I feel like I’m being propagandized to fear Chinese people.
China is now the USA’s primary “geopolitical competitor” whatever the fuck that means. I mean, I know they have an iron-fisted authoritarian government, they “manipulate their currency” (whatever that means), and they cruelly occupy Tibet. But that’s not the people’s fault. At least not any more than Donald Trump was my fault. (Big subject, that.)
And now the media is telling me that not only did COVID-19 originate in China, but it very possibly was invented in a Wuhan lab. How diabolical is that?
Also, I confess, I have some small investment in cryptocurrency, and now China’s “crackdown” on bitcoin mining is tanking all the major crypto coins.
Then again, is that a totally terrible thing? Bitcoin mining is ecologically disastrous, with its obscene energy consumption/carbon footprint. Good for China! Not so good for my virtual portfolio, but still – I don’t know what the Chinese government’s motive is, but clamping down on bitcoin mining can’t be bad for the planet.
I had an interaction online this week with a Chinese person whom I’ve never met in real life. I made a comment on a chess video on youtube. Actually my comment was a question. In the video, the commentator was presenting the moves of a high-level grandmaster game, and I wanted to know why a certain move was not made at one particular point, a move I thought was obviously called for.
As it turned out, not surprisingly, I was overlooking something. Also, in my question, I had misspelled a common chess term. (The term is “en prise” which means that an unprotected piece is under attack. I had mistakenly spelled it “en pris.”)
So this fellow with a distinctly Chinese last name took the time and trouble to respond to my question. He clearly pointed out what I was missing with regard to the chess move, and he also politely corrected my spelling of “en prise,” and he concluded his remarks to me with the words “Stay safe and well.”
I thought that was lovely. It really warmed me! It brought to mind memories of other interactions I’ve had in my life with people of Chinese descent – a certain dignity, goodwill, and softness that seem to characterize Chinese culture in my experience.
Also, I’ve read a couple of extraordinarily gentle and brilliant short stories recently by Chinese writers. “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang is told from the point of view of a parrot. In case you don’t know, parrots are threatened with extinction. This exquisite tale is barely 1,000 words. It’s one of the most beautiful, touching, provocative stories I’ve ever read in my life.
I also recently read “Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu which is the first piece of fiction to ever win all three of sci-fi’s most prestigious awards: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the World Fantasy Award. But it’s so much more than mere “speculative fiction.” If you can read this one and not be deeply moved … well … I don’t know what to say. This story too is very, very short. You can inhale it in 15 to 20 minutes.
I’ve become curious lately about Chinese voices. The novel I’m reading now is by yet another Chinese author and part of it takes place during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Such nightmares these gentle people lived through! What courage, what superhuman internal strength some of them demonstrated in not turning against each other, not giving themselves over to the agents of ruthless coercion.
I began this year reading a few outstanding books by black writers. (My two favorites were the novel Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the remarkable Malcolm X biography The Dead Are Arising by Les Payne (with Tamara Payne)). There seems to be a lot of awareness now – at least where I live – that white people need to listen more to black voices, including literary ones. To my benefit, I’ve been influenced by that trend.
And I feel lucky too that – essentially by coincidence – I’ve been encountering some astonishing Chinese writers lately. I feel it’s important for me to hear their voices too, to absorb a little of their spirit, especially when the media portrayal of everything China-related has been so one-sided in recent years.