Outrage! Empire State Building “goes PRC” on October 1

China has done bad things, and it’s done good things, like all countries. China has its fair share of atrocities, injustices and a considerable legacy of repression and injustice. But China is not Nazi Germany, they are not a nation of deranged Maoists, and they happen to be one of the linchpins in the global economy that keeps America afloat. They happen to be moving in the right direction, despite some infuriating steps backwards. We all know the story, we all know the bad stuff and the good stuff.

So when I see Americans go insane over the Empire State Building turning red and yellow to mark the 60th anniversary of the PRC, I have to say it’s simply nuts. We recognize China, we trade with China, we work with China – our fates are tied together, perhaps inextricably. Seeing the outpouring of hate and paranoia from the right-wing blogs, while predictable. is a good reminder of the prejudices many in America bear toward our No. 1 trading partner, and of our ongoing inbred stupidity when it comes to scare words like “Red China.”

The Village Voice today rounds up some of the hysteria, and here are some samples:

Empire State Building, Drenched in Blood!

China Rape

In celebrating The Peoples Republic of China’s 60th anniversary the Empire State Building in New York City will be lit up with both yellow and red lights on Wednesday. I find this most appropriate since red will represent the blood of the millions of innocent people China has murdered or thrown in their Gulag System. The yellow will represent the cowardly conduct of a nation who has chosen to rape and murder Falun Gong members as well as the Uyghur People of Turkistan.

When Chinese consul, Peng Keyu, and other officials take part in the lighting ceremony there should also be a laser light show depicting the people who’ve been tortured and used for organ transplants. The light show should also focus on U.S. Industries who have profiteered from China’s lucrative slave labor and absents of environmental laws. The laser show should also depict the million or so peasants who were displaced for the Olympic Arena. They should show the innocent people who were killed or silenced so as not to reveal what China did to them.


Celebrating COMMUNIST CHINA’s 60th birthday??!!!

What’s next, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky’s birthday’s too?

What about Allah while we’re honoring our enemies under the “Commie Obammie” administration?

First it was the flying of the Commie flag of China right next to the Stars and Stripes right in our own Rose Garden of the White House last week we blogged and bi*&^%$ about here, now they’re gonna honor the birth of Communist China by turning the lighting on the Empire State Building Commie Red and Yellow???!!!!


Tune in next week when the Empire State goes Red & Black to honor the Nazis


Former Bush attack dog Jules Crittenden also has to get into the act, of course:

Let’s hear it for putting labor camps to good use! Controlling the means of production rocks! Kleptomaniacal post-Marxist autocracy, yeah!

I know, the Chinese blogs and message boards aren’t always overflowing with nuanced, compassionate, thoughtful dialogue about the US, but really, this is absurd. The hypocrisy is beyond belief as these bloggers pound on their made-in-China keyboards.

I’m all for constructive criticism of any autocratic regime. I’m for calling China (and the US, etc.) out for their crimes and misdemeanors. But this is not only ridiculous when you consider how innocuous the actual event it – this hyperbolic, coordinated reacton is much more sinister than that. It is being used as a tacit attack on “Obama’s America,” as Rush Limbaugh has proudly called it. What these ignoramuses are saying has almost nothing to do with China, a country they know virtually nothing about. It is all about smearing Obama, because this is happening here, in “Obama’s America,” an America that encourages palling around with terrorists and coddling dictators and appeasing madmen, the new socialist communist fascist Muslim America. Of course, none of these gasbags had a word to say five years ago when we saw this:


Now the sky is falling. And, by the way, some liberals, I am sure, will also get into the act – misperceptions abound on all sides about China (I cringe when I read certain lefty blogs I usually like when they go on about Tibet, blithely unaware of even the most basic facts). It’s embarrassing and it’s stupid. The PRC plays a vital role in America’s interests, it’s here to stay (at least throughout our lifetimes), it sucks in many ways but the extension of this courtesy, lighting up the Empire State Building, is not an act of appeasement or treason. This is diplomacy, whether it’s done by Bush or Obama. Grow up and get used to it.


