Chinese stoicism

It’s news to David Brooks. It’s okay for people to express their awe over things they experience for the first time, like Bush I and the bar code reader (a story that was much less newsworthy than made out to be). But Brooks seems to have literally no insight into what he’s writing about nor does he seem to have done any basic research. This piece has a”gee whiz” tone to it that I’d expect to read in a blog by someone visiting China for the first time, but not in a NYT column. At least he acknowledges that he’s completely ignorant.

Nevertheless, the story he tells and his interviews with Sichuan survivors are poignant, and I do tend to agree with his last sentence. The takeaway for me, aside from confirmation of my belief that Brooks should be demoted to beat reporter, is that even the Chinese who are vulnerable, even those with nothing, still look to the government with trusting eyes, knowing that their rulers are doing the right thing, wiling to sacrifice just about everything for what’s perceived as the common good. Thus, no bitterness over the lavish spending on Olympic pyrotechnics as they pick through the rubble of their demolished homes. These people see themselves as cogs in the vast machinery that keeps China functional. Lei Feng would be proud

The Discussion: 13 Comments

Brooks’ last line is comparing apples and oranges. I don’t see how reality TV has anything to do with people suffering from a natural disaster. A more apt comparison would be between the Wenchuan quake survivors and the people who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. While both groups showed admirable composure, there was far more suspicion and disgust at the central government in America.

But that was less due to some essentialist “Americans are whiners” argument than to the fact that Americans do have the right to criticize the authorities publicly. Mr. Brooks’ shroud of blissful ignorance probably keeps him from knowing about the completely justified despair and fury that were widespread in Sichuan before the government cracked down.

August 16, 2008 @ 9:42 am | Comment

Brooks may be starting to suffer from some kind of dangerous cultural disorientation. (Not uncommon amongst foreigners in China.) The NYT may want to think about pulling him out of China if he starts showing signs of going overboard.

The danger is that if Brooks’ own psychological orientation is Authoritarian (and Brooks is a Republican), he may overtime start to admire Chinese authoritarianism.

August 16, 2008 @ 11:04 am | Comment

“The danger is that if Brooks’ own psychological orientation is Authoritarian (and Brooks is a Republican), he may overtime start to admire Chinese authoritarianism.”

If? Last I checked, he supports Gitmo, waterboarding, and warrantless wiretapping.

August 16, 2008 @ 11:51 am | Comment

God help us if Brooks gets a Chinese girlfriend! He’ll fall off the deep end on some kind of authoritarian, China-expert, I’m-a-minor-diety trip.

August 16, 2008 @ 1:46 pm | Comment

Brooks’ staggering ineptitude is proof that 1) Pinch Sulzberger is determined to run what used to be the finest paper in the country out of business and 2)the pompous gasbag pay ratio is way out of line. His article is less insightful than comments I’ve made after a g&t or four. But no one wants to pay me six figures to pontificate…yet.

August 16, 2008 @ 1:50 pm | Comment

Everybody needs to cut Brooks some slack. I don’t care for his politics, but he often has insightful things to say about American culture. He apparently thought he could parachute in, a la Tom Friedman, make some observations, bang out some columns, and be happy.

The thing is, as the change in tone from the first to the second column indicates, that doesn’t work. Tom Friedman just chats with VIPs and repackages their anecdotes. Brooks got where he is by marshaling firsthand observations, but as he’s learning, in China the observations don’t marshal very easily.

Regardless, does anyone give him credit that, while the mobs are at the Olympic green, he’s at a random village in the Sichuan quake zone?

August 16, 2008 @ 7:18 pm | Comment

He probabl makes closer to 7 figures when you factor in the TV gigs and speaker fees he garners due to his ascension to NYT columnist.

August 16, 2008 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

The Chinese are going to eat Brooks alive. The Chinese will figure out his weak points and move in for the kill. Maybe get a young Chinese girl to offer Brooks some special, carnal knowledge of the pleasures of Chinese authoritarianism. Brooks’ authoritarian personality won’t be able to resist.

August 16, 2008 @ 9:16 pm | Comment

You say that Brooks should be “demoted” to beat reporter, as if that were a lessor position than that of a NY Times columnist. That’s perverse.

I know many NY Times reporters are sub-standard, e.g., Adam Nagourney, but I’ll take a John Burns (on the Iraq beat, now a bureau chief in London) over a Maureen Dowd or a Bob Herbert any day of the week.

August 16, 2008 @ 9:33 pm | Comment

Agree about John Burns. But to be a columnist is just about the highest honor at the NYT, the ultra-elite. David Brooks, William Kristol, Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman… what a dream team.

August 16, 2008 @ 9:51 pm | Comment

One only concludes that liberals and conservatives can be equally racists.

August 17, 2008 @ 4:22 am | Comment

We can write this maxim on the black board:


I recently had a conversation in China with this “retired” Canadian “businessman” who was traveling around China with his kid and his Chinese wife (big boobs, about 40 years younger than the Canadian authoritarian). He said that China should be the “model” for the West. He also said that he is “a big supporter” of the death penalty. (read: He loves to watch ’em hang/fry/choke to death, etc.)

His moral framework was: “the U.S. does that too!” (He didn’t say Canada does that too.)

Now we’ve got Brooks holding up Chinese authoritarianism as a model for American “whiners”, compatriots whose jobs have been exported, compatriots who don’t have health insurance, compatriots who don’t have decent education.

August 17, 2008 @ 8:50 am | Comment

Remember the the scramble for tickets, the fisticuffs, and the manhandling of reporters? Turns out there were (are) plenty of tickets out there, which explains all the empty seats:

How much Chinese stoicism will this invoke?

August 17, 2008 @ 10:35 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.