China Daily, fair and balanced

Quite simply one of the best and most devastating posts I’ve ever read. I always knew China Daily totally sucked, but this goes beyond mere sucking. This is “journalism” at its most bizarre. You can’t miss it. Just go there now, and read to the last sentence (which really says it all).

China’s propaganda department is still one sick and twisted puppy. I want to say they are self-parodying, but there is nothing funny about this story. Nothing at all. Scary, creepy, deranged, but not funny.

Via eswn.

Update: Just to clarify: I am not saying CD is lying about anything. I am saying it’s amazing to me how they’ve spun a story about a shockingly savage murder and turned it into a sympathy piece on the stresses Chinese students face when studying abroad. It’s a great post in every way, especially its dry wit and irony. Try to get inside the minds of the editors and reporters at China Daily and figure out what was in their minds when they took the story in its final direction. I find it bizarre, some seem to think it’s just fine. Macabre might be a better descriptor.


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: 96 Comments

“Can you explain to me why you like to be mean towards foreigners?… Why scold them?”


I do not see your questions as an attack, not at all. I am surprised you got the impression I like to be mean to foreigners. I have made some observations of this population, mainly from their blogs and the comments on them, which naturally have triggered some emotional reactions (I humbly admit I happen to have Chinese blood in my veins, nothing to brag about though). I have made some attempts at making sense of these observations, with some conjectures here and there. You would certainly care about what kind of people are coming from outside to roam your hometown, especially when you have folks back home, wouldn’t you? Some of my conjectures may be of dubious taste. But they are all genuine and sincere.

I am also surprised you think I am scolding anyone. No, Sir. Modesty is a value very dear to my heart. I am just baffled by some people’s contradictory decisions. If China is such a sickening place and makes you miserable everyday, why don’t you pack up and leave? Whatever important work you are doing in China, your life is by far more important (I forgot who had said this first, not me). Wouldn’t you agree that my rant offers a tentative explanation for this great puzzle? God bless you and hallelujah.

December 17, 2007 @ 5:40 am | Comment

Hearsay, more hearsay, hearsay from all continents about us humble Chinese. Will we ever clear this bad image?


You are probably talking about the “Association of Chinese Students and Scholars”. They have links with the embassy, which probably explains the slogans on their website. Raj says they get funds from the Embassy, which may be true but the amount must be nothing beyond token. The Association at my school got a Karaoke machine and some Majang sets. Even those I am not sure were paid by the Embassy. There are other Chinese student associations I know were completely open to everyone and anyone. I joined the Beida alumni association although I have had nothing to do with Beida.

The activities organized by the Chinese students (such as the spring festival party) were always, always open to anyone interested. I personally saw many non-Chinese students mingling with the Chinese.

On the other hand, I have to admit that Chinese students I have met tend to be nationalistic (and very bombastic about their patriotic feelings), a great puzzle to me. Your humble servant is no exception. One time they invited Chinese diplomat Cui Tiankai to give a talk. A fist fight almost broke out between some Chinese students and free-Tibeters. So you cannot say the Chinese students segregate themselves. The value of information lies in its accuracy.

December 17, 2007 @ 6:06 am | Comment

“You want to comment here, show a little respect to your host. That’s all.”

Point well taken, Richard. My apology again.

December 17, 2007 @ 6:25 am | Comment

Talking about spinning a story, the Western Medias are the masters. I posted a comment on zhongnanhai regarding the Western coverage on the anti-Japanese controversy. I think it’s appropriate to post it here (with some editing) since we are talking about media spins here.


While covering this subject (anti-Japanese controversy), the Western medias often only give you two explanations:

1) The Chinese government uses these historical events to stir up nationalism,

2) The Chinese government intentionally stoke the anti-Japanese feelings to divert people’s attentions from the mistakes the government makes.

(What happened to the bad guy who caused the problem??? Magically disappeared.)

They conveniently left out the third scenario, which is the most important one, that these anti-Japanese sentiments are caused and stoked by the actions of the Japanese government and politicians rather than the Chinese government. After all, it was the Japanese government who committed these heinous crimes and later tried to whitewash history by revising the textbooks, it was the Japanese politicians who visited the shrine and denied the existence of “comfort women.”

These anti-Japanese sentiments could easily get out of control and cause problems for the government. On the one hand, the CCP could lose legitimacy if they don’t respond and side with the people, on the other hand, responding too loud could hurt Sino-Japanese relations. It’s a delicate balancing-act, which explains why their volume is sometimes louder and sometimes lower.

Think about it, there are three parties in the controversy:

a) Ordinary Chinese people (the victim, old wounds opened by the Japanese actions)

b) Chinese government (caught in the middle)

c) Japanese government/Politicians (the culprit, whose action started all this).

