[LETTERS to the editor]What’s in a name? Everything!There is no doubt that China is undergoing a colossal transformation in infrastructure, technology and diplomacy to prepare itself and its citizens for the upcoming summer Olympics. A swanky new terminal is now running, taxi drivers and police officers are being prepped with English conversation courses and the ongoing effort to induce more and more advertisers to cash in on the Olympics is apace.
Though international media have recently spotlighted the plight of Tibetan religious freedom and the nationalistic counter-demonstrations by Chinese nationals, what the Chinese government has failed to acknowledge, at least publicly, is the underlying cause of the lingering animosity between the West and Beijing: the Chinese Communist Party. Simply, the “C-word” recalls memories of Stalinism, Maoism and the brutal penury of a command economy in the view of hard-line anti-communist crusaders.
Any informed observer of China today can safely say that China’s stock exchanges, thriving entrepreneurship and openness to foreign investment is as far away from communism as it gets. Moreover, the gaping inequality and rampant materialism among the Chinese support the notion that China is no longer a (true) communist nation. However, as long as this misnomer is perpetuated, the more difficult it will be to convince the international community that China’s progress, though not without shortcomings, has brought improvement light-years away from the days of Mao’s reign.
Like Vietnam, which according to The Economist magazine is discussing the possibility of eradicating the C-word from the name of its ruling party, China should do the same. Since the end of World War II, the word “communism” has conjured outrage, fear, and disgust so that any mention of it immediately results in stereotyping and public scolding. The McCarthy era in American politics has not been forgotten and much public opinion about China is still seen through the lens of monumental, freedom-embracing events at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Therefore, in addition to improving human rights in China and allowing more autonomy for Tibet, the Chinese government should immediately embark on a campaign to alter the outdated and counter-productive name of its ruling party. Though some would say such a move would amount to mere window dressing, I would argue this necessary change is a reflection of reality and a small step on the long road toward changing the image of China.
Names and symbols have always been and will continue to be important, especially for a nation that is attempting to bring about monumental reforms. China more than most must be aware of the impact that labels can have on products, services and, indisputably, national reputations.
Dennis Yang, English Instructor,Gimhae Foreign Language High School