[FOUNTAIN]Courage to disclose the ills of a society

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[FOUNTAIN]Courage to disclose the ills of a society

“When it comes to being noisy, no race can beat the Chinese. The Cantonese people are the loudest of all. In the United States, two Cantonese men were having a conversation. An American saw them and thought they were fighting, so he reported it to the police. When the police arrived, the Cantonese men responded, ‘We were only whispering to each other.’” This is an excerpt from “The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture,” Taiwanese writer Bo Yang’s 1985 book. He said the main characteristics of the Chinese were being dirty, unorganized and loud.
Mr. Bo was born in Henan Province in mainland China in 1920. He joined the movement against imperial Japan at the age of 18, and fought against the communist forces as a member of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang until he moved to Taiwan in 1949.
From 1968, he was imprisoned for nine years on the charge of “having hurt the feelings of the people and the government.” Mr. Bo had been investigating the ills of Chinese culture and digging into the corruption of Taiwanese officials. When he was 65, he wrote “The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture.” He had no fear as he poured criticism on his own people. He wrote that the Chinese “would rather die than admit their faults” and “could never be united.” Then, what’s wrong with the Chinese? Mr. Bo said the “crock culture” was the problem, as if the Chinese had fallen into crocks that made everything fermented and couldn’t get out.
When the book was published, Japanese reporters came to interview the author and asked, “Now, your book has made the Japanese look down on the Chinese even more. Aren’t you sorry for your people?” Mr. Bo fired back, “I can point out the faults of the Chinese because I am Chinese myself. After the 20th century, a new generation of Chinese who can repent on themselves will be born.”
He must have been right. The ban on the book in mainland China was removed last year and its publication was permitted. The lifting of the ban means that China has matured enough to embrace criticism. It illustrates China’s emerging power.
Mr. Bo said his book was inspired by the books “The Ugly American” and “The Ugly Japanese.” Noting that as soon as “The Ugly American” was published, the U.S. State Department used it as a reference, while the former Japanese ambassador to Argentina who wrote “The Ugly Japanese” had to step down from his position, Mr. Bo said he might have ended up in prison for having written about the ugly side of the Chinese. Looking at the latest situation in Korea, “The Ugly Koreans” might come out. Who has the courage to write the book?


by You Sang-cheol

The writer is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

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