On reading that the Chinese government has banned George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and “Animal Farm”, (https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/china-bans-the-letter-n-and-george-orwells-animal-farm-as-president-xi-jinping-extends-grip-on-power-a3777686.html), I was reminded of Lord Acton’s remark that:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are
almost always bad men,…”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalberg-Acton,_1st_Baron_Acton).
The Acton quote, jostled in my mind with that famous quotation:
“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad”, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whom_the_gods_would_destroy).
I have visited mainland china or, to give that country it’s full title, The People’s Republic of China (PRC). While there, I found the people whom I came into contact with both friendly and helpful. I did, however feel an underlying sense of unease, a feeling which I can best describe as a sense of being observed.
Today’s China is not that of the country which suffered under the dictatorship of Mao and which is so chillingly described in Jung Chang’s “Wild Swans”, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_Swans). It is, however a society which, on the on the one hand wishes to embrace the market economy while, at the same time shying away from the values of individual freedom which (at it’s best) distinguish liberal societies from authoritarian ones.
There will, no doubt be those who say what do values of individual freedom matter when, at bottom people are concerned with their own material comfort? Sitting here, writing this with no fear of the midnight knock Ion the door, I, for one know the answer to that question.