China Daily, fair and balanced

Quite simply one of the best and most devastating posts I’ve ever read. I always knew China Daily totally sucked, but this goes beyond mere sucking. This is “journalism” at its most bizarre. You can’t miss it. Just go there now, and read to the last sentence (which really says it all).

China’s propaganda department is still one sick and twisted puppy. I want to say they are self-parodying, but there is nothing funny about this story. Nothing at all. Scary, creepy, deranged, but not funny.

Via eswn.

Update: Just to clarify: I am not saying CD is lying about anything. I am saying it’s amazing to me how they’ve spun a story about a shockingly savage murder and turned it into a sympathy piece on the stresses Chinese students face when studying abroad. It’s a great post in every way, especially its dry wit and irony. Try to get inside the minds of the editors and reporters at China Daily and figure out what was in their minds when they took the story in its final direction. I find it bizarre, some seem to think it’s just fine. Macabre might be a better descriptor.

The Discussion: 96 Comments


I am a little confused. The China Daily piece is about the sentencing and reactions from Chinese students and teachers. I can’t tell what’s wrong with it. Can you explain why you are so upset?

December 14, 2007 @ 10:42 am | Comment

The Chinese typically show little pity for such cold-blooded murderers (in ancient times they would suffer the most gruesome execution, I guess), but when they committed their crimes abroad, it becomes sort of a ‘face’ issue. Language barrier and the general environment are blamed. The logic is: they were good guys when they were in China, but turned bad when abroad. I am a Chinese, and I feel so sorry that a lot of Chinese still take shelter behind such a cowardly way of thinking.

December 14, 2007 @ 10:46 am | Comment

AC, I agree, you are “a little confused.” Reread:

All valid points and an issue that deserves discussion. But surely not here, not in a report about a ‘chilling’ crime and not as a veiled justification for the violent actions of three disturbed Chinese students. I’m sure language difficulties do create anxiety, resulting in sometimes ‘abnormal behaviour’. Most newcomers to China find themselves, at least once, responding to a communication breakdown that arises from failing to pay a bill, extend a visa or buy a carrot, by berating anyone within a one-mile radius. But there is a long way to travel down the road of mental torment before you end up trying to saw someone’s head off.

Judging by your comments in the previous thread, it’s no surprise at all, AC, that you fail to perceive the glaring disconnect between the actual story (Chinese students murder and try to decapitate somebody) and the spin China Daily is giving it (Chinese students living abroad face lots of pressure).

December 14, 2007 @ 10:54 am | Comment


This piece is about the sentencing and reactions, not about the crime itself. Can you read the Title?

China Daily sucks in so many ways, I don’t this piece is not one of them.

December 14, 2007 @ 11:00 am | Comment

I don’t think this piece is one of them.

December 14, 2007 @ 11:01 am | Comment

And I get berated for my “China bashing”…

December 14, 2007 @ 11:12 am | Comment

I am not bashing China. Look at what the blogger shows China Daily left out of the story. Look at how they took a story about a young man’s murder and tried to turn it into a sympathy story for the murderers. Look at the last sentence and think about it.

Bashing China Daily is not China bashing. China Daily, CCTV and most other Chinese media need all the bashing they can get.

Funny, no matter what I write, I get accused of either bashing China to being a CCP shill.

December 14, 2007 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

Chris O’Brien may have had a point if his accusation was that CD didn’t tell the whole story. But I thought a guy who works at a newspaper should be able to tell the difference between a report about a crime and a report about the sentencing of a crime. Then again, what do you expect from a “language polisher”?

I’ve read the CD piece several times, the author didn’t make the conclusion that these students committed the crime because of living abroad. Those were the reactions of the Chinese students and teachers.

December 14, 2007 @ 12:39 pm | Comment

AC, they chose who to quote. These qyuotes didn’t pop into the story randomly. After telling the story, but leaving out some key points as thje blogger tells us, the article goes in an all new and bizarre direction. Note the scare quotes:

Some Chinese students and educators believe the “shocking” case raises concern over the situations Chinese students studying abroad have to confront.

“I am shocked. I feel pity for the convicts’ parents because they must have made a great effort to send their sons overseas for studies. They must have felt proud doing so but now they must be desperate,” said Zhang Yongguang, who went to study in Britain when he was 18 and has lived there for six years.

Peking University’s professor of sociology Xia Xueluan said some Chinese students who go abroad face psychological pressure in the beginning and need help from teachers and peers to overcome it.

Ah yes, journalism at its finest. Take out the most damning quotes from the judge, but adorn the article with a series of quotes about the pressures Chinese students face abroad. If you don”t see that, then there’s no sense discussing it further. As I said, I got a pretty good idea from your comments to the Nanking post below that you have some very set beliefs that aren’t going to change anytime soon. So let’s call a truce and I’ll agree with you, this is good journalism.

December 14, 2007 @ 12:54 pm | Comment


These are typical Chinese reactions. When a kid committed a crime, the typical first reaction of a Chinese usually is feeling sorry for the parents, they worked hard to raise the kid, but what they got is a criminal.

I never said it’s a good piece of journalism, but I think you overreacted. Cultural difference, I guess.

December 14, 2007 @ 1:34 pm | Comment


Strangled not good enough for them?

December 14, 2007 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

Please parents, you made them, now train them properly….Children (like grown ups) commit crimes to satisfy their curiosity, to comply with peer pressure, to finance a drug habit, to feel powerful, to gain attention, to vent feelings of jealousy, or to get revenge.
” Regardless of the crime, your children should feel the full extent of the legal consequences. Don’t buy them out of the sticky mess, argue with the authorities, help them come up with excuses, or rescue them in any other way.
If you’re expecting your children to act one way and you act another, the double standard will throw a monkey wrench into their whole internal dialog machinery.And lastly, don’t forget to laugh.” Dr. Eisa Medhus

December 14, 2007 @ 2:27 pm | Comment

Here’s the thing, AC. China Daily decides which way they want the story to go. They did not do a random sampling and decide that they wanted to put the story on this track because it reflected the general public’s opinion – it was a conscious decision, and then they got the quotes (or made them up) to meet their objective, which was to make the crime appear less “shocking” and to change the subject from the criminals’ brutality to a story of sympathy. Gee, these Chinese students sure have it rough. There was no journalism here at all. It is a case of clumsily trying to shift the tone of a monstrous event. Kind of like some Village Voice letters I read after 911 (“we should be giving Al Qaeda reparations, not retribution” was one of my favorites).

December 14, 2007 @ 2:33 pm | Comment

I agree with richard and think ac is just a shit stirrer. the whole tone of the article is that the chinese students aren’t really to blame, it is all due to foreign influences. the message is, don’t leave china and earn money abroad, stay here instead. the outside world is dangerous.

what is very funny of course is the implication (by their own people!) that the chinese are mindless amoral zombies who are unable to think for themselves and tell right from wrong without guidance from above.

December 14, 2007 @ 5:50 pm | Comment

Si, exactly what you said. AC will never see it this way because it goes against his hardwiring, as we could see in the Nanking thread.

cc, please don’t make me repeat myself yet again, Bottom line: article on brutal murder leaves out the bad stuff the judge says about the murderers, but then lards the story with quotes that, amazingly enough, make the case that these poor schoolboys were under pressure so we should all understand why they slaughtered another student and tried to saw off his head. Hell, I’m under pressure all the time over here, and I have never tried to saw off anyone’s head, not even once. Not even close, though there were a couple of times when it may have crossed my mind.

December 14, 2007 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

It’s hard to imagine CD using the same spin on a story about two Americans (for example) who murdered a Chinese student while attending university in Beijing.

I can just imagine the emotional maelstrom that would be whipped up in that scenario. Reprisals, demands, accusations….

December 14, 2007 @ 7:49 pm | Comment

Afraid you’re right, Stuart. I remember the stories and the outrage that was generated when a cop (I think in DC?) hit a Chinese woman in a subway station a few years ago. You didn’t read in China Daily quotes from professors about how cops live a stressful life blah blah blah.

December 14, 2007 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

If foreign students in Beijing killed someone, it would be the invasion of unclean foreign culture into China.
If Chinese students overseas kill someone, it is the difficulties and pollution of foreign cultures that leads them to do so.
Either way, beware the whities!

December 14, 2007 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

I would agree that there is something going on here thats wrong (of course it China propaganda daily).

It reminds me of the earlier discussion about nanking.

Its true they love to propagate victimization, actually that is part of the basis for the CCP even being there, so they must propagate the idea that Chinese people are needy and vulnerable and some how treated so unfairly. Thats one way the CCP makes itself seem needed.

On the other hand there is also the idea that the CCP needs to excuse being cold blooded and cruel since they ARE.

They need to make excuses for killing cause THEY DO and they need to shift the blame otherwise they will face real justice.

