The Global Times and Ai Weiwei

Note: The Global Times has expressed a different opinion about what happened. Please see this post and the ensuing comments.

Nine days ago, Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of The Global Times, assembled all of the Chinese staff into the paper’s large conference room and shut the door. As is nearly always the case with such meetings, the expats, known as “foreign experts,” were not permitted inside.

Hu had a direct and simple order for his shock troops staff: They were to go to their desks and seek out any Chinese comment threads, any discussions on Chinese BBS’s and portals and blogs — any discussion on the Internet at all — about the detention of Ai Weiwei and counter them with the party line, as expressed so clearly and ominously in a recent Global Times editorial, namely that Ai Weiwei is a self-appointed maverick who deserves to be detained, and who is being used by hostile Western powers to embarrass, hurt and destabilize China. This was not a request, it was a direct order. It was compulsory.

This tells us quite clearly how determined the party is to get its message out about Ai Weiwei, even if it’s in gross violation of journalist ethics, if not downright sleazy. It adds a whole new dimension to the concept of the 50-center.

I’ve avoided Ai Weiwei, mainly because I’m on vacation and my Internet connections have been remarkably dodgy, which I attribute to Ai Weiwei, or at least to what he stands for. The CCP has to stifle voices of dissent when it feels vulnerable, and the Internet is always the first place they clamp down.

I’m sitting in a hotel in Nanjing and will try to make this a brief post, although I am brimming with thoughts on the topic.

The Global Times showed its truest and most sinister colors with a now infamous editorial warning that Ai Weiwei was about to hit a “red line,” and if//when he does he is asking for trouble. This was a not-so-veiled threat to all Chinese activists. The CCP is on the march, my friends. They’re kicking butt and taking names, and they’re coming for you.

It is reckless collision against China’s basic political framework and ignorance of China’s judicial sovereignty to exaggerate a specific case in China and attack China with fierce comments before finding out the truth. The West’s behavior aims at disrupting the attention of Chinese society and attempts to modify the value system of the Chinese people.

Ai Weiwei likes to do something “others dare not do.” He has been close to the red line of Chinese law. Objectively speaking, Chinese society does not have much experience in dealing with such persons. However, as long as Ai Weiwei continuously marches forward, he will inevitably touch the red line one day.

The West ignored the complexity of China’s running judicial environment and the characteristics of Ai Weiwei’s individual behavior. They simply described it as China’s “human rights suppression.” “Human rights” have really become the paint of Western politicians and the media, with which they are wiping off the fact in this world.

This is disturbing on so many levels I don’t think I need to drill down. It speaks for itself. It’s nauseating.

Instead, I’d like to talk about a meeting i had with a senior editor of the GT just 48 hours ago. She is urbane, sophisticated, educated, talented and a truly wonderful person. She also epitomizes the archetype of the sophisticated, urbane, educated Chinese who insist on toeing the Party line at all costs. I believe — I know — that this is completely sincere. But it’s also quite frustrating. “Getting through” to such a person, especially when it’s a good friend you admire, is infinitely frustrating when they seem to put up seamless, airtight mental barriers that you simply cannot break through.

I paraphrase, but with accuracy:

“Why doesn’t the West see that we do things our way in China? We have 1.3 billion people, all those mouths to feed and to protect through a harmonious society. You don’t have this situation. You are developed and your populations are small. Human rights doesn’t mean to the West what it means in China. Most Chinese support Ai Weiwei’s detention. They support Liu Xiaobo’s detention. He is a criminal trying to impose Western-style government on a society that doesn’t want it. Why won’t the West understand how humiliating it was to award the Nobel Prize to someone we put in jail, a man who is a criminal to the Chinese? How should we feel? How should we react?”

This led to a very long conversation — over an hour — in which I explained that if only China would actually engage in a dialog about these issues with the outside world instead of sabre-rattling and always sounding like a misunderstood and petulant child, maybe then China would advance its cause and help people outside China understand what China is really all about, how human rights are seen through Chinese eyes.

I specifically pointed to the Ai Weiwei editiorial.

“Don’t you realize the entire expat community here in Beijing and many others around the world are buzzing about this editorial, shocked at its belligerence, its snide and strident tone, its implied threats and its undercurrent of violence? Maybe, as you keep saying, the West truly doesn’t understand China. Well, you are focusing now on soft power. The Global Times itself is actually an outgrowth of China’s thirst for soft power, for global reputation and respect. And look at how you’re failing. You are driving away foreign talent and making China look worse, not better — in precise contradiction to the paper’s stated goals. If your media and leaders could articulate China’s point of view as clearly and calmly as you just did in this conversation maybe then China could get somewhere in fostering understanding. But railing against Ai Weiwei at the top of your lungs — a man seen as an artist and a celebrity — is exactly what you should not be doing. Why not throw the West a bone and let him go, declare an amnesty and then explain why he was detained in the first place.”

This evoked quite a response.

“Let Ai Weiwei go? But Richard, how can we do that? How can China admit to the world it is being defeated, it is bowing to international pressure and not doing what is right for China? How can we humilate ourselves like that?”

I said it’s been done before (look at North Korea surrendering reporter “spies” after Bill Clinton paid them a visit). In an instant, it would force a new dimension to the issue, and show China was willing to be less hysterical. And I said China appears hysterical, becoming increasingly strident, and that nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the direction the Global Times is taking.

This was, as I said, a long, polite and serious discussion. I never experienced anything quite like it before, because despite the mental barriers I referred, to, she genuinely wanted to hear my opinion and to learn how the West sees China, and I think she actually “got” that the GT, even if they’re right, is scaring people away and damaging its own cause with readers who are not Chinese. She actually said she wanted to discuss my argument with her superiors. (And no, I am not so vain or arrogant or naive as to believe my little talk will change the shape of Chinese journalism.)

All of this said, the detention of Ai Weiwei and many other activists who have the misfortune of being nameless and faceless to us is unpardonable, and self-defeating. I know, they were sending a message to the people of China, not to Americans 10,000 miles away. But again, they say they want soft power, they say they want to be a global superpower, they say they want fair treatment in the media. Well, sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t repress with one hand and paint a picture of a happy harmonious rules-following society with the other. Detaining Ai Weiwei was the worst thing you could have done, trumped only by your idiocy in attacking him in savage, ugly, deranged editorials.

Go out and do your thing, Global Times 50-centers. While a lot of people will be fooled, enough will see through the propaganda. I admire the young aspiring journalists I worked with there two years ago. If any of you are reading this (which is not very likely), I urge you to think for yourselves, and understand that while journalists have several roles, astroturfing message boards isn’t one of them.

I am delighted to read that the GT editorial has sparked “scorn and ridicule” among much of China’s Twitterati and social media users. I am glad to make my small contribution to this much-deserved scorn and ridicule.

Update: Be sure to see Lisa’s post that has a lot to say on this topic. And sorry for all the typos in the first version of this post. I never wrote a post this fast.

Update 2: Please be sure to see James Fallows’ new post on this topic, which kindly cites my own post.

Looks like my post has been translated into Chinese.

______________

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: 210 Comments

“She is urbane, sophisticated, educated, talented and a truly wonderful person. She also epitomizes the archetype of the sophisticated, urbane, educated Chinese who insist on toeing the Party line at all costs.”

So? She’s the equivalent of the university-educated Republican activist or member of the British Conservative Party.

Right-wing, establishment conformists exist in every country.

April 13, 2011 @ 11:50 am | Comment

One of Ai Weiwei’s associates, who has also been detained since April 3, was one of the journalists you might have met before at Global Times, Wen Tao. I just put out a short interview clip from December 2010, where Wen Tao introduces himself and also talks about his experience getting fired from Global Times. Embedded in this HuffPo piece: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alison-klayman/meet-wen-tao-missing-alon_b_847689.html

April 13, 2011 @ 11:51 am | Comment

I’m frankly astonished you respect and admire this kind of banal apparatchik, Richard.

April 13, 2011 @ 11:53 am | Comment

But Sojourner, she truly listened and at least go a part of my message about the GT coming on too strong. I actually think that’s the one thing she agreed with me on – and that was a big step forward.

April 13, 2011 @ 11:54 am | Comment

I hope you’re right, Richard.

April 13, 2011 @ 11:55 am | Comment

You are correct. Arresting Ai Wei Wei is too brutish, too unsophisticated, too unskilled. The better way is to find some innocent looking woman to come out and accuse him of rape several years ago, and then bring suit against Ai Wei Wei for rape. No need to have solid evidence, just someone making this accusation and have this thing fester in the media for a few weeks, and Ai Wei Wei’s standing will plummet.

Now, you can’t blame me for making an accusation and starting an investigation! we never said he raped the woman! we are just investigating! Don’t you think it’s our duty to investigate this very serious charge?

April 13, 2011 @ 11:55 am | Comment

Thanks for the plug, Richard. And thanks for this post. Sometimes I freely admit that I do not understand China. This would be one of those times.

April 13, 2011 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

As intelligent as she may be, she ignores that fact that “feeding” and “protecting” 1.3 billion people doesn’t necessarily have any connection with the types of freedom of speech and protest issues Ai Wei and Liu Xiabo’s cases are involved with. (further it is sort of unfortunate to cite “feeding and protecting” as the responsibilities of a state that apparently has no idea how to do either in light of continued reports of major food safety issues.) She defends a repression that in most cases FAILS to do what she claims it is doing.

Anyway, it’s one thing to try and have a frank discussion of Chinese vs. Western concepts of human rights. It’s quite another to say of Liu Xiaobo: “He is a criminal trying to impose Western-style government on a society that doesn’t want it.” Yeah, charter ’08 really had the potential to “impose”…

April 13, 2011 @ 12:18 pm | Comment

The party has to focus, to keep its eye on the ball and ignore (or crush) whatever gets in the way of the CCP juggernaut. Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo are pests who threaten to stop the great progress China has made. They distract the population from their work and from striving to improve their socialist society. And it’s not our business to say a word about it.

Hong Xing, I have just one thing to say to you, and please don’t take it the wrong way: You are malignant. This is not the first time you’ve accused a victim of CCP repression of being a sex offender. Can’t you at least be original and try a new tactic?

It’s also typical of you to make the comparison with a Westerner, as if one mitigates the other.

April 13, 2011 @ 12:23 pm | Comment

You’re damn right it’s not your business to say a word about it. Who do you think you are? Am I supposed to believe that some foreigner has the best interests of the Chinese people at heart? Don’t make me laugh.

Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobao are political pawns currently used by the West to attack China and should be dealt as such. Whatever redeeming qualities they have, however sincere they think they are in wanting to improve China, are irrelavent.

April 13, 2011 @ 12:37 pm | Comment

This’ll be kinda pertinent here then
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/MD13Ad01.html

April 13, 2011 @ 12:52 pm | Comment

@Richard

“The party has to focus, to keep its eye on the ball and ignore (or crush) whatever gets in the way of the CCP juggernaut. Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo are pests who threaten to stop the great progress China has made. They distract the population from their work and from striving to improve their socialist society. And it’s not our business to say a word about it.”

Thanks for giving me the canned 50 cent response there. :)

April 13, 2011 @ 1:05 pm | Comment

If an “urbane, sophisticated, educated, talented and a truly wonderful person” can still be this blinkered and thoroughly indoctrinated, there is little hope for the masses in the foreseeable future.

I mean, if the CCP can get someone like her to buy the party line, hook/line/sinker, then it’s no wonder that we see the Red Stars of the world who reside much lower on the intellectual totem pole.

April 13, 2011 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

“How should we feel? How should we react?”

Richard, you really need to tell your wonderful lady that she speaks only for herself. Seriously, I beg you to text her right now and tell her that NO ONE VOTED FOR HER TO REPRESENT THE CHINESE PEOPLE.

Point her to the Chinese who are thrilled about the peace prize and love weiwei, please.

April 13, 2011 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

Could you please tell us what you admire about this lady please Richard? Just curious. Is she a great mother? Does she read to the blind on the weekends?

April 13, 2011 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

Speaking of archetypes, I love this description by Carl Jung of relations between the West and the Soviet Union, which can easily be replaced with China:

“Western man, becoming aware of the aggressive will to power of the East, sees himself forced to take extraordinary measures of defence, at the same time as he prides himself on his virtue and good intentions.”
“What he fails to see is that it is his own vices, which he has covered up by good international manners, that are thrown back in his face by the communist world, shamelessly and methodically. What the West has tolerated, but secretly and with a slight sense of shame (the diplomatic lie, systematic deception, veiled threats), comes back into the open and in full measure from the East and ties us up in neurotic knots. It is the face of his own evil shadow that grins at Western man from the other side of the Iron Curtain.”

1964, Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols, Picador, p. 73

I think that whole area of East-West archetypes as Jung describes it, is worth revisiting for the sake of the China debate.

April 13, 2011 @ 2:03 pm | Comment

@Richard: to be fair you might have misread HongXing’s intentions. It seems he’s saying the tactic of accusing Ai Weiwei of rape would have been a more subtle, and less provocative way for the CCP to have dealt with this. Seems he was being morbidly sarcastic. I don’t think he’s actually accusing AWW of rape.

April 13, 2011 @ 2:08 pm | Comment

[...] af Fox News. Richard Burger har en privat samtale med en af redaktørerne på avisen, som han skriver om i denne artikel, der er virkelig værd at læse: “Don’t you realize the entire expat community here in Beijing [...]

April 13, 2011 @ 4:01 pm | Pingback

Your worst enemy is the one who scares allies and friends from your side. Because when you are finally alone and deserted he will come and easily destroy you.

April 13, 2011 @ 4:06 pm | Comment

In view of how the “Jasmine” crackdown and Ai Weiwei’s murky case have come to dominate foreign media coverage of China in 2011, it is worth pondering the issues that this domestic political crackdown has stolen the spotlight from. One dominant narrative of 2010 was China’s multiple diplomatic mistakes, particularly in Asia — but that has faded and China has moved to repair some damage. (In contrast to South Korea, for example, China has been rather adult about Japan’s radiation crisis.)

But one of the other big trends of 2010 was that Western multinationals and big developing countries alike were getting quite vocal and precise in their complaints about China’s mercantilist trade practices — whole policy package: from the repressed RMB currency, indigenous innovation, subsidies, IPR theft and competition policy. We still hear these complaints, most recently from the democratic BRICs leaders who are soon to gather in China and face complaints back home about Chinese trade. China still has no convincing answers to this chorus of complaints, because they cut to the core of PRC development policies.

The actual Jasmine movement in China was virtually nonexistent, and it became an issue only because of PRC police heavy-handedness, the arrest of Ai on bogus charges, and the gall of party media to print shite like the commentary highlighted in this post.

This is a stretch, perhaps, but I’m starting to ask which issue China feels more comfortable talking about: a crackdown on dissidents and rights lawyers in a society with neutered courts and media and whose population is pretty much oblivious to those individuals and issues, or a worldwide rejection of (or at least backlash against) China’s trade and economic policies?

China can pretty much ride out the rights criticism and the outside world can’t do much more than complain and on this China can stoke up nationalism (see this thread for starters). On trade, however, trade partners can do more than merely complain; they can take actions of various forms inside and outside the WTO.

April 13, 2011 @ 4:13 pm | Comment

@slim

There was not long time ago a proposal from Mrs Merkel in Der Spiegel.

She proposed to tied the access to EU and US markets to compliance to labor conditions, environmental rules and last but not least… human rights.

Don’t comply with the rules —> penalties from higher customs tariff to outright ban.

An US+EU block is not a thing to sniff at.

What I have got is that the US rejected the idea then…

Hhhhmmm….. As improbable as it looks, things would get interesting if Donald Trump reaches the presidency….

