Aug 23

(Letter) Lots of us want to love and respect China, but right now China isn’t helping

Written by Joel on Saturday, August 23rd, 2008 at 11:44 am
Filed under:Analysis, culture | Tags:, , , ,
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This will probably make some people angry, or at least get people’s emotions fired up. But that’s not what I’m trying to do. This is a totally honest Western perspective from a Westerner who is usually very positive toward China (we are learning Chinese in China and want our kids to grow up here). I’m writing this hoping we can have a real conversation and understand one another better.

Obviously, I still have a lot to learn about both China and my own culture. I don’t mind if you disagree with some of this stuff… some of it’s probably wrong anyway! 😉

If you just want to “defend China” and point out how America is hypocritical, or “defend America” and “bash China,” then please go away. However, if you want to help explain why many Mainlanders (or Americans) see things and feel the way they do, or how they perceive the others’ actions and why, then please comment.

I like living in China. I like living in an all-Chinese neighbourhood and being part of a Chinese community. I like learning Mandarin. I like reading piles of geeky Chinese culture and history books. I like interviewing locals and writing their stories. I’m trying to understand and respect China. It’s just that some days, China doesn’t help very much.

What’s hurting China’s image
Right now “China” is making it hard for people like me to “look up to China.” In my personal experience, there are two main ways that this happens (first with the laobaixing, second with the rulers — two distinct groups).

First, in my personal relationships with Mainlanders, people are often so hyper-sensitive about how foreigners see China that we can’t actually have “real” conversations about the Olympics. Anything that could possibly be considered remotely negative is seen as anti-China, and people suspect me of either trying to bash China or of being too stupid to know what I should and shouldn’t say or write. So we just avoid talking about it. This attitude (from teachers and co-workers) is getting very tiresome. It’s sad and disappointing. We try to overlook it and ignore it, but after a while it influences our impression of China and the Chinese people. However this is actually not as big a deal. It’s annoying but I know I’ll get over it, just like I know that Chinese people have lots of different opinions (they don’t all think the same). It’s the second factor (below) that’s much more damaging to foreigners’ opinions of China as a nation.

Second, the way the Olympics have played out, with the broken Olympic-related promises (the protest zones/traps, red-handed cheating, fake minorities, and patronizing statements from Olympic officials at press conferences, for example), really make it impossible for many Westerners to increase their respect of China – even Westerners like me who want to be positive toward China. This factor is the big one, I think, that is killing China’s image in the West.

The effect on China-friendly foreigners
When the Olympics started I was totally going for China, and so were a lot of my foreigner friends. We had the t-shirts, the stickers, the flags, the head bands, everything. There are even Fuwa stickers in our apartment and on my bike. We’re the kind of foreigners who usually criticize Western portrayals of China to our Western friends and families back home. We know that – like every nation – China isn’t perfect, and we don’t expect perfection.

Now, near the end of the Olympics, I’ve actually been cheering for the USA against China and hoping the U.S. would win more medals. Why? (This is especially strange because I’m a Canadian, and we usually cheer for whoever is playing against the USA!) I was totally “中国加油!” before the Olympics, and I didn’t even have very high expectations, but I’ve become disappointed and a little negative (I’m not negative toward the Chinese people – Westerners can easily and naturally make this ruler/people distinction). But I still cheered for China last night against Holland in field hockey.

A key cultural difference?
I’m afraid this may generally be true for many in the West: China looks less worthy of genuine respect after the Olympics. Underneath all the controversy and blaming, I think there’s an important cultural difference that many Mainlanders might not realize about Westerners, and it’s causing a massive miscommunication:

The methods and actions that China’s rulers use to create and protect their glorious national “image” are making a much bigger impression on the world than the constructed image itself ever will.

When it comes to giving genuine respect or “looking up” to people, Westerners typically care more about actions, and less about image and status (obviously there’s plenty obsession over image and status in popular Western media, but there’s also very little genuine respect given in those instances). We don’t use, need, or understand “face.” It doesn’t matter that much to Westerners what Chinese officials say, or what they build, or how extravagant the Opening Ceremony is. Sure, we’ll say “Oh wow that was amazing!” and we really mean it. But what matters most is what the rulers do and what kind of real changes actually happen – not how prettily they paint their face.

I’m not saying America is better or more moral; that’s not the point. I’m just describing one typical Western perspective.

China has poured billions into trying to paint a picture of itself – an image – that looks perfect. But to us it’s just an image, like a commercial, so we naturally and automatically look past it to see if there is any real difference. We don’t “hate China”; we just naturally don’t take commercials very seriously or care about “face” (pride works differently in the West). Culturally, in these kinds of instances, we put less meaning in the “image” and more on actual action (obviously Americans care a lot about image in certain instances – here I’m specifically talking about what influences respect of a nation). But judging from the rulers’ actions and statements during the Olympics, it’s like they expect us to completely ignore their actions and just pretend that the image is reality. Westerners simply can’t accept this; it not only feels insulting and patronizing, it is considered dangerous and stupid to take any powerful entity (government, major corporation) at its word, especially unaccountable powerful entities.

The protest zones are a great example. The government (and many regular Mainlanders?) can’t stand the sight (the image) that actually allowing protests would create. But Westerners don’t care if it looks a little ugly because they think it would be ultimately better for society and people’s actual lives (the reality). That’s why they allow such spectacles in their own countries every day.

Questions for the readers:
I don’t care about having a “who’s nation is better than who” argument. This is about differences in cultural perception, not who’s nation is the greatest. Here’s the main point:

“The methods and actions that China’s rulers use to create and protect their glorious national “image” are making a much bigger impression on the world than the constructed image itself ever will.”

What do you think about the way foreigners see these things? How is a typical Mainland perspective different, and why? What do you think are the most common Mainland perspectives regarding these things? If Mainlanders weren’t so sensitive about their nation’s “face”, do you think they could agree with this Western way of looking at things?

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82 Responses to “(Letter) Lots of us want to love and respect China, but right now China isn’t helping”

  1. Denis Wong Says:

    “First, in my personal relationships with Mainlanders, people are often so hyper-sensitive about how foreigners see China that we can’t actually have “real” conversations about the Olympics.”

    Arthur Henderson-Smith wrote about “Chinese Characteristics” in 1894 but inevitably with a particular political, historical and social perspective. Chinese characteristics have shifted but inevitably remain (like the one above).

    The first point is for those who self-identify as Chinese and ask whether they accept these “characteristics”, taking account that Deng Xiao Ping (no less) built a whole political practice around them.

    The second point is for those who don’t self-identify as Chinese (termed “foreigners” above) and ask whether we (you?) are unwittingly stereotyping and perhaps failing to anticipate the shifts toward self-reflection amongst those “others” and the end to “characteristics”.


  2. Tara Adler Says:

    I agree that Westerners are eager to look behind facade — when it’s someone else’s. I think the effect of the Olympics will be mixed. Westerners will be impressed, in spite of themselves, by how beautiful the games and the country are, but for the sake of their own self-regard, quick to find fault.

    I would hope that, considering the bombing in Atlanta and massacre in Munich, that people would take into account the responsibility and burden of the host nation to provide a safe haven for the gathering of the world’s athletes as a factor when they weigh China’s alleged repression of protest.

    As regards “face” I think it’s hard for Westerners to comprehend for a lot of reasons. We have a similar national impulse — or you wouldn’t see controversy in the presidential campaigns over flag pins — but we don’t have a history of being dominated and disparaged within our own borders.

    Also, it’s hard to gauge how frightened Westerners are of China and that does influence the view of the Olympics. Overall, I think the balance, however, will tip toward the positive when it’s all said and done.

  3. BMY Says:


    If “Westerners can easily and naturally make this ruler/people distinction” , do you want to change the second half of the tile to “but right now Chinese government isn’t helping” according what your post is saying.;)

    As a mainlander who lives in the west, I feel the westerners care as much as Chinese care about personal image.

    On the national level , then I agree with you and I think the way foreigners see these things is a better way for a country.

    I am not able to deeply analyze the culture difference. There might be something like collectivism and individualism involved I don’t know.

    From my experience, this has something to do with the ” backwards” China in the past . when the outside world opened in front of ordinary Chinese people’s eyes the first and most impression of the developed countries were(still are) the constructed images:buildings,bridges,freeway,cars,clean street,green parks ,well fed and well dressed people etc. many Chinese people and government officials simply take the constructed images as the symbols to proof to be a morden place(a town,a city or a country).

    the Chinese government realized this years ago and gave it a negative name called “形象工程“. But I think this time the government automatically put itself into the trap.

    Regarding the “The methods and actions “(some are true and some are media bias I think) used to create the constructed images should have been more carefully selected and implemented. There always a learning curve.

    I believe others would debate whether the solutions like democracy , freedom of speech etc would fix the non-constructed soft image problem or not.

  4. Joel Says:

    Thanks all of you. Interesting feedback. To be honest I was a little worried how the response would be — I’m really not trying to tick people off, but obviously there’s big potential here.

    @Tara – no doubt Western nations regularly build facades as well. I’m not saying they don’t. I will argue, though, that China’s unique cultural heritage (especially regarding face, and perhaps Marxism) means that the Chinese rulers and people relate to facades (or projected images) much differently than Western peoples and governments typically do. It’s an extension of the basic mode of relationship, from personal relationships to international political relationships. In this particular historical instance, the way that the Chinese gov does this provokes disrespect from a lot of Westerners, I think.

    I think it’s a little too simplistic to assign blanket motives (fearfulness, selfishness) to Western criticism of China, though no doubt those particular motives are there. And sure, there are specific aspects to be genuinely impressed about, but the things that matter most to Americans (for whatever reason)… I don’t think there’s much visible positive development to celebrate.

    @BMY – you’re totally right about the title. I just wrote it that way because i thought it made a better title, and because I have the explanation in the article. Also, I actually edited out a lot of explicit references to the government because I don’t want to risk being too directly critical at such a sensitive time. I hope my meaning is clear enough.

    @Denis – re: unwittingly stereotyping. I agree that that is a real possibility… it’s certainly easy enough to do. That’s partly why I tried to make this subjective to my own experiences with Mainlanders and specific actions of the gov surrounding the Olympics. It would be too easy to, for example, to read a bunch of fenqing online and then project that onto my friends and acquaintances here.

    And just for emphasis: I’m not suggesting here that America doesn’t have huge problems, or that America is “better” than China (whatever that means!). I don’t want it to seem like I’m singling out China for special criticism. But this is about a foreigner’s experience of China, so it’s naturally about what China does and how foreigners see it.

    If an overseas Chinese were to write about their perception of America, then it’d be relevant to highlight American actions that annoy Chinese 😉 Actually, I’d find that really interesting.

