“Japan will suffer more”

I was struck by the hubris and aggressiveness in this Global Times editorial, which includes a number of veiled threats.

With wider strategic interests to be considered, China has to take a more sophisticated approach in tackling the issue. It needs to deal with Japan and keep an eye on its global strategy simultaneously. For a long time, Japan was more developed than China, and once invaded us, but this is no reason for China to be stuck in an inferiority complex.

For now, China should strive to end Japan’s actual control over the islands. But the majority of China’s resources must be distributed globally. More success in other parts of the world will help China to smash Japan’s illusion of taking over Diaoyu.

Solving the issue will be a long-term struggle, but it is Japan that will suffer more since the country is in decline.

After a century of complicated feelings toward its neighbor, mixing admiration, hatred and misery, it is time for China to rebuild its psychological strength against Japan.

I’m not quite sure what that last sentence means but it doesn’t sound good.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

I have a translation for the last sentence: “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad.”

September 28, 2012 @ 6:39 am | Comment

I have no idea why this is what should be in an English-language newspaper editorial. Do the folks at the Global Times have no grasp of the phrase “target audience”? Or do they honestly just not care about maintaining international credibility?

September 28, 2012 @ 8:38 am | Comment

@t_co

You have never read, I take it, the China Daily?

It’s China’s state-sponsored English-language newspaper that likes to tell non-Chinese English speakers how terrible white people are and EXACTLY what their opinions should be.

September 28, 2012 @ 10:39 am | Comment

Do the folks at the Global Times have no grasp of the phrase “target audience”?

t_co, I think they are leaning towards the views of Peter Lee at the Asia Times. They don’t expect any other country to draw a lesson from what they write, and they are probably right. When Japanese companies lose business for political reasons, companies from other countries will happily fill those gaps they can.

The main reason to write differently from what editorialists write in Chinese-language papers would be “soft-power” concerns, but I think people overestimate the CCP’s desire for respect. Beijing is giving fear and greed among foreigners a try, and that try will probably be quite successful.

That’s why I’m not making fun of the demonstrations or articles like these. China’s dictators are testing how genuine our beliefs and values are, and currently, the test results don’t speak against writing such an article in English. They believe that they can go this far, and they are testing the next boundaries.

My conclusion is that democratic countries should stop separating business from politics. Nothing against business with China – but our current approach is not compatible with Beijing’s.

September 28, 2012 @ 2:51 pm | Comment

Thanks for the PoV, JR and Narf. If what I read is correct, both you think the above editorial is missing its target audience because the CCP doesn’t care about building soft power through being soft and cuddly.

That’s not my criticism of the editorial. My criticism lies with the fact that it doesn’t have a point in either creating respect through fear or affection. What propaganda gains do you make by beating your chest and crying for psychological strength? All that does is get China laughed at by the global community. If China wants to have its power taken seriously by global actors, why can’t they use the language of global realpolitik to communicate? Why can’t they use their editorial channels to push the notion of Japan and America being destabilizing influences on Asia, and China as the only beacon of stability, peace, and prosperity (no matter how far that may be from the reality on the ground?) Failing that, why do China’s leaders not use these editorials to articulate a vision for integrating their neighbors into the Chinese power structure rather than purposefully making them feel excluded?

Maybe it’s because the current propaganda apparatus is inefficient at pushing a more sophisticated message. In this case, what China really needs is more independent but patriotic media barons like Rupert Murdoch. Failing that, the Chinese government should at least devote some of that state stimulus money towards subsidizing its own slick Asian version of Al-Jazeera; nominally independent, based in Hong Kong or Singapore or something; use that to co-opt a majority of Western media elites.

September 28, 2012 @ 3:08 pm | Comment

In spite of the greater degree of engagement with the rest of the world and a huge increase in sophistication when it comes to global affairs, sometimes I think a big segment of Chinese propagandists/decision makers are largely clueless.

Submitted as an example…

September 28, 2012 @ 4:07 pm | Comment

“Failing that, why do China’s leaders not use these editorials to articulate a vision for integrating their neighbors into the Chinese power structure rather than purposefully making them feel excluded?”

The world and especially the East Asian region has gotten a great taste of “the Chinese power structure” in the past year or so and, frankly, only desperate cases like Pakistan, North Korea and Laos are buying into any of it. And the non-transparency surrounding cases like Bo/Gu and even Xi Jinping’s backache shows everyone just how lucky they are to live in more democratic places.

“Failing that, the Chinese government should at least devote some of that state stimulus money towards subsidizing its own slick Asian version of Al-Jazeera; nominally independent, based in Hong Kong or Singapore or something; use that to co-opt a majority of Western media elites.”

They’ve been trying and spending billions for the last several years — Xinhua at Times Square, CCTV global, even the Global Times — with very limited returns so far. Soft Power fail so far. Phoenix TV is close to
the “nominally independent, based in Hong Kong or Singapore or something” model, and it has to pull a lot of punches to serve the PRC audience. It’s better than mainland fare, but a good bit short of world class.

