Notes on the China I’m Leaving Behind

By ANDREW JACOBS
BEIJING — I GOT together at a restaurant the other night with some Chinese and expatriate friends. While bossa nova played in the background, we sipped French merlot and snapped iPhone photos of one another making goofy faces.

北京——前两天的一个晚上,我和一些朋友在一家餐厅小聚,朋友里有中国人,也有外国人。在背景的巴萨诺瓦音乐中,我们抿着法国梅洛,用iPhone拍下彼此做鬼脸的样子。

Observed from afar, the gathering suggested just how cosmopolitan Beijing has become in recent years, buoyed by three decades of nonstop economic growth and a sense that China has finally arrived as a global power.

从远处看,这场聚会完全表现出,在经历三十年不间断的经济增长后,在中国终于成为大国的心态带动下,近年来北京已经变得多么国际化。

But anyone eavesdropping on the conversations that evening would have been struck by the angst and trepidation expressed by my friends, who were marking my departure after I’d spent nearly eight years here.

但任何一个偷听到那晚谈话的人,都会对我的朋友表达出的焦虑和恐惧感到震惊。我即将结束在这里近八年的生活,朋友们是为我饯行的。
北京,一幅宣传某家电商网站的广告。

Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

北京,一幅宣传某家电商网站的广告。

They included a soft-spoken Tibetan writer who cannot obtain a passport to travel abroad, a painter whose entire body of work was confiscated by the police last year and a small-business owner and single mother who reluctantly sent her adolescent son to study in the United States “rather than have his mind brainwashed by the Chinese education system.”

他们中包括一位说话温柔的藏人作家、一名画家和一家小企业的老板。藏人作家一直拿不到护照,出不了国。画家朋友的作品去年被警方全部没收。那位企业老板则是一位单亲妈妈。虽然把尚处在青春期的儿子送去美国读书她有些不情愿,但她更“不愿他被中国的教育制度洗脑”。

At the other end of the table, an editor at a state-run news service griped about the unceasing demands of propaganda officials intent on shaping the minds of 1.3 billion people. “We are a generation without hope,” the editor, who is 32, later said, explaining why he was considering trading his well-paying job for an uncertain future in Thailand. “Everyone I know is adrift, even fearful about what tomorrow might bring.”

在桌子的另一头,一位在官方通讯社任职的编辑在抱怨宣传官员不断提出的要求。那些官员一心想要控制13亿人的思想。“我们是没有希望的一代,”这位32岁的编辑后来这样解释他为什么考虑放弃目前待遇丰厚的工作,去泰国寻找一个不确定的未来。“我认识的所有人都漫无目的,甚至对明天可能会发生的事情感到恐惧。”

As I faced the end of my time in China, I realized just how much — and how little — had changed since my first visit here in 1985. In those days, the wounds of Mao’s Cultural Revolution were still raw, but hopes for a better future were palpable on the streets of the sleepy capital, a low-rise tangle of hutongs, or narrow alleys, that were little changed since the 13th century.

面对在中国的日子即将结束,我才意识到自从我1985年第一次来中国以后,这里的变化是多么大,又是多么小。那时候,毛泽东发起的文化大革命留下的伤口还没愈合,但在宁静的首都街头,明显能感觉到对未来会更好的期盼。那时的北京还满是低层建筑和纵横交错的胡同。自13世纪以来,那些胡同几乎没什么变化。

By the time I returned in 2008, a few months before the start of the Beijing Summer Olympics, the city had been transformed, many of the hutongs replaced by Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas-designed high-rises and a world-class subway system that was adding a new line every year.

2008年,在离北京奥运会开幕还有几个月时,我再次来到中国。这时,这座城市已经发生了翻天覆地的变化。很多胡同被拆,让位于扎哈·哈迪德(Zaha Hadid)和雷姆·库哈斯(Rem Koolhaas)设计的高楼大厦,和一个每年都会新增一条线路的世界级地铁网络。

Beijing was awash with Italian sports cars, luxury handbag boutiques and a belief that China was finally commanding the respect it had been denied during its decades as an impoverished backwater.

北京到处是意大利跑车和奢侈品牌手提包精品店。人们普遍认为,中国终于获得了过去几十年作为一个贫穷落后的国家所得不到的尊重。

For Chinese intellectuals, there was tentative optimism that the constraints imposed by the Communist Party might finally be eased. Much of that hope was pinned to the Internet. Hopes soared when the government pledged to unblock previously banned websites during the Games and said it would allow demonstrations in official “protest zones.”