  5. Hemulen Says:

    @Tara Adler

    As regards “face” I think it’s hard for Westerners to comprehend for a lot of reasons. We have a similar national impulse — or you wouldn’t see controversy in the presidential campaigns over flag pins — but we don’t have a history of being dominated and disparaged within our own borders.

    Exactly what countries are we talking about now? The United States and Switzerland? Or Poland and the Netherlands?

  6. Theo Says:

    America, America, America … some of us “China-friendly foreigners” have no interest or connection with America, or Europe for that matter. It’s not a two horse race (or trifecta). As for the wanting to love and respect China … well, I’m all for a bit of reciprocity.

  7. FOARP Says:

    People should be dealt with as people, all this talk about ‘Chinese’ attitudes and ‘western’ attitudes is unhelpful. The Olympics? I enjoyed them, any sports fan would, the Jamaicans were incredible, the Ethiopian and Kenyan long distance runners were incredible, the Chinese gymnasts were fantastically precise, the synchronised swimmers (the Spanish and the Russians) were just brilliant, and Team GB made me proud. The Chinese government’s involvement in the Olympics? Well, they built the Olympic stadiums, they improved the Olympic city’s infrastructure, the managed to reduce the smog to acceptable limits. Should I be thankful to the Chinese government? I can’t be, because the repeated bitch-slaps that the Chinese government has dealt out to the cause of human rights during the Olympic year would make any offering of thanks meaningless.

  8. Gan Lu Says:


    I’m a native Beijinger who went to high school and university in the U.S. I’m living and studying in Beijing now, with plans to return to the U.S. for graduate school.

    Excuse me for saying so, but you sound a bit like someone who knew next to nothing about China before you came here – romantic notions about pretty girls, Buddhist temples, good food, and Chinese characters, but not a clue about what life in the People’s Republic is really like. I sympathize. I also find many aspects of life here difficult to swallow – e.g., the ubiquitousness of Chinese nationalism/patriotism, the prickly nature of Chinese nationalism/patriotism, the sometimes impenetrable close-mindedness of many Chinese, the virtual absence of civil society (and the unpleasant consequences of that absence), the pollution, etc.

    Cheer up. The Olympics are almost over. Beijing was, in fact, a better place before the games came to town (I’m a big fan of the much improved subway system, however. Two nice, new stops just five minutes from home at 苏州街 and 海淀黄庄.). Hopefully, once it’s all over, the foreign tourists will leave, the 外地人 will return, the Olympic signage will been taken down, people will stop with the incessant flag-waving and 加油ing, the authorities will start to relax, and everything will return to normal again – that is, until the next uprising.

    In any case, you’ve outlined some of the more unpleasant aspects of China. If you can live through this, you can live through almost anything. My advice is to focus less on what you hate and more on what you like. In my experience, trying to deal with the Chinese as a group is a recipe for disaster – as much for Chinese as for foreigners such as yourself. Ignore the nationalism. Stop reading western media reports about China for a while. Take a break from blogging. Concentrate on pretty girls, temples, good food, and learning Chinese.

    Also, never forget that as bad as it may seem to you now, not long ago it was much, much worse. China in 2008 is a big improvement over China in 1988, 1978, and 1968. What will China be like in 2018 and 2028? Who knows.

    What did you expect, anyway? To love everything? Get serious. If you wanted open-mindedness and freedom of expression, you should have stayed in Canada or moved to the U.S.

    P.S. What’s wrong with cheering for the U.S.? I do it all the time.

  9. Hemulen Says:

    @Gan Lu

    As usual, I find myself agreeing with almost everything you say, but I can also identify with Joel’s post, even though I would put it in the way he did. If you’re a foreigner and look physically different from the people around you, it is very difficult just to take a break from the things that annoy you and just embrace reality for what it is. Whether you like it or not, you always get reminded that you’re an outsider and if you’re not careful you’ll get incredibly self-conscious in a short while. We can’t just switch things off in the way I imagine a foreign-educated native Beijinger can do. To sit down on a bench in a park, reading a book and sipping a soft drink, and be left to yourself and your own thoughts – the way lao Zhang and xiao Wang next to me can do – is a luxury not afforded to us.

  10. pug_ster Says:


    I think there’s a difference on what the Western Media reports and what the Chinese Media would want to report. Every night, CCTV could put a negative segment on the US about the Heathcare situation, Guantanamo, Iraq, housing situation, bankrupt Americans etc… I’m sure that within a year many Chinese would have a negative opinion about the USA. However, China does not tend to cover that or put a negative light on those issues.

    The problem with the western Media is that they don’t have any problem covering things to put a negative light on China, from fake fireworks, fake singer, fake gymnasts or other crap like that. Does it have any political, economic, or social importance to China? None at all. I’m sure in the 2012 olympics in London if they have some fake singer, or fake cgi crap, China won’t cover it because there’s little importance anyways.

    About the protest zones. There are many protests in China but most of the time Western Media wasn’t there to cover it. China probably realizes that it is part of life in China. As I say about protests, China doesn’t cover stuff that would particularity embarrass other countries unless they reported them first.

    I think many Canadians or Westerns in general have the perception of individualism and it does not conform to the Authoritarianism (collectivism) schemes within China. You can even see it in the Olympic Slogan of China “One world, One dream” is about ‘Divided we fail, but together we can do anything” is something that Western Media don’t understand about China.

  11. DJ Says:


    Nice essay. Minor details aside, I agree with your central theme: “The methods and actions that China’s rulers use to create and protect their glorious national “image” are making a much bigger impression on the world than the constructed image itself ever will.” I find myself thinking along this line often.

    That said, the general tone from the western medias in their reports (excuse me for using the general term “western” again) is also quite unpleasant in itself and, I believe, contributed greatly toward this problem.

    Let’s use an old analogy here: The host cleans the home before guests arrive, by piling dirty clothes lying on the floor hastily into the closet. Some guests arrive and head directly towards the closet, “Ah Ha! You have dirty laundry hidden here.”

  12. Joel Says:

    @FOARP & Hemulen
    About generalizing… obviously talking in broad terms has its limitations. And I agree that we should deal with individual people as they are, and not prejudge every person we meet according to a predetermined stereotype. However, every person exists within various cultural contexts that shape thinking, values, and behaviour. Therefore there is also lot to be gained by looking at the bigger picture. I assume you agree with me here, otherwise you wouldn’t be a regular in discussions about “Chinese” and “Western” issues.

    And I agree that being a visible minority in Tianjin is not the same thing as being a visible minority in Vancouver, Canada.

    @Gan Lu
    I admit that I have years and years of learning to do before I will have any real clue about China or Mainlanders. But I do understand the basic dynamics of culture stress, which include proper expectations for life in another culture (I finished an M.A. in Intercultural Studies while living in Taiwan, before moving to the Mainland for Mandarin study). I admit this is was an uncharacteristically negative article, but my purpose isn’t to whine about China. It’s to explore the conflicting culture expectations and cross-cultural miscommunication surrounding the Olympics. My own personal experience as a foreigner in China is just serving as an example.

    But isn’t it also true that young, privileged Beijingers (or Shanghaiers, etc.) often don’t have a clue what life is like for, say, rural minorities out West, or what it was like to experience the Cultural Revolution? China’s a big place, and sometimes it’s not just foreigners who are ignorant about what life is like for many of its people.

    Also, nothing wrong with cheering for the U.S. It was a joke – Canadians know that they are just a tiny nation next to the U.S., and that bugs them, so they sometimes express a (harmless) anti-American streak. Secretly I think we all know we’re destined to become the 51st state.

    As a Canadian, I empathize with feeling overlooked when everyone uses America (or Britain) to represent the entirety of Western civilization or all the foreigners in China. But for my purposes here, America serves well enough for discussion fodder.

    I think it’s too simplistic to say, “Western media doesn’t understand China and makes negative reports, that’s why Westerners don’t like China.” I agree that Western and Chinese news media are different. Buy why are they different? There are many reasons, and one big one is cultural differences that lead to different expectations regarding the purpose of news media. These cultural differences also lead to bad P.R. situations: with the Olympics China’s rulers perhaps communicated an overall positive image to many Mainlanders (obviously that’s up for debate), but the same methods made a very negative impression on many Westerners. I’m interested in exploring why there’s a difference.

  13. Gan Lu Says:


    Good point. I’d forgotten that Joel is likely white and sticks out like a sore thumb. Very difficult to blend in with many people whispering “老外” behind your back. Something I never had to deal with while I was in U.S. You should be aware, however, that the subject of the quality (素质) of the Chinese people is much discussed among the Chinese. That is, we are generally aware that we often act like buffoons, spit and fart way too much, and embarrass ourselves in other ways with disappointing regularity. Foreigners are perhaps not aware that such conversations are common. The truth is that our aversion to airing our dirty laundry (家丑不可外扬) – particularly when combined with our tendency to put on airs (摆架子) and engage in assorted buffoonery – is likely to obscure the fact that many Chinese are as unhappy about the things that Joel describes as he is. I, for one, have participated in many conversations with Chinese friends who are disgusted with the over-the-top displays of patriotism. Again, my advice to Joel is to concentrate on the things he enjoys. If, when I thought of the U.S., all I did was focus on George Bush or the next presidential election, my head would explode.

    Finally, you should understand that not everyone here is as blindly patriotic and supportive of the “mass line” as it might appear. By way of example, I had lunch last week with several friends from 中国体育总局 who all believed that He Kexin is underage. In fact, they said that their colleagues at 中体 were all generally in agreement that her age has likely been changed. The Chinese can be as cynical as any American.

  14. Charles Liu Says:

    Joel I think some of the blogs here have a common theme – don’t look down on China. We don’t necessarily have to “look up to China” either. I for one believe there’s a more subjective middle.

    Why make up “crooked teeth/fat face” story? The Child was not “banned from opening ceremoney” (I’ve found a photo of Lin and Yang together on the opening night) as reported.

    Just to be clear, I’m not speaking for the Chinese, and this isn’t some “nationalist response”. I’m American, ain’t from Mainland China, and have never been citizen of the PRC a day in my life.

  15. Joel Says:

    “dirty laundry in the closet” is an appropriate analogy for minor things like fake singing and fudging athletes’ birth dates. But there are other things involved here that are much more important than mere “dirty laundry.”

  16. B.Smith Says:

    Some people here seem to be taking offense at Joel’s post, which I can’t understand: he is obviously not trying to be offensive, only explaining the way his perceptions towards China have been altered, and what has caused those shifts. That is something I would think any reader of this blog – which has the purported purpose of increasing cross-cultural understanding – would appreciate. Gan Lu, your response is filled with trite, cutesy phrases that do nothing to further the conversation (e.g., “you sound a bit like someone who knew next to nothing about China before you came here – romantic notions about pretty girls, Buddhist temples, good food, and Chinese characters, but not a clue about what life in the People’s Republic is really like“; “If you can live through this, you can live through almost anything. My advice is to focus less on what you hate and more on what you like.“). This post isn’t asking for pseudo-psychological guesses at the author’s personal history, nor is it asking for condescending advice about the proper outlooks for a foreigner in China. It is asking for Mainland perspectives, how they differ, and why. It was posted in a respectful tone; it should be replied to in the same.

