Aug 02

What do some Western journalists want from Beijing?

Written by Buxi on Saturday, August 2nd, 2008 at 5:44 am
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Behind a thin vaneer of professionalism, it’s not inaccurate to say many Western journalists are hoping for the worst from these Olympics.  Some have been honest enough to admit it.  Here’s a collection of choice quotes:

George Packer, from the New Yorker:
   “I love track and field and will be watching the 1500-meter finals. But I also hope the Beijing Olympics go a-flop.”

Mark Morford, from the San Francisco Chronicle:
   “Note to China: Please implode…. I hope it all comes crashing down on their heads.”

That’s all I have at hand, although I hope to add to the collection as I pay attention, going forward.  Please let me know if you have related submissions.

I don’t really know how to explain to all of the volunteers, ranging from college students to elderly grandmothers, that there are people hoping the event they’ve dedicated months, or even years to fails.  I don’t know how to explain to those singing “Beijing Welcomes You” that there are people out there that want anything but a warm welcome this year (courtesy of ESWN).


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66 Responses to “What do some Western journalists want from Beijing?”

  1. Nimrod Says:

    I remember that SF Chronicle article as being particularly disgusting. Reads like a typical “big-character poster”.

  2. MutantJedi Says:

    It’s time to put the pre-game games aside and celebrate with China.
    There will be plenty of time for the post-game analysis.

    Hmm… Buxi, you picked a real pair, eh… George Packer’s Berlin to Beijing, where the current games seem to be an excuse to remind the world of the Third Reich. And Mark Morford who is “no expert on Chinese-Tibetan relations” nor of the history of the region, yet seems to have formulated an opinion about the region based on his knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism. Somehow, I think neither of these fellows would never be much fun at a Chinese party. 🙂

  3. Hemulen Says:

    There are people out there that hope that the Olympics will “go a-flop,” sure, but so what? None of them are running for office in China and I don’t see why anyone should waste any time explaining this to Olympic volunteers in China unless you are trying to whip up some kind of witch-hunt. And I don’t understand why this blog subject China-related views and statements of individuals to the same degree of scrutiny as presidential candidates in the US. What do you propose that we do about these statements? Are you suggesting that some kind of sanction be imposed against them or that journalists that go to China are subjected some kind of attitude-test?

    It is precisely this kind of “you are either for us or against us” mentality that pushes journalists into giving China more negative coverage that perhaps should have. I recall the following quote:

    China, I suspect, sometimes gets more negative coverage than it deserves because its old system of restricting the activities of foreign correspondents pushes them into taking sides. To do a sensitive story in the provinces, journalists used to have to choose between going officially and getting an overly rosy view of what was happening, or sneaking in without permission and hearing only the views of disgruntled peasants – many of whom have a financial incentive to exaggerate their woes because they want to use the media to seek compensation. The problem was that there was very little middle ground – and in many cases that is where the truth is probably to be found.

  4. Theo Says:

    Thank you for posting those links, although one of they are actually from columnists and opinion writers rather than reporters. One is from March, presumably written in reaction to the suppression of the Tibetan riots. The other sees parallels with the sentiments of the German Jew Victor Klemperer in 1936, who found the Berlin Olympics to be about more than sport. The 2008 Olympics will always have a strong political background and some non-Chinese (not just westerners) commentators will of course be watching with the hope that China will suffer political embarrasment.

  5. Alex Says:

    I kind of agreed with Hemulen. This blog can do much better than just bashing some West’s “biased” reporting (we already have anti-cnn.com for this).

    I found that there are more and more of this kind of altitudes lately in this blog. This blog is much more interesting to read when you are just focusing on “removing the mountain”.

  6. KL Says:


    We have to see the mountains before we can remove them, hence the links.

  7. KL Says:

    Also it’s certainly not bashing *some* west’s “biased” reporting (why the quotation marks anyway? for emphasis?), it’s the show time for these cute boys who love to see others’ misfortune.

  8. Anon Says:

    Ok, let me see. You have found 2 “journalists” that hope for negative stories from the Olympics and suddenly “…many Western journalists are hoping for the worst from these Olympics”??? YOU usually complain about western media focusing on events in China that are marginal and then blowing them up into something large!

    Could it be that you too, Buxi, are slowly discovering that negative headlines sell? Could that explain the “negative” tone of this blog over the last few weeks that Alex also seems to have noticed?

  9. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – He who pays the piper calls the tune, but of the last five posts, three have been on the subject of western media ‘bias’. At any rate, there are Chinese people who have made statements equally as negative about the Olympics as that of George Packer – see 王小峰’s ‘Nolympics’ for example. As for Morford, back in the early nineties we all thought that the communist countries had had it, and we’re all going to go the way of the Soviet Union and its satellite countries – and in a way they did, but it seems Morford hasn’t got the message that the Chinese government isn’t going to collapse any time soon.

  10. Alex Says:

    There is no surprise that some journalists would like the Olympic to fail. For them, any shortfalls would mean that they don’t have to think too hard to make up some story. If this Olympic is very successful, (which I certainly hope so), then they would have to work harder to come up with a negative story about China.

  11. Buxi Says:


    Well, maybe we’ve had a rather repetitive “run” of focusing on Western media bias. It’s certainly not what I want this blog to be about, and not the sole emphasis of what we want to talk about here.

    But possibly because I happen to be in China right now, and possibly because every time I sit in my hotel bathroom I’m trapped with a copy of the International Herald Tribune, and probably because of the build-up to the Olympics… the negative press reports seem to be reaching a crescendo… For me at least, the issue is actually becoming more pressing.

