China: The danger of 'one country, two systems' formula

Ray

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SYSTEMS CLASH

There was always a question mark over China's commitment to the 'one country, two systems' formula for Hong Kong. The current turmoil in the former British colony shows that large sections of the people there are increasingly suspicious of Beijing's plans for governing it. It started as an angry reaction to the 'white paper' on Hong Kong that Beijing released in June. "The high degree of autonomy enjoyed by Hong Kong," the document says, "is subject to the central government's authorization." It so alarmed pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong that they threatened to shut the city with an 'Occupy Central' programme. The document, they fear, is the death warrant of the rule of law and the freedoms that they enjoyed and that the people in the Chinese mainland are denied. The white paper's reiteration that Beijing has "complete jurisdiction" over the territory is also seen as a warning to pro-democracy groups. All this has come in the midst of a popular demand that the people be allowed to directly elect Hong Kong's chief executive in the next elections due in 2017. At present, the chief executive is elected by the territory's legislature only from a panel of candidates chosen by Beijing.

How he handles the situation in Hong Kong will be a crucial test for Xi Jinping, China's new leader. While he has moved faster on further liberalizing the economy, Mr Xi has shown no love for democratic politics. Beijing's responses so far to issues relating to Hong Kong also suggest a hard approach. It is no secret that last weekend's protests against the 'Occupy Central' programme had been stage-managed by Beijing. But Beijing cannot afford to let the situation in Hong Kong get out of its control. A continuing crisis in Hong Kong can damage its reputation as a major international financial centre. The blame for that will rest more with Beijing than with the pro-democracy groups. It is unlikely that Mr Xi will use a strategy in Hong Kong that will hurt China's vital economic interests. At the same time, China's image will be battered if it tramples on Hong Kong's democracy stir. Beijing has too many problems with its neighbours, such as Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, to want fresh troubles at home. What it does in Hong Kong may also have an impact on Beijing's ties with Taiwan. But most important, the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong will inspire dissenters in the Chinese mainland.

systems clash
China's governance hinges on their theory of 'stability and harmony'.

To that aim, China goes to all limits to ensure it.

However, the 'one country, two systems' formula is charged with contradictions that is leading to disharmony and chaos. This is dangerous for China, more so, if the same spreads to other parts of China where affluence is rampant.

There is a feeling that the industrious South is burdened by the 'unproductive North'.

Cultural Divide in China

Before coming to China I, like most of my friends and relatives back in the United States, assumed it was one huge, homogenous chunk of land where everyone spoke "Chinese," looked "Chinese," and shared a common culture and history.

Living on-and-off in China since 2007 and traveling throughout much of the country, I can resolutely say that notion is false. Just like in the United States, each geographic region of Chinais distinct with its own cuisine, culture and in many cases, dialect. Although an overwhelming majority of people, close to 92 percent according to government statistics, are Han Chinese, there are 55 other ethnic groups. Some, like the Uygurs in the extreme northwest, look nothing like the image of the "typical" Chinese person that was burned into my mind before coming.

Now, having just traveled to Guangzhou and Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong Province, I've become aware of another division that shares a parallel with the United States—the distinction between north and south China.

In my experience, if you ask a Chinese northerner, generally north of the Yangtze River, the difference between the north and south, they'll tell you that southerners are more interested in earning money and less interested in politics. They eat rice instead of noodles and steamed buns, don't dine on jiaozi (dumplings) during the Spring Festival, and are generally darker-skinned.

Of course, if you ask a southerner about the north, they're likely to say that northern folk are taller, stronger, and eat heartier food, but are a tad less "cultured." When I asked my Cantonese friend to elaborate on this last point, she cracked a smile and explained that you'd rarely see a southerner "spit on the street" and that they speak softly whereas northerners tend to speak in a forced, blunt tone that makes them sound like they're perpetually angry.

In Guangdong Province, the heart of China's Cantonese culture, I experienced the south at its apex while in Beijing and the northeast I did the same with the north.

Just like in the United States, each region has a rich heritage and culture. In southern states back home, you're likely to hear voices flavored with a Dixie accent and will probably see a confederate flag or two, a remnant of an era that came and went.

In China, I've found that the stereotypes of north and south are, by-and-large, spot on. Like the culture as a whole, southern cuisineis carefully prepared, subtly spiced and neatly served. In the north, food is blasted with flavor and sauce and often served on huge, heaping platters. At southern morning teas, the pace is relaxed and the service slow. The goal is to unwind and relax, a luxury that is often overlooked in the north, I've found.

