Jul 30

Moving on without closure: The hardiness and resilience of the Chinese society

Written by bianxiangbianqiao on Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 at 2:53 pm
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China presses hush money on grieving parents,” according to New York Times

Parents of children killed in collapsed school buildings in the Sichuan earthquake have been offered cash settlements, relaxing of the birth quota and pensions by the local government. In exchange, they are pressured to sign a contract to give up demand for investigations into official negligence and corruption associated with the collapsed schools. Some parents have relented and signed the contract, while others have refused.

A while ago at the collective funeral for the victims at one of the schools with a large casualty, the grieving parents’ pain was so profound that some bite on their fingers and wrote their children’s names with a wish of a “good journey” in their blood on a piece of white cloth. The pain of losing a child can never be compensated with money. My discussion will focus on a cross-cultural understanding on the money in question. Is it correct to label the Chinese authorities’ offer to the grieving parents “hush money”, or even “compensation”?

Let’s start from the Western perspective. I cannot help wondering how this type of situations would be handled in America. Hush money is the off-the-shelf technique of governments and businesses (including the United States) to evade the non-financial (e.g., moral/legal) responsibilities for their wrongdoing. It goes together with an implicit admission of guilt. Wen-Ho Lee was kept in solitary confinement with his hands cuffed behind his back and the cell lights on 24 hours a day on false accusation of being a Chinese spy. He certainly deserved hush money from the US government. If you examine the role played by New York Times and other “free and fair” mainstream press on the poor sucker’s plight the case becomes even more enlightening and interesting. Steven J. Hatfill, the former Army biodefense researcher who was named as a “person of interest” in the mailed-in Anthrax cases got good hush money. Meanwhile, the US military is doling out hush money to Iraqi civilians they kill and maim in the war on terror. From the amount they hand out one can only assume that Iraqi lives and limbs are not worth much in the American book. Former congressman Garry Condit received a handsome compensation after suing the media for their unfair coverage on his role in the death of his extra-marital lover, Capitol Hill intern Chandra Levi. I just heard Wen-Ho Lee also cashed in on New York Times, who openly admitted inaccurate reporting, to put it mildly. A case more analogous to the Sichuan victims is a year ago a bridge in Minneapolis MN collapsed in broad daylight, without the faintest tremor from the earth, killing 13 people. Did those Minneapolis victims receive compensations from the US government, who is obviously responsible for maintaining the safety of the bridge?

Both the granting and denial of money in these examples demonstrate that in the west (at least America, which I am familiar with), financial compensation is a method of quantifying and commercializing the amount of damage one is responsible for. It carries an admission of guilt, although usually the contract would say “the US government admits no wrong doing”.

In the Chinese society, money is not a purely commercial vehicle, but serves as a social lubricant, in regulating closeness among people in different relations. When you get invited to a Chinese wedding, you are not supposed to show up with a token gift. Instead, you need to bring a red envelop, stuffed with crisp cash, with Chairman Mao’s bust printed on each bill. The giving of “congratulation money” is seldom anonymous. The giver’s (congratulator’s) name is on the envelope. At some wedding banquets there is “sign up poster” at the entrance. Each guest is supposed to write in his name, relation to the newly wed and the amount of financial contribution and type of gifts (real substantial useful stuff, don’t embarrass yourself with some cheap token gifts or a card). A public record is kept and displayed, not about the money, but about newly re-affirmed and regenerated relations. The same process applies with funeral, except in those occasions you would offer “consolation” or “sympathy” money. Financing the survivor does not mean that you have played a role in the death. It means that you care and are available to do your best to help the survivors move on with their lives. Again money is for the affirmation of a relationship commitment. The amount of money you give is a very delicate issue for both weddings and funerals, and must be calibrated according to your understanding of the current state of the relation, and your goal-state; do you want to get a step closer to the person at the receiving end?

I believe the Chinese authorities did not label the money they have offered the Sichuan victims “compensation”. They probably called it “consolation funds” or something in that nature. The portion of the contract quoted in NYT points to that direction. The problem in the handling of this case is that the authorities are sending mixed and contradictory messages. On the one hand, they offer consolation money to demonstrate their care and affirm their relation commitment. On the other hand they are mounting the pressure on the victims to swallow their loss and move on. Most problematic is the authorities’ clear distrust of the victims whom they are supposed to care for. This ambivalent attitude on the part of the authorities is dysfunctional and prevents the victims from achieving closure. The wound is kept open by the antagonism and suspicion. I am not in a position to speculate what is a better way to help the grieving parents achieve closure. But someone from the high authorities needs to sit down with them to discuss their concerns more thoroughly. If a fully open and transparent investigation is not forthcoming, how about an internal investigation led by the authorities with close supervision from the grieving parents? At least are there Xinhua reporters writing 内参 (internal memos) to the higher ups on this topic?

At a more abstract level of discussion, this case shows that the Chinese society is being tested on two traits, hardiness and resilience. Hardiness is the society’s ability to tolerate frustration and distress among its members (especially the under-privileged ones, like the Sichuan parents) without modifying its behavior. Hardiness manifests itself when the society is controlled with high pressure, suppression and punishment when its members’ interests conflict with its authorities. Trauma in individual lives is swallowed silently without recourse for justice. North Korea is an example of a society with impressive hardiness. With many citizens starving, the country has defied numerous predictions of collapse. The Chinese society is in a position to move beyond this stage of relying on hardiness for viability, to develop resilience, which is the ability to maintain a stable state (equilibrium) by constantly changing its behavior and structures. Resilience creates true social harmony.

The reason that with so many Chinese being treated unfairly the Chinese system still looks perfectly viable (if not harmonious) is that the hope for a better future is so enticing and realistic that it commands people’s attention; it makes more sense for most individuals to bite the bullet on this one (e.g., land grab with inadequate compensation) and move on than dwelling on the trauma, getting demoralized and giving up. The ability to keep the citizens’ hopes alive and create new aspirations is the key for resilience in the Chinese society. How can the Chinese society give the grieving parents in Sichuan compelling reasons to move on?

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107 Responses to “Moving on without closure: The hardiness and resilience of the Chinese society”

  1. Pete Briquette Says:

    “How can the Chinese society give the grieving parents in Sichuan compelling reasons to move on?”

    Forgive me if I’m speaking out of turn here, but I presume the parents will gain closure if there is a full and open inquiry to see if the high death toll in the schools was due to negligence or corruption in their construction; and if evidence of negligence or corruption is found, by giving fair and suitable punishment to those responsible, and by providing the parents with appropriate compensation.

  2. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Pete Briquette,
    I fully agree with you on that. However, with the systematic constraints in China, what is a more pragmatic solution at this moment? I think innovation is needed here to achieve societal resilience.

  3. Doug Says:

    Wen-Ho Lee received compensation from both the government and the media outlets involved in reporting the story.

  4. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Did he? I was only aware of his failed attempts to collect compensation. I will update with your input.

  5. Pete Briquette Says:


    I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. A more pragmatic solution? Pragmatic from who’s point of view? The only pragmatic course of action for a scandal of this magnitude (and a scandal it is) is to clear the air, punish those responsible, and then help the survivors rebuild their lives. As I see it, it’s as simple as that. Can I ask, what do you mean by ‘systematic constraints in China’?

  6. FOARP Says:

    @Pete Briquette – I was under the impression that you had been in China for some years, surely you are aware of what the ‘systemic constraints’ in China are – the communist party and their severe dislike of bad news.

  7. Doug Says:


    Did the parties involved back out of the settlement? I cannot find any updates to this story.

  8. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Pete Briquette,
    My answer sounds similar to FOARP’s on the surface but it is not.

    One of the systematic constraints is the Chinese society’s current inability to contain this scandal as a localized legal issue. I fully support a thorough investigation; it is absolutely necessary. At the same time I share some people’s concern that a fully “transparent” investigation could make this tragedy a “showcase” the society’s ills that right now there is no practical solution. The ramifications of full “transparency” (a red herring anywhere in the world) are hard to predict or control. Various interest groups with different motives will jump on it and take advantage of the situation. The situation may even open itself to foreign manipulation, if it has not already done so. If a satisfactory legal or political solution is unavailable at this moment, can the Chinese society come up with some more practical remedies to help the victims move on? Many historical grievances will be addressed with more history, with the evolution of the society. At the same time, everyone should keep moving on. Stagnation is the worst enemy of the Chinese right now.

  9. Netizen Says:

    I agree there should be an investigation to find out the facts. But without investigation, I have a pretty idea about the facts:

    1) There was not a building code or if there was one, it was not enforced. A number of places that were brought down by the quake were counties. At county level, people could build whatever they wanted. The local governments couldn’t do much about it because there were more pressing issues for officials to worry about such as creating employment during the early days of reform.

    2) Education funds were hard to get in the 80s and 90s. Many teachers at county schools weren’t even paid on time because all levels of governments were short of funds. School buildings weren’t up to highest standards. Whose fault was that? I would image hard to put blame on any specific person.

    3) Was there corruption? Sure there must be some, but it wasn’t the main reason that buildings were down. The quake was too big. The government offices that weren’t down have been built in more recent years when the governements had more revenues.

  10. Pete Briquette Says:

    @ FOARP

    Indeed. Just making sure we weren’t tiptoeing around the elephant in the sitting room.


    Thanks for clarifying the question. I don’t mean to be glib, but given the provisos you outline, the only answer I can give to the question

    ‘can the Chinese society come up with some more practical remedies to help the victims move on?’



    In fairness, if the parents are biting off the ends of their fingers to write messages in their own blood to their dead children, then very little other than heads mounted on pikes will help them move on.

    Incidentally, did anybody see the article in the UK Guardian related to this topic? Sorry, I don’t have the link…

  11. pmw Says:

    According to this report, 4737 of the 67000+ dead in Sichuan were students.
    Given how crowded classrooms are, it’s almost a miracle to have this relative low ratio. It’s hard to argue that schools suffer a particularly high death toll. I got the impression too that school buildings collapsed more from news in the early days. I guess it’s just more disheartening to see children buried than adults, maybe. And with the large size of classes in China, when a classroom fails, it kills, a lot. For those schools (or any other buildings for that matter) with high casualties, there should definitely be investigations into building quality and oversight etc.

    Based on these numbers in 2003, the student population is about 15% in Sichuan (primary+high school), about 17% if including kindergarten.

  12. pug_ster Says:


    Wen Ho Lee did not get any form of compensation from the government. He got money from the Media when he sued them. Many victims families after 9/11 got the same kind of ‘hush money’ from the government.

  13. Jane Says:

    I am tired of these over-generalized headlines — China does this, China does that, when it seems it’s just people from local governments trying to cover their asses. It’s like if one person (or one small group) in China that does something, then it is deemed that the entire “China” is guilty by association. My understanding of China is that it is composed of the land, the people, its various institutions, etc., so are they all guilty of pressing grieving parents into accepting hush money?

    There are instances of police brutalities and other injustices in America too, but we don’t ever see headlines such as “the USA beats up African Americans”? As an American, I would be pissed if I hear that for the simple reason it is an inaccurate statement not to mention sounding ridiculous. But why is it that western media routinely uses these inaccurate headlines when it comes to China?

