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Sep 25

Evolving a self-correcting mechanism for the Chinese society: Thoughts on the tainted milk crisis and other Chinese scandals

Written by bianxiangbianqiao on Thursday, September 25th, 2008 at 10:21 pm
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The problem of Chinese powdered and liquid milk producers lacing their products with industrial chemicals has left the Chinese public (especially the parents) in panic. The facts of this crisis have been well-documented. I have a few thoughts about its implications.

While dismayed by the rogue manufacturers’ ability to abuse the public for such a long time (a year, I heard), I am relieved that eventually the scams were exposed, exclusively by forces within the Chinese society. No foreign White knight was in a position to rescue the Chinese people from their rulers and deliver them from their misery. In fact, the New Zealand diary company who owned a stake in the main culprit, Sanlu Diary Corporation, was part of the problem. The Western media have been on the sideline; their opinions on this event are largely irrelevant to the Chinese public. It has been the Chinese parents’ outrage and the Chinese media’s probing and revelations that constitute the main source of the Chinese authorities’ embarrassment and the main forces that prompted them into action. Heads have been rolling, with the resignation of a mayor and a cabinet member, and an executive’s arrest.

An indigenous and home-grown momentum of change is a hopeful sign of the Chinese society at these turbulent times. The society has demonstrated the means and resilience to channel the momentum into productive movements of improving the way businesses are supervised in particular and social activities regulated in general, developing mechanisms for righting wrongs and addressing grievances. The same resourcefulness and resilience were demonstrated in the revelation of kidnapped and enslaved teenagers in Shanxi province’s brick making factories, in the organized reactions when the snow storms in southern China stranded millions of migrant workers on their way home for the spring festival in railway stations, and when earthquake struck Sichuan.

It is heartening to observe that foreign elements and forces have little influence over the Chinese authorities, on either their legitimacy or policy preferences. The rabid anti-China freaks/activists hurling insults on the Chinese during the Olympic torch relays indeed “hurt our feelings” but at the end of the day can do little damage, no matter how hard they try. Events since the beginning of this year tell us that the dynamics of the Chinese social and political lives are insulated from the outside, although China is by no means isolated. The Chinese society, including its authorities, responds to the Chinese, not foreign powers or activists.

This brings me to the thesis of Mizuguchi Yuzo in his 1989 book “China Studies as a Matter of Methodology(方法としての中國)”, which I am reading in bits and pieces between engaging the students, motivating the TA and watching over the RAs. I feel “Meta-Theory” would be a better (although less literal) word than “Methodology” in translating the book’s title. Mizuguchi was talking about the overarching mental framework that has been automatically adopted in analyzing the evolutions of the Japanese and Chinese societies since the 1800s by both lay and professional students of these topics, i.e. a framework with the West as the references and coordinates. Early Japanese thinkers (e.g., 津田左右吉) despised the Chinese on the ground that unlike Japan who had succeeded in modernizing (a substitute word for “Westernizing”), China had failed miserably and remained backward. Other thinkers during and after WWII (e.g., Takeuchi Yoshimi(竹内好) and Mizuguchi himself) romanticized China as having engaged in a relentless struggle to resist Western influence, dominance and assimilation. The Chinese revolution, along with its products, the PRC and to a certain degree the Cultural Revolution, were viewed as episodes of this struggle. Through the self-perpetuating struggle (perpetuated by its frustration), China has created a culture that is unique, non-Western, whereas Japan, in passively giving way to Western influence, has become an entity without a clear and unique identity (“何物てもない” pp.8). Japan and China in this meta-theoretical perspective are either moving against the West (fight them), or moving toward the West (join them). Mizuguchi pointed to a third possibility, one that he detected in the Chinese road to modernity, that is moving parallel to (although not away from) the West. In his Chinese studies, he aims to abandon the Western-referenced framework, to lift China out of the matrix defined by Western values and concepts (human rights, democracy and all that crap), and treat China as a distinct and independent entity. I happen to think this is the direction China is going, not only intellectually in building its collective narrative, but also pragmatically in building its social institutions and experimenting with its political arrangements. This is the silver lining I see in the scandals and disasters inflicted upon us in the year of 2008.

Reference
溝口雄三 (1989). 方法としての中國, 東京大學出版會.


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139 Responses to “Evolving a self-correcting mechanism for the Chinese society: Thoughts on the tainted milk crisis and other Chinese scandals”

  1. Allen Says:

    Bxbq –

    I mean this constructively: ok, so China is too proud and resourceful and too large to have to develop under the shadows and ideologies of the West. But what self-correcting mechanism is China actually evolving to help prevent future crisis and scandals? Is it a sense of communal values such as those taught by Confucius? Is it China’s development of a civil society – with Chinese characteristics? Is it development of better institutions (with Chinese characteristics)? etc.?

  2. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Allen,

    I am no political scientist. However, I sense some accountability in the wake of the milk scandal. Officials lost their jobs, setting a precedence, which is all important in a society that runs partially on implicit protocols, instead of codified rules. I feel this will have some preventive impact on the conduct of those who control a lot of wealth and power.

  3. Nimrod Says:

    Well, people (the out of favor) still get executed for corruption, so I’m not sure action itself shows true accountability. But one theme in this year’s incidents has been quick response — once the news becomes public. Dismissals have come quickly and pledges of full investigation and often some kind of compensation have been forthcoming.

    These are the right “formalities”. All the right notes are hit, and hence from a public relations and humanitarian perspective, things have been much improved. So that’s responsivity, which is necessary, but not sufficient. It would be sad to have a highly responsive government that always responds to crises in one-off fashion. Once a crisis passes, it is what is done to prevent future crises of similar nature from happening that counts. There is not enough of that — there is still too much focus on putting out fires as quickly as possible, probably out of stability concerns, rather than getting to the bottom of things.

  4. RUMman Says:

    Oh dear. . .

    Back to ignoring this blog I guess.

  5. MoneyBall Says:

    There will be NO self-correcting mechanism in China in any foreseeable future. What will be there is Top-down correcting, or shall I say ass-kicking, in a mafia style.

    That’s the fatal flaw of Chinese political system: all the answerings go up, nothing goes down, nobody answers to people below. The result is that the top has no idea and very little control of what’s going on at the bottom. Some of the wise guys in the party know this, that’s the reason behind “local elections” 基层选举. They thought these elections in the grassroot levels would be able to put local officials under leash in a more efficient and timely manner, meanwhile not going all way up to threaten the central government. That is rather wishful thinking, you cant have your cake and eat it. Without central goverment’s openly and inexplicible acknowledgement, commitment and backup to democarcy and elections, these efforts will get buried in mud. Democracy is someting you need to build on and nurture, not some handy tools you just grab from the closet to fix your dirty jobs for you.

  6. chinayouren Says:

    “No foreign White knight was in a position to rescue the Chinese people from their rulers and deliver them from their misery.”

    Wow. So it’s again China 1 – West 0. West is so lame, it didn’t send White knights. It’s probably all the fault of Western media, anyway.

    And you say the scams were exposed by forces within the Chinese society. Yes, well, of course. But months after the problem was identified and when there was already some serious victims. Late. That is the problem, responsiveness. With a top-down approach, the system is not responsive enough to address the little problems at their source, and instead has to wait until they become massive problems.

    And again, I think people should stop viewing all events and crisis concerning China as a conflict between us and the West. What is the West in there for? It looks like chinese are really too obsessed by what the rest of the world says about them, instead of going by their own opinions. Most importantly, western media doesn’t represent at all the views of the western world, so why don’t we forget about it for a bit and address our own problems instead?

  7. Daniel Says:

    I think Chinayouren has a point.
    There’s a lot that should be done and said without going into another “Godzilla vs King Kong” rhetoric. Likewise, whatever that’s said in these blogs/forums and articles does not represent all Chinese views.
    I mean, if we put ourselves in the shoes of a parent that is affected, I assume the last thing on their minds is…oh what is the world going to think and say about us, and other related statements.

  8. wuming Says:

    It is often a matter of wealth. At this stage of development, tainted food are problems. When Chinese are 5 times as rich as they are now, the problem will be credit derivatives.

  9. Wukailong Says:

    @chinayouren: “And again, I think people should stop viewing all events and crisis concerning China as a conflict between us and the West. What is the West in there for? It looks like chinese are really too obsessed by what the rest of the world says about them, instead of going by their own opinions. Most importantly, western media doesn’t represent at all the views of the western world, so why don’t we forget about it for a bit and address our own problems instead?”

    When I read 中国可以说不, I was surprised to find out that _every_ chapter was about the US (there was an odd chapter about Japan in there). The nationalism of the book was basically defined around the US. I believe that’s typical for nationalism, though. It’s always against some evil other.

    This article is also a good example of Chinese exceptionalism. China is unique and completely different from “human rights, democracy and all that crap” that the West uniquely (as opposed, for example, to Japan and South Korea) believes in.

    Deng Xiaoping had a debate a long time ago about 姓社还是姓资. Now there is a need to ask for the importance of 姓中还是姓西. It’s a new sort of ideological straitjacket.

  10. GNZ Says:

    Seems to me New Zealand WAS a white knight

    the normal and appropriate communication would have been something like
    sanlu workers -> sanlu management -> directors -> local health officials -> central government
    somwhere in step 3/4 this did not work

    The actual comunication was
    sanlu workers –> san lu management -> Fontera management -> government of NZ -> government of china -> local officials

    if the NZ government had not provided this alternative route for the communication babies would probably still be being poisoned right now.

    Of course I admit some bias.

  11. GNZ Says:

    regarding the main point – I don’t think that the western model is something one should mindlessly emulate (obviously it has major problems) but one should also not ignore any lessons that one can learn from the rest of the world or maintain differences just because they mark you as different.

    In fact, it seems to be a western model to encourage people to be diverse and tied to ancient history even where it is to their pragmatic disadvantage.

    If Japan had managed their economy better and it had not stagnated their model would be viewed much more positively and their cultural influence would be so much greater. But I don’t think that stagnation is due to liking baseball or any silly little thing like that.

  12. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Chinayouren nicely exposes the flaws of the underlying perspective of this post. Yes, the Chinese people are taking ownership of this issue (but remembering that it was the NZ government that spurred on the publicity and initial recall to start with) and the CCP is responding to the people (as much as she is inclined to, but no more). If such a feat is cause for celebration, then by all means celebrate. And I’m at least happy to infer from the tone of the post that there is recognition of much more that needs to be done.
    But the rejoicing at the fact that China has shown some tendency to accountability without “the west’s” beckoning in this case bewilders me. Isn’t this like a 2 year old who runs to mommy to celebrate being able to go potty independently for the first time? A noble feat, to be sure. But is this the level of capacity you view China to currently possess? That’s not setting the bar very high.
    “The Chinese society, including its authorities, responds to the Chinese” – if only the authorities did more of that, I suspect you would hear a lot less from “the west” on the subject.
    One can paraphrase and decorate one’s dislike to “the west” in many ways; but if you’re still spending time pontificating about whether China is moving away from, towards, or parallel to the west, that the west remains the metric for such comparison aptly reflects the relative pecking order of their respective systems. And if there’s truly so much to dislike, shouldn’t you actually be wasting more of your time looking for an entirely new paradigm?

  13. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    The relation of social constraint (incentives, supervision and sanctions) runs not only top-down or bottom-up. A flat structure is more suitable for the Chinese society, where members (individuals and institutions) of the society often associate each other via complex webs of Guanxi. How to take advantage of this feature of Chinese sociality is important for experimenting with Chinese style innovation in governance and politics. In all the exposed scandals, it has been the parents (of the kidnapped and enslaved teenagers, sickened infants and students killed in collapsed schools in the earthquake) that were the most vocal and relentless in demanding retribution and accountability. (This stuff works.) A political structure that productively exploits this powerful motive and resource for political participation and societal self-correction must be different from all the models existing today. We should follow the advice of Deng Xiaoping, “cross the river by feeling the stones (摸着石头过河).” In order to do that, one would need to remove the old frames of references that blind, instead of enlightening one’s understanding of the situation.

  14. FOARP Says:

    @SKC, Wukailong, Chinayouren, GNZ – Thanks for saying all the things I had in my head as well as some stuff I was too dumb to think of on this issue, apologies if I repeat some of your points in the following.

    @BXBQ – Okay, so I love playing the role of the critic, but this piece sucks. Let me tell you why:

    1) Statements made without actually mentioning the relevent facts – Why is it material to your argument that Sanlu is 43% owned by a NZ company? Don’t you have to show that they were actually involved in the decision making process that led to a) Melamine being added to the milk, b) the unwarranted delay in reporting the prescence of melamine in the milk, and c) anyone actually doing anything about it? Or is it enough just to say “foreigners are involved and therefore foreigners are responsible”?

    2) Incorrect rendering of the fact – In fact the New Zealanders claim to have been part of exposing this “scam” and nobody has, as of yet, suggested that they are lying.

    3) Inserting whatever the facts of the day are into an out-dated and false construct without regard to what those facts are – not every problem China has is due to foreign influence, it is not useful to insert a false east-west dichotomy into a matter where the only useful distinction is between those that acted properly and those that did not.

    4) The whole ‘Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere’ (thats 大東亞共榮圈 to you) thing AGAIN – dude, put on your rising-sun (旭日旗) headband, drink your sake and climb into your one-way Zero, because this kind of commentary sounds more like a tokkōtai (特攻隊) pilot getting ready for Yasukuni (靖国神社) than someone of the modern age.

    5) It is strange that both the majority of Chinese and even the Chinese government do not see democracy and human rights as western ‘crap’.

    Reference: OARP, F. (2008),The book of FOARP, Oh Press

  15. A-gu Says:

    The answer is simple: robust tort law.

  16. wuming Says:

    Yes, dragging a dig at democracy into this topics is gratuitous, especially it overshadows what I think is a more interesting dynamics emerging from this scandal, the internet provide social pressure, and government has to react to it.

    Here is my gratuitous dig at democracy: those of you who proposed democracy as solution to the recent spat of problems in China: was it the speed, the foresight, the scale or the method of the current Wall Street rescue that is worth emulating?

  17. berlinf Says:

    It would be most interesting to see China evolve into a self-correcting society using a combination of improved laws, political reform, media influence and (I know this might be controversial) religion. In the past year or so, we have already seen so much improvements. As long as the government does not see improvements as direct threats to their rule, there is a lot of room for change. I noticed that Wen Jiabao also says in New York just these few days that political reform is the key to the prevention of corruption. It seems that at the top there is quite a bit of flexibility.

    I think the author has some legitimate reason for making reference to “white knight” being irrelevant here. If China does evolve into a self-correcting society, then politicians in the west would find it more difficult to make a case for spreading their models because there are other alternatives out there. But when you really think about it, there is nothing to be scared of. Haven’t countries always co-existed with different models?

    I think we should all try to mind our own business (without being closed to exchange and feedback). If everybody does this, the world will be a much better place.

  18. RUMman Says:

    GNZ said: “Seems to me New Zealand WAS a white knight”

    It seems possible that was the way it happened. The NZ government have tried to paint themselves that way.

