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Chatting with my Chinese friend (9): "To the British people from a Chinese"

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

11-10-2015 11:25 BJT

by H Karoui, Analyst, Expert on the MENA region

Today I should like to lend this column to my friend Ma Maiqi, who would like to share her view of complicated East-West relations. Ma is a Chinese business specialist, author and trainer, based in Oxford since 2009.


For her the state visit of President Xi Jinping to the United Kingdom in October 2015 was a source of joy and pride, a step forward for both countries that includes £30 billion worth of trade and investment deals and thousands of job opportunities.

Nevertheless, as the sociologist Erving Goffman once noted, “The world, in truth, is a wedding.” Those not invited to the show often fill up with resentment, which they vent to the four winds.

Apparently Ma was dismayed by the reactions of some Britons who still think they are the center of the world. To show them the extent of their ignorance, she wrote an essay which she sent me asking me to help her spread it. But the piece is 3,500 words. As it represents the viewpoint of a Chinese lady, who is far from hostile to the west, it deserves at least to be quoted. Here are some excerpts, edited down for space:

*There are many insular and shortsighted people in Britain (and elsewhere of course) who seem all too ready to express opinions whilst knowing very little about China and understanding even less! Such shortsightedness and insularity ultimately prevents people from seeing beyond the boundaries of their own nation's culture, history and societal norms, and even from thinking critically about them. It's important to realize that "different" is not always equal to "wrong" or "bad", and that Western-style democracy and values are not necessarily a panacea for the ills of the world.

*From accusations of global steel dumping, and the clichéd "human rights" and "democracy" arguments, to trendy "wildlife protection" and "cyber security", they try to dig up any excuse to censure the Chinese Communist Party (CPC). Ooh, Communism, what a scary word!

*They criticize China … yet fail to remember Britain's part in the international slave trade … the two Opium Wars where the UK made war on China in order to promote their illegal trade in opium in our country; its worldwide colonization and exploitation extending until the post-World War II period; the setting up of concentration camps during the Boer War and numerous other dreadful abuses.

*Workplaces in modern China are regularly criticized in the UK for perceived poor conditions and pay. However, remember that just a century ago 1.5 million British people worked as domestic servants, working up to "17 hours a day all year around with no modern technology" below the stairs (Pamela Cox). One third of British families had a member who worked as a servant. Looking over a longer period; during the course of the last 300 years, from 1620s to the 1930s; it is estimated that about 6.5 percent of the British population were accommodated in workhouses at any given time.

*The CPC inherited a country devastated by war, its infrastructure in ruins, and it was politically isolated from much of the world because of the western powers' refusal to recognize the CPC as the legitimate leading Party  of China. 

*For my grandparents and parents the CPC ushered in an era of peace and stability following more than a century of war, dislocation and suffering. They were liberated from the ravages of war and returned to their bombed cities and towns to start rebuilding permanent homes. They were freed from the fear of invasion, pillage and rape; from the fear of Japanese atrocities and from the cruelties and depredations imposed by regional Chinese warlords. You should realize that the majority of Chinese people are actually satisfied, indeed happy, with the rule of the Communist Party. Most Chinese have no wish whatever to change a system that has given them such massive improvements in their health, standard of living and prosperity.  In the west you only hear from the voices of a very few dissenting Chinese. These are magnified and exaggerated by your media out of all proportion to their influence in China: They really do not represent the thinking of ordinary Chinese people.

*Let's talk about human rights now. Prior to the founding of the People's Republic of China, women in China had almost no rights. Upon marriage a woman became the property of her husband and his family; foot binding was widely practiced; many women were denied an education and women had no effective voice in society or politics. The CPC changed all of that: Women in modern China have equal status and rights in law to men, and many occupy senior positions in government, the armed forces and industry. In some respects women in China enjoy advantages their western sisters do not have, for example longer maternity leave, earlier retirement ages and their own public holiday Women's Day on March 8.

*Since Deng Xiaoping's opening up of China in 1978, the Chinese economy has grown to become the world's second largest. Some 240 million people (and still counting) have been raised out of extreme poverty. Surely this is granting them the most basic of all human rights: that of a decent life free from fear and hunger. Everyone has enough to eat; starvation has been eliminated; society is peaceful. Schooling is provided free of charge for all children up to the age of 15, and kindergarten care is also provided free. From this perspective China has done much more to advance human rights than the nations who criticize its record.

*For those who want to impose their ‘human rights' or ‘democratic' ideas on China, we the Chinese would ask: "please sort your own mess out first." If you can convince us that your human rights record and democratic process is flawless, we may be willing to learn from you, and the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Experts will invite you to China and ask your advice.


( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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