Surely I cannot just leave China. Surely I have to get myself thrown out. It’s a matter of self-respect really. After all, if I could get into trouble at the London School of Economics for advocating freedom of speech, how difficult could it be to get into trouble for the same thing here in China? And I know exactly how to do it!
I stage a demonstration, today on May 1st, in favor of Communism, workers’ rights and the right to vote. Preferably right there on Nanjing Road. Wave a few red flags, shout a few radical slogans, perhaps even a few quotes from Chairman Mao. Surely I’d be rounded up by the police in a matter of seconds. You can do many things in this country, but don’t advocate Communism, especially not on May 1st.
Or perhaps I would get a guitar and start playing a song down by the Bund. I’d make up some silly lyrics like “Chairman Mao, a good guy/ Chairman Mao, not a cow” (but in Chinese, obviously). Here too an arrest would be immediate. The authorities would surely suspect that I was making fun of them. Making fun of the authorities is the supreme crime in a one-party state. As Roger Caillois once pointed out in reference to the Nazis, the biggest problem with dictatorships is that they take themselves far too seriously. All their crimes follow from this fact.
“No,” says Diane, “lets just leave the country like normal people. Getting into trouble at LSE wasn’t fun, no matter how just the cause, and can you imagine what getting into trouble in China would be like?” “OK,” I say, “I won’t actually do anything, but let me at least think about it.”