    In any event, this is a prime example of one of the difficulties the typical Western mentality faces when dealing with China: an inability or unwillingness to deal with difficult issues and questions, replaced instead by a preference to change the topic, respond with ad hominem attacks, or do virtually anything else except answer the question. There is a mentality that sees every query that isn’t overtly positive as a negative attack on China: and this kind of mentality will never win the world’s opinion. Not all Chinese have it, of course – but in seems to be common in one degree or another.

    That said, I must emphatically state that in my experience, I met a decent number of Chinese who would openly talk with me about these kinds of issues, mostly students of mine. They were in the minority, but there was a good number of them. Of course, I always peppered our conversations with areas in which my country, America, had made mistakes, to show that I wasn’t trying to attack any one country. Every nation on Earth has its good and bad points, and there is no shame in addressing the bad points, especially if you are doing so in order to improve those areas. That is something that most Westerners would be proud of (hence our Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month). China is a great country with the hardest-working, most hospitable people I have ever met – but how can it open it’s arms to the world if it is too insecure to confidently and openly address issues the rest of the world deems important? I think this fault lies much more in the CCP than the common people (I know I will be ridiculed for that statement): the Chinese were talking about some of these issues, including He’s age, before the Party censored the conversation. For all the cultural differences between the “East” and “West”, I think the majority of the people in both camps would be happy with some simple honesty from their leaders.

    …Then again, we could all just put on our rose-colored glasses and focus “more on what we like”. People who focus on what they hate – abolitionists who hated slavery, WW2 soldiers who hated Nazis, Ghandi who hated the way his country was being run by Britain – are always stirring up problems and creating disharmony in society. If we all just close our eyes for a while, eventually we will open them to a beautiful, perfect world without any problems. Yay!

  17. Charles Liu Says:

    Joel, do you see something sublimital in comment 15?

    Why is it called “fake singing” not “lip syncing”? Is it really that much uglier when the Chinese do it? Young cast members in Disneyland lip cync to soundtrack that are not their own all the time, should we be accused of being cruel to those children? Lin Miaoke was not introduced by name for her performance; she was one of the three girls for the part according to the program guide.

    I think the flip side of your “hard to look up” is “easy to look down”, I’d like to suggest.

  18. Gan Lu Says:


    “CCTV could put a negative segment on the US about the Heathcare situation, Guantanamo, Iraq, housing situation, bankrupt Americans etc… I’m sure that within a year many Chinese would have a negative opinion about the USA. However, China does not tend to cover that or put a negative light on those issues.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me. China does exactly that – if not every night on CCTV, then in the multitude of other media sources available to the Chinese public. Get real, man. Years of talking shit about the U.S has, in fact, already convinced a great many Chinese that the U.S. is irredeemably hostile to China.

    Really guys! How much longer to we have to listen to ignorant Chinese go on about how much less biased the Chinese media is. Truthfully, it’s an embarrassment to listen to such drivel. It’s one thing to take exception to the way that China is sometimes treated in the western media. It’s quite another thing to make assertions such as the one above.

    Again, I have to say that many of the comments posted to BFC concerning the perceived anti-China bias exhibited by the West are both ignorant and willfully hypocritical.

    Chinese people simply can’t accept criticism – constructive or not. We are thin-skinned, petty, and too quick to point fingers at others. A sorry state of affairs, if you ask me.

  19. HLL Says:

    A little off-topic. Here is an interesting comment by James Shen:

  20. Gan Lu Says:

    @ Joel

    I didn’t think that you were whining, and I take no offense from your essay. As I said in my earlier post, I share many of your feelings. In fact, as you can probably tell from my posts, I can China-bash with the best of them.

    It’s true that many young, urban Chinese have no real understanding of what life is like in rural China – though that is not true for everyone – for example, my parents’ generation and my classmates from other parts of China were raised quite differently than I was. It’s also true that most Chinese know very little about the U.S. (or Canada, for that matter). I know that I didn’t. I thought I was pretty hot shit before I left Beijing to go to the U.S. – sophisticated, well-educated (at 13!), ready for anything. Boy was I wrong. And my parents were no better. We Chinese are fond of saying to foreigners, “We understand you better than you understand us.” This may be marginally true, but we Chinese are still woefully ignorant. Not exactly in a position to congratulate ourselves or point fingers at others.

    I’m not generally opposed to intelligent criticism of the U.S. I’ve just grown tired of hearing from people who have nothing good to say about it, people who make like the U.S. is the source of all the world’s problems. I benefitted greatly from my 8 years there, and I hope to go back for graduate school in a year. My parents are still there.

    You have an MA from Taiwan? And you’ve come to Beijing to study Chinese? Was English the language of instruction at your university in Taiwan?

  21. MoneyBall Says:

    Dear Joel, you worry too much.

    Do you live in China? I ‘d never understand what makes one so concerned about a foreign country —- like writing something this long without getting paid LOL, I mean I ‘ve been to dozens of countries pretty much only things I care is their food, eye candy, and if there is some nice places to see.

    That said, thanks for the concern, but West’s repect and love is not something China is really concerned with rightnow, US has been ridiculed over years all around the world they are just doing fine, this world is built on material things. I know you are very upset about lip-sync, fake firworks, KeXin’ s age etc, but sorry to tell you ordinary Chinese dont care about those things, they have a lot of other real important things to worry about. You think China as a super ideological threat we think China as 1.3 billion people need to be fed, that’s where’s the gap comes from, donkey’s lip meets horse’s mouth, that’s why people don’t open up to you, not that they ‘re all nationalistic nut jobs trying to save face, or they are afraid of the “rulers” (though you pretending to be Brazillian might help LOL).

    So why don’t you let go of yourself, just have some fun while you are here, stop thinking China as a gigantic “image”, just enjoy the little things on the streets if you can, you may go away liking this place.

  22. HLL Says:

    Robert Siegel was in Chengdu when the earthquake occurred, in a report he asked: “Where are the trailers?”
    I laughed when I heard this on NPR because it reminded me of the question “何不食肉糜?”.

  23. EugeneZ Says:

    @Tara Adler #2,

    Very insightful ! Thanks. Jeol has ways to go in understanding China as compared to you. Beijing Olympics are very helpful to rebuild China’s self-confidence. In my conversations with people in Beijing, I remind people not to get overly cocky. China is on the right track in almost everyway, but there are still a lot of catching up to do and a lot of soul-searching that needs to take place to really define what modern China means to Chinese and to the world.

  24. Hemulen Says:

    @Gan Lu

    Thanks for your response and for reminding me that these are very common topics of conversation among Chinese. I have actually participating in some of them, or rather, just listened, as people vent their frustrations with the way things are going. I also think that your point about the ignorance about the US is well taken. Not being American myself, but having lived here for a while, I’m painfully aware of the fact that people around the world think they know more about the US than they actually do. Thanks for brining a breath of fresh air to this blog!

  25. Hemulen Says:


    I think you misread Gan Lu’s post. From what I have read here he would probably agree with most of what you say, but adding that many Chinese are just as critical of these problems as you and I are…

  26. MAC Says:

    “Foreigners are perhaps not aware that such conversations are common.”

    Some of us spend far too much time “practicing” on Chinese websites and are well aware of Chinese criticism of the government and society. This gives up hope that the Chinese are not as hopelessly blinkered as they come off, but it also makes it even more confounding and frustrating when people who themselves are harshly critical of China- frankly, I have seen many comments about China by Chinese that would probably get one labeled a racist in polite company in the west- offended by rather innocuous observations of foreigners. Being from an unpopular country, I know it can be frustrating to have people throwing their sometimes ill-informed complaints about your country in your face like it’s you’re fault, but really, many Chinese people are pushing themselves away from everybody else with their oversensitivity. I have had it reported back to me that people I barely know have said that I “look down on Chinese people” after one meeting, and I honestly cannot pinpoint any words or actions that would reasonably lead someone to conclude that.

  27. MAC Says:

    Please excuse my grammar errors.

  28. Daniel Says:

    What did you say or do at the time Mac?

    Maybe some of the readers can decipher some of those misunderstandings or reactions, if possible.
    I remember not long ago when I took a course studying the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Most of my peers were quite objective regarding our public discussions but privately some took criticisms regarding that part of the world in a matter that seem questionable as well. Later on, I figured at the time that some people were just that way.

  29. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Joel:
    excellent post. I agree that when things look overly stage-managed, it leaves one to wonder why that degree of stage-management was deemed necessary, and what there was to fear from a little more spontaneity, and dare I say, reality.
    Many respondents seem to suggest that foreign opinion is of no concern to China. If that were so, then why the image-makeover for the Games? You only throw dirty laundry into the closet if you care what the visitors think about your house.

  30. JL Says:

    Hi Joel,

    I know what you mean about feeling like you can’t have real conversations with people about certain topics. I often felt like that in China, that even though my views were mostly positive, the few negatives would be interpreted as just the biased opinions of another laowai out for some China-bashing.
    But I think it happens everywhere; I know Chinese here in New Zealand sometimes feel the same way about patriotic New Zealanders. This doesn’t justify such hyper-sensitivity, but if you find yourself having two seperate sets of opinions; one for the locals and one for the other foreigners, I think that’s a pretty normal thing. So while I agree with you about your basic point, if the situation is making you feel, as you say, sad, tired and disappointed, I think you need to rethink how you approach being in China.

    The advice I gave myself in this respect was to spend less time on the Internet and thinking about things like the Olympics, and more time doing whatever took me to China in the first place.
    Above GAN LU mentioned that maybe you were naive about China before you came, and expected Buddhist temples and pretty girls and good food. I have no idea whether Gan is right about this or not. But there’s nothing wrong with being interested in Buddhism; loads of Chinese people are, and it’s just as much a part of the modern PRC as the Olympics is (was). You mentioned that you’re a history geek, well I’ve found that spending more time with Song Dynasty and less with “China vs the West” type conversations did wonderful things for my sanity and enjoyment of life in China.

  31. MAC Says:


    That particular incident was a couple years ago, but I honestly don’t think I did anything that could reasonably be so broadly construed. My then-fiance now-wife and I got wrangled into eating dinner with a coworker of hers who I was biased against because she was apparently known at the school as a paid spy for the school authorities. I made nice, but I’m not that outgoing of a guy. I suppose the comment I made to my wife on the way to the restaurant about a conversation I’d witnessed while waiting for them- between two apparent strangers facing each other while taking a dump over public squat-toilets- would be cause for offense for many Chinese coming from a foreigner, but I don’t think the third party heard that. My wife suggested that the woman didn’t understand much of what I said (I’m pretty lazy about speaking Chinese- I’m a reader- and they were both English teachers) and that her confidence was ruined. But turning that into me 看不起中国人is pretty ridiculous.

