Aug 31

People Daily: China, Japan and Korea can no longer scorn each other

Written by dewang on Monday, August 31st, 2009 at 9:05 am
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Many in the “West” criticize China’s media as a “mouthpiece” for the Chinese government.  The article below is a translation of an opinion piece carried on People’s Daily by ChinaNewsWrap.com.  It is urging Chinese citizens to refrain from making fun of South Korea’s recently failed rocket launch as well as to not make disparaging remarks about its Asian neighbors.

What do you think?  Is this good for society?  Should the “West” do more of this type of “propaganda?”

The People’s Daily website has an opinion piece stating that the three nations of China, Korea and Japan should strive to refrain from scorning or ridiculing each other, and reproaches Chinese internet users for making fun of South Korea’s recent failed satellite launch.

“After news spread of the failure of South Korea’s satellite launch, the Chinese and Japanese internet endured a wave of demeaning and insulting statements about the incident. On many Chinese internet forums and blogs, people rewrote the characters for the satellite so that they acquired the meaning ‘It Fell All the Way Down’ in Chinese –  a form of mean-spirited satire. During the past few years, whenever China, South Korea or Japan have suffered from some form of loss or humiliation, members of the public in the other two countries have reveled in their failure without exception.”

“Speaking in all fairness, during the past few years South Koreans have certainly misappropriated a number of acccomplishments in order to assert their nation’s historical importance and its traditional cultural heritage, while demeaning those of others. Chinese (as well as Japanese) cannot abide this, and it is normal for them to harbour complaint about it. However, to see the failure of another people’s space exploration endeavours, and take delight in their disaster, is inacceptable.”

“Space exploration is an extremely risky and arduous undertaking. Both China and Japan, when they first joined the international space club, endured numerous setbacks. Japan sent a considerable number of rockets into space before finally achieving belated success. China imported short-range missile technology from Russia, and following the first launch, its rocket disappeared without a trace. If we  exercise empathy, we realize that mocking those neighbours of ours who are enduring experiences similar to our own in the past is far from magnanimous.”

“China, Japan and South Korea all belong to the Eastern Asian cultural sphere. Our histories, cultures and traditional customs share the same profound roots, the same contiguous veins of affinity. When relations between these three nations are harmonious and interactions are close, they will all be capable of achieving greater development, and the entire region will attain further prosperity and peace. When these three countries regard each other with suspicion, however, or even animosity, the final result can only be disaster for all three parties. In the areas of history and culture, science and development, these three nations have indeed experienced conflict and competition. However, the mutual need that prevails amidst them is even more important, as is also the relationship of mutual benefit. Well-intentioned warnings and tactful criticism are all normal, but excessive mockery and scorn is nothing more than pointless and malicious insult, destructive to feelings of mutual sympathy. When neighbours are in harmony, myriad endeavours prevail. Issues of principle will always be sources of contention, but there should be no need to contend over idle words. Pointless damage to the atmosphere of harmony and mutual feeling causes existing enmities and dissatisfactions to accumulate. Seen from a long term perpsective, this is of no benefit to regional stability and development, nor is it the attitude that should be harboured by the citizens of a civilized nation. Seen from this perspective, we can do without jokes about the South Korean missile launch.”

“Of course, South Korea has contributed as well to the relish with which people have greeted the failure of its satellite launch. Speaking objectively, they have been too eager for success, failed to observe scientific laws, and been blindly optimistic without fulfilling the basic prerequisite of grasping core technologies. Subjectively speaking, they have been arrogant and boastful, and bragged unrealistically about their ‘world-class technology’, as well as unwilling to confront reality after discovering numerous faults and defects. Consequently, they suffered a total loss of face, and were demeaned by others only after demeaning themselves. However, is it not also remiss of us as neighbours to seize upon the errors of others, and to pour salt upon their wounds?”

“What is even more important is the fact that the errors of others serve as the best mirror for ourselves, and we should make greater use of them to contemplate our own image. South Korea’s errors and mistakes should provide a warning to its neighbours – to encourage self-reflection and self-examination, and refrain from committing the mistake that South Korea made with its missile launch. If we are with error, we must reform ourselves. If we are without error, we must strive harder. For ‘those who fled 50 steps when routed to mock those who fled 100 steps’ (a quote from the Analects) engenders manifold harm, and elicits no benefit, for either one’s self or others.”