April 13, 2011 @ 4:23 pm | Comment

“Let Ai Weiwei go? But Richard, how can we do that? How can China admit to the world it is being defeated, it is bowing to international pressure and not doing what is right for China? How can we humilate ourselves like that?”

That is the real question. Are they really doing what is right for China?

April 13, 2011 @ 4:50 pm | Comment

Che, she is a delightful person to work with and fiendishly bright. She really is. I don’t want anyone to insult her intelligence. She is saying what she believes is true and it has nothing to do with being smart or not. A lot of very smart people have beliefs that astound me.

Marius, you need to know the background. In an earlier thread Hong Xing already accused Ai Weiwei of being a sex offender. He has done this before with other victims, attacked them as sex offenders. It’s as cheap and as sleazy as you can get, and it’s completely irrelevant even if it were true. But nothing Red Star says is ever true, and I don’t say that lightly or in jest. He is remarkably consistent.

April 13, 2011 @ 4:53 pm | Comment

[...] Gerespecteerd China blog de Peking Duck komt met een brillant artikel in reactie op de editorial in de Global Times waarin het een [...]

April 13, 2011 @ 5:46 pm | Pingback

The only times I have had success in explaining the role of media in western countries to Chinese friends is explaining the whole separation of powers thing – the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government are designed to be independent and act as a brake on one another gaining too much power. But these separation alone is not enough to stop corruption happening, so the role of the media is to act as a watchdog on the workings of government to make sure no one arm gains too much power.

Then I talk about how on any given day a significant element of any given newspaper carries stories critical of (any and every) government, why are they doing X, why they should do Y. At that point Chinese friends generally get why western media (and even though I hate this simplistic and way over-used term, it is applicable here) is so critical, even if they don’t agree with it, or think it is productive or right.

April 13, 2011 @ 6:13 pm | Comment

I don’t think linking trade to non-trade issues is the way to go for any government. It would not fly in the WTO and would invite retaliation from China on any non-trade issue they choose. Consumer/investor movements would be a different matter, but I’ve never seen enough discipline among them.

I’m suggesting that a hue and cry over human rights MIGHT be a welcome diversion for Beijing from the increasingly focused and united approach of trade partners rich and poor toward egregious Chinese trade policies. Again, the story is that there is NO Jasmine-tinted Chinese Awakening to match the Arab one. Not news, until UNTIL a huge Chinese crackdown takes place.

April 13, 2011 @ 6:31 pm | Comment

This crackdown is worrying because it may well indicate what the Xi Jinping government is going to be like. Indeed, it may be as a result of his influence that it is being carried out. If this is the case, then we can say:

1) Political reform, long in stasis, is now a dead-duck. Political reformists will have no place in a Xi government.

2) The party no longer fears unrest as a result of heavy-handedness as much as it used to. The light touch, whereby a certain base-line level of dissent from public figures like Han Han and Ai Weiwei, is being abandoned.

3) Ai Weiwei will not be released. Once the authorities have cooked up a rationale for keeping people, they cannot then turn around and admit that this was concocted. I don’t know why so many people seem to believe the opposite.

4) This is not a temporary crack-down. We are still as much as a year from Xi assuming power, it is far too early for a round-up of people designed to keep them out of harms way during the handover, and anyway, once criminal charges have been brought they must be carried out.

@Richard – Having had some experience of religious and political fanatics, I can at least hold out the hope for your friend that one day she will likely admit, at least to herself, that what she used to believe is baloney.

And anyway, whenever someone says something that no logical person could believe, you should bear in mind the possibility that they do not.

April 13, 2011 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

Hong Xing was alluding to Julian Assange’s treatment. Kind of a good point, actually. It is interesting to see how troublemakers are dealt with by different governments.

April 13, 2011 @ 7:28 pm | Comment

[...] old friend Richard provides a glimpse into how the state-run Chinese newspaper The Global Times is dealing with the Ai Weiwei: Nine days [...]

April 13, 2011 @ 7:57 pm | Pingback

At least, he has not disappeared, although the sexual allegation look pretty much concocted.

The webpage is still reachable (after some moving around…)

http://wikileaks.ch/

April 13, 2011 @ 7:59 pm | Comment

“How can China admit to the world it is being defeated, it is bowing to international pressure and not doing what is right for China?”
We are doing it for your/our/theirs own good, honest…. The excuse/justification of all tyrannies.

“How can China admit to the world it is being defeated….”
You have self defeated yourself already, and the world is witness of it.

“….it is bowing to international pressure and not doing what is right for China?”
if you think that that is the right of the right way for china, I wish you good luck. See you after Cultural Revolution 2.0.

“How can we humilate ourselves like that?””
By doing what you have done, against your very own law and constitution, you have already humiliated yourself and the whole country.

April 13, 2011 @ 8:27 pm | Comment

Chinese will not release that pig, instead we will laugh to see his filthy body rotten in the jail. He deserves it as a naked walking pig for the west.

Just go to hell.

April 13, 2011 @ 8:29 pm | Comment

@FOARP
I agree with you, it is going to be a long crackdown. Looking backwards it was slowly coming from sometime ago, and has not much to do with transfer of power.

This is a major shift within the power families inside the CCP.

Is this a sort of Hundred Flowers Campaign 2.0. And now what?

From Wikipedia.

“The first part of the phrase is often mistranslated and remembered in the west as “let a thousand flowers bloom” and used to refer to alleged deliberate attempts to flush out dissidents by encouraging them to show themselves as critical of the regime, before wiping them out.[2] This view is supported by authors Clive James and Jung Chang, who posit that the campaign was, from the start, a ruse intended to expose rightists and counter-revolutionaries, and that Mao Zedong persecuted those whose views were different from the party’s. Other writers, including Li Zhisui, suggest instead that the campaign was initially engineered by Mao to consolidate his power and fight corruption, but when criticisms began shifting toward him personally, he moved to suppress the Hundred Flowers movement and punish some of its participants. The ideological crackdown following the campaign’s failure re-imposed Maoist orthodoxy in public expression, and catalyzed the Anti-Rightist Movement.”

April 13, 2011 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

If this really was about “understanding”, then why don’t they enter the debate? With other arguments than “we are different”,that is, which isn’t even an argument.

They seem to confuse “cause” and “effect”. The West reacts to actions by the Chinese government. The Chinese propaganda apparatus then attacks the West’s reaction itself.

Going after the effect doesn’t explain, or justify for that mattter, the intial action.

Very interesting post, though. Thank you for sharing the story with us.

April 13, 2011 @ 9:10 pm | Comment

@xxx

Hope you are not working for Global Times.

@Richard
“she is a delightful person to work with and fiendishly bright. She really is. I don’t want anyone to insult her intelligence.”
Do I feel a crush here….;-)

“She is saying what she believes is true and it has nothing to do with being smart or not.”
Intelligence reaches conclusions from the available direct experience. Different experiences, different conclusions, no matter the processing capability. The trick is to be able see beyond our direct experiences and understand the reason behind other conclusions.

The logic may be sound but the axioms faulty.

April 13, 2011 @ 10:39 pm | Comment

FOARP, it’s also possible that Xi Jinping and his people are putting on the screws now in order to look sufficiently tough during the transfer of power. I’m not particularly optimistic but am at least allowing some space for optimism. I don’t think it will really be clear until after the transition.

April 13, 2011 @ 11:45 pm | Comment

She is no different from the Germans working in the railway bureau during the Holocaust.

April 14, 2011 @ 12:40 am | Comment

Some commenters have already touched on this but I find that many expats too often qualify their descriptions of friends using words such as urban, educated, well-traveled, wordly etc. as if to be apologetic, offer excuses, or justify and validate their views (probably one of the reasons Liberals are generally viewed as pussies IMHO).

Sojouner made and excellent and very clear point. They are right-wing establishment conformists (I’d add fundamentalists as well).

April 14, 2011 @ 1:00 am | Comment

The Global Times is the tabloid extension of Renmin Ribao and shouldn’t be considered news by anyone in or outside of China.

April 14, 2011 @ 1:27 am | Comment

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April 14, 2011 @ 2:46 am | Pingback

@red_five – Speaking a confirmed Thatcherite, I do not believe there is anything right-wing about conformism. Indeed, the pro-government trolls you see on line refer to themselves as “leftists”, and the annals of apologism for dictatorship contain as least as many left-wing examples as right-wing ones.

@OtherLisa – In which case the question would be why Xi, who surely starts with the strongest position of any Chinese leader in modern history, feels so unsafe in his seat. However, I do not believe that this is the case. I think that he is starting as he means to go on.

April 14, 2011 @ 3:31 am | Comment

Damn, this just keeps getting better and better. Ai Weiwei’s staff are saying that days before locking him up, ostensibly on suspicion of economic crimes, the CCP try to buy him off with a CPPCC spot:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/apr/13/ai-weiwei-china-advisory-body

April 14, 2011 @ 4:07 am | Comment

[...] blogger khác, Bấm Richard Burger, người đã nhiều năm tư vấn cho Trung Quốc về truyền thông, đưa ra một ví [...]

April 14, 2011 @ 6:28 am | Pingback

So it’s the carrot-and-stick routine, eh? Offer him the “carrot” (though of course being a part of CPPCC may not be much of a carrot), but when he refuses, give him the stick.

It’s been 11 days. The CCP must be slipping. Usually, they would have concocted a story to supplement their claims of “suspected economic crimes” long before now. Maybe their head of creative writing/police chief is on vacation.

April 14, 2011 @ 7:35 am | Comment

@eco

Which city in Spain are you from?

April 14, 2011 @ 8:03 am | Comment

Being educated is not the same as being thoughtful, the former describes your friend much more than the latter. This is very reflective of the pattern that I have with friends in China: The more formal education they have in China, the less likely they are to have a rational discussion on politics.

April 14, 2011 @ 8:24 am | Comment

Naked walking pig, eh? I like that :-) More musical that running dog :-D

I agree with Chip – educated doesn’t automatically make one…well, smart. The education also shapes the mind, so much so that it can be hard to see the other side due to the ingraining of the ideas implanted during lessons…

April 14, 2011 @ 8:33 am | Comment

Chip: “Being educated is not the same as being thoughtful.”

I agree completely.

People need to get that distinction. You can be urbane and sophisticated and not be thoughtful. There are many people working for the GT and many other Chinese institutions and they aren’t anything like Nazis. Unfortunately many think in unison (and many do not), and you’ll have to apply anthropology to understand why. This is simply her truth, just as Tea Party freaks I know are astounded at my “truths,” such as women’s right to an abortion or my belief that National Public Radio should be funded. Education is irrelevant, or at least it’s not the major factor.

April 14, 2011 @ 8:57 am | Comment

Educated in China means brainwashed. Critical thinking is absent. Education is a way to get a job, not free the mind.

I’ve been living in CHina for years. These kinds of people are the worst because they are the “elite” with family connections. They have no idea how much pain their policies cause for those who are poisoned, incarcerated, raped, and murdered in the name of stability.

“My father is Li Gang” says it all.

Trust me, the CCP is facing the a dilemma that it cannot solve. The more China develops, the more Ai Weiwei’s there will be.

A revolution is inevitable, peaceful or violent.

April 14, 2011 @ 9:11 am | Comment

Did you ever think a Global Times editor is scared to talk rationally about Chinese politics to a foreigner with a widely-read China blog, especially in this climate?

April 14, 2011 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Patriotically Educated — we see that a lot in these parts.

I was wondering Richard if there is any risk to your GT friend in revealing this conversation. Not in the rote spouting of the Party line, but in the revealing of the GT mind-meld meeting called by Editor Hu. Although you kept her anonymous, could she be tracked by way of having met you?

April 14, 2011 @ 10:07 am | Comment

First of all, the editor I spoke with did NOT tell me about the meeting with Mr. Hu. I found that out from some of the “little people,” people I trust like a sister (or brother).

The conversation with the editor was in no way controversial and she said nothing that could get her into trouble. (And no one there even knows who it was.) In fact, she admirably toed the party line. When I was there I often spoke freely of my differences of opinion, about my blog, and about how I disagreed strongly with the paper’s position on certain topics. I even got them to tone down several over-the-top OpEds. Talking openly with the editors is a daily occurrence there.

Other: She WAS talking rationally. Only it was her own type of rationality, and one that is not at all unusual in China. This was like a hundred other conversations I’ve had with Chinese people, only it was much longer and in-depth, and more focused on a single topic, Ai Weiwei. I’ve had similar talks with my colleagues there about June 4 and the arrest of other dissidents, and this one was not remarkable except for the fact that I recorded it (on paper) immediately afterward.As I said in the post, I know she was completely sincere because I know her. She didn’t have to have this conversation with me, but was eager to do so, because it started with a warning from the that the paper would scare away good editorial talent with its misplaced aggression.

April 14, 2011 @ 10:20 am | Comment

Rather that put her in a category of a Tea Party or anti-abortion figure (some of whom are capable of nuance and aware that opposing stances have legitimacy) I’d put this GT lady in the alternate universe of a Birther or a Truther — at least on the subject of Ai Weiwei.

April 14, 2011 @ 11:40 am | Comment

Okay- I will concede that China’s large, diverse population makes it a tough country to be in charge of. And I don’t think mainland China is ready for democracy and probably won’t be for a while- thanks largely to conditions that the CCP created. But I have yet to hear how doing things like, say, not arresting people for disagreeable ideas, eliminating the Central “Publicity” Bureau and its press controls, getting the Party out of universities, etc. would instantly make it so much harder to feed the people and keep the country together. Not unless you believe that the Eight Nation Alliance is just itching to get the band back to together and carve themselves up some fat concessions, or that only control of information can keep the people from tearing the country apart in a violent conflagration.

April 14, 2011 @ 12:40 pm | Comment

@Richard
could you invite her to write some post here?
If she is like you say itt will be fascinating to have their opinion
Good posters are hard to come by.
She may write anonymously.

April 14, 2011 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

@resident poet
“Which city in Spain are you from?”

“In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to
call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen that
keep a lance in the lance-rack, an old buckler, a lean hack, and a
greyhound for coursing.”
The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. Cervantes.

;-)

April 14, 2011 @ 1:00 pm | Comment

[...] 在Global Times发表了其臭名昭著的社评(中文/英文)之后,Richard Burger,一位中国媒体内部外国人(曾经?),发表了一篇The Global Times and Ai Weiwei,记录了他和一位环球时报高级编辑的对话,关于如何推销中国的正面形象。 I explained that if only China would actually engage in a dialog about these issues with the outside world instead of sabre-rattling and always sounding like a misunderstood and petulant child, maybe then China would advance its cause and help people outside China understand what China is really all about, how human rights are seen through Chinese eyes. [...]

April 14, 2011 @ 1:04 pm | Pingback

To MAC:

If you arrest disagreeable people, pump out propaganda, and infiltrate society, you will foster “stability” and “harmony”.
If you have “stability” and “harmony”, the country will be able to feed its people and keep itself united.
The country’s people want to be fed and united.
Therefore, they will want disagreeable people arrested, propaganda pumped up the wazoo, etc etc.

I think that’s how the logic works. It’s good enough for the FQ, who probably can’t differentiate if’s vs IFF’s. It’s not top-shelf logic, nor sophisticated and discerning usage thereof, but it is what it is.

April 14, 2011 @ 2:49 pm | Comment

Slim: I’d put this GT lady in the alternate universe of a Birther or a Truther — at least on the subject of Ai Weiwei.

I totally disagree. Completely. If she is like the Birthers, then so are 1 billion+ Chinese citizens. Again, you must look at this through an anthropological lens: how were they brought up, how were they educated, what do their media tell them, what kind of societal pressures are they under? You have to see it through Chinese eyes. As we were brought up to cherish democracy they were brought up to cherish authoritarianism.

