The new favorite word here in China the past year or so is "harmony," or some variation of it. This is because it is the slogan of choice emanating from the upper reaches of the party. Everything is harmony-this and harmony-that. China is now in it’s "4th generation" of leadership, and each generation has had it’s slogan–something that encapsulated where China was heading. The Great Helmsman was all about class struggle and building a "modern socialist society" (note: oxymoron alert). His predecessor put forth the "Four Modernizations" as the national goal. It should be noted that this has been a great success. The third generation leader came up with something called "The Three Represents." It was very abstract; so much so that it was difficult to find anyone who actually knew what it meant. It was something about representing the advanced forces of society. The current leadership has decided that the new national goal is to build a harmonious society. Somewhat harkening back to Confucianism, the thinking is that if we all will just be nice and get along, everything will be fine.
An interesting feature of political discourse here is that when those on high put forth their latest slogans or buzzwords (as the case may be), everyone on down the political and societal food chain scrambles to find new ways to use and/or display the slogan. It’s a way of demonstrating "being on board." This means that suddenly the word "harmony" and the phrase "harmonious society" are everywhere. Whenever I give a speech or toast in a formal setting, you can bet that I sneak the word "harmony" in there somewhere! It pops up in the most interesting of places!
Recently I and a colleague were in the Beijing Train Station on our way to catch an overnight train to Qufu (the hometown of Confucius, and thus ground zero of the harmonious campaign), when we spotted a very funny sign above one of the ticket windows. There was a giant arrow pointing away from the ticket window and it said HARMONIOUS TICKET OFFICE LOCATED ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE STATION. A harmonious ticket office? Go that way? What was it saying about the ticket office that was located smack dab underneath the sign? Not so harmonious?
Truth be told, there’s nothing harmonious about the Beijing train station. Nothing.
Stay tuned for more "harmony alerts."