Testing the limits


“Breaking a Han Dynasty urn” is the title of the photo taken by the often jailed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.   What do you suppose he intended to say with this photograph?

On to Spence and of course the protests of 1989.  The protests of course don’t fall out of the clear blue sky.  Though the excuse was the death of Deng’s former compatriot Hu Yaobang what was the “real” or longer term reason for the events?

Interesting at the opening of the chapter of how all the changes and reforms in China, like getting rid of the communes, weren’t really seen as completely positive.  China was in a muddle in many ways, and despite economic growth of even recent years, might still be.

There is a lot here.  The Not-Not manifesto is interesting.  The “communist weeds” vs. capitalist seedlings, and a literal return to 100 flowers.

Enjoy your final read of Spence.


7 Responses to “Testing the limits”

  1. Jordan Oliver says:

    I think it’s funny that China was all about being self reliant and not having any kind of foreign help or intervention, but in this chapter they’re finally ok to make arms agreements with middle east and sell them all kinds of crazy missiles and stuff for billions of dollars. Following that same idea, it’s interesting that the president of Taiwan (Lee), a country that the U.S previously used as a “pawn”, was actually highly educated in the U.S. and then used the power he gained to make Taiwan a completely independent and capable country in the foreign arena.

  2. Olivia Martinez says:

    Something I thought was funny and interesting was the “three highs” and “eight bigs”. The three highs were what a man needed to get a wife, and were: a high salary, a higher education, and a hight over five feet six inches. I found it funny that spence include this information because it seemed kinda random. The part I thought was interesting was the difference between the “four must” and the “eight bigs”. The four must were what you used to need to be a man under Mao were much simpler: a bicycle, a radio, a watch and a sewing machine. Under Deng the eight bigs replaced the four must and were much different: a color television, a refrigerator, a stereo, a camera, a motor cycle, a suite of furniture, a washing machine, and an electric fan. This reminded me from the movie we watched in class where on of the pleople said that Mao had given them freedom but Deng had given them food. It seems like here it’s showing how Deng had helped modernize China.

  3. John Harris says:

    I think the point Olivia makes has a lot of importance in this unit. The fact that Mao had worked so hard to create a modernized China through such simple means is astounding. Not only did Mao create this vision for China, but he also worked to cultivate the way China impacted the rest of the world. This is where the shift that accompanied Deng impacted the Chinese most. For China, the idea of international involvement had always put the Chinese people first. In Deng’s model of Chinese globalization, the Chinese people had to strive for the better life they wanted, unfortunately this created a divide between rural and intercity citizens. Deng’s eight bigs became more of a joke than any form of goal in the countryside. This is why the policy did not achieve the level of success desired.

  4. Trystan Colburn says:

    What really stuck out to me in this reading was the section under “Democracy’s Chorus.” First of all, the title does a great job of summing up what this section talks about, popular uprisings common with college students and their fight towards democracy; the revolutionaries are the chorus. Furthermore, I particularly enjoyed the part where Spence includes specific examples of how newer generations of Chinese children already have hopeful and bold predictions for their future. Children, ranging from 9 to 13 years old, had a broader context of an open future, from traveling to the moon, to being an athlete, to studying medicine, to becoming a high official. It is clear that an advance of the Four Modernizations was imminent

  5. Elias Atienza says:

    I have to agree with John’s assessment. Mao created a vision for China for the first thirty years of its existence and for the time, it worked. China has never been under a democratic government. It was never under the influence of the Wilsonian ideals of freedom and self-determination or the principles of Western influence. China, at first, resisted western influence. The Opium Wars and the gradual change of the balance of power in the world showed them that when China lost humiliating war after war.

    Just as it was the West’s time to shine back in the late 19th and early 20th century, it is China’s century. History shows how empires rise and fall. The U.S will not be like the Roman Empire and end up like Italy. It will be a decline like Great Britain’s; ability to project power but not able to be as influential as it was today. China is growing stronger and stronger; only time will tell if it will heed the lessons of the 20th and 21st century.

  6. Trystan Colburn says:

    and an uprising against the “unethical behavior by Party leaders” would only become stronger with a more open-minded youth, like Fang Lizhi, who was mentioned within this section to have ideas of reshaping the universites in a new, “more open mold” that was based on his premises of democracy.

  7. Mara Cook says:

    I enjoyed the perspectives that Spence includes about democracy and the political changes: “nobody can beat a hairdresser when it comes to spotting political changes” (721). The hair stylist noticed when the educated people stopped coming in because they wanted to remain unnoticed. It’s an interesting connection I wouldn’t have thought about. Also, the bicyclist and the peasant offered insight to how civilians were affected and what their lives were like. These anecdotes make the readings interesting.

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