Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Conversation with my Speaking Partner

Last week I met up again with Anne (not her real name) and we had a nice time, as usual, practicing our respective foreign languages. During our English time, we talked a lot about President Obama and his recent trip to China. She's a pretty big fan of Obama's, as am I, and so we chatted about why we like him. She is optimistic that he won't interfere in China's business, and I like that he's smart, thoughtful, and a good communicator. I also mentioned that I liked him much more than his predecessor, and an interesting conversation ensued. (Keep in mind that these issues are still very sensitive here, and that they don't have freedom of information or press). 

Anne: Why don't you like President Bush? 

Maggie: I didn't like President Bush because I didn't like a lot of his policies. Also, we went to war in Iraq, and during that time there was a lot of torture and human rights abuses. 

Anne: Do you think China has human rights abuses?

Maggie: Well, I think a lot of countries do, including America. But yes, I think China does have some human rights abuses. For example, people being in prison for a long time without a trial - 

Anne: But, have you seen the movie - the Shank...?

Maggie: The Shawshank Redemption? Yes, I have.

Anne: Well, that man was in prison for a long time and he was innocent.  

Maggie: Absolutely, it happens in America as well, and it's terrible. But I think it also happens in China. 

Anne: Perhaps there are a few cases, but I think the news you get is not always right. It's not always accurate. Do you read the BBC news?

Maggie: Not really, I mostly read The New York Times. 

Anne: Well, sometimes one event will happen, and they will take a photograph of another event, and use that photograph in the story. It happened this summer, with Xinjiang. It makes me so angry! China is not an aggressive country. When there are problems in Xinjiang or in Tibet, they have to go in there, just to...I'm not sure how to say...

Maggie: Keep the peace?

Anne: Yes! To keep the peace. China just wants to have harmony. Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang - it is all one China. 

[Awkward pause]

Maggie: Well, that's why it's good for me to talk to people like you, and see what you actually think. Because you're right, the news I get in America is not the same news that you get. 

We talked some more, but that gives you the main idea - I still think she's super smart and spunky and awesome, but as an official member of the CPC, she clearly believes the party line. I may not be an expert on the country, but I do know that China has lots of human rights issues. I would check Amnesty International to give you some cold, hard facts, but the website is blocked - of course. Oh, China! 


  1. Mag, you really need to read that book, River Town. I think you'd find a lot of it really relate-able!

  2. What a facinating conversation, thanks for sharing that with us! I feel like when I listen to the news (NPR of course) they do interviews with people in China and the interviews generally make me feel like oh everyone in China knows the real deal and no one really believes the party retoric but clearly that is not the case at al and I kinda feel silly in retrospect to feel like most people believe what my news source tells me

  3. Wow - this reminds me of conversations we had in Cuba. Although China clearly has flagrant human rights violations, Anne raises a good point that our media can misconstrue reality. I know that when the US has a political agenda, we can either overlook violations or exaggerate them. I appreciate the insight into the Chinese political perspectives. Keep em coming boo face!