Who hates China?

It seems that whenever a foreign observer criticizes China too strongly, they are labeled as somebody who feels threatened by China’s rise and seeks to undermine or belittle the accomplishments of the last 25 years. But who really hates China? For example, if I hated China – if I really wanted to see China fail – what would I do?

1. I would censor media reports about the spread of HIV/AIDS in China and harass or arrest anyone who seeks to publicize the truth about the extent of the disease while allowing this horrible virus to continue its destruction of lives, families, and communities. Instead of more education about the actual causes and transmission of the disease, I would blame the crisis on immoral foreigners and ‘troublemakers’ in the medical community.

2. I would make sure that economic growth, incomes, and opportunities were distributed unevenly throughout the country because there is no better way to be a ‘splittist’ of a nation than to make one part rich and keep a whole other (larger) part really poor. I would then systematically dismantle social welfare programs so that the ability to pay becomes the primary qualification for access to education and medical care. Those people too poor to pay I would let fend for themselves as a permanent pissed-off underclass, because that’s never caused problems in China before, right?

3. I would censor artists, musicians, painters, and filmmakers so that the true creative potential of the people can only be reached in secret or overseas. If an international body recognized an artist for the brilliance of their work, I would make sure first that the work was politically correct or appropriately edited before allowing the artist to receive his or her award. This would send a warning to others in the arts community that future creative endeavors must first meet the requirements of state and party. After all, which would you rather spend an evening watching: Zhang Yimou’s Ju Dou or the CCTV New Year’s Extravaganza?

4. I would create a system whereby local officials were never accountable to those they govern. Instead, I would reward officials only on the basis of self-reported economic growth thus gutting of any meaning laws protecting the environment or local communities. I would supervise the courts so that people would find it incredibly difficult to sue the government and, if they do, I would arrest their lawyers, thus further weakening the rule of law and the legal protections of stakeholders in society. Instead, I would watch blandly as China’s careens towards the greatest environmental mess in human history with poisoned rivers, industrial wastelands, and children and adults suffering horrific illnesses due to the toxic smog that envelopes most of China’s major cities. It’s hard to argue with logic that says cancerous particulate matter in the air is an acceptable cost of economic development but drinking a cold beverage is harmful to your health.

5. I would continue to cling to the territorial legacies of past empires and claim sovereignty over peoples that have never had any desire to be ruled by Beijing. I would further destabilize those regions by suppressing the language, culture, and religion of the subject people (including exiling major religious figures). I would anger the local communities by promoting the settlement of Han Chinese into those areas further diluting the culture, and build new railroads and pipelines to facilitate greater exploitation of resources so as to build grand cities thousands of miles away. If some territories did break away and succeeded in forming their own government, I would work to alienate those people from the world community and block their membership in any international organization. I would also promise invasion if that territory ever tried vote to form its own country, because nothing says ‘togetherness’ like the threat of military force.

6. I would create a birth-control policy that results in the abortion or export of unwanted girl children causing horrifically skewed sex ratios and a growing population of unmarried and underemployed young males because that’s a sure recipe for a stable society. Meanwhile, I will label any Chinese who marries or dates a foreigner as ‘immoral.’

7. I would use the basest justifications of geopolitics, amoral capitalism, and resource extraction to guide my international relations and foreign policy. This would ensure that despite Olympic Games and gleaming towers, the world community still thinks of China’s government as an enemy of the people and friendly to thugs. I’m here to tell you: the United States has used this strategy for over a century…anyone care to turn on CNN and see how well it’s worked out for us?

8. I would create a political ideology that systematically denies the people a voice in the affairs of government. I would make sure that political organizing, activism, and being socially and politically aware were as difficult as possible if not illegal. In this system, I would make the hold on power of an elite few more important than the well-being and potential of the great many. This would trickle down and create a ‘me first’ society that destroys community spirit while breeding mistrust towards others. I would create a society where pushing and shoving are common in public places, where people are treated differently based on their race or gender, and where every person approaches any commercial or social interaction with a stranger by wondering: ‘How am I going to get screwed? How can I screw the other guy?’