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: 121 Comments

I see your point as well, and don’t necessarily mean to argue for the term “totalitarian” or “authoritarian” or whatever, which are in the end only words that can of course never capture the full reality of an entire country. If I personally had to pick a few words to describe the Chinese government, it would be something more along the lines of “steaming hot mess.”

What I really disagree with, however, is the claim that people can go on living their lives almost entirely without noticing the government, as I think the gov is everywhere.
On the one hand, there are some people who clearly get off on the show of force like on Oct. 1st and take virtual chest-thumping on Anti-CNN seriously. Frankly, these people are pathetic and depend on the Chinese state to realize their own sense of selfhood.
On the other hand, there are many others who are less enthusiastic, maybe a “silent majority,” who inevitably have “politically incorrect” thoughts and wonder if the current political and social structure in China is really good for the country. Why did so many kids die in Sichuan? Why is our children’s milk powder poisoned? What is this crap about the “first stage of socialism”? And doesn’t the government have anything better to do than host the Olympics and organize a massive 60th anniversary show?
These are real and even quite common concerns. But the only reason almost no one takes any action based upon these concerns is because they are frightened of the elephant in the room. Anyone with a completely natural yet politically incorrect thought knows that that thought needs to be kept completely private and not acted upon. Otherwise you end up like Tan Zuoren and Ai Weiwei, both doing quite simple, good, and honestly uncontroversial things, yet arrested and beaten. You could be making a little bit of money and leading a quiet and docile life, so best to just shut up. In these considerations, the Party as elephant in the room is always present in people’s minds. And as a result of these considerations, the Party is able to perpetuate its control seemingly indefinitely.

October 3, 2009 @ 6:24 am | Comment

I hear everything you say and have no disagreements about the anticnn types. Here’s where I do disagree:

These are real and even quite common concerns. But the only reason almost no one takes any action based upon these concerns is because they are frightened of the elephant in the room.

In all honesty, I think the attention span of the majority of Chinese people for the tragedies you name is limited. They were all genuinely moved by the carnage the earthquake caused and gave a lot of time and money to help. But about the social injustice of the local governments screwing the people over and suppressing the villagers’ complaints – I think most Chinese people’s attitude is that that’s a shame and it sucks, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from local officials and there’s not much we can do so let’s focus on our own lives. Meanwhile, the newspapers are increasingly full of articles criticizing the government (within the usual constraints, of course), blogs rant about the government (again, with limits – and I guess those limits are “the elephant in the room”) – but I don’t believe social issues are top of mind for most people in China, with some very dramatic exceptions. Anyway, we may just need to agree to disagree on this, as it’s not easy to prove.

October 3, 2009 @ 6:40 am | Comment

I Hope the Chinese Communist Party Can Continue to its Dictatorship of China for As Long As Possible.

Should a government or political party step down from power due to its mistakes or even crimes? I do not think it should, and I do not think it has happened in history. No matter what mistakes a government made, as long as it corrects its mistakes and improves itself, it’s still a good government.

The American government has made many many mistakes and crimes in its history, from the genocide of Native Americans to the enslavement of Blacks to the exploitation of immigrants to the Iraq War. Yet has the American government stepped down yet? Of course not. Some people think the Democratic and Republican parties’ constant switching of power is meaningful, but they both belong to the same elite ruling class, follows the same institutions and ideologies, to think they represent two different government or systems is too simple, too naive.

Now let’s look at the Chinese government. If we draw a graph, on the x-axis is time, and on the y-x is the number of people killed by the Chinese government, then you’ll see that this graph is a rapidly decreasing one, and decreasing much faster than the same graph for the American government. This means the Chinese government is progressing, improving. This is a good thing. Today’s China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, this I have no complaints about. This is simply the result of historical evolution, history will evolve regardless of human will, just like mountains and rivers and continents will shift and change through millions of years. Can humans stop a mountain from forming, a river from forming, stop the formation of the Asian Continent, the formation of the Pacific Ocean? Of course we cannot.

