Straits Times reporter arrested in China

There are all kinds of excuses we can come with as to why this is okay, and why we should just let it go as an “internal matter.” But I don’t see it that way. Reading this article made me sick, and hearing in my head all the pre-rehearsed excuses of the apologists just makes me sicker.

China has detained a prominent member of Hong Kong’s international press corps who traveled to the mainland to obtain a collection of secret interviews with a Communist leader purged for opposing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Security agents apprehended Ching Cheong, chief China correspondent for Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper, on April 22 in the southern city of Guangzhou, where he was scheduled to meet a source who had promised to give him a copy of the politically sensitive manuscript, according to the journalist’s wife, Mary Lau.

Lau said Chinese authorities warned her and the Straits Times not to disclose her husband’s detention, and she stayed silent for weeks in the hope he would be released. She said she decided to go public last week after a mainland official told her privately that the government was preparing to charge him with “stealing core state secrets.”

If charged, Ching would be the second journalist for a foreign newspaper arrested by the government of President Hu Jintao in the past year. Zhao Yan, a researcher in the Beijing bureau of the New York Times, was arrested by the State Security Ministry in September on similar charges and has been held incommunicado without trial since.

The arrests could have a chilling effect on foreign news operations in China. The Chinese government often jails Chinese journalists and writers — the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says there are more journalists in prison in China than anywhere else in the world — but in the past it has generally refrained from arresting individuals employed by foreign news agencies.

What’s your definition of a police state? Does China qualify? To me, it is where people are afraid to speak because the police have the power to arrest and hold them at will, as Stalin’s secret police and the Gestapo did. Is this an examnple of the behavior of an enlightened government or of a police state — or of something in-between? The question is sincere. I generally choose not to refer to China as a police state, as there are aspects of the country that seem to go against the classic definitions. But each time I read stories like this, I am forced to reconsider.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 322 Comments

I have to admit that I look forward to seeing the mental acrobatics that will inevitably follow in the statements of Chinese apologists and of course “patriots.”
It’s sad to know that people are still in jail for a democratic movement 16 years ago, and then arresting a reporter covering this is essentially pouring salt on the wounds.
How do the people responsible sleep at night? Rather than counting sheep, do they count GDP statistics to forget their crimes in the name of “stability” and lull themselves to sleep?
The arrest of foreign reporters is a dangerous development. I was criticized nearly a year ago on this exact site for expressing understanding (but not support) for Reporters with Borders’ suggested boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Now, a year later, things seem to only be getting worse. Is this what one calls an “all-around well-off and harmonious society”? I could think of a few other words, like “fu–ed,” but “harmonious” certainly does not come to mind.

May 29, 2005 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

“What’s your definition of a police state? Does China qualify? To me, it is where people are afraid to speak because the police have the power to arrest and hold them at will, as Stalin’s secret police and the Gestapo did.”

I known a country not a million miles away where the secret services can arrest a man, accuse him of conspiring to commit terrorism, lock him up without a time limit or access to a lawyer, and then tell him to his face that they can’t tell him exactly what he has been accused. They can do this based on a denouncement and do not require evidence.

I also know a country that can arbiterily detain any foreign national on the grounds of terrorism, and hold him indefinetely on the grounds that he can go free if he returns to his country of origin, but which is known to have arrested several men claiming asylum who cannot go back to their own countries because they face possible torture and/or execution.

Ring any bells? well one of these countries is America and the other is Britain.

Its a slippery sloap. The first step is small, but the next one is a killer.

May 30, 2005 @ 2:58 am | Comment

I’d hardly be accused of being an apologist for the PRC government, but nevertheless, I think an important distinction has to be drawn here. China has NOT arrested foreign journalists for their reporting of Chinese matters. They have arrested two Chinese who work for foreign newspapers. I’m not trying to defend this action, but to make the point that it will be an entirely different ballgame if you saw (for example) an American employee of a news agency arrested.

And ACB – those laws may be on the books in USA and Britain, but I feel that it’s not really appropriate to try to compare these two countries with China’s record. As with a lot of things, it’s not the words of the law that matter, but the way it is put into practise … one of the most famous examples of this was to make a comparative study of the constitutions of the Soviet Union and the USA, and see how very similar they were …
Furthermore in China, most of the time the government doesn’t really care if it’s obeying it’s own laws or not, when it decides to arrest someone.

May 30, 2005 @ 3:14 am | Comment

One step backwards, but I can’t say I’m surprised. You won’t find me apologising for the CCP, though. ‘State secrets’ is just the same old bullshit excuse. The weiquan movement you posted on a couple of days ago is one of the steps forward China has been making of late. It’s bloody frustrating to read of yet another step backwards.

ACB, “Everbody else is doing it, so why can’t I” is not a valid excuse. Whether it happens in China, America, or Britain is irrelevant, it’s still wrong.

May 30, 2005 @ 4:20 am | Comment

Richard,

I agree, to some degree China doesn’t fit the traditional definition of a “Police State”, but it looks like things are rapidly heading that way.

Arresting journalists, fear among the masses to speak out against anything the Party does or doesn’t do, individuals being arrested/detained on bogus/invented accusations and among an endlist list of other things…registries for anything and everything..

http://thehorsesmouth.blog-city.com/read/1310429.htm

If it walks like a duck…
(sorry about that)

May 30, 2005 @ 8:37 am | Comment

ACB,

I disagree with a great many things that are happening with national politics in America, but your reference to America as a “police state” is rather irresponsible.

It’s like referring to George Bush or any other American politician as a Nazi.

May 30, 2005 @ 8:40 am | Comment

Gordon, ACB etc.

I think there is some reason for concern regarding locking up terrorists without transparent procedure, but the interesting thing I want to point out is that while China locks up (almost) only Chinese with the arbitrariness that only the Chinese police can manage, and without any transparency in procedure, and seems to actually apply rule of law to foreigners, the U.S. has done a pretty good job of, in the end, giving the U.S. citizens locked up on charges of terrorism a trial in the U.S. system.

So the two are opposites, in a sense. And interesting to think about.

May 30, 2005 @ 9:01 am | Comment

Laowai is quiote right. The comparison to the US is rather ludicrous. Look aty tjhe imprisonment of Liu Di (“stainless steel mouse”) by China for posting pro-democracy essays on the Web. When one of her supporters started a petition (Du Daobin), he was arrested and put in jail for quite a while. In the US, we are all allowed to write about Gitmo and criticize it and tell the horror stories about it. And as awful and inexcusable as Gitmo is, it’s not an example of how the US government, even under Bush, operates. It’s something to watch, to condemn and be sure it isn’t allowed to spread. In fact, it’s cause for major demonstrations. But it is not anything like the Chinese system, where no one can be guaranteed safety from, the police (just ask Sun Zhiyang).

No, in this regard the US and China are opposites. In the US, the prisoners can still have their cases brought to the Supreme Court and discussed at length on National Public Radio. In China, I suspect there will be precious little public debate about Ching Cheong and the Tiananmen Square secrets he was investigating.

May 30, 2005 @ 9:12 am | Comment

on the article : if he’s a hong kong resident I’m not sure the distinction of working for a foreign newspaper matters. a chinese citizen was arrested for what is, in their eyes, betraying the motherland. still a bad thing, yes. likely to spread to arrests of actual foreigners, I’m not so sure.

when I think of a police state I think of people who would likely (not possibly, but likely) lose their lives (not just their freedom) for speaking out. doesn’t make what actually happens here better, but it could be worse.

it’s better than 20 years ago though. encouraging people to make honest suggestions then arresting them for it. being worried not about the police catching you if you attend a protest or post to a blog but about your husband/wife/daughter/mother turning you in for thinking counter-revolutionary thoughts. again, doesn’t make it better, but could be worse.

May 30, 2005 @ 9:19 am | Comment

Gordon, I tend to agree. I’ve had this debate with some pro-CCP friends and they deny it vehemently (it’s a true hot button). Bottom line: If the government uses police operating in secret to listen in on what people are saying and doing and invests them with the powers to arrest and hold them, and if this tactic is used to intimidate and silence the population, then you’ve got a police state. For all the bitching about president Bush (much of it from me), we still have our freedom of speech and there is no comparison to China or Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia. Gitmo is an aberration, a small (but not insignificant) example of abuse of power and, in the American tradition, it is loudly condemned by most clear-thinking people. It does not represent the way America has tradfitionally operated — quite the contrary. What a tragedy, that our president refuses to see just how atrocious it is for our image, and how it gives us no right to protest when Americans are treated similarly by other nations.

May 30, 2005 @ 9:20 am | Comment

Echo, what you’re saying is of little consolation for Mr. Cheong, or the fellow serving ten years for leaking CCP media policy to the NY Times. Maybe it is less horrible than it was, but to me that’s like congratulating Hitler for cutting down the number of Jews he was butchering. Even if he cut it by three-quarters, I’d find it hard to give him credit for being better than he used to be.

My textbook example of police state tactics is this horrifying story, by the same reporter who wrote the Ching Cheong story above. If you haven’t seen it, please read it now. Then tell me how much better things have become under today’s reformers.

May 30, 2005 @ 9:28 am | Comment

Nicely put Richard.

Furthermore, I would add that you or I could send a letter to President Bush at anytime to tell him just what you stated. I wouldn’t dare any Chinese national to try that with Hu Jintao.

As far as listening in, I’ve had some personal experiences with that. When my late fiancé and I were engaged it was not uncommon to have our conversations monitored and if anything sensitive came up, our conversations were quickly terminated and she would have to buy another SIM card for her phone in order for me to reach her.

Deplorable.

May 30, 2005 @ 10:03 am | Comment

Revisiting the article I refer to in my previous post, I see it is so superb and so relevant and so important that I’m going to blockquote a section of it here for those who haven’t seen it. Please read every word carefully:

Nearly 15 years after the Tiananmen Square massacre and 13 since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in the largest and perhaps most successful experiment in authoritarianism in the world. What happened to the New Youth Study Group offers a glimpse into the methods the party uses to maintain its monopoly on power and the difficult moral choices faced by those caught in its grip.

The fate of the study group also illustrates the thoroughness with which the party applies one of its most basic rules of survival: Consider any independent organization a potential threat and crush it.

The eight members of the New Youth Study Group never agreed on a political platform and had no real source of funds. They never set up branches in other cities or recruited any other members. They never even managed to hold another meeting with full attendance; someone was always too busy.

And yet they attracted the attention of China’s two main security ministries. Reports about their activities reached officials at the highest levels of the party, including Luo Gan, the Politburo member responsible for internal security. Even the president then, Jiang Zemin, referred to the investigation as one of the most important in the nation, according to people who have seen an internal memo summarizing the comments of senior officials about the case.

The leadership’s interest in such a ragtag group reflects a deep insecurity about its grip on power. The party has delivered two decades of rapid growth, defying those who believe economic reform must lead to political liberalization. But it is struggling to manage rising social tension and popular discontent and remains especially wary of student activism, which sparked the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

No, it’s too early to hand out any accolades for political reform in China. If you doubt me, set up a study group in Shanghai to discuss the pros and cons of democracy and let us know how it goes.

May 30, 2005 @ 10:11 am | Comment

actually, yes. I’d like to think that being alive is of great consolation to mr. cheong.

while I agree it is a horrible case, mr cheong was turned in by an informant, not a relative. he can trust his family, if not yet strangers. since I cannot even begin to imagine what it means to not be able to speak, at all, to anyone, about anything potentially controversial without fear of arrest and possible death I have a hard time making an accurate comparison to a world in which a journalist gets arrested for printing it in a newspaper.

I will adjust my original definition of a police state: change ‘likely to be killed’ to ‘possibility of being killed or tortured’. under this definition I think that, as bad as china can obviously be, it is not at present a police state.

you asked a sincere question, I give a sincere answer.

May 30, 2005 @ 10:21 am | Comment

“If you doubt me, set up a study group in Shanghai to discuss the pros and cons of democracy and let us know how it goes.”

Priceless. I may have to use that one for my quote of the day, if you don’t mind?

May 30, 2005 @ 10:26 am | Comment

Echo,

>>>I will adjust my original definition of a police state: change ‘likely to be killed’ to ‘possibility of being killed or tortured’. under this definition I think that, as bad as china can obviously be, it is not at present a police state.

There are some people who would beg to disagree. Harry Wu, for one.

http://www.christusrex.org/www1/sdc/laogai.html

May 30, 2005 @ 10:32 am | Comment

Not just the CCP, but the KMT used the same tactics to suppress freedom of speech (mostly against communists) in the past. If you study the history of early Ching dynasty, the Manchu developed by itself a sophisticated system to suppress the freedom of speech and expression against the ex-Ming’s scholars (to the point of paranoia) who spoke against the government. After they killed off people who criticized the government, they started to persecute people who chose to use different sensitive Chinese words like “sun” and “moon” and there were a lot of great examples, from poets to government officials who were beheaded and got their whole family executed for using the wrong words in writing.

May 30, 2005 @ 10:35 am | Comment

JR, this is the same approach you so often take – when we talk about modern crimes perpetrated by the CCP you bring up Americans killing American Indians. Now you’re saying the KMT was mean to journalists too at some point in its history. If this is the best you can do you are on very thin ice. Just saying others did it too, in the past, is meaningless. Every society has in its past done terrible things. We are talking about the here and now. If the KMT were doing it now, I’d be screaming about it. But they aren’t.

Oh, and you might want to write this down on the back of your hand: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

May 30, 2005 @ 11:05 am | Comment

Richard,

The above comment was not meant to whitewash what the CCP is doing right now. If I didn’t mention about the early Ching history, do you know about that famous incident/event at that point of time?

As for the comment I had about the eradication of native Americans, at the same post, I also listed a lot of things what the CCP did wrong in China.

May 30, 2005 @ 11:14 am | Comment

Echo, while I don’t doubt your sincerity I find your answer strange.

actually, yes. I’d like to think that being alive is of great consolation to mr. cheong.

Bizarre. Like, if someone is falsely accused or rape and thrown in prison they’ll find cheerful consolation in the fact that they are alive? Now, I can’t get into your head to figure out your thought process, but somehow you’ve managed to convince yourself that Cheong is sitting in prison, smiling about how lucky he is to be alive. In my mind, I see him woefully distressed, on the verge of tears, thinking about his wife and family and the horrifying fact that he may be spending a long time in a Chinese dungeon in solitary confinement. Don’t you think that’s how most people react when they are unexpectedly thrown into a Chinese prison?

I am not convinced that a police state needs to torture or kill. But in any case, China I’m afraid has done both.

Oh, and here’s the Free Dictionary definition of police state:

a country that maintains repressive control over the people by means of police (especially secret police)

The Star-Telegram defines it as “”Government can hold you in secret at any time and for any length of time.”

Where did you come up with the definition that it must include death and/or torture? I have never heard this before. Source?

May 30, 2005 @ 11:23 am | Comment

But JR, you’re still playing the game of, “Well, they were bad too! (Even if it was a long, long time ago.)”

May 30, 2005 @ 11:25 am | Comment

I will agree that the Harry Wu case was disturbing. However it was also ten years ago. I do not pretend to know everything about the current state of chinese prisons but all of the journalists I have read about since mr. sun have been arrested, not killed, for speaking. most, if not all, of the protestors as well.

I’m going to quote you to you, richard….

“That the (weiquian) movement exists at all and has proven to be effective…”
can you imagine a movement such as this surviving past its first week, let alone taking root, in a police state?

I’m going to pick my old standby of the huankantou riots as a present example. 50 police hurt, a villiage completely out of control, civilians killed during the riot : 0. not a single shot was fired into the crowds. not one.

I’m not sure if I have this number correct and honestly I’m too tired to fact check right now, so feel free to correct me. ~57,000 recorded protests in China last year. How many killed? Do you think Hitler would have spared the guns? Stalin? China, circa 1989?

the question posed was not “does china have a humane system?” it was “is china currently a police state?”

here is my original thought process. (I took the original question in the context of journalism but have broadened my definition since then, as a police state does not just crack down on journalists but on all forms of protest.) if I were a chinese journalist I’d know the risks of what I was doing, yes? there is a possibility/probability I would get arrested for writing an article, depending on how obviously inflamitory I was. I would still do it. were I, or my family, to be tortured or killed instead of imprisoned I have to be honest and say I probably wouldn’t, not unless I thought that one article could actually stand a chance of changing the system. there are more things I would go to prison for than die for.

so all that was really an unnecessarily long winded way of saying: in a police state they point guns at people a lot more.

May 30, 2005 @ 11:37 am | Comment

Echo,

interesting point. I think maybe we’re looking at a new phenomenon if you are correct: the government has decided it

1. can’t lock up villagers when they riot, because they are too volatile

2. journalists are still fair game.

This is so arbitrary though, and it’s just based on powermongering and strategic repression, figuring that Huankantou-like riots can’t do nearly as much damage as free journalism. When will China actually be guided by the rule of law?

May 30, 2005 @ 11:51 am | Comment

echo, if you also quote me to me, you will see I wrote in the post we are commenting on that I have in the past felt China doesn’t quite fit my definition of a police state. That’s because of phenomena like the weiquan movement. However, if the weiquan movement called for democracy, how long do you believe they would last? There have been creeping reforms, and signs of hope. But incidents like Mr. Cheong remind us that the potential for police-state-behavior on the part of the CCP is still alive and well. The most I can say for it is that it’s perhaps not a pure and total police state, but rather a police state that appears to be improving somewhat, with some terrible relapses along the way. It’s not Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia or North Korea. But if you slip up, it can still be almost as bad. Ask my three friends in the study group.

May 30, 2005 @ 12:00 pm | Comment

actually that thought process is really easy to clarify. if in my country ten years ago I would have been shot for doing less (like telling my husband my party boss was a corrupt bastard or learning how to play classical guitar) I’d be really happy I was alive now, albeit in prison, rather than living, or rather dead, back then.

in other words it’s not like he’s sitting around going “cool, public toilets” but at least he’s sitting around.

and come on, you’ve at least got to admit that most people would rather be alive than dead.

but you said his imprisonment was unexpected. unless he’s been living under a rock how could it be? if I were in america in jail for being falsely accused for rape I’d certainly be surprised (mostly because I’m a 5’6″ girl, but I do get your point) and I’d be mad as hell the accuser, and likely any inanimate object within vocal range, but I wouldn’t compare myself to someone in jail for doing something he knew might land him in jail. choang knew the risks of reporting the story he did. it’s screwed up that the risk is there, but unless he’s the least aware reporter on the planet he did know this might happen and made the decision to do it anyway.

by the star-telegram’s definition america is a police state, so I’m not going to agree with that one.

the thing is they simply can’t put everyone in jail. enough people get fed up and they have to either a) rethink things or b) oh hell, I can’t come up with a b right now. the point is that with jailing protestors there is hope, there are only so many cells to go around, and people at large tend to get mad when entire villiages, old ladies and all, land behind bars. but with shooting them there is no one to appeal to, no one you think might hear and not shoot you too; the only hope is revolution or rescue by someone with bigger guns than the opressors, which to many would equal no hope at all.

which is perhaps in part why my definition (no source, you asked a question, I thought about it, that’s what I came up with) does not gel with free dict’s. to me, a police state means no escape, no hope. and right now I am unwilling, perhaps blindly so, that there is no hope in china in this system.

May 30, 2005 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

We should ask Yu Huafeng, Li Minying and Cheng Yizhong if china is a police state.

May 30, 2005 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

Lack of freedom of speech in China is definitely one thing the CCP is guilty of. I am quoting my position from the previous posts.

“If we have to play the Pot meets kettle blame game, you can easily find things you don’t learn from the US history textbooks also.

Just to mention a few, the ethnic cleansing of American Indians. Colonization, Forced Christianization of Native Hawaiians, mutiny against legitimate Queen of Hawaii; Refusal to accept Jewish refugees before WW2; The massive war crimes committed during Vietnam war.

The USA supported the military junta in Greece 1967-1974, Overthrow of democracy and installation of puppet Shah in Iran; CIA trained Mujahideen to make heroin from poppies; Support for Pol Pot (yes both China and US supported Pol Pot)

Training of terrorist groups in Latin America; Destruction of democracy in Chile (the other 9/11). Funding, weapons and training for Nicaraguan terrorists; Funding and organization of death squads in El Salvador; Invasion of Panama and Granada; Support of Saddam’s WMD programs in the 1980s…

Anyway, I believe we are all guilty. It is pretty useless to play the blame game against each others. Let’s have an open and honest discussion to right the wrong of the past and move on to the future.

Posted by JR at April 13, 2005 05:09 AM

You are leading the direction of this conversation. There is definitely no debate about the historical and political openness (closeness) of the CCP. If we are to drop our prejudice and discuss these issues in an open and honest manner. I can also easily think of a list of things I don’t like about the Communist China.

1)Corruption, the Chinese government seriously needs political reforms, judicial reforms, and especially implementing the rule of law, not special relationship.

2) Two China, rich urban area vs poor rural area, the Chinese government needs to spend more resources to help develop the rural western area and take care of the majority population of poor farmers, not just emphasizing on urban development.

3) Pollutions, time to put this into the number 1 priority. I know It is already going out of control.

4) Freedom of speech, China needs independent news outlets and to do away with censorship. it’s one of the most powerful tools in combating corruption.

5) freedom of religion.

The political future of China as a CCP expert from Hong Kong had said last month, there will be political freedom, liberty and democracy in China within the next 20 years. I don’t know if he is right or wrong, but I am cautiously optimistic

Posted by JR at April 13, 2005 10:33 PM ”

May 30, 2005 @ 12:18 pm | Comment

-> 1. can’t lock up villagers when they riot, because they are too volatile

I would be fairly amazed if they didn’t, eventually, lock people up over that. however my point was they didn’t shoot into the crowd.

I don’t think the repression is arbitrary, I think it’s still targeted to keep as much control as humanly possible. with huaxi they might have lost the illusion of complete control for a moment but that isn’t nearly as damaging to them as global headlines reading ‘hundreds slaughtered in environmental protest’

richard, what does not being a police state have to do with being a democracy?

(ie just because human rights have never flourished in certain systems does it mean they absolutely cannot? there’s my honest question, currently an open question on my blog, one to which I am still, rather unsuccessfully, wrangling with.)

May 30, 2005 @ 12:50 pm | Comment

richard, what does not being a police state have to do with being a democracy?

Echo, you are bewildering me once again. Where does this question come from? We were having a discussion of what is a police state. When you have a questiopn like this, please snip the line you are referring to so that we can have context. I have no idea what yuou’re talking about.

by the star-telegram’s definition america is a police state, so I’m not going to agree with that one.

Absolutely, totally wrong. America has one of the best records in the world when it comes to honoring habeus corpus and giving people the right to a fair hearing. Is there one aberration in Guantanamo Bay? Yes, and I complain about it all the time. But that is amazingly rare, and you can see the uproar it has caused. To my knowledge, we have never arrested reporters in a way that even approaches what China does. And if we do, the reporter can always get a fair hearing and be released on bond. And every other paper would write about it. No, we are opposites in this respect, and when you call America a police state or say that it is a country where the police lock up people at will and hold them for unlimited periods, it shows a vast ignorance of America and its history. That would be as stupid as my pointing to the waiquan movement and saying that since a few legal scholars have been brave enough to criticize a few government actions and have gone unpunished, that therefore China is a land of free speech and openness and a government willing and eager to invite criticism from its people.

In addition, the trademark of the police state is a society that lives in fear of speaking out, knowing the police are poised to arrest them were they to do so. Even with the Patriot Act and all the post-911 hysteria in America, there is no such atmosphere here and hasn’t been since the days of Joe McCarthy – another ugly anomaly in American history. In China, however, everyone thinks carefuly before they choose to speakl out publicly in a manner that criticizes the government. Most consider and then decide to remain silent, out of terror of the consequences. That’s a good sign of a police state.

With respect, this may be the single most infuriating aspect of arguing with CCP apologists.They will point to one issue — American Indians, Gitmo — and talk as though they are the only topics that define America. Just like China, America is a complex country that cannot so easily be slotted. America’s history has been one of unparalled free speech, stained with a handful of ugly exceptions that were condemned everywhere. China’s history of free speech is quite different — there’s been practically none to speak of in terms of politics, with only a few very unusual exceptions, such as waiquan.

May 30, 2005 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

And even in Guantanamo, there are marked differences compred to the Laogai. The scandal has cost America dearly, but to compare it to what goes on in China in terms of scale or denial of representation is simply incorrect.