  14. Doug Says:

    “The United States will pay Lee $895,000 to drop his lawsuit, filed in 1999, which alleged that officials in the Clinton administration had disclosed to the news media that he was under investigation for spying for China while working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.”


    Although this payment was restricted to covering legal fees and taxes owed on his settlement with the media, claiming that Wen Ho Lee did not receive ANY compensation from the government is misleading.

    “The media payments, which were the result of a court-ordered mediation, are the only money Lee will pocket personally. The government payment is conditioned on it being devoted only to his lawyer’s fees and the taxes on the media’s payments. Government lawyers insisted that the government not pay anything that would be perceived as damages to Lee.”

  15. Charles Liu Says:

    I’m sure the Lee settlement agreement, as well as the 9/11 victims compensation agreement, contains the typical “damage waiver”, “nondisclosure” clauses. But for some reason these standard clauses for inducing speedy resolution for all party’s benefit, is applied in China, they turn into ugly stuff like “pressure”, “coerdion”, “buying silence”, “hush money”.

    Get a clue NYT, all settlement agreement pays hush money.

    [Well, this was the line of reasoning I tried to present on PKD before I was banned once again, not for abuse but for contrarian view. So thanks BXBQ for your post.]

    It seems some of the same issues surrounding natural disaster (Katrina) and construction failings (levy, pump station) that we Americans are debating, somehow don’t apply to them commies ch!nks – their natural disaster must somehow be faulted to their form of government or ideology.

    Just to show the building Sichuan quake school collapse issue is not black and white, some experts looking at this have came out and said it’s not as simple as blaming construction problem, as it is unlikely to be the sole factor:



    – Chengdu’s building code after 1978 required quake resistance to 6.0 mag, and was updated to 7.0 after 2001. The quake struck was 7.8-8.0. Building’s quakeproofness depends on the age of the building. So when Western media show a a collpased building next to one that stood, without clarifying their age, is misleading and pushing a POV.

    – Shearing effects varied throughout the region depending on soil condition, some area without rocky substrate sustained 10-11 mag. shearing force (think Kobe.) Out of the 6000+ shools that are damaged, some had cracks, some had falling ceiling tiles, some had falling walls, some stood or partially but are now condemed.

    While even one is too many, I agree, but the 7 shools that collapsed are all in the epicenter. There were also “built like a bull” schools in the epicenter that didn’t fall, but they were all built within the last 5 years, and possibly are not on the sandy substrate.

    What’s the point of glossing over these details when covering this story? I can only see one benefit, that is to paint a certain portrait of China.

  16. Netizen Says:

    As I said in another post, the motivation of foreign media is not objectivity to facts, rather it’s reaffirm the home country’s ideology. NYT practices that often, like during the running up to the Iraq war in 2003.

  17. Netizen Says:

    @Jane #13 – You have a very good point there. I’m tired of this sensational type of lazy journalism.

  18. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Doug #14
    Wen-Ho Lee’s compensation needs more investigation. Did he get compensated for solitary confinement, 24 hour lights on and hand-cuffed in his cell? Was it legal to lock him up in the first place?

    Anyway I updated the info in the post to reflect my current best knowledge.

  19. FOARP Says:

    @Charles Liu – In the EU we recognise the effect on a person’s human rights that non-disclosure agreements have and limit them in geographical scope and duration. No NDA is acceptable without these kind of restrictions in the UK. One of the things I dislike about the obsession with US law you find in some quarters in China/Taiwan (and I include my ex-employers in this) is the idea that such non-limited NDAs are acceptable there, and I am thankful for my ex-colleagues that the new labour laws have shot such nonsense down for employees, and no such clause has been brought to trial in China in my knowledge in the case of compensation agreements.

    Put simply, in any free society, freedom of speech is a right which should not be deferrable without strict limits being put in place first, NDAs are not compatible with a free system unless such limits are in place. In the US, free speech is protected by the first amendment, but the courts have allowed contract law to erode this to a degree I would find unacceptable in the UK.

    Anyway – did the parents sign an NDA, or were they just threatened?

    @PMW – For fairly obvious reasons (height, likelihood of being outside) children are a lot less likely to die in the collapse of a building.

    @Netizen – Have you ever been to a newly built school and seen a sagging concrete beam with ‘icicles’ of rust hanging off them? I have. The vice president in charge was executed for corruption, but I know of other places where such punishment has not been inflicted.

  20. Charles Liu Says:

    @FOARP, thanks for the enlightenment. Sorry I’m American, so naturally my knowledge about the EU is nearly zero (McDonalds in Paris sells croissant, that’s it.) I can only reference my own country, the self-proclaimed height of Western Civilizaiton, beacon of democracy and human rights.

    So if monetary inducement for giving up right to sue or talk smack about the case is kosher in America, why is it not okay in China? If speedy resolution is a benefit for all parties, how come in China suddenly it’s pressure, coercion?

    Even the reports have said some parents are not signing, and some are taking the compensation money to finance lawsuits. So sounds like there ain’t that much pressure, and the Chinese government’s quake victim compensation agreement doesn’t even have strong damage waiver or nondisclosure clause like in the 9/11 victim compensation agreement.

  21. werew Says:

    No statistics have been given on how many schools there are in the quake are and how many collapsed, and how many building there are in total and how many building collapse in total. There is no reason to say that school building are particularly badly constructed, according to some media reasoning, just because there are examples of school collapsed while some buildings surrounding it stood. Based on statistics given by pmw, I think schools are better built or at least of the same quality of any ordinary buildings.

    While I have no doubt that there are some corruptions involved, it is even worse if the government seek to appeases the public by making high profile quick trials resulting in execution or life sentence on some unlucky scapegoat. I am pretty sure there are some corruption investigation and court trials done by the central government. Why wouldn’t they want to clean their house? They just don’t want to publicize it, because then they would have to convict the prosecuted no matter what, or else the public will accuse them of backdoor corruption.

  22. Will Lewis Says:


    The investigation into who is at fault with regards to the Minneapolis bridge is unfinished. $1 billion was almost immediately (in Congressional time frames) earmarked for emergency bridge repair and inspection around the country. Plus, other bills for infrastructure repair are working their way through Congress.

    “Full and open inquiry”, and all that jazz.

  23. Buxi Says:

    Anyway – did the parents sign an NDA, or were they just threatened?

    Et tu, FOARP? Have you quit heroin, or are you just a cocaine addict?

    The parents assuredly didn’t sign an NDA. I’ve been looking for a copy of the document that the parents were supposed to sign (based on what I could make out from the picture on the front page of the NYT), but no luck so far. Regardless, from what I could make out (from that fuzzy image), I saw nothing that looked like a NDA. It was a statement that the parents were thankful for support/help from the government, party, and society at large, and they were applying for further compensation. No implicit or explicit promise not to (as I mentioned in a previous thread) speak to the media, no promise to not file a lawsuit.

    Threatened? Only as far as illegal assembly. What else did the NYT article actually document? A promise to buy a plane ticket for an out-of-town parent…?

  24. BMY Says:

    As a father of two, I was not able to finish reading of the stories listed above.

    I totally agree with BXBQ regarding the money should be called as consolation money. Based on my personal experience and witness of quiet few cases , consolation money dose not imply anything of who is guilty and it means of “caring” from the authority (or work units in some other cases).

    Regarding the collapse of the buildings, I often see only two sides of stories. One side is only blaming the scale of the quake and the nature of concentrations in classrooms. The other side is totally(or understandable emotionally) beleive all caused by corruptions. I think there should be case by case among the school buildings. Some of them had collapsed no matter how well they were built and some others should have not collapsed if there was no corruption and building code was enforced.

    There certainly should be investigation and the transparency of how the investigation carry out. But due to this large scale of damage and the fully detailed investigation would take very very long time and apparently many people want a quick find out and punishments.

  25. Charles Liu Says:

    BMY, again just as a comparison, many years has the Katrina levy failure investigation been going on? If there’s even an investigation or report they haven’t been publicized. How many years did it take the 9/11 commission to come up with its finding? It didn’t fault Ronald Reagan for training and supporting Osama Bin Ladin and his “freedom fighters” in the 80’s.

    Now, how many years has it been since the Sichuan quake?

  26. Daniel Says:

    Any investigation should take a while and I wouldn’t trust reports which come out quite quickly…well at least not 100%. These are major events, but on a smaller scale, think about criminal cases or research studies done in the Academic arena, and how much hassle they must go through and the reasonings behind them. It may be hard to compare but despite what many assume, that’s reality.

  27. Will Lewis Says:

    Charles Liu,

    You’re a little off base with the 9/11 Commission Report. If you search for the historical cause the search will lead far beyond the ’80s. The Report kept to failures that could’ve directly prevented the attack which was that intelligence failures resulted in the attack finding its way through.

    As far as Katrina, the report was complete in a Senate Hearing on April 5, 2006. There was no cover-up, or pay-offs. If a citizen thinks that the State or Federal governments are at fault, then he or she can sue a State actor who acted illegally in discharging his or her duties, or sue a Federal employee that caused tortious damages.

    Also, under US code public buildings most be retrofitted anytime that building codes are updated. Which is why in my hometown of Santa Cruz several historical buildings came down in the Loma Prieta earthquake, but the schools, even the school that was over 100 years old, just had stuff fall off the walls. Additionally, a contractor in Chengdu was interviewed on NPR a few days ago. He said that the buildings he built cost $150/sq meter, while the school next door was contemporaneously built for $85/sq. meter. His buildings did not come down.

    The problem we have with these payoffs is that they’re obviously aimed at quieting dissent in the run up to the Olympics, and they’re pathetically low. 9/11 compensations were 51% covered by insurance companies, and were based on standard tort compensation rates of salary multiplied by years until retirement age, plus pain and suffering, plus pension. This is an admission of guilt, and is more than the victims would’ve received after paying attorney fees.

  28. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Kids died in buildings for which the government bears responsibility. So the parents are entitled to financial compensation. If you speak of US/China cultural differences, the Chinese parents should probably be entitled to a higher level of compensation, since those kids would’ve been relied upon for the parents’ financial well-being in their old age. So the parents lost not just the enjoyment and companionship of their children, but likely a means of financial existence in their golden years. Obviously, that deserves compensation.

    So the government, in providing compensation, to me is not using it as hush money, per se; they are, not to sound overly insensitive, providing some monetary replacement to what was lost.

    My concern, however, is with the “strings” attached to such compensation. If the government is “doing the right thing”, they should provide compensation, no strings attached. Such compensation should not absolve the authorities of the duty to figure out why schools were falling over. However, if this money is in lieu of a transparent investigation, or of holding people to account, then suddenly such payment acquires a much stronger stench of “hush”. Now, as Jane said, that may not be an edict from the central government, and may be local officials covering their asses; but it would certainly be newsworthy. And central government inaction in the face of such accusations would be more newsworthy still.

  29. EugeneZ Says:

    @Jane #13, and @Netizen #17,

    I agree! Lazy journalism in the west is a serious problem, misleading for many, and even you have trained yourself well, it is at least a waste of time. I have been forcing myself to cut back on the time I spend reading news reports. The western media is filled with dim-witted people, sorry for being rather negative about them. I rather spend time reading this blog, where I find quite a few intelligent people with independant thinking.

