Aug 02

Why are the Chinese so upset about the Western human rights activists and advocate journalists? Do not violate my Chinese feelings, or, rather, sensibilities.

Written by bianxiangbianqiao on Saturday, August 2nd, 2008 at 4:01 pm
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After lamenting Western misunderstandings of the Chinese, their political arrangements and culture, it behooves to examine some Chinese misunderstandings of the West with regard to the attention their country has received from human rights activists and advocate journalists, especially in the run-up to the Olympics.

Why are the Chinese viscerally sickened by the following scenes from the Western media?

1. A European Free-Tibet activist wearing a bull’s eye on her chest and holding a poster with the words “China , would you shoot me too?”

2. American TV personality Jack Cafferty on CNN calling the Chinese a bunch of “goons and thugs.”

3. Western human rights activists wearing shirts with “Genocide Olympics” printed in bold letters.

4. Western activists disrupting the Olympics torch relay and harassing Chinese torchbearers.

5. Lou Dobbs on CNN correcting the mislabeling of PRC as China and insisting on calling the country by its proper name “communist China .” (Lou has a problem with communism, not me.)

The Chinese antagonism to these “bashing” has received due attention. I focus on another element in the Chinese reaction, i.e., the disgust with the (culturally misperceived) Western trivialness, vulgarity and crassness. Antagonism, the perception of conflict of interests and intentions (e.g., the belief that the West is attacking us and trying to suppress our rise to glory) leads to instrumental actions, instead of emotional reactions (“hurting the Chinese people’s feelings”). The Chinese disgust (a very hurtful feeling) arises from misperception of the Western people and culture, based on their skewed exposure. Having lived in the US for years, I can testify that Americans as a population are civilized and generous. They have their issues but smallness and meanness are not on the list. The American locales I have been to are as safe and supportive to me as any place in China . The Chinese living in China lack my type of immersion in a Western society. Their sampling of Westerners is limited to the images from the media. They must make inferences and generalizations about Westerners based on the skewed exposure. What kind of inferences do they make from the images listed at the beginning of the post? Why do they find their feelings to those images so hurtful and the appallation so hard to swallow?

Westerners find Chinese reactions to Cafferty et al. (e.g., the “goons and thugs” remarks) puzzling and excessive. What is the big deal? News organizations are businesses. They have to sell their stories and programs. Activists have to push their issues into the public agenda. They all need attention. Presenting themselves in a PROVOKATIVE way is a method of getting attention. Gaining attention with provocative, over the top remarks and actions is perfectly acceptable in the West but hits a cultural wall in China . It rubs the Chinese the wrong way for two reasons.

First, drawing attention to oneself is viewed as a dubious (if not perverted) need in the collectivistic Chinese culture, one that emphases conformity and has a low tolerance for deviance. The Chinese have a particularly low tolerance for individuals apparently with no special talent to demonstrate or worthy point to make, but still use cheap deviance to draw attention. My hometown folks have a very descriptive label for this type of individuals (this is embarrassing). Refined writers can make only cursory reference to the term, via its acronym, “SB”, or the more emotionally potent “DSB”. Basically the term means “freaks”, in a sanitized rendition. This link leads to a representative Chinese perception of the freakiness in the Western activists – “SB年年有,今年特别多 (“SBs show up every year. This year they come in droves.” The ESWN English translation of this article used a different term for SB than this writer, a native of Beijing and one-time frequent user of the questionable term in mass chantings at the Workers Stadium soccer matches)” There was a English translation of a related piece on the activists’ counter-productivity and gratuity at Danwei and ESWN.

One reason the China-bashing human rights activists and advocate journalists are viewed as freaky is that their attention grabbing technique cheapens their declared cause. Just abusing and humiliating the Chinese does no justice to the seriousness of the allegations against them. If you believe China is killing innocent human beings en mass in a genocide, and if your kids and entire family are using products made with enslaved Chinese labor every day, shouldn’t you respond with more serious and forceful actions than staging a monkey show (耍猴儿,耍活宝) on camera or in the street to disrupt the Olympics, a sports event? Shouldn’t you have done something more substantial, with more powerful impact on the victims’ plight? The trivialness, ineffectiveness, counter-productivity and gratuity of the activists’ actions make it very hard for the rational mind to attribute them to genuine concern for the victims; it makes no sense. They are there for the attention to themselves at the expense of the victims, driven by a desire to sell their products or fulfill an incurable meanness. The Chinese are culturally sensitive to this kind of narcissistic craving for attention. They despise it from their collectivistic tradition. The activists’ and advocate journalists’ behavior trivializes the plight of China’s victims, and fits perfectly the Chinese definition of “freakiness”. Making a freak show on issues directly linked to the Chinese reputation (genocide Olympics, slave labor, goons and thugs etc.) is disturbing in a very distasteful way. That is my understanding of “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people” complaint.

(A key difference between freakiness and eccentricity in the Chinese perception is worth noting. Deviance is tolerated by the Chinese in individuals with special talent, who are called eccentrics (怪, e.g., “天桥八大怪” , Tianqiao’s eight excentrics of old Beijing) instead of freaks or weirdo (“SBs”). The American academia is the best place for comparative studies between a worthy eccentric and a deadwood weirdo.)

The second basis for the Chinese disgust is their culturally unique perception of crassness and vulgarity. The Chinese and Western cultures encourage public display of different emotions. Public expression of heart-breaking sorrow at funerals is encouraged (and demanded in the old school) among the Chinese. At my Grandpa’s funeral my mother was inconsolable, sitting on the floor wailing with a shoe missing. (No worries, none of my folks can read the entire English alphabet.) It was an expected part of the grieving, with the whole family gathered around her trying to calm her down, nothing embarrassing. Her abandon on that occasion does not indicate that she has a self-control problem. On the other hand, the Chinese culture has a low tolerance for public display of contempt and scorn, which are quite prevalent and acceptable in the Western/American media and public space. The Chinese regard those who cannot contain their contempt and scorn, such as Bill O’Reilly, along with a couple of his lovely female associates on the show, and the torch relay demonstrators as having self-regulation problems (and deserving social exclusion). To the Chinese eye they are vulgar and crass. In the Chinese/Confucius model of personal development and socialization, these undesirable traits are neatly attributed to lack of proper upbringing, education and enculturation (粗鲁, 野蛮, 缺家教,没教养, 没文化), all major character flaws in the Chinese culture. The importance of these traits can be understood from their role in mate selection. My own reactions to the type of American media represented by the Fox News Channel may serve as an example. I have no problem with their cultural/political position, or their view on reality and truth. Their vulgarity and crassness (or, in a quintessential American term, trashiness) bother me, and violate my feelings and sensibilities even when the discussion is irrelevant to China. I can correct these influences on my view of the American/Western cultures but most Chinese living in China do not have access to a broader picture. The media icons listed at the beginning of the post are among the most salient and vivid sample of Westerners the Chinese in China have access to in a manner with direct relevance to them (apart from the Mandarin speaking foreigners singing and dancing unprofessionally on TV variety shows.). Those disturbing images and their connotation link directly back to the ancient imperial Chinese stereotype of non-Chinese as “uncivilized”. It is embarrassing to acknowledge that nasty name-calling was also part of our culture, with unflattering references to foreigners blatantly entered in all our ancient history books, the jewel on the crown of our civilization.

Anther factor to consider in the Chinese inferences about Westerners is that they separate the “frontal display” (facade) in social interaction from the “backroom reality” of their lives and naively believe everybody else does so. The Chinese find it imperative to clean their houses just for the occasion of receiving guests. The Chinese authorities have been upgrading Beijing ‘s infrastructure and the residents’ hygiene and grooming habits for the Olympics and the citizens find that quite natural. Watching Jack, Lou and Bill on TV calling the Chinese those endearing names, and the demonstrators violently harassing Olympic Torch Bearer Jin Jing, some less worldly Chinese might automatically think “oh boy. Those Westerners are so vulgarly uninhibited even on camera and in the streets, how bad they must be when nobody is watching?” Based on the striking but unrepresentative images, some Chinese could naively infer that an alarmingly large number of Westerners must have a streak of European soccer Hooliganism, simply unstoppable in their irrational and disruptive ways. In the words of one of my friends in China on the Olympic torch demonstrators, they are viewed as “流氓会武术,谁也挡不住。”

I am unsure about the prevalence of these misperceptions in the Chinese population. With more and more inevitable East-West contact, they deserve attention. The fenqing movement, raising nationalism and the boycott of Carefoure in China highlight this worrisome trend. My own anecdotal observations raise red flags too. In conclusion, cultural understanding is a two-way street. Let us march hand in hand to a glorious shared future.

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87 Responses to “Why are the Chinese so upset about the Western human rights activists and advocate journalists? Do not violate my Chinese feelings, or, rather, sensibilities.”

  1. Dandan Says:

    Sha Fa!

    “cultural understanding is a two-way street”, yep, a very very long two-way street in this case.

  2. Daniel Says:

    After reading many comments on several topics here, I sort of feel restricted now in expressing certain opinions, but I’ll go ahead. For one thing, I think the work of journalists is open for criticisms now matter what spectrum they are leaning towards or how the story is worded. In some cases, I expect a lot more information and a lot less looking like a movie script.
    The other thing is I read where someone mentioned the point of this blog is to remove mountains. In general, looking back at history all the way to today, the world is really a lot more interconnected than what many people assume or want to believe. It is more than just East or West, and there are many obvious flaws with thinking one or the other is superior in many ways. Since I can’t say much for other countries, I will say something regarding mine. If the bridge between societies become more stable and the maintainence was good (as in more honest knowledge and humble interactions) there really is a lot in common with Americans and Chinese. There was even an old WW2 style pamphlet in english where I read that even back then some Americans noticed this commonality. I even told my friend, who is like me, an ABC born in the states, that he is actually going to find something more in common with a counterpoint in the Mainland than for comparison a BBC born in Great Britain.

    So actually, this two way street really can be shortened a lot if people were to give it some more patience and put more effort in connecting individuals with common interests rather than emphasizing the collective differences.