May 30, 2005 @ 3:22 pm | Comment

Gold medal gaols

Today’s SCMP:There is no need to worry about Chinese authorities’ censorship of the press, a senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member said yesterday, citing Beijing’s eagerness to ensure the 2008 Games are a success. “There will not be censo…

May 30, 2005 @ 7:04 pm | Comment

hey FSN no. 9, well now thirty posts later (i was asleep) i’ll say thanks for pointing that out, i realized i had screwed up using “foreign reporters” after i sent in the post.
i feel like the arrest of a hong kong-er for reporting is a very dangerous step in the completely wrong direction (not that I would encourage the arrest of a Mainland Chinese, of course). is this a sign of further withering away of the “two systems” BS that was tossed out the window years ago anyway? i would say yes.
I must say that such developments are only going to encourage Taiwan, which has quite a lively press, to walk further away from the “motherland”‘s smothering embrace.

May 30, 2005 @ 7:42 pm | Comment

Very pretty speech Richard. While you’re at it could you tell the US government to stop sending terror suspects off to foreign countries for torture and interrogation? The US government has already shipped off a couple of Canadian citizens to Syria for some extra work and we’re sort of getting annoyed about it. One of them, Maher Arar, has come back after being tortured for a year and now being a broken man isn’t much fit for work. Thank god for his wife and her public battle to free him and not the gutless Canadian government and their useless diplomatic letters of protest.

I’m very surprised there hasn’t been that much a protest or media spotlight about the US government and their program of rendition as they like to call it. I’ve seen the New York Times do a series about people being sent off and there was a piece by 60 minutes about how the government has a secret fleet of planes to ferry off prisoners but that’s about it. There hasn’t been a huge uproar or hard questioning by government officials. I guess when the torture is done by Americans it’s a big deal but when they outsource it to others, it’s not.

May 30, 2005 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

WKL. yo apparently didn’t read Thomas Friedman in the NYT a couple of days ago.

When America outsources torture it is a huge deal. Have you been reading Andrew Sullivan on the topic? And just about every liberal columnist? We are up in arms, but as usual, this administration just doesn’t care. It’s a hideous stain on the nation’s history and I worry it might never be made clean.

No one’s been more vocal against the atrocities committed against the Constitution by Bush. But this is, as I said, an aberration, an anomaly that he could only have gotten away with in the aftermath of 911. Most liberals and a lot of conservatives have recoiled from this sickening policy. It goes against everything the country stands for, and makes me more determined than ever to do all I can to get America back in the hands of the Democrats.

In a saner time, thios could never have happened. But 911 was Bush’s Reichstag Fire, opening the door to one ouitrage after another. One day we will look back at this time with a sense of sickness, disbelief and revulsion.

May 30, 2005 @ 8:55 pm | Comment

One day we will look back at this time with a sense of sickness, disbelief and revulsion.

I’m trying to imagine a time in the future when I will feel more sickened and revolted than I do now, but I can’t.

(new “mirror” blog address for Mainland surfers: http://papertiger.blog-city.com)

May 30, 2005 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

sigh. how on earth did you read that I think america is a police state?

“by the star-telegram’s definition america is a police state, so I’m *not going to agree* with that one.” (emphasis added)

definitions. the star-telegraph’s definition = “Government can hold you in secret at any time and for any length of time.” the patriot act allows for this to happen legally. I *do not* think america is a police state. therefore I must disagree with the star telegraph’s definition.

(though. in addition to rendition there’s the 13 year old charged with terrorism because he yelled at someone on the playground, the mother and daughter ‘kidnapped’ in iraq by the army when they could not find/arrest her husband…a number of groups have attempted to charge the us with war crimes, one tried in germany at the international court, but no one wants to touch the case, no one wants to be the one to tell the us to stop…but I digress. I truly do not think you can compare china to america, or to anyone else for that matter. I brought america in to disagree with the star-telegraph’s definition, not as a comparison to china. obviously that was a bad idea.)

-> Most consider and then decide to remain silent, out of terror of the consequences. That’s a good sign of a police state.

then why are there so many reporters in jail? why so many protests? if they are so afraid to speak out why do they keep doing it? the point is many are *not* afraid to speak out. they are not afraid because they are willing to go to jail to get the message out. I doubt the same would be true if punishment was a bullet in the back of their head, or their mother’s. that is why, as bad as china is, I do not think t is a police state.

I keep comparing china now to china before because I think china before *was* a police state. the simple fact that there are currently reporters printing the truth and ~57,000 protests last year alone speaks to the fact that they are *not* afraid to at least try and change the system, they are not all staying silent.

you said : “However, if the weiquan movement called for democracy, how long do you believe they would last?”
so I asked : “what does not being a police state have to do with being a democracy?”

May 30, 2005 @ 11:22 pm | Comment

This is a follow-up comment to one I made a month or so ago about China’s militarizing its young people. This comes from a small news item in yesterday’s SCMP through Xinhua. The headline says “More than 13,000 military schools set up for teens” That was done by the end of last year. Quoting more, “The schools were set up by the education authority to provide extracurricular national defence and patriotic education, Xinhua reports.

Probably a minor thing, but one wonders why it is needed by a self-proclaimed, “peace country.”

Richard, could you set up a periodic update blog for follow-up comments?Sometimes it is hard to stick them in a following blog topic without sort of disrupting its flow.

May 30, 2005 @ 11:56 pm | Comment

Good point pete. I also read that article.

I think the 13,000 schools are more designed to ‘promote national unity’ (I interpret that more as ‘moulding/twisting young people’s minds into blind obedience to the chinese nation–but that’s only my opinion ).

Still, it’s another frightening development nonetheless. I’m becoming more an dmore concerned about the road the chinese government appears to be taking vis-a-vis nationalism/patriotism.

I really do believe that both nationalism and patriotism are generally bad things. Both words carry far too many negative connotations as far as I’m concerned and the potential for mis-use is huge.

Reinforcing the already high levels of nationalism, xenophobia and victim mentality complex within mainland china is certainly not the road I would like china to take in the year 2005.

The anti-Japan protests are still fresh in my mind, in fact I’m still trying to get to grips with that whole episode.
Thanks.

May 31, 2005 @ 1:38 am | Comment

China is a police state, on top of that, a very corrupt police state.

I agree that the way the ccp makes use of the nationalism and patriotism is awkard and dangerous.

But there is no real xenophobism in China, except that towards Japan that is at least partially justifiable.

The rivalry between China and Japan is something any ruling party in China dare not concede.

In terms of the direction China chooses, it partly depends on how other countries treat China.

If they are to demonise China, China would more likely be a demon for them. If they are to work with China, China would more likely be a partner for them.

May 31, 2005 @ 2:40 am | Comment

“I’m trying to imagine a time in the future when I will feel more sickened and revolted than I do now, but I can’t.”

What an exclamation!?

If all your feelings come from what happens in China, you might have your reason to think that way.

I admit China is the Source of Sins, is that all right for you?

May 31, 2005 @ 2:48 am | Comment

“And even in Guantanamo, there are marked differences compred to the Laogai. The scandal has cost America dearly, but to compare it to what goes on in China in terms of scale or denial of representation is simply incorrect. ”

You can always find this kind of differences when comparing China to other countries. All these differences could become excuses to emphasise the critisism towards China and play down (actually ignore) the similar atrocities committed by others.

As you have given so many differences, may I suggest another two?

“what goes on in China in terms of scale or denial of representation is simply incorrect”

The scale is due to the size of population of China.
The denial is due to the average poverty of Chinese who care more about “face” than others.

May 31, 2005 @ 3:02 am | Comment

bing, i disagree that xenphobia is acceptable, even partially acceptable, under any circumstances. Mainland china wallows in xenophobia and a lot of it is encouraged by the govt.

I don’t want to get into another debate about whether Japan has apologised enough or shown enough remorse to satisfy china or whatever because I really don’t care that much about events 60 years ago.

Your comment re “it depends how other countries treat china” is fairly typical of other comments I’ve heard in the prc.

From where I’m sitting the rest of the world has shown enormous encouragement to china’s economic development. As china has used (hugely exaggerated if you read The China Dream by Joe Studwell) domestic market as a bargaining chip, foreign firms have transferred over massive amounts of technology over the last 20 years.

It wasn’t chinese scientists and the R&D departments (are there any?) of chinese firms that “invented” mobile phones, TVs, DVDs, cars etc etc. The economic success of the last 20 years is due in no small part to the west, Japan and Taiwan. This hardly justifies the general suspicion china has against those foreign countries.

ALso, china has never had a real “friend” in history. China’s “friends” either have to accept china as the dominant side in any partnership or they end up being invaded either sooner or later.

“Demonise” china is a word open to vast interpretation and as far as the chinese govt are concerned any country that has even the slightest negative opinion and/or refuses to accept any part of china’s world view is ususally accused of “demonising” (or a hundred other words) china.

Phrases such as:

“If they (other countries) are to demonise China, China would more likely be a demon for them. If they are to work with China, China would more likely be a partner for them.”

…seem to me to be unique to china. I haven’t heard Americans, Japanese, Africans etc. use such language.

Would you please explain what exactly would happen should china decide to “be a demon” to another country?

May 31, 2005 @ 3:07 am | Comment

“But there is no real xenophobism in China…”
Definitely news for me and my girlfriend, who don’t exactly get the warmest reception at quite a number of places and from quite a diverse array of people. There’s quite a lot of xenophobism, but no one will admit that. Instead they try to give it a name like “special Chinese characteristics” or “Chinese tradition.” Just like murderous tyranny and outright suppression is “representing the peoples’ interests.
That was followed by: “…except that towards Japan that is at least partially justifiable.”
At least partially justifiable? Well I must admit that I like you for not saying “completely justifiable” or something like that, but I do not think that anything can justify the things that I have heard people say about perfectly friendly Japanese in China, not only behind their backs but also to their face.
Xenophobia is not justifiable anywhere under any circumstances.

May 31, 2005 @ 3:12 am | Comment

On the comparision of USA and China I would just like to ask how many USA-dissidents sought asylum in the PRC in the last ten years?

On the other hand it’s becoming harder and harder to promote democracy and freedom of speech when more and more people associate these ideas with Mr. Bush holding a gun in his hand.

May 31, 2005 @ 3:16 am | Comment

“Definitely news for me and my girlfriend, who don’t exactly get the warmest reception at quite a number of places and from quite a diverse array of people.”

I’m sorry if you can’t find warmest reception in China. It’s the way nowadays a lot of Chinese treat strangers or each other, not to mention foreigners.

Because they don’t treat you warmly, they are xenophobic?

May 31, 2005 @ 3:30 am | Comment

yes, in fact, the things that i encountered were xenophobic.

i know chinese people also treat other chinese people like shit all the time, but quite a few people have a real ax to grind with foreigners, especially foreigners with asian girlfriends.

so please don’t simply say “Because they don’t treat you warmly, they are xenophobic?” about a situation that you don’t know about. you don’t want to admit that there is xenophobia, but that is no reason to doubt someone else’ experience. trust me, i’m not a very sensitive guy, but my girlfriend and i have always received a much much warmer welcome in the rural USA (which as we are all reminded constantly here, has plenty of race issues) than we have been in all of China. That is because China is a xenophobic country, but no one will admit it.

Which brings us back to the actual topic of this post, “state secrets,” the most ‘extreme’ of crimes blamed on those who dare to say anything less than positive about this country…

May 31, 2005 @ 4:07 am | Comment

“I don’t want to get into another debate about whether Japan has apologised enough or shown enough remorse to satisfy china or whatever because I really don’t care that much about events 60 years ago.”

I couldn’t care less either. All I care is Japan is not to and doesn’t have the ability to commit that atrocity to China again in the future.

“From where I’m sitting the rest of the world has shown enormous encouragement to china’s economic development. As china has used (hugely exaggerated if you read The China Dream by Joe Studwell) domestic market as a bargaining chip, foreign firms have transferred over massive amounts of technology over the last 20 years.

It wasn’t chinese scientists and the R&D departments (are there any?) of chinese firms that “invented” mobile phones, TVs, DVDs, cars etc etc. The economic success of the last 20 years is due in no small part to the west, Japan and Taiwan. This hardly justifies the general suspicion china has against those foreign countries. ”

No one argues about that. China benefits hugely from opening its market and learning from the west which have done a great job in helping China to come to today’s prosperity. Having said that, the west benefit hugely from China too. There is no free lunch and China paid for what it gained.

“ALso, china has never had a real “friend” in history. China’s “friends” either have to accept china as the dominant side in any partnership or they end up being invaded either sooner or later.”

What is a real friend for a country? Isn’t it a bit naïve to talk about countries having really “friendly” relationships with each other? Does Japan have a real friend? The US? Any Human being knows that is established on the Japanese lickspittle and their strategic enemy – Red China. And even such friendly buddies were sworn foes dozens of years ago.

“”Demonise” china is a word open to vast interpretation and as far as the chinese govt are concerned any country that has even the slightest negative opinion and/or refuses to accept any part of china’s world view is ususally accused of “demonising” (or a hundred other words) china.”

“Demonise” means exaggerating the bad and ignoring the good.

May 31, 2005 @ 4:23 am | Comment

Bing,

I’m pretty sure Other Lisa’s comments were directed against the Bush administration, not China.

Not treating others warmly is certainly not xenophobia, but often the impetus behind it stems from xenophobic views based on stereotypes. Does this happen elsewhere? Yes – UK, Japan (god knows), the USA, France, etc. Fortunately in these countries there is a free media to voice a counter opinion and gives people a chance to counteract racism. I have to be honest here, and say that I don’t know much about recent Chinese media opinion – do you find many Chinese reports defending the Japanese? I think Free media has a profound effect on a country – it shows how people don’t agree with each other. And it tempers nationalism and racism.

i remember a perfect example of Chinese non-racism – during the world cup in japan, where one state sponsored newspaper declared that the Chinese must rely on being crafty, since the Africans had strength, and the Europeans and Americans (by implication, the white ones) had skill. This kind of crap needs to be stamped out. China so often sets the terms of how China will suceed – with craftiness, by using the Western technology to better themselves, by expressing solidarity in the face of demonic international pressure and unfairness. It’s just so one-sided. China will succeed in every area, doing everything, if they let themselves! But there are psychological limits on how the Chinese psyche wants to succeed, because it reaffirms a national identity. Unfortunately, this means that Japan is Public Enemy Number 1 for years to come – until it becomes the U.S.A. And then we’ll see more racism against whites.

Look, the U.S. does it too – but we’ve got severe moderating forces in the form of free speech. The population of the U.S. that doesn’t like to think too much can choose their opinion from one readily accessible side or the other. Can the Chinese? This isn’t a rhetorical question – I’d really like to know what you think about the last two questions I asked.

May 31, 2005 @ 4:26 am | Comment

“so please don’t simply say “Because they don’t treat you warmly, they are xenophobic?” about a situation that you don’t know about. you don’t want to admit that there is xenophobia, but that is no reason to doubt someone else’ experience. trust me, i’m not a very sensitive guy, but my girlfriend and i have always received a much much warmer welcome in the rural USA (which as we are all reminded constantly here, has plenty of race issues) than we have been in all of China. That is because China is a xenophobic country, but no one will admit it.”

You feel hurt by “quite a few” Chinese not comfortable with your Asian girlfriend so that you brand China as a xenophobic country. That seems fair because I know some Chinese do dislike the fact that some other Chinese (often female) would marry anyone at any expense as long as they are foreigners, which unfortunately happens quite a lot, although doesn’t justify the discrimination they often get.

A couple of teenagers threw half bottle milk at me. A pair of blokes littered the remains of their KFC at me. A drunk shouted at me “you shit Chinese all around the world”. Even a toddler muttered “Chinese whore” after he failed to get a pound coin from me.

Those are only a few of what I have encountered in this country, UK, during the last 3 years. I don’t have an English girlfriend; I don’t wear or say anything that may offend them. I just walked on the street and what’s wrong with me?

But I don’t think UK is a xenophobic country, because I can still work, study and live here doing my own business and enjoy my life and I know there are more than 60 million people in this country, not everyone of them throwing litter at me and some of them actually very helpful and friendly.

There is no basis for most Chinese to be xenophobic towards the West. I think many of them like foreigners in their country and want to have foreign friends.

When you say something like: “Instead they try to give it a name like “special Chinese characteristics” or “Chinese tradition.” Just like murderous tyranny and outright suppression is “representing the peoples’ interests.”

It seems you don’t believe there are any Chinese characteristics or Chinese tradition and thus have no respect to them. How could you expect others to respect you then?

May 31, 2005 @ 5:14 am | Comment

Ching Cheong Detained For Zhao Manuscript

Peking Duck got the story first, but let me provide some follow-up. {Just assuming that everyone that reads this blog will read the Peking Duck faithfully as well. And if you aren’t, you should.}.
The Standard provides a story this morning on Ching Cheon

May 31, 2005 @ 5:28 am | Comment

“do you find many Chinese reports defending the Japanese? I think Free media has a profound effect on a country – it shows how people don’t agree with each other. And it tempers nationalism and racism.”

I enjoy free media outside China and I’d like the people inside China to have free media too. That’s only my thought, however, and I don’t know if a free media is guaranteed to do good, or to what extend the freedom the media should have for nowadays China.

“China so often sets the terms of how China will suceed – with craftiness, by using the Western technology to better themselves, by expressing solidarity in the face of demonic international pressure and unfairness. It’s just so one-sided. China will succeed in every area, doing everything, if they let themselves! But there are psychological limits on how the Chinese psyche wants to succeed, because it reaffirms a national identity. Unfortunately, this means that Japan is Public Enemy Number 1 for years to come – until it becomes the U.S.A. And then we’ll see more racism against whites.”

Picking up an enemy NO. 1 is the best way for you to catch up or keep guarded. That is how US regarded the soviet and US and Japan regard nowadays China.

“Look, the U.S. does it too – but we’ve got severe moderating forces in the form of free speech. The population of the U.S. that doesn’t like to think too much can choose their opinion from one readily accessible side or the other. Can the Chinese?”

We can’t. But are you 100% sure that is not a good thing for China now? Think about how long it will take to build a new airport in China compared to that in India or UK.

May 31, 2005 @ 5:38 am | Comment

Bing,

On the contrary, I’d say the UK is a very, very xenophobic country – English for the English and all that (my Aussie friend would often say it sarcastically, since he couldn’t wait to get off this forsaken island). There are some great people here, and the government attitudes are generally good towards people, but man, there are some huge race issues here, as you’ve demonstrated with your experiences. The incidents of racial attacks and abuse in the UK outnumber those in most any other country per capita, I’d say, although I’m not totally sure about this. By the way, where are you?

The dangers of xenophobia is that it assumes 1) that all people in the “home” group are the same and that 2) all the people in the “strange” group are the same. It is damaging to both, and grossly simplistic. What I’m trying to figure out is where the diversity in opinion lies in China.

If you are in SE England give me a shout at my email – I’d like to sit down for a pint if you’ve got time.

May 31, 2005 @ 5:45 am | Comment

“Picking up an enemy NO. 1 is the best way for you to catch up or keep guarded. That is how US regarded the soviet and US and Japan regard nowadays China.”

Yes, and I profoundly disagree with this. Just because others do it, do you think it’s acceptible?

“But are you 100% sure that is not a good thing for China now? Think about how long it will take to build a new airport in China compared to that in India or UK.”

This is a long discussion, but look – I’m not insisting on direct democracy or anything but I think free media would make China less inflexible, which I ultimately would make it much stronger.

May 31, 2005 @ 5:50 am | Comment

Also – Just wondering – did Japan and So. Korea use the “Enemy No. 1″ policy in reaching the rapid economic development they did? Upon reflecting, I’d say that this strategy doesn’t actually afford that many benefits – it certainly screwed over Russia, and, some would argue, much of the rest of the world. But I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? It benefitted the States. But it certainly wasn’t a peaceful rise, and not one I’d encourage China copying.

May 31, 2005 @ 5:53 am | Comment

Right so I need to take back the statistic on racial attacks in the UK in any country. I meant developed country, and at present. Please correct me if I’m wrong. It’s kind of irresponsible to guess like this, but it really seems pretty rife in the UK

May 31, 2005 @ 6:00 am | Comment

I can’t believe anyone is saying there isn’t xenophobia in China.

One word: Laowai.

Everyday (remember, I live in Xinjiang, the Alabama of China) I get stared at, pointed at, the “HELLLOOO!” and my personal favorite, the constant neck craning as I pass in the supermarket to “see what the foreign creature eats”. This is not racism, though I am classified as laowai because of my appearance. Laowai does not indicate a race – it indicates that I am a foreigner, an alien, a strange creature who might as well have landed my flying saucer next to Carrefour to pick up some cheese. It doesn’t matter if I’m black, white, brown or green; sometimes I’ve even seen Asians branded laowai because they speak only English and dress and act very differently. There are two species of human to the average Chinese citizen: Chinese, and everybody else, the laowai.

I don’t see this anywhere else in the world. Occasionally you get some rural hick in the US, sure, being xenophobic and saying “look at them foreigners and their weird-ass clothes”. But the word laowai is a pretty much universal way to talk about foreigners. We are always “foreigners”. There is xenophobia in other countries, but I’ve never encountered a country where 99% of the people refer to me as “foreigner”. Instead they call me Dave. They think of me as an individual, and my foreignness gives them little or no useful information. Indeed, my nationality, American, doesn’t give them much useful information either, because they know too well that stereotypes often fail to be right.

The use of laowai has two other effects. One is that it blurs together our cultures and makes us indistinguishable. One student said to me “Your people colonized the third world, your people stole to become rich!” when discussing copyright protection. I guess he meant Europeans. Never mind my ancestors were Irish and knew a thing or two about getting colonized and being poor. But all white people got lumped together – the laowai way of thinking makes these distinctions unimportant. The other effect is it takes away our individuality. I’ve had conversations that go “what’s your name?” “Dave” and then they turn around and discuss me with their friends – always referring to me as laowai, not Dave.

Bing says people cursed at him about being Chinese in the UK. That’s racism, and I bet they use Chinese as a catch-all for Asians and if Bing was Thai they’d probably still say “Chinese whore”. As for Chinese fury towards Japan, I don’t know if that counts as racism because Japan is a nation, not a race. They’re Asian and so are alot of other people. But it is mindless hate. That’s not xenophobia either.

It’s xenophobia when someone is treated like a zoo animal as they walk to the store. It’s xenophobia when being a foreigner means I “can’t understand because I’m not Chinese”. It’s xenophobia when my girlfriend can’t tell certain people about me because they’ll be in shock that I’m a foreigner and she can’t date another species. Everything that draws a line saying “here are Chinese people, and here is the rest of the human race”. Sounds pretty lonely.

May 31, 2005 @ 6:21 am | Comment

Xenophobia from Webster: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.

Do Chinese fear or hate foreigners? At most they are curious and sometimes rude and not used to seeing them around. You must have different experiences in Xinjiang and Shanghai. Think about this from the locals’ point view. They might be rude, but that kind of rudeness doesn’t derive from Xenophobism.

May 31, 2005 @ 6:34 am | Comment

Bing

IMHO, what you see as being good natured and curious has a dark underbelly, which most every Laowai in China has experienced, and which is in some ways very much akin to what you’ve experienced in the UK, although not as overtly racist. There is a systematic discrimination of foreigners, particularly of non-asian ethnic backgrounds. sometimes this discrimination is “beneficial” but often times not. They are both based on a perception of the foreigner AS foreign, and this separation gives rise to discrimination.

I’m sorry that you’ve experience such crappy incidents in the UK.

May 31, 2005 @ 6:40 am | Comment

to constantly draw a line of separation between yourself and foreigners is to create an environment of mutual ignorance and alienation. An environment like that can easily foster distrust, hate and fear. You’re right Bing, it’s not quite the Websters definition – but my point is that China has developed a very advanced environment of mutual ignorance and alienation between Chinese people and the rest of the human race. The mindset and thinking for xenophobia is there, the only thing missing is the fear and hate. It just takes one bad incident, like this one at Yellowfrog. When a Canadian made plane crashes in China, some Chinese people made comments like:

“Why do we still use damn foreigners-made planes to fly in the sky?” (为什么还要用他妈的外国人制造的飞机上天呢?)

Concepts like laowai set a kind of thinking that, while without hate or fear, creates a meaningless distinction between Chinese and “foreigners”, a distinction needed to hate or fear in the first place. If a Canadian plane crashes in another country, rarely do you hear the reaction “it came from abroad, therefore it sucks”. There’s an inverse to all this, of course, which is that part of Chinese society says “it came from abroad, therefore it is superior” – hence all my students say “China must develop by learning the secrets of advanced foreign countries” – but the idea of China having a superior idea of their own? They shake their heads and mutter that “this is very difficult”. 1.3 billion people and yet they feel they don’t have the resources to have one original idea! Why? Because something in their head says “you are Chinese, you cannot do the same things white people can”. This is not the same as thinking “you’re short, he’s tall. He can dunk but you can’t”. Thinking is limited by physical characteristics, if you’re a healthy human being.