Of course, we have a right to criticize the performance of the Chinese government. For example, when I go into a convenience store, and I was mistreated, I’ll raise a complaint to the manager. But I still acknowledge the manager’s ownership of this convenience store, I’ll not deny his ownership just because I was unhappy with the service, and I certainly will not ask him to hand over ownership of this store to me because of it. Today, I acknowledge the Chinese Communist Party’s ownership of China.

In today’s world, 100+ countries recognize the Chinese Communist Party to be the official and legal government of the People’s Republic of China, and China has embassadorial/commerce/trade/cultural/educational/political/military relations with those countries. China is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council, permanent member of World Trade Organization, permanent member of International World Bank, of International Monetary Fund, of G20, of Asian Pacific Alliance, etc. In other worlds, the world has fully embraced China and the Chinese government.

America has been an expert at anti-Communist and anti-Dicatorship activities and causes. It has the most powerful military in the world, the biggest spy agency in the world, the biggest political influence in the world, it even is able to bring down the USSR. Yet even this great anti-Communist, anti-Dicatorship superpower is now cooperating with China, is forming strategic relationship with China. I think it’s fair to say the US government has long ago gave up the goal of bringing down China like it did the USSR. It realized long time ago China is much stronger than USSR, and cannot be brought down so easily. The Taiwanese government, in the 50’s and 60’s had concrete plans to invade the Mainland and “re-take” their lost power. But it has realized a long time ago that this window has passed.

So, I think the Chinese Communist Party can rest easy, and realize that there’s no credible force today that can touch it, no group of people can challenge it. I am very happy about this of course, because I hope the Chinese Communist Party can continue to rule China and continue its dictatorship for as long as possible.

October 3, 2009 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

I agree with you.

With all the hype and bashing and whatevers, it is clear that they’re really attacking the word “communism.” It’s funny how every time the word “communism” appears, Western countries will start pointing their fingers yelling “bad” and “evil” even before they know what the issue is. It’s really bashing for bashing’s sake.

Now with all the bashing of EBS lighting up in Red and Yellow in celebration of the 60th Anniversary of CCP, it’s just plain overreaction. Really? Who cares? China doesn’t care, the Chinese people doesn’t care.

It’s funny how people from many Western countries say that the Chinese people who does not hate CCP is because of communism propaganda, they don’t really realize that they, themselves, were brainwashed by their own governments to think that “communism” is bad no matter what they do. It’s evident in how many Westerners would bash the CCP without knowing a thing about China and her history. I’m not saying that CCP never did anything wrong, but every country has done and is currently doing something wrong. Like the US, it’s definitely wrong to go to war with Iraq, and yet, even after they realized that it is wrong, and even after they got Obama as the new president, their troops are still where? In Iraq.

October 3, 2009 @ 6:32 pm | Comment

That building is quite aptly named, and suitable for this occasion – as in “Empire” state building.

But China right now isn’t strictly a dictatorship, but more of a benevolent oligarchy.

October 4, 2009 @ 12:27 am | Comment

“Who cares? China doesn’t care, the Chinese people doesn’t care.”
Well, the Consulate General and the official media cares.

October 4, 2009 @ 2:39 am | Comment

PS- One of the comments on the Global Times article says “wait another 30 years and the entire world will light up for us.” Classy!

October 4, 2009 @ 2:41 am | Comment

I wonder if the commenter meant China would take over the world, or that the whole world would recognize China as a global power, or….? Seems you can interpret that in all kinds of ways.

October 4, 2009 @ 2:53 am | Comment

“But China right now isn’t strictly a dictatorship, but more of a benevolent

Oligarchies are not benevolent.Don’t confuse it with aristocracy.

Oligarchy: government of a few.
Aristocracy: government of the best.

China has moved from a Marxist state to a predatory capitalist system.
From China Challenges.
“Thus there is a new political-managerial class, which over the last two decades has converted their positions of authority into wealth and power. The vibrancy of entrepreneurial ambitions combined with the arbitrariness of power in an authoritarian state has sometimes given rise to particularly corrupt or predatory forms of capitalism, unencumbered by the restraints of civil society institutions. Perhaps nowhere has the predation been as starkly evident as in land seizures both in cities and the countryside. In the real estate boom of recent years, for example, the commercial developers in cahoots with local officials have bulldozed old city neighborhoods, residents waking up in the morning to find that their house has been marked for demolition with the Chinese character “chai” – meaning raze – painted in white, with hardly any redress or adequate compensation available.

