Why do the Chinese get so touchy about their country’s image? After a series of difficult conversations outside Beijing cinemas, Dan Edwards has a few ideas:
China’s leaders contend that their rigorous suppression of a critical popular arts sector is in the interests of a “harmonious society”, to use current party parlance, an argument that carries considerable weight in a vast nation with a history of internecine conflict. Recent decades have seen China come a long way in terms of economic and social progress under policies of tight control. However, given the many issues faced by the People’s Republic as it moves into the 21st century, China’s rulers are ultimately doing their people a gross disservice by muzzling creative and critical interrogations of the nation’s history and contemporary situation.
It will take more than putting a mindlessly positive spin on every issue for the nation to come to terms with its history and face up to its current challenges.
Blocking, silencing and blacklisting alternative voices might make party cadres and young nationalists feel less insecure, but problems and contradictions don’t disappear simply because they’re not on television.