No matter who’s right about Tibet, time to grow up. Please?

This plain hurts.

On the day the Olympic torch was carried through San Francisco last week, Grace Wang, a Chinese freshman at Duke University, came out of her dining hall to find a handful of students gathered for a pro-Tibet vigil facing off with a much larger pro-China counterdemonstration.

Ms. Wang, who had friends on both sides, tried to get the two groups to talk, participants said. She began traversing what she called “the middle ground,” asking the groups’ leaders to meet and making bargains. She said she agreed to write “Free Tibet, Save Tibet” on one student’s back only if he would speak with pro-Chinese demonstrators. She pleaded and lectured. In one photo, she is walking toward a phalanx of Chinese flags and banners, her arms overhead in a “timeout” T.

But the would-be referee went unheeded. With Chinese anger stoked by disruption of the Olympic torch relays and criticism of government policy toward Tibet, what was once a favorite campus cause – the Dalai Lama’s people – had become a dangerous flash point, as Ms. Wang was soon to find out.

The next day, a photo appeared on an Internet forum for Chinese students with a photo of Ms. Wang and the words ‘traitor to your country’ emblazoned in Chinese across her forehead. Ms. Wang’s Chinese name, identification number and contact information were posted, along with directions to her parents’ apartment in Qingdao, a Chinese port city.

Salted with ugly rumors and manipulated photographs, the story of the young woman who was said to have taken sides with Tibet spread through China’s most popular Web sites, at each stop generating hundreds or thousands of raging, derogatory posts, some even suggesting that Ms. Wang – a slight, rosy 20-year-old – be burned in oil. Someone posted a photo of what was purported to be a bucket of feces emptied on the doorstep of her parents, who had gone into hiding.

“If you return to China, your dead corpse will be chopped into 10,000 pieces,” one person wrote in an e-mail message to Ms. Wang. “Call the human flesh search engines!” another threatened, using an Internet phrase that implies physical, as opposed to virtual, action.

Nothing is scarier than the herd mentality, especially when the herd is being plain stupid. I care about this country and the people I love here, and they are so exquisite in the individual, and – at least at times like this – so frightening in the mass.

I know: it is infuriating and insulting to hear an ungrateful foreigner and a guest criticize his host. I really know. And I know the argument, Who are you to tell the Chinese people what to do and how to think? And my answer is, I am nobody at all. But I know stupid and immature when I see it, and right now you are hitting new peaks of immaturity and stupidity. And although I am nobody and a guest here, I have to say it.

If this is harmony, I’ll go for dissonance every time. My deepest sympathy to the noble Ms. Wang. And I hope the Chinese bloggers and others who hear about this act of depravity will have the courage and the cojones to make themselves heard and tell their people that this is plain wrong, that we mustn’t let blind rage overcome our rational thinking

To see a nation willingly surrender its critical faculties is heartbreaking, especially when you know what so many of these people are capable of, how much they want to learn and grow and improve their lives. Well, take it from a foreign nobody, acting like this will only take you backwards. Please, please stop, listen, and think for yourselves. Don’t let others do it for you. Don’t just heart CHINA because everybody else is doing it.

China has come so far so fast, but if it doesn’t grow up along the way it will be doomed to wallow in impotent and pointless rage. It can do better than this.

Sorry if I sound scolding. This is just so depressing.


Open thread

I will be traveling from now until May 5. I will be posting, but not so much.

Maybe we can start with this Jeremy Goldkorn post on the much-discussed boycott of Carrefour initiated by Chinese angered at the Free Tibet demonstrations in France earlier this month. Friends of mine are very enthusiastic about the boycott and the word is mainly being spread by SMS.

It really causes one to think of what the net effect of negative coverage of China will be over the coming months. I understand the indignation and the anger, especially over the attack on Jin Jing. But I fear this strategy only reinforces the impression of young Chinese as overly nationalistic, easily manipulated and brimming with anger and resentment. Read the Danwei post, with which I totally agree.


Demolishing the irrational

Dave at Mutant Palm, no handmaiden to the CCP, demolishes the obscenely ridiculous “conspiracy” rumors being circulated and fanned by various kooks, including Powerline and Michelle Malkin and others, claiming the attack on Jin Jing was choreographed by the CCP – all based on a photo that shows two people from opposing sides of the Tibet issue walking on the same road without trying to murder the other! Seriously. That’s what it boils down to. Dave’s fisking of this rubbish is funny, specific and devastating.

Thanks to ESWN for the tip. I don’t always see eye to eye with Roland (or anybody else) on every issue, but his coverage of this topic has been quite excellent. Be sure to check his detailed post on the “conspiracy theory,” one of his very best. And the Mutant Palm post is an absolute must-read. Go there right now. He does a great job, too, in exposing the equally irrational fenqing who have launched a witch hunt against someone they somehow think (wrongly) was the assailant. Insanity all around.


