IAN JOHNSON: CHINA AS A NEW SUPERPOWER
Religion is on the rise, there is corruption in public life, and there is a decline in solidarity, but there is economic growth; this is what China is like today. On 5 December 2018, Ian Johnson, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for his reporting from China, spoke of this new world powerhouse in the Comenius University Auditorium. His visit was made possible with help from the Tatra banka Foundation and the Petit Academy.
By: CU Public Relations Office
China is a country which evokes in us images of political dissidents, air pollution, and growing military power. The journalist Ian Johnson has focused on China for thirty-five years, and he spent twenty years studying there. “All of these fragments are true, but it's not the real China,” he explained.
“China has changed a lot. When I first arrived there in 1984, it was not such an important place in a global sense,” Johnson said. He spoke of the great changes in China, the growth of its economic power, and the fact that today we can see China all around us.
One of the significant transformations that China has undergone has been an increase in the importance of religion since Mao's death in 1976. In the 1980s and 1990s, religion became more prominent as did economic growth. People were guided by the idea of “getting rich is great”. After a period marked by the demolition of historic temples, a time then came to build new ones. Currently the vast majority of the Chinese population adhere to one of the four major religions in the country: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity. In addition to the government-registered churches, various underground churches have also emerged.
In the ensuing discussion, the audience raised questions about the Chinese government's control over the Internet, the ban on the Falun Gong movement, and fears that the growing influence of the Chinese economy would cause job losses in Slovakia. Johnson said that the vast majority of Chinese are not bothered by the fact that the government has banned its citizens from accessing social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, or from using aspects of Google, given that China has its own versions of these networks.
The Pulitzer Prize winner then received a Comenius University Commemorative Medal from the Vice-Rector for International Relations, Professor Daniela Ostatníková, and wrote in the Comenius University Commemorative Book on the occasion of his visit.
More information about the lecture as well as an exclusive interview with Ian Johnson will be given in the January edition of the Naša univerzita university magazine.
Photos from the lecture: Comenius University on Facebook