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2007-11-15

 

Great Wall, unchanged

Just finished a fabulous "Museum" day in London. We started at morning to meet the speakers of the evening debated with a rough topic on "The New China: What does the First Emperor's legacy mean in a globalised world?". We met some really interesting guys to exchange some interesting ideas(including a recent eco-protestor who put mask on a warrior's face, which could be seen as an emergency if it's in China), actually I just feel the debate would be more like a panel discussion without flame wars.

The Terracotta Warrior exhibition in The British Museum

We were taken by Jane Portal, curator of this over-half-year-long exhibition of "The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army", to make a short touring. I was exited that it's the first time I see clearly real Terracotta Warrior. Its simply amazing not only because of the whole exhibition format navigated in a creative logic, but also the works themselves. Actually, its very hard to imagine how people keep the craft skills in such a media-less age and mass produce so many warriors like modern factory. As a trained engineer, I was too much impressed by the process of engineering. Unfortunately, those techniques wasn't respected and reserved to keep China a innovative country in the later centuries.

Our debate, as one of the parallel program with the exhibition, attracted about 300 people. My blogger friend Cathy Ma was lucky to get a seat because of my speaker advantage. It's very hard talk for the speakers including Me. Jon Snow from BBC Channel 4 moderated the panel after Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) gave a warm-up speech. Then four speakers including Jonathan Fenby (auhtor a the book Jiang Kai-shi) , Sun Shuyun (documentary producer ), Steve Tsang, and me started our talks over "legacy" based on the understanding from different background. I mentioned the "Great Firewall" behind China Internet users is just the legacy mindset of "control" by communist rulers. And the most wise choice for the ruling party is to remove it to prove their over-propagandaed harmonious society and peaceful rising. The collective intelligence from counting Internet users won't just wait for the non-progressive democratic regime if they don't like to change their mindset. Unfortunately, we didn't see such change even after the passing 17th Party Congress.

China Ambassador, Ms. Fu Ying, also joined tonight's event. She commented that the best way to understand legacy is to forget it. It's somewhat a quite safe comment for her role. I was told she is very nice and smart lady though Steve remind me to be
cautious after I return China. I noted but somewhat feel easy with that. It's not the first time I speak publicly about Great Firewall in China. It's truth that everyone should knows and change it together. I'm happy to see there are more and more Chinese Internet users(especially those millions of bloggers) started to talk about it explicitly and try to find constructive solutions to persuade government to rethink about this stupid mindset. In a modern globalized China, we don't need such legacy, instead, we need inherit the blood of creativity in Terracotta Warriors.

I enjoyed the talks from other speakers too. They are all China experts rather
insightful than me about the history of China. I didn't see the flame wars in the debate though. Some friends told me after the debate that I'm somewhat too optimistic to the future of China. I think I should be because the paradigm of the whole world is changing from 1.0(top-down) to 2.0(bottom-up) even the Great Wall mindset unchanged today in China.

The Guardian, cooperator of the debate, will have podcasts published online soon to get the full script and audio of the debate. Stay tuned. (update: The guardian podcasting has been published here and Jonathan's long review of the debate, "Continuity and change")

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