Kristof on blogs in China

A must-read. It’s 5 a.m. and I’m heading to the airport, but I have to quote Kristof on his experience commenting on

I tried my own experiment, posting comments on Internet chat rooms. In a Chinese-language chat room on, I called for multiparty elections and said, “If Chinese on the other side of the Taiwan Strait can choose their leaders, why can’t we choose our leaders?” That went on the site automatically, like all other messages. But after 10 minutes, the censor spotted it and removed it.

Then I toned it down: “Under the Communist Party’s great leadership, China has changed tremendously. I wonder if in 20 years the party will introduce competing parties, because that could benefit us greatly.” That stayed up for all to see, even though any Chinese would read it as an implicit call for a multiparty system.

So where is China going? I think the Internet is hastening China along the same path that South Korea, Chile and especially Taiwan pioneered. In each place, a booming economy nurtured a middle class, rising education, increased international contact and a growing squeamishness about torturing dissidents.

President Hu has fulminated in private speeches that foreign “hostile forces” are trying to change China. Yup, count me in – anybody who loves China as I do would be hostile to an empty Mao suit like Mr. Hu. But it’s the Chinese leadership itself that is digging the Communist Party’s grave, by giving the Chinese people broadband.

This sounds rather simplistic and optimistic, I’m afraid, and I wonder whether Kristof, who lived in China and has written books about it, really believes the CCP is digging its own grave. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, but let’s be realistic, too.

Update: Danwei is a but harder on Kristof than I am.

The Discussion: 113 Comments

Hmm..That’s interesting.

I’ve tried similar tactics on the People’s Daily website with similar results, but I’ve never tried it in any Chinese chat rooms.

One can only hope that momentum continues to build for the trend Kristof speaks of, if in fact that is the case.

May 24, 2005 @ 6:21 am | Comment


Danwei has his own comments on Kristof’s NYT article:

May 24, 2005 @ 6:25 am | Comment

Gordon, your update cross-posted with my own update in the post. Thanks.

May 24, 2005 @ 6:28 am | Comment

Sorry about that Richard.

Didn’t think you’d be able to get to it for awhile.

May 24, 2005 @ 6:58 am | Comment

No, I appreciate it. Always looking for good links.

May 24, 2005 @ 7:02 am | Comment

“This sounds rather simplistic and optimistic, I’m afraid…

As opposed to anything else Kristof writes? The man’s intentions are good, but as far as I can tell, he doesn’t actually know anything.
The “the Revolution will be blogged” stuff was cliche in 2002, and ignores the inconvenient fact that the overwhelming majority of Chinese don’t have internet access, and that for the most part, the ones who do are the ones with no particular reason to complain.

May 24, 2005 @ 8:12 am | Comment

any one can post a recent report by kristof from the city of kaifeng

May 24, 2005 @ 8:25 am | Comment

Death by a Thousand Blogs

I believe that the internet will eventually be key to a change in policies (after all, fax machines were a significant part of the Tiananman Square revolt, but that revolt was crushed.

May 24, 2005 @ 8:34 am | Comment

>>>the ones who do are the ones with no particular reason to complain.

So true, I’m, afraid. I think not many westerners really understand how little Chinese people care for other Chinese people they don’t personally know. This is why “human rights”, “freedom of religion”, etc are such non-starters here.

I’m afraid it really doesn’t bother most Chinese people if some dissident is tortured to death. And since they don’t care, it’s incredible to them that westerners actually *could* care about such a thing, so instead they interpret the westerners’ concern as some sort of phoney ploy for “holding back China”.

I often think that many westerners care more about “laobaixing” than most Chinese do, or at least than most Chinese middle class do.

And that is truly dismaying. 🙁

May 24, 2005 @ 8:39 am | Comment

while i usually appreciate kristof’s china commentary, this one seemed very naive. i’m a long-time participant in the china daily forums and can testify they allow quite a bit more than mere mentions of democracy. that’s not to say censorship doesn’t exist, but it’s not nearly as bad as one would think. of course, the china daily forum is mostly in english and i don’t know how many chinese actually use it. seems to be a lot of foreigners like me there.

May 24, 2005 @ 9:02 am | Comment

>>>>And since they don’t care, it’s incredible to them that westerners actually *could* care about such a thing, so instead they interpret the westerners’ concern as some sort of phoney ploy for “holding back China”.

Shanghai slim – this is a very succint, insightful sentence. So true. As foreigners we can’t really care about china without being told we’re messing in internal affairs…

May 24, 2005 @ 10:04 am | Comment


“I’m afraid it really doesn’t bother most Chinese people if some dissident is tortured to death. And since they don’t care, it’s incredible to them that westerners actually *could* care about such a thing,”

I care and I am sure many other Chinese do too. Didn’t many Chinese people try to help patriotic dissidents like Chai Ling, Wang Dan and Wuer Kaixi escape to the west. Chinese people also care about other people in the world, Chinese from Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong held together one of the biggest charity concert for the Tsunami victims earlier this year. And Hong Kong had the biggest per capita private donation for the Tsunami victims in the world.

May 24, 2005 @ 10:21 am | Comment

Bingfeng, you mean Kristoff’s editorial from the NYT? It wasn’t actually that interesting or that much about Kaifeng, it was more about how great cities (and nations) rise and fall, and maybe someday New York would be a backwater like Kaifeng, etc. I could post it here if you are interested though it would make for a long entry.

I was disappointed in it because I was hoping it was really going to be about Kaifeng – that’s a place I’ve been meaning to visit.

May 24, 2005 @ 11:01 am | Comment


I found this bit interesting:

My old friends in the Chinese news media and the Communist Party are mostly aghast at President Hu Jintao’s revival of ideological slogans, praise for North Korea’s political system and crackdown on the media. The former leaders Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji are also said to be appalled.

Jaing Zemin things Hu is too hardline. If true, doesn’t that leave a few folks we know eating crow?

May 24, 2005 @ 8:07 pm | Comment

Conrad – Not really. I’d expect Jiang Zemin to have negative things to say about Hu, because Hu’s been replacing or marginalising Jiang’s proteges as quickly as possible.

Jiang’s statement might indicate the success that Hu has had in that respect and perhaps how close Kristof’s ties and informants are to Jiang’s faction.

May 24, 2005 @ 9:27 pm | Comment

I miss Zhu Rongji somewhat, personally…

May 24, 2005 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

My interpretation of Jiang/Zhu’s ‘dislike’ (for want of a better word) of Hu has nothing to do with Jiang’s croney’s being replaced by Hu’s ‘yes-men’ as this is inevitable for all concerned.

I suspect that the PRC isn’t as simple and straightforward to rule than it was in the 90’s. I.e. Then, everything was new and very much in transition, everyone was looking forward so to speak.

Nowadays, however, disallusionment is starting to set in and there’re a hell of a lot of people out there who are NOT busy pondering which of the new BMW series models to purchase.

Construction workers not getting paid, inflation and the Consumer Price Index going up, worker shortages in Guangdong, FDI slowing, high oil prices hurting, etc etc…the list goes on.

From a macro-economic point of view, the PRC is now overdue an economic downturn (the last, in 1997/8 was pretty well covered up) and the property markets have been ‘unsustainable’ for a while now.

The recent ‘diversions’ i.e. anti-Japan protests, Lian Zhan + Sung Chuyu’s mainland visits have aroused my suspicion that the CCP are very busy indeed trying to deal with a formidable domestic agenda.

I’d welcome Other Lisa’s comments on this. Thanks.

May 25, 2005 @ 12:43 am | Comment

Allan, I’m no expert and it’s a little late for me to formulate anything coherent, but I’ll do my best to reply tomorrow.