The CCP started out by promoting killing and persecuting, now they are killing torturing and treating Falun Gong people etc like shit and they will come up with all sorts of excuses and lies to evade justice, they will warp all the reality just to seem that what they do wrong is right. So I can see these two reason (promoting the idea that Chinese are helpless barbaric victims ; and making excuses and narmalizing cruelty)

Thats why I think people should be really alert about this party, I mean NORMALIZING AND EXCUSING COLD BLOODED CRIMES???!!!, thats this partys foundation, and bunch of excuses and ruination for its own leverage, how evil.

December 15, 2007 @ 1:47 am | Comment

Good job highlighting Beijing Newspeak. That blog is both unique and important.

December 15, 2007 @ 2:27 am | Comment


Yes, I have some very set beliefs, I tend to think independently, but I am not an unreasonable person. You can convince me and change my mind by presenting facts to back up your argument, not some ideology-driven and emotionally charged words.

There are good debaters and there are bad debaters. Good debaters argue using logic and reasoning, they back them up with facts. Bad debaters always try to discredit their opponents; they tend to attack the credibility of their opponents, just like you did here. You pointed people to comments I made in another thread to try to make a point that I am not a reasonable person.

Now let’s come back to the original topic. It’s true that many of the China Daily reports are partial and biased. However, using this reason to discredit this particular report is not sufficient at all. You really need to deal with their reports on a case-by-case basis.

Let’s just assume you were right (Which I don’t think so), Richard, that this China Daily report tries to (mis)lead people to believe that living abroad caused the students to commit this crime. Actually, that would have been a good analysis. Environment does have something to do with crime, as a matter of fact, it’s a very important factor.

Students living abroad do commit crimes often. Let’s take Lu Gang and Cho Seung Hui as an example (I am sure you’ve heard of them), would they have committed the mass murders if they were living in their own countries? The answer is very unlikely. Why? Because it’s extremely difficult for them to acquire firearms in their own countries.

The murder committed by Chinese students in Auckland is not gun-related, however, environment does matter in this case. These kids are very young, they are alone and away from home (not necessarily abroad), they are living in a very small community (better chance to get close to rich kids), and there is no supervisions from their parents. All these conditions provide more opportunities for them to do wrong things. If you think they are born killers, why didn’t they kill anybody when they were home? Perhaps it’s because they were living with their parents, and it was very difficult for them to carry out a murder plan without being noticed by parents and teachers? Perhaps they had less chance of meeting any rich kids when they were home? So, is it so wrong to say that living abroad does have something to do with this crime? I don’t think so. This is exactly why professor Hong said parents should think twice before sending their children abroad

Of course there are other factors too, such as childhood, upbringing, family and bad influence from bad people etc. The AFP and AP reports failed present these factors, can we say they try to mislead people to believe that these kids are natural born murderers??? Of course not, it would be ridiculous to say so, right? Then why is it so hard for you to understand the other way around? That’s why I always say that you need to read both sides in order to get to the whole truth.

Richard, let me borrow a famous quote from the CLB, “All I’m saying is give perspective a chance!”

December 15, 2007 @ 2:40 am | Comment

I think it is not a good idea to discuss this issue by attacking or defending someone. Rather, we should focus on what is being said in the article, and what its possible meaning and function could be.

Now, it seems clear to me that the writer of the CD article somehow connected the murder to the fact that the murderers were studying abroad, and that studying abroad can bring a very big amount of pressure.

Let us look at some sentences:

“Some students have big difficulties with language, which may add to their anxiety and even lead to abnormal behavior,” Xia said.”


“According to Beijing Normal University professor Hong Chengwen, parents should think twice before deciding to send their children abroad.”

In murder cases, a stressful environment certainly plays a role. But the article does not refer to other very important factors. In the AFP report, we find other quotes from the judge:

“The judge accepted the three were isolated from their families, with little social support or parental supervision.

But there were many Chinese students in a similar situation in New Zealand who were leading enriching lives.”


¡°Your greed for money led you to hatch this plan,¡± he told the court.”

I think the conclusion is very simple to make now. The fact that these students were living abroad was a contributing factor, and the CD article rightly talked about it. But, as the judge pointed out, this was only one factor, and not the decisive one. The decisive one, was greed. If one goes abroad, does one then becomes so greedy that it drives you to kill someone?

The CD article neglected this. We can only guess at the reason for this, as we merely analysed the article and the AFP quotes.

December 15, 2007 @ 5:50 am | Comment


The AFP report is a report about the crime itself. The CD report is a report about the sentencing result and the reactions of the Chinese students and teachers.

I don’t understand why Richard can’t understand this.

The nature of the reports is completely different. It’s not fair to compare them to start with.

December 15, 2007 @ 6:18 am | Comment

We must all realize, and support, and defend, the main responsibility of China Daily. It is to defend the face of China. In particular, it must come up with excuses for any Chinese nationals to commit crimes in foreign countries. China Daily must convince the rest of the world that it is natural for Chinese to commit crimes in foreign countries, and that it is the fault of foreign countries making the situations of these Chinese nationals so terrible that they have no choice but to become criminals.

Let us not bash China Daily for just doing their job. It is the foreign countries that makes the job necessary. If the foreign countries did not invade China in the 18 and 19th centuries, none of these would be necessary.

December 15, 2007 @ 8:46 am | Comment

What’s the big deal, one reads things like this in liberal papers all the time. Stressed induced mental illness made me do it, etc, etc…..

December 15, 2007 @ 9:05 am | Comment

“What’s the big deal, one reads things like this in liberal papers all the time. Stressed induced mental illness made me do it, etc, etc…..”
Posted by: LA at December 15, 2007 09:05 AM

@ LA,

nice try Nahe….

“Let us not bash China Daily for just doing their job. It is the foreign countries that makes the job necessary. If the foreign countries did not invade China in the 18 and 19th centuries, none of these would be necessary.”

Posted by: Agreement AKA Naheyangrouchuan

December 15, 2007 @ 9:49 am | Comment

Interesting to compare Times of India reporting about the the two students from India killed at LSU and the reader comments.

December 15, 2007 @ 9:59 am | Comment

The decisive one, was greed. – David

How can you be so sure? There are many greedy people around and some are even greedier.

So, what is the next step if we really want to go deeper to find out the “decisive factor”?

Maybe the heinous crime is a manifestation of some heinous genes? This seems to be the ultimate logical induction of this line of reasoning. Many in the West actually believe most criminals are just born that way and little can be done other than locking up the ones who carry those genes.

To tell you the truth, I am all for genetic determinism, but only in scientific discussions.

In China, many people still hold the naive belief that all people are born good and the society is to be blamed for some of them turning bad. It is not true, but it gives people hope and motivation in trying to correct problematic personalities that many in the West think are incorrigible. Well, such efforts fail in many cases, but the involvement of the community and family members in such sometimes futile efforts works well in containing a possible crime. If a criminal wannabe is fully embedded in a well knit network of relationships, the scale of the crime can well be reduced.

So the message the China Daily report sent was: “if you plan to send your teenagers overseas, think twice, because they probably are not mentally mature enough for that.” The message is quite benevolent.

December 15, 2007 @ 10:09 am | Comment

CLB, did you notice where I put Beijing Newspeak on my blogroll?

AC, enough. You are parsing. The story wasn’t about the crime, it was about the sentencing. So they can be total assholes in the way they cover it, cherry picking quotes and information to spin the stry in a very specific and very bizarre way.

December 15, 2007 @ 10:18 am | Comment

@ Commentator

Wow, you are right. Thanks for the link.

” Interesting to compare Times of India reporting about the the two students from India killed at LSU and the reader comments. Posted by: Commentator”

jay majithia,Canada,says:The need to come to North America for further studies and for eventual settlement in US or Canada seems to be the perennia Indian dream. We see so much of aping the West that one wonders if Indian value system is no longer relevant. For someone who has lived in the West for almost 50 years, I can say that this value system is what has sustained us and as we see it disappearing form our children ansd then see the same thing in India, we feel sad!.For all in India my message is simple: time may now have come to stop chasing that imaginary pot of gold called immigration to US or Canada. Stay in India and explore your opportunities in India. I am sure there are plenty of good things in India to look forward to. My deepest sympathies with the families of victims.
[15 Dec, 2007 | 0458 hrs IST]

Lolli,USA,says:This is the REALITY in America for all the Indians who queue in front of US consulates like beggars. People in India think that US is some sort of heaven on Earth when it is far from that. Americans hate Asians and mainly Indians because they think that their jobs are going to India and the Indians are also coming to US for jobs. People in India should think twice before deciding to come to USA.

December 15, 2007 @ 10:31 am | Comment

David, thanks for the analysis and for blasting AC’s arguments into bits of porcelain. Here’s another take on the story that I found insightful:

China Daily first says:
“After luring Wan to an Auckland hotel, the three contacted his mother in China demanding a ransom… But they strangled and knifed him the same night.”
Then they go on with:
“Some Chinese students and educators believe the ‘shocking’ case raises concern over the situations Chinese students studying abroad have to confront… some Chinese students who go abroad face psychological pressure… parents should think twice before deciding to send their children abroad.”