Birthers are inbred and willfully ignorant. All the evidence is there in front of them and they choose to ignore it. In China, they don’t have all the evidence against their government at their fingertips, and they are brought up to think differently than Westerners, for better or for worse. My best friend in China swears by Chairman Mao. Is she like a birther? I don’t think so. She is not stupid or inbred. But everything in her background from early childhood onward reinforced her perception of Mao, and there is little I can do about it. And 1.3 billion people, give or take a few hundred million, agree with her. And we need to know why, and not accuse them of being freaks like the birthers. That’s not at all for.

April 14, 2011 @ 5:50 pm | Comment

Richard, it’s my first time reading you blog. And it’s superb. You’ve articulated so well on the self-defeating propaganda of the Chinese Gov. Not say their negligence of Chinese human right and injustice of judicial system.

April 14, 2011 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

I take your point. One has to view it from an anthropological point of view.

But that means we are dealing with 1.3 billion, take or give a few hundred millions, of more or less indoctrinated people.

A recipe for disaster in the future. Nazi Germany indoctrination is going to be a child’s play compared to this.

I lived the last years of Franco’s regime. The system was dying already, but I was well aware how indoctrination and controlled media was can mold the mind, specially if done since tender age. A it was nothing compared to what I see in China today.

April 14, 2011 @ 6:14 pm | Comment

@Richard – To be honest, I do not believe that the majority of Chinese people think so differently to “western” people (who ever these are) that they naturally, for example, swallow the idea that Mao Zedong was somehow a great man whilst simultaneously knowing what he did.

Indeed, I know many Chinese people who hate him or think him far from god-like. The main reason given for this being the Cultural Revolution.

However, I am very much aware of the power of self-deception, so I’ll put her opinions on Mao down either to her lying to herself, or to brainwashing at a young age which she has not rid herself of.

The people in China who you know seem different to the ones who I know. I put this down to your having lived in Beijing and worked in the state media, and in connection with state projects like the Olympics, as well as, perhaps, selection bias on my part.

@Ecodelta – I do not believe it is 1.3 billion, or that even half that figure which whole heartedly believes government propaganda. I would put it at 25%, with another 25-50% willing to just go with the flow. Of the true believers, the majority are either brainwashed individuals whose belief in the party is of an almost religious kind, or are people with relatively little experience in life who may eventually change their minds.

China has its fair share of free thinkers, and among these I found no more love for the government of China than you will find amongst free thinkers in other countries for their governments.

In China, at least in my experience, as soon as you step into the demi-monde of poverty, corruption, crime and sleaze in which an awfully large proportion of the Chinese people spend their lives, you leave the brainwashed thinking typified by your friend behind you. People may think differently, but their thoughts are their own, not the government’s.

April 14, 2011 @ 8:50 pm | Comment

[...] blogger khác, Bấm Richard Burger, người đã nhiều năm tư vấn cho Trung Quốc về truyền thông, đưa ra một ví [...]

April 14, 2011 @ 10:06 pm | Pingback

The 50-centers are hilarious. The throng to the comments section on the WSJ every time the Journal carries some story about Chinese oppression of dissidents. Richard, do you think these folks actually think they are fooling anyone? Don’t they know that everyone in the universe knows that they are paid flunkies for the Party and accordingly discounts or ignores everything they write?

April 14, 2011 @ 10:18 pm | Comment

@FOARP

山高,皇帝远. Your comment reflects my experience as well, and the pattern I’ve noticed is the farther you get from Beijing, the less likely people are to 100% tote the party line and love Mao.

April 14, 2011 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

Another pattern I’ve noticed,of the people I’ve met who were vehemently ANTI-party line or openly hated Mao, none of them were women.

April 14, 2011 @ 10:53 pm | Comment

Wow, that sounded way worse than I meant. What I should have added is that I think the reason why might be that women are generally encouraged not to have an interest in politics. I know that was the case with my better half,she would get shot down pretty quickly in political discussions with co-workers.

April 14, 2011 @ 10:57 pm | Comment

Well, Richard, you know her well so I would of course defer to you. I did qualify my description by saying “at least on the subject of Ai Weiwei” and I was going only your summary of her views, which come off as quite close to willful ignorance. You, someone she presumably trusts, provided an alternative explanation of the circumstances surrounding Ai Weiwei in the conversation you report. And has she not even peeked over the firewall to read foreign media to find out what all the fuss is about? This would be a bit like the millions of illiterates of the Muslim world who supported the fatwah on Rushdie over “The Satanic Verses” without possibly having been able to know what they were upset about.

I tend to read GT editorials, or the comments here by Yourfriend, Math and others as Orwellian exercises in total cynicism by people who actually know better but are so deeply invested in untruth that they cannot let their guard down. If I am wrong about this, it is more troubling.

April 14, 2011 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

Well, my friend at GT is not Math or yourfriend, she’s a real person. Sorry if I jumped, but I have to defend her. She really listened and said she wanted to present my views to those above.

FOARP, of course some Chinese think Mao was bad. I know some myself. Most I know say he did a lot of good (the 70-30 thingy). Some are cagey about it, and I think they’re closet admirers. A few are hard-core anti-Mao. About my best friend – she was born in Shanghai, and was educated and grew up in Vancouver, and I have to admit, I was taken aback by her insistence that Mao was good. She got terribly emotional about it which was out of character for her. That’s when I put Mao on my must-not-discuss-with friends list, along with Tibet and Taiwan.

By the way, a Chinese blogger has translated this post into Chinese. See the last update for the post for the link.

April 15, 2011 @ 2:36 am | Comment

Richard, thanks for your post and the links to other comments. Even if it was quickly hashed out it was still interesting.

For anyone who wants to read it, The Economist had a good article on this matter last week.

http://www.economist.com/node/18530193

Sojourner (comment number 1), the same accusations were routinely made of the Labour Party over the last decade+. Conservatives (UK) are, actually, less about conformity and more about individual freedom than some “leftish-wing” parties.

April 15, 2011 @ 4:39 am | Comment

@eco

So you’re from Chinchilla de Monte-Aragon or thereabouts. Beautiful country, but you need more nude beaches.

April 15, 2011 @ 4:54 am | Comment

Oh, what I meant to say about the Global Times editor. What I find interesting is that people who are truly wedded to the current political system in China so frequently seem to talk about “we”, as if all Chinese people are connected into a hive mind like the Borg from Star Trek.

“How should WE react…?”
“How could WE release…?”

I’m not suggesting that they never use the word “I”, but so frequently the assumption is that everyone thinks the same way. It’s actually depressing as it suggests that such people are oblivious to the fact others may not feel the same way. Or maybe they are aware but don’t view those opinions as “valid”.

I wouldn’t want to speak for Richard, but it does seem that we inevitably mix with affluent-ish Chinese people. I’m sure that these people object to political reform largely because of the uncertainty that it could bring. But is this fear also down to what empowered peasants would do? Middle (and upper) class Chinese can be very quick to put peasants and the urban poor down, but I think they’re also scared about the poor using their votes to elect a government that would increase taxes on the rich to fund better public services.

Richard, have you ever asked people like this editor whether they think it would be a good idea to significantly hike middle and upper class taxes to fund new public spending on free education, health care, social security and pensions? I’m honestly curious as I don’t know what the reaction would be.

April 15, 2011 @ 5:02 am | Comment

“So you’re from Chinchilla de Monte-Aragon or thereabouts”
A little more to the northwest. Just follow E4 to kilometre 0.

“Beautiful country, but you need more nude beaches.”
I do not quite understand the fascination of north Europeans for nude beaches, camping and spas. It must be lack of sunshine there. Doing that here, if you are not careful, can get sunburns fast… in rather sensible places….

April 15, 2011 @ 6:50 am | Comment

Oh, not the lack of sunshine. The Protestantism :)

April 15, 2011 @ 8:24 am | Comment

@Richard,

In #70, “About my best friend – she was born in Shanghai, and was educated and grew up in Vancouver, and I have to admit, I was taken aback by her insistence that Mao was good. She got terribly emotional about it which was out of character for her.”.

As she grew up and educated in Vancouver, Canada, how would you explain her insistence that Mao is good? The brainwash argument probably does not hold here, unless you argue that she was brainwashed by the media in Canada, or brainwashed BEFORE she went to Canada?! I have met such people in US as well, well caught me some surprise.

April 15, 2011 @ 9:31 am | Comment

@Raj – I have the same feeling speaking to some of the older Labourites about (nowadays member of the British Stalinist Society) Arthur Scargill that I get when I speak to CCP fanatics about Mao.

April 15, 2011 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

Ah another round of moral grandstanding, liberals and hawks join hands now…

Rebel of the week is Mr Wei. He is the embodiment of the perpetual western struggle against foreign enemies – the yellow horde and the immoral tide that sweeps the planet; a threat to world peace and democracy, we must do our duty and white men, stewards of the planet to put these immoral chinks in their place, to teach them lessons and bring them out of their subhuman ways.

Those Chinaman have gone too far! They take our jobs, they undermine our democracy and they pollute endlessly without remorse for this wonderful planet which was bestowed to the whitemans safe keeping. Ttop them now lest your be decided by the Chinaman. Trade sanctions, tariffs, boycotts, some humanitarian bombs for good measure and than send in the IMF for the final kill.

That little poor Chinagirl, we must convince her, free her feeble Chinese mind from the clutches of Chinese brainwashing for who else could still have such backward notions? Tt will be a monumental task the subhuman Chinese do not take well to criticism or reason for rational thought does prevail.

Remember the words of General George S. Patton… heed them well.

“The difficulty in understanding the Russian is that we do not take cognizance of the fact that he is not a European, but an Asiatic, and therefore thinks deviously. We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinese or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand them except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them. In addition to his other amiable characteristics, the Russian has no regard for human life and they are all out sons-of-bitches, barbarians, and chronic drunks.”

April 15, 2011 @ 12:59 pm | Comment

[...] The Peking Duck on The Global Times [...]

April 15, 2011 @ 1:11 pm | Pingback

“Call for the Release of Ai WeiWei” is collecting 100,000 signatures …

http://www.change.org/petitions/call-for-the-release-of-ai-weiwei

April 15, 2011 @ 7:15 pm | Comment

@eco

And oh, I’m not Northern European. I’m faaaar from being a Northern European :)

@chinkcometh

Have you been on this site before?

April 15, 2011 @ 9:36 pm | Comment

I have no reason to doubt your sincerity — nor your intelligence, for that matter. But I simply can’t hear it any more from all you arrogant, superior SOBs in the West (the mental West, in your case) about how the actions of the Chinese government is undermining its soft-power push. Every time I’m reminded of the following dialogue from The West Wing (episode “Night Five”), where Toby puts on a stubborn defence of his hawkish foreign policy stance:

TOBY: If you ask me, I think we should have gotten into the game three, four decades ago, but they’re coming after us now, so it’s time to saddle up.
ANDY: Toby…
TOBY: We do know what’s right.
ANDY: This is why they hate us.
TOBY: There’s a lot of reasons why they hate us. You know when they’re gonna like us? When we win.
And that’s exactly how I feel about the West’s unwavering discontent toward China: You will like the Chinese (by which I mean the Communist regime, in case there’s any doubt) — when they win.

Yes, I know you believe hell will freeze over before China wins (not like this, at least, you may want to add). Well, you’re certainly not alone there, but you should at least be aware that many Chinese (from semi-literate peasants to those in Zhongnanhai) do indeed believe they’re on the winning track right now — and therefore don’t need to bother with being liked so much, since that problem is going to solve itself in the end. “发展才是硬道理”, as Deng Xiaoping once famously proclaimed.

By the way, giving up what you are so others would like you is not a viable way to gain soft-power — quite the opposite, it’s capitulating to the soft-power of your opponent. This is so painfully obvious it’s shocking that so many people don’t get it.

April 16, 2011 @ 12:02 am | Comment

Polished strawman arguments are still strawman arguments.

April 16, 2011 @ 1:32 am | Comment

If you believe violence is needed to achieve and sustain national strength and unity then Mao was a great man and the actions of the CCP are legitimate. But if you believe in what Tolstoy writes in his essay “Letter to a Hindu” then you will pause to reconsider. The questions that Richard’s friend asks “How can China admit to the world it is being defeated, it is bowing to international pressure and not doing what is right for China? How can we humilate ourselves like that?”, Tolstoy essay answers: you will allow yourself to be defeated and humiliated but you will not give into the evil of violence by becoming violent. What is being done to Aiweiwei is clearly an act of violence but China has already invested in so much violence and is for the most part achieving the results it set out to achieve – then continuing the violence makes perfect sense. Spirtitual strength and morality is something that can’t be measured so no government really subscribes to this belief. Do we, as individuals really, I mean really believe in non-violence? Tolstoy’s essay is absolutely beautiful yet who among us can live by it?

Here is the link to the essay:
http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/bright/tolstoy/lettertodhindu.html

April 16, 2011 @ 2:42 am | Comment

Are you serious?

The Global Times is a paper funded by the Chinese Government. Could you, for example, expect the VOA to question the US government? Give me just ONE example, please.

And what has GT done wrong? “Smears” against Ai, so what? They are not charges in court, just disapproval of his behavior and/or values. Any paper is entitled to do just that, anywhere!

April 16, 2011 @ 3:27 am | Comment

The West Wing was a fantastic show. But it’s always amusing to see someone try to make a point by using dialogue from a fictitious show.

Besides, winners aren’t necessarily liked by others. In fact, they aren’t necessarily respected. But if China is out to improve her “soft power”, then she is out to have people “like” her. Winning (or not) aside, she definitely has an interesting and unique way of trying to curry such sentiment.

To #78:
oh brother, here we go again.

April 16, 2011 @ 5:52 am | Comment

@78
“Ah another round of moral grandstanding, ”

That is not grandstanding, that is called humanity.

April 16, 2011 @ 6:09 am | Comment

[...] 不過,艾未未不能揭破中共「企圖人格謀殺艾未未」,卻不代表其他人不會挺身而出,指證中共陰謀,生果報報道,長期在北京工作的外籍傳媒人理查.伯格( Richard Burger)在他博客中揭露,《環球時報》總編輯胡錫曾召集報社裏所有中方工作人員,到大會議室閉門開會,會上胡錫進下達直接的命令,「要求他們回去之後要四處尋找關於艾未未被關押一事的所有中文評論,包括在中國各個論壇、門戶網站以及博客上的討論,然後按照黨的路線對他加以批駁。也就是說,要把艾描述為一個自封的獨行俠、一個被西方敵對勢」,即是說,一切對艾未未的指控,其實是中共在背後策劃的宣傳戰,要用傳媒人格謀殺艾未未。 [...]

April 16, 2011 @ 6:35 am | Pingback

[...] 不過,艾未未不能揭破中共「企圖人格謀殺艾未未」,卻不代表其他人不會挺身而出,指證中共陰謀,生果報報道,長期在北京工作的外籍傳媒人理查.伯格( Richard Burger)在他博客中揭露,《環球時報》總編輯胡錫曾召集報社裏所有中方工作人員,到大會議室閉門開會,會上胡錫進下達直接的命令,「要求他們回去之後要四處尋找關於艾未未被關押一事的所有中文評論,包括在中國各個論壇、門戶網站以及博客上的討論,然後按照黨的路線對他加以批駁。也就是說,要把艾描述為一個自封的獨行俠、一個被西方敵對勢」,即是說,一切對艾未未的指控,其實是中共在背後策劃的宣傳戰,要用傳媒人格謀殺艾未未。 [...]

April 16, 2011 @ 6:36 am | Pingback

What insight on this subject could a person who calls Ai Weiwei “Mr. Wei” possibly have to offer to anybody who reads this blog?

