Saturday, 23 May 2009

Memories of Jiang Ning

Last Wednesday rioting broke out at the Jiang Ning campus of Nanjing University of Astronautics and Aeronautics, where I worked during my first 6 months in China back at the start of 2003. I haven't been back there in years, but the "city management" - the Chengguan, a bunch of uniformed thugs who are supposed to maintain 'order' - don't seem to have changed at all. According to this report the riot started as a result of students who were selling items at the side of the road being beaten by the Chengguan. People in China will be familiar with this kind of event, but to anyone who's wondering:

1) These students will almost certainly not be pro-democracy or anti-government in any serious way. In fact, they're way more pro-government than the average Chinese person is, at least they were when I was there. If this pro-government stance is somewhat brittle, it is as much because the students involved have almost nothing in the way of a meaningful political education as to the nature of their government, doublethink reigns supreme.

2) Things like this often occur without making the news. There were riots outside Nanjing University of Finance and Economics back in 2004 that were not reported anywhere as far as I am aware - it is probably only the approaching 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen square massacre that makes this noteworthy.

3) These students will be motivated by boredom as much as anything else, as stupid as it seems to say this - there literally is nothing to do except study in Jiang Ning. The students there all wished they lived at the city centre campus and are somewhat disgruntled as a result. Many too are three-year students and would rather not be studying, but do so because their parents insist.

4) This has absolutely nothing to do with the 20th anniversary. Very few of the students will be anything but vaguely aware of the events leading up to the massacre, if asked they would probably think it strange that anyone might make that comparison.

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