9. I would react to anything critical of China by throwing a temper-tantrum and screeching about ‘seeking the destruction of the Chinese nation’ even if the story is about bathrooms, funny English signs, or coffee shops. I would also label any criticism of China, by Chinese or foreigners and no matter how valid or vital, as ‘unpatriotic” or “anti-China.’

If I hated China, there are many things that I could do, but few that haven’t already been done by the Chinese government and the CCP. Few observers of China do ‘hate China.’ We choose to live here and work here. Many of us have families here. For my part, I have made the study of Chinese history my life’s work.

Even in the United States there are those in society and government who label criticism of US policies as ‘unpatriotic’ or ‘un-American.’ What’s more, the United States has quite a bit of experience with problems such as economic growth at the expense of the environment and workers’ rights, unequal distribution of wealth, crumbling social services, rampant consumerism, political apathy, immoral foreign policy, and the systematic oppression of a subject people-to name a few. Guess what? We are still cleaning up the mess. Surely, China with its long history and grand civilization can be counted on to be wiser and more level-headed, right?

I am glad that there has been a lot of progress recently, especially in environmental protections, improving the rule of law, working to broker a deal with the DPRK, and freeing the media to report on corruption and local issues. But there is so much yet to be done and it’s worth noting that many of these changes came about as the result of an increasing concern by the leadership regarding China’s image abroad.

I criticize the Chinese government for the same reason I criticize the US government: because I do love the country and it hurts to see what is being done to it. If it pains me, a laowai, how much more should it hurt a self-proclaimed ‘Chinese patriot?’


China’s green pledges are as deep as a coat of paint

Isabel Hilton writes in the Guardian

A genearlly excellent article. As I have said before, I believe the environment is now the single-greatest issue facing China – economic growth, the wealth gap, civil rights, etc are important, but if pollution is not tackled before it is too late, any changes in those areas could well be irrelevant.

The following was one of my favourite paragraphs:

The targets sounded ambitious, but another set of figures illustrates how much room there is for improvement in China’s industrial performance. It is staggeringly wasteful. Each unit of GDP takes seven times more resources to produce than in Japan, nearly six times more than in the US and nearly three times more than in India. Even small efficiency savings would clearly yield important gains.

India is three times more efficient than China? Ouch!

Hilton then goes on to say how she believes officials will not enforce new laws, even if they are enacted. As she asks, how can we expect anyone to challenge them?

The press is constrained, the legal system is rarely independent, there is no possibility of a change of government via the ballot box and local state environmental protection bureaux come under the authority of provincial governors, whose behaviour they are meant to regulate. The only watchdogs are the infant NGOs – underfunded and vulnerable to persecution. Even at national level, environmental enforcement is the weakest branch of government.

Denial won’t change anything. The central government will have to tackle environmental issues as hard as it can, even if it leads to embarrassing news reports and trouble caused by local politicians or even residents who lose jobs as a result of factory/business closure/fines. If it sticks its head in the sand, hoping that regions will do the right thing, it is condemning China (and potentially the world) to a nightmarish future.


America’s Five Best Presidents

Gallup releases its poll, and aside from the aberration of Ronald Reagan (mainly due, I suspect, to the media face-lift he received after he left office), it helps restore my faith in the judgment of most Americans, at least a little bit.

(Though, on second thought, I don’t think JFK should be on there, but as the piece says, most of the respondents opted for relatively recent presidents. I do think George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were a bit more important and contributed more to America than JFK.)


