Comments FUBAR again

I’m afraid I don’t know how to fix the problem, but in the meantime, here is another open thread to use until it gets FUBAR’d too…

The Discussion: 22 Comments

I can rescue some of the comments from the previous thread that got eaten. Let me know if you would like me to do so. I am going to rescue one of my own and respond to CCT because I’m kind of annoyed at him right now.

May 1, 2008 @ 3:23 pm | Comment

I agree with otherlisa that the LA Times is more balanced than the papers on the East cost. Maybe it’s because of the large Chinese American population there, so the paper is more aware of the Chinese viewpoints.

Or maybe it is because of that guy who threw a water bottle during the USC lecture given by the Tibetan monk. Sometimes to get your message out, you got to do what you got to do.

People have known the truth about this photo for a while now. The LA Times would have done a better job, had it reported the story right after the Dalai Lama accused the PLA soldiers dressing as Tibetan monks to incite the riots.

May 1, 2008 @ 3:25 pm | Comment

Or maybe it is because of that guy who threw a water bottle during the USC lecture given by the Tibetan monk. Sometimes to get your message out, you got to do what you got to do

Um, that’s reaching just a bit, STP. The LA Times has been doing a good job on its China coverage for a number of years. I remember a story I read about the Tibetan Wild Yak Brigade back in 2000 (you can read it here), and I would say they’ve been doing quality reporting longer than that.

One of the things I was going to rant about was, in fact, the bottle-throwing student at USC. Not just him, but this phenomena of Chinese students/demonstrators outside of China who take advantage of our laws and traditions that protect free speech and free assembly, and then object when others exercise these same rights.

Throwing a bottle in a university lecture hall is pretty rank, IMO.

The rest of my rant had to do with the media.

Is there bias in the Western media’s coverage of China? Yes. Is some of this deliberate, to advance a particular agenda? Undoubtedly. I only have to look at the NY Times coverage of Iraq and WMDs in the run-up to the invasion for proof that there is deliberate manipulation of coverage to achieve a particular political end.

Some of this bias, however, is due to a certain degree of ignorance of Chinese conditions. Some is due because Western reporters’ access to events and people in China is frequently limited by the Chinese government. Leading me to the next portion of my rant: the Chinese government bears a large portion of responsibility for biased/inaccurate coverage of China. The government limits access and it does a fairly bad job presenting its own case. What’s worse is that the Chinese government has restricted and censored and punished the Chinese press. Logically Chinese people should be in the best position to understand and accurately report on Chinese circumstances, but when they are restrained and threatened at every turn by the government, how is this press supposed to develop and do its job?

Finally, because a news outlet reports information that some Chinese people find uncomfortable or threatening does not make the information untrue.

May 1, 2008 @ 3:26 pm | Comment

Oh, and as a p.s., STP, I wish stories like the fake photo would have been reported upon earlier as well. But with most newspapers in the US in crisis, having their reporting staffs and overseas bureaus cut to the bone, it’s a wonder that good reporting still goes on at all.

I believe that a free, watchdog press is essential to the functioning of a democracy and not just democracies, to any kind of competent government that wants to genuinely “serve the people.”

Seeing the decline of the media in this country frightens me a great deal. Seeing others reject the role that the press has to play out of hand by regarding unpleasant opinions and facts as mere propaganda is equally frightening.

May 1, 2008 @ 3:26 pm | Comment


Finally, because a news outlet reports information that some Chinese people find uncomfortable or threatening does not make the information untrue.

Christ, could you get any more patronizing?

I’m not going to speak for 1.3 billion people, but I’ll certainly speak for myself: I have no problem with “uncomfortable” accounting. Recent coverage of child laborers in Shenzhen for example; I have no problems with that. I’ve also expressed in the past my lack of *interest* in Hu Jia, but I have never described Western coverage of his case as being especially biased or inaccurate.

However, there is a huge amount of Western coverage that is sloppy, or simply unfair in effect, if not actually provably false. I came across this rather representative sample just yesterday:

When Wang Qian told us he loves to read the works of Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald, we were surprised. English literature is not widely available in China, where the government still censors what people read.

We were even more surprised when, during our interview, Wang quoted the fall of Babel, a Bible story. One of his former teachers at Dalian University of Foreign Languages had loaned him the Bible, which is commonly suppressed in
officially atheist China.