    I remain a little skeptical though. Both Fonterra and the NZ government seem to have taken longer to act than was necessary, basically citing the importance of being ‘culturally sensitive’. Save the cultural sensitivity for situations that don’t involve mass poisoning of babies.

    So maybe NZ helped or maybe they didn’t. But no doubt they could have helped more effectively if they had worried more about the mass poisoning and less about all the other stuff.

  19. Ted Says:

    I have a few questions on the actions taken so far. Among the many heads rolling since the scandal erupted we have a local sacrifice, the town Mayor, and a national sacrifice, the Director of Food Safety.

    When the mayor of a town is tossed do people feel justice has been served or is this just part of the give and take of a single party system? As an outsider, I would think the actions taken so far would feed the people’s frustration with the party and reinforce the idea that government = corruption. On the other hand, I guess there’s too little faith in the judicial process and any investigation that exonerated a government official would anger the people more. Listening to my students there seems to be no question that the mayor was corrupt and officials at various levels knew what was happening for some time.

    In the end, do the actions taken lead to greater reform or greater protectionism at the local level? How is maintaining such a close link between business and government healthy for the system?

  20. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    FOARP,

    You are not here to offer criticism. You just want to hurt my feelings. As a person of mellow and peaceful nature, I cannot yell back.

    What does Kamikazai and大東亞共榮圈 have to do with what my musings?

    Concerning the NZ company, I would like to ask the following questions. They have 40% stake in Sanlu. Did they take off with 40% of the profit from the killer business? When did they learn about the poisoning? Did they immediately stop taking the money made from the business or did they continue to pocket the dollars tainted with infant blood for quite some time? Have they done all they should and could do to contain the damage to the public from the operation they partly own? Are they going to relinquish the money made from poisoning Chinese infants to set up a foundation to compensate for the damage?
    Of course they paint themselves as the White Knight. But other people are not all idiots.

  21. FOARP Says:

    @BXBQ – When you so obviously long for the day that Japan and China jointly free themselves of ‘western crap’ like democracy and human rights, a comparison to pre-1945 Japanese thought is not out of order ‘man of peace’ or no.

    As for whether the New Zealanders involved are free of guilt, I am content to withhold judgement until we have more evidence, but I cannot see how you can defend what you wrote in the original piece about “the scams” being “exposed exclusively by forces within the Chinese society”.

  22. chinayouren Says:

    @Ted – Business-government incest is obviously not healthy for the system, and even less for the babies. But it is necessary for the party to ensure its permanence. Keep the rich and powerful happy, rule number one of any long-lasting regime. The irony is they still dare call themselves communist.

    @BXBQ – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with studying the japanese society and trying to learn from it. On the contrary, it shows a good deal of openness. However, I completely disagree with your usual: “Western values and concepts (human rights, democracy and all that crap).” You seem to insert this comment in each of your posts, as if every subject you touch was just an excuse to convey this idea. If you really believe that, why not go for it directly and post one titled: “human rights are crap?”

  23. GNZ Says:

    Ruman,
    Fontera/NZ might not have reached the highest standard – but give me one example of a company anywhere in the history of the world that gone to it’s own government in order to ask them to effectively annihilate their investment in another country. There is no point spending all your time being critical of the good for not being perfect.

    BXBQ
    they have announced a 100 million or so US dollar loss on it. So they don’t have any profits at all from San Lu any more. And they have lost more money than they ever made – it is quite likely they never repatriated any profits anyway.

    “So maybe NZ helped or maybe they didn’t.”

    This is rather like someone saying maybe melamine is poisonous and maybe it isn’t. All the facts indicate NZ helped and no one seriously challenges them.

    ” When did they learn about the poisoning?”

    FYI here is the time line

    Fontera found out on August 2
    Aug 6 product is pulled form distributors
    August 14 – NZ embassy is informed by fontera
    approx August 25 – embassy informs NZ government
    Aug 31 – formal report detailing scope of issue is received by NZ government
    Sept 5 – NZ prime minister gets final report
    Sept – 8 prime minister calls emergency meeting
    Sept 9 – NZ govt officially contacts CCP

    You can call fault wherever you like in that chain but it isn’t as easy as you think to sidestep that bureaucracy even in the least corrupt country in the world. I suppose everyone in the chain needed to be fully convinced this was an issue worth losing 100 million USD over and utilizing the highest levels of contacts and not just some people getting overexcited.

  24. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Chinayouren,

    “If you really believe that, why not go for it directly and post one titled: “human rights are crap?””

    No. You took my remarks out of context and misinterpreted them.
    I do not think human rights per se are crap. Human rights are very important and China has had a long tradition of valuing them. I will spare you the quotes from Confucius scholars.

    “Human rights” as a slogan chanted by “genocide Olympics” type of freaks represented by Mia Farrow and the creeps who climbed up to treetops to unfurl illegal banners in China during the Olympics are 100% crap.

    My point is that China should continue to ignore those freaks and insulate itself from their bad influence, and continue to improve its responsiveness to its own people.

  25. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    GNZ,

    Thanks a lot for the information. I was unaware of the specific timelines of the NZ response. They do seem to be quite responsive once they found out about the question.

    However, I am still not sure that they have conducted themselves ethically and professionally in the whole event.

    They learned about the problem only on August 2nd? Isnt that a bit late, considering that they own over 40% of the operation? The poisoning started at least a full year before that. Complaints were reported to the Chinese media and the local government as early as in 2007. The NZ company aparrently allowed contamination to go on for months and maybe even years in an operation which they own more than 40% without even knowing about it. They learned the bad news about their operation later than some journalists?

    It is too bad that they lost 100 millions of dollars. But that was because Sanlu company itself is going to go under. The NZ business people did not go to Shijiazhuang for charity. They went to make money. They apparently did not pay much attention to the operation as long as they thought the money would keep coming in.

  26. DS Says:

    The words on this board are getting wiser by the day. I mean it! One thing though, we shouldn’t get too worked up by this incident and hope to make some meaningful conclusions out of it. Treat it as one of many. China is getting good at controlling these things. It will pass soon.

    Regarding the self correcting mechanisms, China is a unique study. It is ruthlessly efficient and purposeful, and it is probably the only big country that can do it this way. Nowadays, when you hear someone from the U.S., India or Taiwan say: “because we are a democracy”, one is about to choke up with sympathy, like “I feel your pain” — that is freaking ridiculous. You see, the western style management and power sharing is very interesting as it cannot in the long run correct itself. The U.S. style democracy is like a tumor that secrets morphine, its brightest citizens who dare to question will be silenced politically because they will never be elected. The intelligent play dumb and the decent play dirty. Can you tell me this is some form of self-correction? I think the world woke up too late for this. Democracy is a function that is not reversible. Just imagine the U.S. would produce a king. China is the last stand where a traditional system has been at work and is once again rejuvenated. It will have to serve as a beacon in leading the human race out of this dangerous territory.

    I don’t really know how China is going to work. It will have to take someone much more intelligent to figure this out. The grass-root feedback is a good start though, IMHO. But unrestricted ranting will also lead to someone in the society to benefit from the common misery, like media and politicians. They make profit in crisis or even in phony outrage, and at the same time destabilizing a country. Unlimited control is like going back to Mao years. What is there to do the balancing act? If not through election, through what? Who has the ultimate say? Man, this stuff is hard!!!

    China is currently swinging between euphoria and exaggerated misery. The feeling may not be 100% sincere, like an ugly girl suddenly becomes a beautiful woman and the whole world is watching. There is certain degree of acting in it. This whole sentiment is not very Chinese. Heads are not cool enough to think about some long term mechanisms. But someday someone will, and I can bet you all my savings that this person or persons will be from China.

  27. GNZ Says:

    ” Isnt that a bit late, considering that they own over 40% of the operation?”

    yes NZders I’m afraid tend to be gullible. They probably thought the company would tell the board if there was a problem. Fontera used to talk in language like “we must be in the Chinese market at any cost”. Now they are a little less naive about that potential cost.
    BTW not saying that Fontera should be compensated for being naive and gullible -just that they have learn’t that lesson already – you don’t need to remind them of it.

    DS,
    I agree with a lot of what you say – but what worries me is that there seems to be a move towards replacing the democratic world order without knowing what that replacement is or what safeguards there might be. Are we dangerously concerned about going fast rather than what we will do when we get to the destination?
    I get the impression that not just you – but everyone is deferring that debate and few seem to understand how big a change it could be or how hard it will be to stop if we find we are on the wrong track.

  28. Netizen K Says:

    China moves two steps forward and one step backward. That’s normal. It’s moving forward nevertheless. There are anti-Chinese groups and individuals who aren’t happy about that.

  29. DS Says:

    @GNZ: you know my pain!

  30. A Nobody Says:

    “You see, the western style management and power sharing is very interesting as it cannot in the long run correct itself. The U.S. style democracy is like a tumor that secrets morphine, its brightest citizens who dare to question will be silenced politically because they will never be elected. The intelligent play dumb and the decent play dirty. Can you tell me this is some form of self-correction? I think the world woke up too late for this. ”

    I agree with you DS> True democracy, like true communism are IMPOSSIBLE.> for in either system the scoundrels get rewarded before they either retire filthy rich, become an international author or speaker, and only in extreme cases do they’ve to pay their dues or get killed.

    BXBQ goes “You are not here to offer criticism. You just want to hurt my feelings. As a person of mellow and peaceful nature, I cannot yell back.”

    Now I know why BXBQ and FOARP can’t stand each other. The Englishmen enjoy their bar brawls & drunken fist fights (Football hooliganism comes to mind) while the Chinese are whimps when it comes to that. They’d yell and make threats. How often have I come away disappointed watching grown men do that for half an hour, without so much as having the satisfaction of seeing a bloody nose.

    By the way, BXBQ, I agree with you here: “Human rights” as a slogan chanted by “genocide Olympics” type of freaks represented by Mia Farrow and the creeps who climbed up to treetops to unfurl illegal banners in China during the Olympics are 100% crap. “

  31. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BXBQ:
    you seem very fixated on the fact that NZ owns 40% of Sanlu (actually, I think it’s 43%). But if NZ deserves their share of punishment, shouldn’t your vitriol be directed at those who own the 57% share first? Where is your 1.3X amount of disdain for the Chinese who poisoned Chinese children? I know your motivation is to rant against the west whenever possible, but shouldn’t the arithmetic at least guide the pecking order with which you do your ranting?
    Developing a system of accountability is essential for China. But IMO, “guanxi” has absolutely no role in that evolution. The very nature of guanxi is to bend the rules for your friends, to allow your cronies to jump the queue, to turn the other cheek when required for your buddies. Such behaviour is the antithesis of fairness, transparency, and accountability. So while i hope China’s system improves, I sure hope it’s with less guanxi, not more.

  32. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wuming:
    the current Wall Street flame out may be a cautionary tale for free-market capitalism without adequate regulation. But I hardly see it as a problem with democracy.

  33. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To A Nobody:
    I agree that “illegal” protests place too much emphasis on the methods, and detract from the message. As soon as China allows “legal” protests, I hope the illegal ones go the way of the dodo.

  34. GNZ Says:

    SKC,
    Can you imagine the board meetings at San lu/ the Fontera board members have effectively put some people in the company in danger of being shot in the head for killing babies as well as loosing most people’s jobs. I imagine Fontera is running a little short on guanxi.

    However I’m not sure I can endorse your negative view of guanxi except in obvious situations like this one. A system that ignores social capital would seem to be inefficient and reward the untrustworthy.

  35. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To GNZ:
    As I alluded to in another thread, if I was a parent of a stricken child, I would probably like to see a parade of people walking into the tunnel towards the light. And that parade shouldn’t include just the Sanlu folks, although they are the convenient sacrificial lambs. I’d like to see a fair number of suppliers join them in the march. And I suspect there are government types who also deserve the long walk down the short plank as well. Pity if they don’t.
    As for guanxi, i would submit that, by the time situations become “obvious…like this one”, it’s a little late. You want more stringent regulation and less guanxi, so that there is no genesis for such situations to begin with. And if you’re on the straight and narrow, and are selling a good product, you shouldn’t need guanxi to help you close the deal, or pass regulations. I’d go so far as to say that this traditional reliance on guanxi breeds the type of corrupt atmosphere that others here have commented upon.

  36. Jerry Says:

    Here are some general comments about the science and chemistry involved in this scandal.

    First of all, we live in an era during which we have unleashed chemical engineers (ChemEs) to create/synthesize mountains of chemical compounds. Currently, there are 30,000,000 chemical compounds. Many of these are agricultural and industrial chemicals.

    It seems that we just can’t resist using these compounds, because after all, we have them.
    That is why I distrust technology. It is not technology, per se, it is our lack of intellectual, mental, emotional, moral and spiritual maturity to deal with technology. Hence, we live in a chemical soup. Oy vey. Oy gevalt. Meshuggina!!!

    If you think it is tough to determine the toxicity of a chemical, try determining what happens with the interaction of chemical compounds on the 20th interaction, the 50th interaction, the 1,000th interaction, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

    Melamine is a fire retardant and a concrete additive. Combined with formaldehyde, it forms a resin which is used as heat-resistant plastic, or a foam which is used for cleaning. Derivatives are used for drugs. It is used in cement for its superplasticity.

    Now here come the million dollar properties. Melamine is inexpensive. It is 66% nitrogen. Melamine powder is very insoluble in water. Can you say, “Kidney stones?” Can you say, “Digestive tract (upper and lower GI tract)?” So why do they put this in milk powder. Because you can water down the milk used to produce the milk powder. Then when you have the powder, you can add melamine, which is a non-protein nitrogen. This will increase the amount of nitrogen. Many agricultural protein tests depend on nitrogen content. Thus, the testers assume that higher nitrogen means higher protein. The manufacturers, in this case, have cheated and tricked the testing process. Can you say, “More profits?” Momzers!

    It gets worse. There is a chemical called cyanuric acid, which is used in herbicides, bleaches, disinfectants, animal feed additives and water additives. When combined with melamine, it forms a salt, melamine cyanurate. The salt is very insoluble and leads to renal (kidney) failure. More kidney stones and more deaths. Furthermore, melamine cyanurate has been found, in the past, in Chinese gluten. BTW, cyanuric acid is oft found in waste and crude melamine.

    So, what we have are chemicals which have legitimate and illegitimate uses. When chemicals are combined, you can create a lethal, toxic chemical compound. It looks like we are playing with fire here.

    BTW, to give you an idea of how easily cyanuric acid and melamine combine: There is a turbidity (turbidometric) test for cyanuric acid concentration. You add melamine to the water. The more turbid (cloudy) the water, the higher the cyanuric acid concentration. Melamine combines with cyanuric acid very easily and the salt precipitates out. Oy vey.

    Oh my head just hurts and I feel sick. No wonder I passed up the opportunity to become a ChemE. You ever think that we have opened up Pandora’s Box and now we have no idea how to get out of the mess we have created? It is going to take some moral and political will.

  37. TommyBahamas Says:

    You ever think that we have opened up Pandora’s Box and now we have no idea how to get out of the mess we have created?

