Since I was a child the thought of visiting China has excited me. I fantasized of misty mountains, temples and forests filled with flowering trees and Panda bears. I have always been attracted to delicate Chinese paintings depicting scenes of nature while China’s classical music always soothed my senses and sent my imagination to far off romantic places.
As I got older I began learning of the other less romantic side of China. I heard of China’s indulgence in environmental destruction, altering and polluting the planet. To make matters worse China’s reputation for infringing upon human rights is one of the worst in the world. It would also appear that China’s respect of animals and animal welfare is almost non-existent.
From across the world reports of China often made it sound like a cruel, repressed place and maybe not the ancient paradise of my childhood dreams. Through the years my thoughts on China have continued to change and my desire to witness the land for myself have gone through varying degrees of intensity but China never fully faded from my imagination.
Recently, in response to some disturbing and cruel images coming out of China I have seen an increasing push to “boycott China”. The term and the concept just never set well with me. I completely agree with not wanting to financially support a product that had to travel across the globe when it could have been grown or manufactured locally. But to hold an entire country and its people responsible for cruelties or injustices preformed by a few is not fair. I think that this term, “boycott China” may have got me thinking, “its time to see China”. I don’t believe that a country can be made up of only cruel people; there must be compassionate people in China and I wanted to find them. Unsure whether I would love or hate China I decided to head there after volunteering with International Animal Rescue in Indonesia.
Today, I have been in China for nearly a month. I have witnessed the beauty that originally drew me to this country as well as the ugly that pushed me away. I have seen first-hand China’s filthy habit of clogging nearly every one of their great rivers with tremendous dams and mining massive holes into their mountains. I have also seen great wind farms, thousands of solar panels and a major cities filled with only electric scooters.
I personally have felt the heavy hand of the government and lack of freedom that every one of China’s people live under everyday. After only a few days in China my website was flagged and blocked, causing this blog post to take a lot longer than planned. I have met several foreigners who have been detained and questioned by the police for no real reason. I have also spent serine days roaming through rice fields and living among gracious, ethnic minorities in the mountains, without a care in the world.
I have visited the romantic forests full of fragrant pink flowers, unfortunately most wildlife, including the Pandas has been cleared from the forests. Sadly the only Pandas found in China now live within zoos and “breeding centers”. I have dined with kind-hearted Chinese Buddhist monks who hold daily vegetarian lunches and dinners to anyone hungry.
I have seen heart-wrenching trucks crammed with panicking dogs (as well as pigs, chickens, ducks and cows) on their way to slaughter. I have seen animal cruelty and neglect on a massive scale. I have also met incredibly devoted people in China who are making amazing headway through education programs and rescuing animals, like those at Animals Asia and various dog and cat shelters (all of whom will get their own blog post here in the future).
China has filled my heart with immeasurable sadness. But I have hope. There is change in the air. There is an inspirational young generation of Chinese that in spite of the incredibly restrictive society that they were raised in are driven to make their country and their world a better one. This young caring generation needs our help and support not our “boycott”. The Chinese are probably the most industrious and ingenious people in the world and happen to have the highest population. So if any nation has the ability to fix our planet’s greatest problems, its China. I just hope that they will take on the challenge in a big way and succeed. Until then I will encourage and support those trying.
Do I love or hate China? Well the jury is still out on that one. But I do know that it is wrong to judge and generalize an entire nation. There are good-hearted people everywhere in the world and many live in China.