MPhil W3 Translation

What would the political effect be of a recession in China? Again, nobody knows. But if there were any kind of public protest, I cannot believe it would be stamped out as easily as the democracy movement in the summer of 1989. One crucial change is that 100 million Chinese now have access to the internet. It may be possible for the authorities to block the BBC's websites, but so what? With the help of Google I was able to call up numerous articles on "corruption in China" from sources all over the world. There are simply too many Western news agencies - to say nothing of the countless personal weblogs now out there - for censorship to be effective.

Another critical factor is the rising number of Chinese people who are learning English. I had not expected this, having rather believed the voguish line of a few years ago that our children would all have to learn Mandarin or perish. The reality is that in the major economic centres, English is ubiquitous. Street signs are in English as well as Chinese. Advertisements nearly all feature European models and at least one line of English. And young people are eager to try out their language skills. One keen freshman at Beijing University assumed I must be a visiting professor and asked if he could sit on my classes. I had been on campus less than 30 minutes.

I suppose I came to China prepared for the old Communist culture of evasiveness and stonewalling. I encountered the very opposite. People are keen to talk. They are not afraid the way people were in the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union. If they are not pressing harder for political change, it is simply because they are too busy trying to make money.


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