Attached files are the essay and the Required reading material Following is the essay question Question 1: You are chatting with a friend, Chipmunk, about a book you both read, Alec Ash’s Wish Lanterns. Chipmunk says,”The book follows the diverse lives and careers of several Chinese youths. The characters are all very different. I don’t see any similarities among them–other than, of course, the fact that they are all relatively young. ” Do you agree with Chipmunk’s statement?Or do you think that despite their differences, these young Chinese actually share certain significant similarities, including some of their main concerns, experiences attitudes and wishes? How do their concerns, experiences, attitudes and wishes reflect broader social and cultural changes in China?Question 2: You wake up one morning and discover that you are a noted expert on contemporary China. You have been invited to give a talk on the topic.” Contemporary China: Challenges, Responses and Hopes.” to an international audience of college students. You have take the class and know a lot about the topic. Please compose a speech on the topic. Your speech must refer to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Be sure to support your perspective and points with concrete evidence. Teachers suggestions are”2. For the 1st essay, you might want to add some concrete examples and stories. Otherwise, the essay looks vague and could not tell how much you’ve done the reading. 3. For the 2nd essay, you might want to add more “responses”.
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Running head: CONTEMPORARY CHINA
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Contemporary China
Question 1
I vehemently disagree with Chipmunk statement, which postulates that being young is the
only thing that these Chinese kids have in common. I acknowledge that their stories are different,
but they all seem to share the same destinies, problems such as isolation and aspirations. These
CONTEMPORARY CHINA
2
kids in China from their tender ages, seem to be brought up in a rigid communist system that
demands obedience and compliance from the communist party that reigns supreme in the lives of
every Chinese man, woman, and child. Most of these children grow up in isolation, restricted in
their compounds where they grow up doing what their parents want them to do, without being
given an opportunity or chance to think for themselves.
From these kids’ stories, it is clear that a child takes what he/she sees and is told very
seriously, and mostly grows up with it. The teachings of when they are young grow up with them
closely, and these experiences create lasting memories and altitudes in them. The policies passed
by the communist party in China demands even schools to be well versed in the communist
ideology and governance, history and patronage to it. It is widely known that kids are always
delicate and should be handled in a manner that portrays to them much love and understanding.
However, this is not the case in china because, as fast as these kids hit middle school, they start
being treated in a strict manner that aligns with the ideology of the governing party.
Parents seem to lack much time for these kids because of the economic changes happening in
China, and regretfully, they are strengthened by their desire to work for long hours in factories,
businesses or farms, with an excuse of trying to provide their kids the best education possible.
However, they forget that these kids need their parental presence. For most kids, their greatest
friends are dolls and accessories like computers and toys, whereas kids like Dahio and Fred,
school and everything taught there is about following the core of socialism and the virtue of
compliance.
The Chinese system is not letting kids to be kids, to play around and learn in schools where
they are free to do as they please, in the simplest ways that they can. Unfortunately, when they
end back home after schools, it is also not surprising to observe that these kids are overburdened
CONTEMPORARY CHINA
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with chores, instead of letting them explore their hobbies. At home, most parents have also
created compulsory rituals where these kids watch mind-numbing state-controlled programs that
speak of nothing other than praise for the communist party and its fairy tales.
These kids are enclosed in their compounds, and when they get out there, they start
wondering how the world out there operates. A child in China seems to grow up with the values
and ideas that s/he doesn’t see on their parents, with desires and dreams to explore a world far
than their enclosed regions. These parents, however how much they may be able to provide for
these kids and pamper them especially those who have adopted the one kid policy like the way
Deng Xiaoping one child economic policy demands, get immersed so much into their economic
lives and forgets about the parental care, obligations and love they should be giving their kids.
When children stray even by an inch from the set paths that their parents, teachers, and the
government regularly chooses for them, they seem to become extremely angry towards them.
Question 2
There is no doubt that China is quickly developing into a world superpower or maybe it can
be counted as one of it by now, given it has become the second greatest economy globally. It is
even being projected to eclipse the US economy by the year 2030, if it does not slow down this
quick rate of development. However, as contemporary China is developing and globalizing, it is
also facing challenges, responses, and hopes in its paths to greatness. It will be remembered that
CONTEMPORARY CHINA
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it is only a few decades ago, in the era of Mao Zedong, when Chinese policies failed terribly,
until the age of Deng Xiaoping, who initiated massive economic reforms and opened up china to
the world in 1978. Although China has been developing at a speedy rate, it is still being
considered a developing country given its per capita income is still a fraction of what is realized
in most advanced countries, and additionally, its economic reforms can be regarded as
incomplete.