  3. Daniel Says:

    I just have to mention this but even though many want to take a cynical view of the ww2 pamphlet example I use, well cynical or not, at the very least they too were trying to build a bridge.

  4. Alice Poon Says:

    I totally agree with Daniel’s saying. Rather than focusing on differences between cultures, common grounds in values, mentality, outlook and vision is what so-called East and West should be striving to find. In this respect, Canada may offer a good example in the pursuit of world harmony – it was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as its official policy. Central to this policy is the call for an inclusive society and mutual respect amongst numerous cultural groups within the country. If applied to the bigger picture – the relationship between China and the West – the concept may well be the key to shortening the two-way street. As a starting point, misunderstanding can be minimized if one side begins to treat the other with respect and patience and having the treatment reciprocated. While Westerners are scrambling to learn all they can about anything Chinese through studies and living experience, shouldn’t mainland Chinese too start to learn more about Western culture and ideologies rather than dismissing them with contempt? In this respect, the Chinese government can play a part too by affording Chinese citizens unrestricted internet access to global news and foreign cultures.

    There’s a French saying that translates thus: “Ignorance leads to diversity; knowledge leads to unity.” (“L’ignorance mene a la diversite; la connaissance mene a l’unite.”). The internet is certainly an empowering tool in gaining knowledge.

  5. FOARP Says:

    @Alice Poon – Don’t mistake the opinions of internet ultra-nationalists for those of the average Chinese person, the average Chinese person is happy to learn about western culture, happy to speak to foreigners, and happy to learn our language – indeed many see learning the English language as their route to a better job. At the same time, the majority of Chinese people are patriotic and proud of their country, they have every right to be so.

  6. Wu Di Says:

    Most of us, if not all of us, are way less open for ‘otherness’ than we think we are. Openness requires us to constantly question our own beliefs and convictions — of course it’s much easier and much less time- and energy-consuming not to (I’m referring to bianxiangbianqiao’s very apt example of ‘nasty name-calling’ on Fox news, but to some extent also to all other media outlets as well, including this blog). It’s hardly surprising that media (and governments) often simply adapt their coverage (or policies) accordingly, as it is more profitable (and safer in terms of maintaining legitimacy) to preach to the convicted (keep people in fear about evil and uncivilized foreigners) than to strive to create some kind of tolerance for alternative opinions and push human consciousness towards a higher level of shared knowledge, meanings, and values.

    @Alice Poon: That French saying you quote, “ignorance leads to diversity; knowledge leads to unity” seems to be seriously flawed to me. I don’t get how ignorance (i.e. not knowing something) can lead to diversity — as the differences/diversity between a number of people who all don’t know is less than that between those who know. After all, there is no knowledge, there are only knowledgeS. Moreover, what kind of “unity” are we talking about anyway? Unity that comes from a ‘harmonized’ diversity, or (true) unity that comes from an accepted and embraced diversity of knowledges, thoughts, opinions, and beliefs… I’d sure as hell prefer the latter. But I see way too much of the former (and not only in China).

    @bianxiangbianqiao: Although I agree with much you wrote in this post, I would like to add/emphasize that we all need to stop thinking in dichotomies of Chinese vs. Western. I have never met any human being (Chinese or “Western” — whatever that means) who was the same as another. So I would suggest that the path towards cultural understanding (and I completely agree with you that this is the right path) needs to lead away from binary conceptual blinders, towards acceptance of individual and cultural diversity, by creating awareness that we all wear these blinders in an often produced and naturalized fashion. Just my 2ct.

  7. Netizen Says:

    @Alice Poon,
    Your description of Westerners scrambling to learn somethings Chinese while Chinese are not, is incorrect. The contrary is true. Chinese are learning many things of the West, while many Westerners lack basic understanding of China.

  8. Wu Di Says:

    @Neticen and @Alice Poon: I know Chinese who are very interested in the West, and I know Westerners who are very interested in everything Chinese. And I also know people who couldn’t care less. So it’s an individual preference rather than a Chinese vs. Western thing.

    Instead of fighting about who is building a bridge and who isn’t, why not engage with the questions why things are how they are (for example, by finding out who is responsible for the various perceptions we have), and how to change them?

  9. JL Says:

    A good article.
    Unfortunately, I think the points made here, and especially by Wu Di and FOARP will have to be continuously re-made.
    As BXBQ points out, mass medias tend to focus on the most provocative claims and people. The is maganified by the Internet, which gives a voice to anyone with something to say. Thus people on both sides of a cultural divide get to see the most extremist expression of the other but with little or no guide to how representative that position is, or what the background context to it is. Thus Chinese people can mistake the crassest China-bashing as representative of Western opinions. While Western audiences might feel that all Chinese people share the views expressed in the kind of paranoid youtube agit-prop that blames every Chinese problem on “Western Imperialism” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSTYhYkASsA) -A friend who teaches Asian politics at a university recommended that video to his students as an example of Chinese nationalism- I doubt that he introduced it as representative of all Chinese opinion, but its possible that casual observers would get that impression. So contextualizing Chinese West-bashing and Western China-bashing becomes ever more important.

  10. Chops Says:

    China criticises Bush meeting with exiled dissidents

    ‘July 31 (Reuters) – China has condemned U.S. President George W. Bush’s meeting with a group of exiled Chinese dissidents, saying it “sent a seriously wrong message to anti-Chinese forces”.

    Under pressure from U.S. lawmakers and advocacy groups to take a stronger stand on China’s human rights record, Bush — who has repeatedly said he is going to the Olympics for sports and not for politics — held separate meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Chinese democracy activists on Tuesday.’


  11. Smith Says:

    It is not “China-bashing” But “Chinese government Bashing” that is why most of Chinese do not get.
    If many foreigner attack Chinese Gov it is for them in order to ask for more right for Chinese people.

    But it is mostly misunderstood by Chinese.

    By the way, I hope Chinese gov can understand that foreigners do not want to see a Beijing clean up (from farmers, minggong, foreigners students…), and they do not want to see all these people replaced by hundred of thousands of Policemen… but they prefer to see a real Beijing, with people enjoying the party.

    It remember a talk with a Chinese friend:
    me (westerner): Why kick out minggong, farmers from beijing?
    her (Chinese): You know when you receive guest you need to clean your home
    me (westerner): Are you saying that they are trash/dust?
    her (Chinese): No but you want to show the nice part of your country
    me (westerner): So, they are dirty and should be hidden, they do not deserve to enjoy the party like educated Beijing people.
    her (Chinese): No it is not that… it is also for the security, we must have safe olympics
    me (westerner): So, they are dangerous, and we must kick them out in case if they do something, so they are condemned even before they do anything?
    her (Chinese): No, but nobody can say they will do nothing, if I come from Shanghai, my company can testified.
    me (westerner): if you want to do terrorist attack, how can your company know ?

  12. Alice Poon Says:

    @ Wu Di. My understanding of the saying is that knowledge will lead to a meeting of minds on some very basic values (which some may describe as universal values), while ignorance will do the opposite.

  13. Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, Hong Kong Says:

    Bianxiangbianqiao – You have a good point about skewed access. Let’s say I didn’t grow up with CNN, I didn’t get CNN at home, I never watched any other CNN program, I never saw any of the positive coverage CNN has done on Chinese business and culture, and I didn’t understand that Americans regularly insult themselves and their own politicians on TV. Then suddenly, I hear via a Chinese paper that some CNN foreigner insulted the Chinese people. Well, I’d be upset, too. If one stupid insult by Jack Cafferty constituted my first and only impression of CNN with no context, I’d think CNN was trash.

    Wu Di — True, ideally, we should not generalize about Chinese or Westerners. No observation can apply to all 1 billion-plus Chinese or several billion non-Chinese. However, there are still broad distinctions to be made. Western nations like the U.S. or Britain have had a long history of mixed populations — people of different languages and races immigrating to one place. Outside of a few “expat” pockets in Beijing and Shanghai, China is still 99% Chinese in culture and language, so it is naturally harder to accept other places’ media, jokes or ways of communicating.

    Also, there are systemic differences. In the West, you have a free flow of information. Whether something is good or bad, high-quality of trashy, you can access it and make your own decision. In China, the media is controlled and manipulated. It’s not that Chinese people are inherently less open-minded or savvy than Westerners; but the system keeps them limited.

    I live in Hong Kong. Our media is definitely not perfect. But there was no anti-CNN or anti-BBC anger here. And the few who protested against the protesters during the Olympic torch relay were largely (if not all) Putonghua-speaking non-Hong Kongers. Why? Because — good or bad — we’ve had 155 years of dealing with foreigners and their media. We’re used to it. On the Mainland, many average people probably never thought much about Western media until the coverage of the Tibet disturbances this spring. Maybe it came as a shock.

  14. Otto Kerner Says:

    You know, “A European Free-Tibet activist wearing a bull’s eye on her chest and holding a poster with the words ‘China , would you shoot me too?'” is at least an attempt to call attention to an important issue, the shootings at Nangpa La. That said, it’s not really a very effective way to communicate with Chinese people, in part because the sign is in English, and moreover, most people would probably need to be informed what happened at Nangpa La, while the sign seems to assume that they already know what it’s talking about. Although this was an ill-thought-out attempt, I think the protestor still had her heart in the right place, whereas Jack Cafferty or people wearing “Genocide Olympics” t-shirts are just being stupid. It’s better if Chinese people don’t understanding what they’re talking about.

  15. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Nice post. I must say, of the 5 examples listed at the beginning, the only 1 I found to have represented objectionable behaviour was #4, especially with respect to the wheelchair-bound torchbearer. And I agree with Daniel…mutual understanding is a two way street. So while a western-style of protest may be contrary to the sensibilities of Chinese, Chinese also need better grasp of the protest behaviour in the context of western life. If they did, as BXBQ obviously has, they’d realize that the protest behaviour wrt China is not different from the protest behaviour against most any other issue. The reason why I agree that #4 was objectionable is because westerner DON’T normally harass people in wheelchairs, and that behaviour crosses the line even by western standards. In other words, the behaviour should be judged in the context of acceptable cultural mores, and in the case of protest, should not be judged by the traditions of the protest targets. It would be tough to expect a Parisian to protest in a culturally acceptable Chinese style (partly because they wouldn’t know of such style).
    I would say Chinese as individuals are more reserved and modest, while westerners tend to be more expressive and forward. I recall when I first came to Canada that this difference was striking. Over time, it has become imperceptible to me, likely because I’ve long since acquired said characteristics.