    Um…Another cultural revolution on the intellectuals? You may think that was a sick idea, but I have heard scholars tell me that the world, if not certain countries, are overdue for another CR. Aren’t their Maoist in Napal ?
    I dunno, man. What ‘s worst, Mao keeping China from “progress,” or China joining the capitalist world in hastening the end of mankind?
    Jerry, I remember you mentioning the disclosure project or acknowledging knowing about it. My question to you as a man of science is, do you think Dr. Greer and all those witnesses who were ex-governmental and military personel (including Dan Akaroyd of the Blues brothers) could be lying? To me, it’s a no brainer –extraterrestrial life form and their visitations of earth is a fact. Do do you think that our galactic neighbors are trying to prevent earthlings from extinction, and if so, I wonder why they are being so sneaky about it? I mean, I was so looking forward to their lending a hand since the movie Close Encounter of the Third Kind first came out, what 20 some years ago? Damn, how time flies!

  38. Jerry Says:

    @S.K. Cheung, @GNZ

    #31, 32, 33, 34, 35

    SK and GNZ, is guanxi the Chinese version of the American “Good Ol’ Boys’” club?

    SK, in #32, you said, “the current Wall Street flame out may be a cautionary tale for free-market capitalism without adequate regulation. But I hardly see it as a problem with democracy.” I heartily agree. Sounds more like a problem with GOB and guanxi.

    So, SK, if the Chinese taught the Americans the concept of guanxi, then fie on them. Obviously, I am kidding here. I believe that the GOB club and guanxi can be more attributed to “human nature”. Perhaps birds of a feather flock together.

    Unfortunately, the lack or easing of regulation in the US has caused more problems than the flameout. I remember the incident with the Bil Mar (Sara Lee) sausage plant in 1998 in Zeeland, Michigan. The USDA (and FDA) had allowed HACCP self-regulation (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazard_Analysis_and_Critical_Control_Points) to replace government food safety inspections (again, the GOB at work). Well, scientists at the plant let the management know that HACCP tests showed overwhelming presence of listeria, a toxic bacteria (worse than E. coli), in the hot dogs. Well, management made a calculated, criminal decision to ignore the tests. After all, throwing away 35 million pounds of hot dogs is very expensive. 21 people died and hundreds became critically ill. The CDC tracked down the source of the deaths and illnesses. They dragged (literally; the USDA did not want to admit its mistake) the USDA into shutting down the plant.

    So, SK, is self-regulation an oxymoron, or perhaps just moronic? BTW, USDA food safety inspectors refer to HACCP as “Have a Cup of Coffee and Pray”. ::big smile::

  39. Jerry Says:

    @TommyBahamas
    #37

    Hi Tommy. No cultural revolution on intellectuals. Please remember I am one. Maybe the ruling elite? Hmmm… CRs are cyclical in most societies. I believe they are insipid, unintelligent overreactions and scapegoatings. Let’s not deal with the issues, let’s burn the witches. We tried that in America, Europe and China (CR was a witch hunt).

    Well, if we are doomed between oppression and unregulated freedom, it has been nice knowing you. A bi gezunt, Tommy.

    Regarding the Disclosure Project, I know of it. Now to answer your questions, I am going to step back into my theoretical physics viewpoint. Lying? Hmmm…, I don’t think so. Perceiving entities as metaphors which they understand? Perhaps. Theoretical physicists conjecture and hypothesize about hyperspace, time potential, numerous higher dimensions, string theory, etc. Do extra-terrestials, UFOs, angels, shadow people, galactic neighbors exist? Hmmm? Ponder, ponder? Or are these entities just us in higher dimensions. More pondering.

    Am I being too cryptic? Or just not ready to say why, what or how?

    Why are people sneaky? I don’t have enough time to consider all of the possibilities.

    Zay gezunt, Tommy

  40. TommyBahamas Says:

    LOL~! I guess I’ll have to say, sorry, pal, thankk God, I am not an intellectual. *Ops, I said the word “God,” off to re-education camp with Tommy. Pronto~! Oh, okay, CR is cyclical, shit happens whether we lie it or not. I understand. Screw that idea.

    “if we are doomed between oppression and unregulated freedom, it has been nice knowing you.”

    The latter is rare if it even ever ocurred in human civilisation. Perhaps the concept of civilisation is synonymous to oppression? Okay, where is the nearest nudist hippie colony ? Mm, on second thought, how do they deal with mosquitoes and those nasty vermins that lurk in ponds, lakes and rivers which like to make homes of naked mammals’ urethras, what are they called again?

    “Lying? Hmmm…, I don’t think so. Perceiving entities as metaphors which they understand? ”

    Jerry, I understand your reluctance to go out on a limp on such matters. I will drop it after this if I don’t get a response. Incidentally, Disclosure Projects’ main aim is about receiving Aliens’ know-hows in zero-point energy technology. It is about trying to push the government(s) to share these technologies before we kill mother earth. That is what I meant by “their helping hands.”

  41. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jerry:
    here is what I wrote on the other Sanlu tainted milk thread:
    “Self-regulation seems like the ultimate form of conflict of interest. The whole point of a regulation is to force you to do something that you otherwise might not. There are bound to be problems when the enforcer and the enforcee are one and the same.”

  42. Allen Says:

    According to this interesting piece, the solution to China’s lack of self regulation is de-centralization of some power. One of many food for thought…

  43. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Allen:
    interesting piece. Some random thoughts:
    1. 9% growth this year representing a “bearish” outlook says a lot about the Chinese economy in relation to the US or Canada.
    2. if someone offers you a 70% annual rate of return on an investment, and you believe them, then you’re either an idiot or a fruitcake. Maybe both.
    3. the call for lower interest rates is eerily similar to Greenspan’s response to the last US downturn with the bursting of the dot-com bubble…which probably in part resulted in today’s mess. Yet another reason to forgo the goose/gander approach to life.
    4. sounds like the CCP structure has a glut of middle management…and these folks aren’t too keen on transparency.

    I think recent events in China (and the US) argue for more oversight, not less. Such oversight would seem fairly useless if it’s self-administered. I don’t think there’s much to choose between central vs local oversight, so long as it’s not corrupt oversight.

  44. Jerry Says:

    @S.K. Cheung, @Allen
    #42, 43

    At first glance, I fail to understand why the PBC lowered the interest rate when the growth of the GDP exceeds 9%. And the CPI increase was nearly 5%. Like you, SK, I just can’t make heads or tails out of ‘While GDP growth this year is still expected to expand by more than 9 percent, the nation is bracing itself for a prolonged period of bearishness. Fully 130 million Chinese are deemed gumin, or “stocks-and-shares punsters,” most of whom have lost big as the Shanghai Stock Exchange composite index dropped from 6,000-odd points in October 2007 to just over 2,000 points last week, the lowest level in seven years.’ Unless the Chinese people fear that their economy is a house of cards. Note I did not say it was a house of cards. Fear and panic can do amazing damage.

    It kind of reminds me of the momentum in a sports game. One team develops a lot of momentum and a big lead. They gain the lead while they are “playing to win”. Then they start worrying about conserving the lead. They play “not to lose”. They forget how they got the lead in the first place. Tactical gamesmanship can cause problems. Hmmmm …

    The 70% interest rate was amazing. Did anybody ever pencil this one out? But then again, the US and global derivative market crisis was caused by greed and too much reliance on mathematical model mumbo-jumbo. You would think that somebody would figure out that this was just greed and snake oil. As I was told years ago by a very wise, conservative banker, “Before you start worrying about the return on your money, you should concern yourself with the return of your money.”

    One additional thing I saw out at Marketwatch:

    Chinese authorities reportedly have given short sales and margin lending the green light to help boost trading in China’s second largest stock market in Shanghai. This comes in stark contrast to U.S. regulators who have now banned short selling in more than 900 companies listed domestically.

    http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/wmd-export-china-allow-short/story.aspx?guid=%7B027F830B%2D5775%2D47A1%2D9BC5%2D7C7214F4AB1D%7D&dist=pfbeta

    Hmmm …

  45. Jerry Says:

    @S.K. Cheung
    #43

    “I don’t think there’s much to choose between central vs local oversight, so long as it’s not corrupt oversight.”

    The cynic and skeptic in me has to say, “Wow, SK, talk about nailing the issue right between the eyes. That is a mouthful if I ever heard a mouthful.” That is precisely one of the reasons why big corporations have bought and paid for the American government. They get the best of both worlds. They get to control their regulators and the regulations. And they get the overt appearance of unbiased, government oversight. I can’t believe it is any different in China.

  46. TonyP4 Says:

    There are bargains for some Chinese companies if you look at P/E for starter. The economy in China is affected by the global economy. I believe a lot of companies will double in value in 5 years. There are many obvious lessons learned in last two years that they should not repeat same mistake again and again which is the human nature.

    (1) The prestige of their products is very important to the global market. The tinted milk products and toys will not be restored by moon launches and the Olympics. Spend more on QC and punish those who violate.

    (2) Their investment in US last year on a few US companies lost over 40%. US is not a good model for a developing and complicated country like China for investment or handling investment. Learn from their mistakes and adopt their good systems. They also should reduce the holding of US dollar. It has only one direction – down.

    There are many, many mistakes but some good ventures like trading with Africa. China’s priority is to have jobs for every one to prevent rebellion, but higher priority should be shifted to pollution, corruption. It is good for a more stable government as the Britons gave to Hong Kong but China should allow more freedom gradually.

  47. Joel Says:

    “You are not here to offer criticism. You just want to hurt my feelings. As a person of mellow and peaceful nature, I cannot yell back.”

    ~

    “The rabid anti-China freaks/activists hurling insults on the Chinese during the Olympic torch relays… “genocide Olympics” type of freaks … and the creeps who climbed up to treetops to unfurl illegal banners…

    …China should continue to ignore those freaks and insulate itself from their bad influence…”

    I’m not one of the so-called “anti-China freaks,” and I’m not interested in defending them. But I still have some unsolicited comments.

    (1) Some popular Mainland opinions sound just as outrageous and ridiculous to many Westerners as those kinds of protests seem to you. (Using the embarrassing China dairy scandal to try and score points in an endless game of China vs. the West, for example, comes across as very ridiculous. If we Westerners got our feelings hurt over such things, I’d be hurt. ;) ) If you want non-Chinese to listen and try to understand you, even when you sound ridiculous/offensive to them, then the open-mindedness needs to go both ways.

    (2) If you see those people (and those opinions) as “freaks,” then you don’t really understand them or their opinions, intentions, thinking, or motivations… or the cultures and societies that they live in.

    (3) These kinds of posts are one of the reasons I’ve not read FM in a while. I think the idea behind FM is great, and I’d love to see it succeed. But you guys still have a ways to go before you’re able to actually engage mainstream Westerners (with mainstream perspectives) in an intelligent exchange of views. (I say that as someone who wants to see FM improve and succeed.)

    Whether it’s a case of “playing music for a cow” or screaming nonsense at a neighbour, this kind of post still fails to communicate with mainstream Westerners the way I assume FM wants to. Actually it works against FM’s purpose, because it will just reinforce negative impressions. But I suppose it all depends on what kind of readers FM wants to attract.

    Netizen K and BXBQ’s comments remind me of this satire piece translated by CDT.

  48. chinayouren Says:

    I agree on points 1, 2 and 3. Especially 3.

    Actually, one of the things that initially attracted me to this blog is the fact that most of the writers seem to have a strong chinese cultural background, as opposed to most China blogs run by Westerners. The other thing that attracted me is that it is more open to participation than most blogs out there.

    All great ideas, but I guess it was too good to really work. Quality of the posts goes downhill without a reasonable moderator to set some standards. But well, it is not my blog, so you be free to manage it as you like.

  49. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Joel:
    completely agree. Especially #3, which is why I’m here more often for entertainment these days than education and enlightenment, although I’d submit that I get much better value from the comments than from the posts themselves.

  50. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    S. K. Cheung,

    “But if NZ deserves their share of punishment, shouldn’t your vitriol be directed at those who own the 57% share first? Where is your 1.3X amount of disdain for the Chinese who poisoned Chinese children?”

    I have a lot of disdain for the Chinese who poison Chinese children. I want them punished.

    However, this forum is not the right place to direct my vitriol toward them, because of its participants and audience.

    If I criticize China, I would prefer to do it in Chinese, to a Chinese audience, and inside the PRC, in order to make my criticism meaningful and effective.

  51. FOARP Says:

    @BXBQ – So, essentially, your are against criticising Chinese malefactors in front of us ‘foreign devils’ . . .

  52. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BXBQ:
    it seems that the raison d’etre for this site is to remove barriers between China and “the west”, and to engender a greater understanding of the Chinese perspective among “westerners”. I think one possible misconception that westerners hold is that Chinese are blind to the problems of their system. So if this is not the audience for showing Chinese contempt for Chinese maleficence, I don’t know what is.

  53. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To FOARP:
    completely agree. Not to mention that some of us here are Chinese, and some even appear to be in PRC, though I can’t say if they’re citizens or not. BTW, borrowed a word of yours there, hope you don’t mind.

  54. Daniel Says:

    I know what you all mean!
    Whenever I stumble upon people online refering to Fool’s mountain, at times, I tell them that you need to read the comments, because it’s more like a forum/discussion platform than most blogs are. The posts are only like a door knob or stepping stone…abeilt at times a rusty door knob and shaky stepping stone, then the comments sometimes become a pond or sea of more goodies. However, I realize what another post was saying…how pretty much it’s the same 20-30 regular commentators and such. Still, a nice website to visit.

  55. Hongkonger Says:

    Joel,

    I was just thinking to myself, “I haven’t seen Joel’s comment or posting for awhile. I wonder if Joel is out in the sticks somewhere in China with no access to the internet?” Now I know.

    Yes, I agree with all your points.

    Being a Hong Konger, I am used to and was fine with western or even anti-China critiques forever, i.e. until recently. For some reason, I suddenly got tired of “too much of the good things,” if you know what I mean? You have shown goodwill with your postings, and had and are trying hard to understand your host country and your neighbors — it is not easy. I changed my mind about you especially after reading your article in your blog about your drinking buddies, which I mentioned & you did respond to in another thread on FM.

    The thing is, we are generally more friendlier to outsiders than we sound in writing, I think. And those of us who care to communicate with non-Chinese are relatively few, even among the tiny percentage of non-overseas Chinese who are fluent in English. I know many overseas Chinese or overseas returnees in Hong Kong who would actually rather hang out with foreigners and have this superior attitude towards the locals and Mainland Chinese. Those kind actually offends me the most. In fact, more than foreigners’ who don’t care to integrate with local people and customs, to tell the truth. But of course neither are any of my business.

    Therefore, I am happy to discover FM, especially with the predominantly good quality comments we enjoy here. So, Joel please don’t throw in your towel yet, most of us are trying too.

    Finally, this has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but it is just my wish. I suspect (No proof) that there are also expats out there who are fluent in written Chinese, who are likewise commenting on Mainland Chinese blogs as Chinese folks are on this English blog. I DON’t know, but I sincerely hope so, as some Non-Chinese speak better Chinese Mandarin than I do, they are amazing.

