Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Critical Thinking in China

Lei Feng
CCP Hero

I don't know much about China despite living so close to that enormous country that would border a united Korea if the North and South ever join again, but I do realize how important it is, so I try to keep up with developments over there. Some readers may recall that I even included China in my paper on the necessity for a culture of discussion in East Asia and that I noted the possibility for the rise of critical thinking there, citing the public's skeptical response to the Chinese government's official version of a terrible accident on one of the nation's high-speed railways.

My faith in the Chinese people's potential for critical thought has not been misplaced, for one of the Communist Party's propaganda heros, Lei Feng, is currently being widely ridiculed on the internet in China, according to Andrew Jacobs, "Poking holes in the tale of a propaganda hero" (International Herald Tribune, March 5, 2012):
[T]he Internet has given rise to a legion of Lei Feng deniers who have been merrily poking holes in his story. Using simple math, they have questioned how a poor orphan living on a tiny army stipend could donate so much money to the needy or how he collected 150 kilograms, or about 330 pounds, of cow dung on a single day during Chinese New Year.

Others have questioned the flawless script of his diary and wondered how it is that there are hundreds of photographs recording his every good deed. Liu Yi, a designer in Shanghai, pointed out the absurdity of one famous image that shows Lei Feng in bed reading Mao's collected works by flashlight. In the photo, he notes, the flashlight is off but the room is fully illuminated. "And there just happened to be a photojournalist passing by to capture the moment," he wrote. (page 3, columns c-f)

Unfortunately, many of these examples of critical thinking still available for others to read online might soon become less prevalent, for beginning March 16, 2012, the Chinese government will require real-name registration on the internet, and the anonymous critiques will end, which may force a lot of individuals to fall silent. Moreover, any online post considered 'detrimental' to national interests, always rather vaguely defined, will have to be deleted within five minutes!

Oddly, I haven't yet managed to locate a copy of this critical article on the internet . . .

UPDATE: It's now online.

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At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a copy of a Lei Feng biography for children that was purchased at a Beijing flea market along with an abacus practice book from the 60s with story problems asking the learner to perform computations using charts with data about the number of workers killed or injured in capitalist countries and casualties from the War to Resist US Aggression, the PRC name for the Korean War.

The PRC still engages in Lei Fengesque propaganda with worker of the year awards given out in each city or county. The winner is featured on nightly newscasts for weeks, giving speeches while government employees fight off narcolepsy studying the official exemplar of a socialist worker at required meetings. I bought the government-published life story of our city's winner one year as a cultural artifact. It sits in a box gathering dust.


At 2:09 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sounds like you had exciting times during your stay in China.

I'm envious.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, real-name registration. Unfortunate that Korea set that example. Hopefully Chinese netizens can keep finding their own ways around the Great Firewall.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

There are ways, I think, but will people risk getting caught?

Jeffery Hodges

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