Saturday, June 03, 2006

Kello Kitty, Yoyos and Self-Censorship

On Saturday mornings I teach English to 4 ten-year-olds here in Shanghai. Their English is pretty good, they are at the age where they are still excited by learning, and I find their enthusiasm utterly infectious.

The children come from four different Taiwanese families who all transfered to Shanghai for business. These families are quite well-off, and as a result the children are fairly worldly for their age.

Today I was teaching them about the countries of the world, and asked them to tell me as many countries as they could off the top of their heads. At one point they had suggested China and Taiwan as separate countries. Seeing as they are Taiwanese I included it on the board, although in any other classroom here in Shanghai Taiwan is adamantly refered to as part of China (along with Tibet, but that's another story*).

When I included Taiwan with all the other countries of the world Sophia piped up with, "Taiwan is not a country, it's part of China."

In response Ruby shouted angrily, "It is NOT! Taiwan is a country! It's OUR country!"

Looking terrified, Sophia quickly turned to Ruby in hushed tones, "Shhh, you can't say that. Just say it is China."

Along with Hello Kitty** and Yoyo's these children have already learnt the importance of self-censorship.

* My contract for the other school I teach at part-time has a stipulation that any teacher who talks about the "Three Ts" will be immediately dismissed (i.e. Tibet, Taiwan and Tiannamen).
** Hello Kitty is not just popular with the kids here, but also with the 'adults'. I actually saw a black Porche Boxter with the interior entirely decorated with Hello Kitty: Hello Kitty seat covers, steering wheel covers, sun visors, rear-vision mirror covers, etc.


Philippe Roy said...

Ahhhh... yes there's nothing like self-censorship/self-monitoring, it's a little like that scene in Clercs when the guy leaves money on the counter for everyone to grab their own change... but I guess the 3,000 chinese government employees surveilling the internet and inputting the "right ideas" in forum discussions also help a lot.

What really, really, really confuses me about the whole debate is that they feel so strongly about Tibet and Taiwan, but answer that Hong Kong is different, not a part of China - when it's the only one that has clearly (under international approval) joined the mainland.

Lone Traveler said...

Found your posts on China very interesting and well done. I've just started a travel blog on my experience teaching in the Far East and Central Asia and would be interested in exchanging links.

Lance Frederiksen