06 October 2007


We are in Kashgar, the westernmost city in China, at the gateway to the silk road. We finally have a moment to reflect on the assault of propaganda we have witnessed. It started with the first Chinese train we took from Beijing to Xi'an. The conductor, polite but nonstop, droned out dissertations on what kind of fruit to buy at the train stops, how to keep the train environment clean and safe, and the morality of making money when one owns a company. Even our circadian rhythms were tightly regulated as at 10PM Beijing time, the lights on the trains were shut off, and the provodnitsa unceremoniously shushed anyone who was still talking. Once off the trains, in all the touristy places, we met more. The Xinjiang autonomous region museum, which had quite tasteful exhibits, unfortunately had a placard at the entrance of each exhibit extolling how the glorious revolutionary Chinese were responsible for preserving the unique cultural identity of each of the tribes in Xinjiang. Even worse, at the Id Kah mosque in Kashgar, we read the following: "All of it shows fully that the Chinese government always pays special attention to the another and historical culture of the ethnic groups, and that all ethnic groups warmly welcome the Part's policy...They cooperate to build a beautiful homeland, support heartily the unity of different ethnic groups and the unity of our country, and oppose the ethnic seperatism and illegal religious activities." And for me, the kicker. As I came down the elevator in our hotel in Urumqi, a little girl of 7 or 8 asked me where I was from. "Taiwan," I said. She demonstrated shock. She then hemmed and hawed before asking, "Auntie, my teacher told me that Taiwan does not want to reunify to make one glorious China. Why?""

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