“I can at least say that China is a place full of contradictions and paradoxes.” ....Chinese writer, YuHua
Is CPF your money or not your money? Is it like the Chinese writer, YuHua, describing today’s China in his interview? Contradictions and paradoxes.
When the PAP government needs your CPF money, it is not your money. When you use the CPF to pay for your property purchase or medical bills, the deduction is real. A simple question in Singapore, under the magic of the PAP, can be quite contradiction and becomes a paradox.
In the Interview with Yuhua in the HarvardX-ChinaX, YuHua mentioned about the co-existence of a “No Smoking” sign and a cigarette dish side by side. His movie, “To Live”, is censored but as a book, it is allowed to publish. (Video 6)
The monopoly in politics by the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Action Party in Singapore in fact leads to more uncertainties. All the time, we know CPF is our money and now the situation becomes more and more uncertain - e.g. withdrawal age. Even PM Lee agreed that CPF is not your money as choice comes with responsibility. Do you spot the “No Smoking” sign and the cigarette box here?
You may also recall why the documentary, “ To Singapore With Love’, is censored and the web enterprise, “The Real Singapore”, is allowed to publish with editors taking some risks and some profits. YuHua said the movie “To Live” is censored by civil servants. Their pay will not increase even they approve the public viewing of the movie. However, book publishers (or “The Real Singapore”) have to take risks for profit taking activities.
In my previous post, four videos of the interview had already been uploaded. This post will upload the remaining three videos. From the interview, we can understand the recent development in China. Why one party state can lead to uncertainty? Contradictions and paradoxes.
When we watch the interview, we will see some similarities between China and Singapore, for example:
Video 1: China’s pain
The pain of the party is different from the people. The party finds pain in how to remain in power and continue political monopoly. However, people’s pain is daily life and struggle.
Video 2: On Revolution in China
The party is afraid of change (revolution). From a revolution party, the party now does not wish to see people’s power and changes.
Video 3: Anger, Poverty and Human Rights
Human rights is neglect in a fast moving economy. People are less concerns about social justice unless it involves themselves.
Video 4: Money, Politics and the Chinese Dream
China has shifted her focus from economic openness (since 1979) to political control. Current Chinese government has more restrictions on freedom of speech.
Check what the Chinese dream is.
Video 5: On Fugui (“To Live”)
People like Fugui (“To Live”) are too honest and too kind in a ‘capitalist market’ economy. YuHua said, “They suffered a lot, they lived by themselves but they still lived pretty well.”
Video 6: Artistic Limitations in China
The censorship and private enterprise co-exist in China. YuHua said, “The rules are set by the government,
however, they create ways to break the rule from the bottom up.” YuHua also talked about how Chinese people use foreign websites to get the latest political development in China, like the case of Bo Xilai.
Video 7: China’s Future
YuHua talked about his experience as a freeman and the government surveillance of Ai Weiwei. He also said, “Actually no matter if it is top down or bottom up it will change the destiny of this nation.”
You can watch the movie, "To Live", below.
Interview with Yuhua. Official translation by HarvardX ChinaX.
Yu Hua, I want to talk about Fugui,
in the movie, in the novel, "To Live"
you have created one of the great characters of modern times.
He's a young man who gambles in the 40s,
he's an artist, he's a performer, he's an actor,
he fights in the war of liberation,
first against the Communists with the Nationalists, then he turns.
In the Great Leap Forward he loses his son
really to industrialization,
and in the Cultural Revolution he loses his daughter
because the Red Guard students
won't let a professional doctor care for her in childbirth.
I want you to imagine Fugui in the market revolution today.
What would he be doing?
What would he be suffering?
What would he be learning?
In my point of view, if Fugui lived until today
he must be a loser in this market transformation
because he is too honest, too kind
In a great transformation like marketization these days
if you don't want to do bad deeds you cannot be successful.
Where would Fugui be living today?
How is his wife?
What is he singing?
What is his mood?
If Fugui lived until today
I don't think he would live in his own home
because he would be a farmer who would have lost his land,
he would be living somewhere in a city
in a tiny apartment somewhere, very likely a forgotten derelict place
in a precarious urban space in China that has been forgotten.
Because I have observed in China in many of our cities we have a lot of abandoned houses
those houses that are unsafe for people to live
but actually a lot of people still live inside
they are not local people they are from rural area, migrants.