“Let’s spare ourselves any further jokes about South Korea’s missile launch – ridicule and scorn not only harm others, they also fail to benefit one’s self. We should be more tolerant, and more self-reflective, in order to acquire the qualities that the people of a great civilized nation should possess.”

Title of original news story in Chinese: 少几声“落了好”中日韩不能在互相挖苦了

Author: 苗克斋

Link to original news story.

SourcedFrom Sourced from: China News Wrap

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41 Responses to “People Daily: China, Japan and Korea can no longer scorn each other”

  1. hzzz Says:

    If you read some of the polls taken by the respected PEW research institute, some are very revealing.


    Here is a poll on how other nations view China. Not surprisingly, South Korea and Japan are located towards the bottom of list.

    This 2007 poll reveals about the main reasons for SK and JP for disliking China were 1)Economic Growth (SK 60%) and 2)Military Growth (SK 89% and JP 80%).


    This one was taken in 2002 and 2005 and is about how satisfied Chinese people are about personal progress and how they feel about national progress. As expected, most people appear to be very happy. IMO this perfectly explains why you get so many “nationalistic Chinese” and “China defenders” out there (much to alot Western folks’ dismay). It is the highest country on the list in multiple optimism and progress surveys.

    Chinese people would do well to be more humble about their progress and better contain their optimism, especially towards their Asian neighbors. I am very surprised at the animosity South Koreans have towards China even though South Korea is the biggest benefactor from China’s animosity towards Japan (Samsung, LG, and Hyndai, to be exact). Since both Korea and Japan dominate similar export markets (automobile, electronics, and entertainment) and the growth of their economies rely on expending into China, I am sure the Chinese government is assessing how to take advantage of this competition. I think this propaganda piece is one of these steps.

  2. hzzz Says:

    One thing we should all do as forum posters is to do a CTRL C before posting. I just spent like 20 minutes to write a post and it was gone after I hit the post button. LOL.

    Anyhow, I provide three links. All polls from the respected PEW Institute about China.


    The first link goes to a 2009 poll which shows that Korea and Japan are located towards the bottom of the list when it comes to having favorable views towards China. The second link goes into a 2007 poll which goes into the reasons a little better. It stated that some 60% of SKoreans do not see China’s growing economy as a good thing, while some 89% SKoreans and 80% Japanese see China’s growing military as a bad thing.

    Finally, the last survey is about how Chinese people see themselves in terms of progress. Chinese people are some of the most optimistic people in the world, both in terms of how they think they have progressed and the direction of their nation. This poll IMO explains a thing which the Western media just seem unable to connect: Why there are so many “Chinese nationalists”, “China defenders”, etc. out there. Could it be the propaganda? Certainly. But personal progress and optimism is pretty difficult for a government to force upon its people.

    Chinese should be more careful and humble about two things 1) China’s progress 2)their optimism. Korea and Japan both had suffered economic meltdown in 1997 and intermittent recessions. It’s understandable that people in economic hardships do not generally enjoy others gloating about their economic progress. I am surprised however, by the animosity SKoreans have towards China. This is ironic because SKorea is biggest benefactor of China’s animosity towards Japan. Samsung, LG, and Hyndai have made strides into the Chinese market all thanks to the anti-Japanese waves. Given the fact that Korea and Japan are dominating some of the same export markets (Automobile, electronics, and entertainment), and that China is the key to their economic expansion strategy, Chinese government certainly is trying to find a way to leverage this competition between the two. This propaganda piece is probably one of these steps.

  3. Steve Says:

    @ hzzz et al: If you post and it doesn’t immediately appear, it most likely was caught up in the spam filter. All the editors check it on a regular basis so you might want to wait a bit before reposting. If you use multiple links the odds are much greater that the post will be held up. The best tactic is to write a follow up comment asking if the post is in the spam filter so we know to check. Thanks!

  4. huaren Says:

    Hi hzzz,

    Thx for sharing the PEW results links. Very interesting.

    I think South Korea and Japan’s unfavorable view of China stems mostly from China’s support of North Korea and for China’s efforts in getting Japan to own up to WWII atrocities in Asia (which means stiffling Japan’s efforts in gaining more influence in international organizations). You are right, China imports a lot from these two nations. I’d bet money these stats will improve over time. Also it’d be interesting to see this same survey on views between South Koreans and Japanese.

