Americans are learning a lot about China these days — including, increasingly, the country's languages. For a real window into China's popular culture, listen back to our show in Shanghai with Hong Huang, an entertainment and media personality who has been called the "Oprah of China."
Of course, China's dramatic rise is the subject this week of much Washington chatter, as President Hu visits. (Hear our take Thursday.) For some time now, China's success — the product of much strategic focus — has made some Western commentators worry that top-down "authoritarian capitalism" is becoming a real alternative to the messy business of American-style democracy. And some are arguing that China's system simply handles challenges such as the financial crisis more effectively.
No doubt, one-party Communist rule does remain the general rule in China. But the country's internal politics are not always neat and tidy, as Tom Ashbrook and On Point demonstrated in 2008. In a show broadcast from Shanghai, Tom, producer Julie Diop, and director Eileen Imada brought together voices representing the Chinese equivalent of "Democrats" and "Republicans," from within the Communist Party. Tom introduced the show as follows:
The face the Party shows the world is monolithic. But inside the Party walls, there’s a debate over China’s future, with implications for the whole world. When China turned away from the old-fashioned communist economics of Chairman Mao, it turned with a vengeance — to what even the Wall Street Journal now calls a kind of naked, unfettered capitalism. That move brought hundreds of millions out of dollar-a-day poverty. It also wiped out much of a cradle-to-grave safety net, tore up China’s environment and produced a vast gap between China’s rich and poor. Now, behind that monolithic façade, a debate is underway within the Communist Party about how to respond, and talk of a “New Left” and “New Right” that can sound like China’s version of Republicans and Democrats.
If you want real insight into the true texture of, and disagreements within, China's governing class, be sure to listen — link to the show here.