Reflections on China: Swift Exit East

by Tatiana Luna

Before we leave China in about two months I want to collect my thoughts about my time here and begin some reflection in preparation for what will probably be a surreal return to the States and a new chapter of life in Boston.

After deciding to attend UCSB to earn a Masters degree in East Asian Studies, I changed my mind.  Even as I was applying to graduate programs I carried a nagging doubt about whether or not I wanted to commit any more of my life to thinking primarily about China.  What does this country really have to do with me?  And what impact do I want to make with my research here or in the States?  These questions remain unanswered as my excitement grows about leaving the country.

However, I am not planning on dropping China.  I know this place has gotten under my skin somehow, it’s just not clear to me in what way and what to do with it.  And my study of language remains unfinished; I have only begun trying my hand at translation of primary sources, and I like it.  The tedious process of looking words up and deciding which nuance of meaning fits the context speaks to the part of me that likes doing thorough, methodical work.  In putting together the puzzle of a sentence, I ponder how one character and relative silence translates to many more words in English.

And then there is the fact that there is important work to be done concerning China.  We need better understandings in the West of what’s going on in modern China and how this China is influencing the world.  We need to research this, so that we can mediate and mitigate China’s cultural, political, and economic influence.  At the moment, I see little in China’s modern culture worth propagating, and China’s role in the global economic order is problematic for everyone, including China.

What’s most interesting to me right now is revolution and dissidence in modern China.  What would revolution look like now?  How is dissidence practiced?  Some of the most interesting treasures in China’s modern culture invoke this theme or invoke values antithetical to mainstream culture and the government’s agenda.

In the coming weeks, I will work on a series Reflections on China, in which I will resurrect some unfinished blog posts and generally try to write coherently about what I have learned and observed.