    If I saw rich people screaming at poor migrant workers for brushing up against their car… I’d probably write an entry about the income gap in China. But I simply haven’t seen that.

    If I saw heavy-handed police officers pushing around people, searching bags randomly, and/or had the feeling I was living in a police sate… I’d be driven to write about that. But I simply haven’t seen that, either.

    If in the few business meetings I’ve squeezed in this week I had officials or potential partners winking at me about how a bribe under the table would help my cause… I’d probably write about corruption. But I haven’t seen that, either.

    These are all issues that will probably come to the forefront again, especially after I leave China and get away from the happy Chinese people I see around me every day… and all I have left are the complaints that filter to the top of the Chinese internet. But for now, with all seriousness… the issue that drives me nuts is CNN/BBC/IHT. In addition to the regular dose of this stuff I get from the IHT, I also had to sit through hours of BBC while taking care of a few things at the local HSBC.

    So, you’ll have to take the good with the bad, here. We’re going to continue to talk about things that bother us, but we’ll eventually get back to the things that bother you as well.

  12. BMY Says:


    WXF though is a smart guy and I like some of his writings.

    But Everything seems negative to him and he feels superior over everyone. no surprise if he says ‘Nolympics’ .

  13. Hemulen Says:


    …every time I sit in my hotel bathroom I’m trapped with a copy of the International Herald Tribune

    This is a bit obsessive. No one in China is “trapped” with a foreign newspaper, which can be very difficult to get hold of as it is. As if people in Beijing frown at the IHT when they visit the news stands. When I was waiting for my plane at the Beijing International Airport last year, I couldn’t find a single foreign newspaper. Quite an international airport!

    Anyway, if reading the IHT is such a pain in the neck, I can’t understand why you bother reading it. There are plenty of alternatives that carry news that should please you. Isn’t the local press good enough for you?

  14. Netizen Says:


    If anything, the runing up to this Olympics opened up many Chinese’s eyes to hostile people or forces in the West who wish ill of China. For example, FOARP dedicates himself to promote the fear of China. Many Chinese have become matured because of seeing some ugly faces coming out of woodword in the West.

  15. MoneyBall Says:

    “If anything, the runing up to this Olympics opened up many Chinese’s eyes to hostile people or forces in the West who wish ill of China. For example, FOARP dedicates himself to promote the fear of China. Many Chinese have become matured because of seeing some ugly faces coming out of woodword in the West.”

    Amen to that, Amen….. I ‘m one of them. Things happened in the last 4 months have truely opened my eyes like nothing else in my life. I lived in the west for 10 yrs I thought I know them, oh boy was I wrong….

  16. wuming - wumaodang Says:


    “Anyway, if reading the IHT is such a pain in the neck, I can’t understand why you bother reading it.”

    Because before we become nationalists, we were a bunch of sentimental naifs. We thought the story of China is so exciting, and excitingly positive. We search through media outlets for bits and scraps of news on China for the affirmation. We found IHT because it is only paper that has a persistent awareness of the world outside of US, we also read NYT because, after all, it is the best US can offer.

    Of course we were crushed for all the reasons that has been talked about hundreds of times on this blog alone. But instead of wisely ignoring them as you recommended, we found our inner masochists and go back for the same shots of pain again and again. The sad journeys of expat Chinese nationalists

  17. JD Says:

    To go back to the original question, “Western” journalists ( the evil herd of cynics ) want an interesting story and something that makes them stick out from the crowd. That, by definition, means not repeating the official dribble in the state-media (the only kind). That also means airing opinions that some may dislike or disagree with. Big deal. Hiding from criticism does not bring perfection.

    What do some Chinese journalists want from the Olympics? I’d bet some some would prefer human rights to the Olympics, though expressing that idea is an express route to jail. Whose is the greater sin?

  18. KL Says:

    Anyway, if reading the IHT is such a pain in the neck, I can’t understand why you bother reading it.

    So that we can know how ugly and evil a human being can be?
    This is not even about China, it’s about the extreme cruelty a human being can be capable of.

  19. Netizen Says:

    Some Chinese in China have called some Westerners’ protesting and finger pointing activities as “noises”. I think it’s a fitting description.

    The main scene in the world right now is the rise of China, India, and BRIC, and Asia. This changing of the world has caused connitive dissonance in some Westerners. The Western media is exploiting this fear of losing power by the West.

    Previously assumptions no longer hold and new rules have not been established yet. Like recently, Doha WTO talks collasped. The West will have to share power with East.

    It’s no longer the West vs. East world. It’s becomeing the West AND East world. Some people won’t like it and they will fight against the trend. Give time, they will lose out.

  20. Netizen Says:

    Cognitive dissonance

  21. FOARP Says:

    @Netizen, Moneyball – Yeah, that’s right, I’m out to destroy China, I hate and fear China, that’s why I . . . . spent five years of my life living there, paying taxes, doing a job which helped facilitate the employment of many of your countrymen, learning Chinese history, culture and language, and making friends. I think you guys need to work out who your real enemies are – here’s a hint: they’re not graduate students with too much time on their hands.

    @BMY – I can see why some people say that WXF is an elitist (and why is someone always calling him gay on his website?), but I think he’s also a pretty smart guy.

  22. JD Says:

    Too bad no one knows what mainland Chinese journalists think. If they were free to express themselves, they would demonstrate a high degree of similarity between “Western” and “Eastern” viewpoints. Many excellent reports written in “Western” media are by journalists of Chinese origin.

    Cognitive dissonance results in censorship and other small-minded actions. Silly posts are an obvious example.