May 25, 2005 @ 12:49 am | Comment

No, I’m on about the differneces in governing the PRC between the 80’s/90’s and now.

The 80’s, the govt didn’t actually “do” anything, they simply dismantled the worst excesses of Maoist folly and “allowed”…in the beginning….local farmers markets and very basic free enterprise.

The 90’s and the roar of FDI needed the govt to apply ad hoc legal reforms and a bundle of other stuff.

I’m just intersted in your view as you’ve been observing the PRC since the late seventies, exactly twice as long as myself (first went to Beijing in 1992)

May 25, 2005 @ 1:17 am | Comment

Alan, I just wrote a very long comment, which got denied due to content – perhaps the length – and now seems to have vanished completely. Sorry, I’ll try again tomorrow, unless you have it someplace, Richard, and can edit/post/whatever.

It’s 1:30 AM here and I’m sleep-deprived…

May 25, 2005 @ 2:28 am | Comment

One theory i’ve heard floated among Chinese is that in hindsight JZM wasn’t as bad as he appeared. While he is still generally (wildly) unpopular, mostly for his cronyism, he was after all pro-Western in outlook. This may sound ridiculous, but compare him to Hu: you won’t see Hu playing the piano and reading Mark Twain anytime soon. In the same vein, Hu is not Shanghainese (if you get the drift).

Anyway, as trivial as this theory sounds, the point is that at least JZM had a sense of the wider world, whereas Hu is just some backwater provincial with zero tolerance (or comprehension) of anything foreign.

This theory is simplistic, but it is one Chinese viewpoint that is emerging on Hu that I’ve seen more than once recently.

May 25, 2005 @ 2:30 am | Comment

Tuode, that makes a lot of sense.

I’d say more, but haloscan ate my rant.

May 25, 2005 @ 2:36 am | Comment

I’d love to read more on the “Hu Jintao is a backwater provincial xenophobe” theory… any choice links handy to flesh that out?

Shanghai Slim’s comment that foreigners seem more concerned with Chinese peoples general welfare than Chinese people jumped out at me. I’ve had students tell me things like “In China we care about everything except people”, echoing the same sentiment. And I bet every single laowai reading has at least one story about seeing someone get hit by a car, beaten up, robbed or otherwise harmed yet no one came rushing to their aid. Why is this? Is it due to fear, that if they get involved in helping they could end up getting in trouble? Is it really related to a family-oriented approach that minimizes responsibility for strangers? Is it because of population pressure, resulting in a cynical dog-eat-dog perspective because everyone knows that somebody else has to lose in order for me to win? Why have I seen so few acts of random kindness between Chinese people in all my time here?

May 25, 2005 @ 4:19 am | Comment

As to Dave’s

“Why have I seen so few acts of random kindness between Chinese people in all my time here?”

Confusian once said, “Friendship between modest (or good) men is as slim as water, Friendship between cronies is as sweet as honey”. If that can explain some of your feelings.

That’s the way people living in China.


May 25, 2005 @ 6:36 am | Comment

yeah, but in New York City, if I see an old woman fall down and I help her up (and we do), I don’t call it friendship. I call it civilized behavior. I don’t start visiting her house every thursday or attend her daughters wedding, I just feel concern over the suffering of another human being. It has nothing to do with being friends.

May 25, 2005 @ 6:58 am | Comment

I’m not sure this is accurate… but imagine that you go to help up an old women who has fallen down. Now imagine that she’s actually buddhist nun, or a taiwan sympathiser or a Manchu royalist, and the red gaurd carts you off and beats you up, then puts you in the brig for “re-education” and beats you everyday you don’t write a proper essay detailing what an awful person you were for helping that old woman.

Now imagine 3000 years of getting beaten up for sticking your nose in other people’s business.

I think that’s kind of what it’s like. But I’m not sure – I’m kind of just guessing from what my friends have said in China, as well as the history I’ve read of what happens to people who meddle.

May 25, 2005 @ 8:36 am | Comment

That is perfectly horrid! I simply cannot imagine a situation where one would get punished so cruely for simply being decent. These policies breed a cruel and selfish people.
My mother always tells me that “Friendship between modest (or good) men is as slim as water, Friendship between cronies is as sweet as honey”. I do not quite get that. Does not loyalty count? What sort of satisfaction does one get out of a relationship that is so clear it has nearly no substance. Humans have to depend on one another, after all.
I do think that China will eventually become more open. People will see discrepancies in their government however loyal they are to their country, and perhaps because of it. It is not about nobility to a royal family, it is not about faithfulness to the ‘only faith’ or the belief that it is for the ‘greater good of our people’. It is only about blind pride. What is there to be proud of? There are people who are proud of their nation that foreigners would praise, but this sort of patriotism does not inspire any admiration from other nations. If the chinese people are as selfish as some say, they would eventually realize that they deserve to know the truth, that there is no ‘greater good’ in supporting a government comprised of the ‘minority and elite’ which has no competition to that government so it can focus on serving the people. Minds do evolve. There was a basic reason people set up leadership in the days before writing.
Not all people in China are indifferent and cowardly. Not all are so priviledged they cannot realize many are in depressing situations that can be improved and are not.

May 25, 2005 @ 9:16 am | Comment

tuode, I think you’re on to sometihng here. Could you expand that at all?

May 25, 2005 @ 10:28 am | Comment

A Peaceful Rise, to What Effect?

A long-time tenant of proponents of democracy is that given enough exposure to democracy and democratic influences, all people would tend towards this system of governance as a means of ensuring fairness in government. The spread of democracy. And

May 25, 2005 @ 10:46 am | Comment


I don’t know which part China you are. but when I was in China, I by myself, regularly gave up my seat on a bus to older people and see other people do so. That’s way of life. I never see such things in America.

In the ways of treating older people, I believe Chinese are much civilized than America.


May 25, 2005 @ 11:14 am | Comment

Red-guard were just there for 10 years in China history, I can’t understand how LaoWei can extended that to 3000 years of Chinese history.


May 25, 2005 @ 11:18 am | Comment

I think Allan an tuode make good points. On the one hand China’s govt has an increasingly large number of balls to juggle and keep in the air which may explain China taking several steps back in certian areas.

…and who do we have in charge at this critical juncture? A cautious and inward-looking apparachik who appears wholly uncomfortable with the wider world and all things not Chinese.

Like most peeps, I’m no fan of JZM but, credit where it’s due, he was comfortable engaging the world and seemed very UN-Chinese when around foreigners.

Can anyone imagine HJT wearing a check shirt, strumming a guitar and singing Elvis numbers? (As JZM did when he last visited the US).

May 25, 2005 @ 11:22 am | Comment


As this millennium dawns, New York City is the most important city in the world, the unofficial capital of planet Earth. But before we New Yorkers become too full of ourselves, it might be worthwhile to glance at dilapidated Kaifeng in central China.
Kaifeng, an ancient city along the mud-clogged Yellow River, was by far the most important place in the world in 1000. And if you’ve never heard of it, that’s a useful warning for Americans – as the Chinese headline above puts it, in a language of the future that many more Americans should start learning, “glory is as ephemeral as smoke and clouds.”

As the world’s only superpower, America may look today as if global domination is an entitlement. But if you look back at the sweep of history, it’s striking how fleeting supremacy is, particularly for individual cities.

My vote for most important city in the world in the period leading up to 2000 B.C. would be Ur, Iraq. In 1500 B.C., perhaps Thebes, Egypt. There was no dominant player in 1000 B.C., though one could make a case for Sidon, Lebanon. In 500 B.C., it would be Persepolis, Persia; in the year 1, Rome; around A.D. 500, maybe Changan, Ch

ina; in 1000, Kaifeng, China; in 1500, probably Florence, Italy; in 2000, New York City; and in 2500, probably none of the above.