    Regarding the Sichuan earthquake and school children death toll, as tragic as it is, did anyone do a statistical analysis to see if one can scientifically reach the conclusion that the school buildings are more poorly contructed than the rest. One needs to take into factors such as large and crowded classroom, that earthquake striked when the classes are in session, etc.

    Media is very good at sensationalize the non-news, and in the case of China related news, there is a double wammy of media sensation and China-bashing. I am highly skeptical.

  30. K Says:

    It seems to me that the system of compensation in the West is based on a legal process that serves to resolve a dispute between two adversaries. Once the payment has been agreed the parties sever their connection, the dispute is over, and they go their separate ways (in theory, anyway). This is totally different from the idea of money being paid as a way of showing that one side cares about the other, or is fulfilling some kind of moral obligation to the relationship. In cases of government compensation the law tries to resolve what are assumed to be the adversarial positions of the individual and the state, and maintaining a good relationship between the two sides is really not relevant at all.

    China seems to be moving slowly towards a system where it is possible to have this kind of adversarial relationship between an individual and the state – there are plenty of recent cases of people suing the government – but any changes in this area will also be influenced both by traditional attitudes towards the relationship between rulers and ruled, as well as the Communist position on the relationship between the people and the party.

  31. Buxi Says:


    My concern, however, is with the “strings” attached to such compensation. If the government is “doing the right thing”, they should provide compensation, no strings attached. Such compensation should not absolve the authorities of the duty to figure out why schools were falling over. However, if this money is in lieu of a transparent investigation, or of holding people to account, then suddenly such payment acquires a much stronger stench of “hush”.

    I completely agree on this point, and I think everyone here would. Regardless of whether a penny is paid in compensation, there should be a thorough investigation. And absolutely, there should be no legal strings attached to such compensation. (If there’s “moral” pressure along the lines of… “we’ve helped you out, please respect society and maintain order”… well frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with that.)

    So the real question is… why are we even talking about this? Is there any proof of legal strings attached to such compensation? I’ve read the NYT article as closely as possible, and I don’t see any firm evidence of anything that justifies the term “hush” money. Anyone disagree with that stance? Let’s not talk about hypotheticals, let’s talk about what we actually know.

    Now, I do think it’s possible the government is making it clear to individual families that if you continue to speak to the foreign media and/or protesting, *this* particular (optional) compensation might not be given to you, and you’ll have to file in court for compensation… to be paid years later if legal liability is proven. Is that the equivalent as “hush” money? Any thoughts?

  32. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Eugene Z:
    one would need an “independent” survey of the quake zone to see if schools collapsed at a statistically higher rate than other “government” buildings. But how does one attain such an “independent” assessment?

    As for factoring in structural loading, that shouldn’t matter because: a) schools competently constructed should handle intended loads, unless there was a school overcrowding problem, which opens an entirely different can of worms; and b) if the quake occurred during school hours, presumably that’s business hours as well, and similarly occupied government buildings apparently didn’t collapse like the schools did. So loading is unlikely the major difference here.

    Questioning school construction isn’t China-bashing. Presumably, this is a question PRC citizens would want answered as well. The world becomes a very polarized place if every query of standards and competence is taken as China-bashing. As a comparison, questioning the construction of that Minneapolis bridge would not be US-bashing.

  33. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    as has long been discussed here, to “know” the situation in China can be a challenge, no? I agree the NYT article is speculative. If there’s a means to know the “real” situation with these parents, I’m all ears and eyeballs.
    I think if the government is threatening a gag order in exchange for compensation, that’s a “string”. If the government stipulates that such compensation eliminates future legal recourse (whatever that means in China), that’s a string. As to how many strings makes a hush, well, that’s a matter of personal perspective, I suppose.

  34. Dave Says:

    No mention here of the teacher sent to Re-education Through Labour camps for publicising photos of collapsed schools, or the lawyer who got arrested for trying to represent parents? That’s got to count as hushing-up, right?

  35. bmy Says:


    are you able to verify “the teacher sent to Re-education Through Labour camps for publicising photos of collapsed schools”.

    It’s hard to beleive. There were photos of collapsed buidings on the net/TV/paper everywhere taken by everyone.

  36. Ted Says:

    My first time commenting here so please be gentle, haha. Re: NYTimes slant on China, I have leaned away from the Times when reading about China an article they ran on a “noodle cartel” a few years back. Since living here (2 years now) I have found the Washington Post to be a bit more balanced, but as all media outlets, the Post has an angle too. I think the most important thing to note are the different roles that the media plays in China and the US. Hurricane Katrina and the Sichuan earthquake provide a good parallel.

    During/after Katrina the NY Times ran two photographs that really underscored the Times’ larger position on the Bush Administration. I can’t recall which was first but one front page photo showed Bush looking out the window of Air Force One as he flew over New Orleans on the way to D.C. the other photo was of a dead body floating face down in the water. Both images were accompanied by articles stating the administration felt that rescue efforts were going well. The way these two images were presented was arguably biased and/or manipulative but in my opinion they finally brought the American people face to face with the government they elected.

    As a result of the media coverage public opinion swung decidedly against the Bush administration and his opinion ratings have not recovered since.

    By comparison, the Times coverage of the Sichuan quake has been extremely light and the article cited in this post is no harsher than hundreds they ran in the U.S. regarding the handling and aftermath of Katrina. A disaster of this magnitude will always expose mistakes and people want to place blame.

    The NYTimes has an angle, as does The Washington Post, The China Daily, London Times, etc… I’m afraid even the language of this post exposes a cultural bias on the part of the author: “When you get invited to a Chinese wedding, you are not supposed to show up with a token gift. Instead, you need to bring a red envelop, stuffed with crisp cash, with Chairman Mao’s bust printed on each bill …. (real substantial useful stuff, don’t embarrass yourself with some cheap token gifts or a card).” Unless I am misreading, this is an unveiled slight towards gift-giving traditions practiced in many western nations. A gift is as thoughtful as the giver.

    So a question: Are there any English language news organizations Chinese or foreign that present an unbiased view of China, or any country for that matter? I have yet to find one.

    Its up to the reader to balance the various points of view, that’s why we have so many choices.

    Like this blog, Thanks, Ted

  37. K Says:

    @ Buxi – “Now, I do think it’s possible the government is making it clear to individual families that if you continue to speak to the foreign media and/or protesting, *this* particular (optional) compensation might not be given to you, and you’ll have to file in court for compensation… to be paid years later if legal liability is proven. Is that the equivalent as “hush” money? Any thoughts?”

    Hard to say. I doubt this would be a major issue in a lot of countries, but the problem in China is that the legal system is still heavily stacked against the individual, and this changes the equation a little.

  38. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Having read all the thoughtful comments, I again find myself with a much more thorough understanding of the issue than when I wrote the original post.

    The gap between non-Chinese (Western) and Chinese views on how to deal with the grieving parents’ loss is based on two different narratives. The Western narrative is one of crime and punishment. They view the aide (financial and policy) to the parents as incriminating evidence against the Chinese government. “They must have done something wrong – Look, they are handing out hush money.” There are two layers of causes for this perception. One layer is cultural. To my knowledge in the United States if you get into an automobile accident and the other party is hurt, you should never allow the word “sorry” to escape from you mouth (even when you feel really sorry for his/her condition). Ask him or her whether he/she needs help. But never say you are sorry, otherwise your words will be used against you in the court. “If you were not guilty what were you sorry about?” This is also why in my favorite TV program (“Cops”) on my favorite channel (Fox) when a police officer puts handcuffs on a gap-toothed shirtless guy he always mutters the same instructions “you can remain silent.. your words will be used against you in the court…” Relations and social activities in the west are very straightforward with far less subtlety than among the Chinese, defined by clearly articulated rules and obligations. A second layer underpinning the crime and punishment narrative is ideological. The Western journalists carry the mental model of the Chinese society as the oppressive regime lording over the helpless Chinese people. This model is used as the lens in their observation and is the only mental framework they can use to make sense of the Chinese society and tell the story back to their audience at home (sharing the same model). The shared model serves the purpose of thoroughly brainwashing the Western citizens on issues related to China (serving the same function as press control in China, but with a more insidious method). The Western journalists like this model also because they can insert themselves in the picture as some sort of White Knight mounted on a white horse coming to the rescue of the poor helpless Chinese.

    The Chinese see the situation with a different narrative, one of compromising and accommodation, moving on and making progress. The resilience in the Chinese society that has enabled it to defy Western predictions of collapse (they are still doing it, at Washington Post) and keep plowing forward lies in its members’ newly acquired ability to compromise. They live and work with the conflicts among various social classes and geographic regions, instead of dying over them. Compromise and accommodation requires a full view of the big picture including all the elements. The losses of the grieving parents attract sympathy. The Chinese society needs to pool its resources and help them move on. At the same time other groups and factors must be included in the same picture. For example many children and infants lost their parents in the earthquake. Who should be held responsible for the collapse of the buildings that killed them and made their children orphans? The parents of the earthquake orphans worked at different types of institutions, including the government (e.g., the bureaucracy, hospitals and state-owned factories). Should all victims killed in government buildings sue the government for damage? The most obvious problem revealed by the earthquake is not that schools are particularly poorly constructed (this is a big problem), but that buildings in China in general and that area in particular are constructed to inadequate codes and of poor quality. Even in the modern city of Chengdu most buildings’ ability to withstand earthquakes is only 40% of Tokyo ’s (Asahi Shinbun). The most urgent task in the aftermath is to examine the safety of buildings over the country and update the building codes, like what the Americans did after the Minneapolis bridge collapse, and what the Japanese did following their earthquake in the 1920s.

    The basic difference between the Chinese and Western perspective is caused by the commitment to the Chinese society. China is our country and we are committed to it without reservation. We have to make it work, and work better everyday. We take in the big picture and longer view. This means sometimes (oftentimes) we have to refrain from instant gratification on many fronts, including implementing social justice. Like I said history’s injustices will be addressed with more history, when the society has evolved to the next stage, with more resources and greater wriggling space. This same spirit is followed in the way most Chinese treat the tragedy of June 4th 1989. We have not forgotten but we have to compartmentalize and store it in the collective subconscious. There are things of far greater historical significance that demands our attention at this moment. The great communal spirit of compromise and accommodation is where the Chinese society’s resilience comes from.

  39. Will Lewis Says:

    Western journalists feel like “White Knights” regardless of whether they’re exposing perceived injustice in Asia, Oceania, Africa, Europe, South America, or North America. Additionally, there is no single narrative in the Western media, and “Western people” don’t follow a single narrative. You have different Western media outlets and even various individual voices within single Western media outlets pushing competing narratives: praising China for the right reasons, praising China for the wrong reasons, attacking China for the right reasons, and attacking China for the wrong reasons, just as voices in the Western media push narratives praising America for the right reasons, praising America for the wrong reasons, attacking America for the right reasons, and attacking America for the wrong reasons. We Americans just tend to get really suspicious when things aren’t done transparently because our country was founded on, and one of our greatest traditions is, not trusting our government or anybody else’s government.