May 31, 2005 @ 7:01 am | Comment

Laowai,

Thanks for your comment. I don’t really mind what happened to me in UK. I could understand their feelings though not their behaviours.

It takes time for people to accept other races or foreigners to be part of their community and learn to coexist with them. The amount of time required for this process varies, sometimes hugely, in different countries.

I’m not against either Christian or Muslim. But when I see mosques shooting up around an area of traditional Christian population with their hundreds of years’ symbolic landscape changed forever, I can feel what the old missionary who visits me regularly feels. That is where the xenophobia comes from.

When Spanish arsonists burnt down ‘Made in China’ shoe centres, I can feel what the local manufacturers feel, who blame the Chinese shoes for their bankruptcy. That is also where the xenophobia comes from.

I’m really sorry for what foreigners encounter in China. Be it curiosity or dislike, it is wrong and makes you in sometimes great distress. But still I don’t think that is xenophobia, at least not in the form or for the same reasons you would encounter in other countries.

May 31, 2005 @ 7:25 am | Comment

sorry, last line of my last post should say “thinking is NOT limited by physical characteristics if you’re a healthy human being”

Bing, if you don’t think it is xenophobia, I’m curious: what would you call it?

May 31, 2005 @ 7:34 am | Comment

stupidity

May 31, 2005 @ 7:36 am | Comment

Bing,

that’s very forgiving of you.

I understand what you are saying about China, although I think we have yet to see the full extent of any xenophobia and racism in China. As China gets more powerful, there will be lots more immigration, to say nothing of the 54 other ethnicities demanding a better lot, etc. China has been fortunate, and at the same time very unfortunate, to have been secluded so much. We may, in the future, see that China is like every other previous conceptually (this part is important) ethnically homogeneous country: inflexible and conflicted. Britain, Japan, Germany, France, Turkey and the U.S. have all struggled immensely with it in the past and will continue to in the future.

May 31, 2005 @ 8:23 am | Comment

Laowai

You reckon the UK is a racist country? You’re joking aren’t you? Have you been over here lately?

Where on earth, with respect, do you get your figures suggesting that recial attacks outnumber anywhjere else per capita? I’d be genuiniely interested in reading them.
Thanks

May 31, 2005 @ 9:10 am | Comment

I live in the UK. I have for the past three years.

“All types of racial violence in the UK remains high and the Macpherson report has had an impact – either in forcing the police to take racial violence seriously, or on prompting victims to report more cases. In the years from 1994-8 reported racist incidents in the Metropolitan police area were around 5000 year-on-year. But in the year 1998/99 the number of reported incidents rose to 11050 (an increase of 89%) and in the year 1999/00 the figure has more than doubled again to 23346 (an increase of 111%). In 2000/01 all racist incidents recorded by the police in England and Wales was 53090.

According to the British Crime Survey there were 280000 racially motivated incidents in 1999. 98000 of these (ie 35%) were against Black, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people (who comprise 7%of the population). Those at greatest risk to racial attack are Pakistani and Bangladeshis at 4.2%, followed by Indians at 3.6% and Black people at 2.2%. This compared with 0.3% for white people.”

http://www.irr.org.uk/2002/november/ak000005.html

This survey is done by the UK government in Wales and England:

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ssd/surveys/british_crime_survey.asp

“The 2003/4 British Crime survey however shows that the number of victims of racist attacks remained the same as in 2002/3 (206,000).”

Race and Crime Statistics, Home Office 2005.
http://www.blink.org.uk/bm/manifesto_section.asp?catid=22

I’ve never experienced any racially motivated attacks I have a .3% chance of being the victim of racial abuse, but some of my friends are more than 10 times as likely to be the recipient of such abuse – close to all my Chinese friends have, many of my black friends have and some of my south asian friends have too.

Come on – pubs named “Blackamoors Head”? It’s worse than naming your baseball team the Braves.

May 31, 2005 @ 9:33 am | Comment

TThanks Laowai, I know you’re in the UK as I read Public Enemy and you posted about yourself last week if I remember correctly.

I’ve never been aware that the UK is a hotbed of racial attacks. I’m not into “defending” my country at all–not my style, I was just surprised at your post. I wonder the comparitive figures are vis-a-vis other Europen countires?

Anyway, I’ll pick this up again back on your blog as we’re way, way off topic here.
Thanks

May 31, 2005 @ 9:46 am | Comment

A article in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1461208,00.html) has some numbers on racist/xenophobic comments in Internet forums about Condoleecca Rice after her visit in China:

… “He says that of 800 messages he has read about her visit, no less than 70 involved racist comments about her colour: of these, only two were relatively moderate; the rest were vicious, describing Rice as a “black ghost”, “black dog”, “black woman” and “black bitch”. One stated, “You are not even like a black ghost, a really low form of life,” and another, “Her brain is even more black than her skin.” One writer said: “I don’t support racism, but this black ghost really makes people angry, the appearance of a little black who has made good.” …

May 31, 2005 @ 9:47 am | Comment

Martyn,

I try to keep my blog more or less China-related, because it’s my way of practising my Chinese and thinking about China during an China un-related PhD. But please email me if you’d like. I’m more than happy to talk about it. I think the UK is a great place with a lot of potential, but it’s in the middle of a lot of ethnic and national conflict.

May 31, 2005 @ 9:54 am | Comment

… “He says that of 800 messages he has read about her visit, no less than 70 involved racist comments about her colour: of these, only two were relatively moderate; the rest were vicious, describing Rice as a “black ghost”, “black dog”, “black woman” and “black bitch”. One stated, “You are not even like a black ghost, a really low form of life,” and another, “Her brain is even more black than her skin.” One writer said: “I don’t support racism, but this black ghost really makes people angry, the appearance of a little black who has made good.” …

While opposing the idea of Xenophobic China, I have to admit there is a matter of truth in Racist China.

This kind of thing might not happen in US (I really don’t know, just a guess) for its law and the reality that black ethnic group accounts for a considerable part of US society.

In China, few will get sued for being racist.

May 31, 2005 @ 10:14 am | Comment

davesgonechina:

Please comment more on this site dave.

May 31, 2005 @ 10:16 am | Comment

It might happen on Klan sites. But not mainstream chat rooms.

I would propose that racism and xenophobia, despite what davesgonechina has to say, is inextricably linked and that the webster definition is overly technical and outdated. Not to group here, but German, Japanese, China, UK, USA all fundamentally structures supporting Xenophobia – the definition of race and its link to nationality. Until these concepts are resolved, these cultures will continue to experience problems with race, culture, xenophobia etc.

May 31, 2005 @ 10:23 am | Comment

Until these concepts are resolved, these cultures will continue to experience problems with race, culture, xenophobia etc.

Don’t hold your breath.

May 31, 2005 @ 10:25 am | Comment

Thanks Laowai, I think I’ll do a bit of research on the old web myself as you genuinely surprised me with that post and I do take that kind of stuff seriously.

You’re right, this subject has no place on Public Enemy.

Nevertheless, keep the good work on your site, good luck with Spence and I’ll keep reading your blog.
Thanks

May 31, 2005 @ 10:32 am | Comment

“While opposing the idea of Xenophobic China, I have to admit there is a matter of truth in Racist China.”—bing feng

I gotta tell you bingfeng, I’m black and in China and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Re racial attacks in UK. I’m not arguing with no figures but I’ve never had to deal with any racism in my country laowai.

May 31, 2005 @ 10:38 am | Comment

“I gotta tell you bingfeng, I’m black and in China and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. ”

Just to clarify, I’m Bing not Bingfeng. Thanks

May 31, 2005 @ 10:46 am | Comment

Martyn – thanks

Michael – you’re from the UK, then yes? I’m glad to hear you’ve had no problems. Which part of the UK are you from? Have you had a rough time in China?

May 31, 2005 @ 11:01 am | Comment

Bing, yes, I was commenting on recent US policies, e.g., Guantanamo, and Richard’s comment that we would someday look back at this time and be sickened about what’s happening. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

I don’t have much to add to the outrage expressed here regarding Mr. Cheong’s detention – it is outrageous and does seem to reflect a great insecurity on at least some faction of the CCP. Six- Four is obviously still too hot to handle – one wonders what it ZZY had to say that is threatening to today’s leaders, beyond the general threat to their monopoly of political power…

May 31, 2005 @ 11:29 am | Comment

Other Lisa, my apologies for misunderstanding your comment.

What ZZY had said itself may not be that important. What the CCP fears most is that could pull the trigger for a series of other issues in this sensitive time.

May 31, 2005 @ 11:39 am | Comment

Dear Bing,

No problem.

The same issues still exist, true. But I wonder, given Wen’s involvement.

Sorry to steer this discussion away from where it had developed. The xenophobia/racism conversation is really interesting. Right now one of the big water cooler movies here is CRASH, which presumes to examine racial strife in Los Angeles. I have to admit, it looks like one of those overly didactic films by a foreign director who doesn’t exactly get it, so I’ll probably give it a miss…

May 31, 2005 @ 11:48 am | Comment

Bing–sorry for mixing you up with our friend bingfeng.

As you and martyn both said above, this isn’t the place to discuss uk.

In china, yeah, I’ve had the usual stuff. I still can’t get used to say, in the queue at the meat counter in the supermarket and the women in front of me turns round, nearly jumps out of her skin and rushes off to the far side of the counter, just little stuff like that can get on yer nerves.

You get the hei gui and da xing xing comments on the street a lot and me and the girlfriend (she’s singaporean chinese) tend not to hold hands on the street just to make life easier.

YEah, there’s a lot of ignorance here, fortunately I don’t speak more than a few words of chinese so a lot goes over the head.

I’ve spoken to a few Afirican blokes and they get the same thing . Their reaction is to pretend to ignore it.
Thanks for asking laowaui.

May 31, 2005 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

Laowai, I’m from Catford in South London.

May 31, 2005 @ 12:05 pm | Comment

I would propose that racism and xenophobia, despite what davesgonechina has to say, is inextricably linked and that the webster definition is overly technical and outdated. Not to group here, but German, Japanese, China, UK, USA all fundamentally structures supporting Xenophobia – the definition of race and its link to nationality. Until these concepts are resolved, these cultures will continue to experience problems with race, culture, xenophobia etc.

Laowai, I agree that racism and xenophobia are linked. I think they’re linked by the fact that both involve a fear or hate based on ignorance, on something unknown. The term racism, I think, is better applied to fear or hate of a particular race – meaning I could be racist against black people but not yellow people. Xenophobia is a fear or hate of everything that it alien. The word xenos in Greek means “stranger”. The dictionary definition places this within the context of nationality, while racism puts it in terms of race. I’m using “xenophobia” to define that fear of all that is alien to your own culture, nation, race, group – all categories that people in China differentiate themselves in from all other peoples of the world when using the word “laowai” or “waiguo”. I’ve had primary school students refer to “waiguo” as if it is an actual country, that the world is some sort of binary system of “zhongguo” and “waiguo”. Imagine going to France and having everyone refer to you in their language as “l’etranger” everywhere you going, always placing you in the “l’etranger” bucket.

This does connect, in a broader way, to the issue of state secrets and the rights of journalists. That differentiation between Chinese and “laowai” is based primarily on ignorance. Without the free flow of information and travel between China and the rest of the world, most Chinese people will continue to lump us all indiscriminately together as “laowai”. If we are all “laowai”, then any information we bring will be met with the same underlying assumption “they are not Chinese”, furthering hindering communication. That means that if a foreign or a foreign influenced journalist is arrested, well, they were from outside. They are different. They are not Chinese, perhaps they threaten us. Chinese rule China, not foreigners. Chinese leaders are inherently moretrustworthy than any foreigners because they are Chinese. Outsiders cannot be trusted.

May 31, 2005 @ 12:12 pm | Comment

This article is an update of Richard’s post in today’s (1st June) South China Morning Post:
————————————————–
Updated at 2.03am:

China says detained HK-based reporter admits spying

The mainland government said on Tuesday that a detained Hong Kong-based reporter for Singapore’s The Straits Times newspaper has admitted to spying for a foreign intelligence agency.

Ching Cheong was detained April 22 for investigation on suspicion of spying, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. His wife said earlier that the Hong Kong-based journalist was detained in the nearby mainland city of Guangzhou after a source gave him documents.

“Ching Cheong confessed: Following instructions from a foreign intelligence agency, he engaged in intelligence gathering activities in China and received a large spying fee,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.

It didn’t give details of what Ching was accused of doing or say for which agency or foreign government he was accused of spying.

Ching worked in The Straits Times’ Hong Kong bureau.

Ching’s wife, Mary Lau, said he was detained after obtaining what he thought was a manuscript of a book about the purged former Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, who died this year.

Ms Lau didn’t answer phone calls on Tuesday.

Ching is a Hong Kong resident who carries a British passport and has permanent resident status in Singapore, according to the Singaporean government.

“The Chinese authorities have not approached us on this and we do not have the full facts of the case,” the Singapore Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Monday.

Ching once worked for the Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, which has close ties to the mainland government. But he quit along with other colleagues in protest at China’s bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989.

He and his colleagues then started a new magazine about China called Contemporary, which China allegedly tried to shut down by having Beijing-controlled companies warn potential advertisers not to do business with the magazine.

“Ching Cheong has served us with distinction as a very well-informed correspondent and analyst,” The Straits Times said in statement issued on Monday. “We have no cause to doubt that throughout his stint of reporting and commenting on China, he has conducted himself with the utmost professionalism.”

May 31, 2005 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

Davesgonechina,

Yeah, strictly speaking you are right, but there are different conceptions of alien working at once – it’s just “anything different” – and people often have several layers. Eg – Japanese having Philipinos working road construction during the day and Africans at night – two layers of xenophobia – the first keep Philipino’s out of the overall mainstream of Japanese culture but inside the “Asian” layer of xenophobia, and thus can seen in Japan, while Africans work at night so that the “Asian” layer isn’t disturbed. I think Xenophobia can be broken down like this, and in this way we can see how much more closely it is linked with racism and other forms of discrimination.

And regarding the “laowai” I have to say that I feel that Laowai basically refers to whites, not foreigners. We might all be Waiguoren, but from my experience in Beijing, Chinese are as likely to call blacks “heiren” as “laowai”, and almost never call whites “bairen.” This indicates a deeper racial context than originally suggested by the moniker. My sample size is small, however.

Finally, there’s another source we can look at to tell us about concepts of xenophobia and racism – the ethnic minorities. I would say that concepts of nationalism and race are very closely tied in China, as they are in Japan and Germany – not so much in the U.S., and in fact less and less – but the tie between nationalism and race grounds xenophobia firmly in the context of race.

This is what I think, anyway. But maybe I’m too eager to see it in racial terms. I think a lot of people miss that nationalism doesn’t have to be connected to race – this is just me being from the States though. I feel like Europe and Russia, Japan, China – all have nationality closely tied to ethnicity, and so don’t often see certain pitfalls and discriminatory attitudes.

May 31, 2005 @ 12:45 pm | Comment

Michael – I’m in Cambridge.

Sorry to hear about your experiences in China.

May 31, 2005 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

dave:

you’re right about the “us and them” attitude within the PRC. I reckon that it’s to do with the “Middle Kingdom” mentality which goes back thousands of years (although not 5,000 years as history can’t be recorded/evidenced further back than 3,300 years so I’ve read….but I digress) and which the CCP Dynasty has also encouraged. I.e. your life might be sh*t*y but hey! you’re chinese and therefore “special”.

I’ve personaly never experienced this “Zhong guo ren, wai guo ren” stuff anywhere else apart from china. As much as I’ve studied history, I would say that the most ancient cultures are to be found in Africa, as we all walked out of Africa no matter where we all now live but I found no evidence of this mentality there.

In china, it always seem sto be “we chinese” this and “we chinese” that.

AS one commentor mentioned above–martyn I think–chianhas never had any real friends or equal partners in it’s history as it doesn’t accept any other nation on an equal status to the Middle Kingdom. just ask the Koreans, Vietnamese, Tibetans, Central Asians etc.

Remember, the celestial emperor was always deemed to rule over “everything under heaven” (Tian Xia).

May 31, 2005 @ 1:13 pm | Comment

Laowai>

‘ve noticed your comments on PEking Duck, you usually chip in with some great points. Martyn mentionmed above that you have a blog?

Would you please, (Thanks for your indulgence Richard-please excuse me) let me it’s name so I can check it out?

May 31, 2005 @ 1:18 pm | Comment

John,

You are too kind. I think you’ll find my blog a disappointment, though – I’m just getting it going. Just click on my name and it’ll take you there. The ultimate goal is to do some comparative sociology/poli sci, as I try to do everywhere else I go in the Blogiverse, and try to reach some common ground on a number of issues, like poverty, nationalism and politics in China, but it’s not there yet.

May 31, 2005 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

Thanks, on my way.

May 31, 2005 @ 1:33 pm | Comment

What is the matter with calling foreigners wai guo ren?

I have no problem with others calling me foreigner here.

Doesn’t “foreign” means “on the outside” in Latin?

It’s like when a westerner sees an Asian, he would assume he is a Chinese simply because most Asian he met were Chinese.

How many foreigners are in China nowadays? How many foreigners does an ordinary Chinese has the chance to meet a year?

If you don’t want them to call you wai guo ren, what else can you suggest?

May 31, 2005 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

If you don’t want them to call you wai guo ren, what else can you suggest?

That’s an easy one. How about “ren”?

May 31, 2005 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

bing:which post are you referring to?

May 31, 2005 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

Bing,

Theoretically one could go along calling foreigners foreigners forever and it wouldn’t be a problem. However, again, as I’ve mentioned, it creates issues of race and identity, when it is swept up in concepts of who is a Zhongguoren and who isn’t – like minorities etc. – and also creates a very convenient set of stereotypes to use when navigating the world.

Stereotypes are convenient, but dangerous. They let people guess who someone else is based on gender, race, dress, speech etc. However it is fundamentally flawed to make these judgements, no matter how convenient, because on some level you are denying the person the room for their own identity, which is almost always different from the stereotype made about the person. It is ignorant, irresponsible behaviour and at its extreme results in scapegoating, oppression, hatred violence. To quote a Buddhist monk I saw last weekend: “If we think of all people as our kind mothers, we could not do violence.” Now, even I am not that idealistic, but the point is that in drawing distinctions where we could instead draw commonalities, we draw divisions, and when those divisions are drawn along race, gender, religion and sexuality, people suffer.

Also – I would never assume any non-whites are non-British or non-USA, and this is why I think like this about stereotypes.

Finally, although I admit you’re practical point on the number of foreigners the average chinese meet, I would like to first respond with the fact that even in the highly educated, middle class/rich chinese in Cambridge, they still call non-chinese “Laowai” or “Waiguoren” which betrays something more than it being just practicality or issues of being in China, honestly, since they are the foreigners in that context. It appears kind of arrogant, honestly. Secondly, I would like to say that it isn’t really about practicality. it’s about humanity. It’s about not setting up the barriers that will lead to future strife.

May 31, 2005 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

“I.e. your life might be sh*t*y but hey! you’re chinese and therefore “special”.”

How many Chinese have you interviewed expressing opinion like this? May I say there are a lot of American dropouts who may feel that they might live a sh*t*y life but they are American and their country is USA and therefore they are “special”.

Millions of rural Chinese dispersed in big cities live a shitty life, how many of them would say something like that? Such an easy generalization without evidence doesn’t strengthen your argument.

“I’ve personaly never experienced this “Zhong guo ren, wai guo ren” stuff anywhere else apart from china. As much as I’ve studied history, I would say that the most ancient cultures are to be found in Africa, as we all walked out of Africa no matter where we all now live but I found no evidence of this mentality there.”

Why does “Zhong guo ren, wai guo ren” have anything to do with the origin of ancient culture?

“In china, it always seem sto be “we chinese” this and “we chinese” that. ”

Do you appreciate there is a huge difference between China and the West in the way people think, behave and live? To be honest, many Chinese understand this difference much better than most western people do and many western people simply couldn’t care less about what others think especially when they feel themselves morally superior or more civilised.

“AS one commentor mentioned above–martyn I think–chianhas never had any real friends or equal partners in it’s history as it doesn’t accept any other nation on an equal status to the Middle Kingdom. just ask the Koreans, Vietnamese, Tibetans, Central Asians etc.”

Do all these countries you listed have ever had any real friends or equal partners?

“Remember, the celestial emperor was always deemed to rule over “everything under heaven” (Tian Xia).”

That seems not limited to Chinese emperor, does it?

May 31, 2005 @ 2:06 pm | Comment

“Finally, although I admit you’re practical point on the number of foreigners the average chinese meet, I would like to first respond with the fact that even in the highly educated, middle class/rich chinese in Cambridge, they still call non-chinese “Laowai” or “Waiguoren” which betrays something more than it being just practicality or issues of being in China, honestly, since they are the foreigners in that context. It appears kind of arrogant, honestly. Secondly, I would like to say that it isn’t really about practicality. it’s about humanity. It’s about not setting up the barriers that will lead to future strife.”

Laowai,

I admit I sometimes call foreigners “lao wai” in UK when talking with other Chinese too. However I have not a single sense of discrimination towards anybody when saying that. It’s just a way “we Chinese” (again) say someone who is not a citizen of China.

If 10% of the population of China are “ex-foreigners or their descendants” who have got Chinese citizenships, I’m sure you will see less and less Chinese call people with other skin colours “lao wai”. Instead, inevitably and unfortunately, you will see more and more other nicknames such as … for different ethnic groups, just like what happens in all other multi cultural countries.

May 31, 2005 @ 2:23 pm | Comment

And I believe most Chinese don’t realize foreigners dislike this “lao wai” or “wai guo ren” so much.

May 31, 2005 @ 2:47 pm | Comment

Bing! UK citizens in the UK aren’t foreigners. Go ahead and call peopole Laowai in chinese if that’s the convention. But you don’t have to do it in english! They’re British, French, European, American, Indian, Sri Lankan, etc… or, as Richard suggests, you could just call people ‘people’

I’d like to point you to some ancient writing:

Chapter two of Laozi’s Daodejing – “when people know beautiful as beautiful, ugliness is also known”

This isn’t a Western concept – that in defining one thing, you define it’s opposite. In defining “We chinese” you define everyone else. The point here is that to some extent, and to your own admission, Laowai doesn’t mean “foreigner” as in “not of this country” it means “not me.” And, as I’ve really really tried to show, with perhaps no success at all, that there are certain concepts associated with Chineseness by Chinese people, and that this limits perceptions of non-Chinese, which leads to the basis for discriminatory behaviour. Discriminatory can be taken on two levels – the simple act of discriminating (i.e. distinguishing) Chinese from non-chinese, and active discrimination, in which behaviour is based upon perceptions which discriminate (distinguish) one person from another. By using Laowai in the context I’ve mentioned, I’m sure you have no ill will, but you do to some extent take part in what all the non-chinese on this board have been talking about.

Also, in the spirit of Laozi – what does he suggest in Chapter 2? Practice Wuwei – in this context, I would suggest the “non-action” is behaviour which does not make use of either the “chinese” or “laowai” polarities.

Of course, by the same token I’m totally violating Laozi’s advice in having gone off on this tirade – “He who speaks, doesn’t know” or something like that.

So having totally disproven myself with my own sword, I will leave this post and move on to my own, poor, neglected blog. :-P

May 31, 2005 @ 2:58 pm | Comment

Richard, I’ve basically written a manifesto here, coherent or not. If you don’t mind, I’m might copy some of my posts onto my site so I don’t have to re-write them. I’ll put them up under “my theory of race and nationalism” post or something.

May 31, 2005 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

Why should I mind? Feel free.

May 31, 2005 @ 3:45 pm | Comment

Two Very last points (I swear)

Bing – would you call Japanese or Koreans “laowai?” Just wondering.

And – I don’t think 90% percent of the foreigners in China do mind the Laowai name. But some do.

May 31, 2005 @ 4:10 pm | Comment

Laowai,

Laowai, as I understand, implicitly refers to white foreigners.

“Implicitly” means if a Chinese metions a “Laowai” to another Chinese, the latter will often assume this “Laowai” to be a white foreign.

But “Laowai” can be applied to any foreigners excluding those from east / southeast countries.

That’s just what I understand.

