America’s election parties vs. China’s war on fun

Sanne van Oosten

Appointing political leaders couldn’t be more diametrically opposed than if you compare the America and China. No matter who wins, American elections are always a party. En masse, people buy flags and signs to show who they support. They gather in great squares to hear their leader speak. And once comes election day, they stand in long long lines to cast their vote. People gather together to watch the outcome of the elections.

Not only in America are people interested in the outcome, all over the Western world, people were watching every step of this election process. Even I, an inhabitant of the Netherlands, decided to throw and American election party. I wasn’t the only one. All over Amsterdam, people were selling American flags and American outfits to cater to the host of Americanophiles who are going to celebrate this feast of democracy. I invited some friends, got my stash of red cups out of the closet and went to the supermarket to get some snacks. At the supermarket I asked the clerk, “Excuse me, could you tell me where I can find the hotdog buns?” The clerk answered: “I’m sorry, we’re all sold out. All of a sudden everyone is buying them for election parties.”

The American elections couldn’t be more of a party. And the Chinese leadership switch couldn’t be more of the opposite. Communist Party apparatchiks from all Chinese provinces are gathering in Beijing to anoint a new generation of Chinese leaders. Anyone thinking of celebrating this in any way should think again. A list of potentially suspicious items that you could better not flaunt is growing and growing. Balloons, homing pigeons, Ping-Pong balls, and remote-control airplanes are listed as suspicious. Also, kitchen knives have been removed from store shelves, Internet speed has been turned down few notches and international news channels are more difficult to receive.

A bookstore annex café in Beijing, the Bookworm, has altered their selection of books for the occasion. No more books on Chinese culture and politics, but a bunch of dreary novels from Western authors. The Chinese equivalent of twitter, Weibo, has listed a number of words to be banned too. Imagine this happening in the West. What would happen if the American government would all of a sudden ban hashtagged phrases such as #US2012 #Obama #Romney or #elections.

Even more serious precautions are taking place as well. Political bloggers are being put under house arrest without internet, are being sent on ‘vacations’ whilst being accompanied by police, and activists are forced to remote regions. These are the things that Chinese people are angry about. They aren’t necessarily interested in having the right to vote in national elections (I explain why in this blog), but they are fed up with such strict controls of their actions. Having such strict controls on their actions is getting more and more aggravating for them and if such actions continue, I predict a massive outrage by the people of China. When? Possibly when the economy really starts to slow. If the government has any sense, they’ll ease their reins in order to prevent a real outbreak, instead of tightening their reins in such an obsessive way.

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