This Saturday people all across China will be celebrating Labour Day, known in China as Láodòng jié.  Labour Day, popularly known as Labour Day, is one of the few secular holidays celebrated in countries all over the world, and has its roots in the labor union movement.  On May 1st of every year common workers and unions gather in the streets to participate in demonstrations, marches, and performances, though of all places in the world the United States is the one nation where you’re least likely to come across this sort of celebration.

My last visit to China was in 2007, and at that time May Day was actually a week long celebration in which most government and common laborers had off from work.  The only other holiday in which this occurs in China is the Chinese New Year.  So by all accounts the PRC seemed to take May Day pretty seriously.  The extent to which Mao Zedong glorified the common worker as well as accordingly demonizing the intelligencia is astounding, and so in a country where Mao is considered perhaps the greatest national hero, it makes perfect sense that Labor Day, or this case Labor Week, would be one of the most important holidays.

But despite the fact that China remains a communist nation, it sure as hell doesn’t seem like one.  Capitalism runs rampant in the streets, and China’s economic success in the past 30 years is due in most part to the opening up policy brought on by Deng Xioaping in the late 1970’s.  China’s economy has since then become much more a kin to that of other capitalist nations.  Indeed, the only thing I’ve noticed about China’s government that would qualify it as a truly communist nation is that there’s no such thing as private land ownership.  Though the Chinese people might pretend to value the common worker above the intelligencia, there remains a massive economic gap between the rich and the poor, and it’s getting wider.

As China’s economy becomes more and more like that of a capitalist nation, the social culture of China follows in suit.  Starting in 2008, the Labor Day holiday was reduced to a single day off from work (although two other one day holidays were resurrected at the same time).  It’s a perfect example of China’s increasing likeness to other capitalist nations.

I find it fascinating to watch these contradictions unfold in China.  While they struggle to push themselves into the future, to develop a competitive economy and establish themselves as a world leader, they still have one foot placed firmly in the past.  While Deng Xiaoping is the individual mostly responsible for China’s astounding economic growth, Mao Zedong is the one whose preserved body is on display in the middle of Tiananmen Square.  But if Mao were alive today, what would he have to say about the decreased significance of the May Day holiday?

Readers beware…we have Monday off from class so I will be heading to my friend Tony’s house to spend the May Day holiday with him and his family, and I will not be bringing my computer, which means you all will have to wait until next week for a new post.  But honestly, I’ve been spoiling you all by holding my promise to post something every day.  So deal with it for Christ’s sake.

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