I think Fugui would probably live in a place like that
However I do think that Fugui would make his place very clean, very tidy
Are he and his wife happy?
If he and his wife still live together
I think they will be happy.
But their destiny might not necessarily bring them together.
Fugui reminds me a little bit of a
sort of a Chinese Charlie Chaplin.
He suffers, he's brave, he's wise, he doesn't say much,
but his heart is so, so big.
Where did you find the character?
And do you watch Charlie Chaplin movies?
Of course I watch films by Charlie Chaplin, yes.
He doesn't speak that much in his movies
only at the very end did he speak a few words.
Actually characters like Fugui are really prevalent in China,
they, of course this generation I don't know, like those of my little boy's generation maybe there isn't
When I was young, there were several people who lived in my alleyway
who were exactly like Fugui.
They suffered a lot, they lived by themselves
but they still lived pretty well.
So I think Fugui is a character
that can actually represent China of the past.
And what about the present and the future?
Because I thought Fugui comes off as indestructible.
Is Fugui gone from the landscape?
Yes I agree with you.
I do think Fugui will live on and on.
He is such a kind of person that can live on through difficulty.
He is full of life.
But did you say that your son does not know Fugui in his world?
Yes, maybe not now
but if the economic revolution goes on
the generation of my son may see people like Fugui emerging
because China has already gone through economic boom
and now we are actually shouldering the responsibility of this economic revolution.
So in the future, my son might know someone like Fugui.
Where will your son find Fugui in China in his lifetime?
Fugui can appear in any place, any time in China
in the future maybe my son will also become another Fugui.
â€œTo Liveâ€ the movie and Artistic Limitations in China
This is a little different but
you worked with, Zhang Yimou made the movie,
did you work with him on the movie?
It's one of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen.
Yes we cooperated, we talked about scripts for the movie
however when he was shooting the movie I was not there.
How is it that you can read the book "To Live" in China,
but you can't see the movie?
This is a very complicated issue,
this is actually an issue full of Chinese characters.
So, the first thing I wrote about
when I started my column in the New York Times
was the censoring system in China,
about the bureau responsible for movies in China
in the Central Government.
However, the censoring of novels is only controlled
by the publishing houses.
You don't need a person with a position higher than that.
So these two different censoring methods
decided their two different fates [of the film and the book]
They are the same "To Live", the movie is censored, the novel can continue to be published
In reality there is an economic reason. The officials who work in the movie censoring bureau
they get salaries from the country.
If there are 800 movies produced in China in a year,
if they stop them all, it doesn't influence their salary at all.
They can put on American movies in the cinemas.
There is no economic incentive.
However, those publishing houses are individual enterprises
they do not get a penny from the central government,
so they have to make their own money.
He wants to raise his own salary
He wants to raise the salaries of his employees
So when he is considering publishing a book
he wants to take risks,
while the official in the bureau that oversees movies is unwilling because he has no incentive.
while publishing houses must take risk, because only novels that are risky can make them good money.
This is a very strange phenomenon in China.
I don't know if you have noticed
if you stay in many hotels in China
you will notice as you carry your luggage
when you walk into your room you will notice on the table
you will notice a cigarette dish, for when you smoke
and as you look again, you will notice not far away there is a sign that says "no smoking"
This is China. It puts a cigarette dish and a "no smoking" sign side by side.
So the novel is like the cigarette box,
the movie is the non-smoking sign.
That is their relationship, they are both side by side.
We say it's a country of hard rules
and creative rule breaking at the same time.
I can at least say that China is a place full of contradictions and paradoxes.
Why is China full of contradictions? One aspect is as you mentioned
the rules are there but you can violate them anytime you want.
One other reason is
it was like this before.
It is a county where different things just co-exist at the same time.
You sometimes will feel like it is inconceivable, but our society is just this way
I learned in China that of course you can't see Google,
you can't see Facebook on the Internet,
you can also buy inexpensively a service
that will pretend you're in Canada or Venezuela,
and you can see everything.
Somebody said to me,
only in China will they ban the internet
and then invent a way to make money getting around it.
The rules are set by the government,
however, they create ways to break the rule from the bottom up.
I have to say that Chinese people's skills to climb the wall,
the great firewall, are definitely the best in the world.
