Dean Owen

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Si fueris Romae - When in Rome…

Si fueris Romae - When in Rome…

I have been struggling with a story for some time now. It is a story about a brief encounter I had with a North Korean in Shanghai. We had a short, but telling exchange.

The reason why I cannot write has nothing to do with being lost for words. It is more about where I live – China.

Freedom of speech is a liberty many take for granted. I don’t suppose there is anything written in stone on what I can or cannot write, but common sense dictates that I should avoid subjects that are “sensitive”.

Does that bug me?

Not in the slightest, and here is why –

I am a guest in this country and as a guest I want to play by their rules. Whether or not I agree with the rules is irrelevant. In fact, as far as censorship is concerned, I actually agree with the need for censorship during this delicate high growth stage. The last thing China needs right now is social instability. The whole country is benefitting from a strong central government that is transforming China into an economic powerhouse. Since I have been here, China has brought almost half a billion people out of poverty, built infrastructure that should be the envy of any industrialised nation, and climbed to become the second largest economy in the World. Despite what you might hear through the media, things are going pretty well for China. So whatever you feel about the territorial disputes in the South China Seas, or Tibet, or human rights issues related to freedom of speech, China is acting in the best interests of the majority. Those are issues that need to be discussed, and China will no doubt address every issue in time. If a pro-democracy movement took hold here, it could quite easily derail growth. There will be a time to discuss democracy, but it is not now.

But even if I strongly disagreed with censorship rules, I would still abide by them. As I said, I am a guest in this country, and it is a country I have come to love. But I would abide by any countries laws no matter how I felt. Do I have an issue with Singapore’s censorship of pornography? Absolutely not. Would I drink alcohol in Saudi Arabia? No way! Every country has laws we might not agree with, even Western countries. Does being a law-abiding guest in a foreign country make me gutless? Who cares? I certainly don’t.

I have had the privilege of being a guest citizen in 4 incredible countries. I have also volunteered for postings in the Dubai, India, Kuwait and others. Every country I lived in has welcomed me with open arms.

I recently saw a new Tom Hanks movie, A Hologram for the King. In it, Alan Clay (Hanks) is tasked with doing an IT presentation to the King of Saudi Arabia. In one scene, he touches a woman’s hand in public only to be publicly lambasted (slapped) by a passerby. Now despite the cultural differences, which might be hard to accept, by the end of the movie, Clay falls in love with the country. It’s a spin on a story that has been told over and over yes, but there is a reason for that.

There are some countries that deserve criticism for an oppressive regime. China has had oppressive regimes in the past. China has also experienced social instability that has resulted in absolute chaos. Fortunately, and in my humble opinion, China now has a government that has good intent. For many in the West, it is easy to criticize. I would expect nothing less in the comments below. But take it from me and the many others who have experienced living and breathing China, you are better off focusing on truly oppressive regimes (like North Korea).

Si fueris Romae - When in Rome…

OK so once in a while I do break the rules. This is my illegal parking outside The Forbidden City.

(Title picture taken at Jiuzhaigou National Park, China)

Dean Owen is Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment.

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Dean Owen

5 years ago #32

Spot on Irene Hackett. It is the people. And I especially noticed it talking to the North Korean. She offered glimpses of her true feelings, behind the facade. I do hope and pray for a Korean reunification during my lifetime, more so than being a human on Mars if that makes sense. I would love to visit Tanzania and Zanzibar one day. I've gotten close a couple of times. You must have some amazing memories of your time there. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #31

Totally agree with you Sarah Elkins. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. I have witnessed first hand how living abroad changes a person's perspective, and nearly everyone I meet who has, is grateful for the experience. I am all for more exchange student programs, gap year working abroad. When I have the time to travel, I base my destination choice with a focus on countries that speak little English. I also strongly believe that everyone should visit a country like India once in their life. Nearly all I have met fall in love with India. Thanks once again Sarah.

Sarah Elkins

5 years ago #30

I think that our planet would generally be more safe and hospitable if more of us were required to travel outside our own boundaries. Every college student should be required to take a semester abroad, and certainly any business degree should require travel outside our country. Being a good ambassador is the beginning of the answer to global peace. No judgment, just observation, consideration, and kindness when we are guests. Great reminder here, Dean Owen.