  23. FOARP Says:

    @KL – Look, you might find the fact that the IHT coverage of the Olympics is not entirely positive a bit distressing, but I cannot understand how anyone can call it an example of “how ugly and evil a human being can be”. Don’t you think this is going just a little bit too far?

  24. Netizen Says:


    Don’t expand to “destroy”, “hate”. I didn’t say you are that. I deny I ever never said you of that. I did say “fear”. It’s in the title of your blog. So, don’t expand the vocabulary to those that haven’t been used by me.

  25. FOARP Says:

    @Netizen – Do you know where the title actually comes from? Check out the rap group ‘Public Enemy’ on wikipedia.

  26. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    I would suggest a change in your bathroom reading. Car & Driver, perhaps 🙂 But they have a pro-German stance…they always like Bimmers more than anything else.

    I agree that if it bothers you, then get it off your chest. However, as others have suggested, 2 ignorant journalists aren’t representative of all journalists, and certainly not of all westerners. Obviously, it’s easier to focus on the outliers…makes for better copy. But it’s also possibly a distortion of the pervasive sentiment outside of China, of peoples’ attitudes toward China. If you go looking for anti-China rhetoric, I’m sure you’ll find it. But the overall significance of its presence seems debatable.

    On a slightly separate note, lately this site has focussed on apparent western misrepresentation of China. Usually, if people are ranting nonsensically, they simply get ignored as raving lunatics. But that’s not been the case here…people are busy criticizing the criticism of China. And that makes me wonder…is this a case of “the truth hurts”; if one is always complaining, it’s harder to be heard when one has a legitimate gripe.

  27. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Sorry Buxi, wanted to expand on paragraph 2. If you flip the situation around, and even if Chinese reporters started spewing anti-US rhetoric 24/7, do you think the Americans would care? Now, I realize from other threads how CHinese place westerners on pedestals, and seek their approval at levels that are clearly not reciprocated. But that’s just a thought process from which CHinese need to evolve. And western media has a much farther reach than Chinese media. But that should be the impetus to spur improvement in China’s media (and god knows there’s room for same, if not in the level of reporting, then at least in the openness of content).

  28. KL Says:


    Now I understand why such “hope” can be acceptable to you, and probably their readers. I would think the same if a Chinese journalist wrote that “I also hope the London Olympics go a-flop.” or ““Note to Britain: Please implode…. I hope it all comes crashing down on their heads.”

    I would think this perfectly fits the definition of “curse”, or it’s just wishing someone “bad luck”? I wasn’t bothered by its not being positive as I didn’t expect that. However I did expect the good will of human beings. These journalists, if ever given a voodoo doll which can make the Olympics painful and die, wouldn’t be hesitant to use it.

    What kind of material these men want from Beijing Olympics? A terrorism explosion would definitely catch eyes, except that it’s at the cost of people’s lives. Who cares anyway? They are just Chinese. No terrorism? Then let’s wish for something that meets our expectation of flop…

  29. Netizen Says:

    The real enemy of everyone is trigger-happy neocons.

  30. Otto Kerner Says:


    What do we mean when we say that the Olympics would “fail”? That the games will not happen? At this point, what could happen to prevent the games from being conducted? Some sort of terrorist attack might do that, but it would seem like a ridiculous understatement to call that “the Olympics failing” or “the Beijing Olympics go a-flop”. Assuming that’s not what we’re talking about, then what? Is it something along the lines of the Olympics failing to make the desired impression on the rest of the world, or the ceremonies being disrupted by protestors? I wouldn’t really call either of those scenarios “the Olympics failing”, either.

  31. FOARP Says:

    @KL – Did I ever say that I wanted the Olympics to fail? It is strange that you used the metaphor of the voodoo doll, a similar thought crossed my mind this morning – that from the way people respond to these pessimists you would think that the critics of the Olympics have some magical power that can make the Olympics ‘fail’ simply through criticism. Was the Moscow Olympics a ‘failure’? The Los Angeles Olympics? The Munich games? I don’t think so, and all of these games had their problems. All that most people will remember from them is the performance of the athletes.

  32. FOARP Says:

    @Netizen – Once again, I really just don’t get this emotional style of argument, it convinces no one.

  33. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Otto:
    great question. It’ll happen, it’ll be well attended, and the broadcasts will be well-watched. As long as no attacks occur, and hopefully no one gets hurt, then it’s all good. And if no world records fall, that’s not the Olympics’ fault. And if people are caught doping, that’s not the Olympics’ fault either. As for legacy, that’s a different issue, but not really measured will a pass/fail metric.

  34. EugeneZ Says:

    I think the focus on biased western reporting of Olympics and China is well warranted for now. It is a big issue at the moment, if you do a “China News” search on google these days, 99% are noises that focus on whatever tiny dirt they can dig out and then exaggerate some, the western media as a whole is losing the point here – a great opportunity for the west to get to know the real, modern China. It is rather insane. If this trend continues, which I hope not, the Beijing Olympics will be remembered in history as one giant lost opportunity for the west and China to get to know each other – which is essential to world peace and prosperity in the future, and is required so that pressing issues common to human species such as climate change can be effectively addressed.

    By the way, #13 @Moneyball’s comment about FOARP “FOARP dedicates himself to promote the fear of China” is not in good taste. FOARP’s comments do not lead to such a conclusion, in my view. His perspectives are a valuable addition to this blog, coming from an European who has committed his time to live in China, and get to know China’s people and history.

  35. MutantJedi Says:

    Not all the news out there is grim against China. NewScientist.com asks: Could China lead the green revolution? According to the reporter’s guide to covering the Olympics, this would be a no-brainer China-bash opportunity. Instead, the report comes out optimistic about China’s leadership in environmental issues.