This corrupt or predatory form of capitalism has also some obvious global implications. When foreign companies try to invest in China or Chinese companies try to acquire holdings abroad the decision-making process can be vitiated by arbitrary political interference, underhand dealings, kickbacks and influence-peddling. Even in matters of foreign aid in Africa a recent New York Times report points to the opacity in the activities of politically well-connected Chinese foreign-aid contractors.”

It is an interesting evolution: Feudal->Marxist->Maoist->Predatory capitalism–> ???

It would be interesting to know what Marx would say about it. But I trust more Trotsky for a preciser description.

Something in the line of

But now in capitalistic sphere. A plutocracy maybe?

October 4, 2009 @ 3:02 am | Comment

Small links correction


October 4, 2009 @ 3:05 am | Comment


I can’t follow this entire thread, but I want to say two things.

First, a lot of the crap you quote here is quite horrible, but I don’t expect Americans to be any more tolerant of foreign nationalism than the average Chinese. Imagine what would happen if Tian’anmen were draped in stars and stripes on July 4, 2008, to celebrate the 230th anniversary of the ratification of the oldest constitution in the world.

Second, I think that comparisons with Nazi Germany do make a lot of sense. We know the Nazis for World War Two and the Holocaust (as we should), but we forget that a lot of Germans had a great time during the Third Reich and did not feel that they lived under a totalitarian regime the way we think about it today. A lot of Germans prospered under the Nazis. A lot of foreign companies did great business under the Nazis. And as long as you did not violate some of the taboos of the Nazi regime, it let you alone and did not interfere in your daily life like the Maoists did. You could stay away from stupid mass meetings and still do pretty well in the Third Reich, not so in 1970s China or Tibet today.

One of the reasons why the Nazis managed to stay in power for so long is that they bribed large parts of the German people with material benefits, so they would look the other way when the Nazis committed their atrocities. That is why the Nazis never needed to build up their Gestapo on the same scale as the East Germans did with Stasi.

October 4, 2009 @ 4:03 am | Comment

Having studied life in Nazi Germany for decades I can say, to my own satisfaction at least, that parallels with today’s PRC don’t hold up. Just because a lot of people were happy and prospered under the Nazis and under the PRC doesn’t make the two equivalent. And the Nazis DID interfere with your daily life. They DID demand loyalty. All life revolved around a single cult-figure as under Mao and Kim and Stalin. Your children joined the Hitler Youth. There are countless stories of informants turning in their neighbors, and even children turning in their parents, for anti-Nazi remarks. People were executed for things they said about Hitler. This is simply not the case in modern China, though it was true under Mao. Most “Aryan” Germans were happy and contented, but that had nothing to do with whether or not their government system was totalitarian – i.e., just because you are happy does not mean your government is not totalitarian. The Germans cheerfully surrendered their critical faculties and freedoms to the Nazis.

One of the reasons why the Nazis managed to stay in power for so long is that they bribed large parts of the German people with material benefits, so they would look the other way when the Nazis committed their atrocities

Not true. Most of those who benefitted materially did so until 1942. After that, all they did was lose, in every way, and yet they fought until the bitter end. The reasons why are complex, and are part of the gradual process of radicalization the Third Reich implemented, taking a party that had been looked on by most as a bit bizarre and turning it into a veritable religion. People did not look the other way because they were made rich. They did so in part because the notion of the evil Jew had been institutionalized, in part because the Nazis rekindled a national pride that had been shattered in 1918, and in part because of a uniquely German notion of loyalty, duty and devotion to the voelkisch concept of the Vaterland.

Comparisons with the Nazis are very dangerous. People do it with America all the time, pointing to things America did that could be called “Naziistic” (the Indian genocide being the most popular point of evidence), but failing to take into account the whole picture of what America is and what life there is like. it in no way resembles Nazi Germany. And neither does today’s China.

