x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Chinese remain voiceless

Gerard Lemos examines the destitution, dramatic inequality and daily struggles faced in modern China in The End of the Chinese Dream.

Over the last half-century, dramatic social and economic upheavals have convulsed China. But behind the Iron Firewall, and subject to extensive daily censorship, the nation’s billion citizens remain mostly voiceless.

Gerard Lemos, a social policy practitioner, drew on Chinese traditions to build a space for citizens to exercise their voices. He erected “Wish Trees”: commonly found at tourist destinations in China, these are surfaces on which people can hang written notes. Here, Chinese citizens could describe their hopes and fears.

What emerges is a portrait of the destitution, dramatic inequality and daily struggles faced in modern China. We see urban anomie, the destruction of community life, cycles of rural poverty, and, harrowingly, the insurmountable tragedy of abandoning one’s own children, a common consequence of the Communist Party’s one child policy. But moments of human beauty glimmer through as people find value even in dire circumstances. “There are many things we can’t change,” one anonymous man wrote. “I worry about so many things – money, health, lots of things. I wish all kind people could have a peaceful life.”

thereview@thenational.ae