Huh? Seriously, huh?

He was murdered by his own countrymen (something that has not come as a surprise to any of the Chinese people I’ve discussed this with). It had nothing whatsoever to do with any other country, or the fact that the kid was abroad for ‘study’,

He was murdered by his own countrymen.

The reason for this article, as with many articles that China Daily publish, is simply to remind people in China, that only China is a good place, and that sensible Chinese shouldn’t desire too strongly to go abroad.

China Daily earns this month’s FUCKTARD Award for Services to Reprehensibility.

December 15, 2007 @ 10:50 am | Comment

@ Hkonger
The critical difference between the CD report and the comments that you cite in your post is this:

whereas the comments you cite are from random, intemperate readers of the newspaper (and not from the reporter himself), the CD report is the “official” newspaper version.

The Times of India report is a dispassionate statement of facts (even if the readers’ comments are over-the-top ranting, but as we’ve seen from the comments here, nobody is immune to that 🙂 ) ; the CD report, on the other hand, is a shameless attempt at spin…

In other words, the difference between rotten and halfways-decent journalism

December 15, 2007 @ 5:24 pm | Comment

the difference between rotten and halfways-decent journalism

@ Chinawatcher,

You are right, and it’s true nobody, particularly folks who care to comment, is immune to over-the-top ranting.And not only here in china but the same elsewhere…For example in ‘Japan Today.’

R_L wrote:
It’s so bad that even one of my college students who went and studied for four years in the States in High School is now called “Gaijin” by her peers. Sad isn’t it? They are racist to their own people. See? That’s the problem with Japan! just about every major town, village, or city in Japanese-occupied China, and a lot of people question the validity of a single number. It isn’t the fact that it was 300,000, or even 150,000 or 200,000 that has gotten the Chinese so upset (not to mention Korea and the rest of formerly “liberated” Asia), but the fact that it happened EVERYWHERE THE JAPANESE WENT in Asia – China, Korea, Malaya,India etc during World War II. Why? For the simple fact that a majority of Japanese people STILL consider themselves to be the “ELITE OF THE ELITE” race on the earth.
I also like how some stupid statements still somehow, someway, get blamed on the USA! Let’s not forget the $1 billion in US Aid Japan got following WWII. I agree with a lot of other posters who said it, that Japan would be totally 3rd world by now had the USA left Japan to herself following the Pacific War’s end. Japan had no industry (burned and bombed to ashes by the 29th air force), no merchant marine…

attrition wrote:
US going to apologize for Vietnam? Panama? Chile? Nicaragua? Hiroshima? Iraq?

They’re not, so it’d be nice if American’s didn’t constantly express moral righteousness and condemnation of Japan for not apologizing for the things its done.

Its sickening really, the mutterings of all the non-Japanese on these boards who know so clearly what is right and wrong, compared to the foolish Japanese.

Its almost impossible NOT to come to the conclusion that the MAJORITY of the posters here have a serious case of Western arrogance, especially towards Japan.

Of all the times in recent history, now really isn’t the best time for Westerners – American’s and Brits especially – to be lecturing Japanese about the rights and wrongs of war. Purleezzz….

December 15, 2007 @ 10:47 pm | Comment

“Try to get inside the minds of the editors and reporters at China Daily and figure out what was in their minds when they took the story in its final direction. I find it bizarre, some seem to think it’s just fine. Macabre might be a better descriptor.”

Again You are right…I’m one of the “some seem to think it’s just fine.” Truth is,I would not have read all the sinister conspiratorial implications behind it.In fact, I even advise against my brother’s decision to sent his 14 y.o. to the UK, even lectured him for having the heart to let a sweet boy like my nephew go through the hell of boarding school incarceration.I’ve been there, but I was already 17 and was 1.82M tall, mean and very athletic.

December 15, 2007 @ 11:15 pm | Comment

Studying abroad is not the problem. Chinese parents pampering their kids in hothouse environments is. With freedom comes responsibility, and this has to be instilled in kids while they are growing up in China, whether they plan to study abroad or not.

December 16, 2007 @ 12:59 am | Comment

I can’t comment on other countries, but in the UK I’ve found that one problem Chinese students had in making local friends was “themselves”. If you’re going to hang-out exclusively with Chinese students, or at best other foreign ones, how are you going to meet people from your host country in a social situation?!

Also one interesting thing that some people might not know about. Apparently the Chinese embassies tell Chinese students that all Chinese societies at universities must be 100% run by Chinese citizens – no foreigners allowed on the committees. For those that obey, a very generous subsidy – for those that don’t not a penny. That’s a hard choice given there’s often not much money to go around. Not having non-Chinese on the committees usually leads the societies to being introverted and isolated from the wider student population.

December 16, 2007 @ 4:33 am | Comment


What happened to my last post in the Nanking thread? If I offended you in anyway, I apologize, I certainly didn’t intend to.

My post was a bit emotional, I admit. However, I have not threatened anyone, I have not slandered anyone, I have not used any profanities, I have not told any lies, I have not called anyone names and it was on topic. I think I deserve an explanation.

If I am no longer welcome here, please just say so, I’ll accept. Maybe I’ll learn the lesson that you shouldn’t go at a blog owner too hard. 🙂

December 16, 2007 @ 5:17 am | Comment

“one problem Chinese students had in making local friends was “themselves”. If you’re going to hang-out exclusively with Chinese students,” Raj

This is true, a long established fact.In UK/US there are ethnic towns – China, Indian,Korean towns, little Taiwan,Italian etc. In Asia they used to have in the past White exclusive clubs and the “Expat bubbles” remain a very real phenomena today. 90% of my expat friends don’t speak chinese and all their local Chinese friends are English speakers.

When I was in Canada, most of my classmates were too shy to speak English to be able to make English speaking friends. I, on the other hand,was determined to go native so I attended mostly white churches for that very purpose.(May God forgive me.)

December 16, 2007 @ 7:41 am | Comment

AC, never talk to me the way you did in that thread again. You want to comment here, show a little respect to your host. That’s all. I don’t care what your point of view is, but don’t try to needle me. Thanks.

December 16, 2007 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Sorry, Richard,
The Nanking thread is dead and I hope you don’t mind, just wanted to respond to Si’s previous comment:
“Who is Okumura Neji? Do you mean Yasuji Okamura? Yasuji Okamura’s life fits your description but given you got his name totally wrong, I have difficulty believing you know anything this subject”……Posted by: Si at December 15, 2007 12:15 AM

RE: General Okumura Neiji aka Okamura Yasuji aka 岗村宁次:

The key to most Japanese names is the Hanzi/Kanji not just the phonetic reading which in most cases entail
two readings known in Japanese as
“onyomi/音读(borrowed from two different
old Han Chinese sources)” and
“kunyomi/训读(based on the native
Japanese sound that’s equivalent in meaning to that
denoted by the specific Han Chinese character)”.

The “onyomi” for 宁 is Nei and its
“kunyomi” is Yasu but there are several other kanji that can be read as Yasu and or Nei; therefore it’s still the specific Kanji that holds the key to nailing the identity of the name of the person not just the phonetic reading written in Hiragana/Katagana alphabets or Roman alphabets. One small technicality
on the conventional order of family names; Japanese names follow the Han Chinese tradition of having family names uttered/written before given names.
That’s why I prefer to use the oriental convention —
Okumura Neiji/Yasuji rather than the occidental
convention in the reverse order.
No big deal.
Thanks for your indulgences.

December 16, 2007 @ 11:44 am | Comment

The problem with this piece in China Daily is “role confusion”; they need to figure out whom they are speaking to. If the article’s intended audience is foreigners, then this audience has no need to hear about the pressure of Chinese students abroad. They care about the crime, not its ramifications on the perpetrators’ families. Rather than spinning a tragic story, I see the CD treatment as a symptom of habitual inward looking (talking to one’s own folks) and lack of ability to take other groups’ perspectives even when these other groups are one’s communication target.

China Daily’s advice should be reserved to Chinese parents, and communicated in the Chinese language media. It is advisable to think carefully before you send your children abroad. What is your goal? Why do you think you would have a better chance to achieve the goal abroad than in China? Parents must realize the Chinese have a special need for the support of a social network, a structured life-style provided by connection with family and other significant others. My impression is Westerners can operate independently and function for quite some time in a foreign land by themselves. A Chinese gets really nutty when he becomes a loner. Of course these are not excuses for any crime anywhere, but should be taken into consideration by Chinese students and parents. China Daily is the wrong place to deliver this advice.

