The On Notice Board: China Edition, 11/16


#1 – Iraqi Insurgents: In a devastating own-goal, Iraqi insurgent media group Al Fajr issued a video proclaiming jihad on China in Xinjiang, and named Wang Lequan, the region’s CPC Secretary, strongman and Politboro member as a prime target. Considering Iraqi insurgents have absolutely no proven or even alleged connection to Xinjiang, this will only give China another excuse in its otherwise evidence free persecution of Uyghurs and Muslims in Xinjiang. Way to look tough, guys, calling out a fight thousands of miles away. (h/t: Shanghaiist)

#2 – The New York Times: actually, I’m happy to see Howard French write about heroin and AIDS in Xinjiang, but I can’t believe he didn’t mention at all that the government banned a student HIV prevention organization. (h/t Opposite End of China)

#3 – Maria Bartiromo: CNBC’s host of The Wall Street Journal Report went to China, and had this to say about it on Public Radio’s Tavis Smiley, as reported by blogger William Dodson:

In reply to Tavis’s query about her first impression of China she said, “The stench.” She screwed up her face with those great beautiful eyes and full lips of hers. “When I stepped off the plane the stench was so strong. And that’s because the factories are going night and day.” I nearly coughed out the bean burrito I was eating when she said that. “Then there were all the people. People were crossing the highway as we drove into the city.”

Stick that in your portfolio, kids! This is the cutting edge of television business news! (h/t: This is China!)

#4 – The Mass Protest Meme: right after stinkiness and “all the people”, a recent journalistic shortcut/cliche about China has been the 87,000 protests canard. ESWN puts on his professional statistician hat once again and reminds us all that these are PRC provided statistics, a.k.a. vast trove of inconsistent and opaque data sets. So next time someone uses that number to claim the Party is about to end, remind them it also counts the time Uncle Wang, drunk, put his foot in a grocers basket of eggs and ended up in a shouting match on the way home from a wild mahjong session. Indeed, revolution is at hand.

#5 – U.S. Cable Providers: for not even optioning the new Al Jazeera International, while CCTV9 is available on carriers such as Time Warner. Thanks for taking a clear stand on not airing propaganda. Clearly, David Frost is way more full of s**t than Yang Rui. Freedom is on the march!

#6 – SEZ Bubbleheads: aka Shanghai Syndrome aka Shekou Shingles aka Zhongguancun Jubilation Syndrome aka Friedmanitis. A thread at China Law Blog got Dan Harris and I talking about the globalization tunnel vision that seems to continue to grow about China. The business world continues to hype China, when really the China they’re talking about seems to be at most half the population and a quarter of the territory. Ideas that Chinese youth are cosmopolitan consumers, China will back office the world, and Starbucks will reign supreme seems to be talking about one China, while another China suffers the worst drought in 50 years, high suicide rates, a corrupt dog-eat-dog battle for higher education, no social safety net, no reinvested capital (that all goes to the cities) and not a Starbucks in sight (though Mingtien Coffee Language seems to get around just fine). And then there’s a whole gradation in between MNCs and the Sichuan migrant workers, which is dominated by Chinese businesses. I call shenanigans on the China version of “Dow 36,000”.

#7 – Slate: As if it’s not annoying enough that an army of China consultants are running around claiming they know the market because they heard Deutsche Bank is offering wealth management to Chinese millionaires, apparently you can get paid by Slate to write what any freshman China blog does, with slightly better writing. Deborah Fallows astonishing investigative journalism reveals:

* “We moved here a few months ago, abandoning our home and friends in Washington, D.C., to come learn about China” by living, apparently, in a “59-floor high-rise—which resembles a rocket ship”. You will learn much, intrepid explorer, for all Chinese live in rocket ships. By which we mean white tiled monstrosities.

* There’s pollution in China. This is the inside stuff, kids.

* Right outside her house someone brushed their teeth over the gutter. This, however, did not spark one iota of contemplation that he does not live in the rocket ship, and, indeed, few do. Never mind the coolies, Debbie.

* The woman she thought wanted to introduce her to another laowai was in fact collecting electric bills, she realized an hour later. This sort of ability to understand the locals is indeed rare amongst China correspondents.

* The traffic is crazy!

* They sell knockoffs on the street!

* When she found chicken breasts at a supermarket, she “like a frantic shopper on one of those free shopping sprees you see on Sunday morning TV”, because Chinese people only buy “piles of chicken feet and pig feet; hanging carcasses of generic meat; and scary assortments of inner organs. I could not figure out what happened to the real meat”. Way to learn the culture, Deborah. I’m gonna call you “Pearl”, if that’s ok.

* Look at this precious Chairman Mao teaset!

* Name cards are important, Pearl learned from anonymous sources.

* The English version of a Chinese air ticket website doesn’t work so well, Pearl reports from the gritty streets of Shanghai.

* A Chinese credit card is “a terrible pain for a foreigner to acquire”, and the only one you can use for the website. The English Customer Service page says they accept Visa, Mastercard, Diners, JCB and AMEX. More to the point, as far as I know all you need to get a Bank of China “Great Wall” card is the appropriate minimum balance. Am I wrong, people?

* They have crazy English names like Winkie and they suggest my Chinese name should be “”djye-bi”. That’s right, she’s doesn’t even know pinyin. Pearl S. (for “Shanghai”) Bubble, everyone! Give her a big hand! She’ll be at Slate all week! Oh dear God why!!!!!!

