I try to present a nuanced picture of my host country. I try to highlight its successes and also the built-in prejudices China often faces, especially over emotional and complex issues like Tibet. I try to distinguish between different parts of the Chinese government, to make it clear I know the government (like most governments) is not categorically evil, that many bureaucrats are doing the best they can to improve a country that faces daunting problems. I try to point out the economic impact of China’s rise and the extraordinary success of Hu Jintao’s ruthless, pragmatic and daring foreign policy strategy, how he has managed to re-stack the deck, and not the way America would like.
So the reason for the boring and somewhat defensive preamble is that I just came across one of those sickening stories that brings back all the animosity I felt for the CCP back in 2002-3. I know this is almost certainly the fault of local officials in Guizhou and not the central party in Beijing. And it’s one of those agonizing stories that we keep hoping will stop appearing as local leaders realize they can no longer contain and keep secret their malfeasances. And still, the stories appear.
The cause for hope: at least we are reading about it and it has made the world headlines thanks to the Internet. The cause for anxiety is that these things are often hushed up and forgotten.
And I know, we killed American Indians and kept slaves in the US, and we supported eugenics and gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan. And I know China’s a great country and has a lot to deal with. But when any country allows what appear to be acts of barbarism like this to take place, the story has to be told.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.