As anyone who has talked with me about China knows, I am dismissive of British ruling class attitudes to China. Those who still write the country off as a totalitarian kleptocracy which has grown rich only by exploiting peasants,in which every half educated person is gagging to overthrow the regime, should attend a student conference on China.
This month I have attended two. At the Warwick Forum I was a speaker but at the LSE I had nothing to do but listen to the professors and editors from China and watch the audience. The level of the speakers at both events was high – economists from Tsinghua, LSE and Peking, sociologists and media people from Chicago, Peking and Hong Kong. None appeared to have any ideological baggage. They discussed China pragmatically: it’s political system as one with both credits and debits; a people with the right and duty to work together with all other Chinese of good faith – and that includes most politicians – to iron out the problems that impede a commonly shared goal.
The audience listened intent, laughing at the incredible, taking issue with weak arguments, supplementing proposals. Hundreds wanted to ask questions, ideas poured out. The enthusiasm was everywhere. The conference went two hours overtime. It was supposed to be in English but about half way through everyone started talking Chinese and the interpreters found themselves servicing the English monoglots rather than the Chinese visitors.
The conference programme can be found on http://www.lsecds.org/forum/cdf2012/