My concentration in Gallatin is entrepreneurship and cross cultural communication between China and the U.S. Born in Shanghai and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, my passions lie in building cultural bridges, promoting positive community and driving economic growth between China and the U.S. NYU Shanghai is the place to practice my passion into action. Continuing one of the topics that I discussed in my last blog post about “order and censorship in China”, the main point that I want to reckon here is “freedom”.
I got asked these questions from my friends in the states very often: “Can Chinese people have their own voice? Does Chinese Communist government arrest people if the people say anything bad about them? Do Chinese people protest?” From what I saw in China this summer, the question that to which extent does freedom exist in China should be answered under two context: one through a political lens and the other through an economic lens.
Through a Political Lens
Politically, China is still Communist as ever. The government still controls its society. For example, every bank in China is state owned. This means that the government decides which bank can get the most loans and benefits. Another example is that Chinese media is wholly state-owned too. Chinese media filters out unfavorable images and offer uniformed favorable news. However, in terms of people’s freedom of speech, I found it is actually common for Chinese people to talk about politics nowadays. During my days in Shanghai, I found Chinese people love to talk about politics, especially over dinner tables. It has become a popular culture for Chinese people to express their opinions and discuss their government with friends and families. Just like Americans, Chinese people complain and make jokes about their government too. Some popular topics among Chinese people are corruptions in the government, fear of housing bubbles in China, and China’s bad air pollution.
Through an Economic Lens
Porsche sold more cars in China than in the United States. Grew by 12%, China became Porsche’s number 1 single market for total deliveries of 65,246 in 2016. It seems like there are a lot of Capitalism in China, a country that calls itself communist. How communist is China nowadays?
I found that China, the knowingly communist country, is not as communist as the rest of the world think it is. From Gucci’s giant, eye-catching billboard on West Nanjing Road, to a series of illuminated screens for ads along Shanghai Metro’s tunnel wall, to a cashless Chinese society created by the Chinese social media app Wechat, I saw element of capitalism and consumerism in Shanghai everywhere I walked by. China is eager to adopt capitalist ideologies and methods in a hope to stimulate economic growth and build up Chinese confidence.
However, China is different. Thirty years ago, Deng Xiaoping, the leader of Chinese economic reform changed Mao’s policy of “Four Modernization”(agriculture, industry, science and technology and military) to “Reform and Opening and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. Doing business in China is so much different than doing business in the US as China has enormous cultural roots that serve as base for Chinese characteristics. Building interpersonal relationships with clients, fostering trust and keeping a good record of reviews and recommendations are essential for doing business in China. Chinese cultural roots define the nation’s identity while evolve over the millennials which allow for fast adaption. Chairman Xi now introduced the idea of Chinese Dream. The dream of Chinese citizens in the 20th century is to be able to buy things that they “wanted” not just the things that they “needed”. In Shanghai, you can see foreign brands everywhere.
China’s economic reform to a capitalist society along with its rapid economic growth in the recent 10 years provided its people much more freedom and resources than it did before and made it possible for its citizens to buy what they want.