    Another interesting bit is the U.S. view of China. In 2008, it dipped to 39%. To me, it goes to show the 3.14 Lhasa riot and the Olympic torch relay created tons of negativity towards China in 2008. In the 2009 survey, it jumped to 50%. I think there is a genuine feeling in the U.S. to want to work with China. Things like the SED, China continuing to lend to the U.S., and etc are all positive steps.

    I noticed Africa is overwhelmingly favorable of China. The “Western” media’s general narrative is that China is there to exploit. For the Africans, I think they see the huge difference in doing business with China vs. other foreign powers in the past. To me, this is a very healthy trend for Africa. There is more competition for what Africa has to offer.

    Anyways, back to the article. I wonder too if the leaders of South Korea, Japan, etc would like their citizens to have a more moderate and nuanced view towards their neighbors, how would they go about achieving it.

  5. Steve Says:

    @ huaren #4: Now that the DPJ is assuming power in Japan, there might be a change in foreign relations between Japan and the former Japanese war victims, excluding North Korea. That topic was on the DPJ platform when they ran. I think the key will be if Japan pays out some wartime reparations to the remaining “comfort women” survivors and POWs.

    I agree with you that China’s strong support of the North Korean governments hurts their perception in the eyes of the Japanese people, especially after the revelation that North Korea had kidnapped Japanese kids from Japanese soil and brought them to North Korea.

    @ hzzz #2: I think the Korean and Japanese numbers concerning the Chinese military buildup are so low because they are closest to China and would be most affected by an aggressive Chinese military, Korea more with the Army while Japan is more concerned with China’s Navy. There have already been confrontations between the two in disputed areas that contain oil. China is playing a balancing act here as the last thing they want is a nuclear Japan, yet they want to exert influence further from their littoral waters.

  6. Charles Liu Says:

    People like to biyatch about China’s “government mouth piece” while ignoring the growing media freedom in China. The fact is China has thousands of private print media, hundreds of commercial television stations – all competeing with the official channels that’s diminishing in audience and influence.

    Just like how some would complain about “cadres” in China’s state organs – as if we don’t do the same thing ourselves. In America cadres are called “political appointee”.

    Oh, Steve, both Japan and Israel are already nuclear.

  7. Steve Says:

    @ Charles: I was talking about nuclear weapons, not nuclear power plants.

  8. Charles Liu Says:

    Steve, I was talking about nuclear weapon programs, not nuclear power plants:



    But for some reason, our friends can have nukes without UN sanctions and demonization.

  9. Steve Says:

    @ Charles: I know Israel has nuclear weapons and has had them for many years. However, Japan does not. I’m not sure of the point you’re trying to make. I’m very familiar with Japan’s WWII nuclear program. In fact, the German submarine U-234 was the last shipment of any material Germany sent to Japan before the end of the war, but Japan wasn’t close to developing an nuclear weapon.

    What they HAD developed was a bubonic plague bomb that had been tested on villages in China, wiping them out. This “engineered” form of bubonic plague was much more virulent than the strain that had killed so many in the world during the Middle Ages. They found when the bombs were made with hardened clay, the infested fleas would survive the implosion.

    Near the end of the war, they were developing an eight engined bomber that could carry out an attack with these bombs on the US west coast but when they realized the new bombers would not be completed on time, they ordered the Japanese Navy to use its submarines to launch a small plane to carry out the bombing. The Japanese Navy refused and that’s why the attack never took place.

    Japan could be a nuclear weapons power in a very short period of time but “could be” is not the same as “is”. They currently have no nuclear weapons stockpile and are reliant on the USA’s nuclear umbrella. The point I was trying to make was that the Chinese government and military would prefer their status remain the way it is. The article you referenced also states Japan has no nuclear weapons.

  10. Charles Liu Says:

    Steve, here’s what the article said about Japan:

    “Japan’s nuclear technology and ambiguous nuclear inclinations have provided a considerable nuclear potential, becoming a ‘paranuclear state.'”

    “On the strength of its nuclear industry, and its stockpile of weapons-useable plutonium, Japan in some respects considers itself, and is treated by others as, as a virtual nuclear weapons state.”

    All this is developed without much consternation from China. Now compare Japan and Israel with, what we are doing to Iran and North Korea.

  11. Steve Says:

    @ Charles: That’s why I said Japan could have a potent nuclear arsenal in a pretty short period of time. However, they don’t currently possess ANY nuclear weapons but are under the US nuclear umbrella. Israel, on the other hand, has plenty.