Now take a look at argument 1) and 2) I outlined above, either way, the Chinese government is the culprit. It’s a masterpiece of spin which makes the party who is caught in the middle (Chinese government) look like the bad guy.

And after the spin:

– the innocent victim (Chinese people) becomes the tool of the government.

– the one who is caught in the middle (Chinese government) becomes the culprit.

– the culprit (Japanese government and politicians who caused the trouble in the first place) becomes the innocent.

Can it get any better than this? I bow to the masters.

China Daily still has a lot to learn from the masters.

December 17, 2007 @ 6:37 am | Comment

God bless you and hallelujah.

Can it get any better than this? I bow to the masters.

China Daily still has a lot to learn from the masters.

@ bianxiangbianqiao, AC,& sometimes Richard, I love you guys!Keep up the good work!

December 17, 2007 @ 7:54 am | Comment


Great post on Gang Lu. You have articulated some points I briefly touched upon, and you did it in a much more thoughtful and thorough way than I could. Great job.

December 17, 2007 @ 8:30 am | Comment

” I am just baffled by some people’s contradictory decisions. If China is such a sickening place and makes you miserable everyday, “bianxiangbianqiao

bianxiangbianqiao, this rhetorical question-statement (what’s the word, pardon my poor english) I suspect has become non-PC.
I hope more and more “worldly” Chinese who have indepth understanding of both Chinese and western culture will speak up. In the decades that I’ve worked with and for both westerners and chinese, I notice that 90% of the bad feelings are the consequence of language barrier – the limited ability to convey in either chinese by the westerners and in English by the Chinese. But bianxiangbianqiao, you are my hero. Please speak to and for our people, our foreign friends through someone like Richard who I think Richard is a good guy who, unfortunately, sometimes gets into trouble for writing “balanced” articles from some of his China-bashing hothead patrons. Cheers.

December 17, 2007 @ 9:10 am | Comment


Nice to see you commenting on this blog. Peking Duck and China Law Blog are the two best China-related blogs around in my opinion. You should visit often.

Thanks for the information on the Lu case study on your blog, this is the first time I heard about it. It really explains why I view things the way I do, just look at the comment I made here (way above near the top), I thought this is a cultural difference issue. The study was pretty accurate.

December 17, 2007 @ 9:57 am | Comment


On your blog, You paraphrase the intercultural study the following way:

Again American students made more internal/personal attributions for the crime whereas Chinese students made more environmental/social/societal attributions. Where do these different styles of making behavioral attributions come from? The authors explained that in Western (European and North American) individualistic cultures, a person is viewed as autonomous and independent. He or she is also held responsible for all his/her actions. In East Asian collectivist cultures, the individual is viewed as an integral component of a social network, an embedded element of a pattern.

A couple of things.

First, you need to widen your horizon a bit. The United States is a huge country, where you have very different criminal jurisdictions – compare the criminal justice systems in Texas with Vermont and you will get an idea.

Also, I don’t think you can make the United States stand to represent “the West” as a whole. For instance, many Europeans are strongly opposed to capital punishment and are startled by the tendency in the US (and British) criminal system to treat minors as adults.

For comparison, here is a quote from a BBC report about a murder case in Norway:

On 15th October 1994 Silje Raedergard was playing with friends on a local football field. She had played with the two boys many times, but this time the game turned rough. Whilst playing snow castles, the two boys became aggressive. They stripped Raedergard, stoned her and when she fell unconscious they panicked and ran, leaving her to die in the snow.

The news of Raedergard’s death shocked the small town. With a population of 135,000, the city of Trondheim had only experienced two murders in the six years prior to her death. However instead of expressing anger and revenge, the local community felt grief and a level of responsibility.

How do you think the Chinese criminal justice system would have dealt with this case? And do you know of any case where a local community in China has expressed feelings of guilt for a heinous crime being committed by minors in its midst? I don’t know the answer to that question, what I do know is that China deals with violent crime extremely harshly and makes the individual pay the full consequences of his or her actions. China executes more people than the rest of the world taken together. This hardly rhymes with the idea that Chinese culture looks at people holistically and thus tends to contextualize criminal acts.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:01 am | Comment

“American students described the fish as a locus of agency, saying things like “it swims toward the sea weed.” Japanese students described the fish as more passively responding to the environment, saying things like “it was drawn toward the sea weed…It is possible that The China Daily treatment and Westerners furious disagreement is created by cultural differences in understanding human behavior. “bianxiangbianqiao

@bianxiangbianqiao & AC,

This is why folks like you, who can see from both sides, are so important. Language is culture, without an indepth grasp of the former the latter will forever make little sense.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:05 am | Comment

Great comment, Amban.