  36. MutantJedi Says:

    Oh, and ditto on EugeneZ’s comment on FOARP. Don’t make assumptions about him based on a blog title… It would be like assuming that only fools would participate in this blog. 😉

    Though… I do admit not being so hip as to get the Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet allusion without his nudge towards looking it up on wikipedia.

  37. MoneyBall Says:


    my comment was not refered to you.
    you may think urself are harsh on China from time to time, but mostly justified from my observations.
    go to freerepublic, or huffingtonpost, or even pekingduck, you will see hundreds of posters, in clear writing, wish nothing but destruction of China.

  38. wuming - wumaodang Says:


    As ridiculous as it may sound, the success/failure depends on the number of ACTUAL “blue sky” days during the game. The TV audience are much more driven by the visuals than by the abstractions. Under the blue sky, those new buildings in Beijing can look spectacular, and host bashing can look pretty feeble.

    The flip side is, smoggy days will be open season. But that will at least be something tangible. For those of us couch potato nationalists living in the west, banning all private cars from Beijing permanently does not sound like such a bad idea.

  39. DJ Says:

    NYT just came out with a fairly reasonable article “Despite Flaws, Rights in China Have Expanded“. I found a particular quote interesting.

    Chinese who try to challenge the one-party state directly say authorities are no more tolerant of dissent than they were in the 1980s, and in some cases they are tougher on citizen-led campaigns to enforce legal rights or stop environmental abuses.

    On the other hand, the definition of what constitutes a political challenge has changed. Individuals are far less likely to run afoul of a system that no longer demands conformity in political views or personal lifestyles.

  40. FOARP Says:

    @Moneyball – Certainly they do, there is much commentary on the internet which is either not meant seriously, or is written by juvenile people who do not really understand what they are writing. Look at the comments you see left on The Guardian or The Times whenever they run a story on trans-Atlantic relations: on one side you’ll find certain American commentators gloating over what they imagine to be Europe’s impending conversion to Islam, and on the other you’ll find European commentators going on about America’s impending bankruptcy – but no serious person believes that either of these things is actually going to happen. The problem is that serious commentators are drowned out by the noise. In the media serious commentary is supposed to rule, but I wouldn’t describe Mark Morford as ‘serious’ – he seems to think that there is some way in which if the Olympics become a disgrace people will blame the government and democracy will rule in the end. This is unlikely to say the least.

    As for George Packer, having read through the article, I actually agree with most of what he says. In some sections he goes too far, for example when he talks about marathon runners falling dead in the street, but I think that most of it is fair enough. The comparison between Nazi Germany in 1936 and the PRC in 2008 is only marginally stretched, let us say that in 1936 Germany was moving towards more restrictive and unreasonable dictatorship and that in 2008 the PRC is moving towards a less restrictive dictatorship – that is all. It seems a bit unfair to take only that quote, as Packer was just echoing another person, here’s the whole passage:

    “When I was in Burma in June, where China is deeply resented for propping up the military regime, an outspoken woman told me, “We hope the Olympics go a-flop.” I love track and field and will be watching the 1500-meter finals. But I also hope the Beijing Olympics go a-flop.”

    Let me ask – how many of you agree 100% with China’s no-strings-attached support of the current Burmese government, and how many can understand (if not agree with) the attitude of the Burmese woman who he quotes?

    Otherwise – there is far too much cliche in western reporting on China (if I have to read another newspaper headline that uses the words ‘Dragon’, ‘Rise’, or ‘Awakening’ I think I will scream), much of it seems to have been written by someone who’s one experience of China is a two-week stay at the Shanghai Hilton – it is very superficial. There is too much grabbing of the kind of lazy imagery I have become deadly bored of – comparisons between the situation now and that of the cultural revolution, former red guards running banks, old women selling vegetables next to newly built sky-scrappers. Mainstream journalists who are at least partly immune to this kind of idiocy include Jane MacCartney of The Times and Peter Hessler, a few other foreign journalists who are not based in China can be depended on to give decent copy – John Simpson of the BBC being one.

    @EugeneZ, Mutantjedi – Thank you very much for your kind words, I had actually thought about changing the name, it was something I came up with a long time ago, but I think it is far too late to change now.

  41. Daniel Says:

    That’s sort of the issue when reading these articles. I encountered a similar problem in another forum/blog where one line was debated very ferociously when taken with what the original paragraph was turn out to be something not too vile. However, it’s not like people don’t know what the intentions are. In a way, it’s not a big thing for reporters to inject an opinion here or there, but too much can lead to a lot of misunderstandings or a strong critique upon the credibility of the journalist’s work by the readers.

    Then you got the comments section of many of these China related articles where I noticed a lot that when someone tries to refute the reportings, others quickly label them as being spies or being paid by the Communists to do such work. I mean, unless it was very obvious, I wouldn’t in the right mindset be quick to make such accusations. Then there were many comments people told me that they made but never got published. On a somewhat related note, around the Sichuan Earthquake, there was a report in the Jpost I think where an article had comments filled with the Red Dragon Rising and other cliches which made me sick in the stomach because I thought at that time and due to the nature of the article and other comments, it wasn’t appropriate at all. My comment for sympathy never got published as well.

