We don’t often hear of examples of inspirational leadership coming from China. Most media about the country today is focused on her economic growth and the wealth of entrepreneurs cashing in on the countries changing fortunes. Worse still, there is a growing conversation within the country and without, on the breakdown of social values in the relentless pursuit of personal wealth. Indeed, a few years ago, there was a case of a young migrant child who was run over by a car and failed to receive any help from passers by. The video went viral and provoked a debate around the state of society in China today.
At Hua Dan, we are doing our bit to inspire the next generation of young people in China with values that will see them through the societal challenge that the country will face in the years to come. UNESCO have themselves recognized the importance of education for sustainable living and talk about the values needed to be instilled in all children for the betterment of our world.
I was inspired to read a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor on Liu Xiaobo, China’s famed dissident and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Liu has been a prominent human rights activist in China, was actively engaged in the formation of Charter 08 and has been detained in prison since 2009. In the article, Liu is quoted as saying that he has no ‘personal enemies’, and maintains he has no hatred of the police officers and prison officials who detain him. He goes on to say that ‘Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress towards freedom and democracy.’ (Christian Science Monitor, 11th December 2014)
As the article points out, Liu is part of a long line of dissidents in history who have drawn strength during their trials through refusing to allow hatred into their thinking.
Given the political environment in China at present, it is not surprising that he has come up against resistance from the government. But if one was to step aside from his politics for a moment, and purely to examine his own behaviour and conduct, it is encouraging to see someone who is transcending a material view of society in favour of a more visionary expectation of himself and his fellow man. Liu is challenging the prevailing view that we are victims of the circumstances around us and, indeed, that humanity is capable of going beyond the restrictions that society would place on us. Irrespective of the society we find ourselves living in, we have a choice as to how we are going to go ‘above and beyond’ the dominant way of thinking.
This is, to me, what makes Liu so visionary, and China would do well to be proud of a son who can inspire the world with new ways of thinking about leadership, both leadership of self as well as of others.
I am a trained actress and founder and director of Hua Dan, one of China’s first and leading social enterprises. Hua Dan uses the power of participation in drama-based workshops to reveal and develop individual and community potential. Hua Dan has a particular focus on working with China’s rural-to-urban migrant workers, particularly women, who work in the manufacturing and service industries, at the heart of China’s economic boom.