I want to start with following story:
It was a beautiful lovely sunday morning, I got up later as usual because this is the only day I don’t have to go to work. Facing the nice sunny sky, I decided to go out for a walk. When I walk through a book store near my home, I am so surprised to see that the book, by Mr. Thomas L. Friedman, “The world is flat” was lain out on the outlet, because I just finished it (it is actually an audio version) last night. I got this book on the internet and I think it may need wait years when this book translated into Chinese and published in China. “Indeed! the world is flat!”, that’s what I think at the time I saw this book.
I am living a small city in middle China. Give the very unequal level of development in China, I think you will understand that I feel if not because the internet I must feel like I still live in a world of “walls”, especially consider that here many physical walls or stockades are being built for protect private or public property at many places due to the situation of the gap of poor and rich is so great and people are very concerned the thieves on the street. So, after finished this book, it just like gives me a cup of most desirable water in a desert. The book is intriguing, informative and inspirational.
Just out of curiosity (I am curious about how the Chinese version of this book convert some of the ideas into Chinese, especially those sections in the book concerning on some of issues of today’s China ), I bought this book from the store even though I have finished its English version. But after read the book, I am disappointed that almost the content about China are not there!
The reason of this, I think I can speculate that it is obvious because that most of the content is not praise China rather than expose problems in China, such as information or internet censorship. So the reality is, Chinese mind as an abstract ontological meaning still have walls standing in it.
It seems ironical that a book talk about openness, free information and you publish it by cutting some of information off it. We Chinese even admit that this book is worthy reading even though it has un-integrity information, because as you probably know that some of CCPCC members in this spring in beijing submit a proposal on establish a Chinese National Reading Festival. Because according China official survey that Chinese reading rate is declining continually for five years, and in 2006, the rate is at first time below 50%. One of the members said that “after world is flat”, the American culture will sweep all over the world quicker and more intense, and he meant (I believe I didn’t get it wrong) that if our young generation don’t read than we will have very seriously problem of losing our culture identity.
“After world is flat”, this leads to me to believe that maybe many Chinese people have read the book (probably not English version). But it seems that our Chinese always have strong difficulty to get it right (and I don’t think it is impossible for China get it right, we just need do more honest thinking)! America culture? What about this book you read? Is it America culture? And I think our problem is how China can thrive in the flat world as a decent modern country not just as a low wage labor provider or have no good understanding of rule of law, respect human right and private property, advanced education system and so on. That is to say, we need really think about modernization, and none of the ideas of modernization can obviously and easily extract from our traditional Chinese culture. I am not say that national states have no responsibility to protect and strengthen their own culture and traditional identity, what I am saying is that it depends on how they do it.
Actually, the problem is not many people don’t read, this is just the fact; and if we think of this issue further, we probably can say that people read non-fiction books far more less than those who read fiction books. We need think about the reason cause people don’t want to read, and this question is far more complex than you think.
Now, here is an interesting question:
What do you think about why a pop song become so popular among young people so quickly?
It obviously that our books are not fun, not attractive and not comprehensive to most people; in short, the important and serious issue is the knowledge stratum of the society lack the ability to be efficiently absorbed by the pop culture or to translate the pop culture. One of the reason behind this I think must have to be the control of the information on press. So the real solution I think is free information and quality education!
People will read when they have needs to read.
关于这个的原因，我想我可以推断（speculate意思是To believe especially on uncertain or tentative grounds，在没有很确定或很确凿的情况下相信）一个很明显的，就是那些内容基本上都不是主要称赞中国的而是，至少从我看来是比较诚实和友好地，爆露了中国的一些问题，比如中国的信息和英特网的过滤等。所以，（恐怕）现实是，中国人的心灵（我指在一个抽象主体意义上）仍然有“心墙”耸立的。
“在世界变平之后”，这使我相信有很多的中国人也阅读了这本书（虽然很可能不是英文版）。但是，我觉得好像我们中国人总是很难得“把它搞对”（get it right）——我不认为对于中国来说要把它搞对是不可能的，我们只是需要做更多更诚实的思考！美国文化？那么你阅读的这边书怎么样？它是美国文化吗？而且我认为我们的问题是中国如何能够作为一个现代化的国家在这个平的世界里生存，而不是光光作为廉价劳动的提供者并且对高质量的教育系统、尊重人权和私有财产、法治等等没有一个很好的理解。这就是说，我们真的需要的是思考现代化的问题，而没有任何一个现代化提出的理想能够很显而易见地和非常容易地从我们的中国传统文化中吸取出来。我不是说民族国家（政府）没有责任保护和强化它们自己的文化和传统认同，我只是说这取决于它们怎么去做这个。