AC, I don’t buy your comment from zhongnanhai because of its fatal flaw: What happened to the bad guy who caused the problem??? Magically disappeared.

Of course Japan totally disappeared. Because the massacre took place 70 years ago and those who performed the butchery are nearly all dead. They were forgotten by China during the Mao years, then revived as a convenience when useful to the Party. Your entire argument collapses. In this case, the CCP is the bad guy I’m afraid, though they seem to have dramatically toned down their rhetoric in the past couple of years and appear to be rapidly maturing on this issue. Now we aren’t seeing any violence against Japanese businesses in China as we did in 2005. Is this because of any action on the part of Japan since then? No, of course not. It’s because the CCP consciously turned down the rhetoric. having citizens angry at Japan and making a huge international scene as in 2005 is not in the Party’s best interests in 2008. The entire thing was fomented by the Party – the huge uproar and the current relative silence.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:20 am | Comment

“Also, I don’t think you can make the United States stand to represent “the West” as a whole. ”


Excellent points. I believe it was Bernard Shaw who said, “England & the US are two countries divided by the same language.”
Indeed, Norway is a small socialist European countrywhile America is an Empire. Vermont, New England is America’s No.1 Maple Syrup producer and home of American cottage industries and liberalism. Since year 2000, Vermont governor decreed a new law which provided the state sanctioned benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples in the form of civil unions. It is perhaps one of the most polarized state from Texas, which is in the bible belt, where, ironically, still practices capital punishment (38 of the 50 American states do) and has the most death executions.

Amban, considering that it will probably take a protracted Ph.D program to research on the myriad differences among “western” cultures, the near insurmountable differences between East & West would probably require at least 3 Ph.D programs, don’t you agree?

December 17, 2007 @ 12:01 pm | Comment

The police officers are Chinese too, they were just as outraged as anybody. No evidence showed that the government ordered protest. As a matter of fact, students were ordered by the government to stay in class, just ask anybody who was in school that year.

Imagine this, Richard, if some politicians (from any country) come out and claim that there were only two people killed in 911 attacks, wouldn’t you feel outraged?

Yes, we are off topic. I’ll stop here.

December 17, 2007 @ 12:30 pm | Comment


Thanks for your comment. But I need to respond to this remark:

Norway is a small socialist European country.

No. Norway is not a socialist country and has never been one. It has a strong private sector that coexists with government owned sectors of the economy such as oil. Norway is also a founding member of NATO.

And small? Well, more people live in Norway than in the Republic of Ireland or in New Zealand. So if Norway is rendered irrelevant by its size, then we can quit talking about Erie or NZ as well. or did I miss something?

December 17, 2007 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

“…you sure sound thirsty for some real blood.”

Go back to bed, BXBQ. This is the same tactic I’ve seen you employ on other blogs: post a reply that bears no relation to the original comment in order to make the author look bad. Pathetic.

Your rantings indicate one of two likelihoods. First, you are probably victim to the huge chip that you carry on your shoulder about past and present involvement of anything foreign in China. Second, you are one of the increasing number of intelligent and articulate party hacks specifically employed to draw fire and deflect discussions that are heading in a direction that you (or your superiors) don’t like.

And the roll call of minions that came squawking to your defense does nothing to mitigate these suspicions.

Your mistake here, as is often the case, was to view some of the comments about the CD article as ‘anti-China’, rather than a discussion of reasons and exchange of opinions about the issue at hand.

As Richard pointed out, this says it all:

“The curious phenomenon that Laowais keep sticking around in China despite their constant bitching about their pain and agony ….. Their situation perfectly fits the textbook definition of a ‘loser’.”

The pain and agony for you is caused by that big rock you carry on your shoulder. My advice: ditch it.

December 17, 2007 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

@ Amban,

Yes, Amban, You are right and I was wrong about Norway being socialist with all the bad connotations. I understand it is a constitutional monarchy (I think?) but from what my Norwegian friends told me about their high tax and great social and health programs, I’d assumed it was socialistic.But obviously I was wrong.
And no, size is not the point here.
I was merely agreeing with your statement:” I don’t think you can make the United States stand to represent “the West” as a whole,” in defense of bianxiangbiaoqiao’s paraphrase, actually. Of course one can’t and in any case it was far from enough a few sentences written in a short dairy style blog, but I thought it was a good start.

December 17, 2007 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

@ stuart,
I am with you 100% if you are right about BXBQ.

(1) you are one of the increasing number of intelligent and articulate party hacks specifically employed to draw fire and deflect discussions that are heading in a direction that you (or your superiors) don’t like.

Well, BXBQ, are you an intelligent and articulate party hack?