May 31, 2005 @ 4:34 pm | Comment

Bing couldn’t possibly understand what it feels like to be called “lao wai” because he’s (she’s?) not a “lao wai” :-)

May 31, 2005 @ 5:20 pm | Comment

With regards to the latest string of conversation …

I agree that there is something fundementally different between how western people treat foreigners, and how Chinese do. In fact, it’s not just limited to China, but pretty much every country that isn’t western. It’s this: if a westerner goes to China, he/she is going to be treated with a wierd mixture of worship and disdain. I struggle to get my head around it every time I’m in asia. Women will throw themselves at you, men will want to be seen with you … but at the same time, you will never ever be “one of us”. I call it the “barbarian royalty complex” – you’re cool, because you’re royal … but you’ll always be a barbarian.

On the other hand in western countries you see a lot of asians who stick together, but you also see those who have made an effort to integrate themselves, and are treated as just another member of a circle of friends. You should also see how mainland Chinese regard “bananas” … those they accuse of being yellow on the outside, but white on the inside …

I believe the most telling evidence for the difference, is the lack of … damn, I can’t think of any fruit that are white on the outside, but yellow on the inside. People who look white, but are asian in every other sense. I think it’s actually the main reason for the ever increasing spread of “western culture” (whatever that is) … it’s because it’s so damn inclusive. Anyone can be “one of us” … while cultures that react against this and try to preserve their national identity are already fighting a losing battle … because they’re also exluding anyone else from being “one of us”. It’s a relatively late shift in the west … and personally I think it’s the driving force. You can see this lesson in China’s won history too … in the Tang Dynasty. It was a period when China was most open to things foreign … and correspondingly exported more of its own culture to other places … And right back before the unification, they were already defining people as Chinese according to the customs, clothes and rituals they used … NOT by appearance. It’s actually really hard to find any ancient Chinese documents that describe the PHYSICAL differences between a Chinese person and a foreigner. Now the reverse is true … a westerner can look like anything … but your’e only Chinese if you look Chinese. (And no, I’m not forgetting Xinjiang … I just don’t think that Chinese people really accept that a Uighur is “one of us”, not deep down.)

May 31, 2005 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

I think Laowai has, appropriately, been arguing for pretty much the same “laowai” effect I was talking about. We had a bit of disagreement on semantics, but basically we’ve both been trying to say the same thing.

I think most foreigners don’t mind the “laowai” monniker because they know or assume the individual using it isn’t trying to be offensive. But as Laowai pointed out, it sets up a distinction that between Chinese and everybody else. Waiguoren is actually a better example of this, and it is a deeply rooted belief of innate difference, one that I believe holds back China. A quick question to those of you in Taiwan and Hong Kong: how does usage of the terms “waiguoren” and “laowai” compare with the mainland?

Bing, when you say:

Do you appreciate there is a huge difference between China and the West in the way people think, behave and live? To be honest, many Chinese understand this difference much better than most western people do and many western people simply couldn’t care less about what others think especially when they feel themselves morally superior or more civilised.

Is it that Chinese people better understand the difference, or that they simply believe there are more differences? Doesn’t this end up minimizing or even denying the differences between a billion Chinese people by assuming they all share so many common traits that no other group of human beings, apparently, have? As for feeling superior, how can I feel superior, implying difference, and simultaneously not care about any differences?

May 31, 2005 @ 7:11 pm | Comment

Also, if many Chinese people better understand the differences, why aren’t there more of them trying to teach us? Why don’t I see more effort by the Chinese government, media, businesses, etc. to enlighten us westerners as we blindly careen through China, instead of simply saying “You don’t understand, this is China”?

May 31, 2005 @ 7:14 pm | Comment

I hadn’t noticed Bing’s comment until Davesgonechina quoted it:
“Do you appreciate there is a huge difference between China and the West in the way people think, behave and live? To be honest, many Chinese understand this difference much better than most western people do and many western people simply couldn’t care less about what others think especially when they feel themselves morally superior or more civilised.”

My reply to that one is “don’t make me laugh!!!” Chinese people have a better understanding of the differences? What nonsense. I am constantly amazed at the incredibly stupid things I hear Chinese people say about westerners when they speak about the differences. In fact, I do not believe there has ever been an occasion when a Chinese person has said to me “Chinese people are like this, western people are like that” when the statement has not been wrong. I met my girlfriend when she had been in Sydney for just over a month. We spent the first months of our relationship working through all the b*llsh*t ideas she had about “cultural differences.” At least now we seem to have mostly got over that stage, but every now and then she still says something to me like “I used to think X, but you know, after I’ve talked with a few western people about this issue, I’ve realised that it isn’t like that at all.” or “Chinese people like like A, and I always thought that western people thought like B, but now I realise they think like C.” or “People are just people really, aren’t they?”

Even she now talks about her relatives in China and their ignorant ideas with the proviso that “people in China really don’t know any better, so you can’t blame them for thinking like that.”

There are some interesting and valid arguments about some issues that emerge from China, but the rhetoric of cultural difference certainly isn’t one of them.

The contrast to western people about China: most westerners are a lot better off, because they realise they don’t know anything. They know that they can hardly judge what Chinese people are like from watching a Jacky Chan movie. They don’t have a huge nexus of b*llsh*t notions about what they are like. So when I’m explaining things Chinese to westerners, it’s an easier task, because I do not have to first remove a layer of rubbish.

May 31, 2005 @ 7:40 pm | Comment

i recently went on a camping trip with my co-workers, and ended up being the “token white guy.” my every move was intimately related to my whiteness. when we had a snack after lunch, and i was full and didn’t want to anything, it became “oh, laowai don’t eat snacks.” i didn’t eat many eggs at the restaurant the next morning, which was followed by “well, i guess laowai don’t like eggs as much as we thought.” we had beers that night, and i drank just as much as everyone else, but everyone agreed that “laowai sure drink a lot.” since i can read chinese, i was asked to read some phrases from a book aloud, because one girl “thought it would be fun to hear a laowai read chinese.” after i had started up the fire for our bbq, and actually cooked a pretty decent amount of food for everyone, i sat down to take a rest and was offered up as proof that “laowai don’t like to work hard.”

there is simply no way to compare this with anything that anyone experiences in any other country. when i see an asian at a chinese restaurant in the USA, i don’t laugh and say that “oh, asian people like chinese food,” but here in China, everytime i go to KFC, the people around me act like my actions are some kind of affirmation of something, like “oh, laowai like KFC, i knew it!” I am an object of attention, but always oh so different.

I totally agree that it is a case of both attraction and revulsion, interest but also a desire to keep away. i recommed peter hays gries’ book china’s new nationalism for anyone more interested in this attraction-revulsion conflict.

May 31, 2005 @ 7:53 pm | Comment

“They know that they can hardly judge what Chinese people are like from watching a Jacky Chan movie.”

That is a classic line that got to the root of this problem.

May 31, 2005 @ 7:58 pm | Comment

Good posts laowai, FSNo9, dave and kevin.

kevin: I think we’ve all had to go through similar incidents like you describe from your camping trip. I even find myself doing it just as a way of quickly ending the coversation. “What! you don’t eat breakfast?” “No, many foreigners don’t eat breakfast.” “What! you’re 36 and not married?” “That’s right, many foreigners are not married at 36″. Etc etc.

My personal peeve at the moment re being treated like I’m an animal in a zoo, is in the supermarket. As soon as a lot of local customers look at my face, they immediately switch to carefully examining the contents of my shopping basket, usually whispering to each other. WTF! What can be saying? “Look a foreigner, Coke, beer, spaghetti, bacon, minced beef, bread………fascinating”.

I’ve also noticed how the west often gets the blame for a whole bunch of bad things in China. One CNY dinner with my company (including supposed Chinese professionals earning nearly 30,000 Yuan per month) someone asked me why the divorce rate is so high in the ‘west’. I replied something like “I don’t know but I understand the divirce rate is climbing in Asian countries.” Somebody said that this was due to the west’s influence (yin xiang) and everyone at the table grimly nodded in agreement.

In China I (as a westerner) have been blamed for HIV, gay people, SARS, drug abuse, Chinese men having extra-martial affairs, a whjole bunch of stuff.

Oh and bing, as FSNo9 said above, you are having a total laugh if you’re trying to argue that Chinese people have a better understanding of the differences. They know China and all other people in the world might as well come from the planet Saturn or something.

May 31, 2005 @ 10:23 pm | Comment

Mind you, Victorian Britains also had a fascination with all things foreign. The word “curio” comes from the Victorian Upper-Middle Class’s collections of foreign objects or “curiosities” (sometimes including actual living people sadly).

However, I’m not making any particular point here as at least Victorians were doing this 200 years ago!

May 31, 2005 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

One particularly annoying question I have been asked several times before is “DO you plan on having lots of other girlfriends after you’re married?”

If I was really petty, I should reply. “DO you plan on visiting brothels, like the rest of your countrymen after you’re married?”…but I’m above such things.

May 31, 2005 @ 10:53 pm | Comment

Yes, I agree with something I read somewhere once which stated that Chinese have a unusual mixture of inferority and superiority-complexes when it comes to dealing with foreigners.

That might explain why China appears to be a place so full of contradictions and how Cihnese people can happily say two sentences, both contradictory.

May 31, 2005 @ 10:58 pm | Comment

Actually, speaking of gay people in the context of Chinese reacions/attitudes towards westerners. I’ve often wondered what kind of reactions western gay people receive in China?

May 31, 2005 @ 11:21 pm | Comment

Huh. I have to think about all this. 20 odd years ago, I could totally relate to everything you guys are saying in this thread. Favorite incident (among many): traveling in Sichuan and stopping in at a latrine in a public park seldom visited by foreigners. I go in there, no privacy, no stalls, just holes, and two women are doing their business, reading the paper, etc. And suddenly, it’s, “wow, we’ve never seen anybody who looks like her doing this before. And every aspect of my trying to pee became an object of scrutiny. Any bladder shyness I had was gone forever after that.

I go back now, and I feel so much less like a freak show. Obviously in places like Beijing, it’s not so much an issue, and I haven’t done the kind of wide-ranging traveling I did before (although in Pingyao everyone asked me if I was French. Don’t ask me why), so I’m sure if I went to places like Xinjiang, it would be the traveling Laowai Experience all over again. But in general I’ve found that I can form friendships where I couldn’t before, and that it all seems so much easier. I don’t know if that’s just because it was so much harder before or if being female is a little less threatening, or what. Learning some Chinese has helped tremendously. As FS9 mentioned, there used to be a tradition in China that if you learned Chinese and Chinese cultural traditions, you too could belong to the greatest civilization on earth. Maybe we’re no longer in the heyday of the Tang Dynasty, but this certainly doesn’t hurt. That’s sort of the whole American tradition, isn’t it? That you too can come here, leave your past behind and become an American. The main difference is that we have a much more plastic definition of what it means to be American than Chinese do of what it means to be Chinese. In America we’ve always had at least the mythos of the melting pot (regardless of divergence from reality). What China still needs is some kind of model of what it means to be “Chinese” that is not inextricably bound to race and ethnicity. I have some Chinese American friends who can’t speak a word of Mandarin and don’t know a lick of Chinese history. Are they more “Chinese” than a Euro-American who speaks fluent Mandarin and is conversant in Ming Dynasty politics? Certainly there is more of a cultural tradition in China for acception Waiguoren who make an effort to “become Chinese” than there is, say, in Japan.

I know that what Mark (?) from England said about the prejudice against blacks is very true. Even many years ago, back when China had position herself as friend of the third world and encouraged Africans to come and study in China, there was a lot of prejudice. Chinese people tended to think that Africans were uncivilized and frightening. I had some conversations 20 years ago along those lines that left me flabbergasted…but I think like most prejudices, this comes from not knowing the “Other” as an individual. I really do believe that the future belongs to people who can learn to speak across national and cultural boundaries. And it needs to go both ways. We Waiguoren should be learning how to “be Chinese.” Maybe that will help expand the definition of “Chinese” to become something more inclusive.

May 31, 2005 @ 11:45 pm | Comment

Wow, you’re on form today Lisa.

(By the way, I read Paper Tiger for the first time yesterday. Thanks for setting up on blog-city).

Yes, I’m sure that, to you, it sounds amusing to hear people like us (who first arrived in China in the 90′s) bemoaning the ‘freak-show’ aspect of our lives. I would imagine that China has made a bit of a quantum leap generally since the dark post-Cultural Revolution days of 1979.

I know a guy called Martin (he lives in HK and Guangzhou these days) and he first went to China in 1979 as well. Some of the stories he comes out with are truly fascinating. I’ll mention Peking Duck to him next time I see him, hopefully he might come and contribute.

I look forward to reading some of your Paper Tiger archives on your China experiences that you mentioned you’d post on blog-city.

Your point about the traditional theory that foreigners could come to China, learn Chinese and Chinese traditions and become part of the greatewst culture on earth is well made. From my history lessons, I remember that many famous Jesuits, for instance, were fully-part of the Qing Court for centuries.

“What China still needs is some kind of model of what it means to be “Chinese” that is not inextricably bound to race and ethnicity” – Other Lisa

Great observation. However, I fear that the revival of traditional Han Chauvanism and the resurgence of state-sponsored modern Chinese (Sun Yat Sen-inspired) nationalism is taking China further away from a non-ethnic defintion of “Chineseness”.

Since reading recent posts (Mr. Stimson and NuiBi4 come to mind) and comments making the point that such a great nation and great people are being, amongst other things “held back” by the CCP and China’s recent history, I now realise that’s it’s not just me who feels this way.
Thanks.

June 1, 2005 @ 12:18 am | Comment

Martyn,

Thanks for your kind words. The best way I can think of to describe China back then (especially Beijing) is that it was like living in the middle of a giant emotional hangover. Gray and depressing. And traumatized. Picture a giant North Korea (though I think North Korea is even weirder, because it’s smaller and easier to control). That people are living more or less normal lives, without having the Party Nanny controlling nearly every aspect of their daily existence, still seems kind of miraculous to me. And I’m not without sympathy for the CCP, you know? It didn’t arise in a historical vacuum…

Where are you in China, btw?

June 1, 2005 @ 12:35 am | Comment

Guangzhou, but I used to study and then work in Beijing. I prefer Beijing people, I find them more friendly and less money-orientated than the Cantonese.

Just posted a comment on Paper Tiger/blog-city, you wrote a great piece re Beijing in the 70′s. Absolutely fascinating for those of us who only arrived in China many years later.

I’d stick my neck out here and say that some young Peking Duck commentors, perhaps living in one of the big cities may find it difficult to relate to the China you describe in your Paper Tiger piece. Still, like the lady you mention teaching in a small Hunan town, there are many places in China where one can still experience the isolation, the lack of all familiar things etc.

I didn’t know “Man From Atlantis” was the first US shown on Chinese state television! We’re really showing out age here!!

June 1, 2005 @ 12:53 am | Comment

This place is quickly becoming like the Free Republic or the little green cesspool (except for no nuke China comments). So many ugly and cruel caricatures of your Chinese “friends” and coworkers just to prove that Chinese are “uncivilized” or “subhuman”…UGLY UGLY… Have you Laowais no shame at all???

June 1, 2005 @ 1:07 am | Comment

Yep! I think the Chinese translation was something like “The Man Who Came from The bottom Of the Ocean.”

I like Beijing a lot. at the risk of making generalizations (and I haven’t spent that much time in the south), I’ve found that people in beijing are really friendly and fun in general. we talk about these kinds of regional stereotypes in my Chinese class, and my teacher (from northern china) pretty much says the same thing (while adding that this is not universally true and is of course an over-simplification).

Glad you enjoyed the PT post, and I’ll try and put up another reminiscence tomorrow…

June 1, 2005 @ 1:07 am | Comment

Perhaps we need Shanghai Slim to come in and contribute at this point in the thread. He usually puts an interesting spin on things and has a way of raising the level of discussions.

C’mon Shanghai, where are you man?

June 1, 2005 @ 1:14 am | Comment

Yes, let’s bash China and your uneducated, uncivilized Chinese “friends” and coworkers some more. They don’t know you talk behind their back.

June 1, 2005 @ 1:18 am | Comment

With respect Mr. JR, how about putting forward a conherent retort to the comments you appear to find objectionable, instead of your usual sniping.

Also, I don’t recall anyone here using words like “uncivized’” or sub-human” to describe Chinese friends and co-workers.

From my regular reading sessions on this site, I’d say that the majority of contributors have a great affection for China and just because they highlight certain aspects of living in China, it doesn’t necessarily mean they view the people here with distain or xiao kan (look down upon) them.

Also, you once said yourself that you have never lived in mainland China so you have little or no idea about many of the realities and cultural quirks in mainland China.

June 1, 2005 @ 1:22 am | Comment

Well put Zoe.

June 1, 2005 @ 1:24 am | Comment

So Martyn, you just turned 180 degree and decide to love Mainland China from your last night China-bashing Pan Han tribal post?

June 1, 2005 @ 1:31 am | Comment

Zoe,

It is a easy task to list a lot of the White man’s burden racist posts in here …

“Yes, I agree with something I read somewhere once which stated that Chinese have a unusual mixture of inferority and superiority-complexes when it comes to dealing with foreigners.

That might explain why China appears to be a place so full of contradictions and how Cihnese people can happily say two sentences, both contradictory.

Posted by John at May 31, 2005 10:58 PM”

In other words, Chinese people are inferior to foreigners and have to act superior to them.

June 1, 2005 @ 1:36 am | Comment

One particularly annoying question I have been asked several times before is “DO you plan on having lots of other girlfriends after you’re married?”

If I was really petty, I should reply. “DO you plan on visiting brothels, like the rest of your countrymen after you’re married?”…but I’m above such things.

Posted by Martyn at May 31, 2005 10:53 PM

Martyn really loves China and it shows.

June 1, 2005 @ 1:39 am | Comment

someone asked me why the divorce rate is so high in the ‘west’. I replied something like “I don’t know but I understand the divirce rate is climbing in Asian countries.” Somebody said that this was due to the west’s influence (yin xiang) and everyone at the table grimly nodded in agreement.

In China I (as a westerner) have been blamed for HIV, gay people, SARS, drug abuse, Chinese men having extra-martial affairs, a whjole bunch of stuff.

Oh and bing, as FSNo9 said above, you are having a total laugh if you’re trying to argue that Chinese people have a better understanding of the differences. They know China and all other people in the world might as well come from the planet Saturn or something.

Posted by Martyn at May 31, 2005 10:23 PM

I agree, how uncivilized are those Chinese animals.

June 1, 2005 @ 1:41 am | Comment

i recently went on a camping trip with my co-workers, and ended up being the “token white guy.” my every move was intimately related to my whiteness. when we had a snack after lunch, and i was full and didn’t want to anything, it became “oh, laowai don’t eat snacks.” i didn’t eat many eggs at the restaurant the next morning, which was followed by “well, i guess laowai don’t like eggs as much as we thought.” we had beers that night, and i drank just as much as everyone else, but everyone agreed that “laowai sure drink a lot.” since i can read chinese, i was asked to read some phrases from a book aloud, because one girl “thought it would be fun to hear a laowai read chinese.” after i had started up the fire for our bbq, and actually cooked a pretty decent amount of food for everyone, i sat down to take a rest and was offered up as proof that “laowai don’t like to work hard.”

there is simply no way to compare this with anything that anyone experiences in any other country. when i see an asian at a chinese restaurant in the USA, i don’t laugh and say that “oh, asian people like chinese food,” but here in China, everytime i go to KFC, the people around me act like my actions are some kind of affirmation of something, like “oh, laowai like KFC, i knew it!” I am an object of attention, but always oh so different.

I totally agree that it is a case of both attraction and revulsion, interest but also a desire to keep away. i recommed peter hays gries’ book china’s new nationalism for anyone more interested in this attraction-revulsion conflict.

Posted by kevin at May 31, 2005 07:53 PM

Again, these Chinese people, coworkers, animals are abnormal and should be ridiculed and laughed at by the superior White man.

June 1, 2005 @ 1:46 am | Comment

Martyn,

“In China I (as a westerner) have been blamed for HIV, gay people, SARS, drug abuse, Chinese men having extra-martial affairs, a whjole bunch of stuff.”

Don’t blame the Chinese people, maybe there is something seriously wrong about you or your behaviour, if so many different people accused you of so many things you alleged. (provided that you did not lie.)

June 1, 2005 @ 1:55 am | Comment

It is too sad if You learned Chinese most from your Chinese girlfriend.

With no offense, I don’t think the Chinese girlfriends of some of you have an above average undertanding of China (do they care?) or the West (before they met you).

June 1, 2005 @ 1:57 am | Comment

And do you agree the Chinese girls who marry or befriend with foreigners is a special group of Chinese?

Don’t draw your conclusion from such a special sample.

June 1, 2005 @ 2:09 am | Comment

“there is simply no way to compare this with anything that anyone experiences in any other country. when i see an asian at a chinese restaurant in the USA, i don’t laugh and say that “oh, asian people like chinese food,” but here in China, everytime i go to KFC, the people around me act like my actions are some kind of affirmation of something, like “oh, laowai like KFC, i knew it!” I am an object of attention, but always oh so different”

So what on earth is your conclusion? We Chinese (again) don’t think there IS a way to compare anything with anything that anyone experiences in any other country either.

I have tried to explain the reason of their weird behaviours (in others’ eyes) when facing foreigners. They are curious, rude or even stupid. They sometimes don’t realize that foreign people could be the same kind of species who can work, live and communicate with them (though with difficulties) and need respect.

I’m sorry again for what happened to all of you in China. That is the reality of China and we don’t argue that. This will change but it takes time. If you don’t like it, leave China for good, no one forces you to be here.

June 1, 2005 @ 2:41 am | Comment

bing>

I appreciate your comments on this thread as I do your other contributions on Peking Duck.

I can’t speak for others here but by drawing attention to some of the amusing experiences of being a westerner in China (Chinese customers gazing at my shopping basket for example) or some of the less amusing instances of what I feel is widespread stereotyping (for instance westerners being blamed for the rise in Chinese divorce rates) I am relating real experiences that I have encountered during my 15 years, on and off, in China.

These are real experiences shared by many people here and, as such, we (or anyone else) should be able to discuss them. It’s that simple.

By doing so it is not my intention to cast China in a bad light, or god forbid, suggest that Chinese people are uncivilized or partake in other such name-calling.

I take great exception to people saying that I am in any way ‘anti-China’ or some such just because I happen to mention something that doesn’t necessarily put some Chinese people in a favourable light.

As you say in your last paragraph, things like this might/will change.

I also take great exception to being told to leave the country just because I mention, again, something that doesn’t cast China in a very favourable light.

Many of these instances and experiences mentioned above are just a small part of the rich tapestry that is modern China. Please do not take such quick offence and necessarily see them as a “slight” against China.
Thanks

June 1, 2005 @ 3:24 am | Comment

i was certainly not trying to portray my colleagues as subhuman in any way.

i was trying to show how everything about me was viewed as “waiguoren” rather than just “ren.” i think that many people have had similar experiences

also, there is no need for anyone to apologize for anything that has happened here in China, from what i can see, we are all just sharing our experiences, for better or for worse. just because i don’t spend all my time talking about GDP and development does not mean I am anti-china in any sense of the word. rather, i would prefer to look things realistically, analyze them, and wonder how they could be improved. i personally think a free press would be very helpful (which again brings us back to the original topic of this thread).

also, what’s so different about Chinese girls who go out with foreigners? it is just this kind of thinking that i consider dangerous. technically any chinese girl could date a foreigner, just as any canadian could date a pakistani. what is it that you see as “different” about them?

June 1, 2005 @ 3:41 am | Comment

I wasn’t saying that Ameirca and the UK were the same as China, I was merely highlighting that even supposedly ‘civilized’ countries do more or less what China is doing.

Arbitary detention with complete disregard for the rule of law.

When the good guys do it it is worse because it means that the bad guys have a lower benchmark to reach and can use wha the good guys do to make their actions seem ok.

June 1, 2005 @ 3:45 am | Comment

JR said: “Don’t blame the Chinese people, maybe there is something seriously wrong about you or your behaviour, if so many different people accused you of so many things you alleged. (provided that you did not lie.)”

Yet again, JR has shown a complete lack of connection with reality. I guess he did not understand the meaning of the original post? Anyway, I (having been quarantined during SARS because of the color of my skin) understood it, and would like to assure everyone that it has nothing to with the behavior of Martyn, as our unenlightened sage JR has alleged.

JR, why don’t you try provide a comment with some substance that is at least tangentially in touch with reality?

June 1, 2005 @ 3:47 am | Comment

Kevin> don’t bother mate. I’m boycotting “The Venerable Sage” JR’s comments until he stumbles into making a half-decent point. Still, I won’t hold my breath just in case.