  40. Daniel Says:

    Even though there is no single narrative…which is a good thing, it can be hard to get some objective information. One method I learned from my peers is to pull information together from several sources, decipher them and use reason, common sense and the reality of things to understand as much as possible. Lazy information is one issue but another is critical thinking on part of the readers which one can’t blame too much if you think about it. I really think that most people have enough personal things to do that they just read articles like that and move on. Unless it was a job or specific interests, I’m not sure how much time and effort people will take to analyze it quite thorughly.

    One thing I want to mentioned…I can’t say for other cuntries but in the US, even with all the media outlets learning left, right, up and down…it still doesn’t represent a lot of opinions many Americans have. Despite the many cases of China-bashing there is, a lot of people really don’t buy into it or care enough to worry. Some people think it is a little b.s. when some people say things like others around the world don’t deserve the same benefits and pleasures as Americans. Some people just talk about it but that’s all it is just talk. Like how some old men sit in the local bar or cafe and have a cup or pint then talk endlessly of how to make the world better. Most of it is just talk. I’m pretty sure a lot of Chinese people like to talk too.

  41. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    The American society allows deviance (not just in opinions). However, it still has its dominant accepted view on every issue of importance.

  42. Will Lewis Says:


    If you spend 30 minutes watching MSNBC, 30 minutes watching Fox News, 30 minutes watching CNN, 30 minutes reading The New York Times, 30 minutes reading Wall Street Journal, 30 minutes reading the Atlantic, 30 minutes reading Harper’s, and 30 minutes watching The Daily Show, you’re going to come out with at least 3 widely accepted views on every issue of importance, and more than 8 nuanced views on every issue of importance. This, of course, ignores the vast amounts of media pushing even more extreme viewpoints that can be bought in any large chain bookstore, including AdBusters, National Review, American Spectator, etc.

    Americans don’t just get their news from CNN, which tries hard to present an unbiased view of things, but often stumbles because it is presenting different sides of the story. MSNBC and Fox have higher American viewership than CNN, probably because they each push a different widely accepted view of important issues. The Daily Show, a ‘fake’ news show, has the highest educated viewers, probably because its viewers get their news from the widest amount of sources, and it spends most of its time showing the horrible mistakes that the mainstream news outlets make, including CNN, MSNBC and Fox. If you really want to see the sparks fly between two of America’s most respected journals intended for wide readership, The Atlantic and Harper’s, then read articles from each on the same issue and revel in the sharply divergent views.

  43. Will Lewis Says:

    Sorry, just realized that overseas CNN is a different beast than American CNN. Overseas CNN tends to portray itself as a news source presenting news stories. CNN’s format in the US is much different. CNN shows in the US are typically organized around a moderator who moderates a discussion on an issue or political decision. Commentators from each side of the issue are then brought in to argue the pros and cons of the issue. This even happens on issues related to China.

  44. Charles Liu Says:

    Will, yes there has been distinction drawn between CNN Intl and CNN in US.

    But I have to agree with BXBQ that we do have an “offical narrative” of China – IMHO thou not quite “goons and thugs”, but close. America seems to have this incessant need for “enemy”, and China has always lingered near the top of our list.

  45. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Will Lewis #42,

    You have a very good point, but a very incomplete one.

    1. America has no lack of ideas, knowledge or understanding. It is the most prolific and creative producer of ideas anywhere on earth. Unfortunately (for rather, fortunately) I do no have cable due to an incurable snobbery. My exposure to the print media is also sporadic. I figure the American media is part of the political apparatus so I can’t miss much by staying away from them. But I know American academics (maybe business people too but I don’t know them) are the most productive in developing understanding of the world we live in, despite fakers like Perry Link.

    2. However, American ideas are monopolized by the cognitive elite, and carefully kept inaccessible to the American masses. I have no precise operational definition of the cognitive elite. A rule of thumb would be those who have completed at least undergraduate study at one of the highly academically selective universities.

    Let us assume there are a great variety of deep and nuanced discussions on the great programs of Fox and CNN etc. (I thought your mention of Fox was black humor but anyway.) What is the penetration of these nuanced ideas among the American masses, those who make a political difference with their votes? Do they trickle down from the elite to the everyday voters? What is the average American’s reading habit, or the lack thereof? What kind of stuff do average Americans attend to when they open a book or turn on the TV? What are the most popular TV programs in America? The daily show is popular for the same reason that Bill O’Rielly is popular, the cheapening of intellectual activities. Although Bill O’Rielly has yet another thing to his credit, the trashification of public social interaction.

    What is the depth and sophistication in the political discourse among the average American voters, despite the profound ideas and understanding among the American elites and its free press? Either early this year or last year I watched an American presidential debate on CNN, the CNN-Youtube debate where average American votes submit questions to the presidential candidates by posting their video questions on Youtube. In one of the videos a youngish male American held up a Holy Bible in front of his webcam (whole-screen zoom-in on the book) and demanded to know from each candidate “Do you believe in every single word from this book literally? I mean every single word and literally.” That was when I killed the cable. This extreme example gives you a taste of the nature of American numerical democracy, with one-person-one-vote. This is how Americans elect their president. I am sorry for being and ass but it is just too out there for me.

    Are you surprised that none of the American political figures over last 15 years except Bill Clinton seem to be endowed with a high horsepower brain? Comparing the political decision making and emergency responses from the Chinese and American governments over the last 15 years, which ones are more rational and of better quality?

  46. EugeneZ Says:

    @bianxiangbianqiao – your comments below provide an excellent summary and insight. You mention that you learn as you go along (by reading the comments), but you must have had a very solid foundation where you build or enhance your new understanding upon.

    “The basic difference between the Chinese and Western perspective is caused by the commitment to the Chinese society. China is our country and we are committed to it without reservation. We have to make it work, and work better everyday. We take in the big picture and longer view. This means sometimes (oftentimes) we have to refrain from instant gratification on many fronts, including implementing social justice. Like I said history’s injustices will be addressed with more history, when the society has evolved to the next stage, with more resources and greater wriggling space. This same spirit is followed in the way most Chinese treat the tragedy of June 4th 1989. We have not forgotten but we have to compartmentalize and store it in the collective subconscious. There are things of far greater historical significance that demands our attention at this moment. The great communal spirit of compromise and accommodation is where the Chinese society’s resilience comes from.”

    @S.K. Cheung , I am very skeptical about criticism of China by westerners by default. The only exception, for someone to escape my sekpticism, is to have the westerner in question to demonstrate the kind of understanding and compassion towards our Chinese nation and history at the level that was demonstrated by Sir Geoffery Howe. Every time when I read or hear someone in the west criticize China in any way, by default I doubt their motive, and even their qualification to do so. But I am open minded enough to let them prove otherwise. This is just part of my world view after many years of observing and living. And this is not a result of brain-washing by CCP. In fact, when I first landed in USA in 1989, right after Tiananmen, I was firmly anti-CCP, and pro-western style democracy, being a naive young person I was.

  47. Buxi Says:


    The NY Times journalist has an interview with multiple parents involved in the collapse, including a front-page picture, taken by their correspondent, of the parents of one dead child holding the agreement they’re being “pressured” into signing. In this case at least, shouldn’t that be considered some degree of transparency?

    The NY Times has unrestricted access to these parents, they have no reasonable explanation for not being able to support the “hush money” allegation. It’s sloppy and biased journalism, the kind of sloppy journalism that wouldn’t be tolerated in most other contexts.

    There are a few comments above that I think are perceptive and I want to emphasize again:

    – first, as BXBQ said, Chinese culture does emphasize cultural compromise above “right and wrong”. This isn’t just in the context of government/citizen interaction, but in every-day life. This is usually subtle, but turns into very distinct differences on these extreme/border cases, like that of the earthquake in Sichuan.

    – second, as Will Lewis said, in addition to the American/Western tradition of demanding a clear accounting of responsibility and fault, you have to integrate in deep, innate suspicion of the government’s position. This is the default position for many Americans in any context.

    For anyone who reads through Western news chat sites, including the “post a comment” section now consistently found on just about any online newspaper… you’ll find a level of skepticism towards the American government that looks like Tianya or KDNet, but multiplied by a factor of 10. A murder downtown? Clearly proof that the local government policies on crime/drugs/homelessness is a complete joke; the city is being destroyed. Gas prices up 10%? The government is destroying this country. A forest fire? The government is destroying the environment.

    But you’ll often find this skepticism is party-based. Those who supports the ruling party in that city/state/country tends to be apologists. Those who support the opposition party tends to be the critics. The end result is what someone else above said, if you take 30 minutes to read comments from both sides.. you’ll come out with a more or less comprehensive/moderate view of the situation.

    When it comes to China, unfortunately this skepticism isn’t party-based, it’s geographic based. The vast majority in China and all Chinese have a perhaps overly-rosy view of China. But that’s certainly balanced by the deeply negative view held by the vast majority of Americans and Westerners (expats with direct personal experience aside).

    Think about the heated divide between left/right, blue/red… as deep as the frustration gets, elections are around to balance the anger, and give people the opportunity to vent; there’s never going to be a civil war. The heated divide between China/US have no equivalent mechanism (although I’d love to see a joint democratic referendum on say, Tibet)… and there is the realistic threat of war.

  48. Buxi Says:


    Who are you speaking of specifically, re: the reporter who was sent to laogai?

    I’m aware of the case of Huang Qi, who’s associated with 64tianwang. I don’t know if you’ve read the releases that came out of 64tianwang, especially in relationship to the Sichuan earthquake… but better “transparency” is not what they were providing.

  49. Will Lewis Says:


    As to point 1, I’m a little confused as to what you mean by political apparatus. If you’re talking about Fox News, well Scott McClellan just recently pointed out how in bed they were with the Bush administration as the administration would deliver specific talking points to Fox. The rest of the media engaged in a distinct lack of deep investigative reporting between 2001 and 2006-7, but they’re remembering that their job is to make sure that the American political apparatti aren’t lying to us too much or too blatantly.

    As to point 2, the cognitive elite dominate the upper reaches of media and power in just about any country, right? How many other Chinese attended university while Secretary Hu and Premier Wen were in university during the 1960s? As the leaders of the Party and the government, they exert considerable control over Chinese media, which all must be registered with the State.

    Fox falls more into one of the 3 widely accepted views; the nuances of Fox come across more in why they’re in the business of selling lies such as conveniently ignoring that we went to war in Iraq over WMDs and not to install democracy. And, uh, just to be clear, I don’t think that the programs on either channel are great and I much prefer to read than watch two middle-aged men with bad haircuts yell at each other. And I do agree with you that The Daily Show does cheapen political discourse, but political discourse in general is pretty cheap and Americans have been doing this since newspapers were first printed in this country. And Americans certainly do not have a monopoly on meaningless political discourse from our leaders.

