I was out of town in Vermont and did not know about the New York Chinese rally until a friend emailed me a video clip two days later. I couldn't believe that there hadn't been any media coverage. I have a daily email subscription to New York Times' "Today's Headlines," and also Salon's news coverage. In addition, despite CNN's biased reputation, it is the easiest venue for current news and I check its website several times a day.
According to a Chinese post on mitbbs.org, the New York Times did send reporters but apparently chose not to publish any report. That the NY Times would smother news on such a huge event in its backyard is oddly surprising. The vast silence from all the
The main body of the pro-Olympics rally was overseas Chinese students, but there were also people from all walks of life, including some Americans. Thousands of people shouting "We love
Nationalism is a strange thing – it is more an emotion than rational thought. I didn't even think I had it. I was a political dissident when I lived in
Yet look what the media's overdone bias can do to a person like me: it unearths whatever little Chinese nationalism I'd had. This is called backfire.
Growing up during the Cultural Revolution, I'm usually suspicious of any mass activity. The excitement alone can be an irresistible magnet and rationality need not play a role. Similarly, rampant nationalism, be it American or Chinese, is a double-edged sword. It can unite a nation; it can also be divisive and make inter-cultural understanding that much more difficult. It can even lead to imperialism. In short, I have issues with nationalism. Still, even with all those misgivings, I felt strong sympathy toward the Chinese ralliers in
This said, it is time for the young Chinese to watch out for their overheated nationalism. Things turn to their opposites when they reach the extreme, as the adage goes.
Given this large background, I have mixed feelings toward the other, much quieter, event on the same day, at a different location: the launch of Yang Jianli's "Citizen Walk," starting from
It is a bit ironic that, Chinese who are either pro Beijing Olympics or protesting
I learned about the "Citizen Walk" from another friend's email days before. I don't know Yang Jianli personally, but have heard about his arrest and five-year imprison in
The reason that Yang Jianli chose June 4th as his arrival date at
On the other hand, the June 4th's gunshots and tanks became a fixture of
Given this, I'm not sure whose awareness Yang Jianli's walk will raise. Is it Americans or Chinese? If it's the latter, will a walk from
I had planned to report Yang Jianli's walk, but wanted to clarify a few points and gain a bit more understanding. I sent an email on May 3rd to ask the following questions, but did not receive a response.
- How do you think this walk will impact people now living in
- What is the distinction between "Citizen Power" and "people power" as the term used in 1960s-70s
- Do you think the strong nationalism among
- Why do you need to connect your activity with the Tibetan monks, given that they don't even want to be citizens of
I will share his response if I receive it – so far it doesn't look like he will.
The quiet steps of one man echo in the media while the shouts of thousands find no ears. It is easy to impress the Western media with any anti-Chinese government activity, unfortunately that may not be an advantage if Yang Jianli wants to get his message across to the real audience – the Chinese. This is not his fault; rather the complex situation makes his mission a more challenging one. A more thoughtful approach might be called for.
To put things in perspective, let me end this entry by quoting Zhou Shuguang, a 26-year-old blogger who lives in my home city
"I feel overseas Chinese students are more patriotic than us. They attach more importance to their identification possibly because they are discriminated against and experiencing cultural dislocation abroad. For those of us who live domestically, we don't feel what they feel. …they at worst are bullied by a different race; we who stay in the Mainland suffer from our own."
For this reason I give my best wishes to Yang Jianli; meanwhile I hope he will take the time to mull over my questions.