  12. Uln Says:

    @OP – “Many in the “West” criticize China’s media as a “mouthpiece” for the Chinese government.”

    I suppose you know that the PD actually calls itself “mouthpiece of the party”, it is not the West who says this.

    @OP – “What do you think? Is this good for society? Should the “West” do more of this type of “propaganda?”

    I think this PD article is good for China, and sometimes the party and its mouthpiece have good ideas, and the West can learn a lot of things from China. However, censorship and supression of FOS is not one of those good ideas we want to learn from. That is why many in the West criticize the Chinese media.

    But really, the problem is not with the People’s Daily. The CPC has a mouthpiece newspaper and there is nothing wrong with that, many parties in the World have the same. What IS wrong in my opinion is that they are censoring and repressing what OTHER newspapers want to write. And often with motivations less honorable than the one behind the quoted article.

  13. huaren Says:

    Hi Uln, #12,

    Hmm, I am not so sure if People’s Daily associate themselves with the negative connotation the “West” put on them for calling themselves that. What do you think?

    I’ll say you are nuanced for you can see the goodness in “propaganda.”

    On the censorship thing – I think I get what you are saying. Could we switch it around and you help us think a bit what situations might you support a government censoring its population? I think we’d agree, for example, a blog teaching high school kids how to make bombs and how to plan one to be exploded in a school – that’d be something a government would want to censor, no?

    Perhaps that’s too theoretical.

    I am really curious given the explosion of media in China in the last few decades, if the boundary of what can be talked about is constantly being pushed further. If that’s the case, then I think its harder to find fault – I’d think that’s more natural evolution of what’s happening. What’s your take?

    Thx for chiming in.

  14. Uln Says:

    Re: censorship. There has indeed been some progress in China in the last, say, 20 years, but many argue that now it is stagnating and even regressing.

    Re the example of the high school kids:That is not called censorship, it is called common sense. The discussion about the limits of Freedom of Speech is old and complicated, and I am no specialist in law. But I understand the basic principle in Western democracies is that this freedom shall be limited when the use of it can cause harm to others. This includes “hate speech”, promotion or instruction to commit crimes, etc.

    It does NOT include: covering up some corruption by cadres of the party, information about the arrest of an admirable lawyer, research on the construction quality of the earthquake buildings, etc. etc.

    I am not trying to be sarcastic. My point is simply: yes, you can get to a situation where you are splitting hairs, even among Western democracies they still don’t agree on where to place the limits of FOS. But frankly speaking, China right now is still far from “splitting hairs” territory. China is right in the middle of censorship territory, and speaking about the fine nuances of freedom of speech when you are deliberately trampling it every day sounds a bit like a waste of time.

    First recognize and respect this right. Then discuss the fine tuning.

  15. Charles Liu Says:

    Uln, can you provide a citation on your claim that PD calls itself “mouthpiece of the party”?

  16. huaren Says:

    Hi Uln, #14,

    As debate goes, I am cool with your position for everything you said until your last sentence:
    “First recognize and respect this right. Then discuss the fine tuning.”

    This is too ideological for my personal taste. This “right” should not be viewed to be “holy.” So I think for a healthy debate, this type of rhetoric needs to be toned down and be respectful of other societies which view this right differently. What do you think? Hard to get views across to someone when he/she thinks you are disrespectful of that person’s views, no? 🙂

    I think it is more productive to “fine tune,” because people can immediately debate on the merits of each. In your example – covering up corruption by cadres of the party or whomever – of course not and I’d think that’s “common sense” for all societies on this planet.

    For the other two cases you mentioned:
    Xu and the earthquake building construction quality – could you elaborate on how censorship was applied?

    I realize we are slightly off topic now, but I think it’s ok.

    Uln, I’ve read some of your articles, and I like a lot of your perspectives. On Xu and the earthquake construction issue, I think there has been a lot of opinion on all sides and very little fact. So I am kinda curious what you know and how you come to your conclusion. It’ll be appreciated.

  17. Steve Says:

    @ huaren #16: I hope you don’t mind my chiming in here. The way I see it, the idea of “human rights” is a concept from the European Enlightenment. Since China was not a part of Europe or European derived cultures, it never really took hold there. Later during the early 20th century, these concepts became popular in the Chinese intelligentsia but never made their way down to the common people. Communism had a different philosophy (communal rather than individual rights) so again these never took hold during the Mao years. It is only today as China interacts more with the rest of the world that these ideas are once again taking root.