December 16, 2007 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

It is possible The China Daily treatment and Westerners’ fury over are a result of cultural differences in understanding human behavior. In 1995 when the freshly-minted University of Iowa Physics Ph. D. Guang Lu (Qinghua Alumnus) killed another Chinese student who won a dissertation prize which he thought belonged to him, along with all members of his dissertation committee, the department chair, the dean of the school and permanently injured a student worker at the dean’s office, before committing suicide, Kaiping Peng (Beida Alumnus, now at UC Berkeley) and a collaborator (Michael Morris? Cant remember now) did a research on cultural differences in the perception of that crime in particular and individuals’ behaviors in general. Their findings and some others are highly relevant and could show this debate is a typical case of cross-cultural misunderstanding. I summarized the findings the best I can from memory.

December 16, 2007 @ 1:31 pm | Comment

“China Daily is the wrong place to deliver this advice.”

It’s not that CD is the wrong place to raise the issue of the pressures on Chinese students studying abroad, it’s the fact that they ignored all other journalistic treatments of the crime and moved immediately to dilute and deflect the seriousness of the incident by finding excuses for cold-blooded murder.

Acknowledgement of wrongdoings and apologies don’t sit comfortably with the Chinese (unless they’re demanding them), leading to a piece that exonerates and excuses rather than condemns and expresses regret.

“…killed another Chinese student who won a dissertation prize which he thought belonged to him”

Chinese getting uppity about plagiarism – who’d have thought it?

December 16, 2007 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

“Apparently the Chinese embassies tell Chinese students that all Chinese societies at universities must be 100% run by Chinese citizens – no foreigners allowed on the committees.”

That is f***ing outrageous! No universities should tolerate such practices. I’m not surprised about this, but where did you pick up this gem, Raj?

December 16, 2007 @ 2:09 pm | Comment

If it’s true, Raj, it’s interesting information. Not really that surprising when you think about it.

In the comment thread from the original Beijing Newspeak post there’s now a link that everyone should go to: it seems this is not at all an isolated instance. The similarities are extraordinary.

To our new commenter bianxiang above: I went looking through your site, and I think all readers should know your philosophy about foreigners in China:

The curious phenomenon that Laowais keep sticking around in China despite their constant bitching about their pain and agony of soul-selling and treason reveals an obvious fact. The vast majority of Westerners in China are forced upon China by sheer necessity and lack of opportunities in their home country. Their situation perfectly fits the textbook definition of a ‘loser’. Being forced to deal with a situation one cannot stand is straightforward misery. Being miserable and having no way out is a classic case of a ‘loser’. How does a loser deal with his misery? Here is the beautiful thing about logical thinking, all the pieces fall into place. Attributing one’s personal failure and misery to the repressive environment of the ‘THIRD WORLD’ is a cheap way of coping with their objective inferiority. Since the real drawback is insurmountable, what else can you do but trashing somebody weaker than you, like calling certain parts of the world ‘third word’. It feels good, doesn’t it? Another way of coping with personal failure and misery is to go get drunk and stoned at SanLiTun. None of these activities are effective strategies for improving their situation.

And now we all know….

December 16, 2007 @ 3:12 pm | Comment

I’m not surprised about this, but where did you pick up this gem, Raj?

Because I found this out when I was at university some years back (not that long ago). The Chinese Society couldn’t be a member of the university students’ association because of their discriminating policy. They didn’t publicise it, but if you asked they’d admit it.

In the year I left some very bold members had the rules changed so non-Chinese could join and they could join the university union, but they lost their embassy funding. When I checked recently I found that the committee was still all Chinese. Whether that’s just coincidence or because they wanted to regain their funding I don’t know.

The biggest problem was that the events were only geared up for Chinese speakers. Movie nights did not have English subtitles and when asked I was told it would be “impossible” because some students didn’t speak Cantonese or Mandarin. A silly excuse given most Cantonese speakers at the university had a good grasp of English. During a large annual event where all the different student nationalities got together to show off their country’s dishes, the Chinese society had no non-Chinese at their stall. In comparison the Japanese society usually had some English/non-Japanese students helping out. Plus their committee was completely open to any members and events were also suitable for non-Japanese speakers. Everyone always enjoyed themselves back then.

Again, I can’t comment for other countries, but it’s clear that Chinese university societies need to help their members integrate with the local student populations rather than offer them a security blanket such that they rarely need to interact with non-Chinese people.

December 16, 2007 @ 7:20 pm | Comment

I would like to talk about two things Bianxiangbianqiao wrote.

First, about the current issue. The research of these two guys seem to be a good explanation of whole this fight. The cultural differences, mainly individual/analytical/personal against collective/environmental indeed plays a crucial role here, not only in the writing of the article, but also in our fight here. That’s why I didn’t want to guess, remember, I just analyzed they didn’t dwell much on the personal factors, like greed, but focused more on the environment. So am I saying this is just a cultural difference and that’s all? No, certainly not, but it definetely plays a certain role.

Two: The research you wrote about on your blog wasn’t yours, of course, it was those two researchers’s work, but I am a little bit surprised to read some of your other posts on your blog. Can you explain to me why you like to be mean towards foreigners? Certainly, I know a lot of foreigner who go to China because they have a lot of skills, not because they lack them. And even if there are a lot of losers amongst them, why scold them? I do not really understand, because I think your posts here and the post on your blog about the research seemed to be quite balanced. I hope you do not see this as an attack, I just want to understand better.

December 17, 2007 @ 12:50 am | Comment

This is all very interesting. You can tell, who has, and who has not lived as an expat for any length of time anywhere, let alone Asia.
I myself have lived extensively throughout southern Asia for some loooong time( Thailand, Malasia, Indonesia, Southern China. Also, Korea, Japan, and though not very long, 6 years in Russia, not Moscow, or St. Petersberg, but Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and various Siberian states. I am old. yes.
But, not so old that I am not going to work in West Africa soon. Now, for my point.

In order to read something and “get it”, you must have some common knowledge with the writer. If you have some understanding of a people, how they think, to understand what they are trying to say you can understand. Other wise, you are just applying what you would think if you were to say that, which, would of course be rediculous. I have never returned to the U.S. and listened to friends and family, without going away thinking how very stupid they had become, how very little of the world they understand, and how they feel their tiny little narrow and set view, is the one view. Well, it is, if mentally, you’re taped to a chair, facing the basement wall, in the dark. Which is to say, the average person, reading the local papers, watching the brain sucking tub o’vision.

So. ( very laughingly, yet earnest ) in regards to a previous comment, if foreigners hadn’t invaded China in the 18th and 19th century, they would be right this minute still wallowing in the mud raising pigs, planting rice, and living in mud and grass huts with little trap doors they use the toilet and throw their garbage to the pigs that live under the huts. To all who have been to any of the museums in China, it is a glaring reality.

December 17, 2007 @ 1:26 am | Comment

First of all, the Chinese Student Association at my University has a disclaimer (in Chinese only, of course) that appears before you sign into their BBS, where you have to agree to refrain from any and all “splittist,” “non-patriotic,” “terrorist,” or “anti-socialist” comments, and must uphold the Four Cardinal Principles and the unity of the motherland. Seriously, gag me. If this is the experience you were looking for when you came here to study, I would venture to say you might have come for the wrong reasons.

Second, “cultural difference” is great and all, but it takes quite a stretch of the imagination to apply it to cases like this, in which it becomes a face-saving excuse. Whenever I talk to people about how shitty the current system in China is, they get pissed, but really, maybe, this is just a “cultural difference.” Surely, I’m not killing anyone? So this cultural difference should be easier to accept.

However, the Chinese have a tendency, in my opinion, to only embrace their own “Cultural difference,” or their own “special-ness” and use this as an excuse for all types of ridiculous-ness, while any expression of my own difference is met with the reminder that I “don’t understand China” or that I should perhaps “go home.” Which I did, so that’s that!

To use a snazzy term, it’s the “hegemony” of Chinese cultural difference over all others. Basically, “our difference is better, and yours is bad!”

December 17, 2007 @ 4:18 am | Comment

“Acknowledgement of wrongdoings and apologies……” – Stuart.

I am not worried about that, Stuart. You and your buddies here are doing a real good job faulting every thing remotely Chinese; you sure sound thirsty for some real blood. If those locked-up losers offer an opportunity to throw another kick at the already wobbly “global image” of us lowly Chinese, do you think the Western media would miss it? Besides, how come you have forgotten the nice job (fair and balanced, accurate too) the New York Times (not to mention the FBI) did for poor sucker Wen-Ho Lee?

December 17, 2007 @ 5:08 am | Comment

“Can you explain to me why you like to be mean towards foreigners?… Why scold them?”


I do not see your questions as an attack, not at all. I am surprised you got the impression I like to be mean to foreigners. I have made some observations of this population, mainly from their blogs and the comments on them, which naturally have triggered some emotional reactions (I humbly admit I happen to have Chinese blood in my veins, nothing to brag about though). I have made some attempts at making sense of these observations, with some conjectures here and there. You would certainly care about what kind of people are coming from outside to roam your hometown, especially when you have folks back home, wouldn’t you? Some of my conjectures may be of dubious taste. But they are all genuine and sincere.