    Americans are also highly educated, at least in comparison with Europeans, and I’d expect that a good number of them are capable of understanding the nuances of the debates. With the electoral college system, and non-compulsory voting, Karl Rove proved that using incredibly divisive issues to drive small, concentrated groups of voters to the voting booths is a way to win elections. Bible thumpers, who are in the minority in the US as a whole, but important swing votes in many states, have become an important part of the political process because the parties see them as valuable tools to win or lose elections. But, it is not how American’s elect their president, it is what determines how a very small percentage of Americans vote, and if the evangelical support for Obama is anything to go by, Bible thumpers will play a smaller role in this election. I’m also guessing that out of all of the presidential candidates from either party, 15 or so people[?], the only one who might’ve said yes was Huckabee.

    You’re not being an ass, you’re just buying into Karl Rove’s electoral tactics of using issues that don’t matter to inflame the passions of voters who want to vote. There were many other problems with the 2000 and 2004 elections, including low turnouts.

    High horsepower brain? If you mean in the office of the presidency, then no, I’m not surprised because Clinton and Bush are the only ones in the past 15. But, HW Bush was an incredibly intelligent person. Also, Rumsfeld and Cheney are incredibly intelligent, just morally bankrupt. Condaleeza Rice is also incredibly intelligent, but a mixture of R&C’s problem and too intent on installing democracy. Colin Powell is super intelligent, but he was lied to by people he trusted. Nancy Pelosi, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Diane Feinstein, Eliot Spitzer, Joe Biden, all of the Supreme Court Justices, a huge chunk of Clinton’s cabinet (except Gore, not too intelligent but he got behind the right cause), Karl Rove, the list goes on, are all incredibly intelligent people, and each is influential though whether that influence is good or bad depends on a person’s own politics.

    I don’t think I ever argued that one is more rational or of better quality, and the American political system is not designed to be rational or of superior quality. The philosophical and political literature that the US Constitution was based on, The Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist Papers, Aristotle, lots of John Locke, were focused on making sure that the government was weak and kept out of our lives and business as much as possible. Sometimes you have to pay for freedom with stupidity and inefficiency.

    Communism and the Chinese system are based on the government being rational and of high quality because a Communist government is supposed to act as a shepherd for its people. More of a Thomas Hobbes / Confucius thing. So we are confused when you’re government does something stupid and it’s supposed to be paternal, why you’re not all angry. We don’t care as much when our government does something stupid because we expected them to do something stupid anyways, and the doctrine of sovereign immunity allows them to be stupid.

    There are pluses and minuses to each side, and I wouldn’t expect either of us to not prefer our own system. Just as I would expect that neither of us thinks the other should adopt the other’s system. Though I would expect that there are politicians in the US you’d prefer get elected, just as I have preferences for Secretary Hu and Premier Wen’s successors.

    I am having fun, though, and I am learning a lot.

  50. Will Lewis Says:


    Totally agree with you, and address it a little above. The Federalist Papers, pretty much the basis for our Constitution, are rife with worries that the “impetuous vortex” of the legislature will drag the country into tyranny where one group can wield power. Or that an overly powerful executive will become a tyrant. Not too many worries about the Court, but if you turn to some of Scalia’s dissents in ’80s and ’90s on the commerce clause you’ll see plenty of worry about the court’s becoming a tyrant.

    The Anti-Federalist Papers, the basis for our Bill of Rights, are rife with worries that a separation of powers won’t do enough to protect individual freedoms in the US and that those rights need to be delineated.

    All comes down to a deepseated distrust and suspicion of those in power. And isn’t that why people came to the US and continued to move West?

  51. Wahaha Says:

    Will Lewis,

    Did you expect the following.

    Jack Cafferty’s bestseller : It’s Getting Ugly Out There


    The bottom line is that our government no longer works for us. The government works for the lobbyists who have had a big hand in influencing (if not helping to draft) legislation favoring not the average American citizen but instead big business: health insurance, pharmaceutical and oil companies, and defense contractors, among others. These are the guys who can make the kinds of political contributions that are needed to finance today’s multi-million-dollar political campaigns.


  52. Wahaha Says:

    Will Lewis,

    Will you specify the stupidity by Chinese government that CHINESE DIDNT REALIZE ?

  53. Will Lewis Says:


    Americans, at least several of my colleagues, friends, and classmates, are very confused about a large segment of the Chinese populations hatred of Jack Cafferty. Jack Cafferty has been a joke ever since he entered American media, and he remains a joke. The purpose of his presence on CNN is to entertain with outrageous statements. His purpose is to give voice to the gut reactions against all that is different, that we are usually sane enough to avoid voicing and the vast vast majority of people are sane enough to avoid acting on even if voiced. Think about the conversations you have with your close friends after a few too many drinks about people from other countries or parts of your own country. Or think about what you say to yourself about another who is different who makes a slight against you in public. Now imagine that you make those statements a little more hurtful and a little more creative, there’s got to be an excuse to pay you, and then your audience is the world (courtesy of the magic of the internet).

    So, yeah, I can imagine it, because lots of Americans like to be entertained. That doesn’t mean that they believe what they’re reading.

  54. Buxi Says:


    I don’t think Will Lewis means his comment to suggest that the Chinese are unaware of stupidity. I think he’s confused why Chinese are “accepting” of stupidity from the government, when in the Western perspective any such stupidity should be immediately jumped upon for criticism.

    I think Will Lewis is meeting us half-way with this statement. I personally don’t expect or demand any more:

    There are pluses and minuses to each side, and I wouldn’t expect either of us to not prefer our own system. Just as I would expect that neither of us thinks the other should adopt the other’s system.

    That’s a good recognition of the difference between Chinese/Western culture here.

    Someone (was it in this thread?) made a comment, that other societies with similar cultures (Taiwan, Japan, South Korea) have made multi-party democracies work… so using culture as an excuse doesn’t work. I think this is something we have to think about and keep in mind and discuss, as well.

    So… are there any differences in democracy as its practiced in Taiwan/Japan/South Korea as it is practiced in the West? I know Japan is certainly different, because it effectively has had basically only a single ruling party for its entire democratic period. I’m a little confused by South Korean politics, since it seems like there are no lasting political party concept there… parties are changing, merging, splitting apart on an annual basis.

    I’m a little more informed about the situation in Taiwan, but it’s hard to draw any conclusions there. They’re so new to the experiment, and for most of this decade at least, it hasn’t been impressive. Thoughts?

  55. Will Lewis Says:


    I never wrote that the Chinese didn’t realize. I wrote that Americans can be confused why Chinese are so quick to forgive a self-proclaimed paternal government when it makes mistakes.

  56. Wahaha Says:

    Will Lewis,

    Your comment “a Communist government is supposed to act as a shepherd for its people.”.

    I think that explains my question.

    First, CCP’s existence is allowed by chinese people, this may sound hard for you to believe, But if you look at Suharto’s reign in Indonesia, you will get a picure of what I mean, Suharto’s reign was overthrown overnight once economy went south.

    Second, I dont see how Chinese government is less democratic than any other non-democratic country except Singapore. Your constant bringing up “communist” makes me believe you know very little about China (no offense, please dont misunderstand.) Can you give us a reason why the current government is worse than, say,. Russia ? ( Journalists in Russia were murdered.)

  57. Wahaha Says:

    “So, yeah, I can imagine it, because lots of Americans like to be entertained. That doesn’t mean that they believe what they’re reading.”

    What if your president said same thing 127 years ago ?

  58. Will Lewis Says:


    You’re totally correct, and discussing China’s current system as a product of its culture is incredibly difficult. The culture shapes some of the form of China’s current system and certainly sets the political power structure, but Communism is based on a system devised by a Prussian and a German, which is in turn based upon theories by French, English, Greeks, etc. Chinese law is based on the German Scientific Civil Codes, but much of Chinese law is also based upon English and American common law, and the statutes of those countries. I find it fascinating.

    American doesn’t exactly have a culture, but it does carry a tradition of individualism, distrust of those in power, and the Socratic/Aristotelian tradition of competition and conflict. Americans are kind of like sophisticated, wealthy, and inventive barbarians. The nice part for democracy is that there’s a little barbarian in the heart of every human, and it is real easy to start acting selfish and argue with other people.

  59. Will Lewis Says:


    57. I don’t think an American president 127 years ago, or today for that matter, would have the candor to say that, although Obama has often come close. But, if you search around for US political cartoons from the 19th century you’ll find lots of outrageous stuff. Also, dime store novels were really popular in the 19th century.

    56. Laws exist but for the will of the people (attributed to somebody whose name escapes me). The same is true no matter the country, and no disagreement between us on that point. But, some authority is better than no authority even if that authority is imperfect. There are also inertia problems in the argument that governments (any nation’s government) are endorsed by the will of its people. That aside, a planned socialist state carries some promises with it of planning for the welfare of the people, yes? The only promises the US government makes to its people are to protect their life, liberty, and property. The demands on and responsibilities of one type of those governments should be higher than the other.

    I never argued China’s relative level of ‘democraticness’ to any other country, and I never said China’s government was better or worse than any other countries government, including the United States’.

    I bring up the word communist because that is what China purports to be: an authoritarian planned socialist state. Yes, there are some democratic elements in some local elections, but China is a communist state. Democracy is characterized by free and fair elections insured by an uncensored press. Many countries are democracies in name only. Russia’s a good example. The joke comes from Hamlet, “Me think the lady doth protest too much,” and the joke goes that the stronger a country professes its democracy the less democratic it is. For example: Democratic Republic of the Congo, People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. BTW, I’m not passing judgment on those countries, except Congo, they just have some funny names.

  60. Will Lewis Says:

    Sorry, in the third paragraph that should be I never argued China’s relative level of democraticness to any other country except the US, which I hope we can agree is more democratic with the voting and the lack of censorship.

  61. Daniel Says:

    Sophisticated, wealthy and inventive barbarians with no culture?
    As an American, I am offended by that response…just kidding.

    By the way, regarding the Chinese society, I think there must be more to explain it’s high level of endurance, which I really think is admirable in some situations, but others may think not. Things like eating bitterness, the infamous “k-word” of destiny, and other relevant topics. I remember reading a book (forgot the title) regarding Chinese government in an historical point of view. The author, well it was a group effort, said that in theory, the traditional views towards government of being like a higher level of family and its systems appeared to do ok (in comparison for the times questionably) but it really depended a lot on whether the leaders themselves were effective in doing their jobs and wise in their decisions.

    Maybe that could explain a small part of how some people in the China or Chinese-influenced areas may viewed their government. Tradition is hard to die and I agree with Will Lewis in saying that the US did have that “distrust of authority” psyche among the land for generations and the systems sort of helped that. I’m aware that distrust of authority does exist everywhere but sometimes you need that space and infrastructure sort of to let it bloom in a stable manner. Although much can be discuss about that topic.

  62. Wahaha Says:

    Will Lewis,

    1) Relative level of “demcoracy” is very critical when judging the credibility of conspiracy theory by Chinese.

    Lot of Chinese believe that West want to divide China and drive China into Chaos, like in Russia. Lot of Westerners laughed at that and some even went further claimed that Chinese were brainwashed by state-controled media.

    If China is not significantly less democractic than other non-democratic countries ( considering the size of populations and number of people living in poverty.), Why has China been singled out by West politicians and media ? That is why I am a believer of conspiracy theory.

