China and Africa
Posted by Maya Alexandri on Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 6:02 AM
2008 is the tenth anniversary of the commencement of diplomatic relations between South Africa and the People's Republic of China. As part of its activities to celebrate the occasion, the South African government has invited actress, director and blogger Xu Jinglei to visit. Xu is planning to produce a book and documentary about the trip.
The team toured South Africa's Apartheid Museum today. Thoughtful, provocative and poignant, the museum opens with an exhibit of enlarged duplicates of racial classification identification cards and "pass" books, documents that black South Africans were required to carry to show their authorization to live and work in designated white areas under apartheid. Subsequent cinematic exhibits showed bracing examples of a government doing violence to its people, and of angry activists doing violence to fellow black South Africans who were suspected of being informers or collaborators.
While the Cultural Revolution (and other episodes from China's past) could warrant a museum whose purpose is to memorialize, interrogate and interpret a painful past, China has not yet devoted its resources to a project of public self-reflection along the lines of South Africa's Apartheid Museum. Your correspondent was therefore curious about the team's reaction to the presentation.
They apparently took it in stride. Apart from a comparison between apartheid South Africa's pass books and China's hukou, the team's remarks subsequent to leaving the museum reflected an almost unbridled enthusiasm for the country, its landscape and the friendliness of its people.
South Africa's honesty and respect for its past, however fraught, does not appear to have diminished the team's enjoyment of the trip thus far. Indeed, it may have amplified it.
Maya Alexandri is currently traveling as part of Xu Jinglei's entourage in South Africa, and will file reports about the trip for the next week.
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!