Hearting China

love China.JPG
[Click to enlarge]

One of my colleagues was using MSN and I noticed that by every single name on her friends list there was a big red heart followed by CHINA in all capital letters. She said she started hearing from friends this morning that people throughout the country were going to do this to show solidarity and love of country. I then opened my own MSN friends list and saw a lot of the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if by day’s end there were tens of millions of MSN users proclaiming they “heart CHINA.” What was so extraordinary, according to my friend, is how fast this caught on and how “absolutely everyone” is doing it.

Nothing like a little controversy to rally the masses. I would say patriotism here at this moment is at an all-time high.

I was talking with a business acquaintance today who asked me whether Americans “hate the Chinese people.” I tried to explain that we don’t, but that there was a lot of misunderstanding between the two countries and a lot of misconceptions. I tried to explain very briefly why some Americans have problems with China’s government. She said she wasn’t surprised because our government systems are night and day. She went on to tell me just how much the Chinese love having a strong central government that they know will always be there, not to be put out of office every four years, and that will take care of all its people’s needs. She hearts CHINA and its government, big time. She wonders why we can’t all see the advantage of that kind of system, which to her makes total sense. It is the way it should be, and it is the way it’s always been in China.

There many things I wanted to say, especially about how there are quite a few people outside of Beijing and Shanghai whose needs are perhaps not being met too well, but decided this wasn’t the best time for that conversation. This is not a good time for any political discussion here, as anti-cnn seems to have won over the hearts and minds of just about everybody I know, and convinced them we foreigners do not and never can understand — let alone truly heart — CHINA.


CCP to CNN: Apologize for calling us goons and thugs

This seems to be a bad year for relations between CNN and the CCP. On top of the maddeningly flimsy charges voiced on the anti-cnn website, which has led to threats against Western journalists, CNN now has to deal with a Party gone apoplectic over remarks by a CNN commentator.

China demanded an apology from CNN on Tuesday after network commentator Jack Cafferty called the country’s leaders a “bunch of goons and thugs” and said its products were “junk.”

It was the latest flare-up after Beijing accused Western media of bias in its reporting following violent protests in the Tibetan capital last month. Atlanta-based CNN has been singled out by some Chinese who say overseas news outlets are smearing Beijing.

“We are shocked and strongly condemn the vicious remarks by Cafferty,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said. “We solemnly request CNN and Cafferty himself take back the malicious remarks and apologize to the Chinese people.”

…He was speaking about the U.S. trade deficit with China when he said, according to the transcript, “We continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food and export, you know, jobs to places where you can pay workers a dollar a month to turn out the stuff that we’re buying from Wal-Mart.”

“So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed,” he continued. “I think they’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.” Network spokeswoman Edie Emery at CNN headquarters in Atlanta pointed out that Cafferty made a clarification Monday on “The Situation Room.”

“I was referring to the Chinese government, and not to Chinese people or to Chinese-Americans,” Cafferty said, referring to the ‘goons and thugs’ comment, on Monday’s program.

Gut reaction: Cafferty was insensitive and stupid for his broad-brush generalization, which seemed to be a very sweeping condemnation of China. Whoever in The Party is going nuts over this, however, is making another mountain out of a molehill and drumming up yet more animosity toward CNN.

I know, I know, they are shocked and offended and hurt and all that but commentators often throw around harsh and even idiotic opinions, but that’s what you get for freedom of speech, a relatively small price to pay for what America has long considered its most important freedom (at least until our current president was sworn in). Cafferty should perhaps be reprimanded or be put on leave for a few days, but the dumb remarks of a two-bit commentator shouldn’t be enough to push The Party into hysterics.

Is it deep, neurotic insecurity sitting on the shoulder of the world’s largest documented inferiority complex, or is it a calculated and cynical ploy being used to drum up yet more fenqing support and national outrage to keep everyone in China defending the all-knowing and omnipotent Chinese Communist Party?


Will there be direct flights from China to Taiwan soon?

Maybe we are heading in that direction. It’s about time.


The Fenqing get funky….

New video making the rounds…I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, or what. It’s a world, propaganda comes with a backbeat these days, I guess.


China’s Loyal Youth

Required reading for all those who wonder why today’s Chinese 20-somethings on the road to yuppiedom are more angry with the West than they are with their government.

MANY sympathetic Westerners view Chinese society along the lines of what they saw in the waning days of the Soviet Union: a repressive government backed by old hard-liners losing its grip to a new generation of well-educated, liberal-leaning sophisticates. As pleasant as this outlook may be, it’s naive. Educated young Chinese, far from being embarrassed or upset by their government’s human-rights record, rank among the most patriotic, establishment-supporting people you’ll meet.

As is clear to anyone who lives here, most young ethnic Chinese strongly support their government’s suppression of the recent Tibetan uprising. One Chinese friend who has a degree from a European university described the conflict to me as “a clash between the commercial world and an old aboriginal society.” She even praised her government for treating Tibetans better than New World settlers treated Native Americans.

Reading it reminds me just how futile it is to try to convince Chinese readers why the Tibetans may deserve some sympathy. And why the Tibet issue has given the CCP a new lease on life. They should buy the Dalai Lama a car or a gift certificate for all the support this issue has generated for them in China.


The martyrdom of Jin Jing



[Note: This is a continuation of the post immediately below.]