I am also surprised you think I am scolding anyone. No, Sir. Modesty is a value very dear to my heart. I am just baffled by some people’s contradictory decisions. If China is such a sickening place and makes you miserable everyday, why don’t you pack up and leave? Whatever important work you are doing in China, your life is by far more important (I forgot who had said this first, not me). Wouldn’t you agree that my rant offers a tentative explanation for this great puzzle? God bless you and hallelujah.

December 17, 2007 @ 5:40 am | Comment

Hearsay, more hearsay, hearsay from all continents about us humble Chinese. Will we ever clear this bad image?


You are probably talking about the “Association of Chinese Students and Scholars”. They have links with the embassy, which probably explains the slogans on their website. Raj says they get funds from the Embassy, which may be true but the amount must be nothing beyond token. The Association at my school got a Karaoke machine and some Majang sets. Even those I am not sure were paid by the Embassy. There are other Chinese student associations I know were completely open to everyone and anyone. I joined the Beida alumni association although I have had nothing to do with Beida.

The activities organized by the Chinese students (such as the spring festival party) were always, always open to anyone interested. I personally saw many non-Chinese students mingling with the Chinese.

On the other hand, I have to admit that Chinese students I have met tend to be nationalistic (and very bombastic about their patriotic feelings), a great puzzle to me. Your humble servant is no exception. One time they invited Chinese diplomat Cui Tiankai to give a talk. A fist fight almost broke out between some Chinese students and free-Tibeters. So you cannot say the Chinese students segregate themselves. The value of information lies in its accuracy.

December 17, 2007 @ 6:06 am | Comment

“You want to comment here, show a little respect to your host. That’s all.”

Point well taken, Richard. My apology again.

December 17, 2007 @ 6:25 am | Comment

Talking about spinning a story, the Western Medias are the masters. I posted a comment on zhongnanhai regarding the Western coverage on the anti-Japanese controversy. I think it’s appropriate to post it here (with some editing) since we are talking about media spins here.


While covering this subject (anti-Japanese controversy), the Western medias often only give you two explanations:

1) The Chinese government uses these historical events to stir up nationalism,

2) The Chinese government intentionally stoke the anti-Japanese feelings to divert people’s attentions from the mistakes the government makes.

(What happened to the bad guy who caused the problem??? Magically disappeared.)

They conveniently left out the third scenario, which is the most important one, that these anti-Japanese sentiments are caused and stoked by the actions of the Japanese government and politicians rather than the Chinese government. After all, it was the Japanese government who committed these heinous crimes and later tried to whitewash history by revising the textbooks, it was the Japanese politicians who visited the shrine and denied the existence of “comfort women.”

These anti-Japanese sentiments could easily get out of control and cause problems for the government. On the one hand, the CCP could lose legitimacy if they don’t respond and side with the people, on the other hand, responding too loud could hurt Sino-Japanese relations. It’s a delicate balancing-act, which explains why their volume is sometimes louder and sometimes lower.

Think about it, there are three parties in the controversy:

a) Ordinary Chinese people (the victim, old wounds opened by the Japanese actions)

b) Chinese government (caught in the middle)

c) Japanese government/Politicians (the culprit, whose action started all this).

Now take a look at argument 1) and 2) I outlined above, either way, the Chinese government is the culprit. It’s a masterpiece of spin which makes the party who is caught in the middle (Chinese government) look like the bad guy.

And after the spin:

– the innocent victim (Chinese people) becomes the tool of the government.

– the one who is caught in the middle (Chinese government) becomes the culprit.

– the culprit (Japanese government and politicians who caused the trouble in the first place) becomes the innocent.

Can it get any better than this? I bow to the masters.

China Daily still has a lot to learn from the masters.

December 17, 2007 @ 6:37 am | Comment

God bless you and hallelujah.

Can it get any better than this? I bow to the masters.

China Daily still has a lot to learn from the masters.

@ bianxiangbianqiao, AC,& sometimes Richard, I love you guys!Keep up the good work!

December 17, 2007 @ 7:54 am | Comment


Great post on Gang Lu. You have articulated some points I briefly touched upon, and you did it in a much more thoughtful and thorough way than I could. Great job.

December 17, 2007 @ 8:30 am | Comment

” I am just baffled by some people’s contradictory decisions. If China is such a sickening place and makes you miserable everyday, “bianxiangbianqiao

bianxiangbianqiao, this rhetorical question-statement (what’s the word, pardon my poor english) I suspect has become non-PC.
I hope more and more “worldly” Chinese who have indepth understanding of both Chinese and western culture will speak up. In the decades that I’ve worked with and for both westerners and chinese, I notice that 90% of the bad feelings are the consequence of language barrier – the limited ability to convey in either chinese by the westerners and in English by the Chinese. But bianxiangbianqiao, you are my hero. Please speak to and for our people, our foreign friends through someone like Richard who I think Richard is a good guy who, unfortunately, sometimes gets into trouble for writing “balanced” articles from some of his China-bashing hothead patrons. Cheers.

December 17, 2007 @ 9:10 am | Comment


Nice to see you commenting on this blog. Peking Duck and China Law Blog are the two best China-related blogs around in my opinion. You should visit often.

Thanks for the information on the Lu case study on your blog, this is the first time I heard about it. It really explains why I view things the way I do, just look at the comment I made here (way above near the top), I thought this is a cultural difference issue. The study was pretty accurate.

December 17, 2007 @ 9:57 am | Comment


On your blog, You paraphrase the intercultural study the following way:

Again American students made more internal/personal attributions for the crime whereas Chinese students made more environmental/social/societal attributions. Where do these different styles of making behavioral attributions come from? The authors explained that in Western (European and North American) individualistic cultures, a person is viewed as autonomous and independent. He or she is also held responsible for all his/her actions. In East Asian collectivist cultures, the individual is viewed as an integral component of a social network, an embedded element of a pattern.

A couple of things.

First, you need to widen your horizon a bit. The United States is a huge country, where you have very different criminal jurisdictions – compare the criminal justice systems in Texas with Vermont and you will get an idea.

Also, I don’t think you can make the United States stand to represent “the West” as a whole. For instance, many Europeans are strongly opposed to capital punishment and are startled by the tendency in the US (and British) criminal system to treat minors as adults.

For comparison, here is a quote from a BBC report about a murder case in Norway:

On 15th October 1994 Silje Raedergard was playing with friends on a local football field. She had played with the two boys many times, but this time the game turned rough. Whilst playing snow castles, the two boys became aggressive. They stripped Raedergard, stoned her and when she fell unconscious they panicked and ran, leaving her to die in the snow.

The news of Raedergard’s death shocked the small town. With a population of 135,000, the city of Trondheim had only experienced two murders in the six years prior to her death. However instead of expressing anger and revenge, the local community felt grief and a level of responsibility.

How do you think the Chinese criminal justice system would have dealt with this case? And do you know of any case where a local community in China has expressed feelings of guilt for a heinous crime being committed by minors in its midst? I don’t know the answer to that question, what I do know is that China deals with violent crime extremely harshly and makes the individual pay the full consequences of his or her actions. China executes more people than the rest of the world taken together. This hardly rhymes with the idea that Chinese culture looks at people holistically and thus tends to contextualize criminal acts.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:01 am | Comment

“American students described the fish as a locus of agency, saying things like “it swims toward the sea weed.” Japanese students described the fish as more passively responding to the environment, saying things like “it was drawn toward the sea weed…It is possible that The China Daily treatment and Westerners furious disagreement is created by cultural differences in understanding human behavior. “bianxiangbianqiao

@bianxiangbianqiao & AC,

This is why folks like you, who can see from both sides, are so important. Language is culture, without an indepth grasp of the former the latter will forever make little sense.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:05 am | Comment

Great comment, Amban.

AC, I don’t buy your comment from zhongnanhai because of its fatal flaw: What happened to the bad guy who caused the problem??? Magically disappeared.

Of course Japan totally disappeared. Because the massacre took place 70 years ago and those who performed the butchery are nearly all dead. They were forgotten by China during the Mao years, then revived as a convenience when useful to the Party. Your entire argument collapses. In this case, the CCP is the bad guy I’m afraid, though they seem to have dramatically toned down their rhetoric in the past couple of years and appear to be rapidly maturing on this issue. Now we aren’t seeing any violence against Japanese businesses in China as we did in 2005. Is this because of any action on the part of Japan since then? No, of course not. It’s because the CCP consciously turned down the rhetoric. having citizens angry at Japan and making a huge international scene as in 2005 is not in the Party’s best interests in 2008. The entire thing was fomented by the Party – the huge uproar and the current relative silence.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:20 am | Comment

“Also, I don’t think you can make the United States stand to represent “the West” as a whole. ”


Excellent points. I believe it was Bernard Shaw who said, “England & the US are two countries divided by the same language.”
Indeed, Norway is a small socialist European countrywhile America is an Empire. Vermont, New England is America’s No.1 Maple Syrup producer and home of American cottage industries and liberalism. Since year 2000, Vermont governor decreed a new law which provided the state sanctioned benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples in the form of civil unions. It is perhaps one of the most polarized state from Texas, which is in the bible belt, where, ironically, still practices capital punishment (38 of the 50 American states do) and has the most death executions.