    2) I never try to prove the current China is “quite” democratic, it is not. The government is repressive, but it is effective and efficient in solving problems in China, problems that wouldnt be solved under west democracy(see india). What people in West dont understand is that after balancing the gain and loss, most Chinese believe that the current system and party is the BEST AVALIABLE SYSTEM for the interest for vast majority of Chinese people in near future. The “interests” and “human right” West has been bragging about is not the interests Chinese care, at least for now. But lot of Westerners insist that Chinese are brutally forced to accept this “evil” government. (Like French government decided to hang pictures of Dalai and Hu Jia in their parliment house during Olympic period.) In the long run, what happend to Suharto is what will happened to CCP if they dont solve the problem of government’s credibility.

    3) No offense, if you think Cafferty’s comment in his bestseller is outrageous, then you are brainwashed. That can be clearly seen by that no media put pressure on oil companys.

  63. Buxi Says:

    I’ve actually been thinking about doing a post comparing the movies Shreck and Red Cliff (which is a John Woo movie about the Three Kingdoms era currently in Chinese theaters).

    I’ve been watching Shreck a lot over the last few weeks, courtesy of my daughter. I also watched Red Cliff this week. And both movies have convinced me that the “cultural” roots of the divide between East/West are deep, and are likely to be perpetuated for the near future.

    Shreck, just like many other movies popular in the West, has as background an overpowering, arrogant, power-hungry autocrat running an authoritarian kingdom… where force is used to keep the streets clean, and the masses devoid of individuality. The only solution is the ultimate hero “outside of the system”, who gets rid of the autocrat, and returns diversity and freedom to the land.

    Red Cliff, on the other hand, makes heroes out of men (and a few women) who devote their lives towards restoring the rule of the Han dynasty. Heroes are those who remain forever loyal to their roots, who remain dedicated to the goal of upholding the Han “house” (at that point a distant descendent.. a distant nephew?.. of the last legitimate Han emperor). Men who admire each other as individuals see it as inevitable that, if their masters and loyalty demand it, they will eventually face each other on the battlefield.

    So… there you go.

  64. Will Lewis Says:


    China has not been singled out by the Western media and politicians. Coverage of China is up sure, but that’s because half of the world’s journalists are over there in the run up to the Olympics, and China invited them over. The biggest enemy right now in the American media is our own president, corruption in the GOP in the form of bribes by oil companies, corrupt traders on Wall Street, and slimy mortgage brokers. We have a lot of our own problems, and the American media is much more concerned with actual demons at home than perceived demons abroad.

    America did not aim to divide Russia and drive it into Chaos. The purpose of a Cold War is to spend more than your enemies, and turn global pressure against them so they can’t get the goods they need to maintain order. We outspent them and offered a more attractive system and got them to fight a costly war. China demonstrated that the American system was more attractive than a Russian system after Nixon dropped sanctions against China preventing others from trading it with it allowing China to open itself to the world.

    You’re putting words in my mouth and creating an argument where there was none. In fact, I said exactly what you said in the part where Buxi quoted me. I can’t even think of a legitimate American commentator who is saying that China is evil and is brutally forcing its people to accept its rule.

  65. Daniel Says:

    I think there are elements in both cultures of Shrek and Red Cliff. You got Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia as well.
    The division between “east” and “west” doesn’t have to be that deep.
    Back on the topic which some commentators have mentioned about what is this West by the way?
    Sometimes I will read about it and it could refer to Europe and it’s descendents around the world. Once in a while I will run into some people or articles which mentioned about the many non-western influences in that world. By now, I guess it’s PC to say that the Bible and Christianity is a major part of Western Civilization. In comparison, the same can be said of Buddhism in Chinese civilization.

    I encountered people who have told me that other than some of the Pagan or Roman/Greek aspects of the religion, they don’t considered the ideals of the Bible to be Western. In many other topics as well, not just religion but also science, commerce, art, philosophies of the West are quite interconnected with other traditional non-western cultures/civilizations. I think that whether it’s western, eastern or whatever realm an idea is, overtime those divisions will become less important. If an idea is truly universal, then there shouldn’t be much of a problem for people to accept it or adopt it to their particular culture. At the very least, they should be able to understand the ideals of people different from them and not have to dig that division even deeper. Hope it didn’t sound too confusing. I got a lot to say but maybe too off topic or irrelevant.

  66. Wahaha Says:

    Will Lewis,

    Lot of Chinese believe China IS singled out, here are some reasons :

    Example 1, the spy cameras in Beijing becomes a huge issue. why didnt West complain about that 4 years ago in Greece ? Why do West reporters complain about some facilities they dont need for reporting Olympic ?

    Example 2, Police mistreat dissidents. I believe it is true that chinese police mistreat dissidents, but they also mistreat other prisoners, sometimes they even beat innocent people, Chinese hate it a lot. Guess what ? West politicians and media dont give a damn, all they care is how several dozens of dissidents are mistreated. In the eyes of Chinese, it is like West media only care selling their agenda. So, few in China believe westerners really care about China and Chinese.

    Example 3, Brainwashed westerners the situation in Tibet, give a picture that Tibetans are discriminated by Han Chinese, which is ridiculous and ignorant. They dont need CCP’s propaganda to believe that West want to weak China again like they did 150 years ago, which of course leads some chinese to believe West has its own evil agenda.

    Example 4, Almost everytime you read a report about China, they used the word “communist” or “communism”. Like it justifies their argument, which is bull. That really give lot of Chinese an impression that people in West are brainwashed, as you can hardly find a Chinese in China care about communism. Even when they talk about Marxism and Mao, it is almost 100% pragmatic, there is no idealism in it at all.

    Example 5, Try to push their idea down to our throat. China’s intelligentsia paid lot of attention to the situations in India and Russia, (plus the history of China) it is very clear to lot of them that the probability China will be in chaos under democracy is extremely high. So when West asks ” why cant you do this NOW? ” it is like ” Why is your country not in Chaos yet ? ”

    Example 6, there is report by CIA on CNN, that there are about 15,000 to 25,000 dissidents in China, let us multiply it by 50, that is 1,250,000 people who want some change in China quickly, that is not even 0.1 % of population of China. How on earth can West convince Chinese that the government is evil when only 0.1% wants serious political change ? and Why west is so eager to push for the change when the current system still works economically for 95+% of people ? This contrast easily make Chinese doubt the sincerity of West.

  67. Wukailong Says:

    @Wahaha: I believe many of these opinions come down to ignorance. Like my grandma’s sister said to me: “You say China isn’t communist but it’s ruled by a communist party?! That makes no sense!” Most people still haven’t come around to thinking in terms of something that’s communist in name only. (Also, I don’t think one should ignore the fact that there are still hard-line communists in China, though probably mostly in the army)

    “China’s intelligentsia paid lot of attention to the situations in India and Russia, (plus the history of China) it is very clear to lot of them that the probability China will be in chaos under democracy is extremely high. So when West asks ” why cant you do this NOW? ” it is like ” Why is your country not in Chaos yet ? ””

    Try to separate here the beliefs of different sides, and also of what different Westerners think. Most of the latter often believe democracy is a quick solution for problems, and don’t think as much in terms of stability as Chinese does. It simply becomes different perspectives bumping into each other.

    Also, the Tibetan thing… I sure hope that people understand it can’t be as simple as any of the sides say. Most people just believe in the education (either it was paradise before, or it is paradise now – take your pick, whether you’re Western or Han)

  68. Wahaha Says:

    BTW, they didnt call China an evil empire, that wouldve caused too much unnecessary diplomatic problems. But the way they paint China is ” look how brutal the government is.”

  69. Wukailong Says:

    @Buxi: Just don’t forget Shrek as a story was invented some years ago, whereas 三国 is historical… (though some stories of it are reenacted in Red Cliff). Before we buy into this enormous chasm of cultural difference, we need to think about how people in different places use their movies to convey the current message.

  70. Wahaha Says:


    I agree most of what you said except “Most of the latter often believe democracy is a quick solution for problems, and don’t think as much in terms of stability as Chinese does. It simply becomes different perspectives bumping into each other.”

    It is not what you said is wrong, it is that West politicians and media purposely avoided the issue in India and Russia, you can hardly find a scholar question the system, that simply cannot be true in a “free” country. At least one out of 10 scholars would seriously study what is wrong in the system.

  71. Dan Says:

    The headline was unfair. Settlements with payments and confidentiality provisions happen every day in the US and around the world, but seldom are they described as hush money. I must have participated in at least 100 of these things as a lawyer and they are just a fact of life/business.

  72. Wukailong Says:

    @Wahaha – the media is definitely biased, I agree with you on that. Russia is an interesting example because what Putin has done can be seen both as strengthening institutions and making the country more authoritarian, and China and the West are seeing their versions of the story. When it comes down to it, I think Putin was very much guaranteed to rise to power after the disastrous reforms. And well, Russia seems to be doing better.

    There are studies and books about India’s political problems, they just don’t get enough attention in the mainstream. This could be something:


    “India’s gap between alleged and unrealized democracy is huge, and, for Bonner and many others, the reason is the caste system. Brahmin dominance and the chauvinistic cultural nationalism of Hindutva render democracy in India “a hollow shell.” In Bonner’s view, “elections merely serve to legitimate a caste elite with a total monopoly of power and wealth” – an elite “that without hesitation, uses all its force to suppress lower-caste dissent. There is no social democracy and no equality of economic opportunity” (p. 38).

    That article is interesting, too, because it sheds lights on India’s human rights violations. A couple of weeks I read an article about India’s war on separatists in Kashmir and was surprised at the softness of the article. What is Tibet compared to Kashmir?

  73. Wukailong Says:

    Sorry, the second last sentence was unclear. It should say: “A couple of weeks ago I read a Newsweek article about…”

  74. Jana Says:

    You know many Ccp supporters say that Chinese people could not survive without the Ccp yet Taiwan of the same culture and background as the Chinese coexists harmonioulsy well with democracy and good governenace and they also allow its voters to practice Christianty Buddhism Muslim amd Falun Gong. Why on earth would you choose a repressive violent regime with no petitioning rights no rule of law no media freedom, no human rights etc,,, no water, bad pollution and no demcratic freedoms what so ever? You communists have an agenda so please speak it up and show yoursleves. bianxiangbianqiao happens to be the rudest most fouldmouthed being i have ever blogged with. Visit Richards Spencer early posts to see what i mean. Most of guys are all being duped or maybe you are getting lesson on how to sound polite while spreading your lies and propoganda by the evil ccp.

    Before computers and so called modern science everyon believed in the heavens and the Gods. When disaster strikes as it has in communist China this year many many times the Chinese people would understand that the Gods in the heavens were not happy with the Emperor.I am tellingyou know that many Chinese are not happy with the ccp either as these disasters that have hit the chinese people this year have aroused their long held beliefs and have confirmed that they are being singled out because of the Ccp evil persecution of religions espcially Falun Gong .

    You cannot beat this mindset down , The ccp are loosing the battle…It wont be long now..

    Despite Nine Years of Persecution, Falun Gong Persists with Peaceful and Levelheaded Response

    By Fei Ming

    (Clearwisdom.net) We read new stories about the persecution each day on Minghui/Clearwisdom. The stories are sent by practitioners living in mainland China, despite government Internet censorship. There are several stories about Falun Gong practitioners being brutally tortured in China almost every day. This has continued unabated since the Chinese Communist Party began its official persecution of Falun Gong in July 1999.