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #29

Great points Dean Owen. I agree, Hilton or a Kardashian makes the first page of the news, yet so many relevant things happen and we never hear anything about them. I would love to see true fair, and balanced news- that went out the door many years ago. I think politics plays a large role behind the scenes with many of our US news stations, Fox being the worst. They don't even hide their agenda anymore. You just reminded me of something, my Japanese friend has a sister who has always lived in Japan. Her sister has only visited the US once and Terika told me her sister was terrified of coming here. I was also told she was afraid due to not knowing English too. Wow, that's really sad about your colleague who did have a very bad experience.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #28

I do not blame media for bringing to our attention news that captures our attention although it has always been sad to me that Paris Hilton or whoever can feature on Page 1, but a train derailment in India killing hundreds might be lucky to have a small section in the back pages. But what I really want from media is a balanced view, from both sides, and not, for example, FOX News which appears to me a channel dedicated to ensuring the democrats are ousted from power. On the other thing, a lot of Japanese are scared of going to the US primarily because of the constant stream of violence seen on the news and in Hollywood movies. Often, they go and realise that their fear was unfounded. But I did have a Japanese colleague who arrived in Chicago, first time ever visiting the States, and on his first day he was held up and gunpoint and asked to fork out all his money. The next day we had a big conference and he did not show, preferring to stay in his hotel room. He was visibly shaken. Thanks Lisa Gallagher

Dean Owen

5 years ago #27

Thanks for stopping by Franci Eugenia Hoffman. I love that we can discuss these things in a civil manner on beBee. The international flavour appears to keep everyone in check!

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #26

It's sad that the media sensationalizes so much, people are left with a distorted sense of reality. What do they fear the most about visiting the US Dean Owen just expressed some views I have too. I think it's great that we can discuss topics civilly and I'm finding that of all the networks I've ever used that beBee is by far the most open yet much more civil.

Thank you for expressing your opinions on China. I only know what I have seen and heard in the media so I am grateful to see a fair POV. I enjoyed your buzz Dean Owen and the engaging conversation.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #24

No kidding Kevin Pashuk Imagine these discussions on Facebook, Youtube or other! Thanks Kevin-san.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #23

lol, I think I did Italy a few posts back (well, more like the tale of Mussolini's lover). It is a delicate situation and perhaps the Chinese are overly cautious, but as you mentioned, lessons from the past. Thanks Pascal.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #22

I think we had a similar discussion in the "Nones" article . We all have to learn not to pass judgement so readily, and that's what I love about beBee. We can have these conversations, like when Qamar chipped in on his perspective of what is happening in Pakistan. #ILovebeBee

Kevin Pashuk

5 years ago #21

I am loving the comment section on this post Dean Owen. To me, the core essence of your post is about respect... which is a value high on the plus side of my list. The hair in the soup in the conversation is the word 'censorship'... which has typically had implications of reduced liberties and personal freedoms. It's one of those words we ascribe to the 'other side' of our ideological position. i.e. The Chinese government 'censors', but our government 'filters information to protect national security". Points to everyone so far for keeping the discussion civil.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #20

I wish I could give 5 stars to that comment Phil Friedman. That is the type of constructive rhetoric that the Chinese govt has been seeking from Western experts. I wrote an article for Futures and Options World titled "The Chinese are right to be cautious" all about their careful approach to financial reform. They do things in baby steps, pilot programs measuring the impact. Many call it market manipulation, but I draw parallels with the measured approach to censorship. Too cautious? Perhaps. But we have seen dramatic moves have dramatic consequences. Social stability and steady (not runaway) economic growth are a priority. In time I have no doubt China will allow some measure of freedom of political expression.

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #19

and the idiot in me thought it would be a travel post about Italy :-) I can fully understand you have to adapt I dont live there and it would way too easy to provide a judgement on your position I think you are right with stability but I think it comes at a cost too it is a tricky one as there a lot of unsettloing stuff happening in China now history has shown us aftermaths that were bloody, murderous and triggered actions that led to even stronger dictatorship regimes I think Turkey at the moment is also on the spot light for similar reasons. Now I live in Ireland and it is not china obviously but I consider myself as a resident not a guest I call out and speak out when I see things that do not sit well with me I suppose I have the luxury to know I wont be expelled when I do so.... :-)

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #18

Dean Owen, I think many tend to think of China as a kind of "emerging" society, struggling to gain its foothold in the modern industrial world. But as you will likely point out, nothing is further from the truth. Post-revolution China is already an world-class industrial giant struggling with the issues of bringing the full benefit of its industrialization to its population, while mitigating the associated negatives. We in the west should keep in mind that just as it is easier for a fat man to lose weight than a skinny one, improvements in the standard of living on average in China were fairly easy to come by, given the pre-revolution starting point. I think, as well, that we should not forget some 6,000 years of Chinese society and culture that was rife with class distinction and privilege, not to mention institutionalized corruption and feudalism, seasoned generously with exploitation of the poor by the landed wealthy. I am always mindful of the factors that drive post-Mao China to be suspicious of all critical political expression (which it judges to be anti-revolutionary). And my only point is that several situations could have been handled more humanely and with less turmoil, if those in power were not so paranoid about anti-revolution. I am not sure, but I think that, just as introduction of some measure of free market activity has been of benefit to China's economy, so too some introduction of greater freedom of political expression would actually aid in stabilizing Chinese society, rather than destabilizing it. Of course, there is always the danger that the Chinese government will have to face internal conflict of the kind the U.S. faced during the War Between the States -- which, by the way, was NOT primarily about abolition, but about Federalism.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #17