October 4, 2009 @ 4:30 am | Comment

@kevinnolongerinpudong (post #106)
I wonder if the media really cares about the lighting up of the ESB or do they just want to sell a story. The media is known to be a tool of bias ideas and what not.

I know some people may think that the media is some kind of a watchdog, but it is only on non-political level really. With all the bias rubbish the media has been putting out in Western countries for the past couple of years, I doubt their interest is purely on ESB lighting up for China.

I agree with Richard, there’s no way to make comparison to Nazi Germany. If you truly think so, and I don’t mean any disrespect here, I suggest you take a closer look at modern China yourself. And by “yourself” I do not mean through mass media.

October 4, 2009 @ 5:06 am | Comment

Nazi Germany…


October 4, 2009 @ 5:33 am | Comment


I respectfully disagree. The type of loyalty demanded under Mao was different from the loyalty under the Nazis. During the Mao era devotion was not enough. You could be labeled a counterrevolutionary for your failure to be zealous enough. The Nazis never demanded that, but they found enough people to carry out their program and that is the scary part.

Most of those who benefitted materially did so until 1942.

Not necessarily true. German historian Götz Aly recently published a book about how much the Nazis were able to keep the Germans happy during the war. After 1945, many Germans complained that their rations they received from the Allies were worse than what they got under the Nazis, who used outright plunder on the Eastern front to keep food rations up.

The CCP plundered too, perhaps not at the same scale as the Nazi, but still. Truckloads of artefacts from Tibetan temples in Sichuan were looted before 1959 and sold on the art markets in the West. We cannot shrug out shoulders and say that this is something that happened during the Mao era and does not concern us.

What troubles me with these comparisons with the Nazis is not the fact that they are made, but that they do not look at the whole picture. Today, you can muddle through patriotic meetings if you live in Shanghai and are Han Chinese, without getting into trouble. And you can be a outspoken foreigner in Beijing without running into any trouble.

But Shanghai or Beijing are not China. If you show any sign of disloyalty and happen to be Tibetan or Uighur, you can get into a lot of trouble. This is not just about dissent, it’s about ethnicity, about racial discrimination. But you and I can ignore that because we live great lives in China and we don’t see it.

And that is the scary part.


I do read mass media in China and it scares me.

October 4, 2009 @ 6:04 am | Comment

If you show any sign of disloyalty and happen to be Tibetan or Uighur, you can get into a lot of trouble.

I think that depends on HOW they express their disloyalty. If you mean by demonstrations and protests, you’re right. But that applies to all Chinese, and even to foreigners, And this is true of all authoritarian governments. None tolerates protests that they feel challenge their power.

I still completely disagree about Nazi Germany but we won’t resolve this. The remark about Germans not being happy with their rations under the allies does not mean they were loyal to Hitler mainly because he fed them well. (I can’t follow this reasoning, sorry.) Plundering and looting, also, do not mean the system of government is totalitarian. Many countries plundered and looted while their governments were not totalitarian.

We can draw all kinds of parallels to Hitler’s Germany. Eugenics was once a big thing in America, as were segregated parks and clubs, areas where Jews and blacks couldn’t live. And so many more examples where we can draw parallels of America to Nazi Germany, including race-based concentration camps. Those things however, awful as they were, did not make America’s a totalitarian government. You can argue that, as with the Tibetans and Uighers, the experience of the victims terrible, and for them it seemed as if the government was totalitarian, especially the interred Japanese. Bad as these things were, they did not mean that the American government was a totalitarian or even authoritarian one. It just did some terrible things, but did not meet the criteria of totalitarianism.

October 4, 2009 @ 6:19 am | Comment

@Richard –

“They DID demand loyalty.”

Article 1 of the PRC constitution:

“Article 1. The People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants. The socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. Sabotage of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.”


“All life revolved around a single cult-figure”

I guess you must have missed the pictures hanging from the walls of every school-room in the country, the focus has merely shifted from the supreme leader to the communist party (of which only the politburo exercises national power) in general.