June 1, 2005 @ 3:58 am | Comment

Bing … I take it your comments are in reference to me, and my girlfriend. And you can go stick those comments up your ****. I’ll engage in polite debate with you, but if you want to start insulting my girlfiend because she is some kind of sub-standard Chinese just because she dates a white guy … well, again, stick it up your ****. If you must know, Chinese guys tend to go “ga-ga” about my girlfriend, and even start asking to see her again, even when I’m standing right next to her. Other Chinese girls keep trying to get her to tell them what it’s like to have sex with a white guy. Fortunately, she is a lady of class and education, who leaves most girls of any race trailing in the dirt. In comparison to her, most Chinese lack family education. She graduated in first position from her university in China, and she is tall, beautiful, and socially astute. I personally can’t work out how I got lucky enough to snare her. She might be a “special case” but that’s only because she’s truly special.

I’m a lot less annoyed about your implied insult to me, but I’ll respond to that too. No, I did not learn about China “just from my girlfriend”. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to cite specific examples to support general comments, and what better evidence than my experiences with people I know well?

And JR … lighten up. No one here has said anything nearly as bad as you are accusing us of. Frankly, your over-reaction seems to support the comments of others here, that a lot of Chinese have a real sense of inferiority. And this doesn’t mean that Chinese people ARE inferior in my mind … it means that I observe many Chinese people struggling with a problem in their own psychie. JR, seriously??? “uncivilised”??? and “subhuman”??? … the idea might exist in your head, that us “laowai” are looking down on you, and thinking these things … but that’s a problem inside your own mind, and isn’t related to our thoughts or words.

Another personal anecdote for you … a Chinese delegation was down here for an academic conference, and a group of us took them out for a meal in Melbourne. These girls kept asking me “do you think white people are superior to us?” and when I kept replying that no I didn’t, they would rephrase the question, and try to get me to concede that yes, I really did look down on them. Eventually, after a lot of effort, they managed to get me to concede that western countries might be in a “superior position” to China, but that this didn’t mean that I thought that there was anything inherently superior/inferior about whites/Chinese. Maybe I’m misjudging them, but as soon as they managed to get that much out of me, they all nodded their heads, and dropped the topic of conversation, and I had the definition impression that they had in their minds notions like yours JR … that us “laowai” must be looking down on you … and wouldn’t be happy until finally we would come out and say it, and confirm their suspicions. As I said, I’m putting forward my own ideas about what was in their heads … but it sure looked that way to me.

June 1, 2005 @ 4:02 am | Comment

Filthy Stinking No.9,

“Bing … I take it your comments are in reference to me, and my girlfriend. And you can go stick those comments up your ****.”

You’d better go stick those comments up your **** first. Did I say the special group of Chinese are sub-standard Chinese because they date white guys?

“Other Chinese girls keep trying to get her to tell them what it’s like to have sex with a white guy.”
So what? Are you suggesting the other Chinese girls want that sex too? Even though it is, why should I have any problem with that?

“Fortunately, she is a lady of class and education, who leaves most girls of any race trailing in the dirt. In comparison to her, most Chinese lack family education. She graduated in first position from her university in China, and she is tall, beautiful, and socially astute.”
Again, did I say the special group of Chinese are not well-educated?

“I personally can’t work out how I got lucky enough to snare her. She might be a “special case” but that’s only because she’s truly special.”
At least you have some wisdom to know yourself and I have no doubt the fact you are white plays some part in your relationship. Don’t jump up, I don’t have problem with that too, just state a fact.

“I’m a lot less annoyed about your implied insult to me, but I’ll respond to that too. No, I did not learn about China “just from my girlfriend”. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to cite specific examples to support general comments, and what better evidence than my experiences with people I know well?”
Go on with them, but I’m sure I wouldn’t be surprised by any examples you could come up with. I’m Chinese (again) and I know what Chinese think better than you.

I have no problem at all with Chinese-foreigners marriage or relationship. Why should I? I wish all these couples the best no matter how and for what reasons they came together. All these relationships I’m sure will help the west to understand China and vice versa.

As I said, quite a few Chinese girls would like to marry or befriend any foreigners at any expense. That’s the reality and I cited that not to target you if it is not the case for you.

And the reason I said all that girlfriend stuff is because some of you gave evidences based what your girlfriends said.

Don’t take my point out of the context.

June 1, 2005 @ 4:33 am | Comment

I do not think I did take your comments out of context, and suggest that the problem lies with you, not with me. Your attempt to tarnish my girlfriend with some general brush because she happens to be dating a white man just makes you look ignorant and foolish. Oh, she did have one complaint about a Chinese ex … he went off to Canada and married someone for a passport of convenience. Sure, there are Chinese girls wanting to marry westerners for a passport … there are Chinese men doing it too. So what?

And finally … I’ll make the same comment that I made to JR … you’re reading things into my words that simply aren’t there, because of your own personal prejudices. My comment “I can’t image how I was lucky enough to snare her” has nothing to do with me saying that “oh, I wouldn’t have caught her if I wasn’t white. There’s no other reason why I could have got her.” It’s the kind of comment any man can make about a girl he thinks is wonderful, no matter what race she is: “She’s great. I’m such a lucky man. What does she see in a lug like me?” Can’t you get your mind out of the “race” issue for just one minute? That’s exactly the problem that all us “laowai” are trying to highlight here!

June 1, 2005 @ 4:42 am | Comment

Very well stated FSNo9,very well stated indeed.

June 1, 2005 @ 4:52 am | Comment

Whatever you think, it’s alright for you as long as it fits you.

And check my previous post I did not specifically target Chinese women for my international relationship stuff.

In terms of the race issue, I’m sorry I can’t take that out of my mind.

You are in a country that has a dominant majority of a single ethnic group for thousands of years and just opened its door 20 years ago. You can brand us Chinese as stereotyped. I agree. And when you say stereotype, you know that is something that is not easy to change.

In this case, isn’t it arrogant for you to come to and stay at China with an expectation to change (in your pace) how Chinese think or behave to adapt to how you think and behave.

June 1, 2005 @ 4:56 am | Comment

“And finally … I’ll make the same comment that I made to JR … you’re reading things into my words that simply aren’t there,”

And I could well give your comment back to you for what you assumed what I thought.

June 1, 2005 @ 5:04 am | Comment

“isn’t it arrogant for you to come to and stay at China with an expectation to change (in your pace) how Chinese think or behave to adapt to how you think and behave.” — Bing

Bing, your comments are typical of many similar statememtns that I’ve heard in China. I’ve just re-read FSNo9′s comments and AT NO POINT do I read or even get the slightest impression that he wants or expects Chinese people to behave/adapt to his standards of behaviour.

Again, you’re seeing things that simply aren’t there.

If I’m wrong here then I’ll be quick to apologise but can you please quote or highlight evidence of what you’re alleging?

June 1, 2005 @ 5:13 am | Comment

Can’t you get your mind out of the “race” issue for just one minute? That’s exactly the problem that all us “laowai” are trying to highlight here!

June 1, 2005 @ 5:14 am | Comment

How many ways can you misread somebody?

“Yes, I agree with something I read somewhere once which stated that Chinese have a unusual mixture of inferority and superiority-complexes when it comes to dealing with foreigners.

That might explain why China appears to be a place so full of contradictions and how Cihnese people can happily say two sentences, both contradictory.

Posted by John at May 31, 2005 10:58 PM”

In other words, Chinese people are inferior to foreigners and have to act superior to them.
Posted by: JR at June 1, 2005 01:36 AM

JR, John was talking about inferiority complexes and superiority complexes… as in a way of thinking, not that either group is better or worse. Our whole point here is that all of us, again and again, encounter this idea among Chinese people that we are so different, when we think that the differences are not so big, only imagined so.

i recently went on a camping trip with my co-workers, and ended up being the “token white guy.” my every move was intimately related to my whiteness…

Posted by kevin at May 31, 2005 07:53 PM

Again, these Chinese people, coworkers, animals are abnormal and should be ridiculed and laughed at by the superior White man.
Posted by: JR at June 1, 2005 01:46 AM

JR, they were treating Kevin as if he was abnormal and laughing about it, not the other way around.

Martyn,

“In China I (as a westerner) have been blamed for HIV, gay people, SARS, drug abuse, Chinese men having extra-martial affairs, a whjole bunch of stuff.”

Don’t blame the Chinese people, maybe there is something seriously wrong about you or your behaviour, if so many different people accused you of so many things you alleged. (provided that you did not lie.)
Posted by: JR at June 1, 2005 01:55 AM

Yeah, lets just call Martyn’s honesty and ethics into question. Easier to call him a liar than consider that it might be true.

It is too sad if You learned Chinese most from your Chinese girlfriend.

With no offense, I don’t think the Chinese girlfriends of some of you have an above average undertanding of China (do they care?) or the West (before they met you).
Posted by: Bing at June 1, 2005 01:57 AM

And do you agree the Chinese girls who marry or befriend with foreigners is a special group of Chinese?

Don’t draw your conclusion from such a special sample.
Posted by: Bing at June 1, 2005 02:09 AM

Bing, just because they date foreigners means they have a poor understanding of China? Who determines who has a better understanding? I thought all Chinese people would be able to have their own definition of what is “a good understanding of China” – a benefit of membership. Do you mean if they understood China better, they wouldn’t be dating a foreigner in the first place?

As for them being a special sample, obviously to be a foreigners girlfriend means they see us as individuals, so yeah I guess they are special. Most Chinese girlfriends of foreigners I know here are educated, intelligent, and didn’t speak from the same sheet of “laowai” assumptions – instead they assumed we were individuals they’d never met. And even then, we find that they have some stereotypes and misconceptions – but they’re smart enough to know they don’t know. And I’ve watched alot of Chinese women get lectured, yelled at, threatened and ostracized because they said they wanted to marry a white guy. Date them, fine, but marry? Reproduce? OOOH, how dare they miscegenate! The purity of the great Chinese race will be spoilt! It’s absolutely disgusting. It takes a strong woman to choose to stand up to that enormous cultural line in the sand – and many are overwhelmed.

“there is simply no way to compare this with anything that anyone experiences in any other country. when i see an asian at a chinese restaurant in the USA, i don’t laugh and say that “oh, asian people like chinese food,” but here in China, everytime i go to KFC, the people around me act like my actions are some kind of affirmation of something, like “oh, laowai like KFC, i knew it!” I am an object of attention, but always oh so different”

So what on earth is your conclusion? We Chinese (again) don’t think there IS a way to compare anything with anything that anyone experiences in any other country either.

There’s that pesky “We Chinese” again. That’s the corollary to “waiguoren”. If we are all lumped together as being from the far away land of “waiguo”, many Chinese people talk as if 1.3 billion people all had the same thoughts and ideas and they are their spokesperson. And the phrase “there is simply no way to compare this” means “there is nothing like it that is remotely similar”, not that “it is impossible to compare”. That’s the problem – many Chinese people think that the differences between cultures are so great that it’s apples and oranges. Those of us here believe that human beings are at root all the same and cultural differences can be overcome by our common humanity. We wouldn’t live in a foreign country if we didn’t believe that.

June 1, 2005 @ 5:14 am | Comment

The purity of the great Chinese race will be spoilt!

Tell me how many times have you heard Chinese saying that?

June 1, 2005 @ 5:18 am | Comment

JR,

In response to your comments about how people’s hard experiences in China must betray their lack of respect for Chinese people in general:

Bing’s experiences in England have been physically worse, and s/he (sorry don’t know) has been the subject of pointed racist abuse. This is totally unacceptable in my mind, and betrays a basic rift in English society. it does not, however, betray a basic inferiority or superiority, either way.

Other waiguoren’s experiences in China have generally not been as physically abusive. However, coming from a society that purports to value each person just because they are a person, with no other qualifications needed, it is really hard to go to China sometimes and be the object of such intense scrutiny and “us” vs. “them” mentality. The first time many of us go to China we have no idea how much we will be held up as examples, reaffirming stereotypes of the West etc.

I personally, find it incredibly, incredibly hard to deal with. “Yes my parents are divorced, no I didn’t go to Harvard, no I don’t like to drink alcohol, yes I like Clinton too, no, let’s please not talk about Tibet or Taiwan, I’m not married, my relationship life is none of your business, yes I can eat with chopsticks, YES I can even pick up peanuts with chopsticks….”

The constant “testing and reaffirmation of stereotypes” is so hurtful in the same way, psychologically, that racial epithets are – because it denies me my own identity as a person that I deserve, quite frankly. I’m not an object, and I don’t exist to reaffirm or deny peoples’ stereotypes. I exist just because I do. I’m a person, and when I go through the whole awful rigamarole of having to be measured up to Chinese stereotypes, I always get the feeling like they aren’t actually trying to get to know me, they are just trying to catagorize me.

And JR, this does not make Chinese people inferior to anyone else. Firstly, I’m sure piyeye has experienced some of the same thing, over in his/her (sorry) University in the states. I know many of my friends did – they were black, asian, latino in a very white liberal arts college – they were often used as a ‘sounding board’ of ‘minority opinion’ by white kids that had never really had any experience with non-white before, and although the white kids were well intentioned, my friends fricking hated being used like that. But, and I will say this over and over and over again, just because it is done everywhere, it doesn’t mean it is a good thing to do. I think it is basically hurtful in that it seeks to divide, in a time when actually there is so much that can unite.

I think Bing would agree that what I’m basically asking for is the same that Bing would ask for – to be treated like a person. Part of the reason many of the Waiguoren are talking about this is because we LOVE China – but we feel hurt by it – I’m doing a PhD in molecular biology, and next year I’m taking a year off just to go to China because I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back again! But I want to be treated with personable respect, interest, with the chance to be myself and make some good friends.

June 1, 2005 @ 5:22 am | Comment

“Those of us here believe that human beings are at root all the same and cultural differences can be overcome by our common humanity. We wouldn’t live in a foreign country if we didn’t believe that.”

I’m not necessarily thinking this way but after reading what you said I can’t keep asking: Do we have a right to keep our own identify? Why should we have to be a part of common humanity? What kind of commonness is it? Don’t talk about utopia. In the end of the story, this commonness is one full of your stuff.

As an individual, you might not think this way, but that is what usually happens.

June 1, 2005 @ 5:25 am | Comment

That’s the implication, Bing, if the only objection friends and family have to the marriage is that the guy or girl is a waiguoren. “You can’t marry a foreigner”, I’ve heard that one. And that’s because…?

June 1, 2005 @ 5:25 am | Comment

That is in essence not one objection, is it?

A laowai means: difficulties of communication with the family, the possibility of emigrating out of China, different religions, different customs etc.

And that is no limited to Chinese parents who could have this kind of objection, is it?

June 1, 2005 @ 5:33 am | Comment

I see davesgonechina is stepping into Shanghai Slim’s shoes, they’re pretty big shoes dave!

Great “voice of reason” post dave.

Laowai 1979, as usual, superb my friend, superb. I’d join the ignore “The Venerable Sage” JR boycott if I were you as you won’t get much of a response apart from snide remarks and abuse.

Don’t have time to respond now as I’m on my way out. I’ll just pop over to Public Enemy No1 first though…..

June 1, 2005 @ 5:45 am | Comment

Laowai:

By the way, when you pass through Guangzhou next year you will email me ahead so I can buy you a pint when you’re here.

Thanks

June 1, 2005 @ 5:49 am | Comment

Martyn,

email me Laowai19790204@gmail.com and I’ll keep it and email you next year. I plan on traveling a LOT during the university breaks.

June 1, 2005 @ 5:55 am | Comment

The constant “testing and reaffirmation of stereotypes” is so hurtful in the same way, psychologically, that racial epithets are – because it denies me my own identity as a person that I deserve, quite frankly. I’m not an object, and I don’t exist to reaffirm or deny peoples’ stereotypes. I exist just because I do. I’m a person, and when I go through the whole awful rigamarole of having to be measured up to Chinese stereotypes, I always get the feeling like they aren’t actually trying to get to know me, they are just trying to catagorize me.

Well put, Laowai.

Do we have a right to keep our own identify? Why should we have to be a part of common humanity? What kind of commonness is it?

Why should believing in some universal commonalities threaten your identity, Bing? And as for “why should we have to be a part of common humanity”, BECAUSE YOU ARE. It’s not that you must be part of it, it’s that its undeniable that we are all one race, one species: human. Cultural differences exist, yes, but the underlying idea is that any human from any culture or place will, barring injury or illness, be able to think, do and say anything across an enormous spectrum of choice. I’d like it if Chinese people would approach me first as a person. What do I like? What are my ideas? What am I like? But so many approach me as a “laowai”, and put me through the stereotype confirmation process mentioned above by Laowai and FSN9.

And as for Chinese identity, that’s not threatened by the loss of stereotypes. Or maybe it is. As I pointed out, there’s the constant drone of “we Chinese”… as if there is no debate among 1.3 billion people about what it means to be Chinese. What total bunk. I think Chinese people often fall back on this notion of a unified mass and the use of stereotypes to define themselves, because they don’t know what it means to be Chinese except that it means that they aren’t anything else. Tell me, what is Chinese identity, is there really a universally agreed definition among Chinese people and how exactly is it threatened?

June 1, 2005 @ 5:55 am | Comment

As for the Chinese parents, Bing, these are parents who did not even take the time to ask if the couple was going anywhere, and in some cases they weren’t – they were planning to stay in China, in the same city. I realize marriage freaks parents out anywhere, but my point is that many Chinese women who date foreigners have to put up with alot of crap and I think that means they are pretty amazing people to deal with it calmly and rationally.

Peter, thanks for the compliment. I, too, have been wondering where Slim is.

June 1, 2005 @ 6:02 am | Comment

Universal commonalities, another paradox?

How many of the population on the earth embrace those universal commonalities? More than 1.3 billion?

June 1, 2005 @ 6:07 am | Comment

And who define those Universal commonalities?

June 1, 2005 @ 6:08 am | Comment

Yeah, trust Slim to go AWOL when he’s most needed.

June 1, 2005 @ 6:12 am | Comment

How’s this one for a commonality: that all people are unique individuals apart from culture or origin. You meet someone new. They look different from you. You could follow one of two paths of thought:

A) This person looks like such and such, which means they probably are from such and such country, eat such and such food with such and such instruments, have such and such political ideas, have such and such sexual habits, etc. I will regard him/her as both a mirror of these ideas and as an archetype for all other people with a similar appearance.

OR

B) This is a person. People have independent thoughts, ideas, personalities, likes, dislikes and every individual is a very different package of these things from another individual. I cannot assume that I know this persons beliefs or habits. Such assumptions can be unfair and interfere with my ability to understand this individual. I will endeavor to learn who this individual is, but I will not presume that he is identical in anyway to another person whom he resembles nor will I presume that people I meet in the future who resemble him will bear any other similarity.

What’s the “universal commonality”? This is a person, a unique person, as every person in the world is, Chinese, foreign, whatever.

June 1, 2005 @ 6:16 am | Comment

dave

A lot of xenophobic strereotying and prejudices would stem from (IMHO) a mixture of:

- the old “Middle Kingdom’ mentality

- the current resurgence of traditional and modern Chinese nationalism, which partly defines itself through ‘anti-foreign-ness’

- and the vidtim mentality complex which is enthusiastically pedalled in Chinese history books and large sections of the media.

I’m going to buy the book ‘China’s New Nationalism’ mentioned above by Kevin as this topic truly fascinates me but the “us” and “them” attitude in China is a real, tangible cultural phenomenon.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:02 am | Comment

From what you said I can only conclude that it’s all China’s fault to be you called of xenophobic stereotyping and prejudices.

In this case, could I IMHO add something else: the intrusion and invasion of foreigners and their often ignorance and omission of local culture and tradition?

From all these posts you have written I can find none of them discussing the role of the foreigners in this xenophobic issue.

So I can only assume all of you think yourselves perfect human beings surrounded by barbarians, though you do sometimes feel them lovable.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:19 am | Comment

Bing!

don’t rush to conclusions.

As we’ve seen, the UK is grappling with the same issues of stereotyping, as is much of the world. You have witnessed much of the end results of what we are talking about, in the UK. And I think everyone will condemn it. I think everyone will also condemn the subjugation of China to Western culture etc. – what we are talking about is the interaction of peoples and cultures. What we are combatting here is ignorance and the willingness to jump to conclusions. Possession of ignorance, however, is widespread, not specific to one culture or one population. And it does not make the ignorant in any way “bad” or inferior. If it did, everything I’ve been saying would be hypocritical. It just means that they engage in behaviour and concepts that lead them to hurt others, and perhaps, as some would argue, themselves. We all do it, to some extent, but in the name of compassion, we try not to.

China has a firm grounding in tolerance and non-judgement. Chan Buddhism (zen) originated in China. What does it espouse? Emptiness. When we approach another person with emptiness, can we possibly make judgements about them? no. because in carrying emptiness, we have done away with the ego, the “I” that makes the distinctions between races, that builds up the stereotypes. Chan buddhism is distinct in that is concentrates fully on this emptiness, whilst Tibetan and Indian are not as “clear.” This is one reason why I was drawn to China. Your country, Bing, is largely responsible for my philosophies about equality, non-judgement, and compassion.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:37 am | Comment

Laowai,

I appreciate your interest in Chinese philosophies.

As I stated on your blog, religion is the key thing that Chinese must have in replace of the oblivious communism.

Many essences of Chinese culture and tradition are bundled with those religions, which have been long lost since the communist rule.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:44 am | Comment

Look, Bing, I’m not saying foreigners haven’t played a part in shaping some of these stereotypes. They have: colonial armies, missionaries and fetishizers of the exotic have all been coming to China for centuries and often with bad results. But the ideas are still ridiculously overreaching stereotypes and they are held solely by Chinese people about foreigners. I hate it when I see a foreigner acting out something I know a Chinese friend thinks is the worst in all of us, and that makes that particular foreigner an insenstive boor. But it’s my Chinese friend who is applying it as a stereotype, and that habit needs to be broken by accentuating the millions of differences between all of us individuals, so “waiguoren” and “laowai” don’t make sense as actual “groups”, although for many Chinese people (the ones who watched Kevin on his camping trip, for example) these stereotypes are still perfectly valid.

It goes in the other direction too. In the US there are people with absurd stereotypes about Chinese people eating somebody elses dog or only and always being a geeky math nerd. I’m sure Chinese Americans can point out alot more examples than I can because that’s what they go through there. Just as we endeavor to explain to Chinese people how they misrepresent us in China, I would hope Chinese people would explain how we misrepresent them in our countries. But China does have one unique feature when it comes to stereotypes, and its this all encompassing idea of “foreign”. As I mentioned many comments ago, in France people don’t constantly refer to me as “l’etranger” just because I’m from another country. This conceptual idea, rooted in the language itself, of everything “not Chinese” going into one bucket is something I’ve never seen in any other society. Its an unhealthy level of isolation, it alienates Chinese people from thinking themselves part of a human community and its a terrible foundation for a cultural identity when you base your sense of self and others on negation and not affirmation.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:45 am | Comment

Laowai’s reference to Chan Buddhism is a perfect example of an affirmative and positive form of Chinese identity – one based on the presence of the indigenous, not the absence of the foreign. And in a delicious twist of irony, the positive presence is, in fact, the idea of emptiness.

Woah. Deep.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:50 am | Comment

I appreciate all the great comments in this thread, which has certainlly taken an interesting turn.

Going through them all this morning, there are a couple that I don’t appreciate so much and I have to say something about them: JR, if you don’t cut the crap and grow up I will start deleting inappropriate comments. When you use quote marks and say people on my site are calling the Chinese subhuman you had damned well better give evidence. And your casual insults to people who like China enough to want to see it enter the modern age are offensive, to say the least. I’ve usually enjoyed your comments, as they offer an interesting point of view, but not when they are so blatantly crude and careless. So this is a final warning: cut the crap and think before you post.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:59 am | Comment

Davesgonechina,

Until my last post, I had been trying to avoid reminding some of you something you mentioned about the impact of foreigners’ role in on the xenophobic thing. I tried not to be another example of stereotyped Chinese who constantly reminds foreigners the bad things their ancestors did years and years ago.

However, go through all the posts except your last one will you be able to find any other post mentioning that kind of stuff?

I don’t see a better example of making people feel you arrogant than what happend in this thread.

Does telling Chinese what they should do without any self-reflection make realy sense to some of you?

June 1, 2005 @ 8:23 am | Comment

A phrases like this:

“there is simply no way to compare this with anything that anyone experiences in any other country.”

is meant for provocation rather than disscussion

June 1, 2005 @ 8:37 am | Comment

Laowai thanks for your effort by the way, and I do understand your points about people abroad not used to living in mainland China, a third world country.