    I’d also point out that western media and journalists are not a uniform crowd. There are “reporters”, who provide the “facts” (admittedly a nebulous entity at times); then there are the editorialists and commentators, who are really just giving their own opinions. It seems that most of the gripe is not with reporters, but with the op-ed pieces. But part of the fabric of our society is that we tolerate most opinions, which is why I begrudgingly tolerate the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world. It’s seems, though, that most objections are with opinions about China, but to me, that is not a fundamental flaw of western journalism.

    As for what gets reported in the news, a highway with smooth flowing traffic in rush hour doesn’t get reported, because that doesn’t sell papers or attract eyeballs. A 12 car pile-up and 5 hour traffic jam is what garners attention. Similarly, I think westerners need to learn that the average Chinese in China may not conform to their caricatures and preconceived notions; but Chinese also need to realize that the vast vast majority of westerners aren’t crapping on a wheelchair-bound torchbearer either.

    I do disagree with one point. Protesters should do so in a way so as to achieve results – agreed. But how else does an individual who may disapprove of the Chinese government make that sentiment known? If you accept that such an individual has a right to that opinion, how else would you suggest that he/she express it in order to maximize effect and produce results. In the west, people who want change protest for same. So if China doesn’t feel protest is the appropriate method, perhaps she should provide a guide of how people could better channel and express their sentiments.

    Finally, I think China- bashing is an overused and imprecise term. IMO, most people who object to China hold such sentiments against the regime, and not against the average PRC citizen.

  16. Paul L Says:

    >trying to suppress our rise to glory
    >“hurting the Chinese people’s feelings”

    These are the sort of comments that people in the west laugh at.

    Quotes from leaders that say “all Chinese people are happy to have the Olympics”, and “all Chinese people want Taiwan returned to the motherland” are wrong. A lot of people don’t care.

    Maybe when China is willing to talk freely about itself and the world will people take Chinese people seriously.

    I like to say that most Chinese people are ignorant.

    They are, ask them about Tiananmen and 1989. What do they know about it? No one has every given a full account of what did or did not happen.
    In the meantime, a whole issue of a newspaper is pulled from the stands, because a photo that no one will recognise was printed.

    That is the sort of thing that people outside China do not understand.

    I see academics from China sometimes commenting on things like Amnesty International, and they have no credibility.

    Sure, disagree with what groups outside China say, but would they dare to criticise the central government in the same interview? Not really.

  17. Kingsley Says:

    I think it’s interesting that media commentators like Jack Cafferty, celebrity activists, and average protesters seem to get conflated into all part of the same kind of insulting behaviour when from my perspective they seem to be very different things. One is a person who gets paid to give (controversial) opinions, one is someone who is using their existing celebrity to garner attention for something they believe in, while people protesting during the torch relay are volunteers who happen to feel passionate enough about a cause to make a public statement about it. All may be seen as ignorant or ‘crass’ in their behaviour but they are motivated by completely different things. This is why I don’t think it makes sense to describe protesting as a “kind of narcissistic craving for attention” when that’s not what motivates the average activist/protester at all. I think it is completely fair to treat statements by someone like Jack Cafferty as being motivated by a desire to generate attention, although this can be explained by his job as a media commentator and his particular role on the show without having to rely on explanations based on any personal narcissistic tendencies. As far as the celebrity activists go, although they may not be particularly well-informed, I don’t really think they are in it for the attention either. The fact is they are already famous and if they really wanted to get their name out there even more then they would probably be making movies rather than being the face of a particular cause, which they are often part of for years before it hits the spotlight (I’m not talking about the random celebrity red carpet comments here, but the people with a formal role in a charitable organisation). I know when famous individuals come out and criticise the Chinese government the official response is often to claim that they are simply seeking fame through their actions, but the logic doesn’t really stack up. I mean, when Nancy Pelosi was involved with passing something in the house criticising China after the riots in Tibet the Chinese government spokesman tried to claim she was doing it out of some desire for personal fame – she’s a politician for God’s sake, wouldn’t political considerations be a more likely explanation than character flaws?!

    Protests in Western countries against the Chinese government’s actions are generally focused on bringing pressure to bear on Western politicians, or perhaps businesses, who would then be expected to put some sort of pressure on the Chinese side. There are clear distinctions between the kinds of actions that are designed to be challenging/confronting to perceived opponents (street protests, direct action etc) and those are designed to show solidarity with perceived victims (candle-lit vigils etc). I don’t think the aim of the torch relay protests (for example) was to communicate with the average Chinese person, although of course communication is something that is going to happen anyway.

    So I think that although it is often tempting to lump different groups of people together based on the idea that they have all done things that Chinese perceive to be insulting or crass, they may be motivated by very different things, and occupy very different positions within society.

  18. Old Tales Retold Says:

    I agree with Kingsley that it is a little strange to group these different people together—but that’s actually often how they are perceived, as one group.

    The problem as I see it isn’t in-your-face activism, which is a natural part of any advocacy. Which tactics are most productive—and which are unproductive—can be debated. But public, provocative gestures keep an issue in the spotlight and force governments to respond, even if there’s a collateral unease among parts of the public with the activists’ rudeness, etc.

    The problem is believing that gestures, particularly pressuring officials, is enough in itself.

    If you were to pressure the U.S. to agree to a landmine ban or to stop bankrolling the Israeli occupation or to end its use of the death penalty, you wouldn’t just shout at Bush during his speeches; you would reach out to the American public and try to build a domestic constituency for your efforts (as foreigners have done with varying degrees of success on all of the issues I just used as examples).

    Without that people-to-people to connection, there would be little reason for Bush to care what you did. At most, Bush would say a couple words in his next when he was speech abroad, addressing foreign activists with some words along the lines of America’s unique national values, our difficult fight against terrorism, how old friends can disagree, etc, etc.

    Unfortunately, in the case of China, activists abroad have bought into their own propaganda at times and acted as if the Chinese government is the only one worth embarrassing and writing petitions to, as if it is not authoritarian but totalitarian.

    Without providing specific information, without any effort to engage in a real discussion, without even taking the energy (and showing the respect) to engage in a real argument, the street side of activism is just an isolated show. The activists, celebrities and commentators just melt into one cacophony to the ears of many in the Chinese public. And there’s no reason for Hu Jintao to care.

  19. Old Tales Retold Says:

    Dammit. Poor grammar-checking above. My apologies.

  20. Chris Says:

    @Alice Poon: you said “In this respect, Canada may offer a good example in the pursuit of world harmony – it was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as its official policy.” *cough, cough* What about the multitude of issues Canada has had with their own Native American populations? Look up “Oka Crisis”. Also, I’ve personally been treated like an outcast for speaking English while visiting Quebec.

  21. a different Chris Says:

    There’s something prosaic but important that I think this post misses, which has to do with cultural differences specific to media. Especially after Cafferty’s remark, I kept hearing the same conversation over and over: a Westerner would insist that Jack Cafferty was just a single loud-mouthed jackass paid to be obnoxious, and since he was speaking on a debate show he was just expressing his own opinion, and the opinion of one guy is nothing to be so mad over; a Chinese person would say exactly the opposite, that by appearing on CNN Cafferty speaks for CNN, and since CNN is the biggest and most important news station in America, and is seen as authoritative by many people all over the world, he is literally harming China, because people will actually believe him. One surprisingly typical comment was that “If Cafferty doesn’t really represent CNN’s opinion, they should have a disclaimer on the screen at all times to make sure people aren’t confused.”

    I understand where the Chinese are coming from, and I hesitate to “defend” Jack Cafferty, but when it comes down to it I think this falls under the category of “misunderstandings of the West.” I haven’t watched CNN in a very long time, so I’m not a hundred percent sure of Cafferty’s role there, but I have seen the remark he made in context. I think you’d have to be used to a media environment like China’s to think that his comment carried the force of his network’s opinion.

    Of course the toned-down version of that argument—that whether or not Cafferty “represents” CNN, CNN can still be blamed for giving him a global platform—is much easier to swallow. But, legitimate observations about crassness aside, this is still based on the idea that a news network should not show things that will make people mad or hurt their feelings. Americans expect—even demand—to be offended by their media, at least some of the time.

  22. Netizen K Says:

    Let’s say Jack Cafferty made a racist remark. Will CNN be able to get away by saying he doesn’t present CNN’s view?

    I’m sure he and CNN will be sued. CNN is where the money is, made partially from Cafferty’s employment. I’m sure the court would agree CNN would be responsible.

  23. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Netizen K,

    Though I’m no legal expert, I’m not sure that a racist remark by Cafferty would be grounds for a lawsuit. Libel suits are very difficult in the U.S., more so than in many European countries or, certainly, China.

    During the recent Democratic Party primary, there were many comments directed at Barack Obama on television that were arguably racist or borderline racist. No one thought to sue. And if they did, I doubt they would sue whatever media company employed the person who made the racist comments.

    Cafferty is a commentator. Maybe not the most interesting commentator, but a commentator all the same—not a spokesman for CNN.

    What really can be done, realistically, is pressure CNN to drop Cafferty through a popular campaign, unrelated to lawsuits, etc. Don Imus was pushed out by such a campaign after he insulted a women’s basketball team with racial comments. He wasn’t pushed out by a lawsuit.

    That said, I’m not sure that the best response to every insult—whether perceived or real—is to shut that person up. Debate, even with people you believe to be racists, tends to go a good deal further toward resolving issues.

  24. Wahaha Says:

    Paul, ——I like to say that most Chinese people are ignorant.

    Do you know who Faris Odeh is ?

