Allow me to extend this topic a little bit.
The moment I see people were asking to have a poll with Chinese people in the 1930s, my first reaction is laughing. Poll is probably the last vehicle you want to use in China to draw public opinion.
Poll is very popular in English Speaking countries and other Western countries. It largely works because of the following preconditions.
1, A system that encourages independent thinking.
2, An environment promoting free speech.
3, Population is largely honest to respond (This is no longer true in recent years which led to couple of poll failures) or you have a track of record of poll behaviors.
4, Effective means to conduct the poll e.g. common usage of telephone or post mail services.
There are probably other preconditions required to make a poll effective. My point is, none of the four preconditions listed above existed in China in the 1930s.
Chinese culture along with other East Asia cultures is promoting obedience NOT independent thinking. We were trained to follow instructions and execute rather than thinking and figuring out solutions. Doesn’t mean Chinese people are stupid or have very poor problem-solving skills. It’s just the system in general does not encourage that. Living in China, even elites have a tendency to rely on others to inform them and in many cases make decisions for them.
When my dad lived in my house, the following dialogue happened almost on a daily basis.
Me: Dad, what do you want for dinner?
Dad: Whatever works for you. Anything.
Me: How about burger?
Dad: No Burger please.
Me: How about Pizza?
Dad: No Pizza.
Me: How about chicken?
Dad: No chicken.
Me: What indeed do you want?
Dad: Anything that works…
Keep in mind, I am his son. Their generation was very reluctant to express their opinion/preference/will even within families. He was born in 1939 by the way. One can imagine how earlier generations would react to a stranger asking for their opinions.
I was giving an example of a simple choice in one’s normal life. Now, when it comes to politics, the reluctance became pretendence. With a long history of authoritarian regimes, the basic instinct of survival in China is to align your opinion with the ruler’s opinion (whoever the ruler is). There were too many cases in history one speaking out their opinions and got executed along with their families. People learned that. You never know what will happen to you when you said something that was not appreciated by the ruler. Let’s say now, if you have a poll in China asking are you supporting the Communist Regime? You probably will get a 99% if not 100% approval rate. How useful/relevant that result is?
In the US, I believe the polls were largely done thru phone calls or mail. Telephone was probably commonly used in the States in the 1930s. NOT in China. Again, my own experience. My family did not have a phone until early 1990s. And I am talking about Shanghai, the most advanced city in China.
How about mail? Remember I talk about 90% illiteracy in China? So most people don’t read or write. There were a handful of literates in every village at that time. One of their core businesses was to read and write letters for the illiterates and name their children. That’s a business. The illiterates paid for such services. And you can imagine where the poll mail will end up to. Even the literates were honest to transfer the mail to their recipients, he would usually be asked, hey, help me fill the questionnaire. I don’t mind. You do it for me. So again, do you think the poll will generate any meaningful result?
That’s why I said: Don’t look at poll result (Don’t even have a poll). Don’t listen to what people are saying. Watch what they are doing. Millions migrating to Manchuria did not necessarily mean the Chinese people like Japanese but at least they didn’t hate them. There were not so much national pride/self identification in the play. They simply didn’t care who they work for. They worked for whoever paid them the best. Plain and simple.
What’s funny and more interesting is I see a bunch of people who don’t even speak/read Chinese who did not even know the basic facts (not to say interpret) came up with an assumption that the Chinese Nationalism prevailed in the 1930s.
That’s simply NOT true.
Last edited by manfredzhang on 12 Jun 2021 15:04, edited 1 time in total.