June 1, 2005 @ 8:38 am | Comment

Richard,

You ask me for evidence for the word subhuman. I had given you. Why did you delete my post. was my evidence too damning to those three laowais?

June 1, 2005 @ 8:52 am | Comment

“I had been trying to avoid reminding some of you something you mentioned about the impact of foreigners’ role in on the xenophobic thing.”– Bing

Bing:

None of us are perfect and, those of us who are non-Chinese, cannot help but look at things from our own perspective.

Also, however hard we try to see things from the Chinese point of view , I fear that many of us won’t entirely appreciate it.

I, for one, am interested in whatever new perspectives you can throw on the “foreigners role in the xenophobic thing” as a way of understanding how some Chinese look at this and formulate their views.

Any help at all in aiding mutual understanding between the average western and Chinese point of view is a good thing in my book.

Thanks bing.

June 1, 2005 @ 8:53 am | Comment

JR,

Don’t be too bothered by what others say on this board.

We shouldn’t be here if we expect 100% or even 80% balanced view from them.

June 1, 2005 @ 9:05 am | Comment

JR, your comment was inappropriate and, most infuriating, nonsensical. Example:

I don’t care anymore if bigots and racists win in here, I am out. You guys can continue to bash anything China and belittle Chinese people.

And:

I state what I see exactly the
racist caricatures all implying that Chinese are different, INFERIOR, not
understandable and unique (in Hitler’s term: subhuman like the Jews) to
people from the rest of the world by so many of these ugly Laowais, they believe they are above the Chinese people in China. Unfortunately,
their comments here and said behaviour exposed that they are no better. I repeat again UGLY white Supremacist. Chinese people are their white man’s burden.

I won’t allow you to misrepresent things. No one said or implied the Chinese are inferior. I sincerely believe you are projecting this based on your own fears and possibly past experience of dealing with what you perceived to be racism. This is a “reality-based community.” If you’re just going to sit in the peanut gallery and take swipes at people using insults and totally misquoting them I won’t allow it. You said goodbye in the post that you forced me to delete, and since then you’ve posted twice more. You don’t have to go (it’s pretty obvious you don’t want to) , but if you want to stay you have to tone the rhetoric down to a civil discourse.

June 1, 2005 @ 9:05 am | Comment

I am sorry if I offend other China loving laowais but the bad apples were conversing with each others in racial caricatures…

I did not misquote or take sentences out of context from its original meaning.

For overgeneralization:

“how Cihnese people can happily say two sentences, both contradictory. ”

For uniqueness:

“there is simply no way to compare this with anything that anyone experiences in any other country.”

For inferiority:

“Chinese have a unusual mixture of inferority and superiority-complexes.”

June 1, 2005 @ 9:22 am | Comment

JR, I want you to listen very carefully, and then go over each word slowly, because with all respect you are being incredibly dense. I say that because others have pointed the same thing out to you, but you refuse to get it. So once more:

To say the Chinese or the Americans or the Australian Aborigines “have an inferiority or a superiority complex” is NOT saying or implying they are inferior. If you do not understand that distinction, and if you react violently to such a comment and accuse the commenter of racism for referring to the Chinese people’s inferiority complex (which is not even a criticism let alone an insult) then you really don’t belong in these comments, because everything someone says, no matter how innocent, can be turned into an inflammatory battle with you, wasting everyone’s time. Again, think about this carefully. Do you know what an inferiority complex is and how it differs from being inferior? Please, no rants – just stick to what I’m asking you.

June 1, 2005 @ 9:48 am | Comment

“I sincerely believe you are projecting this based on your own fears and possibly past experience of dealing with what you perceived to be racism. ”

I very seldom come across racism towards me (knock on wood), most people just adore me in here, for I am friendly and presentable and always treat others with respect, except for when people don’t respect themselves. I know many people who like to gossips and talk bad behind someone’s back here, these are the people I try my best to avoid in real life. I choose friends who can share a secret.

I know racism when I see it and I don’t need to be in China to understand the grudge of living in chaotic China. I have been to China many times, but I had never lived there. So I am guilty of not knowing some specific details but I understand the difficulties of adapting into a new environment, especially a third world communist country like China. I have moved between countries and cities many times before. I am still getting used to the cold weather and depressed economy in here.

June 1, 2005 @ 9:50 am | Comment

Richard,

I know what inferiority-superiority complex is, people who act superior towards others because of their own feeling of inferiority. Am I wrong? This is a very insulting over-generalization, don’t you agree, Richard? To label 1.3 billion or 1300 millions of Chinese people of being inflicted with inferiority-superiority complex is simple racsim.

June 1, 2005 @ 9:57 am | Comment

JR, you are completely wrong. Nearly all gays have an inferiority complex, as do a majority of blacks in the US, because of the history of how they were treated. The Chinese, too. So as I thought, you really don’t understand the distinction and you believe if someone says the Chinese have an inferiority complex it means they believe the Chinese are inferior. This is either very sloppy thinking or a language issue where you don’t understand the terms involved. In either case, you took this non-insult and trumped it up into an assault on others here and as I said I’m not tolerating it. You can comment, but please change the subject now and stop needling people and making trouble. Were you sincere when you said you’re “out of here” or was that another typical JR game?

June 1, 2005 @ 10:01 am | Comment

JR, so far the only person I’ve heard call Chinese people inferior is you. Have you been actually reading these posts??? Seems like you’ve been skimming over them, seeing a word like “inferior” and going nuts. That’s my best guess anyway, since your responses don’t seem to be connected to the discourse coming from the rest of us.

Bing … you’re obviously an intelligent person. Since our exchange above, I’ve had a talk with my girlfriend about these points. And you know what? She said “well, you can’t blame Bing. Most people in China don’t have any way to know any better.”

She then suggested that I might like to share something that her mother said to her. We’ll be travelling to see my family in July, and I mentioned to her that we may have to stay in two separate houses, because my family wouldn’t accept us staying in the same room. You’d think that that one fact alone would give my gf’s mother pause for thought … but when she found out that her daughter might be staying at my (married) brother’s home, she said “well, you better be careful of his brother then.” When my gf told me that story, she said, “well, you have to understand that people in China just don’t know any better.” Oh yeah, one more thing … yet another misinterpretation to deal with: my point in saying that Chinese girls are always trying to get my gf to talk about what sex with a white man is like. It’s this: white men have basically all the same bits as a Chinese man. What’s the friggin difference??? And secondly, it’s hardly a proper question to be asking someone you don’t know very well, and she is a properly brought up girl who doesn’t gossip about such things, and who disapproves of the people who ask her such questions.

I’m still annoyed when you make comments that pretty clearly are insulting to my girlfriend, but if she’s not disturbed by it, then I guess I shouldn’t be. At the same time … spare a thought for those Chinese girls with a white man who get called “prostitute” in China for no other reason than they happen to be walking down the street with a white man. Now imagine it’s a white guy you know, and the girl is your sister they’re talking about, not just “some girl.”

Oh, she also told me to say that Chinese girls and white men make a very good match. She also told me that I had to say it is my idea. In that list of questions (and answers) laowai face in China, her favourite one was this: “why are you with a Chinese girl?” “Because I love her, you *#$%ing idiot.” I think she’d even be pleased if I really used it, rather than just joking about it.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:01 am | Comment

Richard,

I don’t mean to get you all riled up. I agree enough has been said, my comments above stand for their own merits.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:09 am | Comment

JR, sadly, you are right. Your comments above do indeed stand (or fall) on their merits (or lack thereof).

June 1, 2005 @ 10:11 am | Comment

To “The Venerable Sage” JR:

You have just proved for all to see your almost total lack of understanding in interpreting the posts on this thread.

As Kevin said above, you are indeed extremely detached from reality. Thank you for confirming this, it’s much appreciated.

I understand that you have never even once even set foot in the People’s Republic of China so I would therefore question your credibility and/or qualifications for discussing the ‘real life experiences’ of living in the PRC with people who have lived here for large chunks of their adult life.

Your own pre-conceived, naive and narrow-minded ideas and prejudices make you see a whole bunch of things that aren’t really there.

However, and more importantly, how DARE you accuse certain people here of insinuating that Chinese people are SUB-HUMAN? UNCIVILISED? UGLY? “THE WHITE MAN’S BURDEN RACIST POSTS”? Calling Chinese co-workers ANIMALS? ABNORMAL? who should be RIDICULED? and LAUGHTED AT? by the SUPERIOR WHITE MAN?

Do you have any idea how offensive that is?

You accuse people of having “something seriously wrong with their behaviour?” and LYING?

How dare you to come on here and accuse people of the above, have you completely lost your grip on reality? Have you any idea what you are saying?

I’ve re-read all your posts on this thread and I can confirm that you have failed to make a single valid point. Your entire contribution to this thread has been simply a string of highly offensive insults.

Congratulations, you have single-handedly lowered the entire tone of this thread. You alone, among all the dozens of individual contributors stick out as being an complete waste of time.

Please DO NOT contribute any more unless you can string together a valid point as I for one will no longer tolerate your childish petulance and unecessary abuse.

Thank you.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:23 am | Comment

John, tell us how you really feel about JR’s bs!

Well said.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:28 am | Comment

Richard,

I agree too. how sweet it is.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:31 am | Comment

Richard, I think you really need to morph your Comments section into a threaded discussion forum. It’s a tribute to your blog that it attracts so many thoughtful posters. Unfortunately, it’s hard to follow so many ideas in the “List-o-Comments” format. This thread is a perfect example – I will have to return later just to digest it all. The way I figure, all you need to do is quit your job to free up enough time to moderate it… :-)

Well, this thread provides ample evidence that any foreigner in China must quickly come to grips with China’s take on The World (which is composed of “China” and “foreign places”). Maybe if our countries were sealed off to the outside planet for a few generations, we would see some of the same back home. But it’s so hard to bear that in mind when you personally confront your “foreigness” on a daily basis.

I hope our Chinese co-posters can forgive us if sometimes the pressure of being under the Chinese microscope leads us to swap anecdotes, or vent a bit. Usually it’s our way of trying to understand this world around us, and also to re-assure each other that “it’s not just me”.

Few of us are very remarkable back home, so we are just not used to being some form of celebrity (or worse, freak). That attention, and the weight of constantly representing our home country or race can be enormous. I cringe at the thought of the times I’ve lost my temper, or did something stupid or rude in public here, then later shamefully reflected on how for that Chinese person I just interacted with, I probably provided them with the one personal example of “American” they will have in their life. Great, I might as well have burned the US flag.

So, Chinese friends & posters, again, please try not to be offended as we “laowai” try to help each other grope through what is for us a bizarre and challenging experience.

Some really perceptive ideas about identity in this thread. There’s a common conversation often heard in China that I think illustrates the issue well: it’s the conversation where someone asks a foreigner to “be their friend” after talking to us for just fifteen seconds. If we politely turn down the offer, the Chinese stranger may feel insulted, or confused why we are so unfriendly.

I’m sure they don’t realize that most westerners actually feel dismayed by this kind of friendship offer. It’s obvious to us that the local doesn’t want to be friends with us personally — how could they possibly know us after just two sentences of conversation? No, once again we are reduced to being a generic “laowai”. And for westerners – ever so mindful of our carefully crafted individual personas – this reduction can be particularly hard to take (as this thread shows so well).

Maybe it’s a little easier if we can remind ourselves that just by the simple fact of being here, just by standing on the subway, we really are effecting social change in China (just as we benefit from the Other Lisas who came here earlier). In fact, for most of us, our impact on human society is far greater here than it ever could be in our home countries. So there’s opportunity in those incredulous stares.

Martyn wrote:
>”Actually, speaking of gay people in the context of Chinese reacions/attitudes towards westerners. I’ve often wondered what kind of reactions western gay people receive in China?”

I would love to address this, but it’s such a huge topic that I will wait for a more suitable thread. For now I will just say that I suspect that the notion of “gay foreigner” is to many Chinese what the idea of “gay Bigfoot” would be to most westerners – hard to combine two such unusual identities into a single entity.

Urgh, post getting far too long … several of you wrote some very kind and undeserved remarks about me, I can’t resist addressing this one:

Peter wrote: “I see davesgonechina is stepping into Shanghai Slim’s shoes, they’re pretty big shoes dave!”

I’m afraid they are, size 47 in fact (12.5 in the US). I think my feet draw more attention than any Chinese girlfriend could. :-) If anyone knows where I can find shoes that big in Shanghai, please tell me! Yao Ming’s mother has yet to respond to my email.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:33 am | Comment

Richard,

I don’t mean to get personal. From what you said above about inferiority complex being gays and blacks.

Is it okay for others to label you as being 2 times inferiority-superiority complexes as being a gay Jew? I will be angry if someone calls you that.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:38 am | Comment

Slim, thnaks as always for the great comment. I know exactly what you mean about the “friendship” thing (“I hope we can be good friends” after barely telling someone your name).

JR, it is not an insult to say someone has an inferiority complex. So of course I am not insulted. Arguing with you is not unakin to battering one’s head against a wall.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:40 am | Comment

Please accept my apologies Richard. I shouldn’t get so wound up but I was absolutely livid this afternoon when “The Venerable Sage” cut and pasted one of my above posts (*about Chinese people’s mixture of superior and inferior complexes*) and added the line:

“In other words, Chinese people are inferior to foreigners and have to act superior to them.”

He is an absolute idiot Richard, I’m very sorry to say, and I dearly love this site, I love this site because of the great contributors from right across the spectrum of opinion. Therefore, I hate to see this site and it’s great discussions spoiled by the childish antics of one person.

Oh dear, I’m off again.

I’ll go and sit quietly for a while.

June 1, 2005 @ 10:43 am | Comment

John,

You are forgiven.

The venerable sage

June 1, 2005 @ 10:53 am | Comment

John, no need to apologize! I think most vistors here would agree that the inferiority complex example cooked JR’s goose. If anyone ever said on this site that the Chinese people are inferior or subhuman, I would delete it instantly, and that JR read it that way — well, I hardly know what to say.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:00 am | Comment

Contrary to popular belief, I am not here to disturb or seek attention but to speak out against what I found is so wrong in these discussions. Sorry if I broke the harmonious consensus of your view of Joe Chinaman . Hope we all agree we should respect freedom of speech. It’s dissappointing to see so many educated people and liberals behaving like that. I am out of here for now, will be back later today, so go ahead and bash me some more.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:07 am | Comment

Filthy Stinking No.9:

“With no offense, I don’t think the Chinese girlfriends of some of you have an above average undertanding of China (do they care?) or the West (before they met you).”

If above is what causes you to feel insulted, I’m sorry for that is a bit too specific and the use of average might be misleading.

I have no intention to insult any Chinese girl who has a relationship with a white guy.

What I tried to say is from my own experience I think most of them lack the “sufficient” understanding of China and the West. And I don’t equal this lack to uneducated.

And when I refer them as a special group simply because they are indeed special for their relationships with foreigners which most Chinese don’t have, and therefore they are not suitable for a typical sample to generalize what other Chinese think or behave, especially if they, as mentioned above, lack a sufficient understanding of the issues in question. Still, I don’t equal this speciality to anything else like height or appearance.

Again, I have no problem with this international relationship. In contrast, I hope there could be more and more.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:18 am | Comment

I’d just like to give a put-up (the opposite of a put-down) to Bing. Bing has put up strong opinions, allowed them to be challenged, questioned them him/herself and challenged other people’s opinions and beliefs. Thanks Bing.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:20 am | Comment

Size 47? Nope, I’m a size 44, just at the upper reaches of “reasonably available shoe sizes in China”.

Slim showed up! Can we all go home now? Been fun y’all. Even you JR, even if you can be insufferable sometimes.

Or is that inscrutable?

June 1, 2005 @ 11:24 am | Comment

JR, I’ve tolerated you for a long time and never bashed you. You bashed yourself with your ignorance and mindless accusations. In this thread you really went too far, and more than once.

Earlier in this endless thread, Kevin was telling us of the prejudice he ran up against in China, and you snarkily replied:

“Don’t blame the Chinese people, maybe there is something seriously wrong about you or your behaviour, if so many different people accused you of so many things you alleged. (provided that you did not lie.)”

So when Kevin says he was bashed by the Chinese, you respond that there was something seriously wrong with his behavior — it had to be, because so many people attacked him! Now, all these people are “bashing” you; following your contorted logic, wouldn’t that mean they must be right? That something is “seriously wrong with your behaviour”?

I am going through this exercise to point out just how idiotic your arguments are and how you alter your standards based on whether they’ll support your point of view or not. You demonstrate no sincerity, at least not in this thread.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:31 am | Comment

Laowai, agree fully about Bing. And our friend Bingfeng, as well. They may drive me crazy sometimes and I may disagree, but I admire their intelligence and ability to discuss the issues with logic and politeness. We can disagree without taunting and instigating.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:33 am | Comment

police state: discuss

I was going to post this in the comments section of Peking Duck, but it’s slightly more off-tangent than most of the comments. So, I’m bringing it here. Question, is China a police state? My answer:China is a police state.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:37 am | Comment

Oh yeah, I second Laowai: Bing has been a gracious challenger, trying to find a common ground to talk on and making some very insightful points. Oh, and having someone challenge my argument who actually responded to what I wrote as opposed to what they imagine. Bing, I’d seriously like to get your views on what contemporary “Chineseness” is. I believe there is certainly such an identity, but I think its in a period of immense flux and fragmentation. Out here in Xinjiang, when I start asking students about how they define “Chineseness” they go blank… just because, well, they never thought about it! But they find the question fascinating, and tell me they loved the class because they thought that was a great question to talk about – specifically, that this is something Chinese people need to find an answer to. These are 19-23 year olds in Urumqi, they feel the world changing but they don’t know what to do. That’s what I know; I don’t claim to know what any other groups of Chinese people in the world think about Chinese identity, but I’m damn curious about it.

And, by the way, it is only my argument, as in debate. I will say, Richard, that by and large threads on your blog prevail with few hominem attacks or other white noise. I think that’s why so many of us keep coming back to write these monster threads, because something seems to be working and worthwhile. Nice work.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:41 am | Comment

speaking of debate, Horses Mouth found a priceless Xinhua poll:

http://thehorsesmouth.blog-city.com/read/1317950.htm

Heh. Wow. It’s like nerf crossfire.

June 1, 2005 @ 11:47 am | Comment

The above conversations just sum up whats going on in here. Group attack mentality, just like the freepers. (Don’t deny it)

People remain dead silent when someone argued that labeling a complete group as inferiority superior complex should not be considered racism.

Richard, you should have known better. People people people refused to speak out what was right and what was wrong especially towards stereotyping of a complete race. This was why Holocaust happened.

June 1, 2005 @ 12:01 pm | Comment

The Venerable Sage:

Had I known you’d write the above comment, I wouldn’t have needed to bother to write my above very long post.

Credit where it’s due for getting all of the below into a single post:

- reepers
- inferiority superior complex
- racism.
- racial stereotyping
- This was why Holocaust happened.

For the last time, goodbye JR, you’re not welcome here anymore.

Goodbye.

June 1, 2005 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

Peter, the guy just doesn’t get it. I could say the Chinese are a wonderful people and he’ll throw a fit because I’m using a racial stereotype. (Of course, those lofty standards disintegrate if we’re talking about those evil Japanese.)

Dave, thanks for pointing out Gordon’s new post – I’m going to blog it to make sure everyone sees it.

June 1, 2005 @ 12:34 pm | Comment

Forgot to mention: Asiapundit has a good post on this very topic (no, not JR, but whether China is a police state). Please check it out.

June 1, 2005 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

You argued that racial stereotyping was not racism for the sake of arguing, it became detached from reality. That was what it was. Just calm down and think about it. I don’t feel insulted by the above comments by the group AT ALL, I hope you feel the same.

June 1, 2005 @ 12:44 pm | Comment

Once again, I can only read your comments in amazement, not having even the vaguest idea what you are trying to say. But please, let’s leave it at that; you’ve had the last word and I won’t argue. Thanks.

June 1, 2005 @ 12:49 pm | Comment

I get a stiff neck when I finish reading the comments.. I am really impressed by many of the posts. Bing is indeed a gracious debater. Other lisa, I can see the compassion between her words. Many other posts showed a great understanding of China and its people.
About inferiority-superiority thing. I have to admitt that I have some of it, i think everybody more or less has it. I don’t think we totally understand the psychology of it. But it is just natural that human has limitations and potentials, and it is okay to be inferior in one aspects or another. Life is not about competing, or is it?

June 1, 2005 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

Yang, you are so right, and that is exaclty what JR didn’t understand — having an inferiority and/or superiority complex is part of being human. It has nothing to do with good or bad, it is simply how the human mind works.

My teacher yelled at me when I was seven for doing poorly on a math test, and ever since then I’ve had an inferiority complex about my math skills; to this very day, I do single-digit arithmetic using my fingers. Having this inferiority complex doesn’t mean I am inferior and it is not an insult to me. But JR sees the word “inferior” and doesn’t put it in its context. Saying I have an inferiority complex is a very distant thing from saying I am an inferior person.

June 1, 2005 @ 3:56 pm | Comment

Don’t forget the superiority part of the inferiority superiority complex. But of course, we can also argue in the same breath that it is good for oneself to feel superior over others also. To conclude, inferior superior complex is a positive thing to label to a racial group. (tongue in cheek)
=)

June 1, 2005 @ 4:49 pm | Comment

ST correspondent jailed

The Peking Duck reports that Straits Times senior correspondent Ching Cheong was arrested in Guangzhou on April 22, over alleged leakage of state secrets. Both the Straits Times and the wife of the prominent Hong Kong journalist were warned by the Chi…

June 2, 2005 @ 1:44 am | Comment

another 2cents. I did not forget about the superiority part, I chose not to mention it.

It is a matter of reaction, or better put it, attitude to our own feeling of inferiority. We can falsely denying it, or accept it. In many cases, people choose to accept it and excel in other areas.

There are different attitudes toward others who we think are unfortunate(inferior is similar thing, just with a harsher tone). We can choose to laught at them or sympathize with them, criticize them or encourage them.

These attitudes, i believe, are majorly influenced by our own life experiences, and this experiences also shape our attitudes toward races, nations, cultures.

June 2, 2005 @ 8:45 am | Comment

Bing, thankyou for your explanation of your feelings. I still feel that your comment was unjustified, and was indeed a slight against my girlfriend … but, as you will have noticed, I’m pretty thin-skinned when it comes to defending my girlfriend’s honour. I accept that you meant nothing ill by your words. I still reserve the right to call them pretty stupd words though.

June 2, 2005 @ 9:25 am | Comment

Filthy Stinking No.9

Feel free to comprehend what I said since that is your right and I’m not paranoid about forcing others to agree with me.

BTW I do appreciate your defending your girlfriend – my compatriot, even though I don’t think anything I said sounds stupid.

June 2, 2005 @ 10:02 am | Comment

Richard,

What is so intimidating about this post that you had to delete it? How come you don’t honor freedom of speech… is it because you know I was right all along and you were dead WRONG?

You should apologize of your behavior of pushing others to attack me and enabling racist atmosphere in here, instead of deleting my points below…

The common acts of racism found in this thread…

1, using negative racial stereotype to describe the entire race of people.

2, Let your daily grudge become your prejudice and hatred developed towards the entire group of people.

3, Presenting the certain different race in cruel caricature in order to belittle and ridicule them.

Should I get some examples or is it too redundant???

Posted by JR at June 1, 2005 11:51 PM

(If you are a man, you will not delete this one, unless you are a coward with inferiority and superiority complexes.)

June 2, 2005 @ 11:01 am | Comment

PS I have been focusing on talking to you because I think I knew you from years of reading your blog (most of the new commenters in this thread are brand new) and respected you as an educated gay Jewish man who knows what racism is and can do. I didn’t expect that you would delete my points instead of acknowledging others here were guilty of from political incorrect to blatant racism.

June 2, 2005 @ 11:23 am | Comment

sorry to intrude but I read all these posts, much of it v interesting, & wanted to jot down some response, and also vent just a little spleen.

Bing I think hit the nail on the head by pointing out that:
“You are in a country that has a dominant majority of a single ethnic group for thousands of years and just opened its door 20 years ago.”

And a country that despite great size and population has maintained generally speaking a “Chinese” identity for so many years … so of course there will be more patriotic and “we are chinese” sentiment that you’d expect from many other places.

So I don’t think that those posting here who’ve expressed surprise about some characteristics of Chinese people should be so surprised.

That said, the racism towards black people is gross in China.

Much of the subtext from the above posts, though, seems to have been here: “Why aren’t the Chinese more like US people?”