It didn't come across that way. I was just typing as I thought. So often I am put in a position where I am defending countries. You are quite rare in that you are open to understanding different cultures and are more willing to delve into problems at home than be quick to pass judgement on others. Thanks Pamela.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #16

You've been to the Hermit Kingdom? Wow! You must have some interesting stories to tell. Of course South Korea is just cool. I love Seoul and would happily live there. It got a little hairy for Japanese in China when one guy decided to plant a Japanese flag on a barren island in dispute, but that didn't last long. My Japanese number did get keyed once in Western China. No idea who the culprits were or their motives and will not hazard assumptions. Getting keyed happens everywhere I guess. Thanks Brian-san.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #15

I think the media tends to spook us into believing situations are a lot more dangerous than they are. It works both ways. Many Asians I know are frightened of visiting the US. The World is a lot safer and far more amicable than anyone could possibly believe. Thanks Lisa Gallagher

Lisa Gallagher

5 years ago #14

Dean Owen, thanks for sharing your views and personal experience living in China. All I know is what I've heard through the news over the years. I am now learning through globalization of social media that so much of what we've been told over and over are filled with some truths, much fabrication and out right lies. I'm glad I've gotten to know so many and learn about other countries, people and cultures, first hand. Nice car, by the way! Thanks for this

Dean Owen

5 years ago #13

Totally Phil Friedman rightly points out. A strong central govt can be a good thing only if it has the interests of the citizens at heart and is free of corruption. As you know, China has been clamping down strongly on corruption and some high profile figures have suffered the consequences. I am not saying China is any better than Western countries. I just wanted to point out that peoples negative perceptions of China are undeserved and they should focus their criticism on countries with brutal regimes. I totally agree that censorship exists in one form or another in every country. Reasons to censor vary, but I believe that China currently has a valid and well intentioned reason for censorship. Thanks Pamela.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #12

Think of it this way Phil Friedman. Imagine China did censor anything related to "Arab Springs" or "Jasmine Revolution". The pro-democracy movement then spread to HK with the "Umbrella movement" which was also largely censored. Imagine that the movement then did spread throughout China. I can't imagine the ensuing mess, and how many years that would have set back China had a revolution taken hold. That said, I am doubtful as to the likelihood a pro-democracy movement would gain traction here since the majority of Chinese are extremely happy and better off each year. Freedom of speech will no doubt be on the agenda, but now is not the time. China has a history of dissent causing chaos. A strong central govt can be argued to be more effective than a democratically elected govt so long as it is the right one (as was the case in Singapore, and currently is the case in China).

Phil Friedman

5 years ago #11

Dean Owen, there is little doubt in my mind that democratic freedoms in a land as vast and varied as China, would lead to the kind of quagmire we see in the European Balkans and in Africa. However, I also believe, as did de Toqueville, that power corrupts , and absolute power corrupts absoluely. Keeping pornography away from children, or child pornography away from adults, is Not To my mind censorship, Censorship has primarily, I think, to do with interfering with the free espression of political dissent. And the greates danger to authoritarianism are the likes of Jim Able.. Cheers!

David B. Grinberg

5 years ago #10

Nice buzz and beautiful pic, Dean Owen.

Dean Owen

5 years ago #9

I doubt many would agree with me on censorship. Maybe I am becoming too Asian. But don't we all censor content that our children see? Aren't we glad that beheading videos on YouTube/Facebook are censored? I see no issue with censorship if the intent is to protect.

Paul Walters

5 years ago #8

Dean Owen parking ticket is in the post !! greetings from Vancouver, Great post although I am sure we when we eventually meet will disagree on the subject of censorship!

Dean Owen

5 years ago #7

I think we have a lot in common. Next buzz is on an activity you mentioned you like to do.

Laurent Boscherini

5 years ago #6

Long story Dean Owen ! First An untractable curiosity to understand the diversity of what we are, beyond our current perception in its temporality ! I have worked and travelled much in this part of the world between 1998-2001 and learned much more about it , by observations and local talks to pinpoint this prism#5

Dean Owen

5 years ago #5

Thanks Laurent. I started reading the first chapter and it looks extremely compelling but I would want to work through the formulas and that is hard to do as it is almost midnight. How did you come across this thesis?

Dean Owen

5 years ago #4

I look forward to it!

Laurent Boscherini

5 years ago #3

Thank you Dean Owen for sharing your interesting thoughts.Let invite you to read a relevant book :"Time is of the Essence: Event History Models in Political Science" written by Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier and Bradford S. Jones , which can enlighten your brilliant prism.

Javier 🐝 CR

5 years ago #2

Dean Owen thanks a lot for sharing your opinion. It is very illustrative how we can see things from outside or inside. We only need to work for democracy! Hopefully I will meet you in China :)

Javier 🐝 CR

5 years ago #1

Enrique de la Rica

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