Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Fat Years
One of the novel's main characters, Little Xi, is a middle-aged Chinese woman who spends her time as an online activist, arguing via web forums and hiding behind anonymous user names throughout the novel. Whether Koonchung meant it or not, Little Xi turned out to be a great portrayal of the issues over anonymity on the web that are hitting China today, and how anonymity is one of the main means for Chinese to protest and speak out while living in the mainland. On page 178 Little Xi argues this point when she makes the claim that "the Internet is the people's Central Discipline Committee and virtual Public Security authorities."
"...The power of Western governments is given to them by the people, while in China the people's freedom is given to them by the government. Is this distinction really that important?" (146) The novel brought out many issues and had one liners that really forced the reader to contemplate China's future and stability. A theme that permeates the novel is whether or not Chinese should continue to remember the struggles of the past in the effort to move forward. The protagonist Lao Chen continually brings China's past political struggles to the reader's attention, particularly the Cultural Revolution and the Democracy Movement and economic openness of the decade following. One line in the book attributes these major events in China's political system to the changing personalities of its citizenry: "...he says that China's mentality transforms itself every few years" (122). The character who spoke this refers also to the return of Hong Kong (1997), SARS (2003), the Olympics (2008), among others.
The theme of increased freedoms (or lack thereof) brought to the reader's attention from this novel nicely compliments the editorial released yesterday by Ai Weiwei.