(2) the roll call of minions that came squawking to your defense does nothing to mitigate these suspicions.

Well, Brgyags and AC, are you party minions? I know I am not.For god’s sake I was baptized, sanctified and mindfxxked with Republicanism,capitalism,reversed racism which I’m happy to sat that I have repented of.

December 17, 2007 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

I’m deleting all the comments here about the Nanjing massacre including my own- you can post them over at the thread below.

Bryags, be careful.

December 17, 2007 @ 3:04 pm | Comment

In response to posts further up regarding this topic, these guys were not isolated loners, with 4 of them being involved in this crime. There were 2 main perpetrators and 1 seemed psychopathic from his demeanor, his lack of guilt or empathy, and especially for the callous killing at the very beginning of a botched kidnapping and money extortion; then the gruesome decapitation with a cheap hacksaw and other hacking and blood drenched mutilation of the body.

No kidding that at least 2 of these guys were homesick puppies gone astray; something was already well astray in their upbringing.

Factors that are more apparent is the enticement of being a gangster, hustler. Plenty of other students fall into drug smuggling and other quick easy money schemes. You get the impression that they think they are of superior intelligence, smarter and can get away with anything; play the gangster game.
Cities like Auckland can lure them into this; cars are relatively cheap, so many young local guys drive around in souped up sports cars; on the roads there are many Lamborghini’s, and every other hot car available; the young Chinese students have a deluded impression that every Aucklander owns a multi-million dollar yacht, cause there are plenty of them down at the harbour and they seem indignant that they are not living this lifestyle, when a small pathetically sized country can afford this; unaware that the majority of NZers are neither; the impression of wealth, expensive mansions and a big sparkling casino in the middle of the city.

Me, me, me; I deserve it all now.

Then their envious talk of being in HK, flushed with cash, going on weekly whoring trips and how many whores they can flash around with.

December 17, 2007 @ 3:30 pm | Comment

I am reading this blog with more and more interest. It seems to me that all bloggers here are actually both right and wrong in some respects. Each one criticizes the other’s opinion in one respect, and praises other points the same person makes. It seems we have come some way in understanding eachother, but there is still a long way to go.

Let me take Bianxiangbq as an example, because you seem to take my notes on you as they are meant: not criticizing but born out of my own misunderstanding.

On the one hand you agree with the Guang Lu research, which I agree with as well (but I don’t know it is the full explanation, I do not think it is). On the other hand, it feels contradictory to me that you praise such a research, which basically has some kind of “let’s understand eachother better” logic, and then rant and make conjectures of a dubious nature, if you prefer these terms over mine. The least I would say is that of course you could say that ranting and conjecturing is a way to understand us as well, but not if it is not on a solid foundation, otherwise it does feel like scolding.

By the way, I think you are absolutely right about the fact that foreigners in China are often not nice when talking about the country and some of the habits of the Chinese. This is horrible, and I confess that at times I will make a remark about it when I catch myself off-hand. This has to do with my misunderstanding, and foreigners in general do not always have a deep and full understanding of Chinese culture, which is on itself difficult to grasp. The same is true for Chinese in the West, it would be strange and completely unlogical to say it’s not.

So that’s why I think these blogs can be a great thing: improving mutual understanding is absolutely necessary. It proves this is very difficult at the same time though. Keep up the good work y’all and let’s come to mutual cultural enlightenment 😉

December 17, 2007 @ 8:13 pm | Comment

Sounds good, David. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of emotion in some of these comments – occasionally even in my own! And that’s when things can get messy, leading to shouting matches and other distractions.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

“Party hack” and minions are colorful names.
One thing I have learned from my engagements with people from different cultures in the blogsphere is about their various styles of interaction, especially their strategies and tactics in confrontational situations. A simple tactic is calling an opponent names. When you have a coherent program of names to call, organize them in an escalating sequence, with an increasing gradient of potency, you get a simple strategy. In my line of business, post-hoc explanation is cheap, whereas a-priori prediction is highly valued. I would venture my prediction: My dear friend Stuart is at the incipient stage of implementing this strategy. A hypothesis can be derived from this theory. If I probe a bit more, he will move up a step on the ladder of name-calling, then another step, and another step, until he reaches the highest level, the sure-fire, slam-dunk slap reserved for the final punch on his most-valued target – we will get the climax. This simple strategy is cross-cultural; Chinese fen qings do it all the time. Your humble servant is not above it. From some Westerners’ perspective, a unique repository of names is tailored for targets from each racial group. A slew of fancy names (colorful category labels) are reserved for the Chinese, and carefully arranged according to the level of potency for making a dent on the opponents’ self-esteem. As social animals, we all have a deep understanding on the importance of self-esteem. You demoralize your opponent (make him fold up tent and go) by destroying his self-esteem. When you observe closely, under the right conditions that you wisely create (with careful probing) as a hands-on minds-on scientist, you will be able to figure out the way these names are sequenced, and the battle-field condition each one is released in the engagement. The implementation often is guided by guts feelings. It is quite interesting. To test this hypothesis, we will need to get Stuart an opponent that is high-value and high-stake (get him really pissed off). Your humble servant may be too insignificant to fill this bill; so we may not be able to do the experiment anyway. Besides, your humble servant has moved beyond the stage of trying to be the biggest jerk in the world. (He is trying to find Jesus, as you may know.)