April 16, 2011 @ 7:05 am | Comment

Richard,
You are in Apple Daily (Hong Kong) today.

The link is here: http://bit.ly/ghTWqE
but you will not be able to access it if you are outside Hong Kong
because of their subscription wall (that is, it’s free inside
Hong Kong but paid outside).

I have made two screen captures for you:
http://bit.ly/hOzlrS
http://bit.ly/f81xOG

There is also a NMA (Next Media Animation) video
which has not been posted on YouTube yet.

April 16, 2011 @ 8:19 am | Comment

Thanks a lot Roland. This isn’t exactly what I expected to happen. Guess I’m not working for the GT again anytime soon.

April 16, 2011 @ 9:52 am | Comment

wgj, if you read the post carefully you will see I make no judgments about Ai Weiwei, only about how the Chinese express themselves on the subject, and the extraordinary fact that they think they are building soft power while sounding so militant and irrational. This is all about communications and how the Global Times fails in this regard. It is about tone and whether that tone advances the newspaper’s goals as an advocate of soft power. And I don’t write from the perspective of an outsider spewing off. I used to work for the paper and helped launch it in 2009. So I don’t come at it as an arrogant outsider but someone who was very involved with the institution.

Roland, I am behind the GFW, using a VPN but can’t open the screen captures. Please consider emailing them to me if possible. Thanks.

April 16, 2011 @ 10:01 am | Comment

Yes, I know you’ve worked for the GT — I’ve been reading this blog on and off for a few years now.

I don’t think the Chinese government sounds “militant and irrational” — certainly no more than the US and other Western powers. Those finding it militant and irrational do so because they presume China is obligated to share the same interest they’ve established for themselves. The “responsive stakeholder” crap is thinly veiled code for “submitting yourself to Pax Americana”.

And once again: You can’t build soft-power by doing whatever you’re told to. That’s called being someone’s b*tch. Okay, b*tches have soft-power, too — but not the kind China wants.

April 16, 2011 @ 11:15 am | Comment

Richard,

Here is the Apple Daily video on YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp1JSFhjGzI

It’s narrated in Cantonese with Chinese sub-titles.
Good thing that there is no animation of you!

April 16, 2011 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

You are going to have extra filtering work Richard from that YouTube video. Hope it doesn’ get beyond that.

April 16, 2011 @ 1:25 pm | Comment

You can’t build soft-power by doing whatever you’re told to.

You build soft-power by considering what your target audience wants to hear or at least the way they want to hear it. China can do what it likes, but if it really doesn’t understand why it has problems getting many countries to see its POV then it needs to listen to people like Richard who have said that some very small concessions and a change in rhetoric could make all the difference.

April 16, 2011 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

Eco, I cannot play that video here even using a good VPN. It play about 20 seconds and then stops dead. Can you (or anyone else) please paraphrase it for me? Thanks!

April 16, 2011 @ 6:44 pm | Comment

Here’s the transcript in annoying trad. characters:

外籍傳媒人踢爆 總編命搜尋評論按中共路線批駁
《環球時報》抹黑艾未未內幕

《人民日報》旗下《環球時報》「砌」艾未未的內幕曝光。據長期在北京工作的外籍傳媒人理查.伯格( Richard Burger)揭露,該報為抹黑艾未未,上周一( 4日)特別召集全體中方員工進行閉門會議,總編輯胡錫進在會上更下達直接的命令:搜尋一切關於艾被關押的所有中文評論,然後按照黨的路線對艾加以批駁。伯格批評,此舉嚴重­違反新聞職業道德。他批評,該報早前批評艾的社論「令人作嘔」,用這些野蠻、醜陋、令人發狂的社論來攻擊艾是弄巧反拙的行為。

伯格在其博客指,自己曾在香港、北京及台北工作,其後再度返回北京。周三( 13日),他以「 The Global Times and Ai Weiwei」(《環球時報》與艾未未)為題,在博客上發表英文文章。他在推特( twitter)上發表連接時亦說,「希望我不會消失」。

伯格指,九天前( 4日),《環球時報》總編輯胡錫進召集報社裏所有中方工作人員,到大會議室閉門開會。

會議禁外籍員工出席

他稱,基本上每次開這種會的時候,被稱為「外國專家」的外籍員工都不准參加。他其後透過一名相熟的同事得悉,胡在會上向員工下了一條直接了當的命令:要求他們回去之後要四­處尋找關於艾未未被關押一事的所有中文評論,包括在中國各個論壇、門戶網站以及博客上的討論,然後按照黨的路線對他加以批駁。也就是說,要把艾描述為一個自封的獨行俠、一­個被西方敵對勢力利用來刁難、傷害和破壞中國的人,他活該被拘留。

伯格說:「這種行為十分清楚地告訴我們,在艾未未問題上,共產黨要傳達出自己的立場的決心非常大,即使這樣做嚴重侵犯新聞職業道德,也在所不惜。它把五毛黨的概念提升到了­一個全新的層面。」

《環球時報》上周先後曾發表兩篇社評,大肆抨擊艾未未。 4月 6日以「法律不會為特立獨行者彎曲」為題的社論指,艾未未是特立獨行的行為藝術家,喜歡在法律的邊緣活動,不斷衝撞中國法律「紅線」,要為此付代價。

4月 8日的社論則以「是誰在嚴重違背法律精神」為題,抨擊西方媒體利用艾案影響中國。

野蠻社論「簡直令人作嘔」

Richard Burger的博客披露,《環球時報》「砌」艾未未的內幕。

伯格在博客上指,上述社論「簡直令人作嘔」,用這些野蠻、醜陋、令人發狂的社論來攻擊艾未未是弄巧反拙的行為。他又提及,曾與該報一名有教養且很出色的中國女編輯談及艾案­,對方的觀點與他截然相反,事件令人沮喪。

對於中國經常說要展示軟實力,伯格認為,中國一隻手在鎮壓,另一隻手要畫出快樂和諧的社會畫面,那是不可能的。本報昨日曾以電郵與伯格聯絡,但直至截稿時仍未有回覆。

《環球時報》總編輯胡錫進昨繼續其微博上引述美國傳媒指,艾未未在紐約生活期間,經常到大西洋賭城玩。其兩條有關艾的微博,吸引逾 1,700名網民評論,而且一面倒批評胡,指中國政府無恥,聲討公安沒有依法辦理艾案。

有網民指:「傳這些消息,能說明抓了艾是正確的嗎?一個邏輯上的可憐者!」也有網民指:「小心戲演過頭遭雷劈。」

蘋果日報記者

April 16, 2011 @ 7:04 pm | Comment

Another Hong Kong site refers, at some length, to this blog post:

http://www.aboluowang.com/news/data/2011/0416/article_122934.html

Wish they’d use a more recent photo.

Am I going to have trouble getting a Chinese visa the next time I apply?

April 16, 2011 @ 7:13 pm | Comment

Basically the above (which I’m not sure are the transcripts, but are probably the story published in Apple Daily) says that:

- You are a foreign media expert who has exposed the attacks by the Global Times on Ai Weiwei organised by the managing editor.

- That you exposed the astroturfing campaign, and labelled the editorial attack “nauseating”.

- That you said on twitter that you hope you don’t get disappeared.

- They’ve tried to email you, but have not received any reply.

- Hu Xijin has been quoted as accusing Ai of often going to Atlantic City to gamble during his time in New York.

But you should check my translation.

April 16, 2011 @ 7:20 pm | Comment

After talking about protests in favour of Ai around the world, the video describes you as a long-term worker in Beijing and that you said Global Times’s piece was nauseating. Doesn’t mention the other stuff.

The video also uses the same photo – is that one of those “foreigner awards” they randomly hand out at government foreign affairs meeting you’re holding in the picture?

It seems your piece has made a few waves. I shouldn’t think you’d get into too much trouble though – people like Gordon Chang apparently still get visas.

April 16, 2011 @ 7:30 pm | Comment

It will be most unfortunate to get visa problem for that.

Your attitude to china has been always quite friendly and balanced, even in the worst circumstances. Critics has been constructive, not destructive.

When someone turn friends away because doesnt like their true opinions, in the end will get only the company of enemies, no matter how nice they behave in the surface.

There is nothing more terrible than being sorrounded by people that only agree with you.

April 16, 2011 @ 8:41 pm | Comment

It would be pretty daft to give you visa trouble, Richard. I mean anything’s possible, but I wouldn’t worry about it.

April 16, 2011 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

[...] propaganda system in one or another way don’t wish China’s dissidents evil. But a recent blogpost on the Peking Duck (TPD) and many  reactions to it seems to depict the relationship between the [...]

April 16, 2011 @ 9:18 pm | Pingback

Richard;
Logically, rationally, you shouldn’t have trouble getting a visa. The problem is that the security forces arresting Ai and picking up his lawyers, friends, business associates, and contacts, are not acting logically or rationally. I would factor that into future travel plans. I always do, when traveling overseas (I’ve spent time in more than 100 countries, and I’m not a visa stamp collector).
I applaud your extended discussions with anyone at GT. Convincing one person via reason is worth shouting your position at twenty.
What baffles me is that the Chinese government really does not seem to understand the damage this entire affair continues to do to its image, vs. letting one or two individuals sound off as they like. It reminds me of the scenes in Dr. Strangelove where Peter Sellers’ German scientist keeps being attacked by his own hand. Most of my friends, regrettably, never heard of Ai Weiwei until his arrest. Now they know him, and in specific cases their image of China has been damaged. Hard to believe this is what the govt. wants.
There is an easy out for them, if they choose to take it. State that while they heartily disapprove of Ai’s work, etc., blame the entire affair on overly-patriotic low-level security functionaries, and let him go. Or say that the proper forms were not filled out. Face can be saved.
Meanwhile I continue to find regular amusement in the daily efforts of the 50-centers posting on U.S. news sites. As for efforts by the likes of “James”, this is the 21st century, friend, and arguments from the 19th don’t wash anymore.
I note that Foxconn is moving a share of production From Shenzhen to Brazil, to be “nearer markets”. This is called hedging your bet. If I were in the Chinese govt., I’d worry a lot more about stuff like this than somebody who makes sunflower seeds out of porcelain.

April 17, 2011 @ 12:44 am | Comment

Hi–We read it–very good–we r looking forward to your return-how r things?Mom

April 17, 2011 @ 3:01 am | Comment

What the hell? I hope that was just a really weird post and not a veiled threat from someone else, Richard.

April 17, 2011 @ 5:16 am | Comment

That’s not Richard Burger. Uncapitalised ‘r’ is the clue. Too many hackers out there.

April 17, 2011 @ 5:23 am | Comment

Apple Daily 4/17/2011

http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/template/apple/art_main.php?iss_id=20110417&sec_id=15335&subsec_id=15336&art_id=15174666

(converted to simplified characters)

揭露《環球時報》批鬥艾未未內幕的該報前外籍編輯理查伯格( Richard Burger),原來已打算重返老主僱的懷抱,就是因為艾未未事件而卻步。這位人氣美籍中國通曾經在香港工作兩年,也意識到香港新聞自由的收緊。
「變得太國家主義」

身在陽朔遊玩中的伯格,昨日接受本報電話訪問時,分享了他與《環球時報》的愛與恨。 2009年,伯格在博客上尖銳批評中國政府的作風獲得《環球時報》高層賞識,獲任外籍編輯,工作了半年後返回美國。

本月初艾未未失蹤前夕,伯格正與《環球時報》高層洽談重返該報社。卻在這時候,《環球時報》撰文抹黑艾未未,伯格感到自己不可能再為這種傳媒工作﹕「這份報紙已變得太過國家主義,編輯的用詞太過強烈、太過咄咄逼人,我在這時候回去的話,實在跟自己良心過意不去。」

伯格打算稍後到北京,暫時計劃從事一些美資機構的公關工作,他相信自己的敢言並非新事物,在內地的外資公司任職應該沒有壓力。他唯一擔心的是,揭發了《環球時報》高層干預編採自主之後,會為報社中的好朋友帶來不便。

這位美國人曾在香港當過兩年公關,他說﹕「香港的傳媒新聞自由比前收窄了,不過我仍樂觀,香港人不會容許一言堂的出現,看你們《蘋果日報》不是經常嚴批北京政府嗎?」

April 17, 2011 @ 5:43 am | Comment

@ESWN – Looks an awful lot like traditional characters to me, but I’ll try at something approaching a proper translation this time:

“The former foreign editor of the Global Times, Richard Burger, who exposed the newspaper’s denunciation of Ai Weiwei, originally planned to return to his former employers, but because of Ai Weiwei did not. This American China hand worked in Hong Kong for two years, and is aware of the restriction of press freedom in Hong kong.

Enjoying himself in Yangshuo, he received our telephone call yesterday, and we received his feelings of love and hate for the Global Times. In 2009, Burger criticised the Chinese government on his blog, but was appointed a foreign editor at the Global Times, and returned to the US after half a year.

Early this month (before Ai Weiwei’s disappearance?), Burger was negotiating with Global Times executives to return to the paper. At this time, the Global Times attacked Ai Weiwei, Burger felt that he could not work again for such a paper. “This paper has become to nationalistic, editor’s words are too strong, too angry and forceful, if I return at this time, I will not forgive myself”.

Burger plans to return to Beijing shortly, provisionally plans to work for some American public relations companies. He believes that what he said is nothing new, and that foreign companies should not be under any pressure. His only concern is that after his exposure of the high-level editorial control in the Global Times, his friends at the paper may be inconvenienced.

This American formerly worked in Hong Kong two years. He said “Hong kong’s media freedom is less than before, but I still believe, Hong Kongers will not allow (one government to happen?), you see doesn’t your “Apple Daily” often criticise the Beijing government?”

Hmmm. A couple of places where I couldn’t get the translation right. To be honest it’s been a little while. Anyone help fix it?

April 17, 2011 @ 7:28 am | Comment

I like the opinions on Richard’s Peking Duck. A good journalist must has a strong banner of justice and truth. I believe Mr Richard Burger is a very good journalist. I also believe that the Zhongnanhai does lots of things that are greatly ridiculous and cruel.

I am a journalist in Wellington, New Zealand. Because I write news stories about Tiananmen massacre and other human rights issues, the China’s embassy in Wellington refused my visa applications 5 times. I want to visit my old parents who are in their 80s in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. And my father is very ill. He wanted see me very very much indeed. I believe the sense which blocks me to see my parents is worse than the animals’. Because the kids of animals must need to see their parents. How about our humanbeings?

I wish to contact you Mr Burger. I am also a reporter of Boxun.com of US. I read your opinions in Chinese language on boxun today, so I could be my 1st time on the Peking Duck.

Nick Wang
chr111@hotmail.com

April 17, 2011 @ 7:31 am | Comment

@FOARP…you only lived in China for a few years? Wow. Amazing.

April 17, 2011 @ 9:23 am | Comment

@FOARP…There are many ways to translate 一言堂 (yiyantang):
practice of what one person says counts; one person alone has the say;one person lays down the law;rule by the voice of one man alone, or dictatorial rule, absolute rule or power; autocracy…
Its antonym is 群言堂 (qunyantang):allow everybody to air his view; let everyone have his say; speak one’s mind freely…

April 17, 2011 @ 10:07 am | Comment

FOARP, thanks a lot for the translations. You should have seen what happened when I put it through google translate – something about Viagra for Women. The photo they used was of me accepting an award from the China PR association for my work on the publicity for the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay (a thankles task, I might add).

The comment above with the “r” was from one of my relatives. No threat.

Nick and Allan, thanks much for the excellent comments. I feel a bit more at ease now. Hopefully this story will fizzle out now. The Apple Daily interview took place with me rafting down the Yulong River, mobile phone in hand. Utterly bizarre.