#8 – TalkTalkChina. Dead to me.

The Discussion: 11 Comments

I giggled like a schoolgirl at your writeup of the Slate blog. There are just way too goddamn many of these things — hell, in Beijing, half of the people who hang out at the Bookworm are working on memoirs of their year in China. I mean, there’s no shame in being a naive idiot, I guess, but why on earth would anybody broadcast it?

November 16, 2006 @ 7:49 pm | Comment

@Brendan: I’m glad you giggled. I felt almost overwhelmed trying to figure out how to tear her a new one. But there’s going to be at least another two posts! I can try so much more material out! This ditz just doesn’t know when to quit!

Personally I think the nonsense in China business writing and news is worse. Bartiromo’s stench comment? WTF?

November 16, 2006 @ 8:02 pm | Comment

1. I concur, on the grounds that there’s something fundamentally counter-intuitive about stirring up a nest of pot-heads.

2. Abstain.

3. Concur (ie, dissenting about the stench.) The first thing I noticed about China was the pandemic bad taste in every kind of visual aesthetic, and I’m still working my way through that one.

4. Concur in part and dissent in part. Those statistics might not mean a revolution is at hand, but they’re nothing to sneeze at either.

5. Concur passionately. I want my Al Jazeera!
(Especially if I can see some hot Arab babes at the newsdesk.)

6. Concur

7. Concur, seriatim:

a. This reminds me of typical foreign correspondents in Moscow who wouldn’t know a Siberian accent even if they woke up in bed with one. Hint: If it’s soft and vaguely aristocratic, it’s likely Siberian (because, where do you think the surviving aristocrats were sent to after 1917?) Muscovite accents, on the other hand, are Russia’s equivalent of Chicago.

b. et seq, ditto

8. Believe it or not, I never once commented on TalkTalkChina.

November 16, 2006 @ 9:04 pm | Comment

Talking about China Business writing, you may also want to include another one of China Law Blog’s masterpieces, his take on of Janet Carmosky and her so-called cultural analysis of business. I agree with Dan Harris when he said, “No matter how much you trust the people with whom you are dealing, there will always be times when a contract is necessary. No matter what the tendencies of your Chinese employees may be to “lie and steal,” you must make clear that such actions by your employees (particularly if it comes to paying bribes and receiving kickbacks) simply will not be tolerated and will lead to immediate firing.” It is amazing how so many companies in the West are willing to pay big money for some so-called experts to teach them ridiculously useless generalised theories about doing business in China.

Don’t forget to read the comments as well. There are some good stuff there.

November 16, 2006 @ 10:07 pm | Comment

@Ivan: #3 – I’m not saying there aren’t malodorous waftings in this country. I’m simply saying that if you work for the WSJ, that and “all the people” are not terribly interesting, informative or professional points to mention in your first impression. If I want this sort of information, I’ll ask Mrs. Fallows.

#4 – I agree, the statistics contain some information of value. What I criticize is how it becomes an MS Word macro at so many publications, following the basic logic IF: political problems GOTO: 87,000 canard. It’s how it’s talked about that bugs me, not that it’s talked about at all.

@Fat Cat: that’s why Dan Harris is on my blogroll. At China Law Blog, he keeps track of what alot of these consultants are saying while keeping a professional skeptical tone towards alot of it – and the comments broaden it out.

What makes that stuff so difficult to deal with is that there are modicums of truth to most of it. Janet Carmosky’s “Chinese mindset” comments ring true to some extent, partly because such attitudes do exist in China, and partly because that’s how Chinese people sometimes stereotype themselves – which ends up reinforcing it, makes it partially self-fulfilling. These consultants make a mint from it because the “inscrutable” thing hasn’t worn off, and I wonder if it ever will.

The biggest irony I think is business worldwide has become more and more dependent on data, on granularity about consumers, yet when it comes to working in China consultants sell these bromides. No one goes around saying Europeans like this, or are good at these jobs – if they did, no one would buy their book or go to their lectures, because they’d be considered a moron.

November 16, 2006 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

Dave, if you bop over to the new york observer, you will find a hilarious account of Friedman’s recent visit to Beijing.
“The world. Is. Flat.”

November 17, 2006 @ 1:12 am | Comment

I read that Slate article the other day and had to question whether it was a parody. Mark Eastman should really write for Slate.

November 17, 2006 @ 1:38 am | Comment

@Lisa: you mean the Matt Taibbi “Flathead” article? Taibbi’s the man.

@88: remind me who this Eastman is. I was thinking we need a laowai John Hodgeman who simply makes up fictitious expert knowledge about China.

November 17, 2006 @ 2:09 am | Comment

HAW! No. You gotta link?

This one’s by…erm…Scocco? I dunno. Here’s the link.

November 17, 2006 @ 12:57 pm | Comment

Dave — I’d been thinking of registering (it’s available!) and posting “factoids” about the West. The genesis for the idea was several years ago, when I told a cab driver in Harbin that I was from Ireland, called 翡翠之洲 “The Emerald Isle” because of the greenish cast that people’s skin there had. I, with my freakishly white skin, was a pariah, and had to escape to the more racially tolerant land of China.

November 17, 2006 @ 1:26 pm | Comment

@Lisa: it’s in the post I did on “the worst Congress ever” before the election, cuz he wrote that too. It was in NY Press, but don’t hold that against him.

@Brendon: BWAHAHAHAHA!!!! I wanna see that.

November 17, 2006 @ 4:47 pm | Comment

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