However, given its public sector expansion and support by the communist government more
than the burgeoning private sector, the country has been facing a myriad of problems. Despite
the country’s economic achievements and advancements that have been regularly lauded, it has
also been facing political and social tensions from segments of the population who have been left
to mull in poverty, while vast wealth is exchanged in the hands of a few people. With its
expanding economy, it has also seen a significant improvement into its military strength, whose
power the communist leadership wants to advance beyond its shores by flexing muscles against
anyone who threatens its agenda, in a world order it did not help create. Such actions, have
increased tensions that could soon lead into military confrontations, with the United States
Empire that created the current world order.
Despite China developing fast and ostentatiously to the awe of the outside world, it has faced
its internal constraints and imperatives. It is clearly affecting the global economy, because this
country has more than 1.4 billion people, creating a significant consumerism market. China
growth has been in part as a result of the economic policies that have been advanced by the
country’s leadership, along with its vast human resources and competitive ritual that the
country’s citizens have adopted. The state is constructing infrastructure at an unprecedented
pace, with China using a third of the world steel and a half of the world’s concrete on yearly
CONTEMPORARY CHINA
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basis. Its 24-hour working economy can be visualized by its fast urbanization where tower cranes
rotate like dials in the complicated machines in all Chinese urban areas every time. Additionally,
Chinese people consumption will immediately change a products price, and this is what has
made China the most sought-after market for companies’ products both at home and overseas.
After Deng Xiaoping initiated an open door policy, China started the journey of reforming
itself by taking proactive advantage of globalization, market economy and democratization to
remake itself, not only for rebuilding its economy but also for its political institutions. However,
it seems that the communist party has only managed to stir the country towards economic
advancement, while holding to rigid communism policies that demand total obedience, patronage
and compliance from its subjects on the core of socialism. These leaders have been taking a
swipe and mockery at democracy, in what they claim to be the ‘rule by the people’, yet by all
accords what it seems to be is ruling for the people.
Now, irrespective of all the advancement and the statistics revealing China has been the
fastest growing world economy to the second position on the global stage in economic indexes,
one will wonder then how come the country has so many people languishing in poverty despite
all the modernization the country is undergoing through. Chinese workers can be said to be the
most competitive and hardworking right now globally, yet even the numbers in the middle class
can only be approximated to be a mere 200 million people in a country of more than a billion.
This is very sarcastic indeed, but it can be attributed to the economic reforms the country has
taken, by prioritizing the public sector more than the private. This can only means one thing, that
the workers will be under the strict government policies and influence that disregard labor laws
and pay them poorly. Their low per capita imply to a struggling nation, and not a growing one.
CONTEMPORARY CHINA
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Chinese workers will work tirelessly, but much of these earnings go to the government that
then, invest them in massive infrastructural projects such as roads, railways, buildings, and
public sector companies. Additionally, a vast amount of government spending also goes to
military spending. However, the government turns a blind eye on labor laws that ensure
employers do not exploit these workers because, it is only concerned with getting massive tax
pays from these companies to advance its agenda. These market exploitation actions have
regularly caused social tensions and protests from these underpaid workers, but only God knows
and helps those who happen to be caught in the crossfire with the governance, because, they
mostly end up in the many secret government Gulags where they are tortured by the strict regime
to ensure they once again instill them with the virtue of compliance and obedience, if in any way,
they are deemed to have forgotten.
This same government has been carrying unfair trade policies and has even been accused by
its international trading partners like the US of intellectual property theft, locking the two
countries into a heightened trade war. The one belt and one road initiative project that was
unveiled by President Xi Jinping as prove that China is entirely focused on massive
infrastructure development and investments, focused on Europe, Asia, and Africa has been
subject of varied interpretation by observers. Irrespective of such an effort, the world continues
to feel uncertain about China because of its communism leadership, and continue to closely
monitor and watch it, as its objectives become clearer every day. For example, despite the
Chinese government terming the belt initiative a bid to enhance regional connectivity and
embrace a brighter future, people are seeing it as a way for its communist government to push for
Chinese dominance in global affairs, with a china centered military and trading network.
CONTEMPORARY CHINA
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There is still hope for the Chinese workers that their conditions will change as the country’s
leadership continues to persuade them it is leaning towards democratization, which will make its
public sector more transparent and reduce corruption and workers’ rights exploitations.