April 17, 2011 @ 10:49 am | Comment

Michael, this is an English-language blog. If you want to offer a translation of that long thread you cut/pasted, like FOARP did above, that’s fine, but I won’t publish the post as it is. Thanks.

Richard

April 17, 2011 @ 11:30 am | Comment

Ha, good, I don’t know why your name was used… To me that read like “I’ve hacked your e-mail, so you’d better watch your step, troublemaker.”

April 17, 2011 @ 11:51 am | Comment

[...] niti domačim niso sporočili, kje je zaprt njihov sin, mož, oče, brat. Istočasno je avtor bloga The Peking Duck objavil zelo zanimiv članek o tem, kako uredniki Global Timesa pritiskajo na svoje novinarje in [...]

April 17, 2011 @ 5:32 pm | Pingback

It’s stuff like this, that makes Taiwanese NOT want to join the harmonious society. We rather live in chaos then,

thank you very much!

April 17, 2011 @ 9:21 pm | Comment

@Alan Dean Forster – Foxconn’s operation in Brazil has been growing for some time. When I worked for Foxconn I often used to meet up with the large crew of Brazilians who were in Longhua for training (most musical people in the world BTW). They’ve done the same in Vietnam – a large plant near Hanoi. But this is all down to the rise in worker costs, not the political situation so much.

@Canrun – Actually it was a good five years, but it is now nearly five years since I last lived there, and I am afraid that I am a bit out of practice, even though I do try to keep in by reading Chinese websites and watching Chinese TV programs.

@Readthru – Thanks for the pointer.

@Richard – Your mum reads your blog? Awesome.

April 17, 2011 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

Western journalists such as Richard Burger come to China with a mission: to change Chinese culture, customs, law, etc in order to suit their desire to control China. Nothing more, nothing less.

April 18, 2011 @ 4:28 am | Comment

I know my post will be removed soon after it appeared, because the “democrazy, fleadom and human lights” and freedom of expresion/speech Mr. Burger preaches, he himself won’t practice.

April 18, 2011 @ 4:31 am | Comment

So I call upon those western hypocrites to peach all those lofty ideals to the Chinese when they themselves simply are unable to practice, don’t fool all the Chinese, for when they are awake, they will hate you.

April 18, 2011 @ 4:48 am | Comment

China is a poor country (per Capita wise). It does not need western journalists to force feed all those junkie ideals down through their throat. Most of them care about their meals, shelters, and pieces of clothes. You guys always have your belly full, stay in the best hotels in China, have this fetich for “horny” asian women, … and during your spare time, you contribute nothing but potential social instability in China. What’s your goal???

April 18, 2011 @ 4:54 am | Comment

If you try to silence voices of people like me on your forum, there is no reason Chinese govement cannot silence yours. It is as simple as that. Got it?

April 18, 2011 @ 4:57 am | Comment

Oh brother. Did it really take you 4 separate posts over 20 minutes to chronicle your measly thoughts?

This is Richard’s blog, and we comment here at his pleasure. If you run afoul of his standards, then your comment won’t see the light of day. If you don’t like it, go make your own blog. Before you bemoan it as “censorship”, just have the cognitive capacity to realize that this is the equivalent of Richard’s house, and he gets to decide who he lets in. And before the little hamsters in your brain try to equate this to the censorship in China, realize that the people who live in China’s house didn’t get to make the house rules, and that is the fundamental yet huge difference.

And really, for a CCP apologist to accuse others of “brain-washing” belies an utter lack of self-awareness.

April 18, 2011 @ 5:02 am | Comment

wow, and in the space of 10 minutes, another three pitiful “thoughts”. It’s like your brain is having vomiting fits or something similarly unbecoming.

April 18, 2011 @ 5:04 am | Comment

He also need to realize that he is in China; it does not share the same values/legal system as that of the US. Pay some respect to Chinese laws/system/cutoms before blaming me for my critics of his blogs (located in China).

I don’t care if he removes my comments or not.

April 18, 2011 @ 5:15 am | Comment

and you guys need to stop uttering and accusing others of being CCPs, 50Centers. I am nither CCP nor am I paid to do this. Like so many people who do havve decades of exposure to the west, we do share similar understanding of the shameless west when it comes to human rights.

April 18, 2011 @ 5:27 am | Comment

@sun

I don’t mind your opinions as much as the fact you put them in 7 different posts instead of one. I mean, seriously.

Also, it’s kind of funny to ask Senhor Richard to respect China’s laws more than China’s rulers. ‘Cos you know what. I’ve lived in China. I’m not a Westerner. I went in with an open mind. But the least I can say is that none of the Chinese people I’ve ever met gave a damn about China’s laws in the slightest. The more powerful they were, the less they cared, all the way to the top, where they don’t even bother to pretend they respect their own constitution. (Which they don’t. At the very least arbitrary imprisonment on trumped-up charges and random disappearances go against the PRC constitution and… boy are they common :) )

April 18, 2011 @ 5:29 am | Comment

“Pay some respect to Chinese laws/system/cutoms before blaming me for my critics of his blogs (located in China).”

Is the CCP who should respect China’s laws and customs in the first place.

April 18, 2011 @ 5:31 am | Comment

And to respect their own people.

April 18, 2011 @ 5:32 am | Comment

Is China becoming a mafia state?

http://tinyurl.com/3v2hj9y

April 18, 2011 @ 5:50 am | Comment

“Pay some respect to Chinese laws/system/cutoms”
—they are Chinese “customs”. But the laws and the system are merely CCP, not Chinese, since Chinese citizens did not get to shape or determine them.

“nor am I paid to do this”
—well that’s a relief, cuz I’m not sure I’d even pay a penny for the thoughts you’ve shared thus far, let alone 50.

“we do share similar understanding of the shameless west when it comes to human rights.”
—same old thing yet again. Sure, the “west” has room for improvement. That in no way/shape/form detracts from the huge deficiencies the CCP has in terms of human rights, nor her room for improvement.

April 18, 2011 @ 5:54 am | Comment

Chinese people overall resent it when foreigners constantly lecture us about human rights, democrazy and fleadom. We’ll do it in our own pace and in our own time and in the directions we desire. I dimply don’t believe foreign journalists have Chinese people’s interest in their mind. The excessive/compulsive attention paid to those dissidents and this fake artist clown is enuf proof. It is sickening to our stomach seeing how the west media in general and western journalists in China in particular promote this sick Ai Weiwei to a holy position. It is an insult to me.

Where were they when Iraq and Afghan being bombed to pieces on a daily basis all in the holy name of spreading freadom, democrazy and human lights? Why don’t they pay a visit to the native Americans and report on their plight? Why don’t they pay some sympathy to the Palestines?

I am telling you, with more and more Chinese young people going abroad, living/studying there for a while, no sane people would believe that Western has China’s best interest in its mind. Rather, it is just the opposite. Yes, you might see some people with kindness and a good heart, but collectively, as in the case of foreign journalists in China, they have very little respect for Chinese law/customs/systems. If you so hate it, get out of here. If the Chines people are fine with their government, what’s your business of trying to stir up social issues? China is not the West. If you don’t get it, you will get lost.

April 18, 2011 @ 6:13 am | Comment

“Chinese people overall resent it when foreigners constantly lecture us about human rights, ”

You are not the Chinese people, and no one is lecturing Chinese but the CCP.

None know better than the people there the real situation they live in.

April 18, 2011 @ 6:22 am | Comment

“Pay some respect to Chinese laws”
Unless, of curse, your dad is Li Gang…

April 18, 2011 @ 6:27 am | Comment

Course, not curse! Argh…

April 18, 2011 @ 6:28 am | Comment

“Chinese people overall resent it when foreigners constantly lecture us about human rights, …etc etc”
—and you know this how, exactly? If that’s how you feel with the resentment and all, that’s your prerogative. But why do you guys constantly feel the need to speak for other Chinese people as well? Why not let them speak for themselves? You might want to ask the CCP that question. Same goes with the use of the seemingly royal “we”.

Besides, when has the CCP ever even remotely behaved as though she has any interest in letting Chinese people do anything at their own pace and in their own time? It’s at the CCP’s pace, in the CCP’s time…and that’s assuming it’s something the CCP wants herself. If the CCP doesn’t want it, then there’s no place or time for it. Now, do you think the CCP will ever find it a good place and time to usher in “democracy” and hasten her own demise?

I’m not sure where Mr. Ai has been beatified. It seems the uproar started because he’s been detained for little more than innuendo. It’s not the first time the CCP has taken dead aim at her foot, and hit the bulls-eye.

I think there’s been ample reporting of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of the plight of First Nations as well as Palestinians. Were it not for that reporting, how would you be aware of those various circumstances? Or are you a First Nations person who has made stops in Gaza, Baghdad, and Kabul on your last Middle Eastern spring break excursion?

“If the Chines people are fine with their government,”
—ahhh, but here’s the rub. Are they “fine” with their government? Or have events like TAM shown them that they will be “fine” with it if they know what’s good for them? It’s like what Henry FOrd once said: “they can have their Model T’s any colour they want, as long as it’s black”. Would you say his customers were “fine” with their Model T’s being black? Or would you say they quietly put up with it cuz they didn’t have any choice?

And boy oh boy, I sure hope you’re not living in the “west” right now. Cuz since you admire the CCP system so thoroughly, one would wonder why you are slumming it over here.

April 18, 2011 @ 6:50 am | Comment

@SK Cheung

You wrote: “the CCP has taken dead aim at her foot”

Why is the CCP feminine?

April 18, 2011 @ 7:17 am | Comment

Hi RP:
My mistake. I should’ve said “its”.

April 18, 2011 @ 8:19 am | Comment

Sun: Western journalists such as Richard Burger come to China with a mission: to change Chinese culture, customs, law, etc in order to suit their desire to control China.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome our new troll. I have no such mission. I have no desire to “control China” and that is exactly the kind of talk that makes China’s government and media look so ridiculous. If you’d engage in dialog instead of insupportable and angry accusations maybe you’d be taken seriously. With talk like that you betray your ignorance and your anger.

Where were they when Iraq and Afghan being bombed to pieces on a daily basis all in the holy name of spreading freadom, democrazy and human lights?

Go back in this blog and read my scathing posts against the occupation of Iraq. Again, your ignorance is as monumental as your misspellings (and normally I don’t point out misspellings, as English may be your second language, but it’s to drive the point home about getting personal). Do your research before you foam at the mouth.

And I never delete comments for disagreeing with me. But when you get personal and nasty I’ll have no problem deleting. You are a guest here. I am not a government or a public utility, and I can allow or disallow any comments I choose. As readers know, I have a very liberal comments policy and very few get zapped. So please comment away, but watch your step if you want to get personal.

April 18, 2011 @ 10:00 am | Comment

@ #135 Chinese people overall resent it when foreigners constantly lecture us about human rights, democrazy and fleadom.
If you resent it, don’t listen, sun. If compatriots of yours resent it, let them turn their ears away. And if you can’t do that, consider a stay on an anger management farm, because then, the “lectures” aren’t your actual problem.
As for the rest of your comments, I go along with S.K. Cheung’s reply to them (#139). You can only speak for yourself, and for people you know personally.

April 18, 2011 @ 12:44 pm | Comment

I wonder weather the arrest of Ai Weiwei indicates the power struggle/fighting inside chinese central government. This reminds me the 1980s in China, 一个令知识分子无限兴奋的自由主义活动高峰期 (more accurately to say it started from 1978), for instance, 西单民主墙、朦胧诗歌、星星画展、伤痕文学、先锋文学、探索电影、各种西方人文哲学流派书籍 etc. I was young, but I did remember the excitement and hope for better future. Then 《今天》诗刊停刊,星星画展被禁,电影《苦恋》被禁,and ended in 1980s 两场学运。Now another peak time was brought by the internet, though with much wider influence from 意识形态 to everyday life. So it is interesting to see whether the history is going to repeat itself. A new event is coming?!

April 18, 2011 @ 5:40 pm | Comment

@Sun: Are you from GT? If you are, say it so others won’t waste their time to argue with you.

April 18, 2011 @ 8:03 pm | Comment

We’ll do it in our own pace and in our own time and in the directions we desire.

Correction, what you meant to say was:

China will change in the time and fashion directed by the CCP, having consulted with the Chinese elite and upper class, in a fashion that the middle classes are content with (providing they don’t pay more taxes) and in a way that the lower classes/poor will have no choice but to accept – or go to jail directly, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 yuan.

April 18, 2011 @ 9:22 pm | Comment

@Richard – The idea of journalists seeking to control a country, when many* can barely control their booze and cocaine habits, is a bit rich.

*In London at least – the excellent “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell” was most definitely firmly grounded in fact.

@Sun –

“Chinese people overall resent it when foreigners constantly lecture us about human rights, democrazy and fleadom”

I emphatically deny ever lecturing anyone on the advantages of fleadom. I should think that the advantages of being able to leap the quivalent of skyscrapers, find accomodation anywhere, and never be short of food so self-evident as to need no explanation.

April 18, 2011 @ 10:36 pm | Comment

Richard, I was impressed by your genuine effort to communicate for mutual understanding with the senior editor of the GT when reading your post. I don’t know if this editor has any statistic figure to explain ‘Most Chinese support Ai Weiwei’s detention. They support Liu Xiaobo’s detention.’ But I understand her feeling of humiliation mentioned (as Chinese, obviously from the responses to your post, she is not the single case) in the conversation. I understand her viewpoint about China as a huge populated developing country, which can contribute to a different priority/definition of human rights from the west concept. However in Ai Weiwei’s case, I do think it is a coward behavior for a government to detain him without any convincing explanation to public. Anyway, CCP are human like us, they can freak out.
My other attention to write this post is a question puzzled me for long time. I do wonder whether the west thinks their culture/values are superior to Chinese ones. I was wondering why Chinese government or GT should care much about reaction from oversea community on Ai Weiwei’s detaining when I read these lines in your post ‘Don’t you realize the entire expat community here in Beijing and many others around the world are buzzing about this editorial, shocked at its belligerence, its snide and strident tone, its implied threats and its undercurrent of violence? Maybe, as you keep saying, the West truly doesn’t understand China.’Well it is nice to be sensitive but a government can have a choice to run its country, for the sake of discussion, if regardless whether this choice is right or wrong. Reading Sojourner’s comments ‘So? She’s the equivalent of the university-educated Republican activist or member of the British Conservative Party.
Right-wing, establishment conformists exist in every country.’
‘I’m frankly astonished you respect and admire this kind of banal apparatchik, Richard.’I have to give it a pass or laugh. It is full of stereotype and absolutely lacks of sensitivity when discussing persons/issues unknown of. I cannot understand those west ideas of the university-educated Republican activist or member of the British Conservative Party can be directly applied onto Chinese people. I have experienced and observed similar attitudes in working environment or other daily life situations during my over 15 years living in New Zealand. By saying this, I can understand the hostile tones in comments made by sun however I don’t think it is appropriate.
I have to say Chinese and the west are so different, even in the discussion of this post. I can see Chinese like to use collective words, for instance, Chinese people, they like to have thoughts collectively or think they represent on a group of people, even this group of people is in their imagination, with no strong figure in statistic form or any other scientific matter.
By the way, speaking of Mao, I think he did some good for Chinese people and its country. He did have certain viewpoints on 知识分子 which may not be appreciated by知识分子. He called for young people to go countryside, I believe he was genuine because he told his own daughter to go countryside as well. The cultural revolution was one of his catastrophic decisions, but I have to say it is unfair for Mao to take full responsibility for all those violence/death happened in cultural revolution. I was very shocked by the violence when reading books about cultural revolution, and equally impressed by some books with genuine reflection on this particular time in chinese history, the most impressed ones were written by the director 陈凯歌 (chengkaige) and the writer 巴金 (bajing). How many people who did violence on another person during cultural revolution did it purely because of their belief, no any personal intention like jealous, revenge etc.
Richard, I found your blog when I tried to follow the most updated progress in Ai Weiwei’s case. I like your sense of humor in its layout, especially ‘烤于xxx 的鸭片’. I admire your spirit as a journalist and your effort to understand Chinese perspective. Also I very much appreciate this platform you have provided, for me it is a window to understand west viewpoints on chinese matters. So thank you.