  56. skylight Says:

    @bxbq

    Very interesting viewpoints, how do you view the former Soviet Union, is it part of the West?

  57. DS Says:

    @Joel:

    This is blog will be labelled liberal, not some mainstream material. It is actually quite difficult to engage a meaningful conversation if the two are regarded as equal footing. I think the most urgent thing now is to encourage the people in the west to have some form of refection (some already have). I give you two examples. For those of you read NYT and WP everyday, you are probably familiar with Jim Yardley and John Pomfret. Yardley is reporter and writes in a style akin to monk’s chanting. He also appears to be a mild mannered person — someone you want to talk to. However, I always find him supercilious. Whatever he writes about, he is condescending in tone because his firm belief that he stands on a higher moral ground. Pomfret on the other hand manages a half decent blog (by decent I mean FM). He rarely says anything good about China, but for some reason he appears to understand where the Chinese are coming from (I think he had lived in Beijing for some years). If every American is like the ones on this board, we would have had some meaningful conversations long time long, and the world wouldn’t look the way it does today. Another example I can give you is David Brooks and Billy Kristol. Eqully conservative. Brooks looks back into the core of GOP and examines the problems. Kristol is as stubborn as a nail and irritates the hell out of me.

    When it comes to China, the mainstream America is very stubborn. They still believe their system is far superior to anything else in the world. How do you talk to someone when he feels like a professor, and you are his pupil? I have resorted to shouting lately out of this frustration.

  58. admin Says:

    @Joel, chinayouren, and SKC #47-49
    Thank you for your comments. At the risk of being a broken record, I’d like to repeat that we are trying to build a two way bridge and I hope people from both sides can actively participate in this process. If you think a post is not of high quality, we have gone extra miles to make sure there are multiple ways for you to make things better. Such as:

    • Make a good comment and we will highlight it;
    • Submit a great entry and we will post it;
    • Publish something excellent anywhere and we will link to it.

    Now, I don’t always agree with our writers either and I do share your concerns about the quality of the posts. It is especially difficult this month to maintain high quality, fresh content on this site given that our two editors and one contributor are out of action. Moreover, Foolsmountain is a collaborative blog and it is still in its infancy, so by its nature we will see some variations in quality or perspective from post to post.

    However, I do take issue with this statement:

    “But you guys still have a ways to go before you’re able to actually engage mainstream Westerners (with mainstream perspectives) in an intelligent exchange of views.”

    Well, if our Chinese writers, who have studied and lived in the West for years and put a good effort to express their opinions in English, are unable to actually engage mainstream Westerners, who can and who will? Doesn’t this statement alone carry some overgeneralization, condescension, a sense of “western exceptionalism” with a good dose of pessimism in it? If you think our “cow’s music” (I hope our writers will not take offense on my turning the original metaphor on its head) is unsuitable for your ears, well then, please give us one or two music lessons?

  59. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Admin:
    “who can and who will?” – point taken. Perhaps this blog is a victim of its own past excellence, despite its short history. You’ve unleashed the curse of high expectations. Tough to meet when Tom Brady, Sidney Crosby, and Lebron James are on the IR. I’m looking forward to when your team gets back to full strength.

  60. FOARP Says:

    @SK Cheung – The truth is that the majority of mainland Chinese people I know would disown BXBQ’s statements here, and I’m sure this goes for the majority of people in China also. People in all countries do not like to here bad things said about their homeland, especially in front of foreigners, but this does not excuse using ‘national face’ as a reason for never criticising something that is obviously wrong. The current scandal in no way, shape, or form is a specifically Chinese problem, but is simply what happens when insufficient checks and balances are applied to the production of some article. Here in the UK we had the long-running BSE scandal, which was brought about through the ignoring of expert advice in search of greater profit, this problem is not vastly different in anything except the potential death-toll and the young age of the victims.

  61. TommyBahamas Says:

    “Whatever he writes about, he is condescending in tone because his firm belief that he stands on a higher moral ground. Pomfret on the other hand manages a half decent blog (by decent I mean FM). How do you talk to someone when he feels like a professor, and you are his pupil? I have resorted to shouting lately out of this frustration.”

    DS, I have never met you and I know nothing about you, yet I am in so much agreement with you. I have never lived in the “West,” only visited a lot of their countries due to my profession. And so for most of my working life, I’ve had to endure such ” well-meaning” condescension as a guest of these many western countries I frequent. BY condescending I mean, for example, a monologue that goes like this, ” You seem like an honest decent guy. I think it’s got to do with the fact that you are western educated. From your accent, did you go to school here/in America? Some of your friends, I mean the Chinese people, they are not so honest, yunno. They still worship Mao there I understand, and Deng of course. You guys worship ancestors and all that crap. No offence. I know you are not like them. Are you religious? blah blah blah.”

    ON the one hand, I totally sympathize with our foreign guests’ frustration at times living in China as I also have moved to live in China in the past few years. However, on the other hand, I do get furious hearing and reading all these similar crude remarks and rude condescending comments from these guests which I, as a Chinese guest, have all these years refrained from uttering even though my spoken English is fine. By that I mean, hey, if one doesn’t know the language, ones understanding of the complex culture of china or any culture for that matter is limited, and therefore one inevitably speaks from a biased point of view. It is of course no great crime to be biase. Aren’t we all bias? Except being vocal or too quick to judge with too little knowledge of the opponent’s background and sentiments, even in the name of goodwill, or out of good intentions, in most instances only serves to alieniate the two.

    This article by BXBQ does serve as a good example for some to reflect upon. This is the kind of condescending criticism the Chinese get all the time. BXBQ, I hope you understand that I have been a strong supporter of yours because you were the first in my experience in the bloggers’ world whom I admire as a credible voice for the Chinese side, albeit a little nationalistic at times. And for that you, rather your handle BXBQ, was smeared and blacklisted by Peking Deck. Even though I didn’t at the time agree with all your comments, you helped me a lot in finding my voice. I am not an intellectual, just a lowly working man. I wish I could be as articulate as you or Buxi, or SKC, FOARP, Jerry, Alan, Joel etc. But even I have the horse sense to know that FM is a good blog to continue to participate in. Let’s help it find it’s noble place in bettering Sino-Western World laymen relationship.

  62. 游子 Says:

    这个BLOG虽然抱着成为中西文化桥梁的想法,本意可嘉,可惜管理者及编辑者本身并不具备“成为桥梁”的兼容性和客观性,往往固守自己偏执的立场,实际上倒成了宣传中国文化负面因素的“桥头堡”。这样,既不能说服西方主流价值人群,也令象我这样的中国本土民众无法接受。

    中西文化确是各有特点,互相交流和学习的必要性无须多言。但有一点必须指出,自由、民主、法治、人权等价值,在确是西方首先发现并探索的,这是西方之长,中国之短。中国应在这些方面虚心学习,这也是如今中国公民意识觉醒后的诉求。遗憾的是,本BLOG的管理及编辑者,总是自觉不自觉地把话题引向这个方面,把西方文化与自由、民主、法治、人权等价值挂钩后,再从中国必须坚持自身的特殊性的逻辑思维出发,不仅对上述价值尽力贬抑,还反对在中国施行上述价值。如此就不仅仅是一部分海外华人与外国主流文化争吵的问题,还涉及到我们这些本土中国人的切身利益问题了。

    在上述特定的价值观问题上,可以肯定的是,即使是在中国,目前也已经在各种法律言文件中得以确认和宣示。中国人也是人,也需要得到尊重并享受各种基本权利。自由、民主、法治、人权当然是好东西,西方人能用,中国人也需要。当然,法律上承认的价值能否在现实中实施则是另外一个问题。由于涉及旧体制下既得利益者的利益,总是阻碍和借口多多。在一个不自由、不民主、不法治以及人权不受保障的体制下,既得利益者就是掌权者以及与权力有裙带关系的人。在目前中国,这些人已经成为大多数民众反感乃至痛恨的对象。

    有的海外华人自以为自己最有资格与西方社会沟通,这一点尤其好笑。沟通在于能力而不是资格。某些海外华人可能自以为脚踏两头---面对外国人时以中国文化代表自居,面对本土中国人时又以熟悉西方文化为傲---但是在二十一世纪,文化的交流并不受地域空间限制。懂外语、读外国书的本土中国人多的是,反之外国人也是如此,并不需要某部分人做人体中介。而这部分海外华人,抱着中国文化中的某些糟粕,一边与西方主流争论,一边反对国内民权运动,自以为脚踏两头,实际上两边都不是人。客观上其主要作用,就是为中国政府的文化外交政策壮大声势而已。

  63. Jerry Says:

    Wow, I love this blog. It sometimes delights me, sometimes makes me shake my head. But it makes me think and reflect and that is good.

    This blog is a great forum. In this forum, we are all learning how to talk with each other. And that is important to bridging the gaps between our cultures. My Jewish culture is still undergoing transformations similar to the Chinese culture. Growth and transformation can be both painful and joyous. And Jewish culture can be “rock-em sock-em”. Pretty blunt.

    @Joel, #47

    I agree with “If you want non-Chinese to listen and try to understand you, even when you sound ridiculous/offensive to them, then the open-mindedness needs to go both ways.” This is a learning process. Nobody promised anybody that this would be easy.

    There are Americans who complain about China; some are virulently anti-Chinese. But then again, most Americans don’t know a thing about China, its people, its culture. And that goes for Americans knowing about Italy, France, the Middle East and Russia, just to name a very few. America tends to be America-centric. Microsoft (I retired from Microsoft) tends to be America-centric and even Redmond-centric (headquarters of MS just outside of Seattle, Washington).

    I disagree with your comments in (3). Joel, if we ever want to bridge the gap between cultures, this is all part of the process and game. I think it is wonderful. If we don’t deal with the irrational, we will be imprisoned by the irrational. The academic, intellectual, “intelligent” discussion is just a part of communication. Joel, we are all human.

    @S. K. Cheung, #49
    @Daniel, #54

    SK, I agree with you. I get much more from the comments. I agree with Daniel. The posts are openers, like a “conversation piece” on a coffee table.

    @bianxiangbianqiao, #50
    @FOARP, #51
    @S. K. Cheung, #52

    BXBQ, you say, “However, this forum is not the right place to direct my vitriol toward them, because of its participants and audience.”

    I disagree. This is the perfect forum. I second SK’s statement in #52, “So if this is not the audience for showing Chinese contempt for Chinese maleficence, I don’t know what is.” Geez, SK, I haven’t seen “maleficence” used for a long time. And, geez, FOARP, I haven’t seen “malefactors” used for ages. Thanks.

    BXBQ, if you want to criticize the West, please be my guest. Lord knows that I do.

    @FOARP, #60

    Yes, “national face” can be a prison. So can being Jewish. I have criticized Israel and continue to do so. Chomsky has done so. It never ceases to amaze me when Alan Dershowitz and David Horowitz, amongst others, refer to Jews like Chomsky and myself as “self-loathing Jews”. What a cheap shot! I actually told a Jewish man who used that term, “Yes, I am self-loathing. At least I am not a moron like you!” As I left, his mouth was hanging open and he was speechless.

    At least my dad, my aunts, uncles and cousins have never called me a self-loathing Jew.

    @TommyBahamas, #60

    Yes, Tommy, there are arrogant, hubristic Americans. Yes, we are all biased. And Tommy, I am glad that you are on this blog. Whatever the level of your English articulation, you are a wonderful, worthwhile person. Please keep on contributing. Disclosure Project and all.

  64. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Youzi:
    man, that was tough slogging for a guy who can read traditional Chinese so-so, but has no clue with the simplified stuff. Lots of blanks to fill in, and though I think I understood the general thrust of your entry, I’m sure I missed a lot of the details.
    That being so, can you recommend a blog with English-speaking mainland PRC Chinese, but with quality commentary like this one, such that one could derive the Chinese perspective from the horse’s mouth, but without having to shout or deal with wingnuts?

  65. GNZ Says:

    I hear the gossip is that Sanlu effectively paid Baidu to remove negative references from its web searches for 2 years – an interesting response to finding out that one is killing babies.

  66. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To GNZ:
    do pray tell…

  67. GNZ Says:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/sundaystartimes/4708283a6005.html

  68. RMBWhat Says:

    I also heard that this ‘rumor’ was resolved to be false. Something to do with some computer b.s. that some other dudes thought implied some conspiracy…

    Forgot where I heard it. No proof whatsoever.

  69. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To GNZ:
    I dunno, I think we’d need to learn a little more about this mysterious memo. Otherwise it’s hearsay. And a NZ newspaper sort of defending Fonterra because it only had 3 board members with Sanlu and only one spoke Mandarin is also a bit lame. If you’re on the board, you have a fiduciary responsibility, even if they were speaking Martian.
    But I found “Baidu as denying any agreement with Sanlu as described in the memo” a little curious. If Baidu denies agreement as described, then what other sort of agreement had it entered into, which was heretofore not described?

  70. Daniel Says:

    Boy, the comments sort of swing all around. I want to say that one of the big stones I noticed in these type of cross-cultural/regional/national conversations is that while both sides (or any sides…there’s always the possibility of 3rd parties) really need to be on equal footing, sometimes issues occur where one is too condescending towards themselves. It affects clarity and better understanding.

    Though I never been to the Mainland, many of this blog’s comments coincide with many personal experiences and observations with the Chinese people, in several countries, albiet with the significant-obvious differences. What bothers me is how do some Chinese think of themselves and other members of their community with very limiting definitions? For example, there’s always the comments of the Chinese are this way…we Chinese are not….Chinese people always do that…etc. Taken in perspective with how many things in life really are…the history–politics of society, etc. with or without the cultural factor, there’s really no basis for looking down or ferociously comparing themselves within the Chinese people.

    If there’s an issue with social policies or individuals/organizations, particular beliefs, it’s understandable but sometimes I run into a lot of criticisms from the Chinese about the Chinese people in general. There’s enough reasons and examples where in a sense you can literally say the Chinese have done a lot and are capable of doing anything great. At the same time, there’s a lot of work to do, in improving-personally enriching–empowering themselves without having to emulate (some may say worship) entirely of whoever they feel is the greater human being. Of course, this also means there’s no basis for being arrogant or over-expressing their “glorious nature”….this runs against some basic ideas of “What it means to be human” (it’s an expression I heard in Cantonese, not sure of the whole meaning but I think I’m close).

    I guess you can say this is like venting steam at something which is probably not related to the post or comments discussion. However, I feel that what’s missing in some of these cross-communications is really one side not having enough confidence in themselves; not knowing (being aware) enough of their own self-worth/potential to a point where meaningful-genuine dialogue is hard to achieve and learn anything because one side feels too insecure to face whatever real problems there are and defend whatever is worth keeping. Sometimes, I think people are afraid of doing what we do because seeing imperfections-flaws in others can reflect back and see it in themselves.
    (Oh Jerry, I wish I could remember there’s this Jewish phrase I heard relating to this, maybe you know?)

    I guess I can safely say that these comments are meant for those Chinese–and/or whoever that is having the same personal issues like what I’ve describe.