Amban, considering that it will probably take a protracted Ph.D program to research on the myriad differences among “western” cultures, the near insurmountable differences between East & West would probably require at least 3 Ph.D programs, don’t you agree?

December 17, 2007 @ 12:01 pm | Comment

The police officers are Chinese too, they were just as outraged as anybody. No evidence showed that the government ordered protest. As a matter of fact, students were ordered by the government to stay in class, just ask anybody who was in school that year.

Imagine this, Richard, if some politicians (from any country) come out and claim that there were only two people killed in 911 attacks, wouldn’t you feel outraged?

Yes, we are off topic. I’ll stop here.

December 17, 2007 @ 12:30 pm | Comment


Thanks for your comment. But I need to respond to this remark:

Norway is a small socialist European country.

No. Norway is not a socialist country and has never been one. It has a strong private sector that coexists with government owned sectors of the economy such as oil. Norway is also a founding member of NATO.

And small? Well, more people live in Norway than in the Republic of Ireland or in New Zealand. So if Norway is rendered irrelevant by its size, then we can quit talking about Erie or NZ as well. or did I miss something?

December 17, 2007 @ 12:36 pm | Comment

“…you sure sound thirsty for some real blood.”

Go back to bed, BXBQ. This is the same tactic I’ve seen you employ on other blogs: post a reply that bears no relation to the original comment in order to make the author look bad. Pathetic.

Your rantings indicate one of two likelihoods. First, you are probably victim to the huge chip that you carry on your shoulder about past and present involvement of anything foreign in China. Second, you are one of the increasing number of intelligent and articulate party hacks specifically employed to draw fire and deflect discussions that are heading in a direction that you (or your superiors) don’t like.

And the roll call of minions that came squawking to your defense does nothing to mitigate these suspicions.

Your mistake here, as is often the case, was to view some of the comments about the CD article as ‘anti-China’, rather than a discussion of reasons and exchange of opinions about the issue at hand.

As Richard pointed out, this says it all:

“The curious phenomenon that Laowais keep sticking around in China despite their constant bitching about their pain and agony ….. Their situation perfectly fits the textbook definition of a ‘loser’.”

The pain and agony for you is caused by that big rock you carry on your shoulder. My advice: ditch it.

December 17, 2007 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

@ Amban,

Yes, Amban, You are right and I was wrong about Norway being socialist with all the bad connotations. I understand it is a constitutional monarchy (I think?) but from what my Norwegian friends told me about their high tax and great social and health programs, I’d assumed it was socialistic.But obviously I was wrong.
And no, size is not the point here.
I was merely agreeing with your statement:” I don’t think you can make the United States stand to represent “the West” as a whole,” in defense of bianxiangbiaoqiao’s paraphrase, actually. Of course one can’t and in any case it was far from enough a few sentences written in a short dairy style blog, but I thought it was a good start.

December 17, 2007 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

@ stuart,
I am with you 100% if you are right about BXBQ.

(1) you are one of the increasing number of intelligent and articulate party hacks specifically employed to draw fire and deflect discussions that are heading in a direction that you (or your superiors) don’t like.

Well, BXBQ, are you an intelligent and articulate party hack?

(2) the roll call of minions that came squawking to your defense does nothing to mitigate these suspicions.

Well, Brgyags and AC, are you party minions? I know I am not.For god’s sake I was baptized, sanctified and mindfxxked with Republicanism,capitalism,reversed racism which I’m happy to sat that I have repented of.

December 17, 2007 @ 2:37 pm | Comment

I’m deleting all the comments here about the Nanjing massacre including my own- you can post them over at the thread below.

Bryags, be careful.

December 17, 2007 @ 3:04 pm | Comment

In response to posts further up regarding this topic, these guys were not isolated loners, with 4 of them being involved in this crime. There were 2 main perpetrators and 1 seemed psychopathic from his demeanor, his lack of guilt or empathy, and especially for the callous killing at the very beginning of a botched kidnapping and money extortion; then the gruesome decapitation with a cheap hacksaw and other hacking and blood drenched mutilation of the body.

No kidding that at least 2 of these guys were homesick puppies gone astray; something was already well astray in their upbringing.

Factors that are more apparent is the enticement of being a gangster, hustler. Plenty of other students fall into drug smuggling and other quick easy money schemes. You get the impression that they think they are of superior intelligence, smarter and can get away with anything; play the gangster game.
Cities like Auckland can lure them into this; cars are relatively cheap, so many young local guys drive around in souped up sports cars; on the roads there are many Lamborghini’s, and every other hot car available; the young Chinese students have a deluded impression that every Aucklander owns a multi-million dollar yacht, cause there are plenty of them down at the harbour and they seem indignant that they are not living this lifestyle, when a small pathetically sized country can afford this; unaware that the majority of NZers are neither; the impression of wealth, expensive mansions and a big sparkling casino in the middle of the city.

Me, me, me; I deserve it all now.

Then their envious talk of being in HK, flushed with cash, going on weekly whoring trips and how many whores they can flash around with.

December 17, 2007 @ 3:30 pm | Comment

I am reading this blog with more and more interest. It seems to me that all bloggers here are actually both right and wrong in some respects. Each one criticizes the other’s opinion in one respect, and praises other points the same person makes. It seems we have come some way in understanding eachother, but there is still a long way to go.

Let me take Bianxiangbq as an example, because you seem to take my notes on you as they are meant: not criticizing but born out of my own misunderstanding.

On the one hand you agree with the Guang Lu research, which I agree with as well (but I don’t know it is the full explanation, I do not think it is). On the other hand, it feels contradictory to me that you praise such a research, which basically has some kind of “let’s understand eachother better” logic, and then rant and make conjectures of a dubious nature, if you prefer these terms over mine. The least I would say is that of course you could say that ranting and conjecturing is a way to understand us as well, but not if it is not on a solid foundation, otherwise it does feel like scolding.

By the way, I think you are absolutely right about the fact that foreigners in China are often not nice when talking about the country and some of the habits of the Chinese. This is horrible, and I confess that at times I will make a remark about it when I catch myself off-hand. This has to do with my misunderstanding, and foreigners in general do not always have a deep and full understanding of Chinese culture, which is on itself difficult to grasp. The same is true for Chinese in the West, it would be strange and completely unlogical to say it’s not.

So that’s why I think these blogs can be a great thing: improving mutual understanding is absolutely necessary. It proves this is very difficult at the same time though. Keep up the good work y’all and let’s come to mutual cultural enlightenment 😉

December 17, 2007 @ 8:13 pm | Comment

Sounds good, David. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of emotion in some of these comments – occasionally even in my own! And that’s when things can get messy, leading to shouting matches and other distractions.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

“Party hack” and minions are colorful names.
One thing I have learned from my engagements with people from different cultures in the blogsphere is about their various styles of interaction, especially their strategies and tactics in confrontational situations. A simple tactic is calling an opponent names. When you have a coherent program of names to call, organize them in an escalating sequence, with an increasing gradient of potency, you get a simple strategy. In my line of business, post-hoc explanation is cheap, whereas a-priori prediction is highly valued. I would venture my prediction: My dear friend Stuart is at the incipient stage of implementing this strategy. A hypothesis can be derived from this theory. If I probe a bit more, he will move up a step on the ladder of name-calling, then another step, and another step, until he reaches the highest level, the sure-fire, slam-dunk slap reserved for the final punch on his most-valued target – we will get the climax. This simple strategy is cross-cultural; Chinese fen qings do it all the time. Your humble servant is not above it. From some Westerners’ perspective, a unique repository of names is tailored for targets from each racial group. A slew of fancy names (colorful category labels) are reserved for the Chinese, and carefully arranged according to the level of potency for making a dent on the opponents’ self-esteem. As social animals, we all have a deep understanding on the importance of self-esteem. You demoralize your opponent (make him fold up tent and go) by destroying his self-esteem. When you observe closely, under the right conditions that you wisely create (with careful probing) as a hands-on minds-on scientist, you will be able to figure out the way these names are sequenced, and the battle-field condition each one is released in the engagement. The implementation often is guided by guts feelings. It is quite interesting. To test this hypothesis, we will need to get Stuart an opponent that is high-value and high-stake (get him really pissed off). Your humble servant may be too insignificant to fill this bill; so we may not be able to do the experiment anyway. Besides, your humble servant has moved beyond the stage of trying to be the biggest jerk in the world. (He is trying to find Jesus, as you may know.)