Today Kaifeng is grimy and poor, not even the provincial capital and so minor it lacks even an airport. Its sad state only underscores how fortunes change. In the 11th century, when it was the capital of Song Dynasty China, its population was more than one million. In contrast, London’s population then was about 15,000.

An ancient 17-foot painted scroll, now in the Palace Museum in Beijing, shows the bustle and prosperity of ancient Kaifeng. Hundreds of pedestrians jostle each other on the streets, camels carry merchandise in from the Silk Road, and teahouses and restaurants do a thriving business.

Kaifeng’s stature attracted people from all over the world, including hundreds of Jews. Even today, there are some people in Kaifeng who look like other Chinese but who consider themselves Jewish and do not eat pork.

As I roamed the Kaifeng area, asking local people why such an international center had sunk so low, I encountered plenty of envy of New York. One man said he was arranging to be smuggled into the U.S. illegally, by paying a gang $25,000, but many local people insisted that China is on course to bounce back and recover its historic role as world leader.

“China is booming now,” said Wang Ruina, a young peasant woman on the outskirts of town. “Give us a few decades and we’ll catch up with the U.S., even pass it.”

She’s right. The U.S. has had the biggest economy in the world for more than a century, but most projections show that China will surpass us in about 15 years, as measured by purchasing power parity.

So what can New York learn from a city like Kaifeng?

One lesson is the importance of sustaining a technological edge and sound economic policies. Ancient China flourished partly because of pro-growth, pro-trade policies and technological innovations like curved iron plows, printing and paper money. But then China came to scorn trade and commerce, and per capita income stagnated for 600 years.

A second lesson is the danger of hubris, for China concluded it had nothing to learn from the rest of the world – and that was the beginning of the end.

I worry about the U.S. in both regards. Our economic management is so lax that we can’t confront farm subsidies or long-term budget deficits. Our technology is strong, but American public schools are second-rate in math and science. And Americans’ lack of interest in the world contrasts with the restlessness, drive and determination that are again pushing China to the forefront.

Beside the Yellow River I met a 70-year-old peasant named Hao Wang, who had never gone to a day of school. He couldn’t even write his name – and yet his progeny were different.

“Two of my grandsons are now in university,” he boasted, and then he started talking about the computer in his home.

Thinking of Kaifeng should stimulate us to struggle to improve our high-tech edge, educational strengths and pro-growth policies. For if we rest on our laurels, even a city as great as New York may end up as Kaifeng-on-the-Hudson.

May 25, 2005 @ 11:27 am | Comment

Above is Kristoff’s article, but I think he didn’t mention that Kaifeng was soon occupied by the Manchu and became the capital of the Gin dynasty and later, the whole city was pillaged and plundered and the whole population wiped out by the Mongols…

May 25, 2005 @ 11:38 am | Comment


Obviously I wasn’t trying to imply that the Red Guard had been around for so long – but it seems like there’s always been someone around in China to beat up the dissenters and dangerous elements. That dissent still happens is a tribute to those dissenters’ courage and conviction.

May 25, 2005 @ 12:05 pm | Comment


There were people to beat up dissidants in other countries in the history too. For example, Socrates in ancient Greek.


May 25, 2005 @ 12:19 pm | Comment

luke, i don’t know what part of china you were in!
i will occassionally see someone reluctantly give up a seat on the Shanghai subway, but that is far from common. i could count the number of times on my right hand, even if i was missing a few fingers!
i often stand next to pregnant mothers and old people, they aren’t fast enough to grab the seats in the morning, and as for me, well, i just don’t even try. the seats are usually occupied by scowling twentysomethings who pushed one another struggling to fit 7 or 8 people into a 6-person seat.
but congrats to you for giving up your seat. every little bit helps, in my opinion.
as for your comment about people being more civilized about this in China than in America, well, i don’t wanna turn this into a contest, but i would have to disagree very strongly. in fact, from what i see here (the persistent “screw you all” attitude), you couldn’t possibly be more wrong.

May 25, 2005 @ 11:45 pm | Comment

Let’s not get get too intellectual and fuzzy about this: Chinese “people” are bloody awful.

May 26, 2005 @ 1:01 am | Comment

Allan, I haven’t had time to recreate my lost post, and I’m not sure that it was all that profound in any case. But if you are interested (and not in China, cause the cyber-nanny hates blogspot), check out my blog for some thoughts on this subject. I came aross a really interesting and sad story about how a cultural heritage site in Inner Mongolia got destroyed by local authorities – in spite of edicts from the central government prohibiting same. I think it’s illustrative of a lot of the conflicts in today’s China and of the limits of central authority.

May 26, 2005 @ 1:17 am | Comment

Kevin, I am from Shanghai and I think it’s necessary to share some of my thoughts with you here. First of all, I think those “twentysomethings” can probably not really represent the majority of shanghai ppl although I fully understand what you are talking about. I was just gonna say, I personally would go all the way out to help anyone who needs help and I think all my friends will do so.

Talking about the indifference among ppl in China, I think it has a lot to do with the regional culture and really depends on what part of China you are talking about. Shanghai ppl are notorious for their indifference and they have been blamed on this for more than half a century. I think a lot of ppl in east-coast major cities of China are pretty much the same. But if you go to the inner parts of China, where people’s minds haven’t been “polluted” by materialism, you would be amazed by how nicely you would be treated.

Just opposite to what Laowai 19790204 said, my father told me that people were much more loyal and willing to help before Deng’s economic revolution(before 1980) than they are now. He also told me that the desire for money and higher social status has corrupted alot of people’s spirits. The Cultural Revolution definitely did less harm to social mentality. And information cencorship could hardly affect people’s daily behaviors, if at all. Just for your reference, my dad was born in 1954.

I took the train in Boston yesterday and I asked help from quite a few ppl at South Station. I was suprised by the number of straight faces I saw. It might be a bit too cruel to say this, but some locals I met in Boston were really obnoxious and just ignored me by walking by. I finally got help from a lady from England. How bizzare is that? I don’t think I could see so many snobs in Maine, where I live. And my friend from Philadelphia told me there are not that many snobs back home either. I am saying this just want to prove that we can not simply relate one issue to what we normally and probably prejudicely believe without providing enough evidence, as Kristof did. Overall, I think he is a good columnist, but sometimes I really get disappointed by his assertiveness and naiveness on the issues of China. But to be honest, I kind of doubt if Kristof, as a laowai having lived in China, really thinks the same way as he writes. After all, his articles are just called “opinions”.

A lot of ppl commenting here are those who have been to China or who lives in China right now, which makes this site interesting to me. I wanna say, I would greatly appreciate it if you can clear the confusion or even point out some of the biased opinions your family and friends may hold when you get home. The mis-perceptions are understandable if they look at China through a distant eye. Although there are significant barriers to understanding because of the incompleteness of the available information, mutual empathy is really at stake!

May 26, 2005 @ 2:08 am | Comment

thanks, other lisa and JR. i find that article in howard french’s site.

btw, there is a mini government campaign in re-shaping the image of shanghainese, they publish a new book called

May 26, 2005 @ 2:48 am | Comment

“I came aross a really interesting and sad story about how a cultural heritage site in Inner Mongolia got destroyed by local authorities – in spite of edicts from the central government prohibiting same. I think it’s illustrative of a lot of the conflicts in today’s China and of the limits of central authority.”


looking at a few at the top is an outdated way to observe china.

May 26, 2005 @ 2:53 am | Comment

Like many people here, I’m a long-term resident of the PRC. One of the saddest aspects of living here for me (as far as the people are concerned) must be the lack of tolerance for alternate/different views and opinions.