“I didn’t really say everything I said”

The relationship between history and memory is a funny thing and it’s something I think about a lot. Why is that what we remember is often more important than what actually happened? Is something less significant when we learn that it’s been embellished a little? In this week’s New Yorker is a review by Louis Menand. (“Notable Quotables“) Menand looks at those immortal quotations and turns of a phrase that nobody ever said…even if we all remember it otherwise:

Sherlock Holmes never said ‘Elementary, my dear Watson.’ Neither Ingrid Bergman nor anyone else in “Casablanca” says ‘Play it again, Sam’; Leo Durocher did not say ‘Nice guys finish last’; Vince Lombardi did say ‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’ quite often, but he got the line from someone else. Patrick Henry almost certainly did not say ‘Give me liberty, or give me death!’; William Tecumseh Sherman never wrote the words ‘War is hell’; and there is no evidence that Horace Greeley said ‘Go west, young man.’ Marie Antoinette did not say ‘Let them eat cake’; Hermann Goring did not say ‘When I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun’; and Muhammad Ali did not say ‘No Vietcong ever called me n—-r.’ Gordon Gekko, the character played by Michael Douglas in Wall Street, does not say ‘Greed is good’; James Cagney never says ‘You dirty rat’ in any of his films; and no movie actor, including Charles Boyer, ever said ‘Come with me to the Casbah.’ Many of the phrases for which Winston Churchill is famous he adapted from the phrases of other people, and when Yogi Berra said ‘I didn’t really say everything I said’ he was correct.

Menand’s argues that sometimes a little creative editing (or outright fabrication) is all it takes to turn an ordinary sentence–or life–into something or someone of lasting historical significance. A fascinating and fun piece.

UPDATE: It always pays to look up a quote:

During floor debate on the Iraq war yesterday, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) quoted Abraham Lincoln as advocating the hanging of lawmakers who undermine military morale during wartime.

“Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged,” Young declared.

One problem: Lincoln never said such a thing.

The quote actually came from conservative scholar Michael J. Waller, who blamed the error on a copy editor. The misquote has been used nearly 18,000 times by those who typically support the Iraq War.

After he left the House floor yesterday, Young found out that — whoops — he had mistakenly put words in Abe’s mouth. His spokeswoman, Meredith Kenny, says the congressman took the quote from an article he read in the Washington Times on Tuesday.

“Now that he’s been informed these are not the actual words of Lincoln, he will discontinue attributing the words to Lincoln. However, he continues to totally agree with the message of the statement,” Kenny said. “Americans, especially America’s elected leaders, should not take actions during a time of war that damage the morale of our soldiers and military — and that is exactly what this nonbinding resolution does.”

And no, Kenny said, Young was “not advocating the hanging of Democrats.”

It reminds me of a an episode of The Office where Steve Carell intones: “As Abraham Lincoln once said: If you are a racist, I will invade you with the north.” I don’t think Abe said that either…
Via Arts & Letters Daily


China to permit Gao Yaojie to travel to accept AIDS award

And apparently the efforts of Hillary Clinton helped. (The article is behind a firewall, so I can only see the headline and lead). Let’s hope it’s true.

Chinese officials signaled Friday they will allow a prominent AIDS activist who had been confined to her home to visit the U.S. next month, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

Gao Yaojie, 80 years old, was confined to her home, worrying fellow activists who said the measure was aimed at keeping her from making the trip to the U.S. to accept an award from a non-profit group.

Ms. Clinton had pressed Chinese officials to let Ms. Gao travel to accept the reward …

Presuming it is accurate, I can’t offer any particularly warm words to the government or praise their enlightenment. After all, she never should have been placed under house arrest. It’s not like they’re performing some kind of good deed now, but merely undoing the stupid and flagrantly wrong deed they performed earlier. Well, at least that’s a positive, or a non-negative, so I’ll toss them a few crumbs. But why they insist on making themselves look like paranoid thugs in the eyes of the world is an utter mystery to me. Just let the old lady get her award; why force the world to see you as schmucks?


Bernanke’s rosy outlook

A well-known high-level Merrill Lynch analyst fisks Bernanke’s embarrassingly optimistic report to Congress earlier this week on the US economy (low inflation, more jobs, blah blah), demolishing it point by point. PDF File. A must for those interested in what’s really behind all those positive numbers Bernanke cited.


