The latest from Shaun Rein

Modern Lei Feng fisks Shaun Rein’s latest creation. (For those of you who are new to this site, here’s my first post about Rein from half a year ago.) Go read the new post now,

I’ve enjoyed several of Shaun’s columns about marketing in China and I respect his obvious intelligence and experience. But he should never, ever be allowed to write about foreign policy or politics or global economics. He’s great when he’s writing about stuff like the 8-story Barbie Doll shop in Shanghai. When he writes about economic sanctions against North Korea, however, he only embarrasses himself.

(And let me add: I embarrass myself every day, and rarely know what I’m talking about. But I’m not writing columns under the Forbes banner. As I make clear in the legend up at the top, this blog is a bastion of “dilettantish punditry and pseudo-philosophy.” I warn everybody about that before they start reading.)

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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: 46 Comments

Why the change in the headline? I really preferred the “Rein, Rein, go away,” title.

August 5, 2010 @ 11:42 am | Comment

It was too harsh and it was uncalled for. My bad.

August 5, 2010 @ 11:48 am | Comment

Agreed. It was a bit harsh. Although, I think the creatively spun sarcasm is what peaked my interest.

August 5, 2010 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

I left this at the other site so I should leave it here too.

Rein’s article is such a piece of shit, I have trouble even blaming him. I used to teach international relations at the college level and if Rein turned in something like this in one of my freshmen classes, I would have given him a C. It really does read like a mediocre essay by a college freshman.

On top of all that, it is incredibly sexist and condescending for him to ascribe Hillary Clinton’s views on North Korea to the fact she was “planning” her daughter’s wedding. This one ranks up there in sheer perfidy with Rein’s famous previous comment on how there is no longer any poverty in China. I mean this guy is such a useful idiot it is getting ridiculous. It’s like he’s the new Josef Stalin or something, who just doesn’t care about anyone except his probably mythical North Korean Chinese language buddies.

But as I said at the beginning of this comment, Rein is just too nutty even to be blamed. I blame Forbes. WTF are they doing allowing this guy to write this tripe week after week and to use what was once a decent magazine as his forum to plug his own little business? I keep hearing how this and that Forbes reporter is embarrassed by Rein, but yet there he is churning out the same old shit every week. What is going on? Is Rein paying for the privilege? Is Forbes putting in Rein because Rein is the CCP’s own boy and by doing so it will be currying favor with the CCP? As long as this shit runs in Forbes, I blame Forbes.

August 5, 2010 @ 3:13 pm | Comment

Are you being ironic when you talk about his “obvious intelligence”? Granted, never read any of his pieces on Marketing or whatever. His pieces on foreign policy are so preposterous I can’t force myself to read anything else.

August 5, 2010 @ 5:02 pm | Comment

I prefer the earlier “Rein, Rein, go away,” title!

August 5, 2010 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

Who reads forbes nowadays, rich people wannabes?

Read the Economist, join the serious debate:

http://www.economist.com/debate/debates/overview/179

When both the economist and Mao are on the same side, you know your days are numbered.

August 5, 2010 @ 8:31 pm | Comment

It looks like Shaun subscribes to the “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” school of thinking.

August 5, 2010 @ 10:00 pm | Comment

Words cannot describe my reaction.

August 5, 2010 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

Why hasn’t anyone commented on the horribly sexist theme of his post? Does anyone seriously believe he would have talked about a man’s judgment on North Korea having been impaired by having been immersed in wedding plans?

August 5, 2010 @ 11:24 pm | Comment

Are you being ironic when you talk about his “obvious intelligence”?

His marketing pieces prove he’s intelligent. That all melts away when he writes about things outside his narrow area of expertise.

August 6, 2010 @ 12:11 am | Comment

http://www.businessweek.com/bios/Shaun_Rein.htm

I’m sure Chinese business leaders would pay good money to this guy just to keep him writing.

August 6, 2010 @ 1:08 am | Comment

I have to agree with Rein that sanctions have not worked. That view is hardly new. It does not follow, however, that the lack of results from sanctions justifies engaging the regime. Why should the U.S. encourage anyone to invest in North Korea. The South Koreans have tried that, and the results have been singularly unspectacular, both economically and in the sphere of Intra-Peninsular politics.
It’s not as if someone in the U.N. Command simply said, “Let’s put on large scale naval exercises this year”. Sinking a military vessel is an act of war. Yet the Combined Command has limited itself to a show of force, while the South Koreans have failed to follow up the sinking of the Choenon with military action of their own.Funny how Rein overlooked that issue completely.