I’m male and I’m extremely saddened to admit that I do not have a single Chinese male friend.

I worked in Taiwan before and used to enjoy drinks after work with my colleagues, one colleague in particlular was very pro-China and another was strongly pro-independence. I had many a laugh listening to the pair of them bantering on all evening.

In Thailand, I loved the whiskey-drinking sessions with the other guys in the office etc.

I don’t do anything like that here. I find the people here very narrow-minded and wholly incapable/unwilling to engage in any kind of debate or exchange of views.

Just try telling someone, for instance, that you believe the people of Taiwan should determine their political future.

Try saying that all countries have, at one time or another “suffered” at the hands of stronger nations or that the Jews, for example, have suffered two millenia of persecution and China should stop whinging about the burning of the Summer Palace 100 years ago or a few British gunboats lobbing shells on Guangzhou etc.

I think it’s also fair to say that we’ve all been guilty of nodding our heads in agreement at some totally outrageous remark made by a mainlander just for the sake of a quiet life and because we know disagreeing with them is utterly pointless.

Has anyone living in China EVER heard someone here admit they’re wrong or change their opinions about anything?

Sorry to bang on like this guys but it was good to get it off my chest!

May 26, 2005 @ 3:37 am | Comment

Yes, I wonder why the people in the mainland have such fixed and hardline views.

It is a result of the authoritarianism and the “never question the party” culture?

I know that any kind of political debate in China is “discouraged”—to say the least.

One question I do have is, is this attitude spread across the entire country and across all age groups?

May 26, 2005 @ 7:59 am | Comment

“China should stop whinging about the burning of the Summer Palace 100 years ago or a few British gunboats lobbing shells on Guangzhou etc. ”

I wonder if every Male Chinese you met just kept whinging about that stuff to you. Or the Chinese government does?

Even this was true what is wrong with that?

I read from BBC that “This year Britain will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar”. It happened 200 years ago, why bother?

And if you don’t have a male friend in China, something might be wrong with yourself. And I believe a lot foreigners do have Male Chinese friends.

Every country has some taboo topics that as foreigners you’d better avoid instead of arguing with them in your own supposed impartial way or trying to make a fun out of their bickering.

Next time try raising questions like why Britain is so keen on holding Falkland, or why US is so desperate to net B1n Lad3n, you may have some luck in making friends.

May 26, 2005 @ 8:00 am | Comment

Bing, you’re completely missing the point and are WAY off with the Battle of Trafalgar comparison. You’re obviously not very well travelled.

I know exactly what Chris is on a bout as it’s a complaint I’ve heard from sev eral people living iun China.

You can’t just simply say that foreigners should aviod certain taboo subjects. There’s a lot of blatant xenophobia in China and nationalism is on the rise.

Re male Chinese friends, I think doesn’t have any out of choice, not because there’s something wrong.

May 26, 2005 @ 8:09 am | Comment

“I find the people here very narrow-minded and wholly incapable/unwilling to engage in any kind of debate or exchange of views.”

Generallly speaking, yes, I’d tend to agree with that. AS much as I’ve seen, there’s pretty much a zero tolerance approach to anything that is different to the party line.

May 26, 2005 @ 8:17 am | Comment


Please explain to us why Bing’s example of Trafalgar is WAY out of point. They are still celebrating it, isn’t that right?

May 26, 2005 @ 8:19 am | Comment

“Generallly speaking, yes, I’d tend to agree with that. AS much as I’ve seen, there’s pretty much a zero tolerance approach to anything that is different to the party line.”

Looks like the only people you have contact in China are those minders sent by the government

May 26, 2005 @ 8:32 am | Comment

With respect Luke, because the UK govt are organising celebrations to commerorate the 200th anniversay of the BOT, one, I believe, of Britains most famous and well-known naval victories.

Once the offical celebrations are over I expect that will be it.

I’ve been to britain and I’ve never once heard even one single Brit talk about the BOT or any other historiacal incident for that matter..

Chris was talking about the conversations of Chinese people I believe and I have heard Chinese people mention the sacking of the Summer Palace by European Soldiers.

Comparing offical two-hundred-year celebrations of historic battles with the complaints of Chinese people regarding a historical incident is way off the mark in my opinion.

May 26, 2005 @ 8:38 am | Comment

Two things that may explain the problems of communication between Chinese and foreigners:

1. Cultural collision. Duck talks to Chick
2. If you were me, what would you do?

Elaboration follows later …

May 26, 2005 @ 8:49 am | Comment

Out of interst bing, I see you have been very selective with what you have picked up on.

Whimiscal comments aside, can you progress past those and honestly disagree that, generally-speaking, their is a lack of tolerance for alternate/different views and opinions within the mainland?

Also, please avoid personal attacks and insults. I enjoy reading this site because the comments are usually of a high standard.

May 26, 2005 @ 8:53 am | Comment

I would say that it’s got to do with the environment in China. I am in Sydney, and it’s interesting for me getting to know people from the mainland, and watching their gradual transition. When they first get here, they’re exactly as described: narrow-minded, and filled with the same old government sponsored lines on any topic you care to mention. Not long ago, I had dinner with 3 Chinese people, and was fascinated listening to them talk about this same issue: that to Chinese people, there’s just the “right” opinion, and everyone else is wrong, while to western people, there are so many ways of looking at an issue. Later in the evening, the topic turned to newspaper reports that a lot of overseas students are working in the sex industry. I voiced the opinion that I thought the reports were exagerated, and that many of them were probably hookers in their home country, and the student visas were just covers to get them in the country, and that I doubted that many regular “real” overseas students would be found in Sydney brothels. And one of the Chinese said, “see what I mean! You westerners always have different ways of looking at things.”

As for regional differences. Yes. Absolutely. Yeah verily. Couldn’t agree more. After 4 years in HK, I thought I had a handle on what Chinese people were like … then I went to Beijing, and was astounded at how different the people were … and I mean in a GOOD way, not in the standard PRC bashing way. I have to say, speaking generally, I like the northern Chinese a lot better than the southerners (including Shanghai). If I meet someone and they tell me they’re from Dongbei, I have an immediately positive reaction … based on experience.

I’ve also met mainland raised people down here who have said some pretty astounding things to me … such as that the issue over Tibet really isn’t a simple one, is it? And, well, I’m not really sure who is right. Of course, those in China would just say his mind has been corrupted, I guess?

One more thing: people are pigs. I don’t mean Chinese people. I mean people. London is notorious for being a city where someone can fall down, and the people behind them will step over the body and keep walking. I have a friend who has even seen it happen. There are plenty of cases in the west of rape and murder etc. with crowds of people watching, and no one stopping it. A person can be nice … as individuals, there are a lot of very nice ones … but people? They’re pigs.

May 26, 2005 @ 8:54 am | Comment

“Out of interst bing, I see you have been very selective with what you have picked up on.”

I’m still at work, can’t elaborate.

“Whimiscal comments aside, can you progress past those and honestly disagree that, generally-speaking, their is a lack of tolerance for alternate/different views and opinions within the mainland?”

Totally agree.

“Also, please avoid personal attacks and insults. I enjoy reading this site because the comments are usually of a high standard. ”

What did I say stands for personal attacks and insults? Sorry for my poor English if someone is offended though it’s not my intention.

May 26, 2005 @ 8:58 am | Comment

By the way bing…

…you just proved Chris’s point!

