Merry Christmas

I don’t think there’ll be many readers sitting around reading blogs today (I won’t be), but just in case, this is an open thread. Anything goes.

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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: 158 Comments

@jxie

“I can provide you more evidence such as the 169-year old Economist for the 2nd time in its history creating a new section just for a country (China, previously the US), which logically means its readers want to know China more, and likely China is becoming more known to its readers; Or I can expand the “leading economic power” survey… But what for? — These are all anecdotes. Plus your mind doesn’t seem to work that way.”

Ok. However, the Economist has a weekly circulation of under 50000 in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East combined. I’m not sure how much of a point you can make with that. Moreover, want of knowledge is just that: want. I could also note the sales numbers for Martin Jacques’ books, an author whose knowledge of China is primarily characterized by such want, and point out that they’ve done a complete disservice to knowledge on China. This of course would not be to spuriously criticize the Economist or the Wall Street Journal or any other merited publication by confusing their work with Jacques’, but only to show that publication does not equate to the broadcast of meaningful information let alone its clarity or reception. Your foray into the leading economic power survey thus far hasn’t been very effective, but perhaps you’d like to try again? All you have cited thus far is an increasing awareness of the importance of China on the global stage. True, no doubt. But not the same as knowledge.

“If you may humor me, how the fuck can you know the following — “China’s most precious quality in favorability is simply due to the fact that for most, it is largely still an unknown”? The problem with what you have written seems to me is just a bunch of truthiness. I can’t even begin to address them — you treat your conjectures as truths as facts, and build your whole worldview that way.”

Here I take your argument more seriously. Leaving aside the deplorable results of the decade old survey by the Asian Society and the infamous ChinaNow survey in Britain in 2007 which indicated that only 7% of Britains knew who Hu Jintao was, or the Gallup poll in the US which I referred to above, I don’t have access to any survey which indicates a general ignorance of China throughout the world, so your question is certainly warranted. That said, I make no assertion of truthiness, for there is no shortage of reports and editorials in China and abroad which bemoan the very thing I claim, and the SSRC’s report on China-Africa knowledge networks seems to concur:

“The paucity of African research capacity on China is of concern not simply for the breadth and depth of the research agendas in Africa, but also for African policy makers. Government officials often lack in‐depth analysis on the agendas, motivations and goals of their international partners, and thus have difficulty negotiating trade and loan agreements on an equal footing. Without a solid base of independent research in African universities on both the effects of Chinese engagement in Africa, and serious study of China itself—its government structures, decision‐making processes, foreign policy priorities, and so forth—it will be difficult for African policy makers to ensure that they can turn Chinese engagement to the region’s benefit.”

Lauded “diplomat” and Vice Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Zhao Qizheng certainly concurs in his book Explaining China to the World.

“I can make an educated guess how this came about:

– Handler’s mind: China is [negative adjectives]. I know it for sure for certain, based on my gut where all my nerves end.
– Reported fact by others: China is viewed positively by majority of the people of a lot of nations.
– Handler’s mind: These people are wrong. The only reason why they view China positively is because they don’t know China as I do, and I know it for sure for certain, based on my gut where all my nerves end.”

Let’s try that plugging in some real factors.

Handler’s mind: China is [the worst practitioner of nuclear weapons proliferation in history]. I know that for certain based on evidence acquired when Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program.

Reported fact by others: China is viewed positively by the majority of people of a lot of nations.

Handler’s mind: Either they don’t know about China’s proliferation or they don’t care. *Checks Pew’s Global Attitudes Project again* Oh. Ok, they don’t know.

January 11, 2013 @ 1:16 am | Comment

@Handler/#

Your whole life experience, or mine, or anybody’s, is just a collection of anecdotes. Though based on these anecdotes, one can potentially form theories and further prove or disprove them. If even something like Pew’s Global Attitude Survey isn’t good enough for you, what else is good enough to change your mind — not that it has to be you to change mind, it can be me. Try to pursuance me: I have an open mind.

You can go back to everything I have written: I try my best to give fully qualification if something is just my owner personal anecdotes, and not make sweeping generalized statements.

Informed about China’s social circumstances or merely its economic growth? Because when half of China’s population considers corruption, the gap between the rich and the poor, and food safety “very big problems”, I’m not sure how much weight we want to put on hope in that regard.

Don’t forget that in the meantime 82% of them are satisfied with the country’s direction, by far the highest in the world, which logically means most of them believe these problems can be mitigated. You can hardly say that on some other countries facing their own problems. Are China’s problems unique in the developing world? If not, then maybe those from the developing world don’t care that China has those problems, and rather want to know how they plan to solve them. What were the pressing problems 1, or 2 decades ago? Maybe low income level, lack of decent education, or even as mundane as power outage, fresh water shortage? Life in a way is a series of problems — some are good at solving the problems and moving on. People take notice of that type of things.

Some 300k Africans visited Guangdong in 2010 alone, and many have lived there for years. Some of them returned home and became their opinion leaders. Sure probably most of those surveyed had never been to China, but their 2nd-handed or even 3rd-handed knowledge on China may be quite authentic, and potentially more balanced than yours.

[“Leading Economic Power” survey] may sound appealing to you, but logical it is not, as it only supports my argument on general ignorance, just as the 40% of Americans who believed China was the world leading economy in a 2008 Gallup poll does.