However, tensions are as high as possible, in what is being observed as Chinese communism
agenda enforcement around the globe, as they continue to militarize the South China Sea and
other regions around them against the wishes of their less powerful neighbors. Also, the
government has been portraying hostility towards Taiwan, which it considers as its 34th province
that strayed and needs to be brought back by all means, even if it means invading it militarily.
Although advancement by any economy always feels people with hope for the future, we cannot
say the same for the fast-changing China that has already started dissolving the sovereignties of
countries that fail to pay their external debts by taking their important assets such as ports, land
or railways. As a rising power, they are not doing anything to help the downtrodden in society,
but only what advances the best interests of its Chinese leadership.
References
Ash, A. (2016). Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China. Pan Macmillan.
Sheringham, M. (2017). Alec Ash. Wish Lanterns: Young Lives in New China.
Baum, R. (2004). China’s Road to ‘Soft Authoritarian Reform.’. US–China Relations and
China’s Integration with the World, 15-20.
CONTEMPORARY CHINA
Keith, R. C. (1994). China’s Struggle for the Rule of Law. In China’s Struggle for the Rule of
Law (pp. 1-38). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
Yan-yan, X. U. (2011). Development Status and Trends of Contemporary Literary Criticism.
Journal of Jiangxi Institute of Education, 2, 044.
8
ALEC ASH
WISH LANTERNS
YOUNG LIVES IN NEW CHINA
PICADOR
2
For my father
3
4
Note on Names
In this book I follow the lives of six young Chinese born between 1985 and
1990, telling their stories from childhood to late twenties. For those who
have English names, I use them for familiarity’s sake. Dahai and Xiaoxiao
don’t, so I use their Chinese nicknames instead, which is how their friends
know them. Fred is her English name but also serves as a pseudonym, and
details about her family have been left out at her request, out of concern for
her father’s position as a Communist Party official.
Other Chinese names and words are in Pinyin. For terms with a simple
English equivalent, I use it, but for some of the more common or interesting
terms I give the Chinese too. A few tricks help pronunciation – x is ‘shh’, q
is ‘ch’, c is ‘ts’, z is ‘dz’, zh is ‘dj’ and js are hard.
Everything in quotation marks is in translation from the Chinese, except
where marked as originally in English. All money is in yuan (RMB), which
was roughly ten to the pound sterling for most of the period covered, the
childhood and early teens of the twenty-first century.
5
Cast of Characters
Dahai (Yu Hai) – Military child, netizen, self-styled loser, born 1985 in
Hubei province
Xiaoxiao (Liu Xiao) – Small-business owner, dreamer, born 1985 in
Heilongjiang province
Fred (anonymous) – Official’s daughter, Ph.D., patriot, born 1985 in
Hainan province
Snail (Miao Lin) – Country boy, internet gaming addict, born 1987 in
Anhui province
Lucifer (Li Yan) – Singer, aspiring international superstar, born 1989 in
Hebei province
Mia (Kong Xiaorui) – Fashionista, rebel, former punk, born 1990 in
Xinjiang province
6
CONTENTS
XIAOXIAO
DAHAI
FRED
SNAIL
LUCIFER
MIA
SNAIL
FRED
DAHAI
XIAOXIAO
LUCIFER
MIA
SNAIL
FRED
LUCIFER
DAHAI
SNAIL
XIAOXIAO
MIA
LUCIFER
DAHAI
SNAIL
FRED
LUCIFER
7
DAHAI
XIAOXIAO
SNAIL
MIA
LUCIFER
FRED
DAHAI AND XIAOXIAO
SNAIL
LUCIFER
FRED
MIA
XIAOXIAO AND DAHAI
Author’s Note
Acknowledgements
8
It had been a decade since Dahai buried his diary.
The leather journal was waiting in the dry earth beneath a pine tree, at the
top of the mountain behind his childhood home. He was eighteen when he
put it there, in a dark teak box used for storing tea leaves, along with a pack
of cigarettes and some old photos.
Born in 1985, he was a child of new China. His was the first generation
with no memory of Tiananmen, let alone of Mao. A generation of only
children born to a country changing as fast as they were. Natives of its
hurtling present, inheritors of its uncertain future. The thin end of the wedge.
In the diary he wrote about worries, wishes, fragile dreams . . . but mostly
about a girl.
The May heat frazzled as he topped the summit. But which was the right
tree? He unfolded an army-green spade from his backpack and plunged it
into the ground, feeling for a hollow wooden thunk. Construction workers
rebuilding a pagoda nearby took pictures on their phones, amused as he
pockmarked the landscape with holes.