Another reason that makes me hesitant on doing this experiment is my assessment of Stuart is too tentative and shaky. I don’t think he will go very high on the ladder; I sense a lot of innocence and naiveté (in a positive way) in him. Mutual understanding across different cultures takes a lot of engagement and exchange of this nature. Let’s keep trying.

I have to think about your words of wisdom. My initial reaction is that they are valid but incomplete. Mutual understanding is part of the problem in the contact between Chinese and many Westerners (as in any inter-group contact), but not the only problem. A one-track approach you prescribe is insufficient for coping with the problem. What is the other track or tracks? I have no idea.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:24 pm | Comment

Luckily, Bianxiang would never call others names. At the risk of repeating myself, see the quote from his own blog for a clear grasp of his fairness, objectivity and maturity:

The curious phenomenon that Laowais keep sticking around in China despite their constant bitching about their pain and agony of soul-selling and treason reveals an obvious fact. The vast majority of Westerners in China are forced upon China by sheer necessity and lack of opportunities in their home country. Their situation perfectly fits the textbook definition of a ‘loser’. Being forced to deal with a situation one cannot stand is straightforward misery. Being miserable and having no way out is a classic case of a ‘loser’. How does a loser deal with his misery? Here is the beautiful thing about logical thinking, all the pieces fall into place. Attributing one�s personal failure and misery to the repressive environment of the ‘THIRD WORLD’ is a cheap way of coping with their objective inferiority. Since the real drawback is insurmountable, what else can you do but trashing somebody weaker than you, like calling certain parts of the world ‘third word’. It feels good, doesn’t it? Another way of coping with personal failure and misery is to go get drunk and stoned at SanLiTun. None of these activities are effective strategies for improving their situation.

As I said before, politely, calmly and sincerely, “Now we all know.” A little further on down in his blog he explains that he deleted a whole lot of his own posts because they were so hostile to foreigners in China. Always know with whom you’re dealing.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:37 pm | Comment

When did I tell you that you were dealing with a saint? I am better than a lot of people in that I repent and seek redemption.

December 18, 2007 @ 12:04 am | Comment

oh, don’t worry, no one thinks you’re a saint. It’s just droll to see you come on here and lecture about name-calling when a cursory look at your blog past and present shows that name-calling is basically what you do. It was good of you to repent, as you said, but then just a short while later you were right back at it again with your “loser” post, which will follow you around whenever you post over here. Now we all know.

December 18, 2007 @ 12:16 am | Comment

That was harsh. It hurts my sensitive Chinese feelings.

December 18, 2007 @ 1:21 am | Comment

Listen guys, we all know we once, now and again or frequently, sometimes call eachother names. I do not like that from anyone, including myself.

Yes, there seems to be something missing. A track could be, however unlikely, to get to know yourself better as well. On a deep level at best.

December 18, 2007 @ 4:52 am | Comment

in response to bxbq above, about the Chinese students and scholars point:
yes, there is another association at my school that tries to actively distance itself from the cssa described above; however, the students in this other organization are mostly hong kong-ers, overseas chinese, or the rare (nowadays) liberally-minded overseas chinese student.

In terms of mainlanders, however, it is more than fair to say that far too many segregate themselves completely. I can’t speak for other schools, but for mine, which has a disproportionately large Asian population, I don’t see the people I know engaging in conversation or hanging out with anyone besides fellow PRC-ers or myself (as I speak Mandarin). And unfortunately, I see the same sad stereotypes of Westerners and the same nationalist humdrum being spun here in the US that I see in the PRC.

A friend once told me that Monday was the worst day for him, because after he got out of class on Thursday, he wouldn’t speak English the entire weekend, until Monday. Just based upon my own experiences in China (I would not even want to speak English all weekend), this struck me as highly self-segregating and something that really needs to be overcome.

December 18, 2007 @ 5:52 am | Comment

Yes David, we all do. It’s the calling names in one breath and then scolding others for calling names in the next breath that I find irritating. And I do think the quote I cited is key to understanding were our friend is coming from.