You’ve got me wrong. The choices of the question were the US, China, Japan and the EU. For starter, if many pick China, it has to mean they think China isn’t unknown to them, at least to the extent how it may affect their life. In the case of Germans, the growing market of China and the competitions from China as both opportunities and challenges, probably make them choose the pick. You problably mistakes me as “who has the biggest swinging dick”… The US by having on paper the largest GDP, has by specs the largest one. It mostly gets back to the point how much the people in the world know about China.

[O]verseas Chinese looking at any and all evidence they can, to the degree that they are even pleased to make hay of 9 dead Chinese in a plane crash, in order to make themselves feel more respected (exactly what you did at the end there).

Let me just say you don’t know me. I am at a point of my life that mostly don’t care about approval or “respect”, but rather trying my best to understand the world to position my investments, and my time. It’s curious that you default me to the position of seeking respect… maybe Chinese seeking the respect of others fit your worldview?

Hey it was a random anecdote. Every trip I take, I marvel at how many Chinese around, and often at some very unexpected places — which goes back my question to you, how the heck can China be so unknown.

January 11, 2013 @ 2:16 am | Comment

@t_co

“I’m curious, Handler–how do you know that whatever image it gave off was not representative of reality? I’m not talking about your perception of China, here–I’m talking about the average individual living in New York City, Istabul, Moscow, or Lagos.”

A distorted mirror cannot possibly grant an accurate representation of reality, t_co, unless of course you incorporate the distortions (particularly if they are intentional) into your understanding of a larger reality. If people are putting on a show of being ready when, in fact, they are not ready (construction not being completed), this does say something about reality, only not what the organizers of such a performance are trying to claim about it. If Beijing claims to be open to petitions yet uses “safe petition zones” as a lure to detain and prosecute every person who applies for petitions, this too says something about the larger reality. What I am refering to when I claim the Olympics were a banquet of pretensions is the fact that the representations created by the Chinese government and Chinese organizers did not conform to reality. They could only be informative to the extent that people were aware of Chinese distortions.

“How do you know what ‘crises’ and ‘encroaching issues’ the Olympics was associated with in China? How do you know they didn’t like it? How do you know they even cared? You’re on a hyperbolic trajectory here, but you’re running woefully short on specifics.”

Do you really need a reminder?

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/58f30a4c-047a-11dd-a2f0-000077b07658.html#axzz2HTR1QNGH

http://beijing2008.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/26/the-starting-line-china-denies-ioc-criticism-after-officials-tibet-remarks/

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120835833297019609.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympics/7265593.stm

“The no true scotsman argument?

FYI–that wording you’re using–snapshots of dynamic processes–I recognize that. How’s the weather in DC?”

Hardly, for my claim is not universal. As for the wording you presume to recognize, I do apologize if I am inadvertently plagiarizing, but feel free to ask Richard whether or not I’m in DC.

“Current US doctrine and the pivot is dragging the American people into a competition that does not help them. It is of no benefit for the average American if East Asia is turned into a giant armed camp, with an iron curtain running down the first or second island chains (as Andy Marshall and the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment or Arthur Waldron and his pro-Japan zaibatsu backers would love to see).”

Appealing to an atavistic US inclination to isolationism is probably not best done by invoking the iron curtain.

January 11, 2013 @ 2:20 am | Comment

“Your whole life experience, or mine, or anybody’s, is just a collection of anecdotes. Though based on these anecdotes, one can potentially form theories and further prove or disprove them.”

Fair enough, jxie. I do think there is more to it than that, but I agree that a large part of our judgments stem from anecdotes.

“The choices of the question were the US, China, Japan and the EU. For starter, if many pick China, it has to mean they think China isn’t unknown to them, at least to the extent how it may affect their life.”

I don’t follow this logic. All that it means is that they have heard inaccurate information about China.

“You problably mistakes me as “who has the biggest swinging dick”… The US by having on paper the largest GDP, has by specs the largest one. It mostly gets back to the point how much the people in the world know about China.”

I assure you I don’t, jxie, but I shall consider using that as a pick-up line. Still, I don’t understand how clearly mistaken views of China can help show that China is meaningfully known.

“Let me just say you don’t know me. I am at a point of my life that mostly don’t care about approval or “respect”, but rather trying my best to understand the world to position my investments, and my time. It’s curious that you default me to the position of seeking respect”

I do apologize if what I said was a misrepresentation of your intent or interest in that peculiar reference, but I truly feel that was a reasonable assessment of a coda from nowhere.

January 11, 2013 @ 2:57 am | Comment

It’s curious that you default me to the position of seeking respect… maybe Chinese seeking the respect of others fit your worldview?

JXie, it’s because Handler spends his days panhandling for the respect of his wonkish peers, so he naturally assumes everyone else is after the same thing.

January 11, 2013 @ 4:05 am | Comment

This is getting merrier by the week.

3 sorties of Chinese planes, including J-10s and J-7s, took patrol over China’s territory. The JP air force scrambled F-15s.

http://military.china.com/important/11132797/20130110/17626364.html

The boycott is going to last a very long time.

January 11, 2013 @ 4:43 am | Comment

Good news for everyone — I am closing this thread!

A new one has been opened above titled “Han Horse.”

January 11, 2013 @ 5:32 am | Comment

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