  32. AmericanNow Says:

    It is too sad to note that many Chinese feel “Westerners” 看不起中国人 because the Chinese themselves do exactly that. I need not to repeat the history that has brought such pain and such twisted self-loathing. To take criticism objectively you have to be able to look at yourself objectively, that is, with some detachment, like yourself is an interesting thing to observe. If the only way you can approach yourself is like searching a wound, it’s difficult not to be aversive and over-sensitive. It hurts!

  33. chorasmian Says:


    I agree with you that this Olympics doesn’t improve the image of China in other country. However, it successfully make ordinary Chinese people believe that China’s image is improved, because by Chinese TRADITIONAL thinking, we have fulfill our responsibility and we deserve approving from our guest. Anyway, from my point of view, it doesn’t really matter. Actually some negative comment from foreigner could be better. For many Chinese people, it is the first time to interact with foreigner. No matter how server the misunderstanding could be, it is still better than deal with foreigner only could be found in our imagination.

    For many overseas visitor to China, “face” is always connect to government behavior. But in reality, “face” is part of our culture, and our social behavior is affected by it as well. Perhaps you can feel it in your neighbors, spending such money on Olympics is supported by almost every Chinese people.

    In general, I think you have contact with the other side of Chinese culture before you understand it well enough, so China could be at the risk of losing a friendly foreigner. I recommend that you should read some books about the philosophy concept “内外有别”, followed by the topic “君君臣臣父父子子”. If your Classical Chinese reading is good enough, read some books about debates between Confucian scholars in Song Dynasty would be very enlightening. But don’t be shocked by their debate style, according to westernal interpretation, these debates are full of insulting and name calling. You need to familiar with this style to understand their idea.

    BTW, if deeply discussion with neighbors is your concern, the only way out is make them treat you as a local, not a foreigner. I know it is never easy, but you know, conversation between locals is different to that one between a local and a foreigner.

  34. chorasmian Says:


    All these oversensitive reactions are because many Chinese do not walk out of the shadow of the sad memory of 1840-1945 yet.

  35. Daniel Says:

    I guess on the broader level, it seems that chorasmian is close to why those Chinese are oversensitive and would make such comments towards you Mac.

    Some people make the past too real and present than it should be. On a side off-topic note, in an extreme case, this can be quite serious. I read that taking too much of past is a big reason behind deperate cases of suicide. You know, if there was someone who was obvious showing the signs of such, one of the first things that is recommended, from what I’ve read and heard, is not to intellectualize, joke nor be-little the issue. It’s to say a few words like I’m here with you, hold their hands, hug, etc. The main point is to bring them back into the present (as well as assuring that they are not alone) because their minds are too clouded and can not distinguish time. What’s past is past and it can’t hurt you.
    I typed all that down because personally, I still think the root of any society is with the people, as a group of individuals. That culture and history maybe a strong fabric but it’s possible to understand the individual without all these commentary subjects.

    I want to understand more, but it is really hard without actually hearing it and knowing more details. Even though there’s a lot of nonsense, JL is appears to be close as well. Taking in a perspective of a local and foreigner.
    It’s quite apparent that many are aware of the issues in this society and many people seem to be realistic on the things that they can or can not control. Since it’s hard for some to love and respect China, it might be helpful to do what others have mentioned, to focus back on what made people attracted to it. There’s got to be something and judging from the post entries, it doesn’t sound like the government or the glamor of modern society and trends are what made people want to “love and respect” China.

    btw., if you all are interested, http://www.chinahistoryforum.com is an interesting place to check out for those of you interested in basically anything about the Chinese Civilization. Trust me that it is hard to get away from any of the questionable debates regarding anything about China, but you don’t have to participate and recenty there’s been some forum members who are very knowledgeble regarding their interests and not let politics overshadow it.

  36. Sedate Says:

    There’s way too much value placed on “respect,” whatever that is supposed to mean. Does anyone respect Americans simply because? The rest of the world respect the U.S. because of economic power and military might. The latter is built on the strength of the former. China’s magnificent hosting of these Olympic games is a testament to a growing economic power. And the shift in economic power continue to shift to China no matter how much China is “respected” for one reason — China’s education system. I graduated from college in Connecticut and I have absolutely no idea how this country will keep up with “anyone,” let alone China, in a generation with the caliber, or lack of thereof, people it is churning out through its school systems. This country can only brain-drain other countries for so long until people realize they can make just as much money in their own country as coming to this one. This is already starting to happen.

  37. Denis Wong Says:

    Joel says:
    “It would be too easy to, for example, to read a bunch of fenqing online and then project that onto my friends and acquaintances here.” (comment 4)

    This answers my second point (see comment 1). What about my first point (see comment 1) directed at those who self-identify as Chinese? Do they accept these characteristics (e.g of the fenqing)?

    If so, then we have a debate and we might start to unravel what exactly is meant by “One World, One Dream”. If not, we are locked into unbridgeable essences about “being Chinese” and about “west” as monolith imagined in much the same way as China has been.

    The fundamental contradiction within “One World, One Dream” is this insistence upon the division of the Chinese and the West, the a priori starting point of nearly every discussion, including this one.

    How about another starting point:
    “What makes humans human? How can we make them more so?” Jereme Bruner

  38. Joel Says:

    Thanks all. DJ (#11) gave a really great picture to help us understand this better, so I’m going to borrow it. Compare these two scenes. The second scene I think captures how many Westerners feel about some (not all, or even most) of China’s problems and their relationship to the Olympics.

    Scene 1: Imagine someone invites you over for an expensive feast, with great food and a well-set table. It would be horrible manners to go open their closet and say, “Wow, you have so much dirty laundry! You’re a horrible person!” I would call the lip-synching controversy this kind of ‘laundry.’ It’s fine for the foreign press to mention it, but it’s rude and self-serving for them to obsess about it. It’s just not that big a deal.

    Scene 2: Now, imagine the same dinner invitation. A lavish banquet, and the host (government) has lots of servants (the People) providing great service. But as the guest you keep hearing this muffled yelling. You can’t ignore it. You open the closet door… chained prisoners! But the host just keeps insisting that you look at the banquet table and the food, and takes offense at any suggestion that there’s a problem.

    I agree that the singing controversy made both China and the American media look dumb. They should have ignored it. But many Westerners feel that other things — like broken Olympic-related promises regarding free speech and the resulting arrests — are just too important to ignore. The cross-cultural communication problem happens when the foreigners can’t ignore the ‘prisoners in the closest’ because they feel that’s more important than good table manners. But the gov (and some of the people) keeps insisting that foreigners only admire the ‘house, the banquet, and the food,’ because those things are more important.

    @Denis Wong
    You are singing my song! 😉 In conversations in Tianjin I often deliberately try to speak in terms of mutual solidarity. It’s not always easy, because that dark line between insider/outsider in Chinese culture is thick. It influences my thinking and writing, to where I start using such stark categories myself, even though I believe what we have in common is more profound than our differences.

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve copied those phrases down. And I agree – part of the difficulty faced by the Chinese gov is that they have two very different audiences (Mainlanders and foreigners) and what impresses one looks bad to the other. Also, more and more I’m finding there’s a wide range of opinion among Mainlanders regarding the Olympics, but in more traditional thinking, the Olympics were all about China getting face – am I right?

    @JL, Gan Lu, and others concerned with my personal feelings
    See #13 @Gan Lu. I appreciate the concern, but really, I’m fine. 😉 My interest here is in exploring cross-cultural communication differences, not having a cry. 😉 I’m merely using my personal feelings as an example of a Westerners perception. Overall I’m still loving life in China with the Chinese people. No Olympics could change that.

    @Charles Liu
    re: “fake singing.” First, who cares? Second, “fake singing” is technically more accurate because she wasn’t lip-synching to her own voice. Third, lip-synching is common in the America, but pretty much everyone thinks it’s lame and fake. I think it’s lame no matter what country it’s in, and I’d use even harsher language for it in America because there they won’t take offense as easily. Fourth, who cares?

    You have completely missed the point, and have me completely wrong.

  39. Gan Lu Says:

    @ Joel

    Your essay has been picked up by China Digital Times, an aggregator run by the University of California at Berkeley. The site (chinadigitaltimes.net) is blocked in China, however, so you’ll need a proxy to view it.

  40. Joel Says:

    CDT has been in my Bloglines for a while. Nice to see Fool’s Mountain get some attention (i don’t mind either 😉 ).

  41. Jimmy T Says:


    Thanks for sharing your experience. “Face”, right, its a strange beast that explains why some people may not welcome your negative yet constructive comments. The chinese society has just started its exposure to the international league, so, do allow some time and I believe this is going to change.
    MoneyBall’s hypersensitivity just reinforces your point.

  42. TommyBahamas Says:

    Very nice post Joel.

    I love China, but I love my friends (White, Asians & Mainlanders) in China more. I miss my home country a lot but I think I will stay in China until I feel it is time to go home or move on.

    @Gan Lu & @Hermulen:
    “Good point. I’d forgotten that Joel is likely white and sticks out like a sore thumb. Very difficult to blend in with many people whispering “老外” behind your back.”

    Boy, do I agree/sympathize with you guys!

    I am an English teacher in China – but I am not white nor do I hold one of the G5 passports.

    I get asked every now and then if I spoke Chinese even though I am Asian. (I am fluent in Mandarin)

    I’ve been rejected as an English teacher because I am not white.

    How about that?

  43. Chinawatcher Says:

    @ Joel (No. 38)
    I was thinking of coming up with an analogy to take forward DJ’s ‘dirty laundry’ analogy, but yours communicates the idea better.

    @TommyBahamas (No. 42)

    (We meet again! 🙂 )
    Thanks for sharing your interesting cultural experience. Just curious: which is your “home country”? (I’m guessing you’re Malaysian Chinese.)

  44. DJ Says:

    Your article is totally marred by the political correctness running throughout out. Er… start thinking for yourself for a change? Get an IQ test? Why not write an article without the pathetic PC genuflection in every sentence? No wonder it is Fool’s Mountain.
    Note from Admin: This is not the same DJ as our editor DJ, who has commented earlier.

  45. wuming Says:

    @DJ — “Your article is totally marred by the political correctness running throughout out.”
    I second that, though probably not say “totally”

    People who inject such strong moral and ideological indignation into comments here and in the age-gate threads have an obligation to apply them equally, start with your home country.

  46. chorasmian Says:


    “The Olympics are all about China get face”. This statement is oversimplified. In a traditional thinking, this Olympics is more like a worship to heaven on country level. Just like the “泰山封禅“ happened hundreds years ago.