  71. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    GNZ

    “yes NZders I’m afraid tend to be gullible. They probably thought the company would tell the board if there was a problem. Fontera used to talk in language like “we must be in the Chinese market at any cost”. Now they are a little less naive about that potential cost.”

    Sounds fishy, very fishy.

    Feigning naiveté and gullibility is a very childish strategy for evading responsibility.

    We are not talking about New Zealand people, but NZ business people who run million dollar businesses. Naiveté and gullibility is not a trait of business people, wherever they come from. If there are Martians and ETs in this wonderful universe, then the business folks among them will have to be the least naïve or gullible Martians and Ets.

  72. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    FOAR and S. K. Cheung,

    What is the use of me bitching about the Chinese to foreigners? Would that change the way the Chinese do things? Woult that improve China a bit, which is after all owned by the Chinese and run by the Chinese? If I care about China and want it to become better, what else can I do but to talk to the Chinese about their flaws?

  73. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BXBQ:
    RE: #71: so presumably, naivete and gullibility are also not traits of Chinese businesspeople. So thus far, apart from firing a couple of people, what have they done as an adult acknowledgment of responsibility? Has the entire Chinese contingent on the board been sacked? How many criminal investigations have been launched? Who’s the highest government official to take the fall so far? Better yet, since this was supposedly known before the Olympics, but not disclosed to the public, who’s been adult enough to take responsibility for needlessly exposing millions (?) of kids to undue risk, and potentially causing kidney damage in some kids that might have been avoided with earlier product recall and public disclosure? Like I said before, everything you’ve suggested about Fonterra/NZ is legit, but don’t forget who’s got majority ownership and therefore majority responsibility. I’ll take pleasure in reminding you of this each and every time.
    RE: #72: ok, so when there’s a perceived problem in CHina, the solution should be to bitch directly to the Chinese people. Sounds fair enough. I’m happy you espouse that view, since there are (many) others who didn’t approve of Beijing protests during the Olympics. But again, those people perceived a problem in China, and took their beef to the source.
    However, this site is a blog on CHina. Perhaps it should be renamed as a blog on China for Chinese problems with foreign stakeholder involvement; and if Admin has time, maybe they can start a separate blog on China for CHinese problems with CHinese stakeholder involvement. But they should do away with the FM moniker, since such a new setup probably won’t reduce barriers anytime soon.

  74. FOARP Says:

    @BXBQ – It is more than a bit late to say that you only criticise those who are capable of changing things, in this article you seem to be trying to claim that this affair shows the strength of the current way of doing things and how it is correct to carry on regardless as things are now – an utterly lousy interpretation of what has happened, and one which has rightly been savaged by most of the commentators here. And you seem to be forgetting that many of the people who read this blog are, as 游子 has said “本土中国人”. I entirely endorse 游子’s contention that those overseas ethnic Chinese who, posing as defenders of Chinese culture, argue with foreigners on the one hand whilst opposing greater rights for native Chinese on the other are doing a disservice to both sides.

    As a British citizen I am fully aware of the short comings of British society, and I do nothing to hide them. Britain is an open society, the failings of which can be read day-in day-out in newspaper articles, in novels, factual books, government reports, in the speeches of our politicians, on television, on the radio, on blogs and websites and in open every-day conversation. Were anyone to say to me that we must withhold criticism of British society because they might reach the ears of foreigners, I and the vast majority of British people would laugh at them. I do not believe that the Chinese people are so different as not to naturally think the same, I believe the way in which Hong Kong and Taiwan have developed into open societies in which the problems of the day can be addressed demonstrates this. I believe the historical record of pre-1949 China also supports this. It is only the fear of the current government of losing their treasured prestige that prevents them from allowing free discourse, and in this they are deeply immoral and wrong.

    Put simply: had reactionary elements within the current government been allowed to have their way, this scandal would have remained a secret, and very possibly nothing would have been done about it. As it was, it was only the action of honourable elements within Sanlu, Fontera, and the Chinese administration coupled with the pressure of the New Zealand government, which eventually (and far too late) brought this affair to light.

  75. wuming Says:

    After 70 some comments, can we get back to the original issues raised by the post? Is a self-correcting mechanist being evolved in China to address various social ills?

    I believe there are something to the idea. Internet bypasses broadcast and print media in voicing social injustice, … government at various levels realized that they have to get ahead of the issue by reacting to it quicker and cleaner next time around, … institutions being set up to address problems at hand and similar problems in the future, … the measures taken last time proven to be inadequate and is now being re-calibrated, …

    Whether the thesis is true or not, there are many interesting and concrete issues at hand along this line. Can anyone argue that democracy or any particular political system would have addressed crises like that more promptly? Do the social responses depend on the stages of economic development? Do we have examples in other countries to compare with? …

  76. admin Says:

    I have said many times that we welcome any constructive feedback, whether it is toward our blog as a whole, or toward one of our writers. So in this vein, I’d like to point out that Richard, aka, The Peking Duck, has posted an entry to criticize this post. ( How bad can one post be? http://www.pekingduck.org/2008/09/how-bad-can-one-post-be/)

    I am reposting his comment with his permission.

    At the risk of igniting a blog war, I feel I have to point out what might be the very worst post on China I have read in a long, long time, from a blog I respect enough to include on my blogroll. When I say bad, when I say dumb, when I say wrong – let’s just say it’s the equivalent of what I’d expect Sarah Palin to write about the Iraq war, saying how it was an exercise in successful American can-do determination and that no civilians were hurt and it all went like a cake-walk. I mean the type of post where you have to willfully block out any and all hints of truth as you arrive at your own fact-free truthiness.

    It’s about the milk scandal, and it could have been written by HongXing.

    The light at the end of this dreary tunnel: the commenters on this site ripped the writer to shreds, called him out on his fact-averse approach and made a fool of him, in the spirit of the blog’s title. This post is all about looking at some of China’s most shameful recent catastrophes and pointing to each as proof of China’s greatness. Now, I’m not saying China isn’t great. It is. (That and much more.) I think America is great, but I don’t point to the Abu Ghraib photos and say there’s the proof of our greatness.

    The whole things is a bit surreal, like a big practical joke, like a parody of the party propagandist transforming a nation’s flaws into virtues. And then there’s the closing sentence: “This is the silver lining I see in the scandals and disasters inflicted upon us in the year of 2008″ – as if these scandals were “inflicted upon us” by some passive-voiced villain, and not by the sleazy corruption that is a defining characteristic of the CCP.

    Nothing in this post seems to make any sense. It’s a Sarah Palin interview. Unless I’m missing something. Am I missing something?

  77. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wuming:
    Quicker and cleaner “reaction” is great. But proactive prevention would be so much better. The “reaction” is the PR handling, like firing a couple of people. But to prevent “the next time” should be what Chinese people demand and expect. My initial reaction to this story was that it was corporate greed…and such greed knows no borders or ethnicities. Then I find that the company was given an exemption of food inspection. And then there are rumblings that public safety may have been compromised so as not to detract from a little sporting event in August. There ain’t no self-correction for that one. Not when “face” motivates the CCP more than public safety.

  78. Kai Says:

    I’m not posting here to represent any website but I do feel compelled to add my name to the list of people who think this post was [insert negative adjective here]. I’d normally think of writing a post replying to it (as the Duck has) but given that most of the obvious shamelessness of this post has already been exposed, I’d rather spare other people its horrors.

    Is China independently developing its own social and political framework that MIGHT be self-correcting? Maybe. I just hope the “lying to oneself” aspect evidenced by this post gets, well, self-corrected.

    This post gets an A+ for getting pageviews but little else. Consider throwing up Adsense to make the most of this while it lasts.

  79. berlinf Says:

    @Beijing Duck:

    “The whole things is a bit surreal, like a big practical joke, like a parody of the party propagandist transforming a nation’s flaws into virtues. ”

    I think it is more like “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Nobody says that having the Sanlu scandal is a virtue. The point is that what do you do about it when it happens, that seems to be the point I see this post is trying to make. Chinese government’s reaction towards it has obvioulsy improved. I hope it is leading towards a more and more open society. Open societies will accept criticisms and adapt. I am happy to see the government cares more and more what the average people are talking about, while in the past, it reacted more to international pressure, ignoring people’s voices. Such small increments of changes will eventually amount to something big, I hope.

    In the meantime, I think such changes should be nurtured and encouraged. What use is it if you think they are the “same bunch of goons and thugs” (CNN), and simply dismiss all the positive effort?

  80. FOARP Says:

    @Berlinf –

    “I think it is more like “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.””

    Can I assume you’ve heard of Ah-Q? As for the government reaction, well, I don’t think it has actually improved since 2003 – once again the government waited until people outside China became aware of the problem before actually doing anything about it, just like during the SARS crisis, and last year’s lead paint scandal.

  81. wuming Says:

    S.K. Cheung

    “Quicker and cleaner “reaction” is great. But proactive prevention would be so much better. ”
    When Long Term Capital collapsed in 1998, the government and the Wall Street supposedly learn the lessons, and would prevent such thing from happening again, but that is before CDOs and CDSs started to come into vogue that allowed Wall Street to make even bigger bets.

    “Then I find that the company was given an exemption of food inspection. And then there are rumblings that public safety may have been compromised so as not to detract from a little sporting event in August. ”
    Barely a year ago, Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers were considered among the premier Wall Street firms, with their employees carry with them sheens of glamor everywhere they went, but that is before some of their “well hedged” bets were hedged with other “well hedged” bets until no one knows what they were holding.

    Of course there are ways to prevent the nationwide food poisoning or financial meltdown from happening right now: don’t make big bets on Wall Street and go back to eat only locally produced food in China. After all, CDO is a recent invention and Chinese don’t use to eat this kind of mass-produced food products. Yes, stuff the genies back into the bottles.

    Given the fast changing nature of China and Wall Street, if you don’t want to prevent each from developing at the current clip, the best governments can do is trying to keep up with new regulations and institutions to implement them.

  82. RMBWhat Says:

    Okay, finally read this post to see what the big fuss is about. Personally I think the good professor has been reading works that’s clearly powerful artifacts of the Sith… Great! Power to the dark-side!

    Seriously tho, anyone who labels the CR as an “episode” (to a certain extent) against the west in the name of PRESERVING traditional values and working in the reference of the east needs to get their head checked immediately. But however, without having read the work myself, I can only comment on the CR part of the mentioned work.

    Flip flopping on myself again; I can certainly see a little bit of what he is talking – seeing China in the reference of the east opposed to the framework of the western civilization.

  83. MoneyBall Says:

    The reason I still comment here is simple, this is the only forum I know which you still can have a rather civilized conversation on topics of China v West, unlike Pomfret’s blog which has become a nut house, shouting match goes on 7X24; as well as the admins wont delete your comments and ban your name left and righ, like Peking duck, for anyone criticizes admins here being lopsided, go see the narrow-mindness and childishness of Richard of Duck, and half a dozen sick hators over there.

    How constructive this site can be on bridging the 2 sides? making it better or worse? I have no idea whatsoever, neither of you is smart enough to know either, quit playing the wise referees.

  84. RMBWhat Says:

    What you talking about man? The Peking duck pwns all. ThePKD is da best blog on the net. Hell, I drank their koolaid and boy it tasted so good. You should try it too.

    Richard is awesome. I love it when he censors my posts. Richard rocks hiz own world. King Richard 4 president!

    But you got to see it from their POV too. I can see where they are coming from. A country of a billion people. Constant media/cultural barrage from the day you were born…Not to mention there ARE REAL PROBLEMS with China. Plus the fact that we’re all a bunch of jabbering primates with our own pride and prejudices. Why should anyone be surprised that the Internet is full of shouting matches, fueled by a bunch of caffeine trolls.

    It doesn’t look good man, doesn’t look good at all…

  85. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wuming:
    your points are well taken. And if this were a blog on the states, there’d be much more to say about your examples. Certainly the new regulations in 2001-2002 that didn’t apply to derivatives trading can be seen in hindsight as a major error (though people like Buffet warned about them at the time). So each time there’s a meltdown, we need better rules to prevent the same mechanism of meltdown, but that doesn’t necessarily guard against other mechanisms of meltdown. I’m not saying that China’s now had her food crisis, and she is expected to never have another in the future, ever. She can, and the probability is she likely will, but hopefully it’s not because of the same failings as displayed by the current example. But mechanistically, what “caused” this current incident. Was it greed? Faulty/exempted oversight? Testing for nitrogen instead of actual protein? Was it exacerbated by the delay of public disclosure, for “face” reasons? I don’t know. #2 and #3 you can fix with better rules. #1 is human nature. #4 is CCP nature. #2 and #3 won’t correct itself; humans need to put in the safeguards. #1 hasn’t corrected itself through thousands of years, so I’m not holding my breath. And the next time the CCP can rid itself of #4 will be the first time.

  86. MyLaowai Says:

    I’m just glad that the pain in my kidneys turns out not to be from alcohol abuse.

    Yeeharrr…

  87. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Sounds like Peiking Duck is still tearfully sentimental as almost a year ago. I have grown and matured through the Olympics and stuff. Some people never learn, sigh. I see no substance in his accusations of my aversion to facts, just name calling.

    Wuming,

    I think the evolution of the self-correction mechanism is real. In a broad sense, it is based upon the increasing self-consciousness of the Chinese citizens, an awareness of their rights and interests, and a willingness to take actions for the sake of their interests and rights. The protests against pollutions in Beijing and Xiamen demonstrate this trend. This grass-root, home grown momentum of change is prompting the authorities to respond, not only to contain the situation and accomodate the current demands, but to develop new procedures and protocols to eliminate the source of the problems. The Chinese press is becoming more and more active, and will turn into a major component of the new procedures and protocols.

  88. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    skylight # 56

    “how do you view the former Soviet Union, is it part of the West?”

    You got me on this one. I am not informed to have an opinion. But it seems that the Russians are a different type of animals from both the East and the West. I met some really bright guys and gals from Russia in grad school, especially in basic science like physics and chemistry.

    TommyBahamas,
    Thanks for your support. I have learned from communicating with people of all sorts of beliefs too. It has been a great learning experience, not only learning about other people’s beliefs and opinions, but also systematizing my own thinking process. I had never anticipated that I would have such a great “nationalistic” passion before the fuss over the Olympics started a year ago.

    FOARP,
    I have never tried to pass myself off as a representative of the entire Chinese nation. I am just offering my perspective which is deeply rooted in the experience of growing up in the New China and being raised under the red Chinese flag.

    Jerry,
    “if you want to criticize the West, please be my guest. Lord knows that I do.”
    Thanks for the invite. A Chinese criticizing the West in a conversation with Westerners is a meaningful communication; it improves understanding between Chinese and Westerners. Criticizing the West to the Chinese is just gossip, dubious taste; so is bitching about the Chinese in front of foreigners.

  89. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    FOARP # 74,

    “you seem to be trying to claim that this affair shows the strength of the current way of doing things and how it is correct to carry on regardless as things are now – an utterly lousy interpretation of what has happened, and one which has rightly been savaged by most of the commentators here. ”

    I have to sheepishly protest your interpretation of my interpretation of the even. I did not claim what has transpired with the milk powders is a paradise on earth scenario. I used the word “evolving”, which is related to evolution, which means unfolding, the gradual fulfillment of a process, with discrete but continuous steps, etc.