中国知识分子曾经抱一种谨慎乐观的态度,认为共产党实行的限制措施可能最终会放松。他们在很大程度上寄希望于互联网。当政府承诺在奥运会期间对之前被禁的网站解禁,并表示允许在官方规定的“示威区”举行示威时,人们更是充满了希望。

Those promises turned out to be hollow. The protest zones stayed empty (those who applied for permission to protest were detained) and only foreign reporters working at the Olympic Village enjoyed unfettered access to the web.

但后来,那些承诺证明是空话。示威区空无一人(申请抗议许可的人遭到拘捕),只有在奥运村工作的外国记者可以享用没有限制的网络。

Looking back, the Olympics were the beginning of a new era for China: that of an increasingly powerful and self-confident nation but one whose leaders fear their own citizens and one that has committed itself to constraining their thoughts and aspirations.

回头看,举办奥运会是中国进入一个新时代的开端:这个国家力量不断增强,越来越自信,但它的领导层却害怕自己的公民,下决心要对他们的思想和抱负进行限制。

Instead of revolutionizing society, the web has become a sophisticated tool for contorting the minds of China’s 650 million Internet users. Within months of the Olympics closing ceremony, the government moved to block Facebook, Twitter and YouTube; before long, the list of banned websites would grow to include The New York Times, Bloomberg, Instagram, Dropbox and Google’s services.

互联网没有使社会发生革命性变化,而是变成了扭曲中国6.5亿网民思想的一套精密工具。奥运会落下帷幕后没几个月,政府开始屏蔽Facebook、Twitter和YouTube;不久,这个名单继续增大,囊括了《纽约时报》、彭博社(Bloomberg)、Instagram、Dropbox,以及谷歌(Google)的多项服务。

In their place, Beijing has promoted domestic offerings like Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service, the messaging app WeChat and news portals like Sohu — all of them strictly policed for content deemed threatening to the party’s hold on power. Try typing in “Tiananmen Square massacre” and the dominant Chinese search engine Baidu will spit back a screen announcing that the results “are not available according to certain laws and policies.”

作为替代,北京支持本土的此类公司,如类似Twitter的新浪微博、即时通讯软件微信和搜狐等门户网站。它们的内容都受到严格监督,要剔除所有被认为威胁共产党统治的东西。试着在中国主要的搜索引擎百度上输入“天安门大屠杀”,它会在跳转页面显示,“根据相关法规和政策”,搜索结果“未予显示”。

The impact of this online manipulation has been sobering. Most young Chinese cannot identify the iconic photo of the lone protester who stood in front of a tank that spring in 1989, and last year, when thousands of students took to the streets of Hong Kong demanding democracy, otherwise sensible friends could only parrot back the state media’s talking points: that the protesters were spoiled hooligans who had been manipulated by “hostile foreign forces.”

这种网络控制的影响发人深省。大多数中国年轻人认不出天安门事件的一张标志性照片,上面是1989年春天一名抗议者独自站在一辆坦克前。去年,当数以千计的学生走上香港街头要求民主的时候,本来很理性的一些朋友却只是机械地重复官方媒体谈论的观点:抗议者是被宠坏的小混混,受到“境外敌对势力”的指使。

It’s true that China is far more open than it was 25 years ago. Chinese are traveling and studying abroad in ever greater numbers, and loosened social controls mean that Chinese and foreigners can mix without interference from the authorities. Despite the government’s best efforts, millions manage to circumvent online censorship by using VPN software.

中国的确比25年前要开放得多。中国人去国外旅游和学习的人数不断增长,社会控制的放松意味着中国人可以和外国人交往,不受当局干预。尽管政府尽了最大努力,还有成百上千万人成功地通过使用VPN软件避开了网络审查。

But the party has nearly perfected the art of control, giving Chinese society a heady dynamism that often obscures the government’s far-reaching limits on dissent. These days, official slogans trumpet such ideals as “democracy” and “justice” but citizens are jailed for advocating free elections or for suing the government over polluting factories.