  42. FOARP Says:

    You’ve probably had far too much of media coverage of the Olympic games so far, but if you get time, listen to “The Moral Maze” on BBC Radio 4 which is playing right now (you should be able to reach it from the website once they upload it, and it will be on the BBC ‘listen again’ service at least for the nest week), the panellists cover everything that has been touched on this thread (including the idea of the criticism being out of envy of China’s growth, and it being a new version of the ‘yellow peril’), and the ‘witnesses’ included people from all quarters:


  43. FOARP Says:

    a phrase from one of the panellists (from memory) “isn’t there a danger of anti-China xenophobia dressed-up as Human Rights criticism”

  44. wuming - wumaodang Says:


    I would have liked to say something about the comparison to the 1936 Olympics, but that had been done to death, and I probably can’t help to get too personal. So let me address an actual question you raised: Chinese policy in Myanmar.

    I think that policy, viewed in the context of China’s entire foreign policy approach, is a sensible one (as for 100%, I am not interested in that trap.) The “no-string-attached” relationship (again, the word “support” is a trap as well) is a very traditionally conservative and minimalist approach to foreign policy. China makes no more moral judgment about Myanmar or Sudan then it does of America. It made no more condemnations of the government in the Myanmar disaster than it did with Katrina. It is as consistent and clear-cut a foreign policy as any on the current world stage.

    Good intentions, genuine or not, based on religion or ideology had killed more people than simple neglect. This fact (which Chinese learned from its very recent and vivid history) is the moral and the practical justification for a non-interfering foreign policy. We have seen systems that work almost perfectly in one country, barely functioning in another, and destroying generations of people in the third. Why should we tell Myanmese, Sudanese or Zimbabwan how to run their country?

  45. Hemulen Says:


    It is a big issue at the moment, if you do a “China News” search on google these days, 99% are noises that focus on whatever tiny dirt they can dig out and then exaggerate some, the western media as a whole is losing the point here – a great opportunity for the west to get to know the real, modern China.

    The “real China”? Please read my comment at #3.

  46. Buxi Says:

    My point isn’t really to berate these Western journalists, especially since they’re all writing in editorial/column-type stories. There’s nothing “wrong” (morally or professionally) with expressing their opinion in such a format. There’s nothing “wrong” (morally or professionally) for wanting the Olympics to fail.

    My point is a simpler one. The opinions expressed by these specific individuals are shared, in private, by editors and journalists throughout the Western media world… and that partly explains the kind of stuff we end up seeing in the Western press. The world of Western correspondents + editors in China is running low on objective professionals, as far as I can tell. The vast majority are activists in their own right holding a value set, with a specific point of view. They don’t really give a shit about accurately reflecting the point of view of those with a different value set.

    The New Yorker article about the “angry youth” is a lonely example of a story providing a Chinese-perspective (without apologizing for it, I’ll note). I don’t have a problem with negative reporting on China; we’ve done a fair share of that here ourselves, I’d like to point out. I have a problem with the rise of fundamentalism when it comes to journalism in China.

    I thought this editorial in today’s IHT (trapped in the bathroom again) partly reflects the issue:

    In fact, that’s part of the important information that you have a responsibility to convey to them: that talking to Western reporters is still dangerous for Chinese people, and we still have a responsibility to protect them.

    The background of the above reporter, by the way:
    Carroll Bogert is the associate director of Human Rights Watch and a former foreign correspondent for Newsweek magazine.

    Carroll Bogert and others of her ilk are trapped in cold war fantasies. (And I’d accuse George Packer above of being trapped in Holocaust resistance fantasies.) I don’t deny the above anecdote would’ve been accurate in the 1980s, but only a woman with an over-inflated messanic complex would insist in the year 2008 that Western journalists are essentially on the front-lines of war against oppression, and must “protect” the Chinese people. (How many articles with Woeser have been published this year?)

    Journalists in her mold unfortunately control the channel of communication between East -> West, and it’s a shame. China has changed, but they haven’t.

  47. JD Says:


    I don’t see anything wrong or biased in the editorial’s suggestion that sources in China need to be protected. It seems obviously important and those trapped in cold war fantasies are those who use arbitrary arrest and incarceration and other offensive tools to censor information. Protecting people from such a fate is responsible, not deluded.

    Those enforcing censorship or intentionally spewing misinformation are the real threats to channels of communication. Unfortunately China is changing for the worse on this front.

  48. Netizen Says:

    I think the word “fundamentalism” is a fitting description of discourse in the West. When reason and moderation are discredited, fundamentalism arises. It in turn leads to extremism in politics. Media is thus affected and Journalists have become among the lowest-regarded professions.

  49. KL Says:


    Funny as you thought that I was saying you wanted the Olympics to fail, I just pointed out the two journalists wanted the Olympics to fail, as clearly expressed in their writings. And my opinion towards them has nothing to do with you. If you can regards such wishes as “criticism”, it’s not my problem. By the same thought, I can wish that the two journalists’ boss will be angry with them, their computers will keep being shut down and restarting and no IT guys can solve the problem, their wives will fight with them in front of their children, and they will probably get hit by a car when they go to work in the morning.

    Can such wishes be thought as “criticisms”?
    Maybe I am too old fashioned, but I always thought criticism is when something not good happens or is likely to happen, people criticize it to make it better. Since when criticism has become a fashion that people wish for the bad, then criticize for what they wish for? Voodoo doll, yeah, exactly what they want to possess.

  50. MoneyBall Says:


    Since you brought up Burma, let me answer it with the brutal truth — I dont care.