    I see a trend, a historical process that is leading to the installation of effective mechanisms for various groups in the Chinese society to negotiate over each others’ rights and interests. What I am happy about is that this process is unfolding within the Chinese society indepedently, insulated from influences from outside, and guided with Chinese concepts of the ideal society, like social harmony and falial/communal caring.

  90. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BXBQ:
    your logic (and I’m using the term loosely) continues to boggle the mind.
    “A Chinese criticizing the West in a conversation with Westerners is a meaningful communication; it improves understanding between Chinese and Westerners” I happen to agree. But so too is a westerner criticizing China in a conversation with Chinese helpful in improving such understanding. And I certainly hope you’re not one of those who would disagree with that (and there seem to be some who would).
    But that doesn’t preclude a Westerner criticizing the west to Chinese people as being useful. In fact, it would inform Chinese that the western system is not perfect, and that westerners are in recognition of same. Likewise, a Chinese criticizing China to westerners would be insightful, if only to show the west what issues are of importance to Chinese. I can see nothing but a good learning experience for westerners in that. And again, that to me is the point of this blog.
    But worry not. If you’re shy about criticizing China before westerners, yours truly will be happy to oblige. And I’m guessing that several regulars here might partake from time to time as well.

  91. GNZ Says:

    SKC/RMBwhat,
    thanks for your thoughts/info on that.

    BXBQ,
    Fontera is a co-operative. They are not a normal business.
    read this for some insight http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4708676a1865.html
    Note a lot of NZders are interested in attacking fontera, I doubt there is a conspiracy to suppress bad news about them but there is very little saying fontera new – that is because people who know how they work just don’t find that plausible.

    S.K. Cheung,
    it isn’t a defense at all really legally speaking fontera has liabilities and it will/should pay for them – but the newspaper has to consider that some people reading it may assume some sort of evil involved on the Fontera side and that as with my comments here – the most likely answer is instead stupidity.
    I note however that there were other companies involved, and the poison was probably not tested for by anyone. So the stupidity might have been in getting involved in China (as a cooperative) when Fontera’s brand is so valuable as opposed to any particular mistake in management.

  92. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To GNZ:
    at the end of the day, as a minority owner, I don’t think Fonterra has the most to answer for, as I’ve repeatedly tried to point out to BXBQ. However, if it is a co-op, and it just wrote down a $100million investment, I imagine its members can’t be all that thrilled. If she was truly the party that first broke the story on the melamine issue, then she did more to acknowledge the problem than all the other parties involved.
    i think Jerry described the technical aspects of melamine elsewhere. Basically, people test for nitrogen as a surrogate for protein in milk, and melamine has lots of nitrogen. All of which is moot because Sanlu was given an exemption from testing anyway.

  93. 游子 Says:

    FOARP Says:

    September 28th, 2008 at 3:47 pm
    @BXBQ – It is more than a bit late to say that you only criticise those who are capable of changing things, in this article you seem to be trying to claim that this affair shows the strength of the current way of doing things and how it is correct to carry on regardless as things are now – an utterly lousy interpretation of what has happened, and one which has rightly been savaged by most of the commentators here. And you seem to be forgetting that many of the people who read this blog are, as 游子 has said “本土中国人”. I entirely endorse 游子’s contention that those overseas ethnic Chinese who, posing as defenders of Chinese culture, argue with foreigners on the one hand whilst opposing greater rights for native Chinese on the other are doing a disservice to both sides.
    =======================================
    FOARP,你好!
    从你的这段话可以看出,你是通中文的。虽然你是英国人而我是中国人,我相信只要基于人类的普适价值(民主就是其中之一),沟通是完全可以超越国籍的。如果不存在这样普适价值,沟通就是不可能的事。坦白地说,有些海外华人虽然生活在民主国家,但内心却顽固坚持中国传统文化中专制的一面,并把这种专制政治文化当作中国文化的代表。这样的人要充当中西文化的桥梁,只能是沦为专制制度的辩护手。

    当然我尊重他们的言论自由。但由于此事涉及到中国,而我本人就是中国公民,中国的社会现实状况与我密切相关,因此这个论坛就不仅仅是某些海外华人与外国人沟通的事,我作为本土中国人,在这里有无可争辩的发言权。因为我在中国生活,我亲身体验着中国现实的社会制度,而且我比这些偶尔回国游玩一趟的海外华人更了解中国现实。我要在这里发言,就是要告诉这些自以为是桥梁的人:中国的现实不是你们描述的那样的,中国文化也不应该是你们那样解读的。

    这也是我用中文发言的原因。我为什么要用英文而不是中文,来与那些自以为是中国文化代表的海外华人争论呢?那些海外华人竟然还好意思质问我为什么不用英文。难道这些“中国文化”的海外代表在内心认为英文比中文更加高尚?华人之间争论中国的现实,还要用外文?我冒昧揣测一下,某些海外华人可能有这种二吊子心态:在面对外国人时,他们心里会想,我来自一个拥有古老文明的国家,熟悉一种令人自豪的古老文化,因而有一种“文明古国”的自豪感;另一方面,在面对国内华人时,他们又会觉得,我在西方世界生活,熟悉西方时尚,还能说一口地道的英语,因此又有一种自以为见识更宽广的自我满足感。

    我在政府部门工作十余年,对中国各阶层的现实状态当然比这些人要熟悉得多,对中国民众(无论是官员还是普通民众)的思想和感受也有相当的认识。作为一个出身贫寒、受过高等教育且有良心的政府官员,我不是既得利益集团的拥护者,并为日益紧张的社会矛盾冲突得不到有效解决感到痛心。近日我已经递交了辞呈,准备脱离这个体制了。

    我相信,中国的事还是得靠在中国生活的中国人来解决。某些“爱国”的海外华人,出于无知或者无耻,从来没有或者不敢面对国内普通公民的各项民主权利诉求,甚至还斥之为西方文化的不良影响。这样的怪物,是普通中国民众反感且鄙夷的。但愿他们的智商或者良知将来能有所提升。

    祝顺利。
    游子。

  94. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Youzi,
    your comment seems similar to your earlier one. And I agree with the fundamentals of it.
    However, I disagree with your justification to continually write in Chinese. You’re obviously fluent in English, as you noted that FOARP must be fluent in the simplified. But not everyone here (I don’t think) is Chinese, or can read the simplified. Count me among the latter. So from a selfish perspective, it’d be great if you wrote in English so I could get through it like 30X faster.
    But on principle, since you’re on an English language blog, never mind if the administrators are overseas Chinese or not, shouldn’t you defer to the language of the site? If you insist on writing in Chinese, shouldn’t that go to an expat site conducted in Chinese? As an individual who’s received the benefits of higher education, you should understand that it is polite, when in Rome, to do as the Romans do. And around here, the Romans interact in English.

  95. TommyBahamas Says:

    BXBQ, # 88

    You are most welcome :-) Like SKC said, your logic [though] is mind boggling, I believe you are trying to communicate, and that is good enough for me. I also agree with Jerry that living under oppression or unregulated freedom is acceptable. But I also said that I doubt the latter is much of a problem because the whole concept or workings of a civilisation is more or less regulated oppression. Let me explain. Like my scholarly friend, whom I hate and enjoy debating with, would say with much glee in his voice and facial expression whenever I started knocking Mao for his CR fiasco. He likes to remind me that for once, the MAJORITY of China’s oppressed peasantry got a chance to oppress the eternal oppressors. Paradox, he likes to say, is the only absolute. Good and bad are relative. This would then get my American friend really mad. I hate Moral Relativism, he’d protest.
    Like BXBQ said, we are all learning from each other. BY all means, debate hard over the issues, perceptions. Go hard at the perceived logic and challenge the dogmas, give your opponents your best shot, but please do not attack and smear the people who are willing to speak their minds.

    Talk about winning the battle and losing the war, this is how I feel. And this is not meant to say I am right or wrong. It is very likely that I AM WRONG. Well, ok, sorry about that. Here’s the irony. I may disagree more with BXBQ more than I would FOARP. In fact I tend to agree with FOARP’s knowledgeable rebuttals, but I have to admit, of the two, I like BXBQ more. Not because BXBQ is right all the time. Truth is he is not, but this is how it is when like BXBQ, he is pushing the envelop, which is something that would get certain well read, well educated, erudite type to easily lose their cool, put aown — totally dismiss someone by their snear power of hard facts. But like SKC put it, BXBBQ’s logic is mind bloggling. I think that’s cool, afterall, this is not a symposium of top or popular philosophers, scholars, hardcore intellectuals and all-knowing scientists. Although many would dispute that and also, just look at the length of comment postings whenever his articles are up. I feel that when the dust settle in say after thousands of such cross-cultural feuds, or by next year this time, we’d all be a lot more respectful, calm, understanding, and accepting. Maybe then we’ll be able to address issues without having to explain, or trying to be PC but actually start jump in the fray without personal attacks but in “moving pebbles.” Ok, I am falling asleep and repeating myself here. It is indeed reasonable to revolt~! ;-)

  96. TommyBahamas Says:

    Correction: I also agree with Jerry that NEITHER living under oppression nor unregulated freedom is acceptable.

  97. GNZ Says:

    Language is about communication – I could start speaking in a third language but that would not show that that language is more noble than English or Chinese, all it would show is that I had a certain lack of respect and a degree of irrationality in that I must care less about people understanding than some other game.

    If you can’t communicate in English of course that is a different matter (and I would not want to exclude people on that basis) but if it is a matter of pride it would seem to also be a matter of insult.

  98. Jerry Says:

    @S. K. Cheung, #69

    Most of the article sounds specious and tenuous at this point. Fonterra needs to take accountability as well as the majority board members. The so-called regulators need to take accountability. And the government needs to take accountability for creating an atmosphere in which “non-reporting” took place. Olympics or not, the lives of children are at stake.

    To the media and bloggers: produce the memo or stifle it. If there is a memo, investigate.

    Businessmen can be blindsided by greed and their own egos. Sometimes people make stupid mistakes. And maleficence (thanks, SK) oft arrives on the scene when greed and lust for power have overwhelmed a person, a company or a government. And sometimes it is the GOB club or guanxi.

    Like you have said before, we need some adequate regulation and enforcement. I like your legal language, “heretofore” and “hearsay”. :D

    @Daniel, #70

    I don’t know a phrase that directly applies to:

    However, I feel that what’s missing in some of these cross-communications is really one side not having enough confidence in themselves; not knowing (being aware) enough of their own self-worth/potential to a point where meaningful-genuine dialogue is hard to achieve and learn anything because one side feels too insecure to face whatever real problems there are and defend whatever is worth keeping. Sometimes, I think people are afraid of doing what we do because seeing imperfections-flaws in others can reflect back and see it in themselves.

    But we do say, “It is far easier to spot faults in another than virtues in oneself.” I occasionally use the old saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

    @bianxiangbianqiao, #72

    I disagree, often when I write or speak critically (kvetch) about the US, I learn unexpected things about myself, the situation or the other people with whom I am conversing. I consider that valuable. Yes, kvetching should, in the best of situations, lead to some decision or solution. But who said life is logical, direct or reasonable? I wished.

    @S. K. Cheung, #69

    However, this site is a blog on CHina. Perhaps it should be renamed as a blog on China for Chinese problems with foreign stakeholder involvement; and if Admin has time, maybe they can start a separate blog on China for CHinese problems with CHinese stakeholder involvement.

    Once more, SK, I am LMAO, ROFL.

    @wuming, #75

    Come on, wuming, this is a wonderful, on-going discussion. It is alive, it evolves. If you want to make comments on self-correction, be my guest. :D

    The internet (provided it is not stifled) is a great tool for improving government and the media, just as you have hypothesized. I heartily encourage daylighting the opaque, the dark and the non-transparent. Knowledge and wisdom are great.

    Now, SK, what was that about renaming this blog and creating a parallel blog. Oh … I am sorry wuming, I could not resist poking a little fun at our off-topic tendencies and proclivities. ::LOL::

    wuming, you ask, “Can anyone argue that democracy or any particular political system would have addressed crises like that more promptly?” Look at my post #38. The FDA and USDA were worthless on this case, having abrogated their responsibility for oversight and direct regulation. They depended foolishly on self-regulation through HACCP. But, thankfully, the US has redundancies, some are which reactive and some are proactive. Well, on reaction to the deaths and illnesses, the CDC tracked this down. They forced the hand of the USDA to close down the Bil Mar plant in Zeeland, Michigan. It is just too bad that the FSIS did not have direct oversight. That would have been proactive.

    @admin, #76

    IMHO, Richard is missing a lot. But, such is life. This blog is about posts, comments, forming relationships, discussions, arguments, rants, pats on the back, caring, etc. In other words, living life and forming community. This post reminds me more of “The Well” bbs in the Bay Area. It works for me. It does not work for him. C’est la vie. A bi gezunt.

    Sorry, Richard. Your blog does not appeal to my tastes. But then again, nobody has to “please all the people all the time.” No blog war necessary.

    @wuming, #81

    You are right. Wall Street and the government have been dismantling the regulatory structure since the Reagan Era. In the past 8 years, the Shrub administration (I just have to use that Molly Ivins’ moniker for GWB) has criminally accelerated the momentum of this dismantling. Yes, this de-regulation has encouraged the creation of CDOs, SIVs, CDSs, hedge funds, index funds and god knows what else. Now we have a bailout agreement structured by the same government and Hank Paulson, former long-time CEO of Goldman Sachs. Ouch. As I have said before, the ruling elite bailing out the criminal ruling elite.

    wuming, I criticize corruption where I see it. I don’t care if it is French, Russian, Georgian, Israeli, Hamas, US, or Chinese. It is just my nature.

    I have a question for you, wuming. How would you feel if every time you criticized the West, I would retort with some criticism of China. Wuming, this is a no-win, zero-sum game. We can do this until “the cows come home!” A waste of time, if you ask me.

    SK had some good ideas. You brought up some good points. I just prefer not coupling them as some sort of defensive shield every time a criticism is made. As I said to BXBQ, feel free to criticize the West.

    Thanks.

    @bianxiangbianqiao, #87, #88
    @S. K. Cheung, #90

    I think the evolution of the self-correction mechanism is real. In a broad sense, it is based upon the increasing self-consciousness of the Chinese citizens, an awareness of their rights and interests, and a willingness to take actions for the sake of their interests and rights. The protests against pollutions in Beijing and Xiamen demonstrate this trend. This grass-root, home grown momentum of change is prompting the authorities to respond, not only to contain the situation and accomodate the current demands, but to develop new procedures and protocols to eliminate the source of the problems. The Chinese press is becoming more and more active, and will turn into a major component of the new procedures and protocols.

    Bxbq, I hope you are right. That would be great.