It's tough to say which culture I like better, but because I've spent most of my time in Beijing, I've become more familiar with and comfortable around northern culture. Still, the warm, subtle south remains alluring.

What's most important is for an outsider to understand that China, like the United States, is far from a homogenous country. Geographic and cultural divisions, north-south included, contribute to making the country a diverse and fascinating whole.

The author is an American living in Beijing
Cultural Divide in China -- Beijing Review
And the feeling of one Chinese, randomly picked:
I am really fed up. This happened in another forum. I keep encountering Northerners who claim that Southern Chinese are not really Han Chinese e.g. Cantonese.

This is so offensive especially when you consider that Northerners are not pure Huaxia themselves anyway. In fact, we're all mixed but they keep trying to look down on us. <_<

If Southern Chinese are not really Chinese, then maybe PRC should let go of HK(Cantonese) and let Taiwan(Hoklo) become independent. Plus let Guangdong province become autonomous or something...(Note I'm not suggesting all this but some Northerners despise us so much...Can't have your cake and eat it too if you want us to stand with you...)

If there are Northerners out there who think of us as fellow Chinese, pls speak up. I don't want to think all Northerners are like that....all obsessed with blood and purity and stuff...
Northerner claims Cantonese are not Han Chinese - Culture Shock! - AFspot Forum
 
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Srinivas_K

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A whole continent of people with multi culture, multi linguistic and multi ethnicity are living in the name of China there.
 

Ray

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A whole continent of people with multi culture, multi linguistic and multi ethnicity are living in the name of China there.
And claiming to be 92% Han!

It would be as forced and ridiculous if Russia claimed that 92% Russians are Slavs!
 

Jagdish58

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China should follow Jinnah policy two nation theory all issues will be solved :taunt: some how pakistan is blood brother
 

jon88

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And claiming to be 92% Han!

It would be as forced and ridiculous if Russia claimed that 92% Russians are Slavs!
Say what it may, the Chinese are quite a united lot. Like it is said, they are forced to be as one people but over thousands of years and share a common written language.

In fact, people throughout the region talk to each other using written words eventhough they do not speak each others spoken languages. Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and the Chinese write to each other in Chinese characters. When the Portuguese went to Japan from Macau, they relied on Cantonese workers to communicate with the Japanese via writing.

Having said that, Mongolians, Tibetans and Uygurs do not share the same written characters or system.

At this present time, most Vietnamese do not write Chinese characters anymore due to French colonisation. Koreans use phonetic characters call Hangul alongside with Chinese characters. North Korea completely eliminated Chinese characters in their writings in favour of Hangul. Japanese use Hiragana and Katagana to complement Chinese characters. Taiwanese introduced bofomofo into their system, which was originally introduced in mainland China, although both still use Chinese characters ( Taiwan retain traditional characters and China simplified characters). Mainland China developed romanised pinyin system. All the above system introduced are "phonetic in nature" while Chinese characters are more "meaning in nature".
 
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amoy

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Say what it may, the Chinese are quite a united lot. Like it is said, they are forced to be as one people but over thousands of years and share a common written language.

In fact, people throughout the region talk to each other using written words eventhough they do not speak each others spoken languages. Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and the Chinese write to each other in Chinese characters. When the Portuguese went to Japan from Macau, they relied on Cantonese workers to communicate with the Japanese via writing.
Indeed Chinese characters in writing have a strong binding power despite varying pronunciations across a vast area. By using the hieroglyphs people overcome phonetic complexity.

As a result of a thousand years of Chinese control, and a further thousand years of strong Chinese influence, a lot of Chinese vocabulary was adopted into Vietnamese. Literary Chinese was used in administration, and thus terms relating to science, politics, education, and philosophy entered the common lexicon. Like Sino-Korean and Sino-Japanese, these terms are pronounced differently in Vietnamese. Over the years, a system establishing rules on how to pronounce Chinese characters was developed.
Many foreigners carelessly equal "southerners" to "Cantonese" maybe Cantonese constitutes a large chunk of overseas Chinese that they often interact with (like in Malaysia). However the south is much diversified than Cantonese - Shanghai for example is also part of "geographical" and "cultural" south, but distinctively different from " Canton".

 

Ray

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Say what it may, the Chinese are quite a united lot. Like it is said, they are forced to be as one people but over thousands of years and share a common written language.