    The point I’m trying to make is that unless a society (not just the intelligentsia) believes that a right exists, it really doesn’t. I agree with you when you said “this ‘right’ should not be viewed to be “holy”.

  18. huaren Says:

    Hi Steve, #17,

    No problem and thx for that additional insight!

  19. BMY Says:

    Charles #15,

    There is a wording ” 舆论是党的喉舌“ . It can be easily found on all those party propaganda material (at least when I was in China) . you might search baidu.

  20. Wukailong Says:

    I read ULN’s post twice and I think what he meant was not that a society should have a certain set of rights. It’s rather that if there is a claim that there is freedom of speech somewhere, or that freedom of speech is respected but certain details need to be altered, then I’d say that the right should be respected at the outset before the rest of the discussion goes on.

    History is full of examples of how freedom of speech was restricted, even today and in many parts of the world (and in the West as well).

    Actually, socialism doesn’t explicitly talk about “collective rights.” It sees the state as something that is going to wither away when socialism is done for and the state of communism can be reached. I would say that it, too, has a very individualist basis, even though it has collectivist tenets (like class struggle, false consciousness etc).

    The recent discussions on the relativity of human rights and a strong government is a comeback for conservatism rather than socialism. We’re probably going to see a lot of that in the 21st century.

  21. Charles Liu Says:

    BMY, What you cited in 19, thou is true, as usual considering its context it’s quite different than what Uln claimed.

    Uln claims PD says it’s the mouthpiece of the party. When I searched this phrasse within the PD domain, I don’t find this claim at all:


    Quite the contrary, PD claims to be the people’s voice (万民之喉舌).

    Also, it seems “喉舌”, meaning “voice”, isn’t quite the same as “mouthpiece”, which carries negative connotation. “[public/media] opinion is the party’s voice” is used in terms of representation, responsibility, which are mostly positive.

  22. Uln Says:

    @Charles Liu

    Yes, I remembered after posting the comment. It was not on the PD but on Xinhua that appears the expression “mouthpiece of the party”. I know because I wrote a post about it some time ago. It is Xinhua in English, so the translation was done by themselves alone.

    Regading the word mouthpiece, it is not a negative word per se. Depending on the region, many just use it neutrally to mean “spokeperson” or “official publication” of a party, association, etc. You can find many of these neutral examples in Google.

    The word is only negative in the context of discrediting a supposedly unbiased media, because it implies that in effect it is not unbiased. But People’s Daily doesn’t claim impartiality, it openly admits that it speaks for the party (“the people” in CPC jargon means “the party”), so the negative expression does not apply.

    In any case, I repeat my opinion above: I don’t think the PD is a big problem, on the contrary it is one of the only sources that explain the policy and opinions of the leaders, and that is very useful. There is nothing wrong in the CPC openly having its own newspaper. The problem is with Xinhua and all the other media which get their content censored by the party and/or a large number of PD articles forced into them.

    PS. the link of that old post about mouthpiece was here:


  23. Uln Says:

    @huaren #13 – About Xu and the earthquake: censorship was clearly applied on websites deleting content related to these subjects. Also on the press in Chinese. I don’t have the time here and now to find links, but the main point hardly requires proof: it is obvious to all that there IS censorship in China, and that it is not always used for legitimate ends.

    Regarding the “holy right”: I don’t think FOS is holy. I do think it is very important and it shows respect to the people, as the CPC is supposed to show. Above all, I think it is very strange that some individuals who oppose FOS are then happily making use of it in this forum to express their opinions. It sounds like they consider FOS is bad only when it applies to others!

    And this is where we enter the realm of holiness. Because I believe “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” There is no logical-mathematical way to proof this, because it is not a law of physics. It is a belief, and it is a principle by which many of us have chosen to live. It is not even open to discussion, because it is the very foundation that makes our conversation worth having, IMO.

    BTW, the quote is from the UDHR, which was signed by China.

  24. Uln Says:

    @Wukailong – “then I’d say that the right should be respected at the outset before the rest of the discussion goes on.”

    Yes, that is what I meant in #23. Relativist arguments are hypocritical. The relativists “thinkers” claim absolute rights do not exist, but then they are the first to fight back when someone touches their own freedom, dignity or properties. What they mean is absolute rights don’t exist *for others*, of course.

