Home > Uncategorized > Suspected Terrorist Attack At Tiananmen Square, They Hate China For (Insert Your Own Bias).

Suspected Terrorist Attack At Tiananmen Square, They Hate China For (Insert Your Own Bias).

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/29/world/asia/beijing-restricts-coverage-after-car-explodes-at-forbidden-city.html?_r=0

As for purpose, terrorism, like politics, is all about symbolism.

As symbolism goes, I can be shocked by the attacks of planes used as flying bombs ramming into skyscrapers, but I can also understand the logic of its symbolism.  If you are a desperate terrorist waging war on US, you might attack the biggest symbols of US, the landmarks of Capitalism and Democracy.

Which makes me consider the strange symbolism of some attacks /protests in China, supposedly against the Chinese Communist Party.

Against Tiananmen (more specifically the gate to the Forbidden City)?!  (It has been done before, with the Free Tibet protesters unfurling Tibetan flags, Immolators burning themselves, etc., at /near the gate).

This symbolism is, unsurprisingly, way off the mark, and bizarrely tainted by biases of people who clearly do not understand China and the Chinese people.

First, it’s little more than a museum now.  People who are near it are mostly tourists, Chinese or non-Chinese.  As value goes, it’s a historical important landmark.  But it’s hardly a hub of China, financially, socially, or politically.

Second, it’s rarely ever used for politics in the last 6 decades, and mostly for ceremonial purposes.  As political symbol goes, it’s not even equated to any symbol of modern China or the Communist Party.  It’s a relic building of the Imperial past.

Third, as Imperial Past goes, Tiananmen is more a reminder of China’s past weakness and Foreign aggression.  Afterall, the 8 Nations Alliance broke into and looted the Forbidden City (past the gate) during the Boxer Rebellion.  If you want to fan the flame of Chinese nationalism, Tiananmen might be a good place to do it.

Fourth, BTW, much of Tiananmen square area were damaged by foreign occupation forces during the Boxer Rebellion, and had to be rebuilt.  So, not some gleaming pride of building in China, and no shock value even if destroyed.

Fifth, China has lots of new buildings, and lots of old buildings.  Indeed, every year, China is tearing down barely used buildings to build even newer ones.  Symbolism in Buildings?  Hardly in China.

****

Which then got me thinking?  What is a symbol for modern China?

And I pondered with great difficulty.

The answer is, it’s not a thing.  It’s many ideas:  1.3 billion people, Chinese spirit for learning and improvement, etc., even the near extinct panda (perhaps a symbol of our survival and change).

I do not put in “freedom”, not because we don’t have it, but because what kind of “freedom” can be threatened via a symbolism of buildings in US?  If Westerners truly fear for their “freedom”, because a few buildings get knocked down, then they have no understanding of “freedom”, and China has no need for such “freedom”.

To me, China is “free”, because our symbols cannot be distilled so simply, nor disrupted/threatened so easily.

The problem with the West is, a “freedom” that can be so simply symbolized, has no great value.  It’s nothing more than a cheap tourist gimmick.  (Like the Idolatry of Democracy).

The REAL “freedom” cannot be attacked nor expressed via symbols.

*

If there is no symbol of freedom, does freedom cease to be?

No.  The non-objectified freedom is the real freedom.

Then, if there is no symbol to define China, does China fail to have principles and values?

Equally no.  China just doesn’t come with marketing brochures.

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  1. ersim
    October 29th, 2013 at 21:56 | #1

    Talking about “a cheap tourist gimmick” that happens to come “with marketing brochures”. The so called Statue of Liberty is the biggest example of U.S. symbolism, “idolatry of democracy”. Never heard anybody gathering near it to do a mass protest against government policies. To add insult to injury, that statue is of French origin, NEVER from the U.S.

  2. TheMakerzBiz
    October 30th, 2013 at 03:15 | #2

    I’d argue that Tian’anmen has modern symbolism because it’s been a point of protest for generations of Chinese — think 1919, 1949. It has important meaning in the modern Chinese state, because it can represent a throw-away of feudalism, anti-imperialism, pro-science, and so on. I think it’s off the mark, and frankly too post-modern to ignore the birthplace of China’s century of progress. New China was literally announced in Tian’anmen!

    “The problem with the West is, a “freedom” that can be so simply symbolized, has no great value. It’s nothing more than a cheap tourist gimmick. (Like the Idolatry of Democracy).”

    Can you explain this in more depth, please? I don’t quite understand.

    @ersim

    The Statue of Liberty is located on a TINY island, which renders mass protests physically impossible. Locations in the USA that are symbolic for protests are the White House lawn, the Washington Memorial/Reflection Pool, or various other national treasures in the nation’s capitol.