Dahai ignored them. He was almost thirty now, married, and dug for his
early years.
9
XIAOXIAO
The fruit came from all over China. Apples from Xinjiang, pears from
Hebei, tangerines from Zhejiang and Fujian. Every so often there might be
dragon fruit from Hainan island in the far south, or clumps of baby bananas
on the stem. They came by thirteen-metre-long truck, all the bounty of the
land spreading its seeds, to the back door of the wholesale fruit shop which
Xiaoxiao’s parents ran, in the far north where no fruit grew.
Winter took the skin off your fingers here, north of the wall. The blanket
of hard land above Beijing, previously known as Manchuria but simply
called ‘the north-east’ in Chinese, is the head of the rooster which is
supposed to be China’s map. From its crest, you can see the Aurora
Borealis and the midnight sun. Temperatures get down to minus forty, and
snowfall comes up to your waist. There are still a few lonely Siberian
tigers, who stray over from Russia without proper visas.
Heilongjiang province is named for the ‘black dragon river’ which snakes
along its border with Russia. Four hours by train from the provincial
capital, tucked between Inner Mongolia to the west and Siberia to the north,
is Nehe. Rows of identical apartment blocks are still under construction, as
if the city had bloomed spontaneously from the tundra-like earth. But for a
frozen river that you can drive a truck over in winter, it could be any other
small Chinese city of just half a million people. Here, on 4 September 1985,
Liu Xiao was born.
She was delivered by a midwife at home, on her parents’ bed. For the
first hour she didn’t cry, and everyone was beside themselves. Then she
began bawling to the gods and they tearfully wished she would shut up. At
the age of seven days her ears were pierced with a needle and red thread, an
old tradition to bring good luck and health. Seven days was also how long it
took for her mother and father to name her, leafing through a fat dictionary to
find a character they liked. In the end they settled on xiao, which means
‘sky’ or ‘clouds’ and is part of an idiom about a loud sound resounding
through the heavens – like her first ear-splitting cries. In another tone the
word means ‘small’ or ‘young’, and from an early age her pet name was
10
Xiaoxiao, little Xiao.
Xiaoxiao was a girl, and if she married her own child wouldn’t continue
the family name of Liu. The one-child policy, implemented in 1980 not long
after Deng Xiaoping ushered in China’s reform era, meant that her parents
couldn’t legally have another. But families were still catching up with the
idea, especially further out from the urban hubs, and the law was far from
monolithic. Xiaoxiao’s parents waited another four years until her father left
his strictly supervised work unit, then had a second child anyway – a son –
and got away without paying the hefty fine.
These ‘post-80s’ only children, bearing all of the hopes and wishes that
their parents missed out on in the Mao years, are mollycoddled to comic
extremes during infancy. They are helped up after every fall, and wrapped in
more layers of protection than a porcelain vase in transit. Add the attentions
of two sets of grandparents, and the pampering snowballs into a smothering
excess. In her first winter months, Xiaoxiao was only occasionally visible
underneath layers of baby thermals, her cheeks the same shade as her
crimson padded jacket.
Until the age of seven, she lived with her maternal grandparents in a
countryside hamlet two hours’ drive out of Nehe. Their courtyard home had
pigs, geese, ducks, chickens, a dog and a single bed: a platform of clumped
earth above a coal-fired stove, called a kang, on which Grandma, Grandpa
and Xiaoxiao all slept in a bundle of shared warmth. Layers of newspaper
were pasted across the walls and ceiling; headlines about Deng Xiaoping’s
southern tour of China in the early nineties found better use as cheap
insulation. The only entertainment was traditional folk storytelling on the
radio, while Xiaoxiao sat on her grandmother’s lap.
It is common in China for grandparents to raise a child while mum and
dad work long hours in cramped city conditions, sending back money. Tens
of millions of the post-80s generation grew up like this. Those in the
countryside whose parents are migrant workers far away are called ‘leftbehind children’. Whatever the circumstances, to be separated from your
parents leaves its mark. Xiaoxiao’s mother remembers with pain one time
when she visited her daughter after being half a year away in Nehe. She
went in for a hug only to see that Xiaoxiao didn’t recognise her, but instead
hid behind Grandma.
Xiaoxiao moved back in with her parents shortly after, into the flat where
she was born. Close at hand, on the edge of town, was the family fruit
wholesaler’s. She liked to play in the wa …
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