As an aside: It is interesting how many ‘western’ apologists for China one sees in the blogosphere these days. Reminds me of the apologists for Vietnam’s government that I run into there. Hey, dictatorships are safe and great places to live, as long as you hold a passport that guarantees your exit from the country should the walls begin to crumble.

August 6, 2010 @ 4:24 am | Comment

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2xpQHlwkDc

Listen to the guy, I think I am a fan now. He knows what he’s saying.

August 6, 2010 @ 6:27 am | Comment

“When both the economist and Mao are on the same side, you know your days are numbered.”
Let me guess, these economists would be the self same ones that somehow missed the Great Recession forming? I dare say their grandfathers thought Nazism or Fascism was the way forward. Mussolini even managed to get the trains running on time, and look at the strides that chap Hitler has made…. As for the Americans..what did Hitler say? Ahh, yes…a “racially degenerate” society on its way to self-destruction…

Don’t, like economists and Mao, make predictions before the event has ended…

August 6, 2010 @ 6:52 am | Comment

@Lirelou –

“It is interesting how many ‘western’ apologists for China one sees in the blogosphere these days.”

Nothing new except the faces. People have been sucking up to the CCP since before Rein was even born. As far as I can tell, the guys who showed up in the 50′s and 60′s were simply wannabe revolutionaries power-tripping off the fact that they were probably only one of a few thousand foreigners in the country all-told. When I first arrived in China there were people like Chris Gelken, Dwight Daniels, and, of course, Da Shan, all of whom never seemed to have anything but good things to say about their CCP paymasters. Shaun Rein is merely a continuation of this, albeit that he may not have actually worked directly for the CCP (or he might have, I don’t know).

Here’s a great idea for the next instalment of CCTV 9′s “Dialogue”: a debate between Thomas Friedman and Shaun Rein on the subject of “The CCP – awesome party or awesomest party?”. Get Yang Rui to host it and insomnia the world over will finally have its cure!

PS – I am told that he actually reads the comments sections of blogs which are critical of his work and is somewhat miffed at me for some reason. So my message to you, Shaun, baby, is please try sticking to what you know in future!

August 6, 2010 @ 7:58 am | Comment

FOARP, he banned me from following him on Twitter. I think he’s living in a self-spun cocoon. He’s got more than 1,000 followers on twitter but follows less than 20, indicating he wants to speak but not to listen. But he writes good pieces on marketing in China from time to time.

Hypo, here’s another clip of Shaun Rein in which one of his interlocutors calls him, almost, an apologist for China. He was being way too polite.

August 6, 2010 @ 9:03 am | Comment

yes, anyone who says positive things about China must be ridiculed, no matter what he says.

August 6, 2010 @ 9:07 am | Comment

Red Star, I think it’s safe to say that ev everyone here has positive things to say about China. Everyone. You know I put up lots of posts about how great China is, and you know I sometimes get attacked as a panda-hugger (and worse). So quit your dumb generalizations. We all like China, even if some of us are less generous with our love of its government and its apologists.

August 6, 2010 @ 9:10 am | Comment

“yes, anyone who says positive things about China must be ridiculed, no matter what he says.”

Hmmmm

From the Global Times
http://china.globaltimes.cn/society/2010-08/560339.html
“Zhang Shengjun,…. blah blah blah…., despite the adulation of the foreign media.”

Adulation, eh?

From http://www.thefreedictionary.com/adulation I get
“Excessive flattery or admiration”
and
“obsequious flattery or praise; extreme admiration”

Note to self….must ridicule foreign media…

August 6, 2010 @ 9:37 am | Comment

You aren’t expecting a rational argument with Red Star, are you?

August 6, 2010 @ 9:53 am | Comment

:-D

August 6, 2010 @ 10:05 am | Comment

In Shaun Rein’s defense, he’s a business/financial writer. Occasionally he writes or comments on social and political issues that is not his strong suit.

If you are in business or finance, you cannot not admire what the Chinese leaders are doing. Managing the miraculous rise of 1.3 billion people is no small feat. Rein happens to live in the business world where the consensus is that China has been doing something great.

