PROF. GIORDANO: What the protests in communist China can teach us in the United States

It was not too long ago that many American college students were forced out of the classroom and into distance learning being socially isolated from their peers.

Nicholas Giordano is a professor of Political Science, the host of The P.A.S. Report Podcast, and a fellow at Campus Reform’s Higher Education Fellowship. With 2 decades of teaching experience and over a decade of experience in the emergency management/homeland security arena, Professor Giordano is regularly called on to speak about issues related to government, politics, and international relations.

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The unprecedented protests in communist China illustrate the bravery of its citizens. Chinese demonstrators came out en masse to demand an end to the totalitarian zero-covid policies in defiance of the authoritarian regime. 

The images leaking from China are remarkable, with protestors carrying signs calling for Xi Jinping to step down, an end to the Communist Chinese Party (CCP), and freedom for the Chinese people. Earnest chants of Patrick Henry’s favorite quote, “Give me liberty or give me death!” reverberated in the totalitarian cities.

These protests have also inspired American students on college campuses throughout the United States to show solidarity with the Chinese people and join the anti-lockdown protests. It was not too long ago that many American college students were forced out of the classroom and into distance learning being socially isolated from their peers. 

Perhaps, American students can relate to their Chinese peers as nearly two years of their lives were stolen from them, missing out on major milestones like proms, graduations, and other celebrations.  

The valor of these protesters has given me the opportunity to initiate a robust discussion in my classes. When I asked students about the quote, “Give me liberty or give me death,” many were unfamiliar with it. Most students had limited to no knowledge of Patrick Henry – more proof of how our public education system has failed.

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Despite China’s proclivity to suppress its people, silence dissent, and brutally punish those who dare to challenge them, Chinese protestors invoked one of the founding fathers and exerted their freedom of expression. The courage shown by the demonstrators is truly impressive, given that this is a regime committing genocide against the Uyghurs, persecuting Christians, and torturing/imprisoning those who stand up to its totalitarian rule.

Most American students will use the words liberty and freedom interchangeably. Many will say that these concepts are important, but they have difficulty defining them. Liberty is the power to express our free will responsibly without restraint, whereas freedom is the ability to exercise our liberties without fear of punishment or dependency, especially from the government.

By the time students reach the college level, they should easily be able to differentiate between the two and explain their significance. Educators have neglected to provide students with a basic understanding of our founding, the core American political philosophies, and the intent behind the system of federalism.

The failures in our education system are the reason why so many Americans take their liberties for granted. Americans are willing to surrender these liberties for the illusion of safety and security. The pandemic perfectly illustrates how we have lost our way.

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Throughout the pandemic, the government crippled our freedom to exercise God-given liberties. In the name of a crisis, the government established when we can leave our homes and who can come into our homes. They determined when, where, and how we can practice our faith. 

They decided where we could go and which businesses were essential. They forced people to wear cloth and surgical masks, even though they knew these masks did nothing to prevent the spread of the virus. They destroyed livelihoods and fired people for not getting a vaccine which also did nothing to prevent the spread and transmission of COVID.

The founding fathers built our system of governance centered around the concepts of liberty and freedom. These principles must be at the core of our curriculums, as they are the foundation of our country because, without them, our society collapses. It is much easier to restrict liberty when the public lacks a basic understanding of the true nature of liberty.

James Madison recognized, “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty,” and John Adams remarked, “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” Perhaps the protests in China could renew the American spirit, and Americans will once again appreciate how precious liberty and freedom really are.

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Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.