    Do you know Western Shugden Society ?

    Do you know why students demostrated in 1989 ?

    Do you know the misery People in Russia suffered in 1990s under democracy ?

    Do you know 43% of kids under age 5 in India are under weight ?

    Use examples to prove your points, please, not textbook. Do you think Chinese will buy idealism from some textbooks after 30 years of foolishness between 1949 and 1978 ?

  25. Wahaha Says:

    “I see academics from China sometimes commenting on things like Amnesty International, and they have no credibility. ”

    Yes, in the eyes of Chinese, not Chinese government, Amnesty International has no credibility.

    I watched a program on Tibet by some human right group on PBS. They call Tibet Dalai’s nation; they claimed that PLA killed 1.2 million Tibetans in 1950s; they claimed Chinese tried to destroy tibet culture.

    You want Chinese to believe this BS ? If you believe this BS, then you are ignorant or brainwashed.

  26. wuming - wumaodang Says:

    @Kingsley and OTR

    The problem is not with the presence of anti-China voices, whatever the motivations, targets or methods they choose, it is the lack of an opposition voice that strongly grates on us expat Chinese.

    Bashing China is painless, at least within the attention spans of media and campaigning politicians, and their audiences and constituencies. Why does blog like this exist at all? Most of us expats are scientists, engineers and businessmen, as un-motivated by politics as most of the Chinese back in China. But when our white is being called black with no apparent contrarian opinion, it rouses up the long dormant fenqing in many of us.

    Some of us had a history of deep misgivings of the Chinese Communist government, some may even be Tiananmen activists in 1989 or 1976. If not for the uniform outcries of the West that is so filled with resentment, arrogance and dehumanization, we may be at the forefront of criticizing the current Chinese government for the negligence of environment, negligence of school founding, unsustainable development, lack of transparency, lawlessness, and yes, maybe even the lack of freedom, human rights and democracy. The reason that we have jumped to the other side is because almost the entire western media-intellectual-political establishment has refused to give any value to a singular achievement in human history – the economical development of China in the last 3 decades. No, we don’t expect everyone should sing praises or set it up as indeed a new model for other developing countries. We expect acknowledgment of its significance even before you proceed to criticize it, like OTR has done so well.

    Again, the emotionality of the moment makes my comment incoherent as usual. Being sober commentators as you are, I think you can understand where I am coming from.

  27. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wuming,

    I agree that a broader debate abroad about China is necessary (and, even more so, a debate WITH China, not just ABOUT it). There has been a rush of attention paid to the PRC in the last couple years and it has outstripped the development of a real forum for discussion. Things have been dominated by self-proclaimed “experts” coasting on some old articles, on the one hand, and people who are writing mostly from a gut feeling about what is right and wrong, on the other.

    I disagree somewhat in that I think the Western media has given attention to China’s recent economic development. With all the Olympics drama it is easy to forget how just a year or two ago Newsweek, Time and the rest were all running covers about the coming “China century” and pop non-fiction writers were churning out books with titles like “China Shakes the World” and “China Rising.” But I agree that all that stuff didn’t really capture what is going on in China, not in a very thorough way tuned into actual people’s experiences in China.

    How can we change this? More travel by more people helps, of course. But simply seeing somewhere is not enough. I visited India for a few weeks once and left with some deep impressions—but it would be dangerous if I believed those impressions were anything more than that, that they gave me some sort of unique insight into India. Reading well-researched books helps. But book-learning suffers from the opposite defect.

    I’m afraid we’ll just have to be patient as we wait for the discussion to mature—and I say this not as someone sitting outside the discussion, shaking my head sadly, but as someone who is trying to mature in my own understanding of the situation!

  28. wuming - wumaodang Says:


    Yes, the Looming Dragon is often splashed on the headlines, but more as a threat than as a merit. What is ignored is the incredible hard work (or exploitation per your opinion?) behind achievement. Whether the direction of Chinese development is large right or largely wrong, we also have to acknowledge that there are government policies, designed and executed by some sane and intelligent people, contributed to this present phenomenon. Simply view the current government as a bunch of goons (more than Jack Cafferty and ilk has implied the same) out to further communist dictatorship is a profound insult to Chinese people at all levels, from migrant workers to Hu Jintao.

    At a more philosophical level, this discussion often detach the idea of human rights from the human life itself, as if they are attributes of a Platonic human being. So what if the average Chinese’s purchasing power has increased by 10 folds in last 25 years? It’s just economics, far from the concern of a human rights activist. From this base, how can I take them seriously.

    I agree that the only solution is time and patience, if we don’t blow each other up in the mean time. Our “fenqing” urges are pretty irrational and will certainly pass soon enough, especially if there are two weeks of “Blue Sky” days in Beijing.

  29. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wuming,

    The concept of “human rights” is the most complete—and enjoys the most support—when it includes “economic rights” and “civil / political rights” as equal partners. The original UN Declaration did a pretty good job of balancing these two; it was created at the outset of the Cold War, in the midst of a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Soviet camps, after all (China would later rally a third camp to some success). Of course, people have emphasized one of these sets of rights over the other at various times, sometimes to the extent that it seems that we are having two separate conversations. That’s a pity.

    I agree that plenty of the coverage I mentioned dealt with China as a “threat.” But not all of it by a long shot; there has been plenty of so-called “Panda-hugging” writing to go with the “Looming Dragon” (I don’t know where that phrase came from—it would actually be stupid to try to hug a panda). In fact, people like James Mann once went crazy with the idea that the media or at least the elites in the States are actually downplaying China’s human rights abuses. This may be hard to believe now, since this spring, but it was a real debate a year ago.

    It is also true, as you said, that Hu Jintao et al are caricatured by more people than Cafferty. I have serious differences with Zhongnanhai on a number of issues, but China’s leadership certainly deserves a large share of the credit for China’s growth—it would be ridiculous for them not to get that credit. And, no, not all of that growth has been exploitation—I’m not that rigid in my thinking, haha.

    I, for one, think prosperity is great. But I want fairness, too. And I think constructive criticism of China, criticism that asks “What kind of growth and for whom?” is worthwhile. It is a good question for a lot of countries.

    I’ll join you in hoping for those blue skies!

  30. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Netizen K #22:
    “Let’s say Jack Cafferty made a racist remark. Will CNN be able to get away by saying he doesn’t present CNN’s view?” – of course, they absolutely can. Because Cafferty is sharing his own opinion, and not that of the entire CNN corporate entity.
    As for lawsuits, I’m not sure you can sue just for a racist remark. And even if you could sue, doesn’t mean you’d win. So you’re making a lot of assumptions there.
    Besides, why always assume that Cafferty represents more than he does, which IMO is only himself.

  31. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wuming #26:
    I agree with your perspective. However, it is difficult to engineer balance in criticism of China when western public sentiment is not balanced. If you want an opposition to the anti-China POV, you need people who espouse such a position. I presume that’s one of the purposes of a blog like this. But if the prevailing opinion moves in one direction, then the discussion will necessarily be one-sided. Unless and until a viable counterpoint is provided, it will remain so.

    I’ve always been confused by people’s reaction when confronted. It seems the majority of Chinese disapprove of western protest methods, though not necessarily of its content. But to respond by polarizing in the opposite direction seems to be a vote for style over substance.

  32. wuming - wumaodang Says:

    @S.K. Cheung

    Exactly, there is no people in the establishment that hold an anti-anti-China view (not necessarily pro-China.) The more troublesome thing is that bias is a feed-back-loop that re-enforces itself. To the degree anybody cares about issues concerning China, the business community hold the most objective and sober view because they are the “stakeholders” (you should see how I ranted against that word, but I actually have very mixed feeling about it.) On the other hand, they don’t care to join the fray with the media-political establishment to actually state their views.

    Come of think of it, maybe the business people are right after all. For all the one-sided China bashing in the western media, they don’t cause any real damage to China’s interest, except in wounding the feelings of us over sensitive “fenqing” wantabes. The media doles out these attacks casually and will move onto their next target when the Olympics closes. It is up to us to learn how to chill.

  33. Wahaha Says:

    Media is just preparation, it gives West governments the right to do something to harm China in the future, if they have to. For example, selling nuc technology to India, cuz “China is a great threat to that area.”

    I can guarantee you that if China’s economy grows another 15 years, West will lift the ban on Japan’s military force.

  34. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wuming,

    I’m not sure things are quite as one-sided as you describe them in the “establishment.” The “establishment” is split. On the one side, you have fairly pro-China people—officials like Paulson or Zoellick or academics like Lampton, people who support China on certain economic issues (like Stiglitz) and people who would just like to keep things calm. Then, on the other side, you have the human rights community which is critical (legitimately, I think) of many Chinese policies, congressional representatives who have a protectionist agenda or are just in search of an agenda period, and the whole mix of the media and the public that ebbs and flows. Presidential candidates talk tough about China and then change after about a year in office.

    The business community is, of course, fairly level-headed about some things in China. And unless we are talking about companies that have lost (or believe they have lost) manufacturing to China, businesses won’t criticize the government. They are old-fashioned law and order types, usually, and they don’t like activists and they love relationships.

    But businesspeople, or at least that portion of the community that has dominated interactions with China up until now, could care less about the workers it employs to manufacture its products (fancy “corporate social responsibility” PR notwithstanding) and could care less about obeying local laws (except copyright laws)—and thus carry a bias of their own that is pretty strong in my opinion.

    The business community likes China. But it likes it without the new Labor Contract Law. And without too much hassle. It likes China as a “Wild West,” but with safe investments.

    @ Wahaha,

    … and that leaves the question of where all this feeds into some bigger plan. I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense to see everything feeding into a master strategy. The media isn’t consciously softening places up for hostile “Western” powers. It just isn’t.

    But that doesn’t mean that the media is always right or that it doesn’t sometimes act in ways that accommodate or push forward American power. Just look at the New York Times shameful record before the Iraq War of publishing bogus stories about Saddam Hussein. Newspapers helped bring an end to America’s war in Vietnam, but not until they had been cheerleaders for a good long while.