I am in the wall street (surprise, not capitalized to finger the in-house grammar Nazi). People here “hate” the Chinese because they are not letting our hands on their cake. People here also admire the Chinese leadership because that’s exactly the right thing to do, for China.

And then you get the whole package in Beijing, which I would take over most of the third-world democracies (an oxymoron right there) at this moment.

August 7, 2010 @ 2:08 am | Comment

In Shaun Rein’s defense, he’s a business/financial writer

That’s not a defense, it’s an indictment. Let’s say Paul Krugman today put out an idiotic column about how simplified Chinese characters should be abolished. Should we say, “In his defense, he’s an economist and knows nothing about Chinese”? Of course not. What we would say is that he’s being an ignoramus and columnists should write what they know about. If they leave that sphere and “analyze” shit they know literally nothing about they should be dismissed. In most cases after writing a column like Rein’s on North Korea the columnist would be given the heave-ho, or at least be given a severe scolding and sent to his room for a while.

Making the argument that we should excuse the fact that he doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about because he’s a business columnist is the most laughable “defense” I can possibly imagine.

August 7, 2010 @ 2:25 am | Comment

Difference is that the financial/business side of equation cannot be completely removed from the social/political side.

By growing the GDP and living standard by 10% a year for 30 years (alone), the Chinese government has already achieved a lot in bringing more justice and freedom to the society.

I watched the video. He’s right on that China is overblamed. Remember the exchange rate? Now China lets it float, how many jobs get saved?

August 7, 2010 @ 5:17 am | Comment

Hypo, you’re just quacking. You earned your 50 cents. No columnist, especially for an institution as prestigious s Forbes, should write about things they know nothing about. Period, end of story.

August 7, 2010 @ 5:34 am | Comment

Yeah, Check out another Forbes columist.. Gordon Chang, the one who saw the “coming collapse of China”.

“prestigious s Forbes”, you are not aware of what’s going on with these traditional media firms, obviously.

Short, short all of them.

August 7, 2010 @ 5:49 am | Comment

Hypo, I did appreciate the link, and it is obvious that Rein does have a finger on China’s economic pulse, which I gather many here would agree with. As for Korea? Best to leave that to Korea watchers.

August 7, 2010 @ 6:41 am | Comment

Lirelou, he does have his finger on China’s economic pulse, but that hasn’t stopped him from making outrageous assertions along the lines of “there is no longer poverty in China.”

Hypothermia, typical fenqing thinking to say one ignorant columnist is okay because some other columnists are ignorant, too. If Chang ever writes a column that’s this fucked up I’ll call him on it, too. Has he written any columns under the Forbes banner that are this fucked up? Link?

August 7, 2010 @ 6:46 am | Comment

He has an audience and his boss is willing to pay him write, it’s just business, just like every opinion writer on every magazine and newspaper. Are you saying there’s something illegal going on?

August 7, 2010 @ 7:27 am | Comment

Illegal? Perish the thought. Stupid? You betcha.

August 7, 2010 @ 8:58 am | Comment

Anyone with a resume like Gordan G Chang would not get a column on a semi-prestigious media.

in 2002, Gordon G Chang predicted the collapse of China in 2006.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNwt2DGshpw

Listen to this guy, a troubled man

August 7, 2010 @ 9:35 am | Comment

I repeat, show me a single link to a gob-smackingly dumb Forbes column Chang wrote, one that screams “Ignorant.” Whether Chang was right or wrong, give or take some years, remains to be seen (I think he was wrong), but he at least performed his research and spelled out his arguments cogently. Rein’s column, on the other hand, is a freshman book report with zero research, one that repeats maudlin cliches (economic sanctions don’t work) while making a total ass of himself starting literally with the very first sentence.

But you see, Hypo, this is what I call trolling: leading the conversation away from the topic, diverting it to, say, Gordon Chang. This is how trolls derail threads and move them in the directions they choose. Keep trying.

August 7, 2010 @ 9:58 am | Comment

@ hypo

I think it is wrong to attack Gordon Chang for not knowing whereof he speaks. I almost never agree with Chang’s gloom and doom predictions for China and he seems to be terminally wrong on those. But, and this is the important thing here, I do not think his bona fides are at all in question. He has written two well reserached and well received books (not necessarily books with which most people agreed) and he is a serious geopolitical analyst. Though I think you will find it easy to find those who disagree with Chang, I think you will have difficulty finding serious people who believe his commentary on China is so uninformed as to warrant calling for him to shut up, which by the sounds of your comments, you are doing.