    The diversity of opinions from mainlanders on almost every topic is so significant that sometimes we can’t figure out which is majority. However, I can assure you that almost all these different views locate some where between the traditional thinking and western (more precisely, modernized) thinking.

  47. Joel Says:

    @DJ(#44), @wuming
    If you guys would be more specific, it would help me out. I’m not sure exactly what you actually mean by “political correctness” and “PC genuflection.” What specifically are you objecting to? And how do you think I should do it differently? (Thanks admin for clarifying who’s who.)


    Thanks, that’s helpful. And I agree with your nuance from “western” to “modernized,” though obviously that’s a messy distinction due to the historical birthplace of modernization.

  48. Jane Says:

    “I’m trying to understand and respect China.”

    Joel, I too think you are trying too hard. IMO, the best way to get to know China and the Chinese is to let go of ourselves (our preconceptions, judgmental eyes, the things we want to talk about, the way we want the Chinese to think), and go with the flow of the Chinese way of life, get to know the Chinese as individuals, accept them for who they are, if at the end of the day, you still do not like it, it’s okay. You are not obligated to like China and they are not obligated to make themselves likable to everybody.

  49. snow Says:


    You impress me as truly good willing and honest.
    My suggestion to you would be not to make big deal of, nor trying to find easy answer to explain many things the Chinese authorities or some Old Hundred Names say or do which make you feel uncomfortable or inconceivable. As with the situation in every country, the functioning authorities and people around you are not always representative of the mankind with best qualities; and the present of a nation or a people is inevitably preconditioned by its unique history, culture, and level of socio-economic development. China is no exception in this respect.The issue is not that whether China is or “isn’t helping”. If you really want to “love or respect China ” or any country, understand her history and culture first (requiring many hard reading and life experience), and then you may achieve a better understanding of the current problems that have bothered both the Chinese who are trying to reinvent themselves and build up a civiler society and the westerners who are tying to help like you.

  50. TommyBahamas Says:

    Jane & Snow,

    Exactly….I remembr there was a saying, “Love covers all wrong,” or something like that.

    *43…Chinawatcher ,
    Hi, Yes, hello again 🙂
    What matters is that I have chosen to experience China for all the reasons that also attracted many
    of you to be here in the first place, and apparently still does.
    I get this very common quetion from Chinese students, “How can I improve my English?” My answer is usually similar to Snow’s above (but the reverse): If you really want to be good in English or any language, understand the history and culture first (requiring many hard reading and life experience) blah blah blah…Sadly, most of the time I get this sorta disappointed look from these students who perhaps were hoping to hear some magical shortcuts from me.

  51. Jerry Says:

    Wow, I found this out on CDT. This forum is great, with a lot of good discussion rather than hyperbolic invective. It is also good to read some of the cynical remarks. I appreciate good cynicism and sarcasm. There is a lot to digest here, so I will make just a few remarks.

    I am a Russian Jewish American living in Taipei. I retired from Microsoft 2 years ago. I moved here 9 months ago. I had visited several times last year before moving here.

    I, like the Chinese, come from a very old culture, the Jewish culture. Our culture has undergone much change and transformation in the last 150 years. And I am very glad that my grandfather and grandmother were able to leave Russia 100 years ago and immigrate to the US.

    It is good to see Chinese members of this forum being so open and honest here. I do not find such conversations here in Taipei, except with expats. I have hungered for critical, conceptual, and creative thinking here. Maybe the dearth I experience is just an apparent dearth. But I wonder. It seems that most of the education here is rote learning. Also, determinism/fatalism is very prevalent here. Add to that, “saving face and not wanting to make mistakes” and just general Chinese culture. What I find is a huge gulf in communication, far larger than just language. But I am a scientist by nature, so in a weird way, I find this both vexing and interesting at the same time. I know: I am paradoxical. But I am Jewish. I will find a way through the difficulty.

    I love some elements of my life here very much (You can’t love or enjoy everything). I enjoy being away from Western/American cultural pressures (if America has a culture). I love the personal way versus the big corporate way. I also know I will never be Chinese. So, essentially, I don’t feel pressure from Chinese culture. I enjoy the discourses I have with people here. I just know that they will never go very deep, at least for now. I also enjoy having the time and freedom to write, read and study. I track typhoons and earthquakes. I study Asian pollution, especially Chinese pollution. I love the freedom to continually learn. And having been born a loner, I am very accustomed to the solitary life.

    That is it for now. Thanks for all your contributions, except for #44 DJ. There are some other forums where you can practice your diatribe, invective and name-calling.

  52. WiseOldMan Says:

    Hi Joel,

    Having scholarly discussions helps improve both dialogue and understanding so it’s great that you are wanting to find out more about cultural differences, as well as being honest about how you feel.

    Firstly I am Chinese brought up in Australia for most of my life, however my parents were from China during the Cultural Revolution era, and have a distaste for the communist government and the lifestyle they had projected. However a lot of the older generation Chinese still have pride for their both country as well as their adopted country.

    For the most part, I believe, in the modern era, that the fear of China comes from Communism, the fear that America and most of the Western developed nations feel about it. Thus the Vietnam war, for fear of Communism being spread out into the world. It was America that had spread the propaganda that Communism is out to get the free-world, and it doesn’t help that this fear is still running deep within the America, afterall it wasn’t all too long ago that the Vietnam war occurred. But this point doesn’t excuse everything that has been happenning, and I agree that cross cultural differences also plays a large part in these misunderstandings.

    *I believe some of the hypersensitivies that you experience from some Chinese maybe due to the cultural perception of Country. Through most part of History, and the way towns/cities are built they are usually surrounded by walls. Enclosed and protected from the outside world, so things can be govern internally. Even the character for Country (国) is as such. Chinese like to do things their own way, they may appreciate your input on ideas, comments and views, but we like to move at our own pace.

    *Lets take the example of “Prisoners at the banquet”, that’s a good example however the Chinese will resolve this matter differently. Firstly being invited to a banquet, a good host will do its utmost to make the guest feel welcome, and leave with a full stomach (even if it means that the host’s family will suffer, due to face). Being a guest also means you have to respect the hosts hospitality, so eat the hosts food, drink the hosts wine and feel happy for the duration of the banquet, i.e you should NOT have snooped at the Closet. Once the banquet is over, than you may politely ask the host what the noise is all about, being concerned you can go check. Discovering the “Prisoners” you can then ask the host what all these people are doing there.

    Now moving this example to the Protests etc… the way the Chinese view it is that they don’t mind protests, but why at a stage during or before their Hosting of the Olympics. I know that the protestors want to do it at a stage where they believe they will get the most media attention, however to the Chinese, it’s like guests slapping them in the face during them hosting the banquet.

    For many of us who are able to enjoy the freedom now, know how much better it is to be able to think freely, express freely and live in a society where our rights are respected. However those in a Democratic society should also understand that it’s not that the Chinese don’t want Democracy and the freedoms with it. But they want to pursue it at their own pace, knowing very well that they are in a very delicate fragile web.

    During the Foreign invasion period, Chinese were suffering from both the Qing Dynasty as well as the oppression and unfair treatment from the Foreigners. The Chinese welcomed them in open arms, but the brought warships and opium onto our doorsteps (understandable if we view them with a bit of suspicion). Then came the Japanese, who tortured, oppressed and experimented with the Chinese, but finally they were being pushed back by Communist and Nationalist parties. Then came the civil war which the Communist won over…thinking that finally some peace could be brought out by Mao, only poverty, hunger and death resulted. Although Mao did bring about many deaths and bad rules, to a lot of the Chinese at that time he was a savior that brought them out of Foreign rule and oppression.

    Many were still living in poverty, even after Mao, many freedoms were taken away too, everything that was done was controlled severely, but there was food and some work around for those who were willing to work for a pitance. Then came the Economic revolution where finally a lot of people were taken out of Poverty, where people are able to eat, dress and shop. For those who are still in poverty, the dream of getting out of it is alive and well, it is like another HK in their own doorstep.

    The sentiment for most Chinese is that, we would rather be able to have a right to food, housing, medicine and education than the right to freedom of speech. If it means that most Chinese are able to eat than they rather forgo Democracy.

  53. Chops Says:

    “Some of the political fallout from the games has not been so positive. Last week, police sentenced several members of the group Students for a Free Tibet and citizen journalists recording their protests to 10 days of administrative detention. The group said that on Sunday during the closing ceremony, China deported those detained.

    But some observers point out that from a Chinese perspective, the Olympics are not a time for openness: They are a time to show social order and unity, a time when you tidy up your house before the guests arrive — or at least hide the dirty laundry.”


  54. Joel Says:

    Thanks, WiseOldMan. I appreciate you taking the time to share that.

    You’re explanation of “Country” with walls around it reminds me of the way Lin YuTang described popular understanding of “family” (or “home”) as well as “nation” and the lack of “civic consciousness” among Mainlanders — the individual submits himself to the greater good of the “family,” while everything outside the walls of the home is just “loot” to be plundered in fierce competition… at both a family and a national level.

    I’ve always found it interesting — and telling — how Mainlanders are so forgiving of Mao (who arguably did more damage to Chinese society and culture and caused the deaths of more Chinese than foreigners ever did), but 19th century wrongs by foreigners are still the biggest factor in many Mainlanders’ world outlook. That is a very suspicious situation, from my Western point of view. I think it indicates certain Chinese cultural/worldview realities regarding “race” and “nation,” not to mention the power of education.

    I’m not interested in starting a Mao debate. My point is that as a foreigner, I see a massive double-standard here (overly-charitable to Mao; overly-suspicious of foreigners), especially considering (1) the amount of trauma done by each and (2) the time in history these respective offenses occurred. Questions: What are the underlying cultural factors that cause this double standard? And how are they connected to the meaning of the Olympics for China?

  55. WiseOldMan Says:

    Hi Joel,

    **My point is that as a foreigner, I see a massive double-standard here (overly-charitable to Mao; overly-suspicious of foreigners)**

    I don’t think there is a double standard as such. Firstly, when Mao regained control of China he had given people hope that the Han Chinese can finally take back their country (i.e Qing Rule as well as Foreign Invasion). For that Mao was a National Hero. However like all leaders who got into power, and had too much power, he became suspicious of all around, repeating history, in killing those who helped him to power and trusting no one else. Through time he became much of a tyrant who caused a lot of deaths. However it was too late for the Chinese to do anything as Mao had iron clad rule, as well as propaganda that made the Chinese have hope for a better life.

    A lot of Chinese would voice their opinions on Mao and the restrictive rule of the Communist parties, but as you know you can’t really voice your opinion about the government without repercussions. Also I guess the sentiment to most Chinese is also that although Mao had done some atrocious things, he had meant well for the Country, and history has shown that a lot of “Emperors” who had gained power almost always causes this much grief before the country becomes better. True of First Emperor of Qin, First Emperor of Ming, Kublei Khan of Yuan and the Qing Dynasty.