Chinese New Year Study Plan

Well, I just did it – I enrolled in a six-hour-a-day Chinese immersion program for five days of CNY. I figure it’ll force me to do something productive, and keep me from staying up too late.

It’s ironic that since I arrived in China my Chinese has gone straight to hell. I had much more time to study and write characters and attend after-work classes in Taipei. Here, my schedule is too erratic and intense; weekends are my only chance to study, and honestly, I just don’t feel up to it after working so hard during the week. I won’t give it up, but I am sad to have to resize my aspirations to fit reality.

Meanwhile, we all know another 30 hours or so won’t make a huge difference, but it’s way better than nothing, especially when I’ve got nothing better to do.


NYT: Help Not Wanted

My friend was visibly shaken. He had just learned that he had lost one of his clients to Chinese competitors. “it’s amazing,” he told me. “The Chinese have completely priced us out of the market. We can’t compete with what they’re able to offer.”

There’s nothing surprising about that, of course; manufacturing jobs are lost to China every day. But my friend is not in manufacturing. He works in foreign aid.

Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, has an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times on the increasing amounts of aid being given by countries, such as China, at the expense of Western aid programs. He argues that such deals in the long-run hurt recipient nations.

In recent years, wealthy nondemocratic regimes have begun to undermine development policy through their own activist aid programs. Call it rogue aid. It is development assistance that is nondemocratic in origin and nontransparent in practice, and its effect is typically to stifle real progress while hurting ordinary citizens.

China is actively backing such deals throughout Africa; its financing of roads, electrical plants, ports and the like boomed from $700 million in 2003 to nearly $3 billion for each of the past two years. Indeed, it is a worldwide strategy. Beijing has agreed to expand Indonesia’s electrical grid in a matter of months. Too bad the deal calls for building several plants that use a highly polluting, coal-based Chinese technology. No international agency would have signed off on such an environmentally unfriendly deal.

In the Philippines, the Asian Development Bank, which lends money at low interest rates to poor countries, had agreed to finance Manila’s new aqueduct. It, too, was suddenly told that its money was no longer needed. China was offering cheaper rates, faster approval and fewer questions.

What’s behind this sudden Chinese drive to do good around the world? The three short answers are money, international politics and access to raw materials. China’s central bank has the world’s largest foreign exchange reserves, totaling $1.06 trillion. Beijing is increasingly leveraging this cash to ensure its access to raw materials and to advance China’s growing global influence. What better than a generous foreign-aid program to ensure the good will of a petro-power like Nigeria or a natural-resource-rich neighbor like Indonesia?

Chinese leaders argue that such aid, coming with ‘no strings attached’, represents a true form of aid, free of the neo-imperialist agenda of Western agencies and is protective of the sovereignty of states such as Sudan. In a speech on February 7 in Pretoria, South Africa, Hu said:

“For more than 100 years in China’s modern history, the Chinese people were subjected to colonial aggression and oppression by foreign powers and went through similar suffering and agony that the majority of African countries endured,” Hu said according to a transcript released by South African officials. He added: “China has never imposed its will or unequal practices on other countries and will never do so in the future.”

Ben Landy, in the fabulous new blog, China Redux, wrote about Hu’s speech:

Whether we believe it or not is a separate question…I’m inclined to agree that China will not likely develop into an imperial power. But the Hu Doctrine leaves a lot of wiggle room. What does it mean that China will not ‘impose its will’ on other countries? And what exactly are ‘unequal practices’? Isn’t undervaluing currency an unequal practice? What about severely restricting foreign investment in domestic markets? The list of nebulous practices could go on and on.

I suppose it also depends on your definition of an ‘imperial power.’ China’s actions on the African continent might not be ‘colonization,’ but they are far from benign. Over time, African nations like Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Sudan might find China’s help to be even “stringier” than Western aid and investment.
Commenters might wish to look at the NYT Op-Ed page for February 19, “Patron of African Misgovernment” as well as Ben Landy’s follow-up piece on the China Redux blog.