  25. huaren Says:

    Hi Wukailong, Uln,

    Thx for elaborating.

    On the censorship instance, if it is very obvious, then it is probably easy for you to share details with us? Would appreciate it when you do have some time. Honestly, I just don’t have a clue.

    My understanding of the Chinese government’s interpretation of the UDHR is that is a goal they work towards like every other country. I don’t think its fair to say they don’t mean it if they believe there are other higher priorities.

    I am curious then, do you believe in the limitations to FOS as practiced in the U.S.A.?

    “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

    To me, that’s a lovely statement and we all should strive for. In reality, countries with highest economic output enjoy more, and often at the expense of the poorer countries.

    I think you’d agree if all humans want to consume everything on this planet before the end of the year, you would agree lets not allow that to happen right? We need to ensure the survival of humanity against the “right” of the individuals, no?

    Uln and Wukailong – I wonder if you ever thought about this – from which ever country you guys are – let’s assume your per capita GDP is suddenly reduced by a factor of 10. And it stays that way for a long time. Will that have an impact on the amount of FOS that you currently enjoy? Why or why not?

    Just to be clear, I am not arguing against FOS.

  26. Uln Says:

    #25 – “My understanding of the Chinese government’s interpretation of the UDHR is that is a goal they work towards like every other country. I don’t think its fair to say they don’t mean it if they believe there are other higher priorities.”

    OK, I can agree with that. Still, I think China is lagging behind other countries in this field, and there is a valid reason to point it out and to expect better results. I don’t say they don’t mean it, I just say they are not achieving, and there is little progress in recent years.

    #25 – “I think you’d agree if all humans want to consume everything on this planet before the end of the year, you would agree lets not allow that to happen right? We need to ensure the survival of humanity against the “right” of the individuals, no?”

    No. Even if the resources were coming to an end and humanity was condemned to be poor, still I think humans should be equal in rights and dignity. If sacrifice is necessary, it should be asked to all, not only to the lower classes / non-CPC members / inferior races / you name it. This is just a principle, I am not saying my country or any in the World has achieved complete equality.

    #25 – “let’s assume your per capita GDP is suddenly reduced by a factor of 10. And it stays that way for a long time. Will that have an impact on the amount of FOS that you currently enjoy? Why or why not?”

    I don’t think freedom would be signifcantly reduced. The situation might eventually lead to wars, revolutions, and coups that would themselves end up eliminating FOS, but as long as the present system stands it will not be able to stop the media. This is only guesswork, of course, but look to the past and you will see that the situation you imagine already happened before in Europe.

  27. huaren Says:

    Hi Uln, #26,

    “I think you’d agree if all humans want to consume everything on this planet before the end of the year, you would agree lets not allow that to happen right? We need to ensure the survival of humanity against the “right” of the individuals, no?”

    When I said this earlier, I think I wasn’t clear. I meant, if humans selfishly want to consume everything (by choice, by freedom) which would bankrupt all of earth’s resources – should we stop that?

    When you said:
    “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

    I agree, all human beings are born equal in the eyes of law, government, etc.. I think that is pretty straight-forward.

    The “free” part and FOS part – I am still curious what your view is on the limitations the U.S. impose on the first amendment. I’d figure this is the same in Europe?

    Btw, thx for indulging my question about the dramatic decrease in per capita GDP. Why would the situation eventually lead to wars, revolutions, etc?

  28. Uln Says:

    I am not so familiar with US law, but I have often heard FOS there is less restricted than in most European countries. European countries also have differences among themselves. I don’t have much of an opinion except that in general I am quite happy with the state of affairs in Europe.

    Re GDP: The situation would probably lead to chaos because people used to having 100 are just not very good at living with 10. In the past wars and revolutions had a lot to do with severe economic downturns, see Germany in the 30s, Yugoslavia 90s, the French Revolution, etc.

    BTW we are drifting miles off-topic. Good thing the OP is you so you won’t ban us for this 🙂

  29. huaren Says:

    Hi Uln,

    The point I am trying to make is FOS has serious limitations, as in the case of the U.S. for which case I assumed you are “happy” with. If in Europe it is even more restricted, then “relativist” which you and Wukailong spoke of do have a point, no? FOS cannot be absolute.

    Regarding GDP, China is dirt poor and fits that scenario. Then isn’t it logical to say for their current circumstance, perhaps their view on their priorities are correct?