Kevin, know what you mean, and I saw it in California schools as well, with their ethnic armed camps (which applies to many groups, not only Chinese). While it’s natural for us to seek our comfort zone and find people we can communicate with it can defeat the entire purpose of studying abroad. The few I know who made the most of the opportunity surrounded themselves with native host-language speakers. The language proficiency of guys who got Chinese girlfriends often soared.

December 18, 2007 @ 8:39 am | Comment


Chinese students are indeed segregated from the American student population to various degrees, but the extent of segregation is probably smaller than you would think, and the reason is more mundane than nationalism or cultural preferences or the Chinese embassy. I can see 4 factors leading Chinese students to stay together, all pragmatic instead of ideological.

1. Language problems. This is especially significant for students in Natural Sciences and Engineering, the vast majority of Chinese students. They can communicate, but struggle with the way they speak, such as in efficiency, smoothness, and all the stylistic niceties. Speaking in with a less than eloquent manner makes a social encounter with a native speaker a source of negative feedback on one’s self, and creates a psychological barrier.
2. Cultural differences and the inherent pressure and stress in inter-group contact. Out-group members are unfamiliar. Therefore engaging them involves uncertainty, e.g., in norms of communication. The subtleties of behaviors in a well-formed society are often regulated by implicit processes (you just do it that way, without knowing how and why; you know it when it is done the wrong way), and appear opaque to the outsiders (the Chinese). Even with perfectly functional language skills, the kind of stuff you laugh at, and get interested in (baseball game vs. karaoke and majiang) differ from cultural to cultural. The most obvious example of cultural challenge for Chinese students I have noticed is understanding Americans’ jokes and getting Americans understand their jokes. All these could lead to potential awkward situations.
3. The amount work you need to do in graduate school leaves little energy or to cope with challenges of integration. You may not even have the energy to care about integration.
4. The easy availability of members of your own group. This is again most prominent for Chinese students in Natural Sciences and Engineering. Every Science and Engineering department in major research universities has a sizable number of Chinese grad students. In some departments one third or to half of the grad students are Chinese. They usually come from the same Chinese undergrad programs and some of them had known each other for years in China. My school’s civil engineering was ranked top 5 in the US. They have a large contingent of Chinese graduate students, almost exclusively from Qinghua. They work in the lab all day, with their Chinese peers, then go back to their apartment shared with their Chinese peers. The only American they see is probably their advisor. (Some of them even have Chinese professors as advisors, just like back home) It is easy to hang out with their own people, just like in their undergraduate days. When a new comer arrives at the airport at the beginning of the fall semester, his or her undergrad alumni would organize someone to pick him or her up, set him or her up for temporary housing, and sort through all the logistics. It is like an independent society that gets reproduced from generation to generation. It works but has its drawbacks.

“Apparently the Chinese embassies tell Chinese students that all Chinese societies at universities must be 100% run by Chinese citizens – no foreigners allowed on the committees.”
This statement is absolutely false and untrue. First off, there are Gonger organization (You know what Gonger I am talking about. Don’t want to get this site into trouble) on quite some university campuses. Try get the Chinese embassy tell them stop recruiting foreign Gongers.

As for the Chinese Students and Scholars Association’s connection with the embassy, you need to consider the two ways Chinese students finance their graduate education. A tiny minority of them are funded by the Chinese government to get Ph. D. in American Universities. The government pays for their tuition and living allowances. They have the obligation to go back to China upon completion of their degree. They stay in the US on J-1 visa, which also requires them to leave the US immediately upon finishing school. I imagine the CSSA is controlled by these “publicly funded” students.

The vast majority of Chinese graduate students are enrolled in Ph. D. programs that offer them full tuition waiver, and a stipend in exchange of TA or RA work (20 hours/week). The stipend ranged from 12,000 to mid 20,000s per year (9 months). This financial support is essential; if you cannot get this, there is absolutely no way you can get a student (F-1) visa at the US embassies in China. These students have got into the program on their own (taking the Graduate Record Exams) and sending in the application materials, getting a professor doing your type of research interested in serving as your advisor. There is no reason for them to listen to the Embassy or anyone from the Chinese government. Personally I have never dealt with the embassies over the years, except getting my passport renewed. They owe absolutely nothing to the government. Their position in the program and financial support depend solely upon their performance in the course works and in the lab. I treated my advisor with more respect than awarded to my parents, while the government was totally irrelevant.

December 18, 2007 @ 1:20 pm | Comment

“This has to do with my misunderstanding, and foreigners in general do not always have a deep and full understanding of Chinese culture, which is on itself difficult to grasp. The same is true for Chinese in the West, it would be strange and completely unlogical to say it’s not.”