May 26, 2005 @ 9:00 am | Comment


It seems that you had some bad luck when it came to making friends. I myself staid in Shanghai one year and have some male chinese friends whom you can have a reasonable debate with. Perhaps thats a generation problem, as I met a lot of chinese in their twens and early thirtys who are quite open.
For shure there are some topics that are a little tricky. I was stunned when a very liberal and open chinese friend of mine said he thinks homosexuality is a mental deseas and an unnatural act. Well, that’s what the offical position of the government was and that’s what you can read in some papers still. It’s difficult to have another opinion on this when you are thought that it’s like that your whole life through. But you’l find this standpoint in the USA and Europe also.
Politics and history are allwayss sensitive topics and I would agree with bing that every nation has its taboos, as a German I know a little bit of that. Perhaps the culture of debate is not that developed in China due to the school system and the undemocrtic political system, but when you read some of the comments here on the blog, you might get the impression that it’s not that developed in the USA either. Just a matter whom you are talking to.
I have the impression that the “hundred years of imperialism”, how the time between 1840 and 1949 is called in China, are still deep in the unconcious af the nation; not very surprising when you ask me. So some people have this reflex when they have the feeling a foreigner once again is about to lecture them on how to do things right.
Just some thoughts.

May 26, 2005 @ 9:01 am | Comment

Oh, one more point:
with regards to having to avoid selected topics of conversation. I know it well … with some of my WHITE friends. You should have seen the reaction I got from an Australian in a discussion over America’s place in the world, when I told him that I thought his views were wrong. Well, these days, I just bite my tongue when he sounds off with his various opinions … just not worth the effort to engage him in discussion. He’s also quite oblivious to the fact that he feels quite free to sound-off whenever he feels like it, with political views that I consider to be stupid and objectionable … and gets upset if I disagree with him. Yet, if I openly express my views … well, I’m a bad bad man.

This kind of thing isn’t limited to China.

May 26, 2005 @ 9:03 am | Comment

“By the way bing…

…you just proved Chris’s point!

Sorry, but I don’t think so.

I totally agree the lack of tolerance for alternate/different views and opinions within the mainland.

But I tell you that is something inevitable for nowadays China and not something foreingers have the right to lay easy blame on without a proper undertanding of the background.

May 26, 2005 @ 9:19 am | Comment

Great post FS9.

You raise a load of good points.

It reminded me of my Aussie colleague once. We were all in the bar at a company regional meeting in Macau and my boss started talking about business meetings etc. in the mainland and how one had to take care what one said as, generally-speaking, mainlanders are very nationalistic, sensitive to perceived slights against China and apparently not used to dealing with a wide range of opposing views, particularly about China.

“Nonsense” my Aussie colleague said. “We have Amy in our Melbourne office and she’s from Shanghai. She only emigrated to Oz a few years ago and she’s nothing like that.”

“Ok”, my boss replied. “Give her the ‘Taiwan Test’ when you go back to Oz. When you see her just mention that you think Taiwan should become independent if that’s what the majority of people there want, or say something like that.”

Sure enough, this was mentioned to the quiet, unassuming and amiable Amy . Apparently, she went into a vein-popping, red-faced tirade and started ranting that Tawain is China and ‘foreigners’ have no right to even have an opinion regarding ‘Chinese internal matters’ and what a bout if Tasmaina wanted independence etc. etc.

May 26, 2005 @ 9:19 am | Comment

Filthy Stinking No9:

“with some of my WHITE friends. You should have seen the reaction I got from an Australian in a discussion over America’s place in the world, when I told him that I thought his views were wrong”

Yes of course we all know Americans, Brits, Germans, etc. etc who are as pig-headed as pig-headed can get.

But, as you mentioned, the Aussie in question could have been ranting about PRO-Howard, PRO-American views or he could have easily been ranting about the exact opposite.

That’s the critical difference, one Aussie might support his govt and it’s, eg, foreign policy and another might oppose it.

In China that would never be the case.

Can you imagine hundreds of thousands of mainlanders marching against it’s own govt to oppose, say, a declaration of war against one of China’s neighbours?

That wouldn’t happen, but that DID happen in multiple western cities at the start of the present Iraqi War.

Yes, westerners can be stubborn….but they all have DIFFERENT opinions.

May 26, 2005 @ 9:35 am | Comment

“Yes, westerners can be stubborn….but they all have DIFFERENT opinions. ”

Narrow-Minded and Different options seem not the same thing?

If all Chinese you are talking with have the all have the same opinion. At most you can only say they are narrow-minded. They don’t want other choices unless you think they are all controlled by the government.

May 26, 2005 @ 9:52 am | Comment

I think what frustrates people sometimes is that China is perceived to hold only one answer on every issue. Steve is totally right – I wouldn’t get so irritated at mindless dogmatic bullshite if it were coming to me from both directions like it does everywhere else in the world. But China doesn’t have this, and I, for one, can’t help but think sometimes that it’s because of an authoritarian educational system that doesn’t challenge its students to question, and doesn’t teach them how. Chinese people might not want to, simply because they were never taught how. But does this mean they *really* don’t want to question things?

anyway it pisses me off sometimes when my chinese friends, after a long talk with them about Taiwan, never fail to say: “Oh, well, when you put it like that, yeah, I guess they have the right to choose for themselves.” But they never appear to have thought of it on their own. Why not? Why doesn’t every sort of intellectual opinion exist in China? It’s so damn hard to have a good, intellectually stimulating conversation there. I’ve never run into anything like it, even with vicious Neo-cons or overly whacked out Liberal tree-huggers.

May 26, 2005 @ 10:59 am | Comment

Who is using my name in the above post?


you have some interesting observations.

Its interesting you like northerners better than southerners… I think I have to agree from people (North and South) I met in America.

My overall feeling of Londoners are pretty positive. British, Germans and Austrians (compared to French and Italians) are some of the friendliest people I met as a traveller.

May 26, 2005 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

Bing, Luke, piyeye –

I was wondering if you could take a look at this

as well as the few preceding it.

I’m trying to collect opinions.


May 26, 2005 @ 12:33 pm | Comment


What is your question? China future in 20 years?

May 26, 2005 @ 12:39 pm | Comment

Back on the topic of making friends. It might be totally a culture issue that preventing many foreigners to make Chinese friend.

Culture difference could be a huge obstacle. When I came here for my graduate study here in United states, I lived in the undergraduate dormitary (they ran out of room in those days). What I observe was that, on weekends, when the college students got together and get out, there were distinct racial/orginain distinctives. Chinese kids (apparently born here from their accent) hang around with Chinese kids, Indian kids with Indian kids, Russian kids with Russian kids, Black kids with black kids, White kids with white kids. And American is a melthing pot, what can you expect from other place?

May 26, 2005 @ 1:23 pm | Comment


ABC usually don’t mix with FOB Chinese, you can spot an ABC from someone who grew up in the states. Groups of Hong Kong students or brainwashed church groups stick together and don’t socialize with other groups…

May 26, 2005 @ 1:54 pm | Comment

Conrad, I just saw your comment now, and I am grinning from ear to ear.

May 26, 2005 @ 3:21 pm | Comment

LW, I will also put this on your site. I think it really is a good idea to collect other ppl’s ideas coz listening is the very first step of understanding.

If you ask me what I would want for China 20 years in the future. In short, I hope our seciety will be highly harmonious. Being harmonious definitely includes high level of equality and freedom.

I think there are as many Chinese people who care about equality, freedom and democracy as Americans. But we also understand that different countries are reading the different pages of development. Equality, freedom and democracy definitely needs to be achieved someday, but without social stability and economic prosperity, they could only be something in the air. Simply put, is today’s China able to afford the massive cost of American style election?

A lot of Chinese people do complain about the government’s policies and its corruption, but they also have confidence in the government coz it is really trying to reform as Wen Jia bao said early this year in front of the press. Can anybody name a government in any other developing countries who has done a better job in terms of the consistency of policy-making and the efficiency of policy-implementation in the past 20 years? No, not India. No, not East European countries. No, definitly not Ukraine. And do Chinese people have the right to believe in their own government?

