Coming from South Africa, and having experienced the political and cultural conditions there during the eighties, I find engaging with Chinese issues increasingly unbearable and exasperating.
The climate at the moment tends towards a stifling hegemony of xenophobia, mainly towards Japan, but also generalised towards what is regarded here as "Western" influence. This is all just shorthand for: opinions that do not coincide with our own.
At the moment there are raging protests in the streets of several major Chinese cities against Japan. These protests focus on Japan's whitewashed treatment of history in their new school textbooks, that refer to Japanese aggresion during WW2 as "invasions" rather than, well, I don't know rather than what exactly. The Chinese seem to prefer something like "pig-dog violent bastard shit-eating raping aggresion"), but its hard to tell what they want.
On TV it simply looks like irrational bands of students maliciously damaging shops and cars. Or at least, so I hear: there's a news-blockout in place and the protests do not get reported in Chinese media.
This is going to explode in the CCP's face: they've been fanning anti-Japanese sentiment for years amongst ordinary people, while generously partaking in Japan's financial aid. Japan recently got a little fed up with giving so much and never receiving any cultural reciprocation, and announced these contributions will end next year. Of course, the Chinese people think these are simple loans, but they are in fact direct donations, responsible for much of China's infrastructure, from bridges and dams to whole airports. Xi'an's Xianyang being one of them.
Then there's the Taiwan issue. It's disconcerting to know that a recent poll showed 90% of Chinese students, aged 23 to 32 supports using all-out force against the island if they should continue independence overtures. Some even want the government to act sooner, rather than wait for Taiwan's provocation. The issue of Taiwan is spectacularly misunderstood by all people on both sides of the Straits, and based on my experience in SA, I predict it will lead to overt violence eventually.
The problem is the government's own fanning of these sentiments. This has been a theme in China for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. There's a simple equation at work: when the people are rich (or getting richer) they don't complain. When the economy levels out, you give them a scapegoat, a demon.
Look at the Boxer rebellion of 100 years ago. A seemingly spontaneous uprising of ordinary people right across China; in fact, the most downtrodden, repressed, poor and disenfranchised people, who had every reason to hate the Qing-dynasties cruel policies... but no, they rose up _in the name of the Qing_ AGAINST foreigners, Christian missionaries, and yes, Japanese merchants.
This was only 100 years ago. As I walk around Xi'an today, looking around at ordinary people, I can't help but wonder how close to the surface their xenophobia lies. Might they suddenly, spontaneously decide to act out their frustrations on my person, as it were? Who knows. Oriental inscrutability remains a factor. Supported by the intense difficulty of trying to understand their reasoning on issues like Taiwan and Japan.
Part of the problem is that the Chinese people have no aspirations towards what we would call freedom, democracy and human rights, precisely, imho, because they have NO experience of these things. They don't understand them, have no idea what benefits they can bring, and they don't comprehend their own repression. They support censorship, bannings, centralised control... because the only experience they have is with censorships, bannings and centralised control. Better the devil you know.
Of course, at the moment they ARE getting rich, rapidly. And the richer they get the less they'll want to rock the boat. There's the danger then: this system of almost self-imposed mind control will in fact only get stronger and more entrenched in the Chinese mindset as long as the current economic boom continues. But with more than a billion people there's going to be cracks, little tiny hairline cracks of dissent. And a hairline in 1.3 billion people might still stretch across a few thousand minds. And there's only one way for them to respond: with quick, decisive violence.
Prepare for more bloodshed soon. And hope the hypocritical Western governments can stick to the values we support, and stop pandering to China, just for the sake of economic ties. As far as I'm concerned there is only one decent moral position now: change the "One China" policy to the "One China, One Taiwan" policy. Tell these corrupt dinosaurs unambiguously that there is no sympathy left in the world for their manipulative and violent control mechanisms. If we can't get China democratic, at least we should keep Taiwan so.