Lack of understanding is part of the problem. I don’t know how large a part it is, but far from the whole problem. The other part of the problem I find quite off putting is some westerners derogate the Chinese as a group in order to boost their personal self-esteem. Let me try to explain this thing.
Each person has two components to his/her identity, individual identity and group affiliation. One needs to maintain an adequate level of overall self-esteem. We satisfy this need by generating feedback information from the social environment. Imagine a thermal-stat control device with a set point for the room temperature and measures the current temperature in real time. If the room temperature drops below the set point (say, by 1 degree F), the device starts the furnace. When the room temperature exceeds the set point, the device shuts off the furnace. When you suffer a blow to your personal self-esteem (you fail in relationship, a paper gets rejected by the journal, or didn’t get a job), what do you do? You try to maintain your overall self-esteem via a compensatory process. Since you cannot do much about your personal setback, the only alternative is to boost their group identity, by way of downward comparison. If you fail in your personal life, you will have an especially powerful need to view your group in a positive light relative to a particular out-group. This is why racists are mostly losers. This may also explain why trailer parks tend to fly confederate flags in the deep south. Does this rationale make my conjecture about some foreigners more plausible? My conjectures about foreigners in China are not random and devoid of foundations. Quite the contrary, they are based on a huge amount of rigorous scientific research. I will summarize the empirical literature on this topic when I get time.

December 18, 2007 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

AC, Hongkonger and Brgyags,
I am glad you find my comments interesting. Cultural differences create blind spots. I am not above them.

December 18, 2007 @ 1:56 pm | Comment

You praise is humbling. I am too flawed to be anyone’s hero. I am trying hard to improve myself.

December 18, 2007 @ 2:00 pm | Comment

The cultural differences relevant to the China Daily report of the crime in New Zealand and examined in the Morris and Peng (1994) and Masuda and Nisbett (2001) studies were about mental processes operating at the individual level. They are not about social institutions such as the criminal justice system. The key issue is how a perceiver makes interpretation and inferences from observed behavior information. Of course these culturally-based individual differences must have an impact at the institutional level. For one thing the Chinese are more likely to stigmatize the relatives of a criminal, even if these relatives are innocent and have nothing to do with the crime. This practice was institutionalized in imperial legal systems in the ancient times. Nowadays the mentality of stigmatization is still lingering in a lot of people’s minds. At the same time, they reduce the amount of responsibility attributed to the criminal’s internal factors (e.g., personality).
Another point is that whatever within-cultural variability you detect (Texas vs. Vermont), you are likely to find the between cultural (China vs. US) differences bigger.

December 18, 2007 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

“You and your buddies here are doing a real good job faulting every thing remotely Chinese” – BXBQ

Such towering objectivity overwhelms me. Alas, you are badly mistaken. For example, I’ve never faulted any Chinese woman I’ve slept with.

As for ‘my buddies’, I’m sure they can speak for themselves. Btw, who are they?

“my assessment of Stuart is too tentative and shaky.” – BXBQ

Correction: your assessment of me is wrong. And the use of low-level sophistry in an attempt to look good isn’t fooling anyone. I’m sure you’re a lovely guy, though.

December 18, 2007 @ 4:28 pm | Comment

Hey, has anybody noticed that in just 24 hours after appearing here bianxiang has already cultivated his own admiration society? Gotta love his modesty: “You praise is humbling. I am too flawed to be anyone’s hero. I am trying hard to improve myself.” I am so moved…

December 18, 2007 @ 5:30 pm | Comment


You took a step up on the ladder. I am surprised you took such a big step though, from labeling your opponent “victims” to calling them “Party hacks and minions” in one round of exchanges is the normal pace of escalation. From there to bragging about free sexual access to Chinese women is a quite big step. (I didn’t think I probed you that hard.) Usually a westerner would work his way up a bit more slowly, taking an intermediate step or two, like throwing in a couple of vague racial references, just to test the water as you go. A finer point in my model is that the progress of escalation is one-directional, it can only go up, although the pace may vary from person to person. What is the next step you are going to take? Will you go for the gold? The most exciting moments of building and playing with a theoretical model are when data offer empirical verification. I am holding my breath.

December 18, 2007 @ 9:17 pm | Comment

I am glad you are moved by my modesty. I got a few other qualities that would move you too.

I wonder where Mylaowai is. He seems to be a real good subject for this experiment too.

December 18, 2007 @ 9:19 pm | Comment

Bianxiang, maybe you know this, but I once had a troll commenter here named MAJ who also said he was “experimenting” with my commenters, trying to goad and needle them and see just how far he could push before they exploded. I am giving you a chance right now to say you are doing nothing like that. You will also need to explain exactly what you meant when you referred to your “experiment.” Otherwise you are banned for good. I had a bad feeling as soon as I looked through your site, and I suppose I should always trust my first instincts.