When westerners are talking about freedom in China, have they ever considered China’s freedom of development? When they are talking about the equality in China, have they ever taken the structure and process of development into account? When they are talking about democracy, would they accept some other form of democracy different than their norms?

I just read an ariticle on The Wall Street Journal published on May 13, “As Rich-Poor Gap Widens in the U.S., Class Mobility Stalls”. I am a college freshman studying with a lot of white kids who live in their American suburban bubble. They don’t know how and why their black counterparts living in downtown NYC are being trapped in their dismaying environment and could never possibly get out.

I feel extremely frustrated when I talked about China with a lot of my American classmates. They hardly know anything about China beyond “It’s a communist country”. Not to mention if China is “communisim” or not, I feel that they obviously need to know more, which can not be read in New York Times. However, I was surprised by their ignorance and assertiveness when I started to explain the historical and cultural context of China. I believe individual experiences vary. There must be American kids who have a more comprehensive grasp of the knowledge about China.

I am not trying to start an endless comparison here. There is simply no foundation to compare the whatever aspects of the two countries coz China has a 4 times larger population than America does and America has a I-Don’t-Know-how-much-larger economy than China does. So let us try to understand each other first! LW just took a constructive step!

May 26, 2005 @ 6:43 pm | Comment

Thank you for your post. I thought it was very well expressed. I would disagree with you on one point though: I don’t think that cost (in terms of $) is a valid reason for saying that China shouldn’t have elections now. I do think there are other reasons why the country is not yet prepared for it, but that’s another matter. I also think that the Chinese government is very sincere in its economic reforms, but would add that I think it is being shortsighted in not introducing more (gradual) political reforms.

May 26, 2005 @ 9:57 pm | Comment

Interesting. Speaking of comparisons and how much people in one country know about other countries.

In my Chinese history class at university (I read Chinese Studies) in the UK, our tutor (from the mainland) once lamented to us how ironic it was that foreign students learning Chinese history in Europe know more about Chinese history than Chinese students learning history in China.

Figure that one out.

May 26, 2005 @ 11:02 pm | Comment

Elections aside, the crackdown on public discourse seems particularly counterproductive. And I really don’t understand what Hu is so afraid of in this regard…he and Wen Jibao are seeming like an increasingly odd pairing, or am I just seeing contradictions where none exist?

May 26, 2005 @ 11:39 pm | Comment


Are you Chinese? What part of Chinese history are you talking about? How many foreign experts or books on Chin, Han, Tang, Song dynasties?


Do you think Wen is better than Hu?

May 27, 2005 @ 12:33 am | Comment

JR, I’m hesitant to say…I mean, we don’t really know enough to make those judgments. But still…Wen seems to be more comfortable in dealing with the press – that press conference that later was censored was pretty free-wheeling…and there’s the whole ZZI connection…but you know, we all want to find a hero and a good guy and the person who is going to lead China forward, so who knows? I really do like to think the best of people. That is, until they massively disappoint me!

May 27, 2005 @ 12:39 am | Comment

I mean ZZY. ‘scuse….

And I should also clarify: I don’t know enough to say. Maybe there are others here with greater insight?

May 27, 2005 @ 12:42 am | Comment

I support Steve’s statement. Excepting academics in the field, I have met a very small number of Chinese people who know much about their own history. Tiny numbers. JR – in my case, this refers to Qin and Han Dynasties, and from the foundation of the Qing Dynasty to the modern day, which are my areas I know more about. I would say that I know very very little about the Tang or Song, for example, yet I usually find my knowledge of those periods roughly comparable to most Chinese that I have met.

Of course, it comes as a shock to most westerners when you tell them that Julius Caesar wasn’t a Roman emperor … so it’s not as if a lack of historical knowledge is limited to the Chinese.

May 27, 2005 @ 12:57 am | Comment

Okay, FS9, you’ve got me – please explain the Julius Caeser reference!

May 27, 2005 @ 1:01 am | Comment

Oh. Do you mean b/c Caesar was “Consol & Dictator” and not an official “Emperor” Emperor?

I must admit, I didn’t know that.

May 27, 2005 @ 1:11 am | Comment

There were no Roman emperors until after JC’s death. He was simply the last (and most successful) of a bunch of Republican era military strongmen, who managed to make themselves supreme in Rome. The Roman senators murdered him, partly because he’d had himself declared dictator for life, and partly because they were afraid he was aiming at monarchy.
JC’s nephew and heir managed to seize power, and ultimately described himself as “princeps”, which we generally translate as “emperor”, but even then it really just meant “first among equals”, because JC’s successor (Augustus) was afraid he might also be murdered if he tried to lay claim to a title like “king”. People usually say that Augustus was the first Roman emperor, and then argue endlessly about which point in his life the Republic ended and the Empire began.
History lesson ends.

May 27, 2005 @ 1:53 am | Comment

Other Lisa, you’re right, I should explain exactly what my tutor was talking about.

She was talking about history in general. Specifically about, as I’m sure you know, foreign establishments of learning don’t leave the bad bits out.

May 27, 2005 @ 9:42 am | Comment

With reagrd to comments about not have Chinese friends, mainland peoples narrow-mindedness, inability to exchange the views or accept other opinions of people etc., it’s interesting to see that few people have chosen to pick up that particular ball and run with it so to speak.

I think westerners instintively shy away from this subject because they find it difficult to deal with and it throws up all sorts of unpleasant issues.

For example, (I’m not a westerner by the way), westerners are brought up in a very racially/culturally sensitive environment, where tolerance of others and tolerance of other points of view is the norm.

I have mainly only experience of Britain and America but I found the vast majority of people there to be wonderfully warm and friendly. The people there, for the most part of the people, treat everyone on a face-to-face basis, i.e. they judge one by what one say and do and not by what one look like and where one come from.

China isn’t like this at all at all and when westerners come to China they are usually shocked to hear the most appaulling racial stereotyping, terrible xenophobia, offensive nationalism, and a sort of victim complex about recent history.

If a westerner was to say only a fraction of what the average Chinese person says it would not be accepted by other westren people.

Therefore, how do westerners deal with , for example, a Chinese person calling a black person a gorilla?

Does one ignore it, think to oneself that the Chinese person ‘isn’t as culturally advaced’ as they, put it all down to the authoriotarian political system? etc etc

This is a tricksy question.

One must be most careful about the above because it is very patronising to the Chinese people but how is one supposed to deal with it?

I wish I knew the answer but it is interstingto ponder.

Thank you.

May 27, 2005 @ 10:14 am | Comment

Thanks, FS9. I always thought Caeser proclaimed himself Emperor, thus the skewering in the Senate. But I think I got that from Shakespeare!

May 27, 2005 @ 10:17 am | Comment

Saroj, I truly appreciate your comment and agree with your main points. It is not a criticism of the Chinese people and it’s not patronizing; it’s an observation of a culture shaped by many decades of isolation and an environment that discouraged open mindednes, critical thought, inquisitiveness and reaching your own conclusions. Then, this is topped off by other cultural phenomena not unique to China but to several Asian countries: a general distrust of outsiders and an unwillingness to let them into their lives, for example. This will ease over time, but there’s nothing wrong with telling it like it is.

May 27, 2005 @ 10:21 am | Comment

I’m concerned that the widespread lack of intellectual curiosity in China is going to limit China’s long-term ability to develop beyond the “catching-up” phase it’s currently galloping through.

A nation that can’t innovate or create will always be stuck copying, pirating, and reverse-engineering other culture’s accomplishments.

The schools are of course one of the main culprits. An education system based on rote memorization and reciting canned answers fails to instill a sense of curiosity, or train people how to think and question. Use of imagination is actively discouraged.