In fact, people throughout the region talk to each other using written words eventhough they do not speak each others spoken languages. Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese and the Chinese write to each other in Chinese characters. When the Portuguese went to Japan from Macau, they relied on Cantonese workers to communicate with the Japanese via writing.

Having said that, Mongolians, Tibetans and Uygurs do not share the same written characters or system.

At this present time, most Vietnamese do not write Chinese characters anymore due to French colonisation. Koreans use phonetic characters call Hangul alongside with Chinese characters. North Korea completely eliminated Chinese characters in their writings in favour of Hangul. Japanese use Hiragana and Katagana to complement Chinese characters. Taiwanese introduced bofomofo into their system, which was originally introduced in mainland China, although both still use Chinese characters ( Taiwan retain traditional characters and China simplified characters). Mainland China developed romanised pinyin system. All the above system introduced are "phonetic in nature" while Chinese characters are more "meaning in nature".
How is language the indication of similarity in genetics or culture so as to qualify all (or 92%) as Han and united?

It is a political construct and not ethnocultural.

Historically, the Han people (who are from the North of Yangtse Kiang). as they conquered areas that constitute the political map of China today, have Sinicised (converted to being Han in all its facets) the conquered. The aim was basically to wipe out the roots, traditions, customs etc so that they froget their singular differences to create dissensions and rebel against the Han people. That is why the CCP has the mindset that all actions has to maintain the unique desire for 'harmony and stability'.

Arabic is spoken throughout the Middle East, but the culture and traditions are different and they are not one homogeneous entity.

On languages, in Japan kanji is essentially Chinese characters, whereas the other two systems, hiragana and katakana are simplified forms of certain Chinese characters and used exclusively to represent sounds. It is possible and fairly common that all three scripts are useds together in the same text.

In Korea, writing also started as an adoption of the Chinese script to fit the Korean language, and as a result Chinese characters called hanja came to represent both words as well as sounds. This system persisted for more than a thousand until the creation and introduction of the alphabet hangul which is what is used in both North and South Korea.

Now the Yi Scripts and the script of the Yi or Lolo people, who are an ethnic group in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. The Yi people of China's Yunnan province have an indigenous writing system that on surface appears to resemble Chinese, so it is classified as a Sinitic script, but the resemblance might just a product of stimulus diffusion. This means that only the idea of writing and the visual style were adopted by the Yi, but the individual signs themselves are brand new inventions.

Then there is the Khitan people. They were a powerful Mongolian tribe that dominated Northern China and established the Liao dynasty between the 10th and 12th centuries BCE.
They invented not one but two scripts both based on Chinese and augmented to their language. One form, the "Large Script", remained largely logographic, while the "Small Script" evolved into a mixed phonetic and logographic system. In both scripts, some signs were adopted from Chinese and heavily modified, while others are new creations. The Khitan script, as well as the Khitan language and people, faded into history after having been absorbed into the Mongolian empire.

The Jurchens who were the ancestors of the Manchus (who went on to conquer China and established the last dynasty, the Qing) and they adapted both the Khitan big and small scripts and modified them into a single script for their own language. It is still a poorly understood script. The Jurchen/Manchu people later adopted the Mongolian alphabet and modified it into the Manchu script, and abandoned the old logographic Jurchen script.

The Xixia Dynasty or Tangut Empire was a powerful state in northwestern China. It was headed by an elite who spoke a Tibeto-Burman language. By edict of Emperor Jingzong, a writing system was created by his court scholars in 1036 and rapid disseminated via government schools. The Tangut script was a logographic writing system with over 5,000 characters made to resemble Chinese characters visually but were in fact new creations. The script quickly declined after the destruction of the Tangut Empire by Genghis Khan, the last inscription dating from the 16th century.

Vietnamese Chu Nom means "Southern Writing" and it was a script to write Vietnamese using Chinese character construction principles. What this means is that traditional radicals were paired with characters serving as phonetic components to construct Chu Nom characters that represent Vietnamese words. Chu Nom never attained an official status such as that of Chinese in Vietnam and only remained in the domain of literary elites. During French colonization both Chinese and Chu Nom were suppressed and the Latin-based quoc ngu became the sole writing system for Vietnamese.

Nushu is perhaps the most interesting writing system associated with Chinese. It is a secret script used by women in Hunan over hundred of years to communicate with each other as women were not given any education in feudal Chinese society. It is moribund and only known by a handful of women of advanced age. However recently there is considerable interest in it and some efforts are made in preserving it.
 
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