    Conspiracy theories do less to break down the power of newspapers or TV stations or commentators than well-aimed criticisms. And research of one’s own.

    That said, I share your frustration with the Indian nuclear deal, as I think I’ve written elsewhere. The deal does indeed seem aimed at containment of China or, more realistically, keeping a constant pressure on China. I’ve always put a lot of hope in Chinese-Indian relations improving (old pictures of Nehru and Zhou Enlai hugging make me sad with the possibilities that might have been) and the two countries being able to together re-balance the world—-but I’m always disappointed.

  35. wuming - wumaodang Says:


    I also read Paulson’s article, as I told you I have mixed feelings about Zoelick’s “responsible stakeholder” phrase but can’t resist in using it. You correctly point out the hole(s) in my argument, to make it more explicit, the China policy happen to be one of the few success stories of Bush administration, one area where the neo-cons seems to have the least influence. Furthermore, it has been a consistent pattern since 1972 that presidential candidates will bash China and the President will have a fairly mild China policy. I have no doubt that this trend will continue.

    The China policy of any administration is something that they are ashamed to talk about in public, because it is often embarrassingly pragmatic. Pragmatism does not sell as a political slogan. Campaigning politicians and their media facilitators will bash China because no one will call them on it. It is often (but not always) just an after thought. That is what’s often troubles us, because they really didn’t spend more time than writing down a sentence in a speech on the matter.

    On worker’s right, I think government is responsible for protesting workers through laws (and union?) I also believe that Chinese government is very rapidly improving their governance in this respect, just like they are doing in environmental protection and energy conservation (though the lifting the energy subsidy will be gradual)

  36. Kingsley Says:

    @Wahaha – “I can guarantee you that if China’s economy grows another 15 years, West will lift the ban on Japan’s military force.”

    What ban are you referring to here? If you’re talking about article 9 of the Japanese constitution then there has been a vigourous debate going on in Japan about this for many years, and it is up to the Japanese people to decide on when/if they ever want to change it. Yes, the constitution was forced on Japan after the Second World War by the US, but since the Japanese have the ability to change it now I’m not sure why that would be a problem. In a sense you are right – the position of China (as well as what North Korea is doing) is likely to influence the Japanese debate, but there’s no Western conspiracy here.

  37. Netizen K Says:

    Kingsley – “but there’s no Western conspiracy here.”

    That’s a misleading statement. The Americans have ecouraged the Japan to rearm for the last few years.

  38. Wahaha Says:


    dont blame me.



    then read this



    then this


    As the Pentagon tries to prepare the U.S. military for the future, military planners are looking to China as the next potential large-scale threat to the United States. The Defense Department’s most recent assessment of China’s power raises concerns about China’s military modernization and contends Beijing could one day try to dominate Asia or challenge U.S. hegemony.

    think of the propaganda war in last 12 months about Africa.


    If you think they are BS, well, those are far more convincing than the BS (about China) thrown to America by media, like Tibet issue.

    By the way, it was not that big issue 10 years ago, as most American Scholars believe that CCP would collapse very soon as new middle class would drive China to democracy. WTO was viewed as a tool to bring down CCP, you can read Gordon Chang’s books.

    CCP countered that by recruited huge number of middle classes into the party, which significantly weakened the voice of democracy. As time goes on, especially GDP doubled since entering 21st century, West politicians and scholars are no longer sure that China will change as quickly as they expected, then as you see, suddenly Tibet become a huge issue that appeared on every newspaper in West.

  39. Wahaha Says:

    BTW, it is not important if China is a democratic or authoritarian, it is all about bring down CCP. (Look at case in Iran before 1980, Indonesia before 1998, South Korea before 1987, West didnt mind authoritarian at all.)

    Why is it so important to bring down CCP ?

    it is not about if CCP is tyrannical or not, brutal or kind, legitmate or illegitmate, it is that after 3 decades of economic development, CCP has become a serious threat to West system.

    If CCP succeeds leading Chinese into very strong country in the future, people in West will question their own system. Like more and more people in Hongkong now are willing to accept that they are chinese, the trend is clear. If one day, mainland China is richer than Taiwan, the sentiment in Taiwan will be totally different.

    Please, I am talking about American people or people in Europe, I know at least 95% of people are very nice people, but we are talking about politics.

  40. Wahaha Says:

    sorry, made mistake in last paragraph;

    Please, I am NOT talking about American people or people in Europe, I know at least 95% of people are very nice people, but we are talking about politics.

  41. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Gosh, all these conspiracy theories, you guys must lose sleep at night.

    China’s had the strongest military in Asia for years (and if you don’t take the USSR to be a part of Asia, China’s had the strongest military since 1949). If the west was threatened by the Chinese military, that should be a decades-old sentiment. How does re-arming Japan now change that balance? And the bottom line is that it’s Japan’s choice. So unless you’re suggesting that Japan is not a sovereign country, then the point is irrelevant. Furthermore, how is arming Japan going to change China’s emerging economic dominance, which is the new development of the last 20 years? It’s apples and oranges.

    I think the US military has shown time and again that it’s proficient at fighting conventional wars. It’s counter-insurgency and guerilla type tactics that it’s ill-equipped to deal with. If the US and China ever consider a military encounter, then we should all hope to have our bucket list checked off pretty darn quick.

    I just don’t get the infatuation with theories that western governments want the CCP to fail just for the heck of it. Individual westerners might object to CCP tactics. But as a government, what’s the point of having foreign policy of having CCP fail. If CHina represents a geopolitical “threat”, it’s in an economic form, and not as a political system. I don’t think western governments fear a wave of communism washing us over. If anything, policy has to address how to cope with China as a business competitor. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from this site in the past few months, it’s that China’s economic growth will continue with or without the CCP. Heck, if China became “democratic” tomorrow, it would continue to grow. So to worry about media doing the government’s dirty work to bring down the CCP is to be chasing shadows where none exist.

  42. FOARP Says:

    Let’s go back over this one more time:

    Evidence for a US and western ‘plot’ against China –

    1) The arming of Japan, a nation that still spends only about 1% of GDP on defence, and with a constitution that forbids anything but war in self-defence.

    2) Support for South Korea, a nation which still faces a substantial threat from North Korea

    3) Support for the Philippines, a nation threatened by Islamist insurgents

    4) Support for the authorities on Taiwan, threatened as they are by the PRC, however weapons sales are restricted to ‘defensive’ weapons.

    5) Increasingly warm ties with India, a nation with which it had (and still, to an extent, has) frosty relations due to its confrontation with Pakistan, a US ally.

    6) Support for Pakistan, a country which enjoys close relations with Beijing

    7) The war in Afghanistan, formerly a major base for Al Qaeda

    8) An alliance with Thailand, a country with troubled borders

    9) Opposition to the current Burmese government, shared by the majority of the world’s nations, including most of Burma’s neighbours.

    10) The construction of bases in central Asia, although these are limited in size.

    11) Accusations of media ‘bias’ – but no proof.

    12) Donald Rumsfeld’s comments on the ‘string of pearls’ – the establishment by China of a string of bases along China’s main trade routes, although I cannot see that there has been any move by the US to prevent this.

    I would say – case not proven.

  43. wuming - wumaodang Says:

    It is no secrete that the American neocons would have liked to do some of the things suggested by the conspiracy theories. However, the pragmatists in the administration have largely driven its China policy. For the long term, containment of China could certainly be one of the goals of any American government. When opportunities present themselves, such as India’s nuclear ambition, US will try to take advantage of it. But such strategic games has been played for thousands of years, should not have raised the alarming rhetoric of the conspiracy theories.

    China is changing too fast, and the US government is too preoccupied, for a grand strategy such as containing China to really emerge and taking hold.

  44. Old Tales Retold Says:

    Well, I would say that the word “conspiracy” is simply ill-chosen. “Strategy” is better.

    However, I agree with Wuming that it is immensely frustrating that Washington doesn’t “spend more time than writing down a sentence in a speech on the matter.” I feel this frustration equally strongly in regards to American policy toward Central and South America, where the aim seems to be to contain democracy or to slow it down to a more manageable pace, rather than to foster it—but you wouldn’t know that from the State Department briefings.

    The fact that Washington never deals with its grand strategy in public is frustrating because that keeps the discussion—even inside the Beltway—firmly on vague pronouncements, rather than the meat of “American interests.” We mere mortals, we citizens of China or the U.S. or anywhere else are not allowed into the discussion of “American interests.” So they are defined for us.

    I share S.K. Cheung’s doubt that the U.S. really wants to topple the CCP. Contrary to what S.K. Cheung writes, “regime change” probably would have a big impact on China’s economy. However, I think the idea of Chinese economic collapse is precisely what the U.S. would want to avoid: it would throw the American economy into free-fall and, rather than strengthen America’s hand in Asia militarily, would light thousands of fires for the U.S. military to put out. Instead of “regime change” (which America can’t even commit itself to in the DPRK), the U.S. hedges and pressures. Some of the tactics mentioned by FOARP fit the category of “pressure.” Some don’t.

    Finally, in regards to the CCP pushing people in other countries to question their own “systems” (as Wahaha suggests)—-I doubt it. The economic system in China is essentially the same as that in the U.S. and the political system is a brake on long-term growth (I think Pei Minxin is right about the danger of political and economic stagnation in China if certain reforms aren’t made).

    That said, Wuming is right that China is doing one thing right in the economy now: reforming its labor laws and reforming its official union to better protect workers. In this, China is looking less to America than it is to Europe and to Japan and to its own not-so-distant history. And it is defying the foreign business community.

    And it is immensely smart: not only will China finally show respect and give a fair share to the people who have driven its incredible growth these last decades, but it will re-gear the economy for less-labor-intensive and more profitable industries.

    That was an overly long post… and now I am late for where I was going. I’ll have to find out if I made any typos later… so here goes…

  45. Bobthebuilder Says:

    Regarding the second of the writer’s points. . .

    “2. American TV personality Jack Cafferty on CNN calling the Chinese a bunch of “goons and thugs.”