    As for Foreigners, throughout their occupation of Chinese territories they have belittled and humiliated to the point of making them feel inferior to Foreigners for the first time in History. (Yuan and Qing dynasty, although were non Han Chinese dynasties they still relied on Chinese culture to run their dynasties). The Chinese have a strong saying in that “We rather die, than be humiliated”.

  56. Denis Wong Says:

    @Joel, @WiseOldMan

    The situation with Mao is easy. You simply have to take your history back to the “sick man of Asia”, compare it to the technocracy we see today and look at who is in between. Another way of looking at it is in terms of the medal haul of China compared to that of India. India is a fine country with democracy and civil society but continues to be riddled with class, caste and religious divisions. China hasn’t got democracy, but technocracy is better than nothing and you can take your pick. So for an average laobaixing, since the Cultural Revolution is now done and dusted, one might as well admire Mao.

    Of course its not so simple, because aspects of the Cultural Revolution might rebound – religion, for example, is hardly dead and buried and class conflict is not just apparent, but alive and well. Regardless, Mao is doing fine because Deng, despite his quibbles, was a Maoist and the inheritance is intact.

  57. Wukailong Says:

    I bought teaching materials about Mao’s thinking (毛泽东思想) some years ago and was struck by the absence of any post-Liberation material. It was centered almost exclusively on military strategies. One might just as well admire Mao just because he came in between, but why not show more admiration for Deng Xiaoping who was able to pick up the pieces and do something with them. I’m not sure I would call Deng a maoist, unless we subscribe to the modern, watered-down version of it mentioned above. Full maoism should include class struggle, self-criticism and all the other stuff, and Deng certainly did not agree with that.

  58. chorasmian Says:


    I am afraid you can’t complain about the double standard, as Mao Ze Dong is regarded as a god by many Chinese. Just like no one condemn Jehovah for destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. You may argue that can’t compare history with Bible story, but in Chinese traditional interpretation, there is not a clear boundary between history and myth. Although more and more Chinese pick up the modernized thinking, but they are still affected by Confucian, more or less.

  59. Jerry Says:

    @joel, @ WiseOldMan

    Thanks for your comments, WiseOldMan. I agree that scholarly, intellectual discussions improve dialogue and understanding. I would also add that we need to deal with our emotional, irrational side, too. It is a delicate and often messy balance, but such is life.

    As a second generation Russian American Jew (secular), I have been fascinated by my 9 months in Taipei. I have learned a lot about myself, Chinese people and Chinese culture. Since I am retired, I have the opportunity to spend a lot of time learning, reading, writing, and experiencing my neighbors in my neighborhood, Tianmu.

    Interesting comment: “For the most part, I believe, in the modern era, that the fear of China comes from Communism, the fear that America and most of the Western developed nations feel about it. Thus the Vietnam war, for fear of Communism being spread out into the world. It was America that had spread the propaganda that Communism is out to get the free-world,”.

    I basically agree with that comment. But I want to go deeper. I believe that those in power in the US used the “Communist bogeyman” as a way to create fear in the America. That fear was used to cover up the plunder by the military-industrial complex, amongst other reasons and issues. I do not look kindly on LBJ, Nixon, McNamara, Kissinger, Westmoreland and the defense industry which made a fortune of the Vietnam War (American War as my friends in Hanoi call it). I also suspect that protection of other’s (on foreign lands and in foreign water) natural resources and oil reserves (for American use) played a part, too. And who knows, maybe part of promoting fear was genuine on their part? Life can be pretty complex. Who knows exactly what goes through the mind of leaders when they create the “Gulf of Tonkin” incident, encourage an attack on Pearl Harbor, drop atomic bombs on Japan, invent lies about WMDs in Iraq, and invent lies about Iran?

    And America continues on in its tradition of demonizing enemies and has now created a “War on Terror”. Want to create a bogeyman? Just call your intended enemies “terrorists”. Just look at what we have done in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Just look at our proxy, Israel, and what they did and are doing in Lebanon and Gaza. Just look at our current stances against Iran, Russia and Gaza. Just look at how much money Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater, etc. are making, or should I say, stealing.

    As you can probably tell, I am no fan of LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, the 2 Bushes or Dick Cheney. Nor am I a fan of Begin, Likud/Kadima, Sharon, Netanyahu, Olmert or Mofaz. And there is good and bad in Hezbollah and Hamas. There are peaceful Americans, Jews, Arabs, Persians, Afghanis and Israelis. There are those who are warmongers. There are those who believe in the bogeyman. And there are those who know that the bogeyman is a lie.

    Why do I bring this up? Because xenophobia, fear of foreigners/strangers, discourages people from engaging in dialogue, being open and gaining understanding. I also suspect that governments which engage in the promotion of xenophobia do so for the express purpose of discouraging dialogue, openness and understanding. I have to deal with my own xenophobia and distrust of people. Remember, I am Russian Jewish and we suffered from hundreds if not thousands of years of persecution, let alone having to deal with an ever-angry Yahweh (::big smile::). Xenophobia, mild paranoia, hyper-awareness, the overwhelming urge to overachieve and fear of change are built into most Jews. But like everything else in our lives, we keep continually learning how to deal with these. And we have been doing this for a long time. Our culture is over 4,000 years old.

    I hope that this forum will continue to encourage dialogue, openness and understanding. It takes time, sometimes generations, but it is worthwhile.

    BTW, I am not speaking for my culture, Americans or Jews. I am talking about my experience, my observations, my thoughts. I do not represent the average/normal American or Jew (whatever the hell that is).

  60. robert Says:

    I haven’t read previous posts thoroughly, so apologies if I repeat what’s already been discussed.

    I’m an Australian who isn’t of Chinese descent, can’t speak/read Chinese, doesn’t have any Chinese friends, and has never been to China. So you could say I don’t know anything about and/or don’t have any serious interest in China.

    Having said that, I find it odd, in some ways, how Joel says that there are certain things that are hurting China’s image in the West. That may be true, but it’s not the complete picture. FOARP has already alluded to this on post #7.

    Firstly, let me limit my observations as applying to the period during the 2008 Olympics.

    I believe that opinions in the West (why does this blog focus on the opinions of the West so much, what about opinions in the rest of the world?) are so diverse that it’s difficult to say what the West thinks.

    Not only is opinion diverse, but, since the Beijing Olympics, I believe that Western perceptions on China are rapidly changing.

    Some Westerners would have heard the news about the fake fireworks/lip synching on the news and said “So what? It’s just part of the show”.

    Some Westerners would have said “Chinese communist don’t deserve the Olympics!” and then sat down to watch Phelps win his eighth gold medal.

    Other Westerners would have seen the opening ceremony and said “How’d ‘they’ do that?”

    Then again, others would have said “Protestors at the Olympics? Who cares?”

    So, what do I believe the West thinks of China after the Olympics, and did China manage its image well during this time? I believe that from the West there was an overall mixture of surprise, awe, affection, fear, naivety and cynicism. Trying to gauge reaction from the West is doubly hard now because it seems the West could be going through a period of re-evaluation on China.

  61. Wukailong Says:

    “why does this blog focus on the opinions of the West so much, what about opinions in the rest of the world?”

    This is indeed an interesting question, but not just for this blog. During the opening ceremony in Beijing, I remember the hosts mentioning something about “中西文化的交流” (a communication between Chinese and Western culture). I think for many Chinese, the West represents the “other”, the “adversary,” and for that reason they tend to think of the world as only consisting of China and the West – or even China and the US, which can be seen in the constant bringing up of problems in the US.

    I guess this is understandable in a sense, but it is also something that ought to change. There are more places and perspectives out there than just “Chinese” and “Western.”

  62. Joel Says:

    This China-themed blog deals so much with Western perception of China because China is obsessed with how the West perceives China, and how China “stacks up.” It’s been this way for generations.

    I agree that the rest of the world unfairly gets ignored in China discussions, but that’s largely because:
    – this is an English language forum, so emphasis is obviously on China and English speaking nations, esp. the U.S. (the biggest one);
    – for China, Western nations, particularly the U.S. and Britain, are primarily the “Other” against which Chinese identity is being defined.

    The diversity of opinion in the West doesn’t make these kinds of broad, general discussion useless. The cultural/worldview differences that I’m driving at are deeper and more defining than specific opinions on particular minor controversies. (See the final section of the original post for an example.)

  63. pug_ster Says:

    I do find it funny of how Western Media handles these ‘Free Tibet’ protests. I recall a few months ago in NYC a couple of these ‘Free Tibetans’ who protested away from their ‘Free speech zones,’ ran in front of the UN with Tibetan flags. The NYPD, in response, manhandled, billyclubbed, and put these guys in jail. Of course, this was never reported in the Western Media, not even in the local news.

    The recent news of these ‘Free Tibetans’ who was in jail for a few days in Beijing. One of the ‘horrors’ that these protesters describe is that they are ‘forced’ to watch the Olympics, only to see the Chinese win gold metals while the Americans lose. These protesters eventually deported, came to NYC and they are greeted as heroes in City Hall. What irony.

  64. Jerry Says:


    As you point out, pug_ster, welcome to the world of US media! Thanks to media consolidation in the US, ownership of US media is concentrated in the hands of a very few large corporations. They control it to protect their own vested economic interests. Ben Bagdikian (Dean Emeritus, the Graduate School of Journalism at the UC Berkeley) has been exposing and criticizing this ongoing consolidation in his book (and subsequent updates), “The Media Monopoly”, since 1983.

    I have better luck with British and French publications. I also have good luck with http://www.indymedia.org, http://www.zmag.org/znet, prorev.com, Amy Goodman & http://www.democracynow.org, http://www.truthout.org, Bill Moyers, and http://www.commondreams.org, just to name a few. I also belong to the YKBOO listserv (ykboo@maillist.peak.org, run by Michael Papadopoulos at papadop@peak.org). This is loosely based out of KBOO Radio in Portland, Oregon. Many times I find news I normally would never find in conventional US media. I also use the blogosphere and YouTube.

    Speaking of YouTube and the blogosphere, here is a 7 minute video of the violent treatment of Tibet protestors by the NYPD in front of the UN Building in March of this year (http://americangoy.blogspot.com/2008/03/tibetan-protesters-beat-down-in-new.html). Just a warning: The style of writing is very tongue-in-cheek, very sarcastic, very cynical. But it does make a point.

    The promotion, protection and improvement of democracy require constant vigilance. We must also be constantly vigilant in the protection and promotion of individual rights. There are forces which want to erode democracy and individual rights. People in power find that democracy is just too messy and too uncertain. A few examples from the current Bush/Cheney administration serve to emphasize the last statement: Wiretapping of American citizens & the FISA court, Guantanamo, the Patriot Acts I and II, the Pentagon’s control of what US media reports from Iraq, and AG Mukasey’s intention to give the FBI broader powers to spy on the American people. A strong, diverse media is necessary for a strong democracy. We need to return to the era of muckrakers, Izzy Stone, and Ed Murrow. As Murrow would say at the end of his broadcasts, “Good night, and good luck.”