April 18, 2011 @ 11:10 pm | Comment

Richard, can you please remove 148, I redo it again because it’s hard to read. Thanks

April 18, 2011 @ 11:19 pm | Comment

Richard, I was impressed by your genuine effort to communicate for mutual understanding with the senior editor of the GT when reading your post. I don’t know if this editor has any statistic figure to explain ‘Most Chinese support Ai Weiwei’s detention. They support Liu Xiaobo’s detention.’ But I understand her feeling of humiliation mentioned (as Chinese, obviously from the responses to your post, she is not the single case) in the conversation.

I understand her viewpoint about China as a huge populated developing country, which can contribute to a different priority/definition of human rights from the west concept. However in Ai Weiwei’s case, I do think it is a coward behavior for a government to detain him without any convincing explanation to public. Anyway, CCP are human like us, they can freak out.

My other attention to write this post is a question puzzled me for long time. I do wonder whether the west thinks their culture/values are superior to Chinese ones. I was wondering why Chinese government or GT should care much about reaction from oversea community on Ai Weiwei’s detaining when I read these lines in your post ‘Don’t you realize the entire expat community here in Beijing and many others around the world are buzzing about this editorial, shocked at its belligerence, its snide and strident tone, its implied threats and its undercurrent of violence? Maybe, as you keep saying, the West truly doesn’t understand China.’
Well it is nice to be sensitive but a government can have a choice to run its country, for the sake of discussion, if regardless whether this choice is right or wrong.

Reading Sojourner’s comments ‘So? She’s the equivalent of the university-educated Republican activist or member of the British Conservative Party.
Right-wing, establishment conformists exist in every country.’

‘I’m frankly astonished you respect and admire this kind of banal apparatchik, Richard.’

I have to give it a pass. It is full of stereotype and absolutely lacks of sensitivity when discussing persons/issues unknown of. I cannot understand those west ideas of the university-educated Republican activist or member of the British Conservative Party can be directly applied onto Chinese people.

I have experienced and observed similar attitudes in working environment or other daily life situations during my over 15 years living in New Zealand. By saying this, I can understand the hostile tones in comments made by sun however I don’t think it is appropriate.

I have to say Chinese and the west are so different, even in the discussion of this post. I can see Chinese like to use collective words, for instance, Chinese people, they like to have thoughts collectively or think they represent on a group of people, even this group of people is in their imagination, with no strong figure in statistic form or any other scientific matter.

By the way, speaking of Mao, I think he did some good for Chinese people and its country. He did have certain viewpoints on 知识分子 which may not be appreciated by 知识分子. He called for young people to go countryside, I believe he was genuine because he told his own daughter to go countryside as well.

The cultural revolution was one of his catastrophic decisions, but I have to say it is unfair for Mao to take full responsibility for all those violence/death happened in cultural revolution. I was very shocked by the violence when reading books about cultural revolution, and equally impressed by some books with genuine reflection on this particular time in chinese history, the most impressed ones were written by the director 陈凯歌 (chengkaige) and the writer 巴金 (bajing). How many people who did violence on another person during cultural revolution did it purely because of their belief, no any personal intention like jealous, revenge etc.

Richard, I found your blog when I tried to follow the most updated progress in Ai Weiwei’s case. I like your sense of humor in its layout, especially ‘烤于xxx 的鸭片’. I admire your spirit as a journalist and your effort to understand Chinese perspective. Also I very much appreciate this platform you have provided, for me it is a window to understand west viewpoints on chinese matters. So thank you.

April 18, 2011 @ 11:26 pm | Comment

@Dee

Interesting opinion.

Welcome on-board.

April 19, 2011 @ 12:20 am | Comment

@Dee

Yeah, like our Spaniard friend said above, welcome. This blog sorely needs feedback from non-hostile people.

And about the “great effort” needed to understand the Chinese perspective: mneh, I don’t agree. It’s not that difficult, at least not for people who’ve been to Russia, Eastern Europe, and South-East Asia before – and have also spent a few years in China :)

April 19, 2011 @ 1:02 am | Comment

@Dee – 知识分子 = Intellectuals.

“I do wonder whether the west thinks their culture/values are superior to Chinese ones.”

Most of the people on this thread have lived in both “the west” and in China, many of them continue to live outside “the west”. In as much as “the west” thinks anything . . . well, it doesn’t. I cannot find much in the way of unity of opinion linking Canada, Australia, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal etc., other than a commitment to democracy, in words if not always in deed, which is a product of history rather than of culture.

“I was wondering why Chinese government or GT should care much about reaction from oversea community on Ai Weiwei’s detaining”

Why not instead wonder why they care enough to attack those that criticise their actions? If they do not care, why do they do this? Indeed, if they do not care what people in “the west” think, what then of the purpose of the Global Times, which is purportedly to get “China’s” message across to “the west”?

“Well it is nice to be sensitive but a government can have a choice to run its country, for the sake of discussion, if regardless whether this choice is right or wrong.”

This would be a nice idea, if the citizens were no more than the property of the government, then why could the government do as it pleases with its property? In the real world, China, just like any other country, is a place in which people suffer when the government does the wrong thing.

“I have to say Chinese and the west are so different, even in the discussion of this post. I can see Chinese like to use collective words, for instance, Chinese people, they like to have thoughts collectively or think they represent on a group of people, even this group of people is in their imagination, with no strong figure in statistic form or any other scientific matter.”

Could it be mere coincidence that this tendency is much less in Taiwan and Hong Kong, which are otherwise culturally similar to mainland China? Could it also be noteworthy that other dictatorships adopt similar rhetoric, despite being otherwise culturally dissimilar to China? Could what you refer to as a cultural hallmark, be in this case simply a hallmark of a dictatorship in which everyone is told that everyone thinks the same about certain issues, and in which no voice of dissent is ever given a public platform?

Put simply, I have never heard a Taiwanese person say “We Taiwanese think X”, even if it were something that most Taiwanese people do think. However, I have often (particularly on the internet) seen and heard people write and say “We Chinese people think X”, even when perhaps the majority of people I have spoken to in China would in one way or another disagree with what they have said. It is not hard to guess the reason for this: despite being very similar in terms of culture, every day Taiwanese people can see and hear evidence of disparate opinions which are hidden on the mainland.

“I have to say it is unfair for Mao to take full responsibility for all those violence/death happened in cultural revolution”

Since he ordered the violence, why shouldn’t he take responsibility? But I agree that those who have avoided punishment should not be able to hide behind the excuse that they were merely carrying out his wishes.

April 19, 2011 @ 1:02 am | Comment

I agree with FOARP. The raison d’etre for GT is to “soften” the way the “west” thinks of China, so the fact that GT exists shows that the CCP cares….at least enough to bother with having GT.

Can’t speak for Richard, but i don’t think he was shocked that the CCP would go out of their way to try to crucify Ai. That’s standard CCP, and people would be shocked if they didn’t. But I think he was shocked that the GT, as the CCP’s designated vehicle for trying to soften western opinion, would conduct itself in such a manner that is blatantly counterproductive to its mandate.

Chinese people may by custom like to think that they represent a group of people. But the reality is that custom is simply wrong. One can represent no one besides oneself. The irony is that, in CCP China, one can’t even do that. For people who have no right to speak for themselves to turn around and pretend to speak for 1.3B is truly mind-boggling.

April 19, 2011 @ 2:25 am | Comment

What FOARP just said.

April 19, 2011 @ 3:37 am | Comment

Reminiscences of “Another brick on the wall” Pink Floyid

From The Economist
http://tinyurl.com/43srxjy

Hammer march
http://tinyurl.com/3tcbpke

April 19, 2011 @ 5:49 am | Comment

Complete marching hammers

http://tinyurl.com/3w8qwpk

The best at the end… TFW!

April 19, 2011 @ 6:12 am | Comment

As a citizen of China that even not a Party Member, I really hate those foreigners interfering our country. They should shut their ass up and get back to their countries. I am so disappointed to see North Korea released the spies of United States. It is a shame that their judicatory has been cruelly interfered by western countries. I hope my home country to be powerful, and one significant sign of which is that it could keep its judicatory independent and not interfered by others, especially those stupid foreigners who have exactly no idea what China is.

April 19, 2011 @ 6:25 am | Comment

Chen Zhe, I hope you read Dee’s comment.

Hate away; it’s nothing new, and is usually the first thing FQ do..

April 19, 2011 @ 9:06 am | Comment

“They should shut their ass up and get back to their countries.”

Going to follow your own advice, sir?

April 19, 2011 @ 11:23 am | Comment

As Nick suggests, I wonder if Mr. Chen is a citizen of China living in China.

I think his call for an independent judiciary is a good one. But in view of that, he can’t be too happy with the state of China’s judiciary currently, since it’s not even independent of the CCP.

April 19, 2011 @ 12:55 pm | Comment

@SKC – From Chen Zhe’s Website:

“大家好,我叫陈喆。现在是美国宾州匹兹堡的卡耐基梅隆大学旗下娱乐科技中心的一名硕士研究生。我本科就读于位于中国北京市的清华大学。”

Trans.

“Hello everyone, I’m Chen Zhe. Now I am a master’s student at the Entertainment Technology Centre at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States. My undergraduate degree was studied at Qinghua University in China.”

@Chen Zhe – Judicial independence is, like SKC said, a fine thing. You might ask, though, whether the disappearance without charge or due process of a Chinese citizen just as he was leaving the country long-term, only days after he was reportedly offered a position with the government, with no court intervening to uphold that man’s rights,really shows judicial independence. Does this not instead show that the government of China can and does ride rough-shod over the rights of its citizens when it wishes?

Since you are a person who has had the advantage of going overseas to develop, do you really support denying this right to others?

Since you are a resident of the United States, do you really believe that all reporters working for US publications are spies? Or even just the two who “entered” North Korea? If they were, then why were they released? What evidence do you have that they were spies?

Finally, pretty much everyone on this page has experience of living in China. Richard, the author of this blog, used to work for Global Times. I hardly think that the people on this page “have exactly no idea what China is”.

And please, spare us the anti-US rhetoric. The majority of people here are not Americans, and disagree with some or even the majority of US policies.

April 19, 2011 @ 1:43 pm | Comment

To FOARP:
thanks for that info. I guess this would represent a small “oopsies” on Mr. Chen’s part, at least insofar as Nick’s point in #160.

April 19, 2011 @ 2:48 pm | Comment

A princeling?

April 19, 2011 @ 3:26 pm | Comment

Business proposal for FQ.

An argument clinic.

http://tinyurl.com/3nswns9

April 19, 2011 @ 4:15 pm | Comment

[...] 《环球时报》外籍员工揭露中共抹黑艾未未内幕  《人民日报》旗下《环球时报》「砌」艾未未的内幕曝光。据长期在北京工作的外籍传媒人理查.伯格(Richard Burger)揭露,该报为抹黑艾未未,上周一(4日)特别召集全体中方员工进行闭门会议,总编辑胡锡进在会上更下达直接的命令:搜寻一切关于艾被关押的 所有中文评论,然后按照党的路线对艾加以批驳。伯格批评,此举严重违反新闻职业道德。他批评,该报早前批评艾的社论「令人作呕」,用这些野蛮、丑陋、令人 发狂的社论来攻击艾是弄巧反拙的行为。 伯格在其博客指,自己曾在香港、北京及台北工作,其后再度返回北京。周三(13日),他以「The Global Times and Ai Weiwei」(《环球时报》与艾未未)为题,在博客上发表英文文章。他在推特(twitter)上发表连接时亦说,「希望我不会消失」。      伯格指,九天前(4日),《环球时报》总编辑胡锡进召集报社里所有中方工作人员,到大会议室闭门开会。 会议禁外籍员工出席    他称,基本上每次开这种会的时候,被称为「外国专家」的外籍员工都不淮参加。他其后透过一名相熟的同事得悉,胡在会上向员工下了一条直接了当的命令:要 求他们回去之后要四处寻找关于艾未未被关押一事的所有中文评论,包括在中国各个论坛、门户网站以及博客上的讨论,然后按照党的路线对他加以批驳。也就是 说,要把艾描述为一个自封的独行侠、一个被西方敌对势力利用来刁难、伤害和破坏中国的人,他活该被拘留。       伯格说:「这种行为十分清楚地告诉我们,在艾未未问题上,共产党要传达出自己的立场的决心非常大,即使这样做严重侵犯新闻职业道德,也在所不惜。它把五毛党的概念提升到了一个全新的层面。」       《环球时报》上周先后曾发表两篇社评,大肆抨击艾未未。4月6日以「法律不会为特立独行者弯曲」为题的社论指,艾未未是特立独行的行为艺术家,喜欢在法律的边缘活动,不断衝撞中国法律「红线」,要为此付代价。       4月8日的社论则以「是谁在严重违背法律精神」为题,抨击西方媒体利用艾案影响中国。       野蛮社论「简直令人作呕」 [...]

April 19, 2011 @ 10:52 pm | Pingback

@eco

That Monty Python thing is genius :) Thanks!

April 20, 2011 @ 1:24 am | Comment

Yo everyone, take a look at where our friend eco lives:

http://www.vimeo.com/22080133

Lucky bastard, ey?

April 20, 2011 @ 2:01 am | Comment

This was done in Spain as well:

http://vimeo.com/22439234

April 20, 2011 @ 2:09 am | Comment

[...] full days after my post on Ai Weiwei and the Global Times was published, I received an email from someone relatively high up at the paper telling me that my [...]

April 20, 2011 @ 7:14 pm | Pingback

@sun
I dimply don’t believe foreign journalists have Chinese people’s interest in their mind.

And you think corrupt CCP officials hiding inside pompous government buildings such that in Fuyang, Anhui have Chinese people’s interest in their mind? Hahaha.

April 20, 2011 @ 9:16 pm | Comment

Well, as a naturalized American citizen who were born in China and lived there during my youth (and during the culture revolution), and who have lived both Europe and US for more than 20 years, I can say I understand both sides. As many Chinese in China, I don’t believe everything published in Chinese newspapers, and I think many Chinese officials and journalists are total fools regarding how to do PR to influence Westerners (in China or abroad). Having said that, I don’t believe Western media is much better in terms of reporting on international news, in particular, when it comes to matters regarding China. The only more neutral and more nuanced reports that I respect are those from James Fallows. For Western media, in particular, Western liberal media such as New York Times (NYT) the only opinions and views that matter are those of Western-leaning dissidents. Any opinions that differ from the “standard” viewpoints are dismissed as “brainwahsed”, “50-cents” or “trolls”.