  3. Black Pheonix
    October 30th, 2013 at 07:23 | #3

    “New China was literally announced in Tian’anmen!”

    But New China has changed /evolved to the New New China.

    You know, it’s interesting how some people hang up on the historical symbols, while get tired of discussing the details of history, like what “freedom” in the slavery era meant.

    I think this only provides ample proof of what kind of “cheap tourist gimmick” some symbols have become.

  4. ho hon
    October 30th, 2013 at 20:48 | #4

    You talked about freedom, and it is a difficult topic. Most of the people in this generation got undue influence by Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty”. Accordingly freedom has a negative “flavor” and a positive one. Negative one: “I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity”. Positive one: “The ‘positive’ sense of the word ‘liberty’ derives from the wish on the part of the individual to be his own master.” Berlin spoke against positive freedom in a fierce manner, claiming that it is the source of tyranny and suppression (Black Phoenix’s notion of “non-objectified freedom” tends to fall into this category if I did not misunderstand.)

    Berlin had his insight, which, however, was constrained too much by the cold war background. In 1958 Berlin wanted to tell the world that the Communist version of “freedom” was the source of inhuman coercion (positive freedom). Nowadays the pathetically sacred individualism, in turn, stemmed form the negative version of “freedom”, positioning “rights” to an unprecedented height, in compared to “duties”. Do a Google search on “human rights” and “human duties” and you will see the difference.

    Philosophically, Berlin’s presupposition in his essay is that he saw the world through one single lens: “coercion”. It is the keystone. However, people interact not only through coercion. That’s the elephant in the room in Berlin’s essay. Academic people tend to do that…

  5. ho hon
    October 30th, 2013 at 20:57 | #5

    By the way, I don’t think “freedom” in the West is simply “symbolized”: the problem is that the concept of “freedom” has been enslaved by the unspoken emphasis on individualism; this phenomenon could be explained by Marx class structure, but I personally tend to describe it through Wittgenstein’s theory of “river bed”. This whole thing, in turn, is a theology.

  6. October 31st, 2013 at 08:37 | #6

    Come on guys. No countries practiced so-called noble notion of freedom, liberty and justice for all!

    Those are simply marketing gimmick used by certain countries to cloak its own geo-political ambition. Real freedom and liberty is when you accord equal rights to others, including your opponents.

    Is Canada free to use drone to kill suspected terrorist in the US? Spy on others at will in the name of freedom?

  7. N.M.Cheung
    October 31st, 2013 at 16:26 | #7

    I have to disagree with Black Phoenix on this issue. Symbolism is important to people. Mao stood on Tiananmen Square and announced to the world Chinese people has stood up. It maybe a museum now and a tourist attraction, but it’s also an idea, a history, and in a way those suicide wannabes cannot fathom, it cannot be destroyed by bombs or fire. Idea can only be superseded by other ideas. To most Chinese the unity of the country after the humiliation of past hundred years in inviolable. Pushbacks against modernity will occur but is essentially futile and self destructive. Tiananmen is in our minds.

  8. TheMakerzBiz
    October 31st, 2013 at 19:21 | #8

    @N.M.Cheung
    ” To most Chinese the unity of the country after the humiliation of past hundred years in inviolable. ”

    I couldn’t agree more!

  9. October 31st, 2013 at 22:11 | #9

    @N.M.Cheung
    I would have to disagree with you here. Most Chinese I know of do not care much for nationalism or history rather prefer to make a better life for themselves and their children.

    Also Tiananmen 1989 might be a big thing in HK or some western press, it actually has negligible influence in most Chinese community.

    Anyway, Mao did not say that the Chinese people has stood up in Tiananmen. It is one of those wrongly passed around history that wasn’t true, sort of like Washington cutting down his father’s cherry tree.

    http://zhidao.baidu.com/link?url=IfNbTqUT8AM63JqoX07s5woOlmxnCdqF_vHSZyZmmnZ1HZCNAu08xMn1jWcKE3xwDuee3R232EYlrv2w9ZomJa

  10. N.M.Cheung
    November 1st, 2013 at 01:52 | #10

    @Ray
    Anyway, Mao did not say that the Chinese people has stood up in Tiananmen. It is one of those wrongly passed around history that wasn’t true, sort of like Washington cutting down his father’s cherry tree.

    You maybe factually correct, but that is irrelevant. For most Chinese it’s the symbolism of the moment and what it represent that’s important. Of course it’s important to make a better life for themselves and their children, but it would be a lie to say it’s more important or not intertwined with the fortune of the nation or people. I agree with you on the import of Tiananmen 1989, that’s because the importance of Tiananmen 1949 and Mao outshine anything else. That’s why despite his errors during GLF and CR Mao still retain a central place in Chinese history and reverence of Chinese people.

