is a booming country. Where once there were no cars, they now fill the roads. Sleek glass towers are not just in downtown Beijing, (which they are) but in every corner and suburb of this city of 15 million people. It is all new, all modern, all sleek and all expensive. Many parts of Beijing make New York look old and rather tired.
We had dinner last night with Maureen Fan, the Beijing correspondent for The Washington Post. (She has done a lot of video work here with Travis Fox, one of our favorite VJs).
We asked her how the Chinese can reconcile this unbridled economic growth and naked capitalism with their continuing Communist dogma. And make no mistake, the dogma (and apparently the repressive mechanisms of a police state) are still very much in evidence. Not speaking Chinese and wanting to go beyond the standard stare and look at the Forbidden Palace tourist, we hired a professional guide to take us inside Beijing for two days.
His grandfather had been a court physician to the last of the emperors, the Dowager Empress and then PuYi, the Last Emperor (if you saw the film). He was very much the product of the Cultural Revolution and the Socialist Workers eduction, but this did not prevent him from charging us an arm and a leg for his services. (Aren’t we also ‘the people’?)
In any event, his praise of the Party, the genius of Chairman Mao and so on was effusive and endless. What about the 50 million who starved to death during the Great Leap Forward, I asked.
“It was due to too rapid an increase in the population. The Chairman during that time had only a bowl of soup a day and drank his whole life only water from one single glass”.
Communism today in China is a bit like the OJ syndrome. I mean, we know he is guitly but he isn’t guilty.
We know China isn’t communist, but it is still Communist.
Does this makes sense?