Who Is China? Fictional Truths: Silicon Valley Style

China’s impact on our businesses, our economy, our politics and, therefore, our very way of life is huge but most adults are understandably ignorant of the forces driving China’s influence. They were simply never taught about it, in school or otherwise, at a level to ground them in today’s issues.

If you were born before 1980, chances are your school textbook’s information on China included passing nods to Marco Polo’s visit, their invention of the abacus and gunpowder, and likely ended with the early 20th century Boxer Rebellion. College classes may have included the role of China in World War II, and even a brief recounting of Mao Zedong’s rise to power and the subsequent death of millions due to his failed political and economic policies. And that was all.

China turned its back on new technologies just as the Western world embraced the Information Age. Those curious followed Nixon’s visit in 1972 to watch the doors crack open to economic reforms and away from the heavy control of the Chinese Communist Party. Most viewed on live television the horrific quelling of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student uprising. We eat Chinese take-out and watch dragon-festooned parades with little thought to the country and traditions behind those embellishments to American culture.

But it’s difficult to ignore the jobs moving to China in massive waves, their finished products returning to our store shelves, or the newly minted middle-class Chinese tourists visiting famous American locales.

Who is China, really? What frames Chinese values? What geopolitical ambition does their government have? Where do we intersect—or clash?

Even with wonderful online resources at our fingertips, who is going to use the search term “China” and read billions of citations? How accurate is that information anyway given China forbids full freedom of their press and throttles complete internet access? Exiled dissidents, bootleg bloggers, and recent immigrants provide startling and poignant insights into a vibrant, nuanced culture, including viewpoints and facts contrary to official government pronouncements of widespread prosperity and never-ending growth.

“Saving face” is their cultural norm, true. But when China’s tail wags the world’s dog, it’s time to search out nuggets of truth and look for a consistent pattern to public—and private—behavior of both the Chinese government and its citizenry.

So I did, in my upcoming novel Private Offerings, turning it into fictional accounts of China’s role and influence on Silicon Valley, imparting salient truths about timely issues in an easily understandable form. In other words, to provide context to the volume of disparate facts bombarding us about this emergent powerhouse:

–Not technology per se, but its global catalyst for change.
–Not science fiction, but fiction about the ethics of research and innovation, especially government’s role.
–Not pure fiction, but stories based on research, facts, personal experience and lengthy interviews, coalescing around a single purpose…

…To bridge the gap of understanding for the average adult living in a world dominated by China’s very different goals, values, and norms. And to correct decades of an unfortunate void of information.

I don’t claim to be an expert, otherwise I would have added to the plethora of academic tomes instead. Nor do I pretend to have Chinese ancestors, whose stories filled my ear since childhood. No, my interest is purely in pointing out the elephant in the room. If To Kill a Mockingbird could raise awareness of racism, and Jurassic Park could capture the implications of commercialized genetic research, then hopefully my fiction could provoke more questions than answers about living with our Chinese neighbor, for many decades to come.

(This article originally appeared on Balcony 7 Media & Publishing’s SaucyJaw.com)

 

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