The scourge of white “China experts”

[Update - someone pointed out that this article is a year old. It was posted today on my FB timeline so I thought it was new. Sorry about that - still a funny read.]

This is too rich to pass by. Apparently foreign “China experts” are part of a vast conspiracy to take over the country. Written by a German “cultural critic,” it’s by far the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in recent weeks, the Republican candidates notwithstanding. Here’s a sample:

There is a cult of Western evangelists and self-righteous crusaders who are determined to dislodge non-Western nations and usurp their governments.

In China they act as if above the law. That’s because they see the Chinese government as corrupt, non-elected, and communist, and thus illegitimate. So why care about what it says or stands for? Moreover, these evangelists believe Westerners can do whatever they want in China because America and the entire Western propaganda apparatus will bail them out should trouble arise.

These so-called China experts are now a political force in direct opposition to the Communist Party. They form clusters and networks, with a strong hierarchy and code of ethics: They reward their Twitter followers and lickspittles and praise each other’s work, while policing social media and punishing “traitors” or “China apologists”.

This could have been written by a certain marketing shyster executive in Shanghai but it’s too nutty even for him. And that excerpt is just for starters. Who knew that these “China experts” would poison the entire country?

Taking part in the Western mission to civilize the East is highly spiritually rewarding. And what is political destabilization and social unrest but a sweet revenge for China’s disregard for Western hegemony. Favorite targets are: corrupt officials, suppressed minorities, Han chauvinism and misogyny, demonstrations, currency manipulation, and censorship. It makes China experts feel good about themselves. They feel like social justice warriors. The problem: this is not their country, and their negativity is poisoning everything.

There’s lots more there, if you are looking for a good laugh. He even mentions the periodicals these white China experts write for to spew lies and hurt China. One of the crazier pieces about China in recent memory, bordering on self-parody. Please read the whole thing, for entertainment’s sake.


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: 13 Comments

And apparently this guy has written a book about the dichotomy between East and West.

What’s scary is that there are people who would take this nonsense seriously.

January 5, 2016 @ 6:17 am | Comment

The thing is, nowadays, I’m kind of scratching my head to find prominent, currently China-dwelling “China experts” who aren’t fairly pro-CCP. Chris Balding, whose economics analysis is first-rate and whose blog you should be reading daily, is an obvious one, with Steve Dickinson of CLB fame the only othe rthat occurs to me. Everyone else who was critical of the government that I can think of has left – Bill Bishop (whose analysis is excellent) went back to the US, as have many of the other long term China-expats (Will Moss, Mark Kitto, and our own dear blogmeister Richard). The steadily worsening pollution situation and increasing anti-foreigner atmosphere has prompted many who might have stayed to leave.

This has pretty much left the field to people who either know not to open their mouths too wide (e.g., Dashan) or people who are out-and-out CCP boosters (Shaun Rein, John Ross).

January 8, 2016 @ 12:31 am | Comment

One of the characteristics of propaganda is that it would be forgotten if its messages wouldn’t return regularly, while information, if relevant to the recipient, would be noted for good. Articles like the one in question by Pattberg can easily be mistaken for something new – they are sort of timeless, but not in a positive sense.

Btw, Pattberg himself, writing his stuff more than a year ago, referred to an encounter that, seen from there, happened another “couple of years ago”.

Little more than blathering, but with a purpose.

January 8, 2016 @ 2:40 am | Comment

Yeah, it’s quite notable that the only people actually identified as individuals in the piece is an unnamed person this guy ran into at a part a few years ago, and three authors (Kissinger, Fukuyama, Huntingdon) who do not actually write that much about China. Huntingdon had been dead six years when the piece was written.

It’s ranting, mouth-frothing stuff of the kind that would shame even the Global Times, but for some reason gets published in the A-Times.

January 8, 2016 @ 4:52 pm | Comment

BTW, this guy still writes pieces for GT, China Daily and so-forth. Here’s him basically saying that Star Wars is a rip-off of Chinese culture.

January 8, 2016 @ 5:00 pm | Comment

Now, that’s what I call a real fan of Chinese culture. Please note that China didn’t only invent Taoism, but religion and superstition, too, now mastering all of these.

January 8, 2016 @ 5:10 pm | Comment

“The thing is, nowadays, I’m kind of scratching my head to find prominent, currently China-dwelling “China experts” who aren’t fairly pro-CCP.”

That’s because you’re looking at the “China-dwelling” ones. I don’t need to tell you that any foreigner who lives in China, expresses anti-CCP views and becomes well-known risks being thrown out of the country. Anyone who lives in China self-censors to some extent. Even I do, and I’m not well known at all.

January 9, 2016 @ 1:43 am | Comment

“That’s because you’re looking at the “China-dwelling” ones. I don’t need to tell you that any foreigner who lives in China, expresses anti-CCP views and becomes well-known risks being thrown out of the country.”

This used not to be the case, which is basically my point. Sure, if you overstepped what people at that point believed the mark to be, you could get into trouble – but you could write a blog (not even anonymously) and do interviews (at least in languages other than Chinese) and not worry too much.

January 9, 2016 @ 6:29 am | Comment

I wonder up to what extent that is still the case. My guess is that if you write a blog in a language other than Chinese you won’t get into trouble, no matter what you say. But the perception is that things are getting worse and you have to be careful. And perceptions are what matters.

January 9, 2016 @ 7:32 am | Comment

Jixiang, this blog is blocked in China. It happened in 2009 shortly after I blogged about Tiananmen Square and the CCP’s 70th anniversary. So they at least watch some of the blogs. Danwei was blocked shortly afterward.

January 9, 2016 @ 8:22 am | Comment

The regime treats Chinese people worse than foreigners – that has been a rule all the time. But as east-western interdependence grows, and China’s dependence on tech transfers, export markets etc. becomes less significant, they are pushing their rules, on foreigners, too.

January 9, 2016 @ 3:50 pm | Comment

@Jixiang – As a rider to what Richard says, he (and many other China bloggers) wrote about Tiananmen many times before 2009 without being blocked, or at least if blocking occurred it was fairly easy to get un-blocked.

Back in 2006-7, I remember often having discussions about blocking and the general view was that it was no problem, that the authorities were turning a blind eye, that it was even allowed to criticise the government online and no big thing. People (like me) who pointed out that the CCP would censor such all such websites if they could (at the time they seemed to be using manual methods) were apt to be dismissed.

The whole being kicked out of the country thing is fairly new as well. When she was expelled in 2012, Melissa Chan was the first journalist to be expelled from the country since 1998. Ursula Gauthier sows that this is now likely to be a yearly event for journalists, unless of course journalists self-censor. However it also seems to be kicking in at a lower level as well – the German microblogger with 100,000 followers on Weibo who compared Mao to Hitler is unlikely to ever get another PRC visa, for example.

January 9, 2016 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

@Richard Burger: you’re right, but I guess your website is just too big and well-known. If you’re not famous, I do believe no one will be bothered.

In general, it is obvious that the government has become less tolerant of foreigners criticizing it. Unfortunately most of the Chinese population aren’t really aware of this, and many would support it out of nationalism even if they did. The only thing to be done is for foreign governments to complain, even though it doesn’t seem to achieve much either.

January 10, 2016 @ 7:03 am | Comment

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