Monday, October 02, 2006

First Story in Wild Grass - The Peasant Champion

Well, the first story in the book was about Ma Wenlin who sued the government of China on behalf of some 5000 peasants for overtaxation. The author really made me visualize the environment and the environmental decay in the area while reading this book. I thought he did a great job with that. The name that the peasants called Lawyer Ma was Nongmin Yingxion or the Peasant Champion. The story takes place in a back province of China that has virtually no private enterprise to speak of. The Public Security Bureau actually threatened the author while he was researching for this story (the Public Security Bureau is like the Chinese Secret Service - or at least that's what I got out of it)! They followed him around and made threats. The farmers have control but not ownership over their plots of land. The book made repeated references to previous peasant uprisings as if to compare this lawsuit to those historical situations. It really is a touching story. We got to meet Ma's wife after Ma went to jail for filing the lawsuit and see how much she misses him. Evidently Lawyer Ma got out of jail in 2003 and is still fighting the government to try and get them to admit that they were wrong in jailing him. He wants to write a novel illustrating the unjust way that he was treated.

My questions in regards to this story to you are:

I felt like there was a lot of allusion to taxation without representation in this story. As we know, that was one of the main reasons for the American Revolution. Do you think this taxation without representation is actually fomenting rebellion amongst the peasant classes in China?

The book also mentions as a side note that for the last 10 years, China's military budget has risen dramatically. I have read other books on this and I would like to know how you feel about the arming of China. Do you feel threatened by the rise of China? Do you think about it at all? How would you feel if in the next 50 years, China eclipsed the United States for global supremacy? I am not saying that it will, because the whole point of the book is kind of to point out the really shaky nature of China's current government, but how would you feel if it did happen?

Also, Ma Wenlin appeared to me to be naively trusting in the government as a protector throughout the whole story and continued to believe that the central government at its highest levels had his best interests at heart. I feel like this often is expressed to me by other people about their governments. Do you think that your government has your best interests at heart? If you do, does this cause you to not be politically aware because you know that someone else is taking care of you? Do you think it is a good or bad thing to trust your government and if it is a good thing, to what extent?

I can't wait to hear your thoughts on the book or even any of my questions. Have a good night and stay safe.

3 comments:

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