Richard suggested to the senior editor in GT to engage in a “dialog” with the West regarding the Chinese government’s viewpoints. My reaction is, why bother?
I have had numerous dialogs and “debates” with my Western friends (including my boyfriend — I am gay), many of who have never set a foot in China (and a few who have but only briefly and rarely talked to any “ordinary” Chinese”), nearly all of who have “strong opinions” regarding how China should be governed, what political systems the Chinese should have, and how the Chinese should behave themselves (so that, shall I add, China can be “loved” by the West), to try to present a more “realistic” view as to the complexity of the Chinese aspirations, concerns and problems, and most importantly, but mostly to no vain. I tried to explain that transformation of any society, especially, an old civilization like China, takes a long time (just like the US and Western democracy took more than 200 years, despite all the claims and myth that Western democracy as is today started from the Founding Fathers). Just consider the case of gay rights in US (some of gay friends consider gay rights as human rights), and such transformation can only happen when the majority of the Chinese people become, for lack of a better word, “civilized”, namely, truly respect and care each other, and the Chinese society becomes a more civil society. Nonetheless, despite my dialog with them, nearly most of them believe everything in Western media and NYT reports about China, and still adamantly insist that China should adopt the Western-style democracy and respect human rights NOW, and that’s only way China should develop its economy and society. I can only attribute such altitude either to arrogance, or to complete “brainwash” by the Western media.

Back to the Western media, despite the good intention of James Fallows who mentioned in his blog that in fact there are many “good” things that the Chinese
government that it doesn’t know how to PR to the West, the matter of the fact is that even the Chinese government knows it, it won’t matter, as the mainstream Western media such as NYT will try its best to spin the other way to influence its own readers (and the general Western public). After all, Western media serves the interests, or at least perceived interests, of the West. Just look at how NYT spins the Libyan war, enough said! How cares what the rest of the World think about our policies, or “hate” us, as long as we Americans consider ourselves as “exceptional” and the “greatest” country in the world. NYT editorial considers the so-called Chinese model as a threat to the Western liberal democracy — it only dawned to me a few years ago when I read the opinion piece by the editor in chief in late 2007 — that explains, at least to me, why NYT only reports bad news. A recent case-in-point: there is nearly not report regarding the BRICS meeting in China which involves five (largest) emerging economies in the world and more than 40% of humanity, except one article before the meeting. And you guess it, the article is full of negative spins, and considers the meeting as “anti-West” — despite at the end it grudgingly admits that a recent BBC poll in Africa finds a majority of Africans view China’s investment in Africa positively! If you don’t believe me, google “BRICS” in NYT.

Finally, personally, I hold the opinion that the central Chinese government by and large is doing the right thing (human right issues notwithstanding, on which issues I think the Chinese government is too insecure about themselves), and China is on the right track. I hold the opinion that the future of this globalized world requires genuine understandings and cooperation of US and China, and more broadly, West and the rest of the world, including, China, India, other BRICS countries and Middle East, not “our way or highway” that is so typical of some Westerners. All I want to say is: let the Chinese (and the rest of the world, for that matter), find their own way of development (both economically, politically and socially).

Sorry for the long ranting! By the way, I came to this site via a link from James Fallows’ blog, I guess I can be dismissed as a “troll.” But I try my best to present an “alternative” viewpoint (which may be “shocking” to many Westerners, despite my Western education, like the “shocking” viewpoint regarding Mao from the friend of Richard from Vancouver — this points to the fact that many in the West don’t realize that their viewpoints can be ‘dogmatic” or deep-rooted in (I try to avoid the negative word “brainwashed”) in his or her belief or experience.

April 21, 2011 @ 2:12 am | Comment

sorry for the many typos in my post — I know many would use English typos and grammatical issues as indication of “50 cents.” Honestly, I don’t proof-read it — after all, I am not a journalist or write, and I majored in engineering (obviously not a good execute. Just take it as a rant from a Chinese American who in fact deeply care about US and China, and believe that China has a lot to learn from West and Western liberal democracy — but nonetheless it needs to learn to find its own way for economic, political and social development.

April 21, 2011 @ 2:24 am | Comment

Jerry: like the “shocking” viewpoint regarding Mao from the friend of Richard from Vancouver — this points to the fact that many in the West don’t realize that their viewpoints can be ‘dogmatic” or deep-rooted in (I try to avoid the negative word “brainwashed”) in his or her belief or experience.

Jerry, as you say, you may indeed be perceived as a troll but I’ll give you a chance. You see, I never said what my Vancouver friend said was “shocking,” yet you put this in quotation marks as I did say it. And that’s a no-no and a very trollish thing to do. In fact, it’s one of Mongol Warrior’s favorite tactics. I never said anything of the kind. Be careful.

April 21, 2011 @ 10:24 am | Comment

[...] as we see him. Richard Burger, popular blogger of the Peking Duck highlighted this disparity in a conversation with a right-wing lady friend who says Western support of Ai Weiwei is ignorant and [...]

April 21, 2011 @ 1:19 pm | Pingback

Jerry,

It all boils down to universal values. Either there is such a thing or there isn’t.

You write “despite my dialog with them [...] still adamantly insist that China should adopt the Western-style democracy and respect human rights NOW”

I personally have never pushed democracy down anyone’s throat, nor has any of my friends. However, what’s wrong with respecting human rights now? What are we supposed to push for – an independent judiciary in 50 years? :)

I couldn’t care less whether China is governed by one party, two parties, a Pope or space aliens. My beef is with good government, fair government, legitimate government – and I use the same metric for all countries on Earth, not just China. You want to me criticize the US? Well, I’m every bit as worried as anyone else with a shred of decency left in ‘em of the vast quantities of crass illiteracy, warmongering, weird religious beliefs and ultra-nationalism one can find there. Happy now? Can we go back to China, as we are mostly here to talk about China, not the US? (Which, again, has humongous problems of its own and I’d never dispute that.)

Me and at least a few other folks here, we’re not the NYTimes. We lived in China, we did our homework, we’re more knowledgeable than that I hope.

But for God’s sake, what’s wrong with being outraged at the unfairness that permeates Chinese society, at the endless suffering that happens there for no good reason except ‘big boss has to have his way’ and at the sheer lack of hope of millions of people, trapped in a system that still allows for so little?

Some Chinese people say that “you don’t understand – change takes a long time – probably generations!”

Actually, I’m being vocal just because I want things to be different in 50 years’ time. Not because I want everything done by tomorrow, but I have the feeling that if people don’t stand up, nothing will ever change – not even in “generations”.

My two cents anyway. I’m no James Fallows.

But I could be :)

April 21, 2011 @ 7:09 pm | Comment

@Richard – I wonder if Mongol Warrior would claim to be gay. Not based on what I have read of his comments, anyway. Plus he didn’t seem to be too fond of James Fallows either.

@Jerry – The thing is, I have lived in China, and not for a short time either. I do think that democracy is the best system of government, I don’t think that some people are culturally unsuited for democracy. If anything, I think that Chinese culture is apreciably more open to the criticism of those in charge than, say, Japan.

If you want to see why no-one reported much on the BRICS meeting, perhaps you should look at the important things which were decided there. Unfortunatley, since pretty much nothing was decided there, and it seems instead to have been just another face-building junket of which there are many in international politics (here in Europe they are endless) there was little to report on.

Finally, the NYT is not the “western” media, it is not even entirely representative of New York-based media.

April 21, 2011 @ 9:09 pm | Comment

To RP:
precisely. It is specifically because change takes time that the calls for change, and the laying of the groundwork that will be necessary for eventual change, need to be made and laid now.

Besides, lately it seems the CCP is going backwards in terms of its democratic evolution.

I am all for letting Chinese people find their own way. It’s a shame that the CCP has other designs.

April 22, 2011 @ 1:22 am | Comment

@Jerry
If you visit Madrid don’t fail to go Chueca quarter. A preferred place by gays lesbian and also the rest.
For an interesting dinning experience, restaurant Gula Gula, not far from Chueca

April 22, 2011 @ 2:06 am | Comment

@SKC

Oh, thanks for reading my comment, not to mention agreeing with the gist of it. It makes my day every time someone’s paying attention to what I’m typing :)

@FOARP

What do you mean by democracy is the best system of government? Because, holy Bajeezus, what kind of democracy is that in the UK where you still have a queen and lords. Or in the US where every once in a while the guy with less votes gets to be president… and half of everyone *never* bothers to vote. Actually real democracy only happened in Athens a long time ago and I have a feeling you’d absolutely *hate* that.

You probably just mean “I think a great feature of legitimate government is that the schmuck on the street gets a say once in a while on who rules”… right?

Because if you just say “democracy”… first of all there’s kind of a huge range of “democracies” out there… second of all most of them aren’t doing great things for their people. (Hell, Latin America is full of democracies.) Of course you could argue that “oh actually they’re doing badly because they’re not democratic enough” but then I’d throw right back at ya all the ways in which even rich/civilized countries are undemocratic.

I mean, I’m all for at least some democratic component in systems of governance – I don’t know how you can achieve legitimacy otherwise – but I’m also with our Chinese friends in finding that the dominant Western rhetoric is frankly masturbatory and… not that intellectually rigorous. (I know, funny of me to say this, but hey, I’m entitled to my opinion :) )

I’m not saying democracy is bad or anything, I kind of like it myself, but I think that 1) the jury’s still out there on what the hell should be defined as such and what it does and 2) it’s just one tool and the toolshed better have much more than this, so to speak.

I’m afraid a lot of Chinese people are getting at an important thing when they say “oh, if we had democracy tomorrow we’d just have much bigger idiots in Beijing than we do now and all hell would break loose”. Qu’est-ce que vous pensez?

April 22, 2011 @ 5:13 am | Comment

Because, holy Bajeezus, what kind of democracy is that in the UK where you still have a queen and lords.

The lords are appointed by elected representatives. The monarch does not get involved in day-to-day politics. There is a good argument that it’s ideal to have a politically neutral head of state, because it can reserve some powers away from any one political party.

Because if you just say “democracy”… first of all there’s kind of a huge range of “democracies” out there… second of all most of them aren’t doing great things for their people

Well isn’t that sort of the point? Just calling a country a “democracy” means nothing. You have to look for multi-party elections that are as free and fair as possible, a judiciary that is as independent as possible, etc.

To decide whether a country is democratic you have to go through a long checklist.

April 22, 2011 @ 5:47 am | Comment

You could start with rule of law, not by law. No heavly censored media. Government transparency and some sort of accountability.
PRC constitution contains most of the rights, but they are not enforced when not directly violated.

April 22, 2011 @ 5:59 am | Comment

To RP:
I think that’s two separate discussions. There is the concept of “democracy”, or at least the exercise of democratic principles, that I believe you’re in support of. The realization of that concept (ie the nuts and bolts of an actual example of governance) can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Parts of the former Commonwealth (like Britain and Canada) have parliamentary systems. Sure, the Queen is the ‘figurative’ head of state, and in Canada, the Governor-General is her representative. And laws passed by our parliament cannot be enacted until they receive Royal Assent. I suppose in theory, the unelected Queen/King could refuse to sign off on a law passed by our elected representatives. But that’s never happened before. And the GG is actually appointed by our elected government. Based on Raj’s description of the House of Lords, it is similar to our Senate. Unelected, but appointed by elected representatives (in Canada’s case, the prime minister) nonetheless.

In the US, i think it’s pretty uncommon to see unfortunate examples like GWB beating Gore based on the Electoral College vote while actually losing the common vote. But you’re right in that it can happen. So perhaps the system itself needs to be tweaked. But that is in no way an affront of the underlying and guiding principle upon which any such system is founded.

The decision for China, I believe, first has to involve the principle of democracy. If it is a concept Chinese people choose to embrace, then they should most certainly try to build a better mousetrap that suits the needs of their unique circumstances, based on democratic principles. It is ridiculous for some to simply argue that Chinese people don’t want the “american system” or whatever. No one is asking them to simply assume the american, or anyone else’s, system.

As stated by Raj and Eco, as well as by many others in the past, the “system” also comprises more than just voting. How such a system would look in China should and would be determined by Chinese. But the first step is getting to decide if that is how they wish to proceed. And the CCP, not surprisingly, does a face-plant on step one.

April 22, 2011 @ 7:08 am | Comment

@Resident Poet
Because, holy Bajeezus, what kind of democracy is that in the UK where you still have a queen and lords.

Pardon for being blunt but you have just exposed your extreme ignorance. The various Parliament Acts and constitutional conventions (such as Salisbury Convention)severely restricted the power of the House of Lords vis-a-vis the fully elected House of Commons. In recent years, even the judicial functions of the Lords were being stripped with the establishment of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom taking over all its judicial functions and the formerly influential position of Lord Chancellor (the presiding officer of the Lords) lost almost all of its substantial powers to the newly created positions of the Lord Speaker and the Lord Chief Justice.

The British monarch is more of a figurehead who is not able to exercise any significant political power in reality. In fact, the Queen has no business in the day to day running of the government and the seat of power is in Downing Street No 10, not Buckingham Palace.

Time to borrow some books over Easter, esp elemnetary guides on British constitutional developments, Mr Poet. LOL.

April 22, 2011 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

@RP
” but then I’d throw right back at ya all the ways in which even rich/civilized countries are undemocratic.

Sure. Feel free to call “rich/civilized” countries “undemocratic” like what critics such as Noam Chomsky may have done. After all, some of the harshest critics of “Western” liberal democracy were those who lived in them, like Karl Marx. And the key thing is, these critics have not be persecuted systemically by the government of the day. But try doing that in countries such as China, i challenge you to go out in Tiananmen Square and call the CCP’s notion of “People’s democratic dictatorship” undemocratic. Let’s get some popcorns and watch gleefully as bystanders see what the Ministry of Public Security will do to you. LOL.

That’s the difference between democratic and undemocratic.

April 22, 2011 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

@RP
but I’m also with our Chinese friends in finding that the dominant Western rhetoric is frankly masturbatory and… not that intellectually rigorous. (I know, funny of me to say this, but hey, I’m entitled to my opinion

Another common feature in debate about democracy was for some to introduce a cultural dichotomy into the debate with the constant use of the word “Western” and “Asian”. It was conveniently inserted to pit one side against the other using the sense of “otherness” and connotates that democracy as some sort of foreign object that people should keep a distance from because it is something that belongs to the “Other”.
At th end of the day, these are just lazy and cheap tactics by cultural relativists to engage in a real debate by putting everything in a culutal dichotomy.

April 22, 2011 @ 4:31 pm | Comment

@Sp123 – I don’t think Ecodelta was being serious with that comment. After all, he is familiar with the system in Spain, which has a similar arrangement.

Speaking as a supporter of the monarchy, if not as a monarchist, I am quite OK with people criticising the monarchy as undemocratic. It quite obviously isn’t democratic, despite being very popular. Likewise, the House of Lords, thinking particularly about the hereditary Lords, is far from a paragon of democracy.

However, I am not keen to see either of these things change. An elected president would likely be a well-paid sinecure for a nobody – like posts in the EU except even less meaningful. A directly elected upper house the same. Even if the Britain was turned into a republic, the Queen would still, in my mind, and the minds of many others like me, be the Queen, and after her Prince Charles will be the King.

However, it is a long way from “certain aspects of your democratic system are undemocratic” to “your country is not democratic”. Britain quite obviously is a democracy. No more evidence than the last election is needed to demonstrate Britain’s electoral democracy, warts and all.

April 22, 2011 @ 4:42 pm | Comment

Wait, that comment was by RP. Must be getting old or something . . .

April 22, 2011 @ 4:52 pm | Comment

Like many Spaniards, I am a monarchic republican.

The system of government was voted by referendum during the transition. In that way it was a democratic decision.

Some can argue that it was somehow imposed, there are also people that favour a IV Republic.

The constitutional monarchy was a compromise between the two parties, left and right. The memories of the last republic raise still to many conflicts because ofthe confrontation it provoked within the Spanish society, which triggered the civil war and ended with 40 years of dictatorship.

The monarchy was also planned as a fail safe, and it worked in the coup attempt of 1984. It is very hard for old rancid military to revolt against the King of Spain. By the way, the King here is the supreme army commander (maybe nominal, but quite effective in some circumstances )

I still remember the TV declaration of the king that day…. “The crown…. cannot tolerate… ”

From a logical point of view, one may consider a republic the correct form of government, but human beings are more that logic, emotions play also a strong part in our actions, specially here, and must be taken also into account.