There is a story, when this incident with Bo Xilai
and his subordinate Wang Lijun ran
to the American embassy in Chengdu
The central government had not decided how to address the Bo Xilai incident
Bo Xilai was in Chongqing
all the local government officers were very nervous
they wanted to find out what was happening
so there was one task for all their secretaries,
to look at overseas websites to find out what was happening.
So you can see that even the very high level cadres
in China do not know Bo Xilai's fate
so you a glimps
of the political life in China.they all had to go through foreign websites, to understand the political situation with China
so that can give
Yu Hua, you write like a free spirit,
you have the face of an honest man,
is this a dangerous way to live in China?
Or do we exaggerate that?
Does the government threaten you
for your best qualities as an artist?
I was not very clear about this thing
I have not discovered that my freedom has not been violated by the government.
There used to be a New York Times journalist in China
who cautiously reminded me
that he or she had very sure information that I
was under surveillance by the Chinese government.
Afterward I became very careful about everything,
I looked over my shoulder every time I walked
to see if anybody was following me
however I never saw anyone following me
so as far as I know I'm not under
government surveillance in China.
However I know Mr. Ai Weiwei
is under government surveillance
and there is an interesting story.
I own an apartment in the same building
as Mr. Ai Weiwei in Beijing.
One day I walked down the stairs
Suddenly I see Ai coming out of his door with a guy
so I came up to him and say hello
and I thought that might be his friend
and I was chatting with him
about how are things going these days
he responded "Isn't it always the same? I'm pretty much the same as before"
I then said "is the government bothering you these days?"
He hemmed and hawed and said "Let's speak about that later, let's speak about that later."
It was only after he left that I realized that was not his friend
it was an officer from the national security bureau, who was following him.
Was he worried or did he laugh about it?
I think he's worried about me,
he doesn't worry about himself,
he worries that I will also be involved in it
My last question,
the Chinese government tells the world
that if they didn't have a strong hand
on every part of this country and its policy,
we would have chaos.
The government seems to tell the people
that if they're prospering,
if they're getting richer, if the market is working,
they don't need political freedom.
What is the truth of all this?
What is the truth of all this?
I think the government's position is not without reason
I do think there are a lot of problems in China nowadays,
if the government doesn't have a strong hand
China will fall into some kind of chaos.
Although China is a nation that is really fond of revolutions,
however this government is really afraid of revolution.
They know if there is ever a revolution in the future
if there policies are not strong enough
if there is another revolution from the bottom up
that is not from the top down,
Actually no matter if it is top down or bottom up it will change the destiny of this nation.
If there is ever going to be another revolution
it won't be another revolution like the Cultural Revolution
because the Cultural Revolution was totally under control
in the hands of Mao
if there is ever going to be another revolution
it will be like the revolution that
overturned the Qing dynasty in the 1911, the Xinhai revolution.
I think that revolution will end in total freedom and anarchy
maybe there will be two hundred plus parties,
social groups, overnight
and you know we wake up one day
and we belong to a dozen parties we don't even know
because they listed you,
and you don't even know about them.
It would be this sort of situation, a governmentless situation.
And then over time we will decide our path again
will we become a democratic free country
or after a lot of violence and even wars,
will we become another authoritarian country again, I really don't know.
So, sum it up, the Great Leap Forward ended in famine, a disaster,
the Cultural Revolution ended in a sort of disillusion,
it was just abandoned,
the Tiananmen Revolution ended in repression
and violence and death,
how does the market revolution end?
I think the end of the economic revolution
is pretty obvious now
is the destruction of our homeland.
However, what will happen after our homeland is destroyed
we still need time to figure that out.
Is this homeland destroyed?
I think we have already roughly destroyed our homeland,
we have a problem with water, with land, even with air,
what is left for us?
Our people are losing their health.
How about their minds?
I don't know about their minds.
Today's China is almost an era that
people's minds are most chaotic and schizophrenic,
so I really cannot figure out what is on their mind.
The last resource of China is the Chinese people,
surely they are not destroyed?
I was half joking and half telling the truth.
We end on a Chinese paradox!
Yes, we end on a paradox.
Just like the paradox of the cigarette dish and the no smoking sign.
Yu Hua, it is a joy to meet you
thank you, very, very much.
I am also very happy to see you Christopher, in Shanghai.
After we met in New York, I had not thought that I would see you in Shanghai.