    And, haha, I wouldn’t ban you. Censorship is too much work. 🙂

  30. Wukailong Says:

    Hi huaren, I wasn’t really defending Uln so much as trying to understand what he meant. With regards to FOS, I would like to say that it’s up to the people of each country to decide, but it’s probably more realistic to say that it’s the leaders that will decide.

    Anyway, the question you pose is an interesting one. Sweden created the first act of freedom of the press back in 1766 and also included a “public” clause saying that all governmental documents should be public. For that reason there’s never been a law on freedom of information because it’s taken for granted. I’m sure GDP at the time wasn’t even 10% of what it is now (real development began in the late 19th century), and there were many restrictions to the law (the first law included provisions against blasphemy and speaking against the state, for example) but I’m not sure if these were based on economic or cultural reasons.

    There are also modern states with very high GDP rates, like Singapore, that impose strict limitations on freedom of speech.

    Btw, here’s a world map of freedom of the press based on country rankings. I’m not using it to prove anything, just want to share the assessment: (note that the US is not ranked the highest):


  31. Wukailong Says:

    Here’s another picture, this time about internet censorship:


    Here it’s much more difficult to say something in general about the relationship to GDP. Poor countries don’t really have the infrastructure to do surveillance at all, or it’s limited. In Europe only Belorussia has a heavy censorship policy in effect and it’s GDP is higher than the Ukraine, for example, or on par with Bulgaria and Romania. So certainly some of it must be dependent on the decision of its leaders.

  32. Uln Says:

    @ Wukailong – I didn’t know Sweden had such a long tradition of freedom of speech, very impressive.

    Also, the FOS map is interesting and I think most people who love China should feel disappointed that we are in the worst category, together with North Korea, Iran, Turkenistan, etc. What a shame.

    Regarding the 10% GDP: the example of Sweden pre-XX century could apply to most European countres, I bet all grew more than 10x during the XX century.

    In my comment I was seeing the question differently and I was considering a sudden drop from 100 to 10, not the 10 in itself. But surely your comparison applies better to present-day China.

  33. Charles Liu Says:

    Uln @ 22, you said “PD actually calls itself “mouthpiece of the party””, but your citation doesn’t prove this at all. Can you show me where does PD called itself “mouthpiece of the party”?

  34. huaren Says:

    Hi Wukailong, #30, #31,
    Thx for those thoughts and the links.

    Hi Wukailong and Uln,
    So I am not sure where we are on this little debate about FOS. Are we in agreement that FOS is not absolute and that it needs to take into consideration of local circumstances? Do we agree there is a priority perspective to this thing?

    My issue with the map is that it is horribly inaccurate. By this I mean:

    Lets suppose the best practice of FOS is in some country, and that score is 9 out of 10. Chinese citizens don’t have to get permission from the government, say, for example, to say, “I love you” to some one. So, the degree of FOS in China is probably more like 7.

    You guys might assume the right direction according to that metric is 10 for humanity. But in my view, perhaps the right direction is 8.75. The metric for it can not simply be how much you can say.

    Therefore, the blackhole on the maps are rather ridiculous. To me, I feel like those making it are really condescending and mean spirited against the Chinese view about FOS. At least that’d be my interpretation.

    Regarding the point you have to show respect to FOS first before the discussion can go forward. Maybe that’s moot. I think the absolute view/fundamentalist view of FOS is a position. I happen to think the relativist view of FOS is more practical.

  35. Steve Says:

    @ huaren #34: The original definition of FOS in the United States was strictly political speech. You had no right to curse on a public street, for example. Since that time, FOS has taken on other meanings that were no necessarily intended by the original authors.

    To me, a FOS map would only be indicative of political speech. I doubt any country rates a 10 since I know that at least in the States, threatening to kill the President (excluding this example) will get you arrested. There might be additional exceptions during wartime.

    Currently, China is very up front about now allowing much in the way of political free speech, though it’s certainly better than it was in the pre-Deng era. I see this more as an evolution rather than a revolution.

  36. huaren Says:

    Hi Steve, #35,

    Interesting bit about FOS in U.S..

    Have I been having a blinders on? Now that you explained it, it makes much more sense (to me).

    Uln, Wukailong – you guys referring to political speech too?

    Do people generally have this distinction in mind about FOS?

  37. hzzz Says:

    I wonder how did a thread about Chinese/Korean/Japan relationship turn into a thread about Freedom of Speech comparisons between the US, Europe, and China.