    I heartily agree with SK in #90:

    “A Chinese criticizing the West in a conversation with Westerners is a meaningful communication; it improves understanding between Chinese and Westerners” I happen to agree. But so too is a westerner criticizing China in a conversation with Chinese helpful in improving such understanding. And I certainly hope you’re not one of those who would disagree with that (and there seem to be some who would).
    But that doesn’t preclude a Westerner criticizing the west to Chinese people as being useful. In fact, it would inform Chinese that the western system is not perfect, and that westerners are in recognition of same. Likewise, a Chinese criticizing China to westerners would be insightful, if only to show the west what issues are of importance to Chinese. I can see nothing but a good learning experience for westerners in that. And again, that to me is the point of this blog.
    But worry not. If you’re shy about criticizing China before westerners, yours truly will be happy to oblige. And I’m guessing that several regulars here might partake from time to time as well.

    In response to #88, as I said above, I criticize corruption where I see it. I will criticize the mechanisms which allow corruption.

    @S. K. Cheung, #94

    I get great practice here in Taipei in not comprehending Chinese conversations, spoken or written. Actually, I am getting better at comprehending speech. That which I can’t comprehend, well, c’est la vie. I know how to make do. I figure out what I need to. So, if Youzi prefers to write in simplified Chinese, so be it. There is a lot to do at this blog anyway.

    Youzi who?? ::big smile::

    I have been asked many times here when I am going to learn Chinese. My retort, “When are you going to learn Yiddish?”

    OMG, this is just too long.

    Zay gezunt. Mazel tov. L’chaim.

  99. wuming Says:

    Jerry

    I am not really criticizing US, at least not in this thread. I wished to point out the dynamic nature of various systems and the impossibility to get ahead of such systems. Such systems are messy, lively and the antithesis of the idealized doctrines espoused by some commentators here.

    I am not against criticisms either, not in any thread or blog. On the contrary, I believe all received wisdoms should be re-examined and critically reviewed before they are be put into practice.

    I am also not against the “alive and evolving” nature of this debate, but the piling on is a bit too much.

    I am sorry about this post. It is more “meta” than I would have liked. I really try to avoid discussing discussions. Maybe those of you did this before felt compelled as I do.

  100. Lurking Says:

    Went through the duck’s site, found some of bxbq’s own words. quoted there. It’s good to know Blogs for China has found such a broad-minded, tolerant spokesperson:

    The Western Journalists in deed deserve the low regard held about them by the Chinese (per your Chinese informants). My brief encounter with them was in the late 90s (97?) at the World Women’s Congress. I was at the hall where Western journalists were waiting to be ushered inside a partitioned restricted area and get registered. The way they bore themselves, conducted themselves, and dressed themselves would definitely give you some inkling about the street thugs, petty criminals, and other types of human garbage roaming their hometowns. I swear to Chairman Mao that the place reeked stale booze and fresh piss. A bad taste still lingers in my mouth from the vulgarity in the way they harassed the lone young Chinese chap at the entrance trying to prevent them from forcing themselves into the restricted registration area, at least some in their drunken wisdom. I have learned a very apt word describing this type of people in America – White Trash.

    Then this older clip from his own site – you can find links to both of these using google.

    The curious phenomenon that Laowais keep sticking around in China despite their constant bitching about their pain and agony of soul-selling and treason reveals an obvious fact. The vast majority of Westerners in China are forced upon China by sheer necessity and lack of opportunities in their home country. Their situation perfectly fits the textbook definition of a ‘loser’. Being forced to deal with a situation one cannot stand is straightforward misery. Being miserable and having no way out is a classic case of a ‘loser’. How does a loser deal with his misery? Here is the beautiful thing about logical thinking, all the pieces fall into place. Attributing one’s personal failure and misery to the repressive environment of the ‘THIRD WORLD’ is a cheap way of coping with their objective inferiority. Since the real drawback is insurmountable, what else can you do but trashing somebody weaker than you, like calling certain parts of the world ‘third word’. It feels good, doesn’t it? Another way of coping with personal failure and misery is to go get drunk and stoned at SanLiTun. None of these activities are effective strategies for improving their situation.

    Eek. What a great logical thinker! You guys are so lucky!

    The duck isn’t my favorite site. Richard has an ego and a strong opinion. But his logic smashes bxbq’s to pieces. That’s not a big accomplishment. FOARP, SK, Tommy and others commenting above do the same thing. Having a strong opinion is one thing, Rampant rage and seething hatred is, well, a little scary.

  101. TommyBahamas Says:

    Jerry,

    I too love this old saying, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

    Speaking of which…

    “The duck isn’t my favorite site. Richard has an ego and a strong opinion. But his logic smashes bxbq’s to pieces.” Wow, pretty strong opinion there, Lurking.

    “Rampant rage and seething hatred is, well, a little scary.” Hm, I agree. MInd the glasses.

  102. Jerry Says:

    @TommyBahamas, #101

    I guess everybody has his or her style and way of doing things. I am not into “But his logic smashes bxbq’s to pieces” or “Rampant rage and seething hatred is, well, a little scary.” It is very easy to scream, rant and rip people to pieces. It is easy to hate.

    I am a long term player. I have had to deal with my temper. I have had to deal with my prejudices. We are all human. But where do we want to go?

    My dad’s friend, Mack, was like a second dad to me. He would tell me, “Jerry, anybody can destroy and rip something down. That’s easy. But how are you going to rebuild it?” Mack is dead now, but his words play in my head. I am grateful for having had Mack in my life.

    I am not touching any more of Lurking’s #100 post for now

  103. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Lurking,

    You had nothing to say about my ideas, just attacked me personally.

    But thanks for bringing back fond memories of my passionate youth with those quotes. It is amazing how much life experience is possible within one year.

    The first paragraph in your quote was based on my first person observation at the registration of the foreign press at the Asian Games Village for the World Women’s Congress, summer of 1995. I saw those losers with my naked eyes. The tank-tops and pee stench were all real, even 13 years later, just like my visceral reactions.

    The second paragraph in your quote was my impression of a prominent segment of expatriates (aka laowais) living in China. A cursory look at their insightful blogs will introduce you to exemplary representatives like the Chinabounder and Sinocidal types, fine useful people living productive lives. The traits these characters represent are by no means universal among China expatriates. On the other hand, there is no denying that there are festering ghettos in Chinese cities infused with vice, like Beijing’s venerable San-Li-Tun (三里屯).

  104. Jerry Says:

    @wuming, #99

    It is ok to criticize the US. My other remarks still stand. I misunderstood your writing (in #81) if you were using that as an example of dynamic systems. I took it to be criticism issued as a defensive cover.

    I wished to point out the dynamic nature of various systems and the impossibility to get ahead of such systems. Such systems are messy, lively and the antithesis of the idealized doctrines espoused by some commentators here.

    The dynamic, turbulent nature of American capitalism can be partially attributed to the dismantling of the regulatory structure, as I wrote in #98 above.

    I don’t see regulation as an idealistic doctrine. I see free-market, unrestrained capitalism as an idealistic doctrine. It is a doctrine pushed by the ruling elites who want to manipulate and control the free market to their own benefit. They just play the game behind the scenes. IMHO, we need open, transparent regulation and enforcement which protects the “public good”. Otherwise, we end up with situations like Sara Lee, Sanlu, the Wall Street financial meltdown, selling fake drugs (fake anti-malarial drugs to SE Asia and fake heparin to Baxter), selling poisoned dumplings to Japan Tobacco, ad nauseum. Many people are hurt by a lack of adequate regulation and enforcement.

    I see regulation and enforcement, as described above, as practical and pragmatic. I see it as proactive, rather than reactive. I see it as part of the “social contract”. It is part of a “civil society”. It can work in the US or China, if we have the political and moral will to put it in place. It won’t be easy, but IMHO it is necessary.

    Sometimes, we need meta-discussions in order to get a better understanding of each other. I think it is very important. I would like to think that we are bridging the culture gap here. Sometimes meta-discussions help. Sometimes we need more meta-discussions to work through underlying issues.

  105. TommyBahamas Says:

    “I guess everybody has his or her style and way of doing things. ”

    LOL~ That reminds me of my American Chinese friend. Tall, well built. A great guy. A very Nice, helpful regular fun to hang out with kind of guy. But, for whatever reason, growing up in America, from what he told me, he always got into fist fights with the locals there, meaning the non-Asian/white folks in America.. Here in China, he and some of his Asian – American/Canadian friends also get into fist fights almost every other week with expats, as well as local Chinese too. I like the guy, but I am also a bit scared to go out with him.

  106. Jerry Says:

    @TommyBahamas, #105

    LOL. Tommy, there is an old Jewish saying that gets edited to include whatever offensive character you wish to chide. They used it in “Fiddler on the Roof”. The version for the Tsar, “May God keep the Tsar… far, far from here!”

    Regarding your friend, “May God keep your friend… far, far from me!” Hmmm…

  107. berlinf Says:

    游子所言有理,我们在异国他乡,我看还是低调些,多多学习为妙。但是为什么在西方的中国人反而会有这种古怪的心态?英文中有一说法,叫familiarity breeds contempt. 我当然不是说应该去轻蔑,可是在日常接触中的各种遭遇,媒体的一些刻意负面报道,确又让人很不舒服。我们学习西方的长处,但是也不能最终变成思想上的洋奴,到最后无法辨别是非。至于民主、自由、民权,当然都是需要,但是停留在空洞“普世价值”,“要不要”,这种层面的讨论没有多少价值,重要的是“如何”实施什么样的这些价值。比如民主,我相信英美两国的做法还是不一样的。即便在美国,在选举当中,各个州的做法也是不同的。未来的道路,应该是普遍性和地方性的有机结合吧。

  108. Hongkonger Says:

    berlinf,

    我们在异国他乡,我看还是低调些,多多学习为妙。

    Well, as they say, to walk-the-talk for ten thousand miles is better than to read ten thousand scrolls (i.e.other’s talk of their walks) : So, I think you and a lot of you fine folks, while you are in this learning phase, studying in the West are actually practicing what you are learning . In effect, working out all the knots and kinks, so that when you graduate you are well prepared. That’s great, don’t you think?
    Just as it is ridiculous to expect two groups of people growing up in two different sets of historical & cultural backgrounds to totally agree, it is ridiculous to not do as the Romans do while in Rome.
    As we say often at work in HK, 有做就有出错, 不做就不出错. It is those who never make mistakes that get fired in the end. Keep up the good work. Cheers.

  109. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jerry #98:
    “It is far easier to spot faults in another than virtues in oneself”….I would actually say (but I don’t know if it’s actually a saying) that it is easier to find fault in others than it is to find fault in oneself. And so I’m continually trying to police my own behaviour, such that I don’t commit the mistakes for which I criticize others. Alas, very much a work in progress.
    So when I criticize someone as being illogical, I sure hope I’m doing so logically. And as others have pointed out, while the ideas are fair game for filleting, the skewering should not be on a personal level. This I will continue to work on in the course of my participation in sites like this.

  110. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Berlinf:
    I hope you haven’t caught the Traveler’s Diarrhea bug of writing in simplified :-)
    I think it’s fair to ask that people not only voice what they want, but also how they hope to achieve it. However, people do need to first realize the former, before they can have any hope of verbalizing the latter. And in this vein, I’m not sure there’s any consensus on what Chinese want, at least wrt mode of governance. Many have suggested a mode that allows continued economic development, coupled with provision of greater freedoms, plus judicial reform, and an effective attack on corruption. Those all sound like good things. But more basic than that is the consideration of how one would achieve any of that in the CCP model, where it’s their way or the highway (and that highway usually leads to a jail of some form). So in my view, people need to want some of those things badly enough to engender a paradigm shift in how China is governed, before they will have the freedom to develop a de novo system that serves their purpose. I don’t think anyone knows how such a de novo system will ultimately look like. But there are some, like our Traveler, who knows what he’s got, and doesn’t much like what he sees. And I think that’s a good start.

  111. EugeneZ Says:

    The attempt of trying to attach some sort of “silver lining” to the Sanlu scandal without thoroughly examine the root causes is pathetic!

    This value system demonstated by this type of post is far off from this blog’s intention to stand for reason and logic, it smells of an ideology which is to defend China and ward off foreign criticism regardless of the subject matter. It degrades the overall quality of this blog, which has been evident ever since the Olympics. It also invites cristicism from people like Peking Duck and Traveller.

    I think that this blog is now in trouble. My suggestion for Admin – if you can not restore the original quality by, perhaps, getting some orignial contributors back on line, it is better to shut it down.

  112. Jerry Says:

    @S. K. Cheung, #109

    Either way of saying it works, as far as I care. There is a subtlety to the Yiddish version, which I was taught by my grandparents and parents. Jews can speak directly and indirectly. Yiddish is a much more indeterminate language, whereas English is more precise. Jews speak in riddles sometimes when it comes to sayings. It is easy to do when you are using Yiddish.

    “It is far easier to spot faults in another than virtues in oneself”. Well, Yiddish means the converse here. It is harder to see virtues in others because when you look at others you encounter your own faults. Others are mirrors for ourselves. So much for Yiddish.

    I understand your logic well. Unfortunately, I think it escapes some here. Skewering is so much fun sometimes, but the fun is so short-lived. I do try to avoid it when I can. I, too, am a work-in-progress.

    Thank god you don’t get to see and hear me in my abode here in Taipei. I have been known to swear at people on the TV screen, people who rub me the wrong way. Like most of the people on Bloomberg, CNN and BBC attempting to defend the WS bailout. Talk about illogical and unbusinesslike. Rewarding bad behavior does not seem logical to me.

  113. admin Says:

    @EugeneZ #111

    Thank you for your suggestion. You agreed to be an author for this blog more than 2 months ago and I look forward to your contributions.

  114. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    EugeneZ,

    “The attempt of trying to attach some sort of “silver lining” to the Sanlu scandal without thoroughly examine the root causes is pathetic! ”

    When I first saw your comment, I had nothing to say. Then I remembered a quote from wise Aristotle.

    “A dude who calls people names without clearly articulating the rationale behind his name calling is a useless dude, either beneath our notice or more than human. Anyone who either cannot articulate the rationale for his name calling or his name calling is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake rational discussions, is either a beast or god.”

    I personally do not believe in the existence of supernaturals.

    OK. I did take the liberty to reword Aristotle. Here is his original words wisdom. Get enlightened.

    “……Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is asocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something in nature that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake society, is either a beast or god.”

    Aristotle
    Politics, c. 328 B. C.

  115. EugeneZ Says:

    @BXBQ,

    You may want to re-read your own post and comments and think it over a bit. Some self-reflection and humility will go a long way for you in the future …

    @Admin,

    I liked this blog and enjoyed reading it, and I did consider to contribute. But I have also decided that I would not be able to keep it up if I did – that is why I left myself out of it.

    Even with the degradation of overall quality of posts on this blog, I still check in once a while. I thought the most important topic to be covered the past few weeks was the Sanlu scandal, but I was very disappointed with the posts on this topic. We are missing some strong voice that stood for reason and logic.

    Just look at BXBQ’s post and his not-so-subtle attempt of labelling his critics as “beasts” …. I still say PATHETIC.

  116. admin Says:

    @EugeneZ

    I sincerely hope that if you agree that to build a bridge between China and the West is important, you will not just walk away. I understand you probably can’t do full time blogging, but will a post a month too much for you? In Chinese, we say, 勿以善小而不为. In English, I quote Sydney Smith, “It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can.”