“Your children joined the Hitler Youth.”

From Wiki:

“The Young Pioneers of China (simplified Chinese: 中国少年先锋队; traditional Chinese: 中國少年先鋒隊; pinyin: Zhōngguó shàonián xiānfēngduì; abbr. simplified Chinese: 少先队; traditional Chinese: 少先隊; pinyin: shàoxiānduì) is a mass youth organization for children in the People’s Republic of China. The Young Pioneers of China is run by the Communist Youth League, an organization of older youth that comes under the Communist Party of China. The Young Pioneers of China is similar to Pioneer Movements that exist or existed in many Communist countries around the world.


“There are countless stories of informants turning in their neighbors, and even children turning in their parents, for anti-Nazi remarks.”

I’m having a hard time thinking of someone who was reported by their own children out of pure ideology. However, the Chinese police state most definitely uses informers and secret police to spy on and harass domestic dissidents:

“On January 19, 2005, the Washington Post reported that Bao Tong and his wife were injured in attacks by more than 20 plainclothes security agents as they attempted to leave their home to pay their respect to the family of Zhao Ziyang, who died on January 17. The authorities would only allow him access to a doctor if he removed a white flower pinned to his vest. He refused.[2] (Note that the white flower is a traditional symbol of mourning) His wife, pushed to the ground by a policeman, fractured a bone in her spine that had her hospitalized for 3 months.”


“The Germans cheerfully surrendered their critical faculties and freedoms to the Nazis.”

From an interview with Ai Weiwei:

“China, on the one hand you have a dictatorship, you have a totalitarian society. We still don’t have right to elect our own government. And they make stupid decisions you see. Every day you see in the papers stupid decisions are made. On the other hand you have a big crowd of nationalism, young kids who know nothing because of the limited information or because of the misleading of the media. So these two combinations can make the situation even worse.”

None of this is to say that China is the same as Nazi Germany, or that China is becoming like Nazi Germany (although I believe it is becoming more hard-line as 2012 approaches), but denying the totality of the communist party’s rule, and the sheer hopelessness of wishing to go against its will, is not real life in China as I recognise it.

October 4, 2009 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

As an addendum, anti-Semitism and racism are not necessary for a totalitarian state to exist, although they can be allowed free rein under such a system.

October 4, 2009 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

Oh, and as far as being arrested merely for discussing certain subjects:


October 4, 2009 @ 1:15 pm | Comment

FOARP, I guess we can have this conversation forever. They may demand loyalty on paper. And I have written many times about them arresting people for discussing democracy and censoring all kinds of topics. Life in modern-day China is not totalitarian the way it was in Nazi Germany, Mao’s China or Nazi Germany. If you think it is, we’ll acknowledge we hold different viewpoints. China under Mao was totalitarian. It’s now authoritarian. An authoritarian regime will censor and arrest as well, but under a totalitarian regime, the regime is essentially your life – there is no escaping its playing an active and constant role in your life. Of course, if you choose to be an activist or to challenge the CCP’s power, as with any authoritarian, one-party system, it will crush you.

I think we all would expect Ai Weiwei to say China is totalitarian. I think anyone who chooses to push the government and threaten its grasp on power will see it that way. I know the different sides, and my bottom line is that there is enough freedom of choice in China now to move it into the authoritarian camp. There is no litmus test, however, to prove that either you or I are right. I won’t out China in the same category as North Korea.

In a totalitarian system, Ai Weiwei would have been murdered the very first time he opened his mouth.

October 5, 2009 @ 2:57 am | Comment

Good. If Xinjiang can be “independent” from the Sino-Tibetans, Jerusalem can be “independent” from Muslims, Christians and Jews, and Greece can be “independent” of Greek speakers.

Xinjiang is one of many Sino-Tibetan heartlands. Yunnan/Sichuan, the Tibetan Plateau, the Yellow River Valley, and Southern/Eastern Xinjiang have been Sino-Tibetan strongholds for up to ten thousand years.

October 22, 2009 @ 6:24 am | Comment

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