Looking back on my childhood in a local Chinese school, I often find myself answering questions with one right answer in Chinese classes. Everything we answer circles back to being “孝顺'': these characters signify “filial piety” and describe how the Chinese Communist Party wants Chinese people to feel toward the party.
I remember the day our Chinese teacher handed out the prompt on “One favorite/least favorite thing about your mother” on mother’s day in primary school. A friend of mine wrote a rant on her mother and father’s domestic violence on her: hitting her with a heavy textbook when she failed to do math problems correctly. The teacher assigned her to end her essay with a conclusion of how their harsh behavior towards her was for “her own benefit”; her parents cared about her future by asking her to lay the “foundation of future studying” in doing this one math question correctly, and to acknowledge how much time they spent on her academic life. From my Chinese teacher’s perspective, the only attribute our parents provide is their kindness towards us, and we are required to be appreciative. If they hit us, it’s for our own benefit; if they scold us, it’s to make us a better person; if they hit our palm with a ruler, it’s to let us remember our mistakes.
I lived in what used to be called “French Concession'' in Shanghai; the beautiful street was covered with propaganda posters on Chinese communism. Commuting from primary school to my home I could always walk past red posters with gold stars and a stylized depiction of Tiananmen Square. After an AP World History class in May, I found the poster ironic. I was shocked to discover what happened on the square on 1989, 4th of June — the slides depicted a deadly demonstration there in which the army opened fire on protestors. I was ashamed when an American student knew more about it than I did. The Chinese Communist party shot thousands of students protesting for a more transparent media and government system on Tiananmen Square.
In China, we learnt that Tiananmen Square is a symbol of safety and justice, but do we know that it was in fact a stage for the murders of the people pursuing justice for the future generations? After the Tiananmen square massacre in 1989 the Chinese government listed “patriotic education” as an essential part of the Chinese education system.
The Chinese Communist Party intends to enforce racist opinions down in our blood. They became our one and only interpretation of the countries around us. For example, oftentimes in textbooks, they will refer to Japanese as “little Japanese Brat” (小日本鬼子) : “When I was younger I often have this hatred towards Japanese people, I think they are the worst human kind in this world” expressed one of the Chinese student. Every Chinese student was required to memorize the “24 core values of the Chinese Communist party.” Eachmonth there will be people coming from the city government to examine our memorization.
When I was younger I was eager to be examined, to blast out all of the values at a stranger. “I used to go to a boarding school in China. We were required to hand in our cellphones in school; there was no social media whatsoever in our school. However, everyday from 7:00pm to 10:00pm, we were required to watch the Chinese News. Everyday has the same news, they will first start with how China improves the poverty in rural areas, they then talk about some shooting in America, then they discuss how successful the ‘0 COVID case’ in China is. We see Xi Jinping, our president, talk and prepare for the annual Communist conference. They are just basically telling us how successful China is, and how scary the world outside of China is” expressed a Stevenson Student.
The Chinese government often blurs the boundary between loving the government and loving Chinese culture. “They think that if young people are exposed to misinformation, they're going to have harmful thoughts, as people say. This is the biggest threat to the survival of the Communist Party, and the biggest threat to their hold on power and the stability of the regime,” said Katja Dreinhausen, the Senior Analyst of Mercator Research Center in Germany.
Thus when I first came to America I often felt obligated to love the Communist Party despite how shocked I was by the Tiananmen massacre. The Chinese people, too, feel obligated to side with any other communist country in this world. Recently, in the Ukrainian Russian war, Chinese people awkwardly sided with Russia, since China and Russia are “friends.” We lost the ability to judge things happening around us critically, and we were chained by this belief. We either follow or disappear from the world.
This spring, the Shanghai lockdown took place. I saw my parents locked up in our apartment; my dad who used to be considered overweight got skinnier and skinnier, funnily he even got abs. The government tracked our route, wherever we were, wherever we went. We were being monitored. Who got covid, who was a close contact, whose family member got COVID has all been recorded. My parents stayed in our apartment for three months, and didn't leave the neighborhood for a single second. I was heartbroken to see people sleeping on the street, because their houses are being locked and they can not go back to their house and my primary school became a quarantine center. The people who tested positive were transported to faraway factories, schools to quarantine as they were being locked up. I saw my friends starving back home, they called everywhere but no food came. I was even more heartbroken when they were actively following, because they take great pride in “helping Shanghai to get back to normal” and “following Communism”. We dwell in lies, but there are some souls that follow the lies, and there are some free souls that try to wake others up.
Under the Chinese zero case policy, every month the government would force the suspected people that might be positive with COVID into a bus, and they will be transported to a very suburban area with no network and signals. However, on September 22, 2022, a bus in Guiyang transporting the people who are suspected to have COVID fell down the mountain, 27 people on the bus died during this car accident. For the Chinese people, everyone will be the 27 people who are forced to get on that bus. The bus itself is a symbol of their destination under the "coronavirus zero" policy: 1.4 billion people are on their way to an unknown destination.
They feel they have lost control of their lives as the government brutally insists on zeroing out, even as the virus has become much less virulent and many parts of the world rush to declare the end of the coronavirus pandemic. "If it was a normal traffic accident, people wouldn't be so angry," one businessman wrote on his own Chinese social media. "Everyone's anger is triggered not just because of a car accident, but the “zero case policy” costs the people and money, wastes the country's strength, causes burdens to people’s life, and it's endless."
Ever since I joined Journalism class in Stevenson I always share my articles with my parents. Since Wechat is now being monitored by the Communist, this will be the first article that they won’t see. Even now, I secretly hope that everything about communism isn’t true; China is still a free country.