I met many Americans in China, mostly excellent folks, but many of them seemed amazed not so much that Chinese people were different to them, but that the Brits and the Aussies and some other Europeans too, were different from US people.

And this is where it gets ironic because China, like the US, share many characteristics: very big, convinced they are right and those who disagree are wrong or “don’t understand”, keen to dominate either the world or at least their region, believe their way of life is the best, regularly honour the national flag, & so on.

I bring this up because some of the post turned into ugly condescending China-bashing. Eg Martyn:
“It wasn’t chinese scientists and the R&D departments (are there any?) of chinese firms that “invented” mobile phones, TVs, DVDs, cars etc.”
and plenty more examples.

If people were frothing like this about my country I’d be v grumpy indeed.

Anyway, I don’t think some of the posters critical of Chinese people and sounding very aggrieved have any generosity of spirit or preparedness to make concessions, see another point of view. That’s really what I’m trying to say. And I’m not sure why they don’t.

And – bearing in mind that this all this began with a piece about whether China is a police state – surely the question is better asked thus: are those aspects of live in China that are reminiscent of a police state worth it, all for the best, a necessary evil etc etc.

Finally, and without turning into the Bing Supporters Club, I think Bing got a raw deal with the chinese girlfriend comment — of course those Chinese girls who go out with foreigners are mostly untypical or unrepresentative of average Chinese people. Bit harsh to say they don’t understand China, though.

Apologies for prolonging, thank you for patience.

June 2, 2005 @ 12:19 pm | Comment

And this is where it gets ironic because China, like the US, share many characteristics: very big, convinced they are right and those who disagree are wrong or “don’t understand”, keen to dominate either the world or at least their region, believe their way of life is the best, regularly honour the national flag, & so on.

Kelise, it’s funny you should say that – I’m an American (though truth be told I probably identify more strongly with being a Californian), and this was one of the things that struck me when I first went to China back when. It seemed so oddly perfect that I should find myself in this place, which in a weird way had more in common with where I came from than I could have possibly anticipated. And of course was at the same time so utterly and completely different (long versus short history, one dominant ethnicity/culture versus multi-ethnic, etc.).

However, I gotta ask – PLEASE don’t stereotype all Americans as being flag-waving, dominance-seeking yahoos. That ain’t me, and that isn’t most people I know and I dare say it’s not a large chunk of the American electorate either.

But as I said, I’m from California.

June 2, 2005 @ 12:56 pm | Comment

Sorry for the stereotyping, and I should say quickly that the dominance thing, that was all about the government level rather than individual citizens.
But I’m glad you like the theory about certain striking US/Chinese similarities, Lisa, — people I’ve suggested it to before always seemed rather nonplussed (whatever that means).

June 2, 2005 @ 1:29 pm | Comment

“some of the post turned into ugly condescending China-bashing.Eg. Martyn:
“It wasn’t chinese scientists and the R&D departments (are there any?) of chinese firms that “invented” mobile phones, TVs, DVDs, cars etc.”

Kelsie,

China bashing? China-bashing? How dare you accuse me of that.

I am happy to stand by that remark as being accurate. I was responding to an earlier point about the west in general being “anti-China” and wanting to “keep China down”.

My response was to say that western companies have flooded into China these last 20 years and the scale of technology transfer from the west, Japan and Taiwan has been enormous, absolutely enormous and this is hardly the behaviour of a group of nations that are conspiring to “try and keep China down”.

I don’t recall General Motors, for example, setting up joint-ventures and assembly plants in the Soviet Union.

China has recently made a quantum leap in economic terms and the technology used in your mobile phone, television, computer etc almost all came from overseas.

Would you please tell me what technology in today’s modern China is 100% Chinese-made/Chinese-invented?

This is not by any means a controversial statemment as the quest for technology transfer from the west, Japan and Taiwan has been a clearly-stated policy of the Chinese government for as long as I can remember.

Why on earth would you think that by pointing out this obvious fact I am bashing China?

June 2, 2005 @ 1:53 pm | Comment

Kelise,

thanks for the post. I’m American, and I psychoanalyse and rag on Americans more than I do on anyone else, to be honest. Just not in chinese forums. Your point is well taken though, and in the future I’ll try to be more understanding.

June 2, 2005 @ 2:31 pm | Comment

Kelise,

I meant to add in my post, though I see that Martyn has already responded, I have to say, since you singled him out by name, that Martyn does not strike me in the least as a “China basher.” His posts are well-informed and he has the perspective of many years experience in China. Generally you don’t stay that long in a place you can’t stand!

June 2, 2005 @ 3:07 pm | Comment

Martyn, I now see that what irked me from you was in fact consigned to just one of your posts, so it was unfair to single you out.

If I misinterpreted what you said about R&D as sniping at China’s economy, it was because of what you went on to say (which I should have cited if I was going to cite you at all):

— “Also, china has never had a real “friend” in history. China’s “friends” either have to accept china as the dominant side in any partnership or they end up being invaded either sooner or later.” —

I mean, is that true? North Korea for example, or Germany? Pakistan? I don’t think these countries accept China as dominant, but nor do I see the PLA in Hamburg any time soon.

So I think what you wrote there was pretty gratuitous.

June 2, 2005 @ 3:12 pm | Comment

I’m not an expert but China did quite a lot of development work in Africa during the 70s, building railroads and other infrastructure, and you had the Non-Aligned movement, an attempt to build a Third World coalition as a balance to the Cold War bipolar world. Now China is making diplomatic inroads in South America, in places like Venezuela (for oil). China is also making deals with countries like Sudan (which some may find regrettable). How close any of these relationships are I couldn’t say. But a friend of mine who recently returned from Iran said that one thing she heard frequently from Iranians was that they saw their developing relationship with China as a counterbalance against US threats.

June 2, 2005 @ 3:28 pm | Comment

hmm.. and I reckon any country which respects the one china principle, wants to open cultural exchange with PRC, and is sitting on a bunch of commodities required to fuel chinese growth … will have a new friend before it can say ni hao.

June 2, 2005 @ 3:39 pm | Comment

JR, I have asked you not to come in here and call the commenters racists. You have really morphed into a troll recently, and if I feel you are again stirring up trouble by insulting commenters here I’m entitled to delete your posts. I warned you and I asked you to stop. Please do not respond to this — I really hate it when an excellent thread is subverted by your sniping. Feel free to comment on the issues, but please stop the insults.

Kelise, I admire your ability to reconsider your assessment of Marytn as a China basher, which he isn’t. Thanks for commenting!

June 2, 2005 @ 6:26 pm | Comment

Interesting to see that Kelise falls on the side of Bing over the girlfriend’s comment. I would be interested to know what others think. Was it, or was it not, a slight against Chinese girls who date or marry foreigners?

As for the business of partnerships with China … I think it’s all a question of distance. When a country is near at hand, she always had to be in a subservient position. Even if the country itself didn’t recognise that fact, the Chinese would still apply the language of submission to their relationship. The same applies today … Koreans, Vietnamese, etc … it’s a pretty stark choice. If you’re South American on the other hand … well that’s another story, isn’t it? It’s an ancient Chinese military maxim: make alliances with those far away, and fight those close by. It was the tactic that led to Qin victory and the unification of China.

June 2, 2005 @ 9:22 pm | Comment

Oh, and I’m joining the camp of those who refuse to engage with JR. He/she is either incapable or unwilling to consider what other people say. So what’s the point of saying anything to him/her?

June 2, 2005 @ 9:27 pm | Comment

i think many chinese do have so-called “inferiority-superiority complex”, which sometimes hinders them from dealing with people from other country/culture in a proper way

but i am very disappointed to see how JR (not his views) was treated by other commentators here. the way he is treated reminds me some bad experiences in forums full of super nationalists …

June 3, 2005 @ 4:47 am | Comment

Thank you for reconsidering my words re technology transfer to China. Still, I must say that China (same as anywhere else) is not above scrutiny and just because someone chooses to mention something that doesn’t put China in the best light it doesn’t make them “anit-China” or “China-bashers”.

It’s easy to side-step any unpleasant issue by pointing the finger and accusing someone of hating China.

Re the lack of R&D depts in Chinese companies (and I have personally visited hundreds of Chinese companies in my working life in the PRC). Again, it’s clearly stated aim that China will “learn from the west” and not waste US$ millions on the reseaching of new technology. Before China can research new technology it has to have a full repertoire of existing technology first. Stands to reason.

My comment regarding “China has had no real friemds” is perfectly accurate. (I wasn’t referring to current diplomatic relationships with the PRC which is less than 60 years old in any case and the first 30 years of that consisted of a foreign policy dominated by ‘world revolution’ and Maoism which I’m sure you wouldn’t want to dicuss).

Within history, as FSNo9 partially pointed above, The Middle Kingdom has traditionally placed itself in the middle of it’s political and cultural world as the uniquivical leader and has never accepted equal terms with any other nation. If this is untrue, please provide examples.

Ask the Koreans, Vietnamese, Tibetans, Central Asians, Southeast Asians, etc. etc.

Traditional (as opposed to “modern”) Chinese nationalism advocated what some term Han chauvinism, i.e. the belief that Han culture is superior to other cultures in East Asia.

The Chinese emperor was thought as being a “divine appointee” with a universal mandate from heaven. “Just as there are not two suns in the sky, so there cannot be two emporers on earth” (Confucius Chapter 7 and also Mencius but I don’t remember the chapter).

Traditionally, the Chinese viewed other countries (not part of “China proper”) as tributary states of their empire. This was demanded from all surrounding nations and tribes.

Traditional Chinese nationalism was also rooted in a belief in the superiority of Chinese civilization and this, in turn, justified China’s cultural and demographic domination in it’s known world.

On such a basis, “equal” relations with other nations was entirely unacceptable.

For much of the last century, for example, the European nations existed in a world of shifting military alliances but these alliances were always between equal nations. The same cannot be said of the Chinese civilisation.

Vietnam, is probably the best example of traditional Chinese foreign policy if you like. From around 200BC right up to 938AD when Ngo Quyen set up an independent Vietnamese state (the country which China still, to this day calls “South Yue”) it suffered incursions and agression from China.

Don’t take my word for it, go to Vietnam and you’ll see all the statues in towns and cities, such as those of the Trung sisters, who fought against 1,000 years of Chinese agression.

What was the reason for the continued agression? Because at various times, the hostile Vietnamese refused to take part in the tribute system and fought against sinification.

Mind you, Kelsie, even though you picked out my post from 200+ (I wish I enjoyed this kind of luck when I play the lottery) I thank you for improving this thread with your worthwhile contribution and I’d welcome you to contribute more in the future.

June 3, 2005 @ 7:00 am | Comment

“Ask the Koreans, Vietnamese, Tibetans, Central Asians, Southeast Asians, etc. etc.”

The third time I ask the same question: have all the coutries you listed had ever had an equal friend in history? Would you bother giving an answer please?

In history, the equality between countries was established on the national strength rather than anything else.

With great disparity of national strength, I don’t believe there could be equality between countries at all, in history.

June 3, 2005 @ 7:46 am | Comment

“For much of the last century, for example, the European nations existed in a world of shifting military alliances but these alliances were always between equal nations. The same cannot be said of the Chinese civilisation. ”

What is your definition for “equal nation”?

Yes, there were the military alliances of Europe. There was also military alliances between China and Korean against Japan.

I’m quite interested in how you can tell the difference between those two?

June 3, 2005 @ 7:53 am | Comment

And there was milliary alliance between China and Vietnam too, against French in late Qing, and against USA, in 60s.

Using words like “any”, “perfectly” does add emphasis but doesn’t strenghth your argument.

“The Chinese emperor was thought as being a “divine appointee” with a universal mandate from heaven. “Just as there are not two suns in the sky, so there cannot be two emporers on earth” (Confucius Chapter 7 and also Mencius but I don’t remember the chapter).”

Many kings of Vietnam were actually exiled Chinese nobles who regarded themselves the true heirs of Chinese emperors and copied Chinese stuff from Confucianism to Chinese language.

As to the emperors of Japan, do a bit research you will know they regard themselves nothing less than those of China.

June 3, 2005 @ 8:29 am | Comment

I didn’t want to say anything about that China bashing because of what kelise has said. His comment might not be accurate, but nor is yours.

“I don’t recall General Motors, for example, setting up joint-ventures and assembly plants in the Soviet Union.”

There are USA companies setting up joint-ventures and assembly plants in Russia, are there? And I don’t recall General Motors, for example, setting up joint-ventures and assembly plants in pre-Market-Economy China either.

I don’t want to give other examples since JR has done some work, though not in a best way.

I have no problem with you and others criticising China, but sometimes I do feel uncomfortable in the way you and others express your arguments.

That’s perfectly fine if you guys don’t bother what Chinese think about your discussion, if to some extent you do, I have to say, many sentiments displayed in this thread won’t make many Chinese calm enough to think your good intention.

June 3, 2005 @ 8:58 am | Comment

“many sentiments displayed in this thread won’t make many Chinese calm enough to think your good intention.”

I second that. But on the other hand, it is very difficult for both sides to be 100% unbiased. Chinese culture, to us, is our mother culture, but it is mearly an interesting culture for others. This is not to say that they won’t be able to understand it. They sometimes understand it better than us because of the lack of emotional baggage.

It might be constructive to think about how and why China and Chinese culture are be viewed like this. Is Chinese culture is still relevant today?

June 3, 2005 @ 10:04 am | Comment

I replied to your post bing but it was rejected by the site. I’ve emailed it to Richard. Hopefully he’ll post it here when he awakes.

Thanks.

June 3, 2005 @ 10:53 am | Comment

“Ask the Koreans, Vietnamese, Tibetans, Central Aans, Southeast Asians, etc. etc.” – Martyn

“The third time I ask the same question: have all the coutries you listed had ever had an equal friend in
history? Would you bother giving an answer please?” -
bing

You’ve slightly lost me with this question. My point
above was that the Middle Kingdom has traditionally
not accepted “equality” as the basis of it’s foreign
policy (actually the term ‘foreign policy’ isn’t
accurate but there you go.

“In history, the equality between countries was
established on the national strength rather than
anything else.” – bing

Again, you’re missing my main point, the Middle
Kingdom never thought of itself as a ‘country’, or one
‘country’ among many countries in it’s known world.

“With great disparity of national strength, I don’t
believe there could be equality between countries at
all, in history.” – bing

Again, missing the point. I’m not debating the point
you raise, I’m saying that China proper viewed itself
as the Middle Kingdom, the Celestial Empire with an
divine emperor wihc ruled all under heaven (Tian Xia).

For hundreds of years the peoples in what is now Xin
Jiang and Tibet threatened China proper amd were
militarily stronger than the Middle Kingdom, causing,
for example Chinese princesses to be sent off to marry
Tibetan lords in order to thwart the threat of Tibetan
domination of China proper (why do I have a feeling
that I will have to explain this one?).

“What is your definition for “equal nation”?” – bing

I’m not raising the issue of what is an equal nation
but I’d define what you ask as two nations which treat
each other on equal terms and respect each other
equally as a political entity.

“Yes, there were the military alliances of Europe.
There was also military alliances between China and
Korean against Japan.

I’m quite interested in how you can tell the
difference between those two?” – bing

I actually mis-typed here. I should have wrote
‘milleniana’ not ‘century’of shifting European
alliances.

I was referrring to “traditional” or at least pre-20th
century China.

“As to the emperors of Japan, do a bit research you
will know they regard themselves nothing less than
those of China” – bing

I accept this but a “they do it as well” argument
doesn’t change my point.

“I don’t recall General Motors, for example, setting
up joint-ventures and assembly plants in the Soviet
Union.” – Martyn

“There are USA companies setting up joint-ventures and
assembly plants in Russia, are there?”

Yes but I was talking about the Soviet Union not
Russia.

“And I don’t recall General Motors, for example,
setting up joint-ventures and assembly plants in
pre-Market-Economy China either.” – bing

The Chinese govt wouldn’t have allowed it, they were
still trying to build socialism.

Bing my friend, you might be uncomfortable with how
some people express their arguments but isn’t a polite
exchange of views between different people a good
thing?

I, for one, find China a fascinating country with an
equally fascinating history, it’s as simple as that. I
talk about what I know and if you or anyone else want
to dispute that or add another opinion then I welcome
it (as above).

Yang:

You make a great point, perhaps the best point in the
entire thread. Thank you.

By the way, how come I get singled out among 200+
comments? Thanks for your kind words Lisa and Richard,
much appreciated.

I need a beer.

June 3, 2005 @ 11:07 am | Comment

FYI

“I was referrring to “traditional” or at least pre-20th century China.”

Yes, me too.

The alliance of Chinese Tang dynasty and Ferghana against Arabs in Battle of Talas River

The alliance of Chinese Tang dynasty and Korean Shilla Dynasty against Japan in Korea

The alliance of Chinese Song dynasty and Mongolia aginst Jin dynasty (the worst alliance China has ever had)

The alliance of Chinese and Vietnam against French in 1884

And there are quite a few of examples out there.

June 3, 2005 @ 11:51 am | Comment

Martyn, you wrote: “By the way, how come I get singled out among 200+ comments?”

yep okay sorry, so much of what you’ve written is decent & measured and there would have been far many far better examples for me to cut
and pasted to have backed up what I was trying to say.

Actually I’m embarassed to have “picked on you”, though without a doubt being picked on as it were by me is I hope very very easy to shrug off.

Nevertheless, nevertheless, having got into a dispute, I do have these things to say:

Here’s a scenario:

“Person A says “I criticise China and say China does this bad thing …

“Person B relies “Ah yes, but — in mitigation — the US or Japan or Iceland did *this* bad thing…

Well there are two ways to view what “B” says.
The first is: we’re not the only bastards around so give us a break.
This is clearly bollocks.

But the second interpretation is more persuasive: Wake up & smell the coffee, live in the real world, criticise what is wrong with China but put it in context.

And I don’t feel that some of the comments about China have really put things in the proper context.

For example, going back to what Martyn has been writing about China’s diplomatic (as it were!) history — and some of this is fascinating stuff Martyn — I don’t see how China’s behaviour to its neighbours is any worse than every other country that has been strong.

Surely de Gaulle’s comment about countries not having friends, but having interests, springs to mind.
EVERY country acts like China acts in this respect.
For centuries England always made sure that no two large power blocs in Europe ever united.

Or the US and its Monroe doctrine, stating that the US was to have sole influence across the entire Americas and use that influence to strengthen itself.

I don’t want to go all US bashing! but … Martyn, you said that:

– “China proper viewed itself as the Middle Kingdom, the Celestial Empire with an divine emperor which ruled all under heaven –.

Well in the past the French etc thought they were bringing civilisation etc to places that needed it in their colonial past.

The Brits thought the same.

And the US in the past in its history and founding believed North America was a blank slate empty book prepared by god for the founding fathers to move to and live in and develop and take over and build as close as possible to heaven on earth, that god was behind & in favour of the US.

Yes it’s galling when criticisms of Chinese foulness are brushed off with “you’re just as bad”.

But very often you/we are just as bad, and to make the initial condemnations without acknowledging that is likely to fire people up.

To say how bad China has been to other countries, is mostly true, but, as I say, most if not all other countries you can name that have been strong have bullied or slaughtered their way to power … and Martyn, not to acknowledge this gives the impression that you expect China to behave far better than any other country ever has.

Ie it seems you are being unfair to China.

Furthermore it ignores what I think is crucial (although very probably it has been discussed to death elsewhere which is why no one
is picking it up):

is it worth one person being imprisoned for ten years so that 10 people don’t starve.

And, second, is that trade-off / scenario in any way comparable to the human rights situation in CHina today?

Again, apologies for length.

June 3, 2005 @ 5:56 pm | Comment

PS please tell me if I am “trolling” — I really hope not. I have never posted to a blog before this one.

June 3, 2005 @ 6:02 pm | Comment

Ke Li Se,

I don’t think you’re trolling.

I think bringing up Country B’s misdeeds in response to Country A’s can be relevant or irrelevant depending on context and how it’s done. If it’s simply a way to excuse Country A (“EVERYBODY does it!”), then I tend to think it’s irrelevant. If it’s a comparison that enlightens, then it’s part of a reasoned discussion. And we all like those, right?

June 3, 2005 @ 6:52 pm | Comment

Agreed – keep commenting.

June 3, 2005 @ 6:56 pm | Comment

bing – I cede your point re pragmatic alliances in China’s history. Point well made. Chinese civilisation, throughout vast tracts of it’s history was a polyglot of polictical and tribal divisions where shifting alliances were commonplace. Admirable historical knowledge my friend.

Ke li se – You’re not trolling, you’re making an articulate and worhtwhile contribution to this thread.

I can’t answer all your points as I’d be repeating myself. However, I want to address one general point in particular.

I still get the impression that you feel I am being unfair/picking on China and this is not my intention. Sure, I could now discuss Germany’s, France’s or Russia’s histories (though I don’t think Peking Duck is the place for that) but I’m not, I’m talking about China.

I want to reiterate an earlier point *Yang* made which didn’t get the attention it deserved:

“…it is very difficult for both sides to be 100% unbiased. Chinese culture, to us, is our mother culture, but it is mearly an interesting culture for others. This is not to say that they won’t be able to understand it. They sometimes understand it better than us because of the lack of emotional baggage.”

Yang has stepped back here and provided a lateral view of this entire discourse….and, as we all know, that’s often not easy.

But what I was saying about the Middle Kingdom is far from controversial, you can find this in countless offical histories of China and in Chinese schoolbooks. I feel that I’m using 2,000 words when 20 should suffice.

I want to address two of your points Ke Li Se.

– “China proper viewed itself as the Middle Kingdom, the Celestial Empire with an divine emperor which ruled all under heaven” — Martyn.

“Well in the past the French etc thought they were bringing civilisation etc to places that needed it in their colonial past. The Brits thought the same.” – ke li sa

You’re right, but it doesn’t change the point I’m making about the Middle Kingdom.

“To say how bad China has been to other countries, is mostly true, but, as I say, most if not all other countries you can name that have been strong have bullied or slaughtered their way to power … and Martyn, not to acknowledge this gives the impression that you expect China to behave far better than any other country ever has.”

Again, as I mentioned above, I am allowed to point out part of China’s history without having to point out similar comparisons with any or all other nations.

Hundreds of nations and civilisations have bullied and slaughtered but, for now, I’m discussing China.

Re Vietnam, I deliberately didn’t mention what Vietnamese schoolchildren learn in their history lessons as I wanted to tone down my comments.

I provided Vietnam as as example of a nation being on China’s periphery and how China’s view of Vietnam differs greatly from the Vietnamese view.

I’ve been fortunate enought to spend a great deal of time in Vietnam and I am always shocked at how much ‘constant war with China defines’ what it is to be Vietnamese. Hundreds of generations of Vietnamese knew nothing else but war with China.

They were honing their guerilla warfare skills more than 2,000 years before the French and then the US entered the country.

China proper swallowed up the northern and eastern parts of the Kingdom of Yue in the 12 and 1300′s (Guangxi, Yunnan and Guangdong).

But I digress.

June 3, 2005 @ 11:44 pm | Comment

I just remembered a story my friend MArtin told me which seems to illustrate the differences in which Chinese and non-Chinese view history.

Several years ago he attended a lecture at Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents CLub about ancient Vietnamese musical instruments (ok, I have sad friends).

Anyway, during the lecture the bloke speaking pulled out a genuine Vietnamese drum from the 6th century AD.

At this point, a group of mainland academics stood up and in unison pointed out that, as Vietnam was under nominal Chinese control in the 6th century, they were all looking at a Chinese drum and not a Vietnamese drum.

The lecturer explained that while Vietnam had been subject to Chinese influence at various points in history and Vietnamese culture, in turn, had received Chinese cultural influences etc, it retained a distinct Vietnamese national identity and it was preposterous to say that this drum was Chinese.

At this, the mainland academics through a total fit and agressively accused everyone present of being “anti-China” and “refusing to accept historical truths” and that “foreigners had no right to decide whether the drum was Chinese or Vietnamese.” etc etc.

TO the foreigners present, the mainlander’s arguments were bordering on ludicrous but to the mainlanders the non-Chinese way of thinking was equally preposterous.

June 4, 2005 @ 12:13 am | Comment

I personally find nothing sad about an interest in Vietnamese drums…

June 4, 2005 @ 1:10 am | Comment

Ha ha. Point taken!

Sorry if I offended!

June 4, 2005 @ 1:53 am | Comment

Regarding the drum story, yes, I can see that happening.

It’s sometimes unfortunate that some Chines epeople are so belligerent when they hear an opposing point of view.

June 4, 2005 @ 2:17 am | Comment

The durm story, that may happen, I agree.