  65. Denis Wong Says:

    @Jerry, @ pug_ster

    “..welcome to the world of US media!”

    And here’s the rub, is that with the misconception of western monolith that is often applied in Chinese contexts, the benefits of diversity and the civil society are missed. The point about “funny” Western media is well made but then comes the deeper point that out of culture arises counter-culture and the roller-coaster that is civil society in US and Britain, but also places like Hong Kong and India.

    It’s here where we find the nub of the imbalance that Joel (comment 62) refers to, between China’s obsession with its image in the “West” and the western, often smug, self-satisfaction with itself because with a civil society, we do a much better job of criticising ourselves than anyone else can do.

    What we’ve seen in the Olympics is the display of Chinese technocracy. The next challenge is whether it can develop any reasonable level of civil society and work around its censorship reflex (hopefully in a better way than the US does its).

    Without a civil society, I doubt whether the problems of corruption and environment are solvable.

  66. robert Says:

    I wasn’t saying that these broad general discussions were useless. I think that discussions on this board are informative, insightful and very relevant to 21st century society.

    Obviously, Westerners have scrutinized China during the Olympics, and will draw some conclusions on China based on that event. As far as the conclusions that you have drawn, I’m not sure that the majority in the West would hold the same perceptions or necessarily agree with you.

    Do Westerners worry about how the Chinese government managed the image of China during the Olympics? Yes, I believe that, on the whole, the West does. The real question is how much does the West worry about these issues?

    A lot of Westerners simply aren’t interested enough in China or the role it plays in the wider world to form a studied opinion of Chinese politics. Sometimes I think that this particular aspect of Western attitudes is often forgotten on this blog.

  67. Joel Says:

    right. I think it’s safe to say that Westerners who live in China, especially those that study cultural differences and cross-cultural communication, probably care more about this stuff than the average Westerner. And that reminds me: i sometimes wonder if all the attention China gets from a minority of foreigners reinforces the notion for Mainlanders that China is the center of the world and the #1 concern of foreigners and foreign nations. Seems like a minor point though.

    That said, I think it is safe to say that the underlying cultural difference I’m trying to highlight here does apply to a majority of Westerners, or at least to the majority of those who think at all about China:

    The methods and actions that China’s rulers use to create and protect their glorious national “image” are making a much bigger impression on the world than the constructed image itself ever will.

    I’ll go out on a limb and say the majority of Westerners aren’t going to look at some flashy stadiums, a big ceremony, and a bunch of Olympic gold medals and conclude, “Wow, a legitimate, trustworthy government with a superior civilization!” But for many Mainlanders, those things apparently indicate a lot about their government and civilization.

    China’s rulers were stuck trying to communicate to two different audiences: the home audience puts more meaning in form, ritual, face, impressive images, etc. than the foreign audience does. But at the same time I also suspect there’s a much wider variety of opinion regarding the Olympics among Mainlanders than any country’s major media is able to show. I wish it were possible to actually poll the People on this one.

  68. pug_ster Says:


    I think how the Western Media paints a picture of China is like those MAC Commercials of how they paint a picture of a PC is. Sooner or later, all that relentlessness negative coverage by the Western Media of how backward, repressive, and horrible China is would influence on how they would perceive China in their policies.

    Take the Olympics for example, Western Media tend to focus on the bad things happen in China. People getting kicked out from their homes, suppressing people, treatment of migrant workers, security clamping down on people. Imagine what happens if China didn’t do those things, venues aren’t built on time because they tried to satisfy the people moving out or they have to treat the migrant workers better, foreigners think Chinese are uncivilized because China doesn’t maintain order, some terrorist attack happened because they didn’t crack down on the Uyghors and the Tibetans. China knows that is never a win-win situation for them in terms of how they are treated by Western Media anyways, so they try as best as they could. And this is a sample of an opinionated column about this.


    At the end of the Olympics, China doubt that it will change everybody’s opinion’s about China, but it certainly did give them second thoughts. As there are problems in every country, as many Chinese knows there are problems in their country as well as in the US. However, most Chinese knows that venting about problems in the US is useless because they have better things to do like fixing problems in China. Why can’t US do the same?

  69. Jerry Says:

    @Denis Wong

    Thanks for the comments, Denis. Now we are getting to the earth-shaking issues. Pollution and corruption. For the moment, I am going to address pollution.

    I basically agree with your comments. I really can’t comment on how the “Chinese” (I just hate using such broad terms and generalization, but for the sake of this conversation I will) look at our media and the benefits/disadvantages of diversity and civil society. Yes there is a roller-coaster, messy and uncertain. Yes, Americans, in general, are hubristic, on a number of fronts. In general, they have no idea what is going on around the world other than 15-30 second sound bytes on the nightly news, which tell them nothing. From what I know of Chinese culture, “face” and image are important, personally and collectively.

    You mention the display of Chinese technocracy. I also have heard the term, “Chinese Miracle”, in reference to the economy. That said, I want to talk about this from 2 angles, the Earth’s biocapacity and the environmental cost of the growth in the Chinese economy. But first, I want to preface my remarks, with a few sentences about wanting a better life. Who can blame the Chinese for wanting to get out of poverty, wanting a better life, nice things, a better life for their offspring. Pretty normal. Unfortunately, we humans are pretty short-sighted by nature and generally don’t see the long-term costs we are incurring, heading at us like the old trite saying, “Is that light I see at the end of the tunnel? Or is that a freight train headed for us?”

    Ecological footprint versus the Earth’s biocapacity are very abstract terms. Here is the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) definition: Ecological Footprint (EF) measures the amount of biologically productive land and water area required to produce the resources an individual, population, or activity consumes and to absorb the waste they generate, given prevailing technology and resource management. The Earth’s biocapacity (BC) is the amount of biologically productive area – cropland, pasture, forest, and fisheries – that is available to meet humanity’s needs. Demand vs. Supply.

    In 1961, Earth’s population was 3.08 billion people. Ecological Footprint (EF) was 4.5 billion global hectares (gha) versus Biocapacity (BC) of 9 billion gha. A 50% surplus of BC. By 2003, the population was 6.3 billion people. Ecological Footprint (EF) was 14.1 billion gha versus Biocapacity (BC) of 11.2 billion gha. EF has overshot BC by 25%. Essentially, what we have is “deficit spending.” On a global basis.

    In 2003, the US, with a population of 294 million, had an EF of 9.6 gha per person and BC of 4.7 gha per person. Japan, with 127 million, had an EF of 4.4 gha per person and BC of 0.7 gha per person. China, with 1.311 billion, had an EF of 1.6 gha per person and BC of 0.5 gha per person.

    In 2008, WWF did a follow-up report on Asia and China. From 1961 to 2003, China, Japan, the EU, and USA showed significant growth in the overshoot of biocapacity.

    Reports and information are out at Global Footprint Network (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/)

    Next, I want to address the cost of the growth of the Chinese economy. To do so, I would first like to quote from Jacques Leslie’s article in Mother Jones (January, 2008), “The Last Empire: China’s Pollution Problem Goes Global” (http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2008/01/the-last-empire.html).

    ‘… All this is common knowledge among the scholars and activists who follow Chinese environmental trends. The news, however, has not yet shaken China out of its money-induced euphoria. One indication is that China’s 10 percent growth rate takes no account of the environmental devastation the boom has caused. In June 2006, an official at China’s State Council said environmental damage (everything from crop loss to health care costs) was costing 10 percent of its gross domestic product—in other words, all of the economy’s celebrated growth. Vaclav Smil, a highly respected China scholar at the University of Manitoba, pegs the environmental-damage rate at between 5 and 15 percent, with 7 percent a “solid, defensible figure.” Smil says that shorn of hype, China’s growth rate is also likely 7 percent, “so basically every year environmental damage wipes out the gdp growth.”’

    This is the way most empires work; nothing new here. The Greeks, Romans, up through the European empires, the American empire and now the coming Chinese empire. The tradeoff: Extract resources, in an unsustainable manner, from the earth and poor people/economic slaves in exchange for money. Usually, this is accompanied by environmental devastation. Sooner or later, there is a big price to be paid. There are no miracles. Only illusions.

    I am 57 years old. I have a son, who turns 30 in December and a daughter who turns 27 in November. My son is starting his doctorate in Physical Therapy in San Diego. My daughter just graduated from medical school in Chicago and is now a resident orthopedic surgeon. I am very proud of both of them. But I also worry about their future. What will Earth be like when they are 57? What about their financial futures? What kind of air will they be breathing? What about the quality of water they will be drinking? How are they going to pay for all this environmental destruction: my children, my future grandchildren, great-grandchildren and generations to come?

    What kind of motivation will it take to get us people working on these global issues? And how much more time do we have as a species? Hopefully as you say, Chinese society will evolve into a more civil society and help solve these global issues. At the same time, I hope the US evolves, too, into a more humble, more cooperative, gentler, more multilateral-minded society.

  70. pug_ster Says:


    Just something think about when Bush boasts ‘Freedom of Press.’

  71. Joel Says:

    American cops and/or politicians get out of line and the American media doesn’t get ‘harmonized’? They will report on this story and the ensuing legal battle all they want? This is the kind of example that makes American media look good. It’s the kind of freedom a lot of people would love to see in China.

    Seeing this kind kind of freedom at work in China (going back to my original post) would earn China more respect in the eyes of Westerners than images of a ‘harmonious society’ (i.e. enforced conformity). When it comes to respect of a nation, Westerners typically see meaning in function and action more than in form and image. Besides, such freedoms suggest a more stable, relaxed, and confident society. Going to incredible lengths to enforce and project the image of a stable and harmonious society actually sends the opposite message.

  72. WiseOldMan Says:


    I totally agree that all World Leaders should take an active step in preserving the future of our planet. After all we only have one planet to live in. However it is not only the “Chinese” you should try to convince, but also ordinary people in “Western” developed countries who should be convinced too. It’s not surprising when you look at news groups, and see how many people out there who don’t believe in Climate Change, and are blind to see that industrialisation has caused the sharp increases in greenhouse gases being pumped into the air.

    As you have said that you don’t think there is any problem that China is trying to get out of the poverty rut, and trying to force 100 years of industrial advances into a short 10-15 years is not something easy. Chinese is not only known for their “face” saving values, but also their family values, they care more about having a future generation than most Capitalist Nations, after all, every male wants to have another male son so that they can pass on their legacy. Did you know that China is the only country in the world that have re-forested more trees than any other nation? It has created more nuclear reactors, relying on hydro power etc…to sustain its insatiable first for power. There are also plans to build a Environmentally friendly City where the gas they use comes from bacterial gas in sewers, water from recycling, electricity from solar power and all building materials are recyclable (but whether or not they actually build it is another thing).