    I watched his comments on the Internet. The context made it completely clear to me that Cafferty was talking about the Chinese government. He said something like “the Chinese are the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the past 50 years”. The 50 years clearly refers to the establishment of the PRC. He is talking about the Chinese regime – i.e. the government.

    I don’t believe I am splitting hairs here. The reference was to the Chinese ‘government/regime/system’, or whatever you want to call it, and how the US should be engaging that ‘regime’.

    Fair enough to be pissed off or find his comments patronizing, stupid, or whatever. On may levels they are.

    However, to take him as referring to the Chinese people/culture/race/citizenry is to completely misread him. Moreover, the context was so clear to me that I have to wonder if people are not willfully misreading the guy.

    Not defending him. I know nothing much about him but he appears to be an idiot. However, he is being accused of something he did not really do.

  46. FOARP Says:

    @Old Tales Retold – Another question worth asking is: Has US involvement in East Asia increased, decreased, or stayed the same in either the short term or the long term? I would say that by any measurement it has decreased substantially in the last thirty years, and has continued to decrease at a slower rate since the end of the nineties. The US and its allies are now currently engaged in two wars which have attracted almost all of the increase in defence spending since 2000- neither of these conflicts directly affect China.

  47. wuming - wumaodang Says:

    Do you all have this sense of foreboding that goes way beyond the scope of our current discussion here? Just list a few things that can keeps us awake in the night:
    1. The impending collapse of the global economy (China is very much in the middle of it)
    2. The balance of the global fuel and food production completely out of whack.
    3. Global climate change could have already passed the tipping point
    4. The crazies in Washington and Tehran can start another war.
    In the face of these potential disasters, I certainly feel like the “Old Fool” of the blog title minus his faith in a “Yu Huang Da Di”

  48. Kingsley Says:

    @Wahaha – I think that you missed the point of my original comment, which was to say that there is no Western conspiracy to control Japan’s potential future rearming, since any debate about reforming the Japanese constitution will have to take place in the context of the Japanese domestic (democratic) political environment. The US government can’t just come in and change that reality even if it was official policy. I couldn’t seem to access the first article you cited, but the other two don’t really mention Japan except to reaffirm my point:

    “As nationalism rises in both countries and conservative politicians in Japan suggest amending the constitution to allow the country to remilitarize, tensions are growing between the traditional rivals.”

    Note it says that it is Japanese politicians who are driving the move to amend the constitution, not some external Western conspiracy.

    I think other people have already mentioned the difference between strategy and conspiracy, so I won’t go into that now other than to say that a conspiracy is supposed to be a secret – if people have put their conspiratorial plans in articles on the internet for the world to read then something is not quite right.

  49. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wuming-Wumaodong,

    Yes, I share your sense of foreboding about the items you listed. I don’t know which is scarier.

    @ FOARP,

    Good points. I agree that Asia is not exactly the focus of U.S. attention now. Yes, the U.S. is in an oil game with China and Russia, but it has barely bothered to show up for many of the important regional meetings. Southeast Asian leaders in particular seem exasperated—whether from a lack of U.S. support or from a missed chance to play the U.S. and China off each other or both, I don’t know. This might be a good thing or it might be a bad thing.

    In regards to Wahaha’s comment #38, I apologize for not having read all the links (I swear I will once I have the time!) but I think insisting on talking about Tibet only in regards to foreign interests is misleading. There ARE significant problems in Tibet, particularly in regards to unequal allocation of resources, to continual interference in religious affairs, to job opportunities, to participation in local government…. focusing on NED’s funding of exile groups is all fine and good, but it doesn’t really deal with the core.

    The Tibet-problems-as-conspiracy argument reminds me of American politicians’ claims in the middle of the last century that race problems in the U.S. were simply the work of Soviet agitators. Were there Soviet agitators? No doubt. But did they create the sense in people that things were fundamentally unfair and did they create the pressure to change things? No.

    @ Kingsley,

    I don’t know nearly enough about Japan, so I won’t engage your discussion too much beyond saying that I have a great admiration for those forces in Japan who have resisted amending their constitution, despite a half century of pressure from conservative politicians (both conservatives in Japan and in the U.S.).

  50. Wahaha Says:

    “Has US involvement in East Asia increased, decreased, or stayed the same in either the short term or the long term?”

    The answer is very simple, America cant afford wars on two side.

    China gets resourse majorly from Africa and south America. The route to South America is under America’s control. If America controls India ocean, it put a switch on the oil pipe from Africa to China, America doesnt have to invest too much in southeast Asia like it did during 60s, and its economy wont allow it. That is why now China works extremely hard now to build a close relation with Russia which has great deposit of resource.

    About bring down CCP, I dont see any difference between the progaganda war now against China and that against Soviet Unions 20 years ago. Can anyone tell me the difference ? Will China’s economy make people think otherwise ? go ask businessmen who have been to China and India.

    Remember, people in China, in poor or developing country dont use democratic system in America and West as their models like Chinese did 20 years ago, they are watching democratic countries like India, Phillipines. American elite scholars are not stupid, they are very smart. With 20 million new labor force piling up each year in India, with the speed India builds its infrastructure, India’s economy will very likely hit bottleneck. You think only Chinese and Russians notice the problems ? Of course Americans scholars saw the problem, but they couldnt find solution within the frame of the system, otherwise they wouldve found ways to help Indians, Americans wouldnt have to sell them nuc technology.

    Now Russia starts to pick up economically under authoritarian system. With the vast deposit of resourse, Russia will likely keep getting much stronger in next 10 to 20 years. Dont you guys see the problems for West if China’s economy grows for another 15 years ?

    If you are strategiest, what will you do?

  51. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Communism as a political system was still arguably a feasible entity when Reagan asked Gorbachev to tear down some walls. And if you think the soviets complied just because Reagan asked nicely, then you’ve got high regard for American influence.

    These days, no one worries about communists taking over the planet.

  52. Old Tales Retold Says:

    Yeah, I don’t think the “propaganda” is quite the same. There is more ambiguity in America’s stance toward China than there was in America’s stance toward the USSR. At the same time, during the Cold War there was a strong base of American supporters for the Soviet Union (though they were slowly supplanted by the “New Left,” which looked more to Beijing and Havana’s systems and other models of socialism) and this is mostly lacking in regards to China, at least among activists. As Wuming has noted, there is a strong business constituency in favor of the Chinese government in the U.S., though.

    I agree with Wahaha that the U.S. is already bogged down in the Middle East and that this is a big part of its inattention in Asia. As to what this means for India, I am a little confused by Wahaha’s point.

    Certainly, the U.S. wants to ally—belatedly—with India against China. And, yes, India’s infrastructure is woefully behind schedule. But the part about democracy?

    If the point is in regards to the idea that public discussion of infrastructure projects holds up development and creates bottlenecks, then I’m not sure that I agree. Public discussion has protected India’s poor, who should be the whole reason for the development, after all. And I think the discussion will make for better long-term decisions and less conflict down the road.

    India’s big barrier isn’t its democracy. The parts of India with the most smoothly functioning democracies, such as the Communist-dominated state of Kerala, are also the ones with some of the most stable economies and societies and also the best social programs. If anything, India’s problem is that it still does not have enough democracy and has too many local despots, not too few.

  53. Wahaha Says:


    Who said people will worry about communism ? Why is it either communism or democracy ? why is it impossible that Chinese wil find something in between ?

    Just like Chinese students in 1989 questioned Chinese governments cuz they blamed the political systems for China’s lagging behind other countries. If Chinese government is able to accomplish something that democratic system fails to deliver, then automatically people will question the flaws in democratic system.

    So far people in West have not questioned the problems in system, as vast majority of the people live better than other countries. But some people from India and other democratic countries in southeast Asia have started to realize the problems of democracy, although they genearlly dont like authoritarian system.

    As I said before, the biggest threat to democracy is India and United states, as both of them will have more and more POOR people, not like Cananda and Europe. If either of them fails to keep economy growth. Then …..it will become obvious that demcratic system has serious flaw, people will automatically question the system, like why the people they elect fail to work for them.

  54. Wahaha Says:

    “….India’s infrastructure is woefully behind schedule. But the part about democracy?….”


  55. FOARP Says:

    @Wahahaha –

    “I dont see any difference between the progaganda war now against China and that against Soviet Unions 20 years ago. Can anyone tell me the difference ?”

    Let’s unpack this:propaganda is not war, even during the eighties there was no concerted effort to create propaganda against the Soviet Union. I’m guessing you weren’t in the west in the eighties so let me explain, the Soviet Union made enough bad news by itself, growing up everyday there would be something on the news from the Solidarity movement in Poland, or the war in Afghanistan, or about the Berlin Wall, or about the nuclear build-up in Europe, or about the Russian dissidents, or about the latest spy affair, or about one of a thousand other potential flashpoints between the Communist world and the west. We all knew that war was a possibility and we were all, when we thought about it, deadly frightened of it. Even if we didn’t know we were reminded about it by the news, or by television series’ like Threads or The Day After or by the innumerable books and films that were written on the subject of a nuclear war and its aftermath.

    Are the attitudes of either western governments or the western public even nearly like this? Not on your life!

  56. Wahaha Says:

    I dont know my previous post didnt pump up,

    to OTR


    To FOARP,

    I watched two movies last two weeks :

    teh first one, “Dark Knight”, in which a person said “if you want to buy something with quality, dont buy it from China.”

    the second one :” the mummy”, in which mummies from 2000 years ago were woke up and yelled “freedom, freedom, freedom.”

    It is a propaganda war.

  57. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    Again, I don’t see why the problems of India or Southeast Asia are attributed to democracy. Those countries have a thousand other characteristics that distinguish them from China! And, as I stated, the most democratic parts of these countries are also the most successful, so I don’t see why they would want to move away from democracy in the event of economic stress.

    As to the U.S. economy going through the floor, I would blame the behavior of American economic elites and the withering away of many democratic institutions in America (such as trade unions and open, government oversight of markets) rather than democracy itself.