    In any case, I agree with Uln that China needs to allow for more free speech. People should be able to criticize the government, that’s how you fight corruption and improve efficiency. There are definitely dangers which comes with freedom of speech, but the society is generally pretty good at censoring itself from such dangers. For example, just because the US government allows you to scream or write the N-word in reference to blacks doesn’t mean people do. People who use freedom of speech to justify stupid speech usually end up paying for it.

  38. Wukailong Says:

    @hzzz: I think it began when saying that People’s Daily was the mouthpiece of the party, then Uln (I think) said that the party wants all papers to be mouthpieces, and after that the discussion was in full swing.

    @huaren: I agree that the map on freedom of the press seems inaccurate because North Korea and China are lumped together like that. China doesn’t feel that unfree, but then maybe I’m being too tolerant, and there really is a big difference if you are in the media business. It’s very hard to measure this thing, though whenever NK and China scores the same, I tend to find the measurements crude. Hence my note about not using them to prove anything, though I should probably have written that you ought to take them with a grain of salt. 😉

    As for internet censorship, I’m not as sure and it isn’t directed specifically at China. China does have the toughest measures I’ve ever seen; it’s so common that sites are blocked that you don’t even know sometimes if it’s technical failure or the firewall. I wouldn’t go as far as to call China a black hole (I would call North Korea a black hole, though), that’s ridiculous, but the metric isn’t. If there was a measure of internet freedom from 1-10, then maybe a country like US that does have some controls would get 9, and China would get 3.

    I don’t believe in absolute principles in general, and FOS is no exception. Especially when it comes to protecting individuals and families (individuals tend to have families, so that distinction is really moot) I think it’s important to draw the line – libel should certainly not be allowed. I don’t think it should be prohibited to have a dissident view of history, though, so people like David Irving should be allowed to deny the holocaust. He was deported from Canada for his views and I don’t think that’s acceptable.

    Also, I don’t think FOS is exclusively political.

  39. Uln Says:

    @Charles Liu – No, read #22 again, I actually admitted the mistake. It was Xinhua, not PD. However, the main point remains: CPC does not hide the status of Peoples Daily as a party newspaper.

    @huaren – Yes, I was referring to political speech. Of course in every regime you are allowed to say “I love you” or “last night it rained”, but this is hardly an achievement for the country, is it?

    Also, I readily admit that the FOS map is not 100% reliable and the degrees given are to some extent subjective. But still, I don’t believe in the General Western Conspiracy against China. If that NGO classified China in the worst category with NKorea and Turkmenistan (call it 10, 8, or 7, I don’t mind) it is for a reason.

    Regarding relativism: of course there is some room for discussion and different cultures should be taken into account. For example, muslim countries would have a lot to say about the freedom to speak about Allah. But that is what I call “fine tuning”. Before you reach that stage, you need to have the fundamental principles right, and I don’t accept relativism regarding those principles.

    Hope this makes it clear.

  40. huaren Says:

    Hi hzzz, #37,

    What you said is very reasonable, and I am in agreement.

    Hi Wukailong, 38,

    Thx for separating the internet censorship part vs. the free media part. I didn’t mean to combine the two in my prior comment. Its interesting that your sense is a “3” for China in internet censorship. I know its a fact the Chinese government block certain sites or certain keywords from search engines.

    For your ‘9’, is that kind of like you are saying 90% of contents are accessible to Americans on the Internet where as only 30% are to the Chinese? But my view is 30% of Chinese web surfers are probably able to read 99% of English media on the entire internet whereas only 0.3% of the entire “West” web surfers are capable of reading anything in Chinese.

    Isn’t this the “bigger picture” that is way more important?

    Hi Uln, #39

    I think in China you can say lots more than “i love you” or “last night it rained.” I saw an interview by Charlie Rose of China’s ambassador to the U.S.. I forgot the numbers, but he claimed there are more blogs and forums inside China than any other country. I assume the topics are extremely wide.

    Btw, I absolutely do not believe there is any conspiracy against China on this FOS thing too. My feeling is the Chinese government (some times China) is often bashed as being immoral for not measuring up on this FOS yardstick defined by a very small number of people on this planet.

    Anyways, Uln, I think on a practical level, we probably agree mostly. I have some sense on where our difference in views are.

  41. huaren Says:

    hi hzzz,

    Haha, you have to share even more interesting stuff with us here to help us get back to the original topic. 🙂

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