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How red is China?


On June 23rd we hosted the first edition of the annual Spring House Academy: a school of thought where our free-minded members explore, experiment and enjoy themselves. Jan van der Putten started the morning program with a talk about the colour red and China.

Red. The colour of prosperity and happiness, but also the colour or revolution, blood, rebellion. It seems like a contradiction, but as Jan van der Putten phrases it “You can only understand China if you have a sense for contradictions”. Pointing out these contradictions is also the red thread in his presentation. 

On an economic level first; being a well known communist country while at the same time soon becoming the world’s first economy. 

Next is the social level; nowadays the Chinese can follow their own path and are at first sight free to make their own choices, but they still encounter censorship and repression. 

The same contradictions apply to Chinese politics: more nationalistic than marxist nowadays, but led by president Xi Jinping who used to be secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party. 

Finally, the international level is discussed: being a well known country in terms of world trade and export doesn’t prevent the Chinese of setting up their own world order with a separate internet and separate security system. While this all might seem rather inconsistent, it doesn’t seem to bother the Chinese. They seem to accept and be quite at ease living between all these contradictions. 

And maybe this is just a healthy way to approach it; contradictions are all around and within us and while in the Netherlands we seem to be always looking for a golden mean, maybe we should just accept that sometimes we can be red and blue at the same time? 

Marie de Vos

Cover photo: Stuart Holt / CC BY