I am a stranger in a strange land. I need connections or I will wither and die. And the connections I need are not just with my native people, or with people similar to me, but with the people who inhabit this strange land. I learned to speak Chinese out of survival instinct and I speak with everyone I can, randomly, impulsively, to maintain a healthy equilibrium. A constant contact that helps bouy me when my spirits sink.
I read of the toxic culture that poisons the ability of Mexicans, among others, to pursue happiness in the US, but so far there is little in the way of scholarly studies on the level of toxicity in China’s culture. Perhaps because the immigrant population is so low. But we all know about the China Blues. For years I relied upon taxi drivers, one-second encounters, and a potpourri of interactions with young, old, male, female. When in dire straits, I headed to the Tibetan district in Chengdu – or if I were lucky enough, a trip to western Sichuan’s Tibetan regions – to lift me up when I was down. I could always count on a nod being met with a nod, a wink with a smile, a gaze with understanding.
But I’ve noticed something over the years … some Tibetans don’t nod anymore. And some of them even meet my overtures, my pleas actually, with hostility. And I am trying to figure out what happened.
The Bo Xilai Incident will not die a quiet death. The plodding censors in the Chinese government are stirring up the rumor pot, and no one is sure if that is the goal or just a byproduct of incompetence and the absurdity of Web censorship in general. According to a recent CNN article, “Heavy hand of China’s censors fuels online frenzy,” there were even rumors of tanks on the streets of Beijing.
As Bill Bishop puts it,
“In the absence of transparency and credible official media, rumors fly,”
Indeed. A rumor I heard yesterday is even more spectacular and is making the rounds here in Chengdu and slowly inserting itself into the online frenzy. It’s probably as unfounded as anything else out there, but with Tibetan spies, dramatic snatches and behind the scenes high-level political deals, it makes for one of the more entertaining rumors out there.
As a responsible journalist, I should point out that the following is a rumor, unsubstantiated and therefore to be taken for what I believe it is: the makings of a great fiction novel.