    As for the problem in Xinjiang and Tibet, I don’t think any concession by Chinese government short of independence will mollify the separatists. Islam never have its reformation and is still essentially anti-modernism, with its view of women as second class citizen it has no place today. The problem is when China modernize and population starts to move and mix, the capitalism solvent mix ideas and start to eat away those indigenous cultures and push backs are inevitable. The only solution is education and time.

  11. Black Pheonix
    November 1st, 2013 at 07:24 | #11

    @N.M.Cheung

    “Islam never have its reformation and is still essentially anti-modernism, with its view of women as second class citizen it has no place today. The problem is when China modernize and population starts to move and mix, the capitalism solvent mix ideas and start to eat away those indigenous cultures and push backs are inevitable. The only solution is education and time.”

    I would disagree with the 1st part, but agree with the second part.

    People tend to forget that Uighurs are only 1 Muslim group in China.

    There are 10.5 million Hui Chinese in China (Uighurs are about 10 million as well).

    Hui Chinese are much more modernized and adjusted to modern China. They, in fact, build huge number of Mosques in China, very lavish, and they do very well in the rapidly changing Chinese society.

    The question is more fundamentally one of political loyalty.

    The contrast is clear between the Hui and Uighurs/Tibetans.

    During the Long March, Hui Warlords and Tibetan Warlords aided the KMT government in harassing the Communist troops, but when PRC was established, the Hui people came together with all of China, whereas the Tibetan Khampas continued to secretly aid the KMT and the US to try to disrupt PRC.

    Thus, when China began to develop, the Huis were often participants at the forefront of development. Many of them were the 1st to go establish new businesses in Tibet and Xinjiang.

    The Huis were able to take advantage of many government aid and subsidy programs for development.

  12. November 1st, 2013 at 08:40 | #12

    @N.M.Cheung
    In that context I agree. Tiananmen importance in Chinese history is definitely started by the first major protest in 1919, the May 4th movement and cemented by 1949 event. As for GLF and CR, would those still occurred if Mao has passed away in say, 1955? Is Mao really such a super human that without him the revolution would have failed and GLF, CR etc would not have happened?

    As for Tibet and Xinjiang, the issue is actually not more serious than other regional separatist issue including HK, Taiwan etc. Why isn’t there a Yiao, Miao, Bai, Hui separatist issue?

    Those four areas are internationally known because they have been blown out of proportion by western press! The average poverty of those minority Chinese are easily more serious than most others but it is very rare that it is reported. The lost of culture and language of smaller groups which have no written script of their own is also much higher and is already happening. The Tibet and Xinjiang (Falun etc) cause also have the sad distinction of being officially sanctioned by powerful western government.

    I just want to reiterate that by playing into mongering by foreign power, more serious issues have been sidetracked. And those western powers have no interest in really protecting a disfranchised and underprivileged groups even in their own community. The treatment of Roma, Jewish, Muslim, Eastern, African people is clear indication of that. (The Jewish might not be openly discriminated but the undercurrent of attack against them has always been present.)

    My point is simply that, we must prioritize what is fundamental in bettering the rights of all Chinese not some made up issues that is bombastic but have little substance like Dalai Lama or Falun. Of course I am not lecturing here, you but rather want to share my view.

  13. November 2nd, 2013 at 11:58 | #13

    I’m not sure China’s policy of pacifying the minority Tibetans and Uighurs with special rights is working. Let me list the example of Indonesia vs Malaysia.

    Prior to 1960, Indonesian Chinese retained their own language, customs, etc. The Suharto govt forced them to adopt the Indonesian language, going so far as to outlaw Chinese festivals, Chinese books and shutting down all Chinese schools. Though it was cruel, the eradication of Chinese culture worked to the advantage of nation-building. All Chinese in Indonesia today have adopted the customs (and even names) of the natives and are by and large, treated as equals in that country.

    Conversely, there was no cultural genocide in Malaysia. The Malaysian Chinese were allowed to retain their customs, schools, and self-identity. Yet even today, they are discriminated against by the majority Malays. The Chinese are STILL treated as second-class citizens and politics continue to be based along racial lines. (The largest opposition party is Chinese-led)

    My point is this– The Tibetans and the Uighurs will never become truly Chinese so long as they are treated differently from the Han and given special treatment (such as being exempt from the single child rule and allowed to be taught in their mother-tongue). This policy is counter-productive in the grand scheme of nation building.

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