December 18, 2007 @ 9:43 pm | Comment

you’re out


December 18, 2007 @ 11:02 pm | Comment

“You and your buddies here are doing a real good job faulting every thing remotely Chinese” – BXBQ

“I’ve never faulted any Chinese woman I’ve slept with.” – Stuart

“From there to bragging about free sexual access to Chinese women” – BXBQ

I never said anything about sex, or, if bodily fluids were involved, whether or not it was a free service.

Experiments are flawed when ’empirical’ data is tampered with. I refer readers to my comment of some posts ago based on previous observations:

“This is the same tactic I’ve seen you employ on other blogs: post a reply that bears no relation to the original comment in order to make the author look bad.” – Stuart

Game, set, and match, old bean. 😉

December 18, 2007 @ 11:05 pm | Comment


Look who is lecturing me now. If anyone is mixing up individual agency with culture or institutions it is you, who quoted a report about individual Chinese and American responses to a test in order to explain “cross-cultural misunderstandings” regarding the Guang Lu affair. Now who is making a leap here?

Also, you said:

I find quite off putting is some westerners derogate the Chinese as a group in order to boost their personal self-esteem.

I agree. But this blog is not one of those venues. More importantly, I’d like to ask you if you are concerned about racial prejudice in general or just when it affects Chinese? Are you equally put-off by Chinese who derogate foreigners as a group to boost their personal self-esteem?

You don’t have to answer that question, the deleted comments from your own blog can do the job for you. (Sorry, Richard, some of this stuff offensive, but you might want to see this.)

This is how you describe foreigners in China:

Danwei commented on Chinese people’s feelings being hurt by the disrespectful and disruptive behavior of these Laowais. I posted a comment: “My Chinese feelings are hurt not by the White Trash, I hold them in low regard anyway, but by the fact that out of the thousands of Chinese guys in Summer Palace on that day, not even one had walked over to beat the crap out of that pair of losers…”

Another gem:

The Western Journalists in deed deserve the low regard held about them by the Chinese (per your Chinese informants). My brief encounter with them was in the late 90s (97?) at the World Women’s Congress. I was at the hall where Western journalists were waiting to be ushered inside a partitioned restricted area and get registered. The way they bore themselves, conducted themselves, and dressed themselves would definitely give you some inkling about the street thugs, petty criminals, and other types of human garbage roaming their hometowns. I swear to Chairman Mao that the place reeked stale booze and fresh piss. A bad taste still lingers in my mouth from the vulgarity in the way they harassed the lone young Chinese chap at the entrance trying to prevent them from forcing themselves into the restricted registration area, at least some in their drunken wisdom. I have learned a very apt word describing this type of people in America – White Trash.

And when it comes to being disrespectful of the people in the country you live in, this how you feel about the people you live among:

On the other hand, the American masses (the “working class”) are among the least educated, most narrow-minded and backward population I have ever seen.

Now, if an American blogger in China said something similar about the Chinese working class, what would that make him, in your eyes?

December 18, 2007 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

Amban, Stuart – I hate to ruin the party, but Bianxiang is out. He is a scary guy, and I know he will do a big post on his blog about how this thread further proves the derangement of the Western expat in China, and he will employ academic language and highfalutin 5-syllable words to make his case. Fine. After his last agonizingly patronising and bs-larded comment, I am keeping him out – he is using all of us in a game. If you don’t mind, I may seal this thread shortly, as there’s little that hasn’t been said on this subject.

December 18, 2007 @ 11:23 pm | Comment

I would like to say that despite what he said, all PhD students at my school are funded by the University. Thus, all those paragraphs for nuthin’…

December 19, 2007 @ 12:34 am | Comment

I knew it! He did exactly what I expected him to do. (Anonymoused – site is blocked by his government.)

After five years of doing this you eventually recognize certain kinds of people. AC above was irritating, but I knew he wasn’t malicious. A few comments from bianxiang and a look through his site and I knew what he was about, that he was malicious, that he had an agenda and that he was going to write up this site and slam it. I wonder if he has friends in Australia….

December 19, 2007 @ 5:06 pm | Comment

“Apparently the Chinese embassies tell Chinese students that all Chinese societies at universities must be 100% run by Chinese citizens – no foreigners allowed on the committees.”

FYI, most of these organisations are funded from the same pot o’ cash that pays for intelligence gathering in other ways.

I’m not saying that every Chinese student is a spy, but then again, I’m saying they are innocent and pure either.

December 22, 2007 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

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