    Over the last nine years, however, there has not been a single case of Falun Gong practitioners responding violently; none have sought vengeance against CCP officials. This fact alone speaks for the peaceful, levelheaded, and non-violent nature of Falun Gong practitioners. Practitioners will continue to respond in this fashion until the persecution completely ends, just as they have for the last nine years.

    There have been two recent cases that shook the Chinese community. One was a riot in Weng’An; the other was the murder of a Shanghai policeman by a young man from Beijing. There have been many cheers and much support of the two incidents on Internet forums. As the CCP extends its persecution from Falun Gong to other members of the public, there will be more and more violence in China, some of which may even destroy the regime. All of this was caused by the CCP’s corruption, greed, and brutality.

    In contrast to the two incidents mentioned above, Falun Gong practitioners’ resistance is completely non-violent. This is because everything a practitioner does is guided by the principle of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. When clarifying the facts, practitioners are merely practicing their right to free speech, as granted by the Constitution. They even clarify the facts to the perpetrators of the persecution. They also encourage the public to withdraw from the CCP and its subordinate organizations. As cultivators, they are saving sentient beings. As citizens, they are walking the most peaceful path to rid China of tyranny.

    Of course, Falun Gong has no desire for political power. We can take a look at Taiwan, which shares the same heritage as mainland China. In Taiwan, Falun Gong benefits society, and society in turn supports Falun Gong. Falun Gong has not been involved in any political dispute. This type of peaceful existence of Falun Gong will happen in China, too, once the CCP is eliminated. In the last nine years, all of the issues related to Falun Gong can be attributed to the CCP’s irrational persecution. Falun Gong practitioners need to clarify the facts and resist the persecution precisely because the persecution exists. By peacefully guarding their rights, Falun Gong practitioners are also guarding the rights of all Chinese people. All patriotic Chinese people should stand beside Falun Gong and work with the practitioners to end the nine-year persecution.

  75. BMY Says:

    Hi Jana,

    It’s good to see your comment on this thread.

    I beleive many many patriotic Chinese are standing beside Falun Gong.

    But there is another thread specially set up for discussing of FLG and you have been debating there for the past 3 months. I guess most of people here, love CCP or anti-CCP ,all would like to keep each topic separate.

    just my 2 cents

  76. Jana Says:

    BMY, except for one thing . Mutant Jedi asked admin to have that thread shut down and it was done at his request. If you are onto this thread thats fine, But do not stand by and watch these lies being perpetuated by BXBQ . This is an extemely nasty one..he sucks people into this world until they are all his puppets with him. I have seen him at his nastiest , hes not worth it..

    Also there are no seperate topics when it comes to CCP and Falun Dafa. The Ccp are very worried about Falun Gong which is why they have also included all FG sites in the internet censorship. Funny that really …as according to the general chinese people the Falun Gong are no longer an issue for the ccp yet it is clear to all except Chinese that this is not so.

    By peacefully guarding their rights, Falun Gong practitioners are also guarding the rights of all Chinese people. All patriotic Chinese people should stand beside Falun Gong and work with the practitioners to end the nine-year persecution.

  77. Wukailong Says:

    @Jana: I also asked that thread to be shut down because it made it difficult to see all the other comments. Also, unfortunately, the subject at hand unfortunately often descends into name-calling and nastiness, and this blog can do without that.

    Perhaps certain old threads can be moved into a special place where people can continue their discussions?

  78. Ted Says:

    Perhaps my previous post was too long.

    To repeat my question: In the opinion of readers here, are there any English language news outlets that present an unbiased view of China, or any country for that matter?

  79. Daniel Says:

    I’m not sure how to get away with bias in general. For one thing, you can play around with the words so much that topics of drastic impact can be percieved as small. For example, I watched a show (I think it was Bill Maher) where he had a guy on whose sole job is to make words sound good. They played a small game and headlines could be changed to; offshore drilling=exploration of domestic energy sources and others. A person can be drinking pepsi in front of a Coca-cola factory and people can make a big deal over that. Basically they can be the same thing but the context of the words can give off another image than what the actual story is. Yesterday, I was driving home and the car radio caught just a small glimpse of a reporter in one of the areas hit by the Sichuan Earthquake. She mentioned how they were using some slogans from the Olympics as propaganda. You can sort of see it with different angles though. If I said they were using slogans to boost the people up compared to propaganda and they could both be true, I mean do you see how it can give off different feelings and images.

  80. wuming - wumaodang Says:


    “To repeat my question: In the opinion of readers here, are there any English language news outlets that present an unbiased view of China, or any country for that matter?”

    I have not found any.

  81. FOARP Says:

    @Wuming – It depends what you mean by ‘biased’. All newspapers select the stories they think will be most newsworthy and most interesting to their readership, if they do not do so they are not newspapers. All media sorces approach things from a particular political standpoint – one of thing which, as a Briton, I find a bit boring abpout American newspapers is their lack of the kind of firm ideological and political stand points that you find in British newspapers. However, to go from this to saying that the media of English language countries is engaged in a conspiracy against China is to go way too far.

  82. Charles Liu Says:

    BMY, Sarah Matheson, Epoch Times AU’s chief reporter has clearly stated what FLG’s overly political goal is:

    “We’re trying to dismantle communism in China.”


  83. wuming - wumaodang Says:


    On most of the domestic issues, or even issues between EU nations and US, there are certain degrees of variance on political stands (though far left is not really represented in US.) But this variance does not translate to issues related to certain states, such as Sudan, Russia and China.

    There are also a few western journalists and academicians who knew just how vastly China has changed in last 3 decades. Most of them also understand the significance of it. But they either kept that to themselves or was ignored completely by the media establishment in general. When they are called upon by the same establishment to pontificate on China in a moment like this, they skip over (just pay lip service to) this basic fact, and go directly to the latest outrages of China.

    Now I think about it, some of the pure business information companies such as Bloomberg News seemed to report new as they are, but this is the exception which proves the rule, since it does not have a political voice.

    Can you come up with an example that deviate from the norm on China? Apply whichever standard you see fit.

  84. Will Lewis Says:

    wuming – wumaodang,

    US media, and US journalists are not in the business of telling stories about the good things that anybody is doing, except maybe the Arts & Living sections. When I’m in China I read the People’s Daily, and the focus of a lot of stories is the good things that are happening around China. If you read an American newspaper almost every story is about bad things that are happening in America, and around the world. There isn’t a slant against China, there is a slant against any perceived problems. Our journalists are supposed to be agents of change by showing where there is room for improvement; our journalists are not supposed to be chroniclers of everything, especially the not the good which does not sell copies. I’m not passing a value judgment on the forms and functions of the two medias, but there is a different in what they think their purpose is.


    A few weeks ago there was an editorial by a British newsman in the FT about the differences between American and British journalism. He wrote that American journalists tend to take themselves a lot more seriously and focus on creating a narrative with strong facts to create a strong basis for change, whereas British journalists are more focused on scooping and tend to play faster and looser with the facts. He thought that both are valuable in their own right.

  85. Wahaha Says:

    Will Lewis,

    There is difference.

    When West reports something bad about China, it is all about the system in China, the system is the reason for bad thing. When they reports about bad things in West, it is not about system. They never blame system for the bad thing.

    If you think deeply about why congress couldnt pass a law of background check for gun control, you can clearly see the flaws of system, but media simply dont talk about it.

  86. wuming - wumaodang Says:

    @WIll Lewis

    Let me give you a scenario:

    Journalist A makes a statement like “China is a nation of thugs as it has been for the last 60 years.” Then Journalists B, C and D simply expand on the statement with the latest examples of Chinese thuggery.

    Do you still think your contention that media only report the bad news can explain away the bias?

    This is exactly how it happens when western media establishment covers China. I am pretty sure most of the journalist including A did not sign up for a conspiracy against China, because bias is ingrained in the culture that is re-enforced by the media everyday — a vicious cycle.


    I found an example for you: http://www.nysun.com/opinion/mao-and-minneapolis/82970/ Tell me if you think this article expand the range of views sufficiently to exonerate the Western Media Establishment.

  87. Will Lewis Says:

    wuming – wumaodang,

    Scroll up for Jack Cafferty commentary. The guy is a joke, and always has been a joke. His purpose in the newsroom is comedy. Then you made the part up about Journalist B, C, and D, as this is a scenario which is a theoretical situation that doesn’t exist.

    China receives very little coverage in the “western media establishment,” and barely rates in US citizens’ concerns. Serious journalists, such as James Fallows of The Atlantic, are questioning why China is not getting the press coverage it deserves, and why our presidential candidates and politicians have been ignoring China.

  88. Will Lewis Says:


    The biggest news story this week in the US is that the longest serving GOP Senator, Ted Stevens, was indicted for several counts of bribery from oil companies. Can you think of a bigger news story to highlight all of the problems with US politics? And this story, not China, is on the front pages.

    We don’t condemn our political-economic system because it is not a system in transition; it is a static system with recognized flaws. Winston Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” The CCP and the PRC government describe their system as a system in progress. That is why flaws in the system are exposed, because China’s own leaders know that the Chinese system is not finalized. Also, the Chinese leadership has shown that it is willing to change its system in reaction to the media: witness the recent outcry against censored internet for reporters which Beijing loosened after the media outcry.

  89. wuming - wumaodang Says:

    @Will Lewis,

    Just go to China Digital Times, they publish collected works of journalist B, C, D, … Omega everyday now.

    You seemed to be OK with this kind of context free journalism. I understand why you can think that, because if there are journalists with competing ideas, context will come out very often (though probably not often enough for the good of American democracy) But that is precisely the problem, isn’t it? Where are the competing ideas when it comes to China?

  90. Will Lewis Says:

    wuming – wumaodang,

    Okay, I just went to CDT front page. Here’s a summary of foreign stories.

    9 German athletes pull out of Olympics. That’s context free story reported by an agency that is tasked with reporting as much news from around the world as possible which means that this is one of many stories. And if athletes are dropping out for political reasons that is newsworthy, especially considering that the CDT thought it worthy of reporting. If you think that story is anti-Chinese then you’re reading in bias where there is none.

    China to Be World’s Top Manufacturer of Green Energy. That’s a good thing, right?

    China Eases Bank-Lending Curbs. Hmm… Another good thing.

    CDT Interview Series: Chinese Journalists Talk About the Olympics, Tibet, and Cross-Cultural Understanding (4). This is disguised as an interview by a foreigner of a Chinese national living abroad, but is actually an interview by a CDT journalist of a PRC journalist currently teaching in America but who has the full time job of reporting for a large newspaper in Guangzhou.

    Hu Defends China’s Actions in Rare Address to Media. Secretary Hu addressing the media is a huge event, and there is no bias in the article.

    Mao and Minneapolis. This was already given as an example of a balanced news piece.

    Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Chinese Art. Hey, another positive story on China.

    Beijing’s Forgotten Promises. This is not news. But it is true, and Secretary Hu has admitted to as much on camera.

