On a Sunday afternoon, Jingshan Park is probably one of the liveliest places in Beijing. People from everywhere come to the park to play music, sing and dance. With the overwhelming number of people and groups singing and dancing (posts dedicated to this will follow in the coming weeks; older post with video here), one might overlook another lively place in the park: the debating area.
On one of the squares in the park a few dozen groups have gathered. Heated debates are going on. We learn that the northern part of the square is usually occupied by people in favor of Chairman Mao’s deeds and policies, whereas at the southern part groups gather that share opposite views.
Mrs. Li belongs to the “pro-Mao” side. She is carrying a microphone attached to a small amplifier/loudspeaker that hangs on her belly and is determined to make her voice and views heard. Mrs. Li says that she always downloads articles praising Chairman Mao into her handheld computer and reads them out loud in the park through her loudspeaker.
Once she and her fellow pro-Mao debaters had put up a “Patriotic Anti Espionage” banner in a tree, while standing below it voicing their opinion. Whenever she hears someone arguing against Mao, she will turn on the microphone, amplify her voice and start a debate. When needed she will use her handheld computer for reference.
Mrs. Li says that Chinese are very interested in politics, perhaps more than in Western countries. She explains that this is due to big impact of past policies, like the Cultural Revolution, on people’s lives.
Mrs. Li is retired. She used to work in a factory producing clothes. Bystanders tell us that Mrs. Li is very good in writing poems and that they also admire her analysis of the “Beijing spirit”.
The political debates we witnessed where about Mao, the “Three Principles of the People”, political scandals, corruption and about the Gini coefficient that has risen sharply in China, indicating a growing divide between the rich and the poor. According to the Gini coefficient, they say, life in the Nordic countries is the best in the world. Several participants in the debates tell us that during Mao’s days many things were better.
It’s not all politics the groups are discussing. In between the crowd we see a man explaining to others how the stock market is developing, supported by sheets showing graphs with technical analysis and market trends.