Another reason that makes me hesitant on doing this experiment is my assessment of Stuart is too tentative and shaky. I don’t think he will go very high on the ladder; I sense a lot of innocence and naiveté (in a positive way) in him. Mutual understanding across different cultures takes a lot of engagement and exchange of this nature. Let’s keep trying.

I have to think about your words of wisdom. My initial reaction is that they are valid but incomplete. Mutual understanding is part of the problem in the contact between Chinese and many Westerners (as in any inter-group contact), but not the only problem. A one-track approach you prescribe is insufficient for coping with the problem. What is the other track or tracks? I have no idea.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:24 pm | Comment

Luckily, Bianxiang would never call others names. At the risk of repeating myself, see the quote from his own blog for a clear grasp of his fairness, objectivity and maturity:

The curious phenomenon that Laowais keep sticking around in China despite their constant bitching about their pain and agony of soul-selling and treason reveals an obvious fact. The vast majority of Westerners in China are forced upon China by sheer necessity and lack of opportunities in their home country. Their situation perfectly fits the textbook definition of a ‘loser’. Being forced to deal with a situation one cannot stand is straightforward misery. Being miserable and having no way out is a classic case of a ‘loser’. How does a loser deal with his misery? Here is the beautiful thing about logical thinking, all the pieces fall into place. Attributing one�s personal failure and misery to the repressive environment of the ‘THIRD WORLD’ is a cheap way of coping with their objective inferiority. Since the real drawback is insurmountable, what else can you do but trashing somebody weaker than you, like calling certain parts of the world ‘third word’. It feels good, doesn’t it? Another way of coping with personal failure and misery is to go get drunk and stoned at SanLiTun. None of these activities are effective strategies for improving their situation.

As I said before, politely, calmly and sincerely, “Now we all know.” A little further on down in his blog he explains that he deleted a whole lot of his own posts because they were so hostile to foreigners in China. Always know with whom you’re dealing.

December 17, 2007 @ 11:37 pm | Comment

When did I tell you that you were dealing with a saint? I am better than a lot of people in that I repent and seek redemption.

December 18, 2007 @ 12:04 am | Comment

oh, don’t worry, no one thinks you’re a saint. It’s just droll to see you come on here and lecture about name-calling when a cursory look at your blog past and present shows that name-calling is basically what you do. It was good of you to repent, as you said, but then just a short while later you were right back at it again with your “loser” post, which will follow you around whenever you post over here. Now we all know.

December 18, 2007 @ 12:16 am | Comment

That was harsh. It hurts my sensitive Chinese feelings.

December 18, 2007 @ 1:21 am | Comment

Listen guys, we all know we once, now and again or frequently, sometimes call eachother names. I do not like that from anyone, including myself.

Yes, there seems to be something missing. A track could be, however unlikely, to get to know yourself better as well. On a deep level at best.

December 18, 2007 @ 4:52 am | Comment

in response to bxbq above, about the Chinese students and scholars point:
yes, there is another association at my school that tries to actively distance itself from the cssa described above; however, the students in this other organization are mostly hong kong-ers, overseas chinese, or the rare (nowadays) liberally-minded overseas chinese student.

In terms of mainlanders, however, it is more than fair to say that far too many segregate themselves completely. I can’t speak for other schools, but for mine, which has a disproportionately large Asian population, I don’t see the people I know engaging in conversation or hanging out with anyone besides fellow PRC-ers or myself (as I speak Mandarin). And unfortunately, I see the same sad stereotypes of Westerners and the same nationalist humdrum being spun here in the US that I see in the PRC.

A friend once told me that Monday was the worst day for him, because after he got out of class on Thursday, he wouldn’t speak English the entire weekend, until Monday. Just based upon my own experiences in China (I would not even want to speak English all weekend), this struck me as highly self-segregating and something that really needs to be overcome.

December 18, 2007 @ 5:52 am | Comment

Yes David, we all do. It’s the calling names in one breath and then scolding others for calling names in the next breath that I find irritating. And I do think the quote I cited is key to understanding were our friend is coming from.

Kevin, know what you mean, and I saw it in California schools as well, with their ethnic armed camps (which applies to many groups, not only Chinese). While it’s natural for us to seek our comfort zone and find people we can communicate with it can defeat the entire purpose of studying abroad. The few I know who made the most of the opportunity surrounded themselves with native host-language speakers. The language proficiency of guys who got Chinese girlfriends often soared.

December 18, 2007 @ 8:39 am | Comment


Chinese students are indeed segregated from the American student population to various degrees, but the extent of segregation is probably smaller than you would think, and the reason is more mundane than nationalism or cultural preferences or the Chinese embassy. I can see 4 factors leading Chinese students to stay together, all pragmatic instead of ideological.

1. Language problems. This is especially significant for students in Natural Sciences and Engineering, the vast majority of Chinese students. They can communicate, but struggle with the way they speak, such as in efficiency, smoothness, and all the stylistic niceties. Speaking in with a less than eloquent manner makes a social encounter with a native speaker a source of negative feedback on one’s self, and creates a psychological barrier.
2. Cultural differences and the inherent pressure and stress in inter-group contact. Out-group members are unfamiliar. Therefore engaging them involves uncertainty, e.g., in norms of communication. The subtleties of behaviors in a well-formed society are often regulated by implicit processes (you just do it that way, without knowing how and why; you know it when it is done the wrong way), and appear opaque to the outsiders (the Chinese). Even with perfectly functional language skills, the kind of stuff you laugh at, and get interested in (baseball game vs. karaoke and majiang) differ from cultural to cultural. The most obvious example of cultural challenge for Chinese students I have noticed is understanding Americans’ jokes and getting Americans understand their jokes. All these could lead to potential awkward situations.
3. The amount work you need to do in graduate school leaves little energy or to cope with challenges of integration. You may not even have the energy to care about integration.
4. The easy availability of members of your own group. This is again most prominent for Chinese students in Natural Sciences and Engineering. Every Science and Engineering department in major research universities has a sizable number of Chinese grad students. In some departments one third or to half of the grad students are Chinese. They usually come from the same Chinese undergrad programs and some of them had known each other for years in China. My school’s civil engineering was ranked top 5 in the US. They have a large contingent of Chinese graduate students, almost exclusively from Qinghua. They work in the lab all day, with their Chinese peers, then go back to their apartment shared with their Chinese peers. The only American they see is probably their advisor. (Some of them even have Chinese professors as advisors, just like back home) It is easy to hang out with their own people, just like in their undergraduate days. When a new comer arrives at the airport at the beginning of the fall semester, his or her undergrad alumni would organize someone to pick him or her up, set him or her up for temporary housing, and sort through all the logistics. It is like an independent society that gets reproduced from generation to generation. It works but has its drawbacks.

“Apparently the Chinese embassies tell Chinese students that all Chinese societies at universities must be 100% run by Chinese citizens – no foreigners allowed on the committees.”
This statement is absolutely false and untrue. First off, there are Gonger organization (You know what Gonger I am talking about. Don’t want to get this site into trouble) on quite some university campuses. Try get the Chinese embassy tell them stop recruiting foreign Gongers.

As for the Chinese Students and Scholars Association’s connection with the embassy, you need to consider the two ways Chinese students finance their graduate education. A tiny minority of them are funded by the Chinese government to get Ph. D. in American Universities. The government pays for their tuition and living allowances. They have the obligation to go back to China upon completion of their degree. They stay in the US on J-1 visa, which also requires them to leave the US immediately upon finishing school. I imagine the CSSA is controlled by these “publicly funded” students.

The vast majority of Chinese graduate students are enrolled in Ph. D. programs that offer them full tuition waiver, and a stipend in exchange of TA or RA work (20 hours/week). The stipend ranged from 12,000 to mid 20,000s per year (9 months). This financial support is essential; if you cannot get this, there is absolutely no way you can get a student (F-1) visa at the US embassies in China. These students have got into the program on their own (taking the Graduate Record Exams) and sending in the application materials, getting a professor doing your type of research interested in serving as your advisor. There is no reason for them to listen to the Embassy or anyone from the Chinese government. Personally I have never dealt with the embassies over the years, except getting my passport renewed. They owe absolutely nothing to the government. Their position in the program and financial support depend solely upon their performance in the course works and in the lab. I treated my advisor with more respect than awarded to my parents, while the government was totally irrelevant.

December 18, 2007 @ 1:20 pm | Comment

“This has to do with my misunderstanding, and foreigners in general do not always have a deep and full understanding of Chinese culture, which is on itself difficult to grasp. The same is true for Chinese in the West, it would be strange and completely unlogical to say it’s not.”


