This is just part Tiananmen Square (top photo). This structure is at the end of the square with a large portrait of Chairman Mao. You can also see thousands of cars in the area. China is the third largest in the world for car sales. The Great Wall of China (bottom photo) is 4000 miles long and easily seen from the moon. Photos by Don Johnson

China Trip becomes an adventure

May 25, 2007
Censorship, tight controls observed on eye-opening China trip
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesPresent day China through the eyes of an American newspaperman was among the subjects addressed at the May Good Morning Santa Paula!PW Environmental and Bob Orlando hosted the Chamber of Commerce sponsored event held at The Grove at Glen Tavern Inn.Santa Paula Times Editor/Publisher Don Johnson spoke about a recent eye-opening trip to China where he took more than 800 photos and learned about the country and its way of life.“It’s a difficult topic to cover in 10 minutes,” noted Johnson, who with his wife Debbie and other Santa Paula’s spent nine-days in the bustling nation.More than 20,000 Californians visited China in March and April on special Chambers of Commerce tours highlighting China industries and sights.“...the Great Wall is the most fantastic place you’ve ever been in your life,” noted Johnson. “You have to put yourself back 2,500 years” and then imagine how the wall could possibly have been constructed.The tour stopped at jade and cloisonné factories, the latter a “shock” to Johnson who observed workers anodizing copper plates without protective gear and women in another area placing design work “one bead at a time.”The significance of jade in China is large including the wedding bracelet gifted by mothers-in-law to brides who must wear the jewelry for one year.“China is full of tradition” including those influenced by Japan that at one time occupied the country.Hangzhou is famous for its silk and “that cost me a little bit of money,” Johnson noted with a laugh.
Green tea and herbal supplements are also much in evidence with the shops for the latter featuring on site physicians who examine the tongue and eyes before making herbal recommendations.“We found out they work on commission” said Johnson.A fascinating aspect of the visit was the “average person in China has no clue as to what happened in Tiananmen Square” just one example of the strong controls of the Chinese government.And that extends to news: “I was watching CNN and they were doing a story on the 2008 Beijing Olympics and when it got to the point where they were talking about problems they were having in China with their population the TV went blank. You have someone sitting there 24 hours a day with their finger on the button” for instantaneous censorship.So tight was the country’s grip that Johnson refused to “send email from China” as all such communications are government censored and logged, “every email filtered...”The notorious Tiananmen Square “was closed the day we were there, their Congress was in session” but Johnson said it was a “very interesting place...there are thousands of people walking around on the fringe of the square. We were walking and saw a huge clock counting down to the Olympics” and when the group stopped a Chinese military officer came up “and screamed at us through a bullhorn that we must move on. If a Chinese group had stopped they would have put them in a car and they would have disappeared.”Such tight oversight is how the government controls the people as well as “censorship and keep the people moving” at all times to discourage groups forming and the sharing of any scant information the Chinese might obtain from outside sources.Johnson noted that China is “trapped in tradition between communism and capitalism and the latter is grabbing hold in China like you wouldn’t believe.”With the average age of much of the population “very, very young” Johnson said he thought about the 1990s political unrest at Tiananmen Square and “what happened when you have 10,000 students” who attempted to protest government controls and lack of freedoms.“You hear about globalization? If we don’t educate our children we’re in trouble” as China offers superior education that could account for its economy growth of 10 percent annually noted Johnson.

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