Kev’s Thoughts On… the Carrefour boycotts

Posted: May 5th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

This was an interesting comment my friend James left for me, so I thought I’d repost his comment and my response below for you. Hope you’ll continue the thread.

  1. James

    This is sort of off-topic, but whatever.

    I was talking with my friend chuck the other day (after more hot pot), and he was wondering about the pro-government protests going on in response to foreign criticism of the chinese government. he was amazed that in just 20 years, the students who would have previously protested for democratic change are now essentially towing the party line. he didnt really understand what brought about this change.

    i argued that it was mostly the economy, that the increased chance of real prosperity has diverted people’s attentions away from political change and more on economic well-being. i also thought that it wasnt so much a pro-nationalist movement as much as an anti-foreigner one. i.e. most chinese people know their government isnt perfect, but they take issue with the rest of the world telling it what to do.

    i was curious as to your thoughts on this.

  2. 1 Kevin Lee

    Hey James, always appreciate your input and your thoughts!

    To comment on your response:
    I think its important to remember that the students who protested the government 20 years ago are not the same students boycotting Carrefour today. There is 4+ generations in between those 20 years. That’s 20 years that China’s leaders have consciously tried to adjust the education system to ensure that an event like 1989 won’t happen again. Maybe they’ve achieved their purpose? That’s still up for debate.

    The students that protested 20 years ago are still here today, albeit not students anymore. But most of them still hold the same sentiment as they did then. They haven’t gone away. We’re just witnessing a spotlight on a different generation.

    And that doesn’t mean that this generation is “towing the party line”. Far be it. You’re very shrewd to point out there can be different interpretations of this movement. One protest is not identical to the next.
    This current one is not anti-foreign (its only directed at the French, not all foreign nations) and its not as broad-based as pro-nationalist (this is reactionary to a specific event, not propaganda-led). Its more of an immature reaction like “you ruin my party so I’ll ruin yours”. Its like getting back at someone for being a jackass and causing a scene at your wedding.

    And this issue is very different than the other, i.e. freedom of speech. The very same students writing “(L)CHINA” on their MSN names now for this are the same who would show up at a rally to lobby for greater social freedoms within the Chinese system. They know their country isn’t perfect, but its still their country, and they’re proud of it regardless. So they will popularly support their government on some issues, and tenuously engage their government on others. But they believe their country is doing the best it can, with the situation it is in.

    So the difference isn’t that one generation is completely against the government and the next is completely for it; its more of a matter of different spotlight on a different generation protesting a different issue.

    1989, Tibet, etc. all those issues are still here. But this is the Olympics, a time when the Chinese genuinely want to embrace a harmonious society. And so they’re hoping, and asking that the world stop using this as an opportunity to shame China for what it hasn’t achieved yet, but instead celebrate what China has achieved thus far.