“China’s Donkey Droppings”

I’m in such a bad mood tonight (strictly due to a crushing workweek) I know I won’t post anything to be proud of. But I can’t let this go: If you can read only one article today, make it this one. Kristoff is at his best and his most angry, concluding the article with a brillliant coda:

China now dazzles visitors with luxury skyscrapers, five-star hotels and modern freeways. This boom is real and spectacular, but for China to be an advanced nation it needs not only spaceships, but also freedom.

Otherwise, all that dazzle is just a mirage. The Chinese leaders might recall an old peasant expression, “Lu fen dan’r, biaomian’r guang.” It means, “On the outside, even donkey droppings gleam.”

Read the whole thing, and I mean it.

UPDATE: Due to a technical problem, I have lost all the comments to this post. Some were really good, too. Sorry about that.

The Discussion: 2 Comments

It’s really too bad, all the comments are gone — I didn’t have a chance to read them. Well, here’s a new one:

I strongly dissagree with Richard on this one. I like Kristoff, but this is bad journalism.

i am sad to see articles like this. yes, kristof has reason to be angry. they detained one of his teammates. still, pieces like this paint a seriously lopsided picture of china. it’s unfortunate, because china’s western media reflection is either economic wonderland or human rights hell. for most chinese, it really isn’t either.

this kind of emotional journalistic treatment is exactly what the US gets from european media these days. and it sucks too. i could say that many more people hang in limbo in guantanamo bay than there are journalists imprisoned in china. i could say that every journalist here works with a clear perception of the danger his reporting comes with. i could say that the countryside is full of poor peasants who unfortunately are much less media-savvy than a ny-times correspondent or the falun gong. etc.

i’ll stop rambling now, but my point is that reporting on china usually zooms in on one screw turning in a huge machine. writers tend to focus on the extreme — whether it’s good, bad, or bizarre. there is a serious lack of context for westerners to understand what’s going on here, and — as kristof says — it’s pretty important that people should be able to wrap their brains around this. unfortunately, although kristof poses the right questions, he follows with a tirade lacking context.

December 6, 2004 @ 2:03 am | Comment

I’ve tried to write about the whole picture. It’s not an easy thing to do.

Most of the comments were in agreement with Kristoff, though that doesn’t make the article right or wrong.

January 21, 2005 @ 5:06 pm | Comment

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