Welcome to the World Wide Web Home page of Road to East Asia
Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Vol.2, no.2, January-March,1997
Many Chinese living overseas view the old country as a hearth, an emotional anchorage for fond memories. It is, however, in America that they have placed all their hopes and dreams. There are the mixed feelings vividly expressed in literature by well established and emerging Chinese American writers. While Amy Tan and Nellie Wong write in English for an international audience, Zhong Xiaoyang, who writes in Chinese, is popular among readers in Asia.
It is almost impossible to find someone you love and to expect the person to return your affection as intensely. These are the sentiments shared by three women characters, namely Sun Yue in Stones of the Wall, the narrator in "A Girl Like Me," and the Girl in The Bus Stop. Each has distinct personality traits, and each lives her life in a different fashion, yet they are all faced with a common problem: they cannot find someone to love them for who they are.
Today China boasts 1.2 billion inhabitants, 20% of the world's total population. Unless the country can slow down the high rate of population growth, it will not be able to support itself, or improve its economic situation, or stop environmental deterioration. The most drastic measure adopted by Beijing to address this crisis is the 1979 controversial "One Child Family Policy." In this essay, I will discuss some of its negative consequences -- a dramatic increase in the number of female infanticide and abandoned baby girls as well as a decline in the birth rate of female children.
II. Rocky road to freedom
By various accounts, the democracy movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989 was a peaceful demonstration against years of communist rule. Observers such as T. James hope that the tragic conclusion of the incident is only temporary. I personally share Liu Binyan's optimism that the tragedy marks "the end of the Chinese people's adolescence and their initiation into political maturity" (A Higher Kind of Loyalty, 1990, p. 283). They have taken the fate of China into their own hands and continue to fight for a better future.
First, the Chinese people, as a whole, must realize that the established beliefs and values of their culture are not infallible 'truths' but simply based on a paradigm that is detrimental to their civil and political freedom. Second, they must perceive themselves as autonomous individuals who have inherent rights that are not subject to the collective. Third, they must actively assert these rights as a people. If they remain conformably docile, they will never be able to get involved in the decisions of their government. In other words, until the Chinese people, as a nation, view themselves as individuals who participate in society at the behest of their own free will, political and civil freedom in China will remain but an intangible dream.
It was a prominent hope of the students, workers, and citizens who took part in the 1989 democracy movement that everyone and the world would rally together behind them in their fight for democracy. But this did not happen. This hope may never come true as long as Beijing continues to manipulate the way the people of China think, and as long as the government can use its military power to suppress those who think differently.
(My views in this essay could be biased as they are based on conclusions I have drawn from a limited number of resources available in the West. As I am not an eyewitness to all of these occurrences, challenges to my assumptions would be appreciated.)
What are the true achievements of the 1989 Democracy Movement? The older generation of Chinese citizens might be inspired by the courage of the younger generation in their fight for democracy. Perhaps there is a new group of student leaders in the universities, who will be more organized, more united and more effective in their journey towards democracy. And perhaps, at some point in time, all the farmers, laborers, intellectuals, professors, students, journalists, and every other citizen of the country will be able to come to an agreement on what they want for the structure of their government. Then, and only then, will we know for sure just how much this movement meant to the people of China.
III. Roots of dispute in East Asia
Many Koreans today still remember the harsh realities when Japan occupied their country from 1910 to 1945. The colonial masters forced them to speak Japanese, took away their land, and treated them as second class citizens. During the Second World War, Korean women were sent off to work as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers. So far, Japan has not apologized specifically for its war crimes, and instead continues to glorify its past in history books.
Such an apology does not seem necessary to Dr. Yi in the short story "Kapitan Lee." The physician holds no grudge against the oppressors whom he shamelessly admires. The Japanese and the Koreans belong to each other, according to him. Among other things, Dr. Yi takes pride in his mastery of the Japanese language -- the language of the invaders.
For thousands of years, Korea has existed in the menacing shadows of China and Japan, and acted as a conduit of culture and technology among the three countries involved. Although they have close economic and political ties, Korea suffers from the fate of being a small country sandwiched between two neighboring giants. This paper will study how Korea's geopolitical situation has shaped its destiny as a nation.
Recently, the Chinese and the Japanese have engaged in a verbal battle over the ownership of the oil-rich Diaoyutai ("Fishing") island, and this controversy has claimed the life of David Chan. In this paper, I will attempt to study what has triggered the Sino-Japanese conflict.
Illustrations by Megan Donnelly and Julie Shim
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