Tuesday, June 07, 2011

China takes a few more steps in becoming a normal country

President George W. Bush is greeted by Chinese...A speaker, and a potential speaker via Wikipedia
A few weeks ago I had to explain a few times why I was no longer spending as much time in China as in the past. "It is becoming a normal, boring country," was one of my explanations, an explanation I had to correct immediately.

Compared to the China I discovered in the first half of the 1990s, changes have been amazing. Economy is continuing to grow like crazy. Personal freedom has increased even more. That does not mean all is well, or even close to normal, but what annoys or shocks relative newcomers in the country, does not surprise me at all.

Telling those newcomers that they are much better off compared to the 'old' days, is not very productive, certainly not when you are working as a journalist and have to pretend governmental harrasment of journalists, intellectual property and human rights is actually news, not a relative improvement. And again: there is still loads of improvement possible.

So, it is good to see today that the upcoming leadership, that will be in charge in 2012, is already throwing a shadow again.

First, the announcement that Peng Liyuan, the wife of upcoming president Xi Jinping, is taking up a public role as Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS for the World Health Organization. You cannot imagine what a positive change that can bring. At the China Speakers Bureau we get regular requests for Chinese politicians. But while Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and even George Bush travel the world to speak to many audiences, for a fee, we cannot offer intelligent Chinese alternatives like Zhu Rongji or Madame Wu Yi. Now, we might still have to wait another eight years before we can sign up the upcoming leadership as international speakers, but I'm willing to wait for that moment.

Also, the announcement that the People's Daily, the mouth piece of the Communist Party, preferred a picture of tennis star Li Na on its front page in stead of their leadership is a small, but significant change.

You see, I can still get excited about these small steps forward. But that is what the country has been doing over the past two decades, and should be appreciated.

(Earlier published at the Fons Tuinstra's home.)

Update: Just got this story in from our defense speaker Wendell Minnick. Certainly a third example of a changing attitude.

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