    US House of Representatives Passes China Human Rights Resolution. True, and there is no bias in the reporting. It actually quotes a Chinese minister who makes a valid point.

    So, what’s your point again?

  91. Will Lewis Says:

    wuming – wumaodang,

    Now compare the stories about China from the US on the CDT page with stories about the US on CNN’s US page:

    Judge taken off remaining ‘Jena 6’ cases. Judge removed because he’s racist.

    Citigroup to face fraud charges. Major American bank is corrupt.

    FBI close; anthrax suspect kills self. American government worker is behind anthrax “terror” attacks.

    Analysis: Will voters punish dawdling Congress? Congress is unusually slow and inefficient.

    Rice upbeat despite uphill battle in Mideast. Secretary of State is ignorant as to situation, though it has improved slightly.

    Nation’s bridges, roads ‘structurally deficient’. US infrastructure is on the verge of collapse.

    Man’s smack-down by cops caught on tape. Cops beating people.

    One story about China if you scroll down: Chinese plea for politics-free Games. There doesn’t seem to be any bias in the story either.

    US journalists are much more negative about the US than any other country.

  92. MutantJedi Says:

    Interestingly, the comments on this blog has underlined for me just how diverse the “West” is by some trying to put all that is not China (the lines get blurry with neighbors such as Japan), the West, into a convenient box for study or labeling.

    I’m not even sure there is a clear definition of what is the West. Certainly the idea of “not China” is simply too broad to be useful in many contexts. Take the media for example. German, French, British, American, Canadian, Australian, … each with their own journalistic traditions. Jack Cafferty would be an embarrassment for Canadians… unless he was covering hockey. (If Don Cherry can get a job covering hockey, I’m sure Jack could.) The more I hear a broad brush applied to “Western” media, the more I notice how the texture of the media changes from region to region.

    I found bianxiangbianqiao observation about the role of money in society interesting. Why fight over the bill at a restaurant when it is much more efficient to take turns or split the bill (only efficient if you’ve given the server the heads up on it)? Why red pocket money? … it also fits into things that friends talk about… like the 小气 (cheap) boss who doesn’t spend a bit of money in a certain way that doesn’t seem unusual to me but represents some critical social faux pas (the boss was Japanese, the situation was in Taiwan). Money as social currency, as described by bianxiangbianqiao, can be paid without the Western (damn, it is a handy label) baggage of guilt.

    In the particular http://www.nytimes.com article, the author didn’t establish a link between the rather benign contract with the government failing to “undertake any real inquiry into accusations that corruption or negligence contributed to the high death toll in the quake.” Without drawing a line between the two, Mr. Wong is misrepresenting the facts in his article. The English translation looks too vague to be much use other than for something like a “memorandum of understanding”.

    Mr. Wong would have done well to explore other questions such as 1) Why was Mr. Yu in a “long police interrogation the day before”? and 2) Why would some parents resist signing the contract? I can guess at some obvious answers, but Mr. Wong should not rely on innuendo to make his point for him.

    If the report of protesters being beaten with one hand and, with the other, the contract is offered is accurate, I would say that the local government is giving some pretty confusing mixed messages. This sort of mixed messaging seems to be pretty common, especially away from the major urban centers. I hope the higher government can recognize the potential de-harmonizing impact a heavy hand can create.

  93. Wahaha Says:

    Will Lewis,

    West media dont bash your system, Ted Stevens was indicted, yes ? there are also high post governers in China indict ?

    That is exact the problem, when Ted Stevens wa indicted, the media tone is (or implys) “see, we have a system to check the wrongdoing. when a governer in China is indicted, the media tone is ” See, I told you this system allowed widespread corruption.”

    Tone like this is everywhere in West report about China. For example, the spy camera, 4 years ago in Greece, those camera were used to prevent terror; now in China, it becomes an issue of “human right”. Japan was most poluted country in 1960s, now China is on the same stage of industralization, now the pollution becomes an issue of bad government. If a dissident is mistreated in China, then he is brutalized cuz he fights against the evil government, and no reports about hundreds of criminals or sometime even innocent people are mistreated.

    What the heck is this ?

  94. Wahaha Says:

    BTW, You dont condemn your system cuz you think your system is perfect.

    In China, system is in transitional period, Chinese are looking for “better” system. but democracy failed in India and Russia, and failed almost everywhere in poor and developing countries, at least in last 30 years.

    Isnt time that people in West should recheck their “perfect” system ?

  95. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha:
    dude, our system is not perfect, but it works because it allows us to call attention to its faults. It works fine for us; whether it works in today’s China might be debatable. I think it would pass its annual physical just fine.

  96. Ted Says:

    To Wahaha:

    Western media and commentators bash the American system everyday, western people bash their system everyday. As an American living overseas I get a very healthy dose of America-bashing. I read it, hear it and see it every day. Corruption, violence, racism and the environment, every day and I find no shortage of chest-thumping and “west”-bashing in Chinese newspapers.

    Re: “Journalist A makes a statement like “China is a nation of thugs as it has been for the last 60 years.” Then Journalists B, C and D simply expand on the statement with the latest examples of Chinese”–

    This is and opinion by a commentator. Just like the countless opinions from news outlets around the world regarding the stupidity of the American electorate after Bush was re-elected. Some people may take offense but I have plenty of Chinese friends who laughed when Cafferty apologized to the Chinese people and clarified that he was “referring to the Chinese Government, not the people.”

    Cafferty and countless others have said as bad or worse about the Bush administration, the American system and every other nation in the world. Or see the article “It’s the American people, Stupid” and the quote “People will say that its not George Bush that’s the problem, its the American people that’s the problem.” I shudder to think what would happen if a news organization wrote something similar about the Chinese people.

    If you don’t like what you see you can always change the channel. Again its your choice. Furthermore, its hard to condemn an entire network for the comments of one person since those comments don’t reflect the diversity of views of all the people of the network (unless your talking about FOX, haha).

    Second question: In the opinion of readers here, are there any Chinese language news outlets that present an unbiased view of China, or any country for that matter?

  97. Jana Says:

    re Charles Liu statement # 82

    I think she did say that but that is not the aim of Falun Gong practitioners. From what i understand when she said that she was a relativley new practitioner and not deeply grounded /experianced in the understandings of Dafa.

    I certainly dont think she would say that now as her understanding has grown several years on and seen the bigger picture. People are not Falun Dafa disciples as soon as they start practising. They become FD practitioners when they put saving all people first and that includes people in the ccp and those who are helping the ccp murder and persecute good people.

    Top Marks for Mr Bush lunch at the White house though!! and passing a resolution in congrees that admonishing Human rights in ccp led China

  98. Ted Says:

    What’s the take on this article?


    Title “Despite Flaws, Rights in China Have Expanded”

    Or maybe this is a whole other posting.

  99. Ted Says:

    Whats the take today’s article in the NYTimes titled “Despite Flaws, Rights in China Have Expanded”?

  100. Buxi Says:


    I thought the French article in the NYT was interesting, and certainly more balanced + substantial more context than what’s usually written. Did you see his more personal commentary, published a least in the IHT? I believe he said it would be his last column on the way out of China, and it’s his attempt to summarize his impressions on China.

    I think his more personal take on China, in that column, is more interesting… because he speaks about his feelins, and you can get a hint of how it’s influenced his reporting. I dont have the article in front of me, and perhaps someone will be kind enough to find it.. but basically, while admiring China’s growth over the last 10 years, he asserts that it has nothing to do with government policy (except its ability to stop being so stupid).

    I have a problem with that positon. Why are there so many apparently stupid developing nations in the world? Why’s China so uniquely prepared to “free” its people to thrive economically, socially, and culturally? If every other government in a developing nation is “stupid”, then doesn’t China’s merely average government not at least deserve praise for being a genius in a school of idiots?

  101. wuming - wumaodang Says:

    @Will Lewis:I have a better example than all the neutral articles that are appearing of CDT, the article by Alan Miller of Huffington Post sited in another entry of this blog. It sort of rebutted both of us … read it and judge for your self.

    @Buxi: Here is the Howard French article http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/31/asia/letter01.php

  102. Will Lewis Says:

    wuming – wumaodang,

    That’s not an article, it is a blog post by Alan French. The Huffington Post blog post isn’t about China, it is a post critical of the US that is saying the US does not have the moral authority to China bash. They are simply using China as a creative foil to discuss our administration’s actions around the world. Additionally, the two examples of China bashing it pointed out, Cafferty and Clinton’s campaign, barely registered in the American public. The only time China was brought up by Clinton to a national audience was on NPR. NPR has a small audience, and NPR ran a fact-checking segment the next morning explaining where Clinton was wrong on her China stance.

    Citing articles from Huffington Post is also problematic because they have an avowed agenda of presenting a subjective, partisan view point. Citing blog posts as examples of American journalism is even more problematic.

  103. wuming - wumaodang Says:

    @Will Lewis

    I have to admit the point and the logic of your comment above escapes me. I also don’t see the relevance your assignments of labels or worthiness to the media organizations to the discussion on hand. You can always tell me any particular instance of China bashing is incidental, but do you expect me just accept these judgments a priori?

    Alan Miller’s article holds an opinion contrary to yours in the sense that he think the latest wave of China bashing was extraordinary even by American standard. The presence of the article also renders false my thesis that there is no alternative voices in US on the matter of China.

    Your previous post made more sense, the CDT headlines was almost bearable for us rabid nationalists. I have absolute no problem if this becomes a trend

  104. Will Lewis Says:

    wuming – wumaodang,

    The label or worthiness of a media organization is central to the discussion in that there is no vast “Western media” conspiracy against China. The Huffington Post was created by Ariana Huffington with the avowed purpose of fighting against the conservative media and the Bush administration by any means necessary. They are not concerned with China, they are concerned with attacking the GOP and China is clearly used in the cited blog post as a foil to attack the US administration. Additionally, the “article” is not an article but a blog post which means it is not held to any professional standards of credibility or trustworthiness.

  105. MoneyBall Says:


    kudos to Mr. French, a very fine article, author opened his heart

  106. VRC Says:


    When you say democracy in India failed, please also keep it in mind (and don’t forget to tell other people) that Chinese government provides incessant financial support to the millitant organizations in Pakistan for creating chaos in Kashmir and also in other parts of India. You are never going to accept the truth as you never did before, but even peoples in Hong Kong (who are by origin Chinese, too) criticize your (PRC) government and peoples day in and day out. There are still democracy in Hong Kong (forget India) and people hate to be brainwashed as you are, and they accept the fact which I stated in the first sentence. Wishes.

  107. Vivek Says:

    @Wahaha, # 94

    First, get your facts right about India. On what grounds did you say that ‘the democracy in India has failed’?
    I presume it’s your ignorance about India. We are a developing nation and NOT a failed democracy. We are developing in every aspects, albeit at a slower pace when compared to China. That is beacuse, we don’t aspire for economic growth at the cost of human rights vilotaion. We are pretty much happy with our democratic set up. If we are not, we have the freedom to voice against the goverment (Unlike Chinese!) and we absolutely enjoy that freedom.
    I Wish your hopes of a “better system in China” materializes one day.

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