Sunday, July 04, 2010

Two Sights

Two interesting sights today.

In the subway this morning, on the way to 沃爾瑪, I sat down on the bench across from a Chinese family -- parents with children. A brother and a sister were playing a lively game of ro-sham-bo (rock, paper, scissors / 剪刀、石頭、 布) and giggling wildly. I didn't think much of it, though I noted that the boy seemed rather 調皮 and the parents weren't saying too much to reprimand him.

As I was watching the little boy and his younger sister rhyming line by line, thrusting out two fingers, or splaying a hand out into an open palm, or raising a clenched fist (all the while giggling uproariously at the results), it suddenly hit me: this is not a sight that is common in China anymore. What would be a normal scene on the DC Metro or the Taipei MRT is really something special.

Elsewhere, one would think nothing of this exchange -- two cute and lively kids messing about while their parents beam at them. But with the One Child Policy in force, fewer and fewer children here will have this kind of experience as they grow up -- the chance to play and laugh and interact and have fun with a sibling. I was privy to something special and walked away with a newfound sense of delight.

The second sight that was rather novel: In the subway on the way to 五道口, I saw a familiar face and a familiar name on a large poster: Demos Chiang's biography was being advertised in the station. Now, for students of Chinese history, I shall simply point out that he is indeed of that Chiang family, and you will understand how different a place China is today than even a couple decades ago.

Demos (蔣友柏) is a great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek -- the leader of the Nationalists who was president of the Republic of China, who fought Mao Zedong and the Communists, and who fled to Taiwan and ruled there until 1975. During the Cultural Revolution through the 1970s, a simple mention of a Chiang could be disastrous for you and your family. People were dragged into the streets and beaten for having "bourgeois" books, to say nothing of documents with the villain "Chiang" stamped on them.

It's a bit jarring to see his descendant's name splashed across the subway wall. But perhaps it reflects warming cross-Strait ties and the beginnings of a re-evaluation by Mainland China of Chiang's role in Chinese history. One point for historical change, one point for capitalism. (Gotta sell those books you know!) Zero for Maoist persecution.

More on the new biography here and on Demos here and here.

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