Despite recent advances in freedom in China, speaking openly there about policy and politics is still frowned upon, when not expressly forbidden. To get to the truth and hear ordinary citizens speak their minds, one must first become a trusted friend.
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Once you are close and invited home, conversation may turn to policy. Of course only after the children are in bed and the pijiu flows freely. The lights will be dimmed; music from famous artists that were killed or imprisoned for speaking out plays in the background, and in hushed tones the free speech begins.
Oddly, those Chinese that speak English are much more vocal about their concerns, confident that their fellow patriots won’t understand their dissidence. Even then, they glance over their shoulder, checking for others that may speak English, and stop promptly if someone does.
Although the Chinese I spoke with have concerns for the future, all claim they trust the government and feel things are moving in the right direction. Whether this is the true feeling, or just all they are willing to say out loud, is yet to be seen. If one criticizes the government often, it is a sure fire way to become disliked and ignored.
Currently, the media is government controlled, highly censored, and filled with pro-government propaganda. Even children’s’ cartoons that are imported from other countries are altered to fit the ideas of a unified China. Those Chinese that have the skill and the courage to evade China’s Great Firewall are the most well informed, but they still suffer from a lack of ability to express themselves publicly.
The gripes list starts with public health, as many are just becoming aware of the dangers of pollution and toxic waste. Safety is the second major concern, with twisting, chaotic traffic, and poor labor practices attributing to many injuries and deaths.
Freedom of speech and the press may be further down the line, although most don’t yet dream of it, and maybe then all the other problems will get more attention too.