Barry Li’s view on the mindset of the new generation of ‘new Chinese’ (basically those born from the 1980s on) can be summed up in the final paragraph of his extract:
“They do not like to hear anyone, including the mainstream Australian media, describe China as an extreme communist country, because it simply is not true. They probably will not be offended if you describe the Chinese as realists, because they mostly are. They will be offended if you tell them that the South China Sea does not belong to China, even though they personally do not own a single drop of water in that sea.”
Much of this chapter is preoccupied with explaining the overhauling changes made to China’s system of business with Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, that Li says most Chinese never saw coming. In 2013 Xi made positive progress towards making China a safer place to do business, both domestically and with foreign partners. Where usually ‘relationship building’ was a key transaction through lavish gifts and monetary exchanges, nowadays Li cautions against making payments to officials or the government that could be mistaken for bribery. Over 100,000 public servants were indicted for corruption, along with 170 high ranking military and political personal at the beginning of Xi’s campaign, according to Li’s information. It’s clearly something no longer taken as universally accepted.
And the campaign has made change to the way the international world views China. Transparency International’s 2016 report ranked China as 79/176 in the world in corruption perception, rising by a few rankings over the past few years. China is considerably higher than many of the African countries, many of its Central Asian neighbours, and dramatically better than Russia, who scored 131/176. I imagine that China’s score will only get better with the passing years as not only more foreign corporations, but foreigners as independents, seek China as their place and partner for business, requiring less of the ‘old ways’ and more legal recourses.
The other comment in this extract that would be highlighted in multiple colours and pens if one were to do that to their copy, is Li’s statement that: “the new generation of Chinese are prouder of their native country than those who arrived in Australia 20 to 30 years ago; this has nothing to do with their feelings about the government.” This is intensely critical in many regards. If I say, “I love Australia” to someone overseas, the sentimental I’m creating carries images of beaches, koalas, sunshine and a laid-back culture. It doesn’t impart anything towards my political leaning. However, if a Chinese person says, “I love China”, it can often immediately carry an unnecessary connotation that they are ‘all for Communism’ and are extremely devoted to their government. Why the difference? How do we change this ingrained outlook? And is it possible to divide someone’s appreciation for their country’s achievement from their political opinion when so much of China’s success has been due to government policies?
Photo taken in Zhongguancun, Beijing, March 2017.