    I was rather young during the Cold War, so the less I say about that history, probably the better! I’ll let you and FOARP handle that.

  58. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    Sorry, it seems like our posts are passing each other due to some sort of lag on this website. The Businessweek article was interesting. I would still maintain that the problems it describes are the results of a weak democracy in places (such as weak transparency, unstable parties, etc.), not democracy per se—and that a stronger democracy, not an even weaker democracy would resolve the problems.

    I haven’t seen “The Mummy.” But I agree that that scene from the “Dark Knight” was a little stupid. We can quibble about whether it represents “propaganda” or simply popular culture absorbing bits and pieces of the news or whether there is anything different between the two.

    I seriously doubt some shadowy CIA agent meets with the directors of Hollywood movies and says, “Why don’t you insert an insult about Chinese manufacturing in here….” I’m not saying you believe this, but I think that is what is implied by the word “propaganda.”

  59. wuming Says:

    @Wahaha and OTR

    For an excellent dissertation on India and China, read the interview of Pallavi Aiyar on ChinaBeat blog:

  60. Wahaha Says:

    To OTR,

    I argued before, now I have to repeat again :

    Let me use an example, In a city with 6 million people, 2 million of them living in slums. Now how will the ELECTED government help them ? create job opportunities, giving them money is just short term solution, not long term.

    1) Create jobs for those poor people by attracting investment from riches, so government has to give the riches lot of “favor”, like SEZ in China. Well, they cant do that, as the opposition partys will “point out” that the government works for the riches, not poor people. No1 will risk their political career for that.

    2) Take mony from middle class. Well, this doesnt work either. As middle class will not be happy, they will ask ” why should I work hard for those lazy bones ?”

    3) Take money from riches, Well, it doesnt work either, as it will scare the riches who will take their money and companys out of the city, make things even worse.

    As result, government can hardly do anything to help those poor people, those poor people will live in slums year after year, generation after geneartion. That is why you cant find a city in “free” country” in which the problem of slums was vastly improved.

  61. FOARP Says:

    @Wahaha – Let me give you some real world examples were what you’ve said didn’t happen – the UK elections in 1979,’83,’87, and ’92, the US elections in 1981, and ’85, even you’re bugbear of India has only consistently elected the communists in one state, and the Taiwanese have never elected a government that could be called socialist. The fact is that the other four million people in the city you mention also have their own ideas about things, and the two million poor folk are not the idiots you think them to be.

  62. Wahaha Says:


    Thx for the link.

    I think the issue people in West dont understand is that “Bear paw and fishfins, you cant have both.”

    as stated in the article.

    “This counterintuitive state of affairs was linked to the fact that while in China the CCP derived its legitimacy from delivering growth, in India a government derived its legitimacy simply from its having been voted in. Delivering on its promises was thus less important than the fact of having been elected.”

    People in developed country will ask “Why cant Chinese enjoy good life and freedom at same time ?” In realty, people in poor or developing country cant. If we have a look of west history in last 300 years. During the process from poor to prosperity to super strong, they didnt respect the right and freedom of poor people at all.

    It is very unfortunate that government in general cant offended the interests of rich people, cuz it is agaisnt the law of economy; middle class cant be offended either, as they build up the wealth for the country. So the only way is forcing some of the poor people to scrafice or “wait for their time.” The system in India will not allow this to happen, which led to poor infrastructure.

  63. Wahaha Says:


    I dont know how the election in 81 and 85 in US prove your point.

    BTW, no way will a candidate who “offended” interests of 1/3 of people in a city get reelected.

  64. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    I’m not sure if FOARP is advocating a conservative democratic response to social problems or if I’m just misreading the post. But I would give some other examples of things working out alright development-wise without the state resorting to SEZs and authoritarian capitalism.

    The most important is Scandinavia: a grassroots social democratic movement allied closely with trade unions pushed a group of countries that were backward by any standard into top economic performers by both delivering a high degree of equality and rights for workers and benefits for the middle class. Japan worked out a similar compromise, albeit more conservative.

    Right now, Brazil is managing to final tackle its slums through a left-leaning political party (where the top-down, rich-friendly policies you advocate failed). Why aren’t the middle class up in arms? They have been given some stability at last.

    It is simply not true historically that only an authoritarian, right-wing government can balance the different interests you describe.

    @ Wuming,

    That link was interesting. I haven’t finished the interview yet, but am enjoying it.

  65. Old Tales Retold Says:

    Dammit. Our comments are being posted at the same time again. Sorry if we aren’t quite syncing.

  66. FOARP Says:

    @Wahaha – Voters often vote against their ‘economic interests’ – look at any of the statistical breakdowns on voting that have been published over the last ten years.

  67. Wahaha Says:


    One thing is very important for Westerners to understand China :

    Although lot of Chinese support the current government, it doesnt in any way means that they like everything under the system, there are lot of things they dont like about system. It is up to CCP to change and get rid of those bad stuff, otherwise what happened to Suharto of Indonesia will be CCP’s destiny, sooner or later.

    Chinese are not brainwashed like some West people think. Chinese know the current government is repressive; Chinese love lot of things under democratic system, but what happened in India and Russia really hold them back. They realize that Chinese cant have both political freedom and economy (or strong China), so they are willing to accept the current system and solve the problem of economy first. This gives time for CCP to make political reform. This is obvious not what West wants.

  68. Wahaha Says:


    You touched another issue or requirement for democracy : education

    Scandinavians are well-educated and have high-technical skills.


    Without mutual understanding, democracy is a joke. and Mutual understanding is built on great education. Democracy, down to lowest level, is negotiation. Negotiation only works between educated.

  69. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    Scandinavians are certainly well-educated, but their education levels followed democratic and social reforms, not the other way around. Education is not a hard and fast thing. There’s an “education” and understanding of the world that comes from hard work, too, and I think it has a worth equal to the bourgeois experience of universities, etc.

    That said, I agree that Chinese are not brainwashed. A considerable amount of misunderstanding between the “West” (such as it is) and China is created by Westerners talking over the heads of the Chinese people, refusing to acknowledge Chinese as actors in their own destiny beyond a few dissidents.

    However, if, as you say, what holds people in China back from advancing forward on political reforms are the examples of Russia and India, then I think they are mistaken. It is possible for people to be mistaken. The Americans often are.

    Thankfully, I’m not sure that everyone in China shares this view. Plenty of your dreaded “uneducated” people are growing impatient. And many in the government, such as Wang Yang, are trying out new reforms.

    Does the “West” want China to gradually reform? That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer and I’m not sure the leaders in question really do either.

  70. Wahaha Says:


    “Does the “West” want China to gradually reform?”

    “Gradually reform”, in my opinion, means giving more and more freedom to people gradually, but let CCP keep its monoply of political power.

    By the way West media bashes CCP, I dont know how you can convince a Chinese with little political sense that West want to see gradually reform in China.

    IF, I repeat, IF West POLITICIANS wants shock therapy in China, then their purpose is evil; IF people in West want to see quick change in China, then either they are brainwashed and ignorant about situation in China, or simply they hate anything that is related to “communism”.

    I watched “Bush’s war” on frontline on PBS. Iraq plunged into complete chaos once saddam was dethroned by US. It is unimaginable a politican on capitol hill doesnt know what happened in Bagadah and doesnt know what vacuum of power couldve done to a country of 1.3 billion people.

    In China, there is no opposition party that can take over CCP, so the realistic way of democratizing China is first forcing CCP giving away some of its political power, allowing the existence of opposition partys, that is the necessary step before overthrowing CCP. Any suggestion of shock therapy is either politically ignorant or with evil agenda (or with his own agenda, like hatred towards communism).

    I will love to see some evidence that West has shown Chinese a blueprint or gradual political reform. I think Chinese intelligentsia have been searching for that, as reported by Mark Leonard. I dont think CCP will give away their power, but the process is weakening the power of CCP. How far can the process weaken the power of CCP ? will it eventually lead to the collapse of CCP ? I dont know. We have to wait, I just pray this will be a peaceful transformation.

    There was theory that as CCP recruits more and more middle class, those middle class people dont want to share power with hundreds of millions of farmers like in India, so the waiting period will be very very very long. I am not sure.

  71. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    Yeah, “shock therapy” would probably be a disaster. I certainly wouldn’t advocate that. And hopefully the terrible experience in Baghdad that you mentioned will scare most sane policy-makers away from trying the liberalism-via-occupation option anywhere else in the world for a long, long time. But that option, basically thought up to justify the invasion of Iraq, was never contemplated for anywhere else, certainly not Beijing, anyway.

    But your point, of course, isn’t about invasion and Baghdad. It is about gradual versus revolutionary change. Does the “West” want gradual reform or “shock therapy”? Who knows. I would say that most people you talk to in Washington or London or Paris would say “gradual” is the way to go, notwithstanding the critical Western media reports that offend many in China.

    I agree that there hasn’t been enough talk of a blueprint for reform. That is hardly the West’s role, though. I imagine political reform will end up happening like economic reform—the whole crossing the river by feeling the stones routine, with experiments in some places (like those that have already taken place Shenzhen and Chongqing and, possibly, Buyun, though Buyun might not have been planned from above).

    It angers me to no end to think of a frightened Chinese middle class not wanting to “share power with hundreds of millions of farmers like in India.” But of course, fear of the less-propertied and less-educated is not a uniquely Chinese phenomenon. Respected American foreign policy big shot Fareed Zakaria has gone on ad nauseum about the danger of “illiberal democracies” and about masses rushing ahead of their social betters (or rushing ahead of “institutions”). Look at the attitudes of plenty of American suburbanites toward residents of the Appalachians or the inner cities!

    At present, I would argue that rural and working class Chinese have exercised their rights more than their urban, middle class counterparts, in part because they have had a more pressing need to do so. They are pretty well equipped for beginning the admittedly long process of democratization. But I believe the middle class can catch up.

    As in many countries, there need to be more bridges built between classes. Elections can do that, by creating cross-class interest blocs. But elections, as I’m sure you will remind me, can also drive classes apart. At any rate, you are right that these things aren’t helped by one-shot solutions.