    I dont care about Burma, I dont care about Sudan either. I mean its not like I dont feel sorry for them, I do, but I wont lose any sleep over it. Besides it cant be worse than Iraq can it? I know I probably would feel stronger about it in a perfect world, but we are not living in a perfect world, China has so many problems I dont even know where to start, Burma is the least of them. I ‘m not smart enough to know whats going on over there or what China is doing there and quite frankly I dont care. I am smart enough to know it’s just a game big countries playing through surrogate countries, it’s not the first one it wont be the last one either. If one regime change could magically solve everything it would have happened long time ago. Those just are shitholes of the earth there’s nothing the rest of world can do to change it for them. They would have to sort if out themselves, like we did.

    You may want to call me cold or cynical but that’s the reality of China, that’s just the mentality of chinese. We didnt colonize anybody, we didnt start any world war, we have nothing like the white guilt on our back. If we owe it to anybody we owe it to ourselves. We are still fighting for our share, fighting for the time we’ve lost. If somebody gets hurt along the way, we feel sorry but we are not gonna apologize for it.

    Now you probably understand why the last round of western media’s humiliation of China only made Chinese rally to the flag, because they are talking things that John Does dont care! The Cab drivers, the working girls, the migration workers, the graduating students, they are barely putting foods on the table you think they ‘d give a fuck about Sudan or Burma or Tibet or freedom of speech? We are not there yet! I cant for my life figure out why the western medias dont focus on the things that we do care, like corruptions, they can start that by exposing all CCP corrupted officials’ overseas accounts, help to turn over thousands of corrupted CCP officials living a paradise life in US on the money they stole from people, that might just put the whole communist regime stumble. There’s nothing else can make the Chinese Joes love the Americans more —you help them take a revenge on the system…I know I’d be sending love letters to the Justice Dept. How hard do you think for the FBI to follow that millions of dollars dirty money? But they are not gonna do that are they, they love that cash too much…

    I normally dont write long craps on internet because I dont think debating on internet would change one man’s opinion, let alone move mountains. But I do think the 2 sides should communicate better. Believe me we hate fengqings too, but things going on now is only making them stronger. I believe it falls on the West’s side to defuse the situation, because we are merely reacting. Now if only the west medias could figure out the love-hate relationship between Chinese and CCP, if only they could play a smarter game… I mean losing to CCP in a propaganda war, that’s just pathetic, worsely they dont even realize it. 20 yrs ago they beat CCP on every turn in the propaganda war, my generation used to love the America to death, we tuned to VOA in middle of nights like it’s the light at the end of tunel … what just have happened??

  51. MoneyBall Says:


    BBC’s The Moral Maze, LOL, a bunch of stupid moralists/intellectuals arguing what is right and what is wrong in God’s name yet no one is interested in putting together a plan of what to do…how to make China better? how to make affrica better? how to make these suffering ppl suffer less? by pulling shit out of ur ass in a studio? “we should criticize China louder! No we should look at ourselves and be humble”…. It’s never about Chinese, it’s never about africans, it’s all about themselves, it’s about how they can make themselves feel better at the end of day. If a million ppl suffer because of it, they could care less because they thought they followed their code of morality. They are just like the douches getting chopped off in every episode of South Park, and that’s why I loved that show.

  52. Buxi Says:

    I cant for my life figure out why the western medias dont focus on the things that we do care, like corruptions, they can start that by exposing all CCP corrupted officials’ overseas accounts, help to turn over thousands of corrupted CCP officials living a paradise life in US on the money they stole from people, that might just put the whole communist regime stumble.

    Now that’s the kind of criticism I’d love to see, too. A detailed report that dug through American public records in order to understand what relatives of which senior Chinese leaders are buying what homes in LA for cash. That’s the sort of stuff that really interests me.

    Or the Yang Jia case, the cop-killer in Shanghai. His case could be a milestone for the Chinese legal system, especially with some foreign pressure. I believe his trial should be open, and he should have the best defense lawyers possible… (after which if he’s found guilty, I look forward to seeing him executed for a horrile crime). An open-letter was written by 17 attorneys in Beijing with specific requests from the Shanghai court system… this is all fascinating stuff.

    But the NYT is more interested in whether the Epoch Times is available from the Olympics Media Center. Sigh.

    Okay, enough complaining. I’m off to do some of the things I accuse the Western media of not doing. That’s the more productive route to take, right?

  53. Buxi Says:

    The Economist weighs in with an editorial… you can already guess the overall perspective.

    The article ends with this sentence, which I think is the most telling:

    But there is a danger. Having dumped its ideology, the Communist Party now stakes its survival and legitimacy on tight political control, economic advance and nationalist pride. The problem with nationalism is that it thrives on competition—and all too often needs an enemy.

    I think the many Chinese on this blog would say that it’s not the Communist Party that has created the enemy, that is fueling the nationalism. We know what fed our growing nationalism, pride, and frustration over the last 6 months… and it’s precisely thanks to articles similar to this one.

    I give the Economist props for at least admitting that it opposed the Beijing bid in 2001, even as it goes on to explain why it opposes it today. Frankly, that’s the case for the vast majority of Western talking heads now wringing their hands about the “mistake” of awarding the bid to Beijing. I think this is a good time to remind our good readers that the Western IOC committees *always* opposed the Beijing bid, and it was largely the developing and Asian countries that pushed Beijing into the victory circle.

    It seems like in the face of inevitable signs of progress and achievment in Chinese society over the last 8 years, the new fall-back position common amongst many (see: Patrick French in the NYT, as well as this article): China is doing great, but it has nothing to do with the Communist Party or the Olympics… I don’t know how that argument holds any intellectual water, but they seem to firmly believe it’s accurate.