Wait. I am not equating Jin Jing with Jesus or Mary. I am making the point that to hundreds of millions of Chinese around the world the image of Jin Jing in what apears to be a state of grace has an emotional appeal that parallels that which Christians (and even non-Christians such as myself) feel when looking at Michaelangelo’s Pieta. Whether I believe or not, the emotional impact of both images is undeniable. And whether either Mary or Jin Jing deserve to be viewed with such religious awe is irrelevant to my point, which is simply this: the image of Jin JIng has created an unprecedented flood of emotional patriotism and religious ecstasy among Chinese people all around the world.

The photo may have been stage-managed and her story embellished in the Lei Feng style. I don’t know, but based on past CCP deifications I’d be inclined to think it has. But that’s also irrelevant in terms of effect. Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will is all about stage management and manufactured emotion, yet it achieved all of her and Joseph Goebbels’ objectives (mass hypnosis, idolization, turning the fuehrer into a cult figure, etc.).

So the picture of Jin JIng stands and it has worked its miracle, fair or not. I had dinner with a Chinese friend last night who told me there hasn’t been anything quite like it in his lifetime. Everone’s talking about it, especially friends and families overseas. It’s strengthening the bonds between these people and their mainland counterparts The Chinese people have rarely felt more unified, And this is not a personal theory of mine based on anecdotal evidence. From Canada’s Globe and Mail.

It was a moment so perfect that it could have been scripted by Beijing’s propaganda masters. A beautiful young Chinese woman, bravely ignoring her physical handicap, is shielding the Olympic flame with her body to protect it against Western attackers.

The incident, captured on video, has galvanized China’s masses and created a new national hero. A star has been born, and she is 27-year-old Jin Jing of Shanghai, an amputee in a wheelchair who was carrying the Olympic torch in Paris this week when she was confronted by protesters who wrestled for the torch.

The one-legged Paralympic fencing champion, whose picture has been splashed across front pages in China, has become an iconic image of everything the Chinese want to believe about the innocence of their country and the dastardliness of the West.

All week she has been mobbed by fans and glorified in the Chinese media, who dubbed her the “smiling angel in a wheelchair” and “saviour of the national honour.”

Her fans describe her as fearless and modest. “She has captured the hearts of millions of Chinese people,” the state news agency says. As for Ms. Jin, she smiles sweetly and then says, of the protesters, “I despise them.”

….There is mounting evidence — in Internet chat rooms, on the streets and everywhere else where public opinion can be measured — that the Chinese Communist Party has gained popularity and strength as a result of the violence and chaos of the past month.

It might be facing an Olympic opening ceremony boycott and mounting criticism from abroad, but the government has largely succeeded in mobilizing its 1.3 billion people into a unified force, giving it the domestic legitimacy it craves for its survival.

This brings me back to the headline of my earlier post and whether the events of the past week have been a PR disaster for China. They certainly started off that way. But I still believe it is much too early to determine the net effect of the media coverage of China’s Olympic-related activities. Yesterday I would have said the scales tipped slightly toward the disaster side. Now, as I see the news out of Argentina, I’d say the scale is about even. And remember, I am not talking about a scale of right or wrong, but of public perception.

What lies ahead is a huge question mark. I’ve always felt the government was hoisting itself on its own petard by saying it would open up the country to the media – a promise I can’t imagine them keeping (thus far they’ve done a pretty poor job of it). They may well get pulverized by the global media. But we saw this week that they are adept at turning the pulverization into a national rallying cry. Maybe it was pure luck that Jin JIng happened to be attacked the way she was. In any case, it was a gift from heaven for the CCP, like Bin Laden’s video right before the 2004 election was to George Bush.

Tibet. It popped up out of nowhere, All eyes were on Darfur as the huge thorn in China’s side, and suddenly Mia Farrow has been wholly overshadowed by the Dalai Lama. And that’s good for China in terms of support from its citizens. Tibet is an issue the Chinese are passionate about. Some Chinese I know had never even heard of Darfur and certainly felt no emotional attachment to the issues there. Tibet is another story. Watching the issue galvanize the country is astonishing. The way the situation is being manipulated might be comparable to the effectiveness of the Nuremberg rallies, but the effectiveness in and of itself is indisputable.

Shortly before the Olympic Games, China will also be hosting the Paralympic Games. I’ll put down money that Jin Jing will be making a strongly publicized appearance. (A side benefit, I hope, would be greater tolerance and compassion for the handicapped here in China. You so rarely see anyone in a wheelchair here in Beijing.)


A Public Relations Disaster?

Um, maybe. But for whom? You have to see this amazing post and its accompanying photos that tug at the heartstrings with just the right amount of pathos. Miraculous.

Hats off, gentlemen; a martyr is born. Maybe it’s not the PR disaster so many had thought. Will it actually boomerang from con to pro? At this point that appears very possible. I would say it’s nearly impossible to look at that young woman in the wheelchair being terrorized and not feel a surge of — well, take a look, and I think you’ll feel what I mean. Whether its deserved or not, she’s going to be a national hero the rest of her life.

Update: Slightly edited the morning after; I shouldn’t post so late at night.