China’s geomancers and fortune tellers opine on where the Year of the Pig will take us

And if the feng shui experts and tea-leaf readers don’t know, who does? The first paragraph sounds pretty on-the-money to me.

The world can expect a roller-coaster ride of conflict and unrest, natural disasters and a plunge in global stock markets once the Year of the Pig begins, Chinese soothsayers say.

As the world farewells the Year of the Dog on Sunday, believers in Chinese superstitions have been busy consulting fortune tellers, feng shui geomancers and a wealth of new books for the year’s fortunes. Chinese fortunes are based on a belief that events are dictated by the different balances in the elements that make up the earth — gold, wood, water, fire and earth.

Feng shui expert Raymond Lo said that according to ancient Chinese belief, the Year of the Pig is symbolised by two elements — fire sitting on top of water.

“Fire sitting on water is a symbol of conflict and skirmish, and this may bring a relatively less peaceful year with more international conflicts and struggles,” he said.

Lo said the last time such an arrangement appeared was in 2002, the year that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“It is anticipated that there will be more international conflicts and disharmony, which will even lead to regional warfare, uprising and unrest, or the overthrow of governments in certain countries,” he said.

The elemental arrangement for 2007, with fire standing on top, could represent openness, optimism and warmth, but it can also bring fire disasters and huge explosions, Lo said.

In other words, anything goes. Many other interesting predictions follow, including huge earthquakes, more wars and the best time to give birth to new infants.


Covering up Dr. Gao Yaojie’s house arrest

This is slick. First they harass her and put her under house arrest, and then they concoct a photo-opp to prove she’s free and happy as a clam.

The photograph and article in Tuesday’s Henan Daily could have been headlined ‘Happy Holidays.’ Three highranking Henan Province officials, beaming and clapping as if presenting a lottery check, were making an early Lunar New Year visit to the apartment of a renowned AIDS doctor, Gao Yaojie.

They gave her flowers. Dr. Gao, 80, squinted toward the camera, surely understanding that pictures can lie. She was under house arrest to prevent her from getting a visa to accept an honor in Washington. Her detention attracted international attention, and the photo op was a sham, apparently intended to say, ‘Look, she’s fine and free as a bird.’

On Thursday, Dr. Gao said in a telephone interview, a handful of police officers remained stationed outside her apartment building in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

‘I just can’t simply swallow it all,’ she said. ‘I want to know two things. First, who has made the decision? I am an 80-year-old lady, and what crimes have I committed to deserve this? Second, they must find out who has been slandering my name on the Internet.’

…. International pressure seemed to have weighed on the Henan officials who had visited Dr. Gao since her detention. She said one official visited three times a day, urging her to write a letter blaming poor health as a reason for not attending the Washington ceremony. Dr. Gao said she finally relented Wednesday.

‘After negotiation, we agreed that I will just say I am preoccupied and won’t be able to leave for the award,’ she said. ‘The letter I wrote only had two lines.’

It is unclear what the Henan authorities intend to do with the letter. Dr. Gao said she had written it to relieve political pressure on the local health department and her family.

She was also upset with entries on a blog she recently started in which she posts AIDS cases to give them public attention. ‘Various posts accused me of lying and making these cases up,’ she said. ‘Personal insults were posted. These posts were then rebutted by victims. My blog then became a battlefield.’

Jeremiah posted about this earlier, and one of the commenters took the same path as those who are insulting Dr. Gao on the Internet, insinuating that there is some dark, malevolent side to her or that she is being propped up by the CIA. This is another sad indictment of the rampant nationalism we talk about a lot here – you would think those with 5,000 years of glorious civilization behind them would be more confident and secure, so that the slightest questioning of their government didn’t send them into breathless conniptions that result in unfounded accusations and slander against a true patriot, someone going so far out of her way for the good of all China.