Even though, he has the knowledge to disagree with you, accusing others of anti-China for disgreeing with him is rude and make him riduculous.

June 4, 2005 @ 4:14 am | Comment

I appreciate the comments bing.

Re the drum story, I’m inclined to think that it was a rather unfortunate group of Chinese academics who chose to attend that particular lecture and, although we can all imagine it happening, it wasn’t necessarily representative of mainlanders in general.

At least that’s what I remember saying to Martin when he told me of it. At the time, my girlfriend was present and she doesn’t speak English so we were talking in Chinese, and my girlfriend’s view on the story was something along the lines of…some Chinese academics have their heads so up their own ars*s, that she wouldn’t put anykind of hu shuo ba dao past some of them.

“Good point” I remember thinking!

June 4, 2005 @ 5:02 am | Comment

By the way: “have their heads so far up their own ars*s…”

I can’t imagine where she gets these phrases from…

June 4, 2005 @ 5:14 am | Comment

This thread will surpass 250 posts. I’ve never seen the like on any blog before. It’s a frightening amount of posts. Although I think Peking Duck is now more than simply just a blog, it’s a way of life!

When are the Peking Duck T-Shirts going to get printed up and sold online Richard? Put me down for one extra small size please. I remember seeing an article that said certain web-site’s have made a mint from selling T-Shirts online.

Get your friends to print them up in China and there you go! A nice little slush fund for your China travels!

Is this 246+ thread a Peking Duck record Richard?

June 4, 2005 @ 5:43 am | Comment

Zoe, yes it’s a new record. As for t-shirts and coffee mugs, I only wish! If I could figure out how to make some money with this site I’d be able to post fulltime. Maybe one day I’ll put up a PayPal donation link, but I don’t think I’m there yet.

This thread will certainly peter out as it gets pushed off the front page, but it was pretty amazing while it lasted.

June 4, 2005 @ 11:39 am | Comment

Richard, you can make T-shirts, mugs and so on at Cafe Press without upfront money (at least I think that’s how it works). I would like my very own Peking Duck T-shirt & mug!

June 4, 2005 @ 12:41 pm | Comment

Thanks Lisa, let me think about it. I’m confident about writing, but far less confident when it comes to commerce (which explains why I’m so poor).

June 4, 2005 @ 12:45 pm | Comment

250. :-P

Richard – I can only aspire to be able to host such a volume of dialogue on my blog. You’re site is fantastic. Nice job!

June 4, 2005 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

To support Martyn’s point: there is something fundementally different about the way imperial China regarded foreign relations, and those of any of the other examples cited here to challenge him. Just go and read Qianlong’s letter to King George in the late 1700s, in response to the Macartney mission … which was either an attempt to open diplomatic relations and trade, or a tribute mission, depending whether you lived in London or Beijing.

June 5, 2005 @ 3:11 am | Comment

Oh, and if we’ve lost a JR and gained a Yang, then I think it’s a win win situation. I don’t have sympathy for JR … he/she made himself a target for attack by saying outrageous things, and refusing to listen to explanations when they were offered.

June 5, 2005 @ 3:13 am | Comment

Oh yes, I forgot one more point. I hope people are still reading this thread!

Earlier, I commented about the absence of people who are white on the outside, but yellow on the inside (opposite of a banana). (Anyone know of an object like that???).

I realised that actually, there was a community of people in China that really did fit the bill. The Harbinski’s … white Russians, living in Harbin. They fled the Russian revolution, and there was a substantial population of them in Heilongjiang, many of whom were born in China. There were also many mixed marriages. My girlfriend’s parents and grandparents talk about what a multicultural place Harbin used to be, with regret in their voices. That all changed, when Mao made the decision to expell them. A lot of them ended up in HK, and subsequently Australia. There are lots of Russian style buildings in Harbin … but there used to be a lot more. My girlfriend’s mother remembers watching as the red guards tore down her favourite building, a beautiful onion dome church.

So did China turn away from being an open culture within living memory? On the other hand, was it necessary for the Chinese to throw off the anchor of cultural cringe, before they could indeed “stand up”? The first half of the 20th Century was a time when the Chinese were desperate for ideas from the outside … for all the good it did them. Only when a peasant uprising brought a new dynasty to power in 1949, did China begin to re-emerge from its dark valley. Maybe there really are ways suitable for ruling China that can only be learned by looking to China’s past?

Oh, and one fascinating comment I heard recently from a Chinese person: “thank god Mao’s son was killed in the Korean war. Otherwise, we’d be on to the third or fourth generation of Chairmen Mao by now.”

June 5, 2005 @ 3:33 am | Comment

It’s an egg. that’s what it is, FSN9. An Egg

June 5, 2005 @ 7:01 am | Comment

FS9, it’s interesting that you mention the Macartney mission and the Chinese attitude then — because the attitude now is completely different, recognising a technology deficit etc (as Martyn said).
suggests centuries old Chinese foreign policy is not necessarily a great guide to policy today.

Laowai, thankyou, I’d always wondered about the opposite of a banana, now I know!

June 5, 2005 @ 9:20 am | Comment

Laowai — why didn’t we think of that?? Of course – an egg!!

Ke Li Se, I think FSN9 said she was referring to Imperial China, not modern China. And Westerners can still learn a lot about by studying the McCartney mission. Sure the attitude has changed, but some if it is alive and well, I believe.

June 5, 2005 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

An egg! Brilliant! I’m in your debt.

June 5, 2005 @ 11:11 pm | Comment

FSNo9: I thought of the Qing Emperor’s “O king, we have no need of your country’s manufactures….etc” letter to McCarthy but I thought my above posts were already far too long.

I remember a story from the 1840′s (unfortunatley I can’t remember any of the names of the people) but after the Qing Imperial Govt prohibited foreigners from trading up river in Guangzhou the head of a Britsh trading company (I think either Jardines or East India) wrote a polite letter to the Imperial Governer of Guangdong asking him if he could intercede between the “two countries” and help to “resolve the existing dispute”.

The governer replied by saying that he would be happy to do so and assumed that one of the countries in question was Great Britain but politely asked which was the 2nd of the “two countries” that he was referring to….

The governer never thought that the “other country” was in fact China. He couldn’t, in his own mind, think of China as simply another country like Britain.

Laowai1979: an egg! You clever so-and-so. It’s pretty obvious when you know the answer. Good work my friend.

Ke Li Se:

You rightly said that looking at current Chinese govt policies “suggests centuries old Chinese foreign policy is not necessarily a great guide to policy today.”

I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think anyone was suggesting that it was.

Ke Li Se, I’m really hoping that you continue to comment on other threads as, I for one, much appreciate your comments.

Thanks.

June 6, 2005 @ 10:39 am | Comment

thank you Martyn that’s very gracious of you bearing in mind that your number came up so to speak (continuing the lottery analogy you suggested) in my very first post.

re eggs, richard do you think your excellent site numbers many eggs among its readership?
or how about honorary eggs? — can people grow a yolk after just a few years living in the PRC?

June 6, 2005 @ 3:00 pm | Comment

Very funny, ke li se! I’ll have to do a survey asking readers if they’d describe themselves as Eggs or Bananas.

June 6, 2005 @ 3:06 pm | Comment

Is there something between egg and banana?

June 6, 2005 @ 5:45 pm | Comment

Scrambled egg, maybe??

June 6, 2005 @ 6:14 pm | Comment

or green banana

June 6, 2005 @ 6:25 pm | Comment

What’s a green banana? Isn’t Africa represented by the colour green in the Olympic circles? So is a green banana a westernised african? :-P

June 7, 2005 @ 12:22 am | Comment

It’s unfair to pigeon-hole all eggs into one basket. Eggs are diverse and we should celebrate the differences, we’re not fascists here after all.

Raw, soft and hard-boiled, scrambled and rotten? Not to mention 1,000 year-old eggs (I’m not even thinking of Other Lisa, honest).

Put me down as very lightly scrambled please Richard. Cracked, beaten with chopsticks and thrown into the hot fat. Feels like it sometimes.

By the way, Ke Li Se. Long-term China residents will certainly talk amongst ourselves (be it on Peking Duck or in the local pub) about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of China BUT when we are in our own countries or out of China, we find ourselves becoming “hard-boiled eggs” when confronted with ignorant (about China) people who criticise and talk down China.

Under these circumstances, you might be surprised to know that we almost always comes to China’s defence and become true hard-boiled eggs.

I’ll gladly listen to most things a long-term China resident has to say but I won’t put up with any rubbish from people who don’t know and don’t understand China. This is very true.

June 7, 2005 @ 3:36 am | Comment

Oh, I wanted to ask … can you give me a reference, or even a decent nudge in the right direction for where I can find the record of that interaction between the British company and the governor of Guangdong?

I’d be much in your debt Martyn.

June 7, 2005 @ 8:38 am | Comment

I’ll see what I can do mate. I’m pretty sure it’s in one of my books. Bear with me.

June 7, 2005 @ 9:41 am | Comment

ooooh, I’m trying to decide what to do with that Thousand Year Egg comment…grumble…I am still in the most desired consumer demographic, thank you very much!

June 7, 2005 @ 11:14 am | Comment

Martyn, that is ingenious. But is this thread ever going to die?

June 7, 2005 @ 11:23 am | Comment

Martyn, you forgot over easy.

June 7, 2005 @ 2:55 pm | Comment

doubtless someone will make one bad yolk too many and it’ll all stop there. an oeuf’s an oeuf.

June 7, 2005 @ 2:56 pm | Comment

AH!

Death by pun. X{

June 7, 2005 @ 6:48 pm | Comment

Just to keep the thread going … the albimum in an egg (the egg white), and the an album you put photos into … are based on the Latin word for “white” … because they’re both white. dah dah.

Useful fact for the day No.1 brought to you by the people at the Filthy Factory.

June 7, 2005 @ 7:32 pm | Comment

and…and…what about egg whites only?????

June 7, 2005 @ 9:19 pm | Comment

Hey I thought you’d be the last one to want this thtread to die Richard?!

90% of bloggers would give their right arm for this many posts in a month.

Hmmm, suddenly the word “blog” doesn’t sound right. I think Peking Duck is not just a blog anymore.

What is it then? A China news digest and online community?

When are the t-shirts going on sale then?

If you’re putting a messsage or slogan on the shirt you should have a competition on the site for the best slogan. Winner recieves a couple of free shirts.

June 7, 2005 @ 11:38 pm | Comment

T-Shirts? Great idea. I like the idea of being able to support one of my fav websites and also having a t-shirt that I know I won’t see other people wearing when I go out.

So are they going to go on sale or is Richard thinking about it or what?

June 8, 2005 @ 3:25 am | Comment

Don’t forget that if the shirt had an English and Chinese slogan, the two don’t necessarily have to be the same because what might be a cool slogan in English might translate poorly in Chinese and vica-versa.

Also, the Chinese slogan could be one that might prick the interest of curious mainlanders (I’ll be wearing mine around Beijing) because I think we’re always going to be short of the valuable views of PRC residents.

Hey, just look what kind of debate gets started when you have great commentors like bing and Ke Li Se above.

Richard, let me know if you require advance orders first to pay for the shirts. I’ll take three if they’re US$20 or less.

June 8, 2005 @ 3:31 am | Comment

Hmmm, I see that the t-shirts idea is gathering momentum. The mob rules Richard, the mob rules!

Just thinking aloud but I think we need someone who has had t-shirts printed up (China would be cheapest I think) before and could pass on a contact or two onto you.

Also thinking aloud, I’m about to order Jung Chang’s new book about Mao via Amazon UK. I’ve noticed that certain websites have the Amazon link with the message “please support this site–order your Amazon books via our link”.

Therefore, why don’t you set up an Amazon account/link (I don’t know how it works) and allow your readers the opportunity of supporting our Peking Duck is they are so inclined.

There’s always several good China books released each month, I know that I order about 20-30 books per year via Amazon.

You could use any profits to update soft/hardware and make the site even better so it’s a win-win situation for everybody!

Anyone else think it a good idea?

June 8, 2005 @ 4:04 am | Comment

First time I have posted on PD but I have read the site for months now.

The Amazon link idea is a good one as it is a no-lose situation for Richard.

I would also be interested in a tshirt certainly.

June 8, 2005 @ 4:50 am | Comment

Zoe:

Both good ideas. T-shirts would require a bit of work though but the Amazon link would, I assume, only require setting up some kind of agent account. I would happily order my Amazon books via this site rather than direct because the prices are the same anyway. Also, an Amazon link may at least pay for the site and it’s bandwidth. Less chance of you doing a Adam/Conrad Richard! God forbid that Peking Duck should ever stop. Now that is frightening.

June 8, 2005 @ 5:08 am | Comment

You could even have a separate link on Peking Duck for all the latest China books, US political books, World current affairs, endless options. We readers could chip in the odd review/rating and leave our comments. It would be nice to have a OneStopShop for all the latest China/world affairs books. The more I think about it the more I like it. It would save me trawling through Amazon.

June 8, 2005 @ 5:13 am | Comment

Richard, this could all end up a lot of work for you (as if what you’re doing now isn’t), but I’d gladly contribute book reviews and such. And the Amazon link I believe is very easy to do, and I’ve seen some pretty small websites that have it.

Of course there’s google Adsense and that kind of thing, but I’m not sure if you want to get into that. You can also get just a google search link on your site, which I think is kind of cool…

And put me down for a T-shirt, of course. Though you can certainly do them cheaper in China, my choice for shirts is always American Apparel. They are based in LA, they are a non-sweatshop business, pay well, with benefits AND their T-shirts are really high quality and cute. I think Cafe Press might use them…

Say, maybe you can put a permalink to this thread: “The Thread That Wouldn’t Die!”

June 8, 2005 @ 10:33 am | Comment

I love the idea of having a book comment page. Are we talking about having a link to the latest China books where we can leave comments and such. That would be groovy. I go through China books like there is no tomorrow and I would love to see Lisa, Shanghai Slim, Filthy etc’s comments about the books they have read as they are knowledgable about China.

About the Amazon link, yes, go for it. I’ll switch over to ordering through peking duck no problem.

June 8, 2005 @ 11:35 am | Comment

Of course the tshirt idea is cool with me but as lisa says, I don’t want to put extra work onto richard. Just wanted to add that.

June 8, 2005 @ 11:39 am | Comment

A book review and comment section on this site would be brilliant. I do not think it would be too much work, just do a link to any new book you fancy and provide a place for comments…er…and that’s it.

I’m reading China Inc. at the moment, great read but I’ll be getting JungChang’s Mao book soon as well. ANy other good China book recomendations would be appreciated.

June 8, 2005 @ 11:53 am | Comment

I didn’t believe what I was seeing until I opened the comments box.

Two hundred and eighty five comments on ONE THREAD? TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIVE COMMENTS?

What on earth is going on Richard?!?!? How can any website have 285 comments for a single post? The one below it has 171 as well.

GREAT WORK MAN.

June 8, 2005 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

How many blogs can boast that they have 285 comments on a single thread I wonder? Outstanding.

June 8, 2005 @ 1:44 pm | Comment

There’s no doubt this thread has assumed a bizarre life of its own. I have no idea why, but it’s been fun watching it grow.

About the t-shirt and Amazon ideas suggested earlier — I am definitely interested, and will try to pursue on the weekend. I just have to figure out where to begin….

June 8, 2005 @ 2:28 pm | Comment

t-shirts: well Richard there is this massive textile war brewing between china and the west — maybe your choice of manufacturer will be the first shot fired.

the books thing sounds excellent, not just from the review side of things, but I would find it very helpful to be alerted to new chinese books people think might be of interest — even if just bare bones title & author.

speaking of books, I began reading the Jung Chang biog of Mao, not far in but it will be a sick read. none of the reviews have made any objective judgement about how capable and reputable the authors (her & her husband) are but they’ve got a bunch of scoops and a very very long list of sources.

finally mike it seems you think I’m chinese, in fact the KE LI SE name was just a pseudonym based on a tweaked chinese version of my english name. it sounds daft now but I didn’t expect to mislead anyone, just hesitant to offer a hostage to fortune by on the record comments.

maybe this sounds silly but I’m not that comfortable posting with my real name every time. am I being stupid or unethical or ill etiquetted? please advise.

June 8, 2005 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

KLS, whatever you’re comfortable with is fine. As long as you use the same name so we know who you are.

And let us know what you think of the Jung Chang bio of Mao.

June 8, 2005 @ 2:48 pm | Comment

Ha, I see that this thread is still alive and well.

Oh dear, an oeuf definitely is an oeuf of that sort of thing KLS. Please come back and tell us what the Mao book is like when you’ve read a bit more if you don’t mind.

Lisa, your envious democratic group and the fact that you reside in LA gives you a clear moral victory out of the 1,000 year egg incident!

FSN9: I’m still trawling through my books re that letter story. Bear with me.

I’d also like to add that I think the idea about book threads/reviews sounds fantastic. I imagine books like Ross Terrill’s The New Chinese Empire would create a firestorm of a debate.

However, word of warning. Many books such as Terrill’s are actually banned in China. I wouldn’t want any book threads drawing more attention from the nanny. Still, I think everything will get back to normal soon re the nanny’s attention.

Richard’s Book Club, Book of the Month. Oh my, Richard is going to be the new Oprah of the China blogasphere! I feel that we’re at the start of something big here!

An Amazon link would be cool (I tend to order books through Amazon UK as well) and I think it would be such a low-key optional extra that it wouldn’t change the feel of the site which I think is absolutely critical.

June 9, 2005 @ 3:42 am | Comment

Martyn … I’ll keep checking back on this thread to see the book reference … and incidentally help the comments reach 300.

Richard … I think that a big part of the reason that this thread (and the last) grew so huge is that you took some time off doing other things, and didn’t post for a while. As a result, people started persuing all their discussions in just a couple of threads … and that’s what gave them such a life on their own. It has been a little frustrating for me, having to check through 3 threads to make sure I’m keeping up on discussion of the Chinese defector, for example. I’d be the last one to wish that you lost interest in blogging and posted less often … but at the same time, an occasional break doesn’t seem to hurt, as long as it’s not too long, and the existing posts are good enough to generate discussion. So, I wouldn’t feel guilty if you feel like taking some time off.

June 9, 2005 @ 8:32 am | Comment

Interesting point, FSN9. Maybe I should take a vacation…

June 9, 2005 @ 9:29 am | Comment

FSN9, what you just said about long threads and Richard taking time off is interesting. I think you’ve hit on something.

I personally prefer to see a thread develop into a long and interesting debate. Although I think that all the recent v-e-r-y long threads were fantastic, really good to read, perhaps they were a tad too long as they inevitably developed a life of their own, like this one.

Anyway, what I’m saying is, perhaps too many posts prevent/don’t allow the kind of fine debates that we’ve been seeing recently?

Just a thought.

June 9, 2005 @ 10:05 am | Comment

Well, some of the heavily traveled political blogs post an “open thread” for daily discussion…what do you think about something like that?

Plus we just can’t let this thread die!

June 9, 2005 @ 10:34 am | Comment

p.s. I would never suggest that Richard post less (even though he has beaten me to the punch of soooo many stories I’d intended to blog…I’d been saving that CR Museum story for after 6 & 4, dang it)…but maybe there is some way to combine related topics (e.g., the Australian defector story) so that discussion can take place in the same area?

Don’t you love how we’re suggesting all this work for you, Richard?!

June 9, 2005 @ 11:25 am | Comment

I appreciate all the suggestions, Lisa. I do have a fulltime job aside from this site, so I don’t know if or when I’ll find the time to make all these changes….

June 9, 2005 @ 11:28 am | Comment

Having a full-time job myself, I don’t know how you manage to do as much as you do on this site, quite frankly…

June 9, 2005 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

I suppose if richard you post on one topic one day and that generates plenty of comments; and then you post another entry a few days later on the same subject, perhaps it’s possible to direct the comments on the second post to the first?

but what you put up on your site in general … “resource” is a overused businesspeak word … nevertheless I’m v grateful that you do put stuff up that I probably wouldn’t have the time or be able to find myself … pls keep going!!

I’m curious what your fulltime job is, don’t mean to pry but perhaps it’s a natural curiosity to ask qs about one’s host.

June 9, 2005 @ 2:58 pm | Comment

Is there only ONE Richard?

300

June 9, 2005 @ 5:35 pm | Comment

No, just one.

June 9, 2005 @ 5:43 pm | Comment

Tell us what your full time job is first kls……..

June 10, 2005 @ 6:04 am | Comment

That’s not what I wanted to say. What’s going on here then? Some sort of secret meeting place?

Please mark me as a *Yes* for a book thread/s and *Yes* for Amazon hyperlink. Is that what we’re talking about here?

June 10, 2005 @ 6:08 am | Comment

Oh, and a *yes* for Richard as the new Oprah!

June 10, 2005 @ 8:21 am | Comment

We’re trying to see just how long this thread can get. I was going to give Richard the last word but you John have kept it alive….ALIVE!!!!

I don’t know what we’ll do when it drops off the front page….

June 10, 2005 @ 10:38 am | Comment

The new Oprah? I’ve been called many things, but that’s a first.

KLS, not sure I answered you – I am a former news reporter and now a “public relations executive,” a most dubious honor.

Lisa, I’m thinking about your open thread suggestion. I always thought that was for the superbloggers like Atrios and Kos. My fear is I’ll open a thread, no one will comment and I’ll look like a moron.

June 10, 2005 @ 10:56 am | Comment

Ha ha, look like a moron indeed. I see that the thread about FLG has already hit 100 and I just commented on a 50+ thread about Chen/Aus.

I’m not sure what this open thread is exactly, perhaps I should pop over to Kos and see. From Lisa’s post, I assume it’s an open/ongoing thread where commentors can raise points not related to any of the posts?

June 10, 2005 @ 11:17 am | Comment

Yes; Kos and Atrios always have a thread going on just for readers to chat and comment on whatever they choose. It helps turn their sites into “hives” where people congregate and hang out. But again, they have huge readerships — hundreds of thousands a day. I have a tiny fraction (China is a niche subject here in the US) and couldn’t possibly keep those thread alive. At least I don’t thinki I could.

June 10, 2005 @ 11:21 am | Comment

I see. I don’t necessarily think that one requires hundreds of thousands of daily readers in order to justify having an open thread in operation. I mean, it certainly doesn’t require comments to be sent into it every couple of seconds in order to be a success.

Anyway, I’ll pop over and have a squint at Kos first.

It would be a first in the China blogashere though….as far as I know anyway. While that doesn’t exactly help with the pressure of looking like a moron if no one comments, there’s as much chance that it could work in the site’s favour by being the only place ‘to’ hang out in the China blogashere if you see what I mean.

Still, we’ll never know unless we see trial period or something.

June 10, 2005 @ 11:35 am | Comment

and our adhoc open thread is about to drop off the main page!!!

June 10, 2005 @ 11:44 am | Comment

and you know, Richard, I don’t think you have to worry about there being no comments…especially if you keep it open long enough…this is a pretty vocal group, small as it may be…I certainly enjoy hanging out and chatting (as you may have noticed).

June 10, 2005 @ 11:52 am | Comment

I’m a reporter John (surely you guessed from my punchy organised well written prose???)

June 10, 2005 @ 6:00 pm | Comment

Tony
If you are interested in Chinese history, there is a book about England’s first attempt to set up an embassy in China. That was around the end of the 18th century. A quite fasinating account of the what went on in the negotiations from the perspectives of both sides. England did not get the permission of the Son of Heaven. Unfortunately I have forgotten the title and the author’s name. the author was a French diplomat. The title was kind of catchy, like “The Moveable ….”

A good read. Well researched by the author into the primary records in Chinese and the English records.

June 10, 2005 @ 11:54 pm | Comment

That last comment was by me. After reading the comments backward just now, I saw reference to the McCartney expedition to China. That is what book of the forgotten title is about. It was published about 10 years ago.

June 11, 2005 @ 12:15 am | Comment

KLS

Er….sorry.

June 11, 2005 @ 5:55 am | Comment

You simply must read Joe Studwell’s China Dream for some great commentary on the McCartney mission.

June 11, 2005 @ 9:20 am | Comment

You simply much read Joe Studwell’s China Dream full stop.

The same goes for Mr. China by Tim Clissold (one of the 2 men that lost billions in China in the early-mid 90′s)

A lot of the stuff in those books you couldn’t honestly make up.

June 12, 2005 @ 4:41 am | Comment

China is a police state but then most countries in the world are heading toward that direction in the current war on ‘terrorism’.

Nationalism, racism, xenophobe are on the rise everywhere in the world.
So who knows the world might be heading towards another world war!

November 25, 2005 @ 10:43 pm | Comment

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