I think it is very different with respect to Shaun Rein, who, near as I can tell, has done no research on so many of the things on which he opines and has no background or training justifying his being the one to write on such things. I too find it shocking that Forbes continues to trot him out time after time and I am beginning to believe the rumours that Forbes does this as a sop to the CCP. I will also vouch for having heard that many at Forbes are embarrassed by him and have called for his ouster, lending further credence to the CCP connection.

August 7, 2010 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

Richard, Agreed. Well, even Walter Duranty’s ghost continues to hold his Pulitzer Prize, despite false reporting on the 1932-33 Soviet famine and MIT continues to employ Noam Chomsky, most of whose writing falls in the political polemic category, so I guess Forbes is in good, if flawed, company.

August 8, 2010 @ 1:08 am | Comment

“MIT continues to employ Noam Chomsky, most of whose writing falls in the political polemic category,”

Says one who obviously knows nothing about Chomsky’s contribution in linguistic and COMPUTER SCIENCE. Yeah, he’s one of the giants in our time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chomsky_Normal_Form

August 8, 2010 @ 4:46 am | Comment

2Pac, that really quite rude of you. Chomsky is best known to the general public for his writings on political science (how much of the general public cares that much about linguistics or computer science?). Maybe most of his writings falls under linguistics, but a very sizable amount of it is about political science, so I have to conclude it’s you who knows nothing about Chomsky’s contributions.

August 8, 2010 @ 7:26 am | Comment

Oh, and 2PAC, I see you have the same IP address as Hypo. I knew from day one you were trolling I shouldn’t have let you in. Apologies to the readers who were making a serious attempt to interact with you.

August 8, 2010 @ 7:27 am | Comment

I saw the links here of Rein talking about business topics. He DOES seem like he knows what he’s talking about. Why does he sound so stupid when writing about politics?

August 8, 2010 @ 8:24 am | Comment

As I’ve said before, Shaun is smart, and he can be really good when he sticks to his area of expertise. Problem is he thinks he’s an oracle on all topics. I hate to disappoint him, but when he leaves his subject area, it’s like he’s wearing an LSD-orange jumpsuit and waving his arms around shouting, “Ridicule me!”

August 8, 2010 @ 8:28 am | Comment

2pac/hypo, I was in the Harvard/MIT Coop in Cambridge three weeks ago, and the only books I saw for sale by Chomsky were all political scribblings. And they did have some books on computer sciences.

August 9, 2010 @ 10:08 am | Comment

Still, Richard, how can he sound so clueless and stupid? Know what I mean? It boggles the mind…

August 9, 2010 @ 10:12 am | Comment

Still, Richard, how can he sound so clueless and stupid? Know what I mean? It boggles the mind…

That’s what I, and, I suspect, several people over at Forbes are wondering. I have my theories, but the bottom line is that there’s no excuse for such amateurish drivel appearing under the Forbes banner. No matter how good his column on Barbie Dolls a few months ago was.

August 9, 2010 @ 10:42 am | Comment

I’m not a Chomsky fan, but there’s a helluva lot more to the man than political activism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky

I do suspect myself that some of his writings are bull (I don’t have the training required to seriously debate them though) but it’s pretty obvious that he is about four standard deviations more creative than the average Joe; he’s also incredibly hard-working (MIT is for workaholics exclusively) and brave.

All in all he deserves respect.

August 12, 2010 @ 2:46 am | Comment

[...] of China apologists in general and Shaun Rein in particular comes up, with a few references to my post from last week. It appears to have put the estimable Mr. Rein on the defensive, and he delivers an audio [...]

August 14, 2010 @ 3:50 am | Pingback

Richard, although I am bit out of my area of expertise here (an understatement), I have to say that your posting and subsequent discussion appears quite amicable in nature. Yes, you have shared your opinions on Mr. Rein, but I never felt your editorial was pejorative or ill intended. For those that have stayed from the original topic and chosen to commandeer your site with attempts at derailment, I will say this – get a life and/or blog of your own!

August 15, 2010 @ 2:33 pm | Comment

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