September 28, 2012 @ 9:42 pm | Comment

Of possible relevance here:
http://www.businessweek.com/reports/global-economics/china-in-transition

September 28, 2012 @ 10:04 pm | Comment

If this is the Chinese state being “restrained”, I’d hate to see what happens when it’s let off the leash.

September 29, 2012 @ 2:31 am | Comment

My criticism lies with the fact that it doesn’t have a point in either creating respect through fear or affection.

t_co, from my (fragmentary, of course) observation, China’s foreign-audience media are shifting away from creating a parallel universe which would be totally different from what you get to read in domestic media. They now seem to be more in tune with the domestic Chinese-language media. That’s by far not always the case, but it looks like a growing trend.

Hu Xijin, Huanqiu Shibao‘s chief editor, has discussed with his readers why censorship, propaganda etc. should be tolerated, or even appreciated, given China’s persisting “cultural weaknesses” (or vulnerability – something of that sort), earlier this year. Obviously, you can’t convince truly liberal readers of that kind of practice, but then, that’s probably not the goal.

China Radio International emulates a (mostly, not always) liberal editorial line in English, but cultivates a small, but devoted number of German listeners with its German-language service. I like to refer to these listeners as “early Christians”. They don’t mind to be a (so far) rare species, and CRI doesn’t mind to broadcast for a few faithful listeners only. The budget doesn’t appear to be in danger.

My take is that the top leadership has abandoned the apparent general approach to “sell” its brand to other countries by camouflaging its domestic realities. The emphasis is shifting to buying people (both Chinese and foreign liberals with a stake in China’s economy), by intimidating them if need be, and by encouraging the believers.

As far as I can see, it works quite well (for them), and it is what the CCP has practised during most of the time. So they are very familiar with it. And as this has worked on a Chinese public for some decades now, why shouldn’t it work on a global public, too?

When it came to emulating a nicer outside “face”, it often went quite wrong – tries by the propaganda department to be more subtle weren’t too successful anyway. By their logic, they are doing the right thing – probably.

September 29, 2012 @ 3:20 am | Comment

By their logic, i. e. the top leaders’ logic. I believe that many of the propagandists are cringing, because this isn’t the approach they’ve learned, or gotten accustomed to. But they aren’t making the decisions. They only implement them.

September 29, 2012 @ 3:24 am | Comment

PRCs outwardly directed media soft power outlets are total and very expensive failures. In fact, if all text and tv outlets shifted to a western model this, and just about every other blog would lose their reason to exist.

The twin pronged approach noted above should be abandoned for the Page Three approach to ‘journalism’ and lots of news programs using hot babe stripper anchors. Murdoch and Berlusconi. That’s the only viable future.

Court TV also has a lot of potential and the Party’s central disciplinary apparatus could turn out a pretty decent Cops-type program. And its not as if they lack domestic experience here, since a few provincial city TV stations had these types of shows up and running in 2001. Tracking down and SWAT arresting low level perps such as drug dealers.

Crikey, you don’t need high priced consultants from New York to come up with this media policy reset. Its staring them in the face. Human flesh search engines. Weibo. The popularity of porn. Celebrity gossip. The strength of rumor.

And best of all, lots and lots of targets.

And to kick off this new direction, I’m issuing a call for non-chemical Ottoman style castration for Bo’s trysting with bimbos outside his marriage vows.

Since most commenters on this and similar sites take care to distinguish between the govt and the Chinese people, there should be lots of support for my policy media shift, since it would truly reflect the nature of China’s existing ‘civil society’.

September 29, 2012 @ 7:03 am | Comment

And think of the upside. CCTV would have to dump Dialogue and Yang Rui for something far more salacious.

September 29, 2012 @ 7:21 am | Comment

If I were running book fairs (Germany) or film festivals (Melbourne and NZ), I would be totally remiss if I didn’t include something likely to offend Beijing. And I would make darn sure that the objectionable items were brought to their attention. Monstering phone calls from the local embassy. Instant publicity and off-the-wall attendances.

Everybody enjoys giving the finger to a bully who strays beyond their home turf.

A Beijing financed version of Al Jazeera. Are you currrent with Al Jazeera’s reporting today? Replacing that sewer CNN as the global news feed of choice, and rightly so.

@t_co. Be realistic and put your money on China’s Sports Lottery instead.

Chinese diplomacy at the mo. Whinging victimhood, Tarzan-like chest thumping or dangling the financial carrot to shit poor Pacific nations.

The larger neighbours snigger, smirk and quietly plan their alliances.

Diplomatic autism, I think was latest descriptor.

September 29, 2012 @ 10:30 am | Comment

And to kick off this new direction, I’m issuing a call for non-chemical Ottoman style castration for Bo’s trysting with bimbos outside his marriage vows.

Very questionable, KT. Television is here to torture the audience, not people in front of a camera. Besides, does the Vatican change its message just because the heathens don’t believe? Nor will the central committee.

September 29, 2012 @ 5:16 pm | Comment

If I didn’t know better, I would think that the CCP is bound and determined to force Japan to build its own nuclear weapons force. Of course, Japan could do that in about 2 minutes.

October 3, 2012 @ 8:21 pm | Comment

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