22 May 2012

China and the future of everything

I have made a comment on an opinion piece at Project Syndicate which argued "Why China won't Rule"

The article concluded:
China has a choice: it can either accept Western values, or it can try to carve out an East Asian sphere to insulate itself from them. The latter course would provoke conflict not only with the US, but also with other Asian powers, particularly Japan and India. China’s best possible future thus probably lies in accepting Western norms while trying to flavor them with “Chinese characteristics.”
My comment as follows:
The 'choice' you posit is itself part of a 'western' wish for sustenance of western perspectives and power through paradigms probably of declining relevance. We have to open our minds to the evolution of international power in as yet unknown ways in the next several decades. Whether this contains threats or opportunities we do not add to security or exploit opportunities by sticking with old thinking.
China, with long established foreign policy principles, does not know now how these principles will need adaptation, development and change as its power grows.
Having been in Beijing in the beginning of the reform period, I am very conscious of the way the best Chinese leaders constantly search for new ways of thinking about issues and resolving them - much more than 'the west' does, where freedom to think in new ways is so limited in government, academia and elsewhere. This Chinese freedom seems not understood, not brought into the equation by western political, academic and media observers.
Looking back on the evolution of China in the past 35 years, it is important to see that there have been no overall models for them in the former USSR, the USA, India or elsewhere, though there have been myriad borrowings at relatively micro levels. My observation is that the west, in those 35 years, has begun a downward spiral in the quality of its governance, its management of economies, its ways of dealing with externals other than by violence... Why would China aspire to them?
That's why China has to figure it out in its own way. Much advice, gratuitously tendered, even when greeted with smiles, tells Chinese leaders more about the advisors than about running China. Running very large countries is very difficult, it's not just a linear scale. The revolution in China in the past 35 years is without question the fastest and most profound in human history. And it's far from finished, it has both a 'forward' momentum and internal contradictions to work themselves out or be levered about.
We do not serve ourselves well in the 'west', intellectually or politically, to try to pin the fish scales of western notions of the nation state or its international behaviour onto the imagined skin of this emerging phenomenon. To do so is simply to put scales over our own eyes.

07 May 2012

another step with those two works

I have taken the sketches discussed in last blog entry a little further.

I think the title of this now may be:

"I don't know, maybe they feel the cold..."

and here is where I am at with

"Are you finished yet"

Just looking a little bit northern Chinese? 

To turn from the frivolous to the sublime: 

Where I wrote in previous blog entry about needing to build in the novel the office of Hu Yaobang and Hu Qili, I have scanned, as part of getting my focus, an old photo from April 1985. Known to some as the 'erhu' (the erhu is that two stringed instrument in the Chinese orchestra that can be heard above all the rest; er means two, so the two Hus) these two people were the big voices of reform, what is more, in Yaobang's case, coming with a raspy smoker's voice from a very small man). This photo in what had once been Mao's bedroom in Zhongnanhai, the centre of government, before Hu and Hu visited Australia. People of gentle and sincere manner and good intent.

Conversation with the great reformers —  CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang and Hu Qili, the head of the Communist Party Secretariat, April 1985. It was the death of Hu Yaobang which precipitated events in Beijing in 1989; HuQili was one of two people at the special meeting of leaders in May 1989 to vote against steps taken which I do not mention here.

charcoal start to two new works

These works will probably remain charcoal sketchy with wash. I am really more happy drawing than painting.

Life is freely expressed in sketch lines and shades.

For me, when painting on from such a start, there becomes a need to work out the balance between the literal and artifice... with concern to avoid artiness and obscurantism. Involving a lot of thought about process... and all that becomes contrived, somehow, too much thought. Also the drawings take just moments or minutes, or a number of moments, after taking the eyes away for a time.

People have done various humorous things with the label of the old record company HMV ("His Master's Voice", including of Gromit from Wallace and Gromit and by the wonderful Michael Sowa (with whom the devil - or the cat in this case - is in the detail.

The original 'Little Nipper'

Michael Sowa's vision

Now I offer:

His Mistress's Poise  draft at 7 May 2012, charcoal sketch on acrylic on canvas 76x84cm

and ...

This second new work is just a ghost of an idea on a large canvas, but when to stop?

Already she asks 'Are you going to stop now?'

These drawings begin to talk.

Hopefully the characters in the novel will be talking again soon. I have to create for my female protagonist the office of General Secretary Hu Yaobang in the 1980s with whom and with Hu Qili I was privileged to spend quite a lot of time, though I knew so little of their lives or struggles at the time.. This is a gold mine for understanding the period, the history of ideas and debates, as also this is important.

For I am a Minimalist Girl draft 7 May 2012, charcoal on acrylic on canvas, 48x113cm
apologies for the bad lighting.

(These are both on large canvases (old, found canvases, painted over). So much more lively to work in a large space, it reduces my distaste for fitting the world into a two dimensional rectangle)