From my side, I am pretty comfortable with the constitutional monarchy as it is now. It provides a good show (engagements, weddings, births, ,…) , its a good public relation office and the price to support it (per Spaniard) is quite affordable.

April 22, 2011 @ 5:41 pm | Comment

Another advantage of the monarchy… When the president of a republic is busy or unpopular, whom can you send for an state visit? The vice-president?

Here we can send a King, or the crown Prince + his popular wife. Quite convenient for PR things.

By the way, who is now the vice-president in the US? I just can’t remember….

A side thought…Pity that China could not manage a transition to a short of constitutional monarchy in the last century, they could now put forth a show that would be the envy of even the British crown.. ;-)

April 22, 2011 @ 5:59 pm | Comment

sp123 wrote:

“try doing that in countries such as China, i challenge you to go out in Tiananmen Square and call the CCP’s notion of “People’s democratic dictatorship” undemocratic. Let’s get some popcorns and watch gleefully as bystanders see what the Ministry of Public Security will do to you. LOL. That’s the difference between democratic and undemocratic.”

Mmm, no. That’s the difference between having and not having freedom of speech.

You can certainly protest publicly in Japan and actually even in Russia – but I personally wouldn’t categorize those countries as “really” democratic. On some days it’s so obvious what the power structures are even in the US and how money decides legislation, despite widely held views by the general public, that I’m tempted to declare democracy broken there as well – if by democracy we mean government of the people, by the people and for the people. Oh wait, corporations are people in the US :)

As to my ignorance with regard to British parliamentary procedures, I actually knew that hereditary positions don’t have much power these days. Still, they’re a bloody disgrace. You get something for nothing – just because of who your parents were. And that something can amount to a helluva lot because it makes access to exclusive circles of power far easier.

Look, I’m all for bashing the CCP. Put them all in a rocket and shoot them to outer space – I don’t mind one bit. (In fact I’d encourage it.) All I’m saying is “democracy” has become some sort of unhelpful incantation, a totem word that doesn’t even make that much sense in the Chinese context, because the only way democracy can work is if you have some sort of civic spirit, some sort of larger concept of society – and China just doesn’t have that, it’s everyone for himself and the dogs may eat the rest for all I care.

It’s a broken place inhabited mostly by people without any sense of solidarity. Ain’t no way you can compare it to Taiwan or Hong Kong – I’d say it’s Russia writ large.

Do I have any solutions? Erm. No.

But if I was the paramount leader what I’d like to do is
1) lift the restrictions on free speech
2) convene an assembly on the future of China of everyone with half a brain in Beijing (that is, an assembly of people who’d talk on what China is and where it should go). This would have maybe 20,000 attendees and they’d be talking on different topics: education, defense etc.
3) have that convention running for 3-5 years and publish some extremely serious academic work as a result
4) devise some political reform plan; break that plan into innumerable tiny pieces, in themselves reversible, and implement them slowly, slowly, one at a time;
5) watch and see what happens.

There you have it. Come to think of it, based on merits alone, I probably deserve that job more than Mr Hu or Mr Xi :)

April 22, 2011 @ 7:52 pm | Comment

@RP
Mmm, no. That’s the difference between having and not having freedom of speech.

You can certainly protest publicly in Japan and actually even in Russia – but I personally wouldn’t categorize those countries as “really” democratic.

Sorry but i think that’s not the case. In Russia, whether you are gonna to be arrested or not is decided by the whims of those in power whereas in Japan, to arrest/intimidate protestors or use of excessive force on them is almost unthinkable for any government of the day. RP, i do applaud you for lumping Russia and Japan in terms of freedom of speech though, where on the Press Freedom Index, one is 140 and the other was at position 11.

As to my ignorance with regard to British parliamentary procedures, I actually knew that hereditary positions don’t have much power these days. Still, they’re a bloody disgrace. You get something for nothing – just because of who your parents were. And that something can amount to a helluva lot because it makes access to exclusive circles of power far easier.

Have you read the works of Pierre Bourdieu? If you did (obviously you didn’t), it doesn’t take one to be a heir to the throne to have those, any member of the privileged bourgeois class will have what you have mentioned above. If you think the world runs on pure meritocracy, you must be the most naive of all.

April 22, 2011 @ 8:53 pm | Comment

@RP
Mmm, no. That’s the difference between having and not having freedom of speech.

Wrong. It is still an issue of democracy because the exercise of the freedom of speech depends on whether you are in a democracy or not. If you are harrassed by the government in a democracy for critising it, you can make your case and sue the government for violating your constitutional rights. And since the freedom of speech is often written into the constition where changes cannot be made by a supermajority in the legislature, the govt cannot touch those that right easily in a democracy. And because there is judicial review in a democracy, the govt cannot simply apply its own interpretation of the freedom of speech for its own purposes.

In a nondemocracy, a single person/party centralizes all executive, judicial and legislative powers. The constitution, without parliamnetary democracy, becomes nothing more than a piece of useless paper. The judiciary was more likely to be a servant in the dictatorship. If you get persecuted for criticzing the government in a nondemocracy, your constitutional rights become null and void in the face of rubber stamp parliament and a kangaroo court.

In short, if you see freedom of speech separate from democratic politics, you are seriously mistaken.

April 22, 2011 @ 9:08 pm | Comment

I don’t think the world runs on pure meritocracy – simply that it should.

I don’t think Japan and Russia are similar – merely that both countries have features which may support an argument that freedom of speech is not directly tied to the degree of democracy a society may have attained.

I have read Bourdieu – in the original French if I may add so. My sister made me do it. Took three good reads until I got the gist of it.

Look, can you please stop insulting me for a moment? It really throws off my focus, which is already that of a 12-year-old anyhow. If you find it too difficult to adjust to my (admittedly overused) rhetorical artifice, well, ask me to be clearer, but calling me stupid is hardly conducive to a conversation worth having, isn’t it?

I understand why I may give the impression I am slightly dim but rest assured that comes from laziness and not from actual lack of intellect. If I were a bit more pompous I’d call myself a Pyrrhonian – oh wait, I just did…

April 22, 2011 @ 9:15 pm | Comment


I don’t think the world runs on pure meritocracy – simply that it should.

I suggest a fourth reading of Bourdieu on your part. Because the essence of Bourdieu’s theory rests on the idea of social reproduction. Your birth into which class makes a hell lot of difference in terms of cultural capital and habiatus. Meritocracy, therefore, remains a pure fantasy and illusion.

Secondly, i also suggest that you read Amartya Sen since you think so highly of meritocracy. Sen wrote, “The idea of meritocracy may have many virtues, but clarity is not one of them.” Who decides or judges what is to be considered as merit as what is not? Often the elite decides. Those with merit then decides what is merit.

April 22, 2011 @ 9:45 pm | Comment

Ma foi, you could give the same critique to every other intellectual concept out there: lack of clarity, the dangers of entrenched institutionalization etc.

As to Bourdieu, it is true, it’s been a while since I’ve read him – but I remember him as someone who refused to take a fatalistic view of things. Inequality is not destiny I think he said – and he went to a lot of strikes in his time. Hardly the sort of man who would say ideals are mere fantasies and illusions, but hey, I might be wrong.

I still think meritocracy is an useful concept. (The British Army at least thinks the same as they have given up the practice of selling officer commissions a while back and now they require a training of some sort :) )

I think democracy too is a fantastic concept for that matter. The whole difficulty lies in how to bring these two things together within a political system. You can rely exclusively on the voice of the people (maybe daily referenda through the internet?) but even though that’d be the most complete and direct democracy imaginable, I’d fear that. You could also have some enlightened mandarins rule everyone else, but in time that would likely degenerate into garden-variety aristocracy.

This sure is hard. Anyhow, I hope you don’t think the UK system is the pinnacle of human achievement and the best that can ever be done. I’m pretty sure that a thousand years from now on whoever lives on this planet will look back at us and think we were frighteningly backward and barbaric…

April 23, 2011 @ 12:19 am | Comment

@Jerry: Democracy, free press and human rights are best for the people, believe me. I would never trade our system for the one on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. You’re really underestimating the power of democracy and the ability of the Chinese people. No democracy is flawless, if one day there is one in China, it surely won’t be, too. But it’s a democracy, which means it can only get better with time. What you have now in China is getting worse day by day and that’s not good.

April 23, 2011 @ 12:51 am | Comment

This sure is hard. Anyhow, I hope you don’t think the UK system is the pinnacle of human achievement and the best that can ever be done. I’m pretty sure that a thousand years from now on whoever lives on this planet will look back at us and think we were frighteningly backward and barbaric…

Have i for a second ever claim that “the UK system is the pinnacle of human achievement and the best that can ever be done”? I think my memory still serves me well to the extent that i know i had never done that. However, what i do appreciate about systems such as the one in UK is that it allows space for open questioning and dissent. Despite whatever misgivings you may have, it allows space for civic society, free speech, free press, checks on the government, rule of law etc. Even those who are the harshest critics of the system, like Chomsky and Karl Marx were allowed the space to be dissidents of the very system they live under. It is this very virtue that many people, including some on this thread, have long taken for granted.

Someone has to live in a place where censorship is widely practised, where political opposition is ruthlessly crushed and mowed down, where the only press you have is the official mouthpiece, where elections are outrightly fixed, where forming associations are severely curtailed, where unions are just a branch of the ruling party, where the courts take direct orders from the executive, where the legislature is but a rubber stamp for all the whines about the US/UK system being undemocratic.

LOL.

April 23, 2011 @ 12:56 am | Comment

But it’s a democracy, which means it can only get better with time.

Whoa. Do you think America’s democracy has grown better since 2000, more than a decade ago? I say it went straight to hell the day Bush was inaugurated, and continues to sink deeper even today, with the smashing of the middle class and working poor, and the further enrichment of those at the tippy top. Which is not to say that democracy isn’t fine and dandy. But it’s not like a good bottle of wine, either, that gets better over time.

April 23, 2011 @ 12:59 am | Comment

@RP
Hardly the sort of man who would say ideals are mere fantasies and illusions, but hey, I might be wrong

I am afraid I have to disagree, in fact, it is more likely that given how the modern elite legitmizes their position as “meritocratic” by ignoring that social reproduction gave them a huge headstart in terms of life chances, Bourdieu probably did not even see meritocracy as an “ideal” but a smokescreen that legitimizes inequality and creates a sense of false consciousness among the underprivileged.

I still think meritocracy is an useful concept. (The British Army at least thinks the same as they have given up the practice of selling officer commissions a while back and now they require a training of some sort )

Of course it is “useful” because it still make sure that the idea of the “good”, and therefore of “merit”, is defined by that system’s winners while making the losers think that they truly deserved their position in the lower strata of the pecking order by giving the illusion of fairness. LOL.

April 23, 2011 @ 1:21 am | Comment

Meritocracy –> Aristocracy —> Oligarchy

April 23, 2011 @ 2:00 am | Comment

An interesting concept.

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

April 23, 2011 @ 2:05 am | Comment

@Richard – I don’t remember things being too great before 2001, but I am far from the only person who thinks that things were steadily getting better until that year.

April 23, 2011 @ 2:23 am | Comment

@sp123

I didn’t say you said that and if I implied it I didn’t mean to but I have the feeling you said that I said things that I never did.

Anyhow, I’m all for more democracy in China and I’m a strong believer in human rights and the CCP can go to hell and 50-centers hate me. Peace?

April 23, 2011 @ 4:03 am | Comment

Meritocracy has gotten a lot of mileage on other forums. It sounds awfully nice on paper. I mean, if someone is to be placed in a position to do something, you’d want that someone to have demonstrated some proficiency in that thing, right? That goes for plumbers and mechanics, and it goes for brain surgeons. So clearly it must go for government too, right? Of course, that is what the CCP apologists hope, since they like to say the CCP is a meritocracy. But putting that hope into practice is a far different animal.

Plumbers, mechanics, and brain surgeons get trained to do what they do. Then there are objective assessments to ensure that they have learned to do it adequately, before they are allowed to do so. Is there an academy for running government? Where did Hu Jintao get his training? Who signed off on his competence?

Next, plumbers, mechanics, and surgeons are trained by other plumbers, mechanics, and surgeons respectively. Can you expect that future heads of state complete prepartory work for their position under the tutelage of past heads of states? Who put Hu Jintao through his paces before he became top dog?

And finally, when faced with a group of adequately trained and duly certified plumbers, mechanics, and surgeons, the consumer has the final decision in whose services they would like to contract. Of course, this is where meritocracy in terms of the CCP completely falls down.

The difference between so-called CCP meritocracy and “democracy” isn’t of one being fundamentally better suited in identifying the ideal person for the job. It is in one allowing all stakeholders to participate in the selection process, versus the other restricting participation to the coddled elites.

April 23, 2011 @ 4:35 am | Comment

@SKC

I agree with everything you said. There are, however, schools of government :)

http://www.hks.harvard.edu/

April 23, 2011 @ 6:10 am | Comment

Whoa. Do you think America’s democracy has grown better since 2000, more than a decade ago? I say it went straight to hell the day Bush was inaugurated, and continues to sink deeper even today, with the smashing of the middle class and working poor, and the further enrichment of those at the tippy top. Which is not to say that democracy isn’t fine and dandy. But it’s not like a good bottle of wine, either, that gets better over time.

I’m surprised at such response, Richard. The right to elect a lousy president, who has to sustain harsh criticism and protests is for me what a solid democracy is about. Look how many changes America went through in the past 10 years: 9/11, two wars, Katrina, so many scandals (too many to list), worst recession of our times etc… and it’s still the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth and keeps attracting immigrants from all over the world. There is no country of this size and population that doesn’t have social issues, inequality, system abuse, bad leaders and what not, but America is the only one where people really can bring about change – and not only from top down, but from bottom up.

I have teared up the moment Obama gave his speech in Chicago after he knew he won the election, it was truly an extraordinary achievement of the American people. That was the day where the whole world could see how mature and solid American democracy is. I strongly believe that it’s in the nature of a democracy to become better and better through time. So far there is very little unbiased evidence against this notion.

April 23, 2011 @ 10:00 am | Comment

FOARP, it all disintegrated for me when Bush stole the 2000 election and I watched the Supreme Court relinquish its role to decide based purely on party lines. Ominous. Citizens United was just around the corner.

Laowai, sorry we disagree. I may have been happy when Obama was elected but that happiness rapidly evaporated. America’s is now a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. Democracy has failed, even if it’s WAY better than China’s, which is, however, setting the bar rather low. When we spend our taxpayer time and money hammering out birther bills and going insane to keep women from having control of their reproductive rights, when we give the whole store away to the super-rich, when the working poor are battered at every turn and tax cuts apply only to those who need them least we know something is terribly wrong. Maybe it’s because you’re not living there, where all we see is the Tea Party and the plans for Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin et. al. to make America some kind of Ayn Randian vision of “rugged individualism” – which is cynical code for keeping money and power concentrated in the hands of very few while the others are free to eat dirt. We’re still rich and powerful as a whole, but we’re in the process of going down the crapper.

This thread has spun way off topic.

April 23, 2011 @ 10:28 am | Comment

I am closing this thread. Please feel free to keep this conversation going under the Extended Travel Thread, and leave comments about Ai Weiwei in the new post about him, above. Thanks.

April 23, 2011 @ 10:31 am | Comment

[...] say, sheepishly, is that he’s home now and cannot comment on anything. Released, despite what my friend from the Global times told me eight weeks ago: “Let Ai Weiwei go? But Richard, how can we do that? How can China admit to the [...]

June 23, 2011 @ 5:50 am | Pingback

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