    @BXBQ,
    You know that I often disagree with you but I appreciate your contributions to this blog and your honest attempts to articulate your ideas to a western audience. However, name calling is not a constructive behavior. I think you owe EugeneZ an apology.

  117. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Admin,

    “However, name calling is not a constructive behavior. I think you owe EugeneZ an apology.”

    CLC,

    You are such as sweetheart with your parental instinct. You risk being over-protective. I thought we had a bunch of grownups who can stand on their own feet in a heated discussion.

    You make me feel self-conscious. Am I that insensitive? I am very mellow and peaceful, but with a penchant for a little intensity and spice in social interaction. I certainly hope people won’t take it too hard.

    God bless.

  118. tommybahamas Says:

    Just look at BXBQ’s post and his not-so-subtle attempt of labelling his critics as “beasts” ….
    What?????

    OMG~! Must we go thru this over and over again? Let the man, whoever he might be, speak his mind. Criticize the contributor’s ideas, convince others with your articulation or articulate not, but respect the contributor, I think is what Aristotle meant…Well, that is how I undertood it in my limited English comprehension and logical deduction ability.

    I have learned so much from reading everyone’s comment. I see BXBQ’s reasonings and the counter-reasonings. MayIask, who is the more pathetic, the one with a flawed idea or logic, or the one easily aggravated and indignant with their “perfect” logic? Since no one is perfect, then let the more “perfect” lead the less perfect with kind words so that he himself may in his critiqing become a better person. Iknow, I am one of those idealists. Like we say in chinese, “If I don’t go to hell, who will go in stead?” (Not literally of course.) Meaning, someone always has to take the risk, in order for others to learn and better themselves.

  119. S.K. Cheung Says:

    I think BXBQ has been successful in quoting Aristotle, but less so in trying to channel him.

  120. EugeneZ Says:

    @Admin,

    Thank you, but I do not need an apology from anyone. The long term prospect of this blog (or for any blog for that matter) will be determined by the overall quality of the posts. Xenophobia and false pride will not win people over – it certainly does not inspire my interest in spending time on the blog. I hope that the voice of reason and logic will prevail, over the voice of xenophobia, and blind defense of China that is exemplified by BXBQ.

  121. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    EugeneZ,

    Forget about the long-term future of this blog. The fate of the entire Chinese nation and beyond depends upon your finding something intelligent to say about something other than my pathology. Pray stop teasing me. Enlighten me.

  122. admin Says:

    @EugeneZ,

    Well, I understand. However, you could not contribute when this blog was deemed excellent by you, and is unwilling to help when you think this blog is in trouble. So frankly, I am disappointed.

    Furthermore, I was clear that I don’t agree with bxbq and disapproved his name calling. However, what you did not was not constructive, either. Besides piling labels on him, where are your logic and reason? I also hope you will use facts to back up your claims in the future. Thank you.

  123. yo Says:

    @SKC,
    “think BXBQ has been successful in quoting Aristotle, but less so in trying to channel him.”

    oh man, how long did you take to crack out that gem :-P

    @admin,
    Speaking about the future of this blog, is buxi still active in this blog or is he taking some time off?

  124. EugeneZ Says:

    @Admin / CLC,

    I accept the first part of your criticism of me with humility – obviously I have been mostly on the receiving end of much of the enlightened discussions on this blog in the past 3-4 months.

    I have always admired your effort, and I still wish this blog well. But still I would like to make a suggestion – if you can not get people like Buxi back on line in the near future, you may want to screen out some posts that do not stand for the value of what you have intended for this blog. You may consider to cut back on frequency but maintain certain level of quality, most importantly, stay true to the value you believe in. Having too mnay BXBQ’s will lose your original audience because the blog will morph into something else. I hate it that this may sound a bit patronizing, but I actually say it with sincerity.

  125. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To EugeneZ:
    I share some of your sentiments. That being said, the current strength of this blog IMO is the discussion that each post engenders. And if a post rubs you the wrong way, this blog lets you criticize to your heart’s content. God knows I’ve taken my liberties.
    As for the intent of this blog, obviously I’d defer to Admin, but my personal understanding is to bridge the gap between “westerners” and Chinese. My presumption is that this bridge allows 2 way conveyance. And if, by highlighting the over-zealousness of the overly zealous, those positions can be moderated as a result, I see that as being equally productive as moderating my own (which I have, and will continue to do).

  126. admin Says:

    @EugeneZ,

    Sorry I was a little brash. Trust me, I share your frustrations and concerns. I just posted a new entry to talk about this issue. Just as the West is not a monolith, Chinese perspectives are not something singular. While both of us do not agree with bxbq, I think he does represent a legitimate Chinese perspective. One thing I am pound of this blog is we don’t censor. I don’t think it will be a good approach to shout him down or to filter his posts. What I really want is to have many more writers, such as you, to represent a myriad Chinese perspectives on this blog. And if you pay attention, you probably will find over the last two months bxbq has changed, a little, too. ;)

    @SKC,
    Thanks, well said.

    @yo
    I don’t know when buxi will be back. His wife is due this month for their second daughter and I think he definitely deserves a breather.

  127. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Don’t know where else to ask this question without being completely off topic on any given thread, so thought I’d try it here to see if there are any takers.

    Just read in a Canadian paper today, quoting off the AP wire, that 1500 raccoon dogs have turned up dead in Liaoning province, the tests showed they died of kidney failure due to kidney stones. There is now implication of dog feed tainted with melamine. The wire was quoting the Southern Metropolis Daily. Don’t know hold old this news is, and obviously can’t vouch for its authenticity.

    But first cat food last year, then milk and milk powder, and now dog food? At least there was a viable explanation for unscrupulous businessmen enhancing profits by using melamine to mimic milk protein to get around milk testing. But what financial reason is there to put it into pet food? Why is it always melamine, rather than some other inert substance? Is it a flaw in some fundamental manufacturing process that somehow allows contamination by melamine, perhaps even accidentally?

    It’s getting to the point where I hope someone has tested the water for melamine.

  128. Steve Says:

    Hi SKC, I read the same news today, so it must have just hit the wires. I don’t think you have to worry about melamine in the water since it is used to fake protein content. I found this explanation which is as follows:

    Melamine is an organic compound, a base with chemical formula C3H6N6. Officially it is 1,3,5-triazine-2,4,6-triamine in the IUPAC nomenclature system (CAS #108-78-1). It is has a molecular mass of just over 126, forms a white, crystalline powder, and is only slightly soluble in water. It is used in fire retardants in polymer resins because its high nitrogen content is released as flame-stifling nitrogen gas when the compound is burned or charred.

    Indeed, it is this high nitrogen level – 66% nitrogen by mass – in melamine that gives it the analytical characteristics of protein molecules. Melamine can also be described as a trimer of cyanamide, three cyanamide units joined in a ring. It is described as being harmful according to its MSDS sheet: “Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure may cause cancer or reproductive damage. Eye, skin and respiratory irritant.” Not something you would want in your infant’s milk. However, that said, the toxic dose is rather high, on a par with common table salt with an LD50 of more than 3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

    But, if melamine has low toxicity then what is it that has poisoned thousands of babies in China and why has this scandal occurred? Well, LD50, the toxic dose issue, tells us something about acute exposure not the apparent six-months’ worth of accumulated exposure these babies have suffered. Chronic exposure to melamine can lead to bladder or kidney stones and even bladder cancer and as we have learned, acute kidney failure.

    The melamine in milk headlines also ignore the fact that the compound added to the milk may not be pure. There is no reason to imagine that those unscrupulous enough to add a toxic compound to baby formula milk would worry about contaminants, such as cyanuric acid, that might be found in the raw material. Indeed, even if melamine toxicity were not an issue and truly was an inert substance added to spike the protein readings in quality control tests, then any one of the impurities associated with rough melamine manufacture may be a major cause for concern.

    From Time Magazine, here’s another explanation: But as melamine experienced a resurgence in American kitchens, the material — in powdered form — has also come into use by certain unscrupulous food companies as a cheap and abundant filler substance for products ranging from livestock feed to pet food — and now, apparently, to baby formula. In some tests used to determine the nutritional value of a foodstuff, melamine shows up as a protein — so manufacturers can use the compound to make their products appear more nutritious. Melamine is not toxic, but inside the body it can cause kidney stones and renal failure. In 2007, material containing melamine — but labeled as wheat gluten and rice protein — was shipped from Chinese manufacturers to pet food companies in the U.S. and elsewhere. After a Canadian pet food company announced it was voluntarily recalling food that was sickening pets, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fielded thousands of similar complaints across the U.S. Soon after, a myriad of pet foods contaminated with the tainted gluten and protein from China were recalled from the market, but not before thousands of pets had died from renal failure

    Even scarier is this article from the NY TImes: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/30/business/worldbusiness/30food.html
    What this article says is that beyond milk and pet food, it’s also used extensively in fish and animal feed. That means the Chinese food supply is contaminated in many areas, posing a long term food supply problem. Since the danger is additive over time, it’s going to be very difficult for the Chinese regulators to flush all of this out of the nation’s food supply. I know my wife no longer buys fish from China, for this very reason. The Chinese housewives passed this information to each other where I live and now stick to places like Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Henrys for their fish, when before they would normally go to the 99 Supermarket or other Asian foodstores.

    Just as a note, where it talked about the MSDS sheet, MSDS means Material Safety Data Sheet and was supplied with every chemical we used in the semiconductor industry. It tells you the proper procedures for handling or working with a particular chemical, and gives you all the pertinent data such as melting point, boiling point, flash point, toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment and spill/leak procedures. RUMman might be able to tell you a lot more than I can if his process equipment uses chemistry.

  129. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    hey, thanks for the info. So most of that stuff sounds pretty scary, but what takes the cake is “it’s also used extensively in fish and animal feed” – so now I’d want to know if it’s bio-accumulative (say, like mercury) so if one eats stuff that had fed on melamine-laced munchies (for example, rock cod with ginger and scallions steamed in a light soy broth; or the cow from which my personal deity, the filet mignon, is derived), is one potentially at risk for acutely developing kidney failure, or getting cancer in the long term? I suspect no one knows…and I know one guy who isn’t keen to volunteer for that study.

    Maybe I should be like Jerry and become a veg-head. Actually, I’d have to go full-on vegan, since milk would be out too.

  130. Steve Says:

    SKC~ Depends on where you live. If you’re in China, you’d better watch it. If you’re in the States, no need to worry unless you are buying your fish from grocers that get them directly from China. I’ve read enough about the sanitary conditions of the fish farms there to avoid that source completely. US beef is home grown and free of that kind of contamination. However, did you know that ranchers have their cattle lick cement blocks to gain weight? An American rancher told me about it years ago, and I just found an article discussing that method in China: http://www.cipav.org.co/lrrd/lrrd7/2/2.htm

    If you are in China, I’d stick to ocean fish rather than river fish, so you don’t have to worry about the feed or the littoral pollution. I didn’t care much for the beef in China but loved the pork, chicken, lamb and duck, especially the duck. But there’s no way you can know how the source was fed when you buy it in a restaurant or the store. Do you think there is there better control at Metro or Carrefour?

    Hmm… maybe Jerry has the right idea…

  131. TommyBahamas Says:

    Not only that…you / we, would have to go Organic – just to be sure. Does organic means it’s back to 3-day brewed piss and I think feces, as our ancestors had fertilized their vegie patches for millenia? What about genetically engineered fruits & vegies? Are apples, tomatoes and lettuces etc as nature had intended extincted???

    I’ve just finished watching a very interesting documentary called, “Aftermath-population zero,” which hypothesizes a world without human – Asking the question, “what would happen if every single Person on earth simply disappeared one day. ” (No, it’s not a christian fundie film on the rapture. Hell no!)

  132. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Steve:
    I live in Canada, so we just have minor nuisances like listeria, e.coli, and the odd case of mad cow. Character-building stuff.
    Ah yes, Peking duck…that’s good stuff. In fact, just the garden variety bbq duck is yummy.

    To TommyB:
    I don’t know what organic farmers use for fertilizer, but I certainly hope they don’t go “old school” like you suggest. As for the GMO stuff a la Mosanto, who knows what the long term effects of those things will be. For that matter, all the hormones used to fatten livestock probably has a trickle-down effect on the entire populace as well. Maybe it’s time to try out the 100mile diet.

  133. Nobody Says:

    OMG~! After reading Steve’s comment I’m feeling the paranoia rising within me. U c, I am currently living in China.

    Yeah, SKC, you go ahead with the 100-Mile diet. I wish I could, but given where I am, it’s the 3,000-mile diet for me. (Or however far Vancouver is.) ;-(

  134. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Just read from the AP wire that melamine has now been found in eggs in HK that were imported from China. This apparently implies, according to the article, that melamine is being passed by the chickens to their eggs, and also suggests that these chickens were given feed laced with melamine. So this jives with what Steve said about melamine being used in animal feed. So jeez louise, what Chinese foodstuff doesn’t have melamine in it?

  135. Jerry Says:

    @S.K. Cheung #134

    SK, we live in a world of chemicals which are aggressively marketed. As I mentioned in #36, there are currently 30,000,000 chemicals. And we somewhat understand primary interactions which we expect will happen with other chemicals. It is just that this world has become a chemical soup and we don’t understand unexpected/unintended interactions further down the line, like the 500th or 2,000th interaction. Sounds to me like the “Law of unintended consequences”, or “The road to hell is paved with good (and not so good) intentions. So what the hell does this have to do with anything and especially melamine.

    As stated in #36, there is a chemical called cyanuric acid, which is used in herbicides, bleaches, disinfectants, animal feed additives and water additives. It is found in waste and crude melamine. It is also sold, by Archer Daniels Midland (“Supermarket to the World” is their motto, or should I say in this case, moo-tto), as a NPN additive to cattle feed. When cyanuric acid is combined with melamine, it forms a crystal, melamine cyanurate, which precipitates out and can cause kidney stones, renal failure and death. (cyanuric acid is used for melamine turbidometer tests, see #36). Steve also discusses this in #128. Melamine cyanurate is also more toxic than melamine or cyanuric acid alone.

    Where exactly the cyanuric acid is coming from, who knows? The uses above suggest investigation. And there might be additional chemicals coming into contact with melamine cyanurate which may exacerbate the problems. I don’t know.

    You may rightfully ask, “Why are we allowing NPNs like melamine and cyanuric acid to be used in such dangerous ways?” Greed, stupidity, desperation, heartlessness, and other words come to mind. “Because we can”, also comes to mind. Einstein wrote, “God does not play dice with the universe.” But, we humans do. Oy vey!

    It is time to give these 2 chemicals a time out, send them to their rooms without dinner, ground them for a few months and try to figure this out before we sicken, disable and kill more innocent people. Or perhaps, SK, we could use your “heads on ends of sticks, placed there with the use of dull knives” solution (Hu Jia thread)? I like your solution better. Sounds like a lot more fun.

  136. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Jerry,
    thanks for the info. You’re right, we live in a chemical soup. So once melamine has had her 15 minutes, there may be another toxin or superbug to worry about.

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