  54. Smith Says:

    I am a westerners living in China since years…
    Since many years was very happy that Olympics games are in China, it can make hundred of millions people happy….
    But these few last months, with all the propaganda about Olympics, the paranoia of the government, the kicking out of foreigners (visa), the state of emergency in Beijing, the ultra nationalism of some youth… I am really fed up, and I also start to wish it is a failure…
    And this has nothing to do with Tibet, it is just that when I see the actions of the gov and the way they prepare the Olympics, I think they do not deserve to have good review. and it might be a lesson for the IOC to not give Olympics anymore to non democratic country.

    The government has forgotten the basic of Beijing Olympic which is “Beijing welcome you” if you welcome us understand we do not want to enter to a Beijing under siege full of police and army everywhere where everything is controled, but we want an happy city where every Chinese can come party (This include minggong, farmers, tibetans, xinjiang people…)

  55. Chops Says:

    Here’s a journalist Bob Kravitz that does’nt “want” anything from Beijing,

    “Are there issues in China?

    And there are issues in the United States, too?

    Chinese critics want to talk about the massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Well, we aren’t simon-pure, either. In the 1960s, civil rights marchers in the South were brutally put down. There was the violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. There was the killing of student protesters at Kent State in 1970.

    We all have crosses to bear.

    Understand, I am a proud American and love living in a place that values individual freedom above all else. But I also understand that not every country is ready or able to embrace democracy, that every country has its own unique history that forms its views on government, and I know that what works in America may not work in China or Iraq or anywhere else.

    The eyes I bring to Beijing today — and Tuesday and into Wednesday — are Western eyes. But I will not put blinders on. I will try to walk a mile in my host’s shoes. I may not be able to summon a completely open mind, but I can promise this: I won’t be an ugly American.”


  56. Hemulen Says:


    I don’t deny the above anecdote would’ve been accurate in the 1980s, but only a woman with an over-inflated messanic complex would insist in the year 2008 that Western journalists are essentially on the front-lines of war against oppression, and must “protect” the Chinese people.

    Did you even read the article from the foreign correspondents’ club? You can accuse foreign journalists of messianic complex all you like, but it is a fact that merely talking to foreign journalists can lead to charges of leaking state secrets and a prison sentence. And it may be true that Woeser is still posting on her blog, but the number of Chinese bloggers who have been arrested this year is many times more than was the case back in 2001.

  57. FOARP Says:

    @Hemulen – When blogging was in its infancy. I don’t know if it has got worse, judging by the Amnesty report, more people are being detained, but the punishments are less severe, not a pretty picture anyway.

  58. Hemulen Says:


    Point taken. But severe repression remains a fact of life in China and I think it is disingenuous to accuse journalists of a messianic complex when they point that out. China may not be the worst dictatorship in the world, but it is the largest and most important non-democratic country and it is not surprising that this aspect of China attracts attention.

  59. Dandan Says:


    I really wish it’s simply the govt’s ‘paranoia’, but security’s been tightened for a reason. The situation in Xinjiang is highly complicated, south Xinjing in particular, noticed the headline today?

  60. yo Says:

    My guess is schadenfreude.

  61. Buxi Says:


    You can accuse foreign journalists of messianic complex all you like, but it is a fact that merely talking to foreign journalists can lead to charges of leaking state secrets and a prison sentence. And it may be true that Woeser is still posting on her blog, but the number of Chinese bloggers who have been arrested this year is many times more than was the case back in 2001.

    With facts like this, who needs science fiction?

    Pray tell, who has been arrested for merely talking to foreign journalists? Who, in recent years, have been sentenced to prison just for talking to foreign journalists? Woeser isn’t just posting on her blog, she has two major features in the American press *this year*.

    As far as more bloggers being arrested this year than earlier this decade… I take it you’re ignorant as to who the New Youth Study Group, and Stainless Steel Rat are?

  62. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – Let’s see what we know:

    1) Zhao Yan, researcher for the New York Times, was arrested and charged with leaking state secrets to the NYT, however the charges were dropped and he was sentenced to 3 years for ‘fraud’ in closed session.

    2) Ching Cheong, Hong Kong-born Singapore Straits Times journalist was arrested and charged with spying for the authorities on Taiwan – particularly that he bought sate secrets using money from the MND – and was sentenced to five years in prison. He served nearly three years before being released. He maintains that he was a victim of entrapment.

    3) Jiang Weiping, a mainland-born journalist who wrote a series of articles exposing government corruption which appeared in the Hong Kong media, was sentenced to eight years in jail for illegally supplying state secrets, of which he served five. The people he exposed as being directly involved in corruption never sued for libel, and were in at least one case latter convicted for corruption.

    So it would seem that being involved in the communication of anything deemed ‘secret’ by the Chinese government is a dangerous business.

    As for the ‘New Youth Study Group’ and ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ cases, in both these case people who had been the victims of state oppression contacted foreign media and have not yet come to harm for it, but you have to ask – what did the CCP have to fear from such reports? That the Chinese government uses such Stasi-style techniques is no secret either inside or outside of China, and no specific government officials were named. Read the Washington Post stories here:



  63. MutantJedi Says:

    I just watched the National on CBC. They covered some interesting topics. The Canadian chef of the games… not sure what her title is exactly (can’t read French)… but she was saying that the facilities are excellent, the Chinese are very prepared, the village is great, the food is great. And she said that she hoped that that word would get out to everybody – how great the host and facilities are. 🙂

  64. Virginia Says:

    I also have been writing on this alarming issue:

    Questioning media coverage of the Beijing Olympics

    and today, Peter Hessler is at it again!

  65. Virginia Says:

    This offers an explanation to the question posed by the post, by Diana Barahona – author of Reporters Without Borders Unmasked (Reporters Without Borders generated many of the protests and much of the “dirt” against the Beijing Olympics).