    The Chinese government have also commenced building cheap housing using mud bricks in rural areas trying to improve housing as well as using materials that are environmentally friendly.

    When it comes to the environment there is no such thing as doing enough, but the power hungry and money scavengers of large companies and governments often put these issues at the bottom in preference to profit. Jerry I think your point should be directed at all nations, otherwise people will think that you are unfairly targeting the Chinese.

  73. Jerry Says:


    I agree with your comment, pug_ster, “Sooner or later, all that relentlessness negative coverage by the Western Media of how backward, repressive, and horrible China is would influence on how they would perceive China in their policies.” We used to criticize Russian and Communist propaganda machines for disseminating the “Big Lie”! We just forgot to tell everybody that we American people have our own propaganda machine.

    For more information on how that all started around 1922, check out “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman. The authors go into great detail about Walter Lippmann, an American Jewish journalist and media critic. Lippmann, a 20th Century Machiavellian, believed that the public was incapable of self-rule. He called for a ruling elite class which would use the media to inform the public of information which they needed to form an opinion. He considered the average citizen somewhere between a self-centered lout and a moron.

    So, why would the media and ruling class wish to represent China as the ultimate pariah? Rule 1: Follow the money. Rule 2: Demonize your opponents and deify your allies as saints. Rule 3: Keep the people focused on the bogeyman while you steal them blind (prestidigitation)! It is easier, quicker and simpler for the populace to grasp demons and saints. It is much harder and takes much longer to grasp the paradox we call the human being.

    Fortunately, British media is much more diverse. What we need is the China-based version of Robert Fisk, The Independent’s (UK) foreign correspondent and Middle East correspondent. The guy is brilliant, brave, insightful and hard working.

    Regarding the blog, Dave Zirin is a sportswriter for The Nation magazine. I would kind of expect something like that out of him. I kind of enjoyed his description of the Rogge, a caricature if there ever was one. Rogge’s pronouncements were beyond belief. NBC, as I understand, totally softballed their coverage of China, which I expected to happen (I did not watch the Olympics). Part of the reason I don’t like GE owning a huge media company. GE’s corporate interests often conflict with NBC’s journalistic responsibilities. Guess who wins? Zirin does bring up some good points about China. I do not ask for him to be balanced. I just want enough diversity in the media so that we can see a better balanced “big picture”. Walter Lippmann probably rolls over in his grave when I say that.

    “Why can’t US do the same?” Beats me! That is a great idea. Paddle your own canoe. Maybe the ruling elites don’t want to fix the problems in the US???

  74. Jerry Says:


    Thank you. I agree with you 100% that all of us need to work on preserving the future of our planet. If I gave the impression that it is only the “Chinese” we need to convince, please forgive me. That is why I wrote about US, Chinese and Japanese overshoot of biocapacity; as a planet, we have have overshot biocapacity by more than 25%. That is also why I wrote, “What kind of motivation will it take to get us people working on these global issues?” Perhaps I should have emphasized this more strongly as a global responsibility because environmental destruction has occurred globally. The US and the West have done much environmental devastation on this planet. I deeply believe that all people need to be motivated. We are talking about the survival of the human species.

    I am glad to read about the steps which China is taking. I have heard about the reforestation effort. I have heard about the nuclear power plant construction. I must admit that I have a lot of reservations about nuclear power, the short life of nuclear plants and nuclear waste. I also don’t believe in panaceas.

    You are right about the large corporations and the governments that they have bought and paid for. Money is the god they worship. The environment and public good are at the bottom of their lists.

  75. pug_ster Says:



    If this reporter was in China manhandled by the Chinese police, it would be a major headline. Since it happened in the US it is considered an ‘incident.’ This reporter is trying to take pictures of the Democratic fat cat donors when he got arrested. The fact is that this story seems to be censored and we probably don’t know who they are. My guess is that this reporter trying to reveal who they are is considered off limits thus the reason why he got arrested.

    In your response, I do agree with you that there should more transparency in the Chinese Media involving corruption. However, I do have mixed feelings about it. Let’s say that the ABC reporter was allowed to take pictures of those Democratic fat cat donors and it was revealed. The most they can do is slap a wrist on those fat cats and nothing would happen, guilty or not. If some CCP official was revealed by press of allegations of corruptions, this politician’s career is finished, whether he/she is guilty or not, as the press has kind of a presumption of guilty until proven innocent mentality, as Chinese Media was careful not to reveal anything until this corrupt official was proven guilty.

  76. Jerry Says:


    Interesting response about what would happen if Chinese reporter uncovered CCP official’s corruption (#75). Have there been cases of Chinese reporters uncovering CCP or provincial corruption? What happened?

    All I have seen in our media is that some corruption occurs and some government official or entrepreneur gets convicted and executed. Not many details.

    BTW, Jack Abramoff is living proof that corrupt American lobbyists can go to jail. He was tried and convicted on federal charges. He is in federal prison in Maryland.

  77. pug_ster Says:


    As I recall that Jack Abramoff was caught because Bob Ney was caught. There’s probably at least 10 Jack Abramoff’s for every Jack Abramoff who are not caught and still coddling with the senators and congressmen/womens. The fact that reporter wasn’t allowed to photograph those fat cat donors is that there is limits on Freedom of press that we have. These lobbyists have more say in our laws and we have very little influence at all on how these laws are changed. It is no less corrupt than the Chinese government officials getting brought by private companies to get favors going to their way. The Chinese government being so authoritarian that is can manage growth and it not hamstrung by lobbyists than in the US.

  78. Jerry Says:


    “As I recall that Jack Abramoff was caught because Bob Ney was caught.” Yes, but I am not sure who got caught first; Tom DeLay was also involved. A number of people were tried and convicted. Because of Abramoff’s connection with the White House, I suspect that Karl Rove was involved, too; no proof, just instinct tells me that. And Abramoff had committed a lot of corrupt, dirty crimes/shenanigans along with defrauding Native American Indian tribes. But at least Abramoff is in jail (BTW, Abramoff was hired in 1994 as a lobbyist at Preston Gates law firm in Seattle, Washington, where I used to live. The Gates mentioned here is William Gates Sr., the father of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Gates Sr. supposedly helped Abramoff access elite clientele.) And Bob Ney resigned in 2006 and, in January 2007, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

    I agree that there are a lot of corrupt politicians and lobbyists who never get caught. Occasionally they throw some lobbyist or politician to the lions. But just who owns the lobbyists and politicians. Big corporations, wealthy individuals and large organizations. They are every bit as corrupt, if not more, than the politicians and lobbyists that they own, fund and employ. And you are so correct when you say, “These lobbyists have more say in our laws and we have very little influence at all on how these laws are changed. It is no less corrupt than the Chinese government officials getting brought by private companies to get favors going to their way.” My only proviso is that you remember who provides the money to these lobbyists (many lobbyists are former politicians and high-level bureaucrats).

    Yes, politicians and those in power do everything that they can to impede the reporting of facts in the press; a big “cat and mouse” game. Just read Bill Moyers “Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times”. Moyers was high-level aide in the LBJ administration from 1963-1967. He was White House Press Secretary from 1965-1967. He knows what this game is all about, and he talks about them extensively.

    Democracy, like life, is messy, complex, and at times, ugly. Just like life. It requires constant vigilance. I will take democracy, as imperfect as it is, over authoritarianism any day. I know that Cheney, Bush and the ruling elite would prefer authoritarianism, maybe even tyranny. Democracy, as we have it, has corruption. The Chinese government has corruption. Corruption hamstrings both American and Chinese governments.

    One thing I have to say is that it appears that the Chinese government has made great strides in rebuilding Sichuan after the huge earthquake in May (http://www.khaleejtimes.com/darticlen.asp?xfile=data/theworld/2008/August/theworld_August1649.xml&section=theworld&col=; this link was provided by CDT). I have to applaud. I only wish I could report the same for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi. But I further read that the government is trying to “silence angry families who want to know why so many schools collapsed when the buildings around them endured.” The report further states that, “By the government’s estimates, 7,000 classrooms collapsed in the tremor. … But in other areas, such as Dujiangyan, schools crumbled while the buildings around them stood almost unscathed. Fuxin was another of those, and the contrast between the surrounding structures and the rubble of the classrooms had roused parents’ fury. Most were farmers or small traders; they were poor, largely uneducated people, who had never challenged authority.” Further in the article, “… They believed that substandard construction had claimed the lives of the 127 students who died here; and those of many more students in other schools across the province.

    Across the country, millions of Chinese citizens were drawing the same conclusion. Public outrage was swelling. The state media asked awkward questions and experts came forward to condemn poor design and construction. The investigative magazine Caijing examined five schools and claimed that none of the sites had been surveyed. The government fielded questions online and promised an inquiry into whether poor building work, linked to corruption, was to blame.

    … For a few days in the wake of our visit it seemed as if the parents’ questions might be answered. The thaw did not last long. Within weeks, the censors had ordered the media to drop the subject. Within the month, police were dragging parents away from protests. The families fought back, at first. They threatened to register their dead children for the new school year. They pledged to sue. They protested outside government offices. They spoke to activists whom they hoped might help them.”

    My question is: Has this been thoroughly investigated? Where are the reports of the investigation? Was evidence removed/destroyed to prevent a thorough forensic investigation?

    To be honest, the Olympics, whether in LA, Europe or China, interest me little. But freedom of the press, freedom of the judiciary/courts, pollution, the environment, poverty, corruption, and human devastation in Sichuan, New Orleans, America’s ghettos/slums Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, Burma, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tibet, and wherever it occurs, concern me very much.

    BTW, I am not all seriousness. As a cyclist, I love bicycling and the Tour de France. ::big smile::

    Additional BTW. Today in the Shihlin district of Taipei City (where I live), ozone (O3) is 140 ppb and 2.5 µm (micrometer) particulate matter (PM2.5) is 75 µg/m³. The World Health Organization (WHO) guideline for O3 is 50 ppb and the guideline for PM2.5 is 25 µg/m³. O3 and PM2.5 are at 280-300% of the WHO standards. Ugly, ugly, ugly! No outdoor cycling today. I might ride indoors on my Lemond Revmaster.

  79. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jerry:
    “I will take democracy, as imperfect as it is, over authoritarianism any day” – hear hear.

  80. Zickyy Says:

    When people say Chinese are too sensitive to westerners’ views and critics, can they also think that whether the westerners are too sensitive to what Chinese are doing? The flame lighting by an arrow was also faked in Sydney Olympics but no one took it seriously.

    Only when Chinese don’t care about what the west sees them and thinks about them, China, just like the US now, is a strong and great country.

  81. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Zickyy:
    good point. Hopefully, China and the West will give some attention to what the other thinks, if we are to achieve “one world, one dream” and maintain peaceful coexistence.

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