One of the classes I teach is IELTS preparation, where I routinely witness the inability of many students to reason out an explanation or to think “outside the box”. I wish I had one “fen” for each time I asked why something was so, and received the answer “No why.”

Of course, as others have already noted, it’s not just the schools — the effect is buttressed by a monolithic, authoritarian gov’t which obsessively controls exposure to outside information, a society that places a high value on conformity, and a business environment where intiative is seldom rewarded.

The nation is failing to take advantage of one of it’s greatest potential assets — a billion-plus intellects. And that’s a tragic waste, not just for China, but for the world.

May 27, 2005 @ 10:58 am | Comment

Saroj, please contribute more often to these comments!

Most of us here are westerners or native Chinese. We really need more viewpoints from others who originate from other cultures, and have experience in other places, especially other developing nations.

It will help all of us make better sense of the Great Chinese Puzzle.


May 27, 2005 @ 11:04 am | Comment

Shanghai, totally agree about Saroj – what a great comment.

About thinking outside the box. This is one of the most serious issues for Chinese companies and is the only reason they need to hire managers from Taiwan, HK and Singapore. As a VP in a multinational PR firm in Beijing, it was maddening, holding brainstorming sessions in which no one said a word except the Westerners; where people only think along the lines of what they were told to do and flee from ever having to make decisions that require critical thinking.

This is mostly government-created, as you say. But the government knows this, and is slowly trying to turn it around. Problem is, they want to have it both ways, controlling people’s minds and thoughts, yet getting them to think for themselves. The former is still way more crucial to them than the latter, so the problem isn’t going away soon and will certainly be a blight on business growth for many years to come.

May 27, 2005 @ 11:17 am | Comment

By the way Richard, how are you doing? I’m wondering about the result of the recent surgery you mentioned to us? Hope all is well.

May 27, 2005 @ 11:51 am | Comment

I’m in a hotel in NYC waiting for my next business appointment, so it’s an intense week. I stopped wearing the sling a week ago, but I can’t raise my arm at all; I was surprised it hurt so much so long after the surgery, but the doctor says the pain could continue for six months. Great. Thanks a lot for asking, and I’ll be back in full blogging form in a few days.

May 27, 2005 @ 11:59 am | Comment

Thank you richard, shanghai slim, the reason why I read peking duck everyday is because of the regular people you have comment. Other Lisa, Filthy Stinking 9, Tuode, Brendan, Steve, Kier etc. etc. are a group of people that you should be very proud of richard. They are the best on the www. Even Conrad.

it’s certainly not easy at all to see things from another persons point of view but sometimes it can be done.

I finally pluck up courage to comment so I will now look forward to making comments in the future.

May 27, 2005 @ 12:02 pm | Comment

Dear Saroj,

It’s great to have your voice here.

May 27, 2005 @ 12:43 pm | Comment


How do you respond when you hear “civilized” Americans calling black people niggers, arabs sand niggers or gays fags?

May 27, 2005 @ 3:16 pm | Comment

PS I blame it all on the authoriotarian political system too!

May 27, 2005 @ 3:22 pm | Comment

JR, not that I disagree with your snark re: the current American political system, but…

The point is, the racial slurs you cite are not acceptable in any kind of American public discourse, in the workplace and in most social situations. Sure, there are people here who say such things and who are as racist as all get-out, but by and large it is not considered acceptable to use those slurs. I’m not talking about a bunch of yahoos drinking beer and slinging insults, but say stuff like that in the workplace, and you are liable to get fired.

One of the things that gives me hope about younger people here is that by and large, they are much more accepting of other cultures, other races and of gays. They don’t tend to have the same hang-ups as their parents and grandparents.

May 27, 2005 @ 7:15 pm | Comment


Not just a bunch of yahoos…having lived in different areas in the country, I think racism is regional and depends on the state of the economy. Surprisingly, I find some of the most racist places are in the dying cities in the North East. When the economy is bad, people are pointing finger at each others and racial tension runs high. We lived in this small little Italian town in western PA. I was stunned to hear normal white folks calling blacks niggers or cockroaches. (I don’t remember hearing people using the n word in public often.) Then I found out blacks were encroaching middle class Italian neighborhood, prostituting and selling drugs at corners. The property values dropped further and more blacks are moving in like a vicious circle. It sounds very racist, but it is the sad reality in a lot of doomed cities in the mid west and the north east.

There are so many hillbillies and literally inbred redneck hicks in the hills of PA and upstate NY, a lot of people don’t know about that about the blue states.

May 27, 2005 @ 8:57 pm | Comment

Dear JR,

Well, yes. Economic struggle makes people vulnerable to hate. Disadvantaged people are pitted against each other, rather than recognizing that they have common interests.

My point was however that this is largely not acceptable in public discourse.

May 27, 2005 @ 10:07 pm | Comment


It is rude, crude and socially unacceptable yet in the movie, Team America, the word FAG (Film Actors Guild) has been used and displayed over 10 times or more to make fun of Hollywood liberals like Alec Baldwin, Susan Surandon and matt Damon…it is sad some people find that witty and entertaining. So fag is a cuss word for gays, doesn’t that indirectly promote hate crimes against gay people also?

May 27, 2005 @ 10:34 pm | Comment

This thread has become quite long, and maybe it’s too late throw in yet another topic, but …

I was thinking again about Chris (above) and his unfortunate problems making friends with male Chinese.

Would anyone else with better luck care to pffer Chris some advice? How about some comments from those who *do* have male Chinese friends, and why they love them? What about the benefits or positive aspects of friendship in China?

From my experience, friendships between males is rather different here than back in the US. I think male-male friendships here are more intense and affectionate. Maybe this is because I am a gay male, and more open to this kind of relationship, I’m not sure.

But one thing I am sure about: none of my male friends back in the US (gay or straight) would ever send me messages like “I hope that everyday you miss me a little more” or tell me about how when I’m old and retired they hope I will come to live with them just so they can talk and laugh with me every day. My closest friends often say things like this.

It’s true that in China talk is cheap, but in their actions as well these guys have shown me again and again the depth of their sincerity.

It is human nature to share your gripes and “vent” with others in in a similar situation, but when we do that too much… well, small wonder some locals may become indignant. We need to make sure we give some equal time to the good things.

Have you tried meeting guys under age 30? How about blue collar guys? “Waidiren”? There are big differences between all of these.

Anyone else care to share their positive Chinese friendship experiences or offer advice to Chris?

May 27, 2005 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

From my experiences in China I would say that it is not the government/CCP necessarily that has caused the attitude Richard found working with Chinese at the PR company. I have taught in China at the university level and have worked in a Chinese company for some years where I was the only foreigner.

While teaching in universities I found most students had not been taught to think for themselves, but to learn what is put in front of them. There were exceptions, but as a general rule most students wanted to be told what they needed to learn. I supposed that was so they could limit their studies to what they would be tested on for doing better on the tests, not learn for its own sake. While I have not studied the classical education system from China’s past, what I have read about it is that it was memorization and more memorization, nothing like learning as we know it and practice it today in the States and some few places in China now. I tend to think with China’s past like an anchor on some of its cultural issues, the old educational system has been tied to New China’s ed. system, thus preventing it from being a fully effective system.

Working with all Chinese personnel including the owner, all younger than me, and essential in the company’s informal structure subordinate to me, “the American” (I was instructed to do my work in the American style, so as to be more efficient, quicker and more modern than Chinese business practices and not let Chinese bad business processes and habits take over the start-up company), I found that many employees did not want to make decisions. This was so even if within the area of the employee’s responsibility and competence.

