I used to be making small discuss with a medical technician throughout a well being verify just a few months in the past. After listening to I used to be a senior lecturer educating Chinese language politics on the College of Sydney, she commented: “It have to be very exhausting for you.” My first thought was that she meant it will need to have been exhausting to show on-line through the pandemic lockdown. However then she requested: “How do you handle to beat your bias?”
I’m a tutorial of Chinese language background in Australia. So am I essentially biased in my strategy to Chinese language politics? Is it certainly attainable that my upbringing in China has made me a blind supporter of the Chinese language system? Or has my embrace of liberal values turned me right into a militant “China basher”?
These questions had occurred to me earlier than, in fact. However towards the background of the current souring of China-Australia relations, they’ve grow to be extra acute than ever earlier than.
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In November 2020, for the primary time in ten years of educating, a pupil who described themselves as a “Chinese language patriot” accused me of being a “Taiwan independence supporter”. The explanation was my remark in school that, after the election of Joe Biden as US president, points corresponding to Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan had been more likely to trigger tensions between China and the USA. On the identical day in the identical class, a non-Chinese language pupil protested that, whereas wishing to keep away from turning educational evaluation into an ethical judgment, I ought to have remembered that “authoritarianism is evil”.
Educating the subject of Chinese language politics is changing into more difficult in a world more and more divided by concepts, beliefs and pursuits. After all, our personal values and experiences all the time affect and even drive inquiry and the extension of data. But when college students come to class with pre-existing inflexible mindsets and refuse to have interaction with totally different opinions and viewpoints, then training merely fails in its objective.
“We should always help regardless of the enemy opposes and oppose regardless of the enemy helps,” Chinese language chief Mao Zedong mentioned in a 1939 interview. Taken out of context (Mao was describing the rivalry between the Chinese language Communist Celebration and the Japanese puppet authorities in Nanjing) this sounds one-sided and superficial. But when we succumb to nationalistic feelings, ethical values and political ideology, then this angle is precisely how we see the world.
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Understanding China – and ourselves
Within the examine of politics in China, I’ve endeavoured to show college students that issues are sometimes not as clear-cut and absolute as many count on. In different phrases, nuance is the important thing to understanding China.
It’s legitimate to query the legitimacy and stability of any system, notably if the system might depend on censorship and coercion. However over time, all of the predictions of the system’s collapse have proved flawed. China’s one-party rule has been agency and robust to at the present time.
We have to think about the query of what explains the resilience and prosperity of the Chinese language system. Earlier than we criticise it for its lack of liberal democratic values, it is very important first perceive what the system is and the way it operates – that features its financial drivers, its sources of legitimacy, its historic legacy and its developmental trajectory.
Why is it essential? Such understanding will assist us higher deal with a world the place China is a major energy and can probably stay so within the foreseeable future.
Now we have seen the rise of a brand new technology of patriotic Chinese language “wolf warriors” who aggressively defend the state’s positions. However it’s equally essential for them to have interaction with totally different opinions and views.
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For one factor, when defending China towards Western international locations’ frequent “assaults” on “delicate points”, they should perceive that such points would possibly replicate the inherent issues of China’s system. These issues embody financial inequality, ethnic tensions, susceptible property rights, lack of particular person freedom, and lots of extra. Furthermore, they might profit from a self-recognition of the origins of their very own robust emotions of pleasure and loyalty to the Chinese language nation on account of the way it constructs their identification and sense of belonging.
Analysis versus parroting the official line
Returning to the query of how I handle my bias when educating Chinese language politics, I suppose my identification as a Chinese language immigrant will all the time have an effect on my understanding of the Chinese language system. For all of us, our perceptions of the world replicate the values and beliefs related to our identities and experiences.
Identical to my college students, some readers of this text would possibly assume I’m too essential of China. Within the eyes of others I would seem not essential sufficient. That is comprehensible: my opinions have been knowledgeable by my very own experiences, in addition to by my evaluation of main sources, engagement with many educational thinkers and communications with researchers, policymakers and enterprise homeowners.
I attempt to expose college students to the complexity of Chinese language politics by such a research-driven strategy. This strategy is essentially lacking in public debate about China in Australia. But it’s a tough however essential process.
If we fail on this process, within the quest for data and understanding based mostly on cautious analysis of opinions and information, our discussions can be diminished to nothing greater than an indiscriminate acceptance and easy repetition of official discourses or media protection, no matter their supply. My college students within the class replicate the views of their dwelling societies. Within the present atmosphere, that’s making it tougher than ever to have interaction in productive evaluation and dialogue.
Minglu Chen doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.