然而,共产党的控制之术近乎完美,可以让中国社会呈现出让人陶醉的活力,模糊了政府对异见者无所不在的限制。现如今,官方大肆宣传“民主”、“公正”等理念,但它的公民却因倡导自由选举或就工厂污染问题起诉政府而遭到监禁。

Journalists are supposed to remain emotionally detached from the people and news events we cover. But my objectivity was tested when police detained Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer, who remains in police custody 18 months later, and Ilham Tohti, an ethnic Uighur academic who received a life sentence last year, ostensibly because he offered reporters a frank assessment of the government’s approach to unrest in the Xinjiang region in China’s far west. Both men were not just reliable sources but had become friends.

记者本应与报道的人物和新闻事件在情感上保持距离。但当我知道警察拘捕了知名人权律师浦志强——一年半过去了,他依然被警方扣押着——知道维吾尔学者伊力哈木·土赫提(Ilham Tohti)似乎因就政府针对中国西北部新疆地区的动荡采取的措施向记者提供坦率评价而被判处无期徒刑,我的客观性经受了考验。这两位不仅是可靠的信源,也成为了我的朋友。

Since President Xi Jinping came to power three years ago, his promotion of the Chinese Dream — Equity! Fairness! Innovation! — has become a rallying cry for national rejuvenation. Its practical impact, however, has been to foment nationalist sentiment that often feels xenophobic. Journalists, academics and Buddhist monks are forced to attend political education classes, where they repeat bromides about the primacy of the Communist Party.

自习近平在三年前上台以来,他力主推动的中国梦——公正!平等!创新!——成为了民族复兴的集结令。但它的实际影响是挑起往往让人感觉有仇外色彩的民族情绪。记者、学者和佛教僧侣被迫上政治教育课,反复诵读有关共产党地位至高无上的陈词滥调。

In a scene redolent of China’s Maoist past, some of the nation’s most celebrated actors and film directors have in recent weeks been publicly pledging to uphold “core socialist values,” part of a campaign to ensure that popular culture is a reliable vehicle for promoting the party’s interest.

有这么一件事让人想起毛泽东时代的中国。最近几周,中国最著名的一些演员和电影导演纷纷公开承诺要拥护“社会主义核心价值观”。这是一场运动的一部分,其目的是确保流行文化是维护共产党利益的可靠宣传渠道。

Despite the recent economic slowdown, the streets of Beijing earlier this month were abuzz with shoppers and all the trappings of modern society. Mr. Xi’s administration has won the affections of many: He has made significant headway curbing the petty corruption that frustrated average Chinese and eased population controls that limited couples to a single child. Sleek high-speed trains connect many of the country’s largest cities, and owning a Buick sedan is now within reach of China’s burgeoning middle class.

尽管中国经济近期开始放缓,但本月早些时候,北京的街头依然到处是购物者,现代社会的各种虚饰一样也不少。习近平政府赢得了很多人的喜爱:他在遏制让普通中国人恼火的小腐败方面取得了重大进展,他放松了限制中国夫妇生育第二胎的人口控制政策。时髦的高铁将不少大城市连接起来,拥有一辆别克轿车对人数急剧增长的中国中产阶级来说已不成问题。

At the same time, the Communist Party, largely through fear and intimidation, seems to have trained much of the population to channel their energies into the pursuit of consumerism.

与此同时,共产党似乎也成功地引导许多中国人将自己的精力投入到物质消费追求上。这在很大程度上是通过让他们担忧和恐惧的方式来实现的。

But the desire for a better tomorrow — for cleaner air, for justice, for a chance to pick their political leaders — cannot be entirely extinguished. A few days before I left, I stopped by my local bicycle repair shop, whose patriotic owner had always been quick to insult the Japanese or laud his country’s rising military might.

不过,对于更好的明天——更清洁的空气、正义、可以挑选自己的政治领袖的机会——的追求,不会完全泯灭。就要离开中国的时候,有一天,我在自己经常修自行车的铺子停了下来。那家店铺的老板非常爱国,经常动不动就辱骂日本人,或大赞自己国家的军事力量日益强大。

As I said my final goodbye, he made a joke about stowing away in my luggage. “But I thought you loved China,” I said, gesturing to the freshly paved road and the row of newly renovated storefronts that had been paid for by the government. “I do love my country,” he said, looking sheepishly at his feet. “But I love freedom even more.”

Source: http://cn.nytimes.com/opinion/20151130/c30jacobs/en-us/

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