There was a fire here a few days ago.
Near Wuyi Square, a popular shopping area in downtown Changsha, a building caught fire. Smoke snaked upward and could be seen for miles, even through the haze of pollution.
The papers don’t mention the fire. It wasn’t in the news—-on television or the radio…
I didn’t realise it was that bad in China…
It’s not the total Orwellian hellhole the West makes it out to be, but, yeah, some things are fucked up here. The government is incredibly corrupt and it censors a lot of news. For instance, it’s nearly impossible to find actually accurate statistics on any kind of issue that would make China look bad: you can’t find official statistics on rates of domestic violence (which is sadly quite common) or eating disorders, for instance. The government doesn’t want people to know about these things.
The schools have a sort of “patriotic education” class that teaches pretty much blatant propaganda. There’s a lot of government censorship of the news media, and of course there is also the Great Firewall of China, which bans lots of websites.
In history class, students don’t learn about the Tiananmen Square incident at all. Many young people don’t even know that it happened. One of my friends told a student about the event. The student said, “No way! That never happened!” My friend replied, “Ask your parents about it.” The next day, the student came back and said that, yes, his parents admitted that it had happened, but all they would say about it was “We really don’t want to talk about it.”
Over and over again, Chinese people have told me that they’re really surprised to see American TV shows that portray official authority figures (like cops or prosecutors) as good guys. The very idea is just bizarre to them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Chinese cop show—-though I have seen loads of gory period dramas about the struggle against the Japanese Devils.
Hell, the government has recently banned The Big Bang Theory for corrupting the minds of the youth. That’s how nuts it is. Clever people can still find ways to watch it (downloads or bootlegs are all over the place here—-there’s absolutely no concept of intellectual property), but still. Jeez.
I won’t pretend that the USA is perfect. The USA has problems. Every country does. But at the very least, we can talk about those problems publicly without worrying that the police will “invite us to tea.”