What these observations mean to me is that it is not just the government/Party’s stultifing policies that causes the Chinese to be as they are. No, I think it is very much more complex than that and has much to do with its old culture.

May 27, 2005 @ 10:49 pm | Comment


I don’t see any Chris in this thread. What are Chris questions about Chinese friendship?

May 27, 2005 @ 11:01 pm | Comment


Many Asian students regardless of nationality are quiet and passive compared to American students. With whatever means, most Asian students study to get A for their exams, they are not much interested in absorbing knowledge for its own sake in many cases.

May 27, 2005 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

JR, this thread is long, and Chris’ post may be hard to find (his first post is about 1/3 of the way from the beginning, dated at May 26, 03:37 AM ). He opened the topic with:

“I’m male and I’m extremely saddened to admit that I do not have a single Chinese male friend.”

May 27, 2005 @ 11:23 pm | Comment

JR, you “hit the nail on the head” – China’s – and other East Asian nations – education systems are much more oriented toward test-passing than their counterparts in the west. This is a very big part of it, school has such a huge role in shaping how we behave during the rest of our lives.

It seems to me that other more fundamental differences in approaches to learning and thinking can be traced to the differences in the philosophies of Kongzi-Mengzi (Confucious-Mencious) versus Aristotle-Socrates-Plato. I think these differences shape the way we think more than we realize.

May 27, 2005 @ 11:36 pm | Comment


I know because I went to school with a conservative Southern Baptist church group for foreign students which passed around exam papers, term papers and tips of different professors in college.
I think most Asian students are just too shy to talk and voice out opinions in front of everyone.


While I never lived in Mainland China before but I think I understand your sentiment after living in the US for awhile, it is so easy to start a conversation with complete strangers and make friends withe people in the US.

One thing I like about living here is the different people I meet and come across everyday. Our next door neighbor is Jewish, across the street is a Polish attorney’s family, two houses down is an Indian Professor family we had dinner with last night. We have friends who are ex Italian mafia, gay priest, British, German, Irish, Scottish, Aussie, Haitian, Singaporean, Taiwanese ABC. Now we are planning for Dim sum brunch this weekend.

May 28, 2005 @ 12:49 am | Comment

Saroj, respect to you man. My names is Michael. You took a difficlut subject, grabbed it with both hands and threw it out into the open.

It touched a nerve with me as I am mixed-race British and I live in China. I wanna personally thank you for being sensitive enough to think about the issues you raised in your post, and for taking the time to look at things from other’s point of view.

I’ve read peking duck for months now but now I’m moved enough to post for the first time.

You know man, gorilla was one of the first words I learnt in Chinese? When my company first sent me here I asked the people in my office: so, hello is ni hao, goodbye is zai jian and what’s da xing xing that I keep hearing?

Everyone in the office roared with laughter but not one of them told me that it was Chinese for gorilla. I had to ask a Canadian geezer that I met in a pub.

I remember a meeting I had with one of my compay’s suppliers. They were like, you’re black! and the first 20 minutes of the meeting was taken up with everybody talking about me being black! My translator was only translating I think a tiny bit of what everyone was saying and she looked well embarrassed.

The supplier blokes said to me, “It must be hard living in Britain what with all the racism there” I said like WTF! Britain ain’t no racist country man, I’ve never experienced hardcore racism in my country, the first time I experienced racism was in China.

They were like, no way man! China can’t be racist because everyone is racist against Chinese people!

Still, it takes more than a billion bigots to get me down. I look for the good people and I don’t care how many or how few they are.

I’m thinking that if a person has to be racist against others just to feel good about themselves then they have my pity as that’s a very sad state of affairs.

Anyway, keep up the good work richard! I want to agree with what the man Saroj said about your comment people, they’re some of the good people that I just mentioned above.

May 28, 2005 @ 2:54 am | Comment

JR, the use of the word FAG in Team America was pure parody and it was very funny. I have never heard anyone suggest that such a thing could in any way inspire a hate crime. As to civilized people using the expressions you cite, all I can say is that this is quite unusual. I rarely if ever hear civilized people talk like that. Rednecks, undereducated people, yes. Not civilized people. If they talk like that they’re not civilized.

May 28, 2005 @ 9:28 am | Comment


The use of the word fag is one stone for two birds for both the Hollywood liberals and gays. Buckwheat is not a bad word until you call black a buckwheat.

May 28, 2005 @ 9:43 am | Comment

Mark, sorry to “meet” you so late in the thread (I’m just now reading it hours after the most recent posts). I hope you comment again – your perspective is really interesting – and I hope you’re finding some good folks while you’re in China.

May 28, 2005 @ 10:26 pm | Comment


May 29, 2005 @ 2:54 am | Comment

What on earth was that last post???

Anyway, it’s been a while since I looked at this post, but I would like to add my welcome to Saroj. I too hope to hear more from you.

One of your posts reminded me of an incident from my distant past. During my first visit to HK, before I lived there, I met the local HK girlfriend of a friend of mine. The boyfriend wasn’t around at the time, and myself and another friend were just making iddle chit-chat. In the course of it, she commented that black people smell. It was such an outrageous comment that neither myself nor my friend took it seriously, and just nodded and smiled, thinking it was a joke. Then she went on to explain that the reason they were black and smelled was because they don’t wash. Our smiles became rather frozen in place, as we sat there listening to her, gradually realising that she actually meant it all. How did we respond? Well, basically, we didn’t. We sat there and listened and nodded, not saying much at all in reply, but once we were out of ear-shot, we turned to each other and said “what the hell was that????” I suspect that a lot of westerners respond in a similar way … stunned silence, or quiet probing to see if the person REALLY believes such outrageous statements, and then make a decision not to challenge / engage that person, because they’re clearly not worth the effort / too stupid to understand that they’re being so grossly offensive.

May 30, 2005 @ 4:12 am | Comment


The first time when I moved to America, I moved into a huge house by a sweet nice Jewish widow/holocaust survivor (later I found out), who loved anything Chinese, including adopting a Chinese boy from Taiwan. I was new to American culture at the time but from what she told me “Blacks smell, most black men are bi sexual, my German Shepherds are good because they bark at black people when they pass behind my house…” Just to name a few, I am not trying to say anything bad about her because she was a wonderful and caring old lady, but this was what I was told.

May 30, 2005 @ 1:03 pm | Comment

I have a lot of white relatives, two of the young boys had pointed at some gay people and called them queers while I was driving, I stopped the car and turned around and told them right away, its not correct to use the word queer to call gay people. They listened and stopped.

May 30, 2005 @ 1:10 pm | Comment

In the first semester of college, foreign students were forced to take the ESL class, and people from Russia, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong… from all over the world were all stayed in one classroom, a lot of us became friends during the semester. There was this short brawny Spanish guy from Spain. For the whole Spring semester, he had been wearing the same blue sweater to the class, and it started to stink as the weather became warmer. I remember classmates were talking about the stench, but none of us had the courage to tell the guy he stunk up the whole classroom. How can one tell a friend in a nice way, you stink, go take a bath?

May 30, 2005 @ 1:23 pm | Comment

JR – yeah, there are definately people like that everywhere. It’s a surprising thing for me that personal contact with someone who belongs to the group they hate will usually NOT cure them of this problem. Rather, the individual will be placed into a special category of his/her own, as somehow different from the great mass of the filthy unwashed depraved heathens. I see that kind of thing a lot in Sydney, where Koreans often make friends with Japanese … yet will still say quite freely that they hate Japanese … just not that particular Japanese person.

But the next question becomes … is it more common in China than it is in western countries? I tend to suspect that it is, for the reason that there seems to be less public education telling people that it’s bad to behave like that. What do you think?

May 31, 2005 @ 1:55 am | Comment

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