  72. Wahaha Says:

    @ OTR …… Does the “West” want gradual reform or “shock therapy”?

    That is where the major difference is between How chinese view west criticism and how westerners view west criticism.

    Lot of Chinese now seriously doubt the intention of West politicians, especially after they made such a big fuss about Tibet. The intention that West support “free tibet” is viewed by Chinese as dividing China, but in the eyes of Chinese, that is equivalent to weaken China. This view is genearlized to almost all the criticism by West media, cuz Chinese couldnt find an explanation for this action (as everyone knows that no way would China let Tibet independent.) plus West media never care how Chinese think, the following is a link on Hu Jia, some Chinese thought he should be thrown to jail for 30 years, some called him a traitor, while Paris honored him as an honored citizen. so how will Chinese in mainland China believe Westerners ?


    I admit that I myself have trouble to stay away from the thought that West politicians want to see China in chaos, as every politician saw the result of shock therapy in Russia.

    Sorry when I talked about west, I didnt type “west”.

    Lot of Westerners dont understand why Chinese were angry at Jack Cafferty’s comment. Westerneres always view government as opposite, Chinese think differently. A west reporter went to Sichuan one week after earthquake, She was surprised that people there were quietly and patiently waiting for government’s help. When she asked one old victim why he didnt complain, the guy said there were so many people government had to take care.

    If a chinese believe the government really care about him, he will feel grateful to the government; not like in West, people believe government is supposed to help people and they never feel grateful to government.

    Politicians and media like or not, lot of Chinese think this government really care them and bring wealth to them, so somehow, more or less, they feel grateful to this government, though they dont like everything under this government. Then comes the non-stop bash on this government by West politicians and media, surely it will make lot of Chinese angry, even the comment was aimed at CCP.

  73. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha #53:
    I would imagine that Black Tuesday in 1929 would qualify as a bit of an economic hiccup, and yet the US democratic system remained. I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but a cyclical economic downturn is not going to make westerners yearn for communism, at least not this westerner.

    If people are unhappy with the economy, they may change the stewards of the system (ie elected folks), but they aren’t going to change the system itself. In that I’m fairly sure.

    As for where China ends up, I’ve long ago acknowledged that she won’t be acquiring her eventual political system off of a western template, but my hope is that she moves on that continuum towards democracy to a form fit for her circumstances. However, to think that she will have a system worthy of export to and adoption by the west, at this point, would be a pipe dream.

    Now what’s with The Dark Knight and The Mummy. Are you now suggesting that the media and the government (the Bush admin, of all people) are now in cahoots with Hollywood to launch subversive attacks on China? Geez, where do you get off? If you’re thinking along those lines, then you should be alarmed at the fact that those movies were #1 and #2 at the box office this past weekend, and that Dark Knight looks to easily surpass $400 million gate receipts, as a sign that the American public, by willingly attending those flicks, is implicitly supporting every statement made in those movies, including the anti-China ones. Will this constitute new proof, with your logic, that average Americans are now turning against China too? As I said before, shadows are everywhere, if you’re inclined to chase them.

  74. Wukailong Says:

    “Bear paw and fishfins, you cant have both.”

    Western version: “have one’s cake and eat it too” 🙂

  75. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    You’re right that a lot of this boils down to impressions. Sometimes I think the actual issues at stake—whether and how to embark on political reform, what really works best for Tibetans and Han and Hui people, U.S. and Chinese military interests in Asia, etc.—get lost.

    I therefore appreciate your focus on results, such as the results for India’s economy of democratization, though I disagree with you on many of your conclusions.

    As to the specific example you gave of impressions, it is not so unusual for an activist like Hu Jia to be disliked by many of his or her countrymen. This happens all over the world. There is a long tradition in the U.S., for example, of heaping abuse on anyone who seems to be bad-mouthing America abroad (look at how Michael Moore is treated in some circles) or talking to America’s “enemies” (like those Americans who have met with Fidel Castro—or like Hu Jia and his wife meeting with H.H.). Big deal.

    This doesn’t mean that the rest of the world has to shun that person for fear of offending a nationalist public. It DOES mean that activists abroad have to be more aware. And they have to actually deal with that public and take some abuse and get in the mix of an argument. And admit that they are wrong sometimes. And they have to acknowledge that there is a “public” at all. But no need to condemn a Hu Jia because anti-CNN.com and plenty of others dislike him.

    All I can do is say what I think makes sense, hear your response, and adjust my ideas if I am wrong. I’ve enjoyed the discussion so far!

    @ Wukailong,

    Good translation! It’s little phrases like this that make me think there isn’t really such a big difference between cultures, after all.

  76. Old Tales Retold Says:

    @ Wahaha,

    P.S. Good points about different attitudes toward government.

  77. Wahaha Says:


    I dont know how you genearlized Hollywood’s war to average American people’s war. Those scenes were how the directors viewed China, and they mixed their view into their movie. The more popular the movies are, the more people buy that view. Like if you ask an Americans how their ancestors treated native Americans, the pictures in their minds maybe be like the scene in movie “Dance with wolf”.


    About 1929 recession,

    Do you know why democracy took steps back globally in last several years ? cuz China provided a new economic model. Lot of people no longer view democratic system as the only model that can bring prosperity.

    Was there any other model avaliable in 1930 ? Only one, communism, not a proved model, only on textbook. There was severe suppression on communism then, till 1950s. After 1960s, Communism failed globally and no longer a threat to West political system. Oh, yeah, give people the freedom to see how good West democratic system is, what misery communism brought to people; Oh, yeah, come on, we are not afraid of criticism; you want communism ? didnt you see what communism did to Soviet, China and Norh Korea, is that kind of life you want ?

    and now Chinese ask West : have a look of the problems (cuz of system) in India, in Russia under Yeltsin. Did you see any of those points reported by West media ? They wont, only businessmen who have been to China and India know the problems, most people in West still believe that democratic system can solve all the problems, and of course they dont understand how on earth Chinese accept CCP’s limiting their freedom.

  78. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha:
    “The more popular the movies are, the more people buy that view. ” – this is exactly what I mean about your paranoia. People don’t go to see Dark Knight or the Mummy to bathe in the directors’ views on China. To suggest so is ludicrous.

    China’s is not a new economic model. It’s a free-market economy, first perfected you-know-where.

    Yeltsin’s troubles in Russia seem well-chronicled. India’s, admittedly less so.

  79. Wahaha Says:


    Reread you own comment “is implicitly supporting every statement made in those movies”, where did you pull that off ? I guess that I support everything Chinese government did, because I support this government.

    “Yeltsin’s troubles in Russia seem well-chronicled.”, then give me a link that blamed system for all the troubles.

  80. KittyCat Says:

    Great article! As a non-Chinese speaking half-Chinese who has worked and travelled internationally and now living in China, I tend to agree with FOARP’s comment, with my own below:

    Westerners (or anyone who don’t look Chinese for that matter) may have a tough time getting to know or even understanding the real Chinese.

    First, the mass media continues to present stereotypical images and ideas of and to both parties, regardless of how ‘unbiased’ their reporting may be. Hey, bad news always sells better, right? And this translates to pop culture that again help to perpetuate these kung fu or gweilo perceptions.

    Second, access to varied sources of info are limited – language is the main problem for both parties i.e. the Chinese mainly due to censorship and access to paid international channels. Even if they had access, their poor command of English prevents them from digesting what they read/hear. For the other side, the essence & nuances of Chinese thought and culture are usually lost in translation OR come across as disjointed when read in English.

    Third, since only the wealthy or overseas Chinese can effectively write/blog in English, their views of China as FOARP has pointed out are largely ultra-nationalist. On the road, the average Chinese is eager to learn about new cultures and the English language, IF as bianxiangbianqiao has captured in this article it doesn’t “throw their house/home/harmoney in disorder”.

    I’m really surprised at some of the aggressive ways Westerners try to “push” their way through China – after all, doesn’t the phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” come from them? Perhaps, they should reread Aesop’s famous fable of The Sun and The Wind. You need to be the Sun if you want to get through the Chinese…at least in Fujian, we’ve already got enough strong winds!

  81. Wukailong Says:

    @Wahaha: I remember seeing a lot about the problems in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the local media when I grew up. Nothing seemed to work, and usually this was attributed to a speedy transition to capitalism. India was generally discredited and my parents have a book called “India – Tragedy or Revolution” (in Swedish) at home.

    I think these days something has changed. People have learned that no country is hopeless, that it can develop if it opens up in the right way and introduces economic reforms.

  82. Wukailong Says:

    I agree it’s wrong to blame a certain system for all troubles that occur in a country. Certainly, in the West, you find a lot of people blaming everything that happens in China on the CCP. In the same way it seems a bit simplistic to blame everything that happens in India/Russia on the democratic system.

    I think all successful systems, though, have certain things in common – rule of law, market economy, certain macro-management of the economy, not too much political repression, support for institutions. This is where I hope/believe China is heading.

  83. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wahaha #79:
    It’s called sarcasm. If you reread the post a little more carefully, you’ll see that the quote you extracted was part of a sentence starting with if/then. That should be clear enough.

    Yeltsin’s problem was with corruption in his government. It wasn’t a problem with democracy as a system of governance. Listen, if you’re going to say China isn’t currently ready for full on democracy, fine. But if you’re going to try to say that China’s system is better than the democratic system for democratic countries, then once again, you’re barking up the wrong tree.


  1. Olympic games updates » Blog Archive » Why are the Chinese so upset about the Western human rights activists and advocate journalists? Do not violate my Chinese feelings, or, rather, sensibilities.
  2. Books and Magazines Blog » Archive » Why are the Chinese so upset about the Western human rights activists and advocate journalists? Do not violate my Chinese feelings, or, rather, sensibilities.
  3. Why are the Chinese so upset II: Being an internationalist | Fool's Mountain: Blogging for China
  4. The evolution of political activisms according to (misused) Gresham’s law | Fool's Mountain: Blogging for China

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