Lack of understanding is part of the problem. I don’t know how large a part it is, but far from the whole problem. The other part of the problem I find quite off putting is some westerners derogate the Chinese as a group in order to boost their personal self-esteem. Let me try to explain this thing.
Each person has two components to his/her identity, individual identity and group affiliation. One needs to maintain an adequate level of overall self-esteem. We satisfy this need by generating feedback information from the social environment. Imagine a thermal-stat control device with a set point for the room temperature and measures the current temperature in real time. If the room temperature drops below the set point (say, by 1 degree F), the device starts the furnace. When the room temperature exceeds the set point, the device shuts off the furnace. When you suffer a blow to your personal self-esteem (you fail in relationship, a paper gets rejected by the journal, or didn’t get a job), what do you do? You try to maintain your overall self-esteem via a compensatory process. Since you cannot do much about your personal setback, the only alternative is to boost their group identity, by way of downward comparison. If you fail in your personal life, you will have an especially powerful need to view your group in a positive light relative to a particular out-group. This is why racists are mostly losers. This may also explain why trailer parks tend to fly confederate flags in the deep south. Does this rationale make my conjecture about some foreigners more plausible? My conjectures about foreigners in China are not random and devoid of foundations. Quite the contrary, they are based on a huge amount of rigorous scientific research. I will summarize the empirical literature on this topic when I get time.

December 18, 2007 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

AC, Hongkonger and Brgyags,
I am glad you find my comments interesting. Cultural differences create blind spots. I am not above them.

December 18, 2007 @ 1:56 pm | Comment

You praise is humbling. I am too flawed to be anyone’s hero. I am trying hard to improve myself.

December 18, 2007 @ 2:00 pm | Comment

The cultural differences relevant to the China Daily report of the crime in New Zealand and examined in the Morris and Peng (1994) and Masuda and Nisbett (2001) studies were about mental processes operating at the individual level. They are not about social institutions such as the criminal justice system. The key issue is how a perceiver makes interpretation and inferences from observed behavior information. Of course these culturally-based individual differences must have an impact at the institutional level. For one thing the Chinese are more likely to stigmatize the relatives of a criminal, even if these relatives are innocent and have nothing to do with the crime. This practice was institutionalized in imperial legal systems in the ancient times. Nowadays the mentality of stigmatization is still lingering in a lot of people’s minds. At the same time, they reduce the amount of responsibility attributed to the criminal’s internal factors (e.g., personality).
Another point is that whatever within-cultural variability you detect (Texas vs. Vermont), you are likely to find the between cultural (China vs. US) differences bigger.

December 18, 2007 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

“You and your buddies here are doing a real good job faulting every thing remotely Chinese” – BXBQ

Such towering objectivity overwhelms me. Alas, you are badly mistaken. For example, I’ve never faulted any Chinese woman I’ve slept with.

As for ‘my buddies’, I’m sure they can speak for themselves. Btw, who are they?

“my assessment of Stuart is too tentative and shaky.” – BXBQ

Correction: your assessment of me is wrong. And the use of low-level sophistry in an attempt to look good isn’t fooling anyone. I’m sure you’re a lovely guy, though.

December 18, 2007 @ 4:28 pm | Comment

Hey, has anybody noticed that in just 24 hours after appearing here bianxiang has already cultivated his own admiration society? Gotta love his modesty: “You praise is humbling. I am too flawed to be anyone’s hero. I am trying hard to improve myself.” I am so moved…

December 18, 2007 @ 5:30 pm | Comment


You took a step up on the ladder. I am surprised you took such a big step though, from labeling your opponent “victims” to calling them “Party hacks and minions” in one round of exchanges is the normal pace of escalation. From there to bragging about free sexual access to Chinese women is a quite big step. (I didn’t think I probed you that hard.) Usually a westerner would work his way up a bit more slowly, taking an intermediate step or two, like throwing in a couple of vague racial references, just to test the water as you go. A finer point in my model is that the progress of escalation is one-directional, it can only go up, although the pace may vary from person to person. What is the next step you are going to take? Will you go for the gold? The most exciting moments of building and playing with a theoretical model are when data offer empirical verification. I am holding my breath.

December 18, 2007 @ 9:17 pm | Comment

I am glad you are moved by my modesty. I got a few other qualities that would move you too.

I wonder where Mylaowai is. He seems to be a real good subject for this experiment too.

December 18, 2007 @ 9:19 pm | Comment

Bianxiang, maybe you know this, but I once had a troll commenter here named MAJ who also said he was “experimenting” with my commenters, trying to goad and needle them and see just how far he could push before they exploded. I am giving you a chance right now to say you are doing nothing like that. You will also need to explain exactly what you meant when you referred to your “experiment.” Otherwise you are banned for good. I had a bad feeling as soon as I looked through your site, and I suppose I should always trust my first instincts.

December 18, 2007 @ 9:43 pm | Comment

you’re out


December 18, 2007 @ 11:02 pm | Comment

“You and your buddies here are doing a real good job faulting every thing remotely Chinese” – BXBQ

“I’ve never faulted any Chinese woman I’ve slept with.” – Stuart

“From there to bragging about free sexual access to Chinese women” – BXBQ

I never said anything about sex, or, if bodily fluids were involved, whether or not it was a free service.

Experiments are flawed when ’empirical’ data is tampered with. I refer readers to my comment of some posts ago based on previous observations:

“This is the same tactic I’ve seen you employ on other blogs: post a reply that bears no relation to the original comment in order to make the author look bad.” – Stuart

Game, set, and match, old bean. 😉

December 18, 2007 @ 11:05 pm | Comment


Look who is lecturing me now. If anyone is mixing up individual agency with culture or institutions it is you, who quoted a report about individual Chinese and American responses to a test in order to explain “cross-cultural misunderstandings” regarding the Guang Lu affair. Now who is making a leap here?

Also, you said:

I find quite off putting is some westerners derogate the Chinese as a group in order to boost their personal self-esteem.

I agree. But this blog is not one of those venues. More importantly, I’d like to ask you if you are concerned about racial prejudice in general or just when it affects Chinese? Are you equally put-off by Chinese who derogate foreigners as a group to boost their personal self-esteem?

You don’t have to answer that question, the deleted comments from your own blog can do the job for you. (Sorry, Richard, some of this stuff offensive, but you might want to see this.)

This is how you describe foreigners in China:

Danwei commented on Chinese people’s feelings being hurt by the disrespectful and disruptive behavior of these Laowais. I posted a comment: “My Chinese feelings are hurt not by the White Trash, I hold them in low regard anyway, but by the fact that out of the thousands of Chinese guys in Summer Palace on that day, not even one had walked over to beat the crap out of that pair of losers…”

Another gem:

The Western Journalists in deed deserve the low regard held about them by the Chinese (per your Chinese informants). My brief encounter with them was in the late 90s (97?) at the World Women’s Congress. I was at the hall where Western journalists were waiting to be ushered inside a partitioned restricted area and get registered. The way they bore themselves, conducted themselves, and dressed themselves would definitely give you some inkling about the street thugs, petty criminals, and other types of human garbage roaming their hometowns. I swear to Chairman Mao that the place reeked stale booze and fresh piss. A bad taste still lingers in my mouth from the vulgarity in the way they harassed the lone young Chinese chap at the entrance trying to prevent them from forcing themselves into the restricted registration area, at least some in their drunken wisdom. I have learned a very apt word describing this type of people in America – White Trash.

And when it comes to being disrespectful of the people in the country you live in, this how you feel about the people you live among:

On the other hand, the American masses (the “working class”) are among the least educated, most narrow-minded and backward population I have ever seen.

Now, if an American blogger in China said something similar about the Chinese working class, what would that make him, in your eyes?

December 18, 2007 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

Amban, Stuart – I hate to ruin the party, but Bianxiang is out. He is a scary guy, and I know he will do a big post on his blog about how this thread further proves the derangement of the Western expat in China, and he will employ academic language and highfalutin 5-syllable words to make his case. Fine. After his last agonizingly patronising and bs-larded comment, I am keeping him out – he is using all of us in a game. If you don’t mind, I may seal this thread shortly, as there’s little that hasn’t been said on this subject.

December 18, 2007 @ 11:23 pm | Comment

I would like to say that despite what he said, all PhD students at my school are funded by the University. Thus, all those paragraphs for nuthin’…

December 19, 2007 @ 12:34 am | Comment

I knew it! He did exactly what I expected him to do. (Anonymoused – site is blocked by his government.)

After five years of doing this you eventually recognize certain kinds of people. AC above was irritating, but I knew he wasn’t malicious. A few comments from bianxiang and a look through his site and I knew what he was about, that he was malicious, that he had an agenda and that he was going to write up this site and slam it. I wonder if he has friends in Australia….

December 19, 2007 @ 5:06 pm | Comment

“Apparently the Chinese embassies tell Chinese students that all Chinese societies at universities must be 100% run by Chinese citizens – no foreigners allowed on the committees.”

FYI, most of these organisations are funded from the same pot o’ cash that pays for intelligence gathering in other ways.

I’m not saying that every Chinese student is a spy, but then again, I’m saying they are innocent and pure either.

December 22, 2007 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

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