Capitalist communists rock!

Human beings are brilliant, resilient, resourceful creatures. We are the only species that can thrive everywhere from the Arctic circle to the equator. Put a human population under pressure and it’ll keep right on going – release that pressure and it’ll bounce back to wherever it started from.

This is true of mental as well and physical things, but it’s also true that if the pressure is severe, so is the rebound. In some cases we overshoot, as with the end of communism in Russia and the Eastern bloc.

If someone has been told their whole life that they can’t wear blue jeans or listen to Wham, they over-inflate the importance of these things. When their government turns round and says we don’t care what you wear any more, it’s no surprise that they deck themselves out in head-to-toe denim.

So why do I think China is so great? Because the Chinese government is letting the pressure out gradually.

For a start, China is in the middle of a quiet, state-sponsored sexual revolution, with information about homosexuality becoming available for the first time – it should be accepted but not encouraged, in case you’re wondering. This from a government that counted being gay as a mental illness until 2000.

On top of that, the state is making (straight) sex education programmes and showing them on prime time telly – fascinating viewing. Couples in their underwear simulate a variety of sexual positions while a patient, motherly voiceover explains the advantages of each one.

The overlying message seems to be reassuring but slightly guarded – it’s ok to have fun in bed (or the kitchen, or the bath) just don’t have too much of it (and please, please don’t get pregnant).

There also seems to be government-supported feminism happening. One book shop carried a beautiful state-printed coffee table book full of glossy pictures of women doing interesting and inspiring things. The title was ‘Chinese women striding into the 21st century’.

Of course, that isn’t too say China is doing everything right. I don’t know how easy it is to stand up and question the government’s choices, and there are still some aspects of its rule that make me pretty uncomfortable.

Practitioners of Falun Gong are almost certainly being tortured (Abu Ghraib?) and they still have capital punishment (I thought California was supposed to be liberal, man).

I guess my facetious parentheses are just meant to show that no country is perfectly governed, but China appears to be making a much better stab at it than I’d expected.


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