Monday, June 17, 2013

Beijing 2013: One Big Party

There was one interesting occurrence that really brought home the unusual political system that China has. With a history of communism since 1949 and the odd co-mingling of that with capitalism today, our guide explained that China has a "one party" system. But we American and European tourists had a very difficult time grasping that concept. How does it work? Who do you vote for? What are party members even called? Certainly not representatives, since they don't answer to the public! It all came to a head when we were visiting Tiananmen Square and trying to understand the lack of parlimentary buildings. In fact, the "White House" equivalent, where the Chinese president lives, is secret! The Chinese people don't even know where their leader resides! And most Chinese no nothing of what occurred in Tiananmen Square in 1989, which is ironically the only thing Americans likely DO know about China and its political history.

It was certainly an usual experience to explain democracy and the divided branches of the American system to our young Chinese guide. He couldn't seem to comprehend such a system, just as we cringed at the idea of his!
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Great Hall of the People

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Soldiers in Tiananmen Square (you can see Chairmen Mao's picture in the background)

We got a tiny taste of how seriously China takes their communism when we visited the mausoleum of Chairman Mao Zedong. There is generally a several hour wait in line to go through, but we came long right before closing and zipped in. We had to leave hats, bags, purses, backpacks, etc. all outside with a friend or rent a locker. Nothing is allowed inside except your person! No cameras, no flowers, etc. We went through several layers of security and then were rushed along a pathway and up the stairs into the mausoleum. We were herded through the building and past the preserved body of their revered communist leader (who was draped in the Chinese flag and encased in a glass box, no less). It was a bit surreal and I'm certainly glad we didn't stand in line for any length of time for the privilege, but it did seem to give us a glimpse into the culture and politics of this country.

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Mao's Mausoleum

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1 comment:

  1. Wow. What an interesting experience for sure! That's somewhere I've never been...anywhere in Asia! So glad you were able to go as well.