  66. Virginia Says:

    Buxi – you got it right, and you are very right to write about it! I can’t believe the people in these comments telling you the opposite of this. Something is very wrong, and the Western media is involved in it. This is not right!

    I have been noticing the alarming amount of China-bashing going on in our media leading up to, during, and after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but where are they getting their “information” from? This is the troubling question, one that has not been addressed by anyone in the country (that I know of), certainly not in the national headlines.

    For instance, a recent article in Huffington Post (the liberal media has been as involved in this as the conservative media) was entitled “Mixed legacy likely as China’s Olympics conclude”. More of the same came from the New York Times whose headline read “After the Glow of Games, What Next for China?” Two blog columnists at the New York Times conspicuously have bashed China: Nicholas Kristoff (Kristoff is especially glaring) and Mike Nizza.

    Mixed legacy likely as China’s Olympics conclude? The “mixed legacy”, from what I can see, lies with the Media, more importantly with their sources, and nowhere else.

    Almost ALL American media has jumped on the “China-bashing” bandwagon, and has been sounding off about “human rights abuses in China”, picking up information sourced by – and here is the point, WHO? Two groups mainly:

    Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders.

    Yet Reporters Without Borders has been outed for years as nothing less than a U.S. State Department funded propaganda arm with links to Otto Reich (from Contra days) – see here http://www.counterpunch.org/barahona05172005.html. I found literally thousands of press releases designed expressly for the Beijing Games, here: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25234

    I first became aware of them when they mounted an obvious and ugly “media propaganda siege” against the Beijing float in the 2008 Rose Parade in my hometown of Pasadena, CA, Fall 2007. They displayed their “handcuff” graphic on a large billboard in town (a graphic photographed all over the world, even on Notre Dame) and took over the local press (who were already openly sourcing a right-wing extremist, and therefore easy “prey”) barraging my city with more “information” than a 3rd year History of Human Rights Abuse in China PhD student could ever care about!! They also co-opted the the tiny Falun Gong club at Cal Tech.

    One small moment of “poetic justice” occurred at the end of all this ugliness, when no one less than Diana Barahona (author of Reporters Without Borders Unmasked) was there, unintentionally, in the audience of the parade.

    I wrote about it here, but only after ALL of the local press refused to address the issue: http://pasadenanewprogressive.blogspot.com/2008/01/reporter-without-borders-media-siege-of.html

    Among other writings about this group, I wrote a recap of their anti-Olympic’s campaign. As a graphic designer, I could not help but notice their blatant use of propaganda, via clearly expensive and trendy graphics: http://pasadenanewprogressive.blogspot.com/2008/04/reporters-without-borders-anti-olympics.html.

    More than anything I have discovered about this group, what is most alarming to me is their proliferation within our Media. They are used as an almost constant source for “news” on a daily basis. Yet, one finds right out there in the open, information coming from them, that is either biased or bogus.

    Take their 2008 Annual Report “Freedom of the Press Worldwide” http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=25595. Reporters Without Borders has built a reputation (and bank account) by outing censorship of journalists around the world – yet give this ridiculous 2008 assessment for the United States, which contains almost nothing more than:

    ONE (count ‘em) Iraqi journalist detained in Guantanamo

    ONE blogger, Josh Wolf, got three paragraphs detailing his plight

    A big plug for the Shield Law

    A plug for the Freedom of Information Act (an act that has become a tool for the Right to attack public institutions like public schools)

    And that’s it! (come on!)

    People around the world have called RWB out for giving out the wrong information, seemingly based on how tight they are with the U.S. – or not. Here, Hossein Derakhshan writes about their misleading “information” on Iran:

    “Reporters Sans Frontier, sent out a press release announcing that Iran has blocked access to The New York Times, implying that the Islamic republic has expanded censorship to Western news websites and this is in line with the new anti-Western policies of president Ahmadinejad.

    A few hours after that, through trusted journalists and friends in Tehran, I verified the report and realized that almost none of the websites mentioned in the report, including the New York Times were filtered.”

    In Rwanda, they noticed some funky stuff going on as well: Rwanda: Reporters Without Borders Pulls a Scam Again

    This incredibly prolific spread of information (I would call it “dirt”) condemning other countries is super-alarming to me, because I often find it clearly politically motivated. Yes, the information exists, but what is not mentioned is how it has been selected and literally shoved down the throats of the entire nation, via the Media, via Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.

    I wrote about the obvious benefits of all this to the Bush Administration here: http://pasadenanewprogressive.blogspot.com/2008/08/bush-gets-gold.html

    Human Rights Watch is up for questioning as well.

    For more information on Human Rights Watch, Read Paul Treanor’s excellent (and forgotten) article here:
    Who is behind Human Rights Watch?

    Robin Kelley, professor of history and American studies and ethnicity at USC, also noted in a recent lecture that Human Rights Watch does not currently address ANY human rights issues in the United States (unlike their past good work with prison abuse here).

    I also noticed that they have “stepped in” as THE most-used source, replacing Reporters Without Borders during the Olympics. Could the fact that Human Rights Watch opened a headquarters in Paris last Fall have anything to do with that? How close are the two organizations?

    I’m not saying this group is all bad, I am NOT saying that human rights are not important.

    But both organization’s “work” in helping America’s media to condemn the Beijing Olympics, is nothing less than highly suspicious and needs to be looked into, if only to prevent something like this from happening again. These embarrassing media games, are below the dignity of our great country.

    That said, the grace of the Chinese in ignoring this petty “media siege” and continuing on with their work producing the Games, is awe-inspiring.

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