So, again, there’s not a single statement above that’s actually factually *false*. The Chinese government does indeed censor what’s available to be read, although the list of books actually banned in this day and age is tiny indeed (and most definitely doesn’t include “English literature). The Chinese government is also officially atheist, and does indeed frown heavily upon foreign missionaries that bring in their own translations of the bible (especially in large quantity).

But the end effect remains ridiculous and unrecognizable to the Chinese actually familiar with China. The Bible, for one, is available for sale in any Christian church. And Mark Twain’s books (as well as any works of English literature that I personally am aware of) is available in just about any decent bookstore.

This is just one example. I’m too tired tonight to dig into the false impression spread in the aftermath of the 3.14 riots. I’ve talked about it on other blogs previously.

May 1, 2008 @ 3:27 pm | Comment

Heck, I could get a lot more patronizing if I tried.

Notice I said “some Chinese people.” I am certainly not including everyone or you in this category.

But honestly. You cherry-picked the most critical thing out of my comment, the bulk of which was saying that there is bias and inaccurate reporting in the Western media about China, that the bias is due to a number of factors: deliberate distortions to advance a particular agenda, ignorance, and restrictions put on Western journalists – hell, ALL journalists – by the Chinese government.

What do you want me to say? That everything reported in the Western press is “wrong”? That I don’t think that SOME responses by SOME Chinese people in these threads and elsewhere are a trifle, I dunno, defensive? Over the top? When somebody in the comment previous to mine tells me that the LA Times reporting on this has been “better” because of Chinese students throwing bottles in USC lecture halls? Come on.

I await the cries of “Americans do it too!” which are sure to follow…

And p.s. – I know that.

May 1, 2008 @ 3:28 pm | Comment

I’m in the mood to shut the whole thing down… Thanks for helping, Lisa.

May 1, 2008 @ 5:19 pm | Comment

I was a Fengqing once, yeah, many years ago. I risked my life on the streets of Beijing that summer, 1989, among many others.

2 months later, when my German teacher was about to leave China for good, he came to my place to say goodbye. We were very close. I showed him the pictures I took on June 4th and 5th, when I walked some 50 km on foot on Beijing’s streets (because the public transportation was down and my bike had been stolen a few days earlier when I slept on the ground of Tiananmen Square one night); there were between 120 and 150 photos. He spent about an hour to go through the pictures, without saying a word. Then he said to me, if I wished, he could take the photos to the embassy and he could guarantee to get me out the country immediately.

But that was not what I planned, I responded. It really sounded stupid and naive, to risk one’s life to take such pictures (two times they actually opened fire) but I really didn’t take those pictures for anyone else except for myself to remember this summer, maybe for my own child in the future, to tell him/her my version of the story. I knew it could help me to get a foreign passport (many of my classmates did, and I don’t blame them for that). I just never planned to leave China.

That would make me like Wang Dan or Wuer Kaixi, I told my teacher, which I didn’t like from the very beginning, and I never thought they could represent us. They were opportunists to me from the first moment I saw them, and in the years to come, they didn’t prove me wrong.

After a few years, when I think of that turbulent summer, I’m so glad that we didn’t succeed in putting the likes of Wang Dan and Wuer Kaxi into power. It would be a true disaster for our nation. (BTW, anyone heard of these clowns recently? Are they still pursuing their “dreams” of a democratic China? Or just wasting US taxpayers’ money?)

While I still don’t like the CCP in many ways, I have to admit China is still far from breeding another political force mature enough to replace it, keeping the economic going and preventing chaos at the same time.

If China would adopt the Western democracy, considering the historical/cultural background, it’s highly possible that a nationalist/opportunist gets elected as the new leader of China. Those Fengqing can make themselves heard, more than any other groups in our society.

So a question for those foreign “friends” who are appealing for the freedom of expression in China…Are these Fengqings expressing their opinions freely (even if it’s only tolerated because it was not against the CCP?) Do you like their expressing? Apparently not.

If there were a free election tomorrow in China…I don’t have any idea who’s gonna win the leadership…But one thing would be 100% certain: There would be no more talks with DL.

May 2, 2008 @ 1:11 am | Comment

I went to the Carrefour protest in Xi’an today. Mostly young, frustrated 20-something males. It was very peaceful, though they did repeatedly chant ‘look down upon foreign countries’ (bi shi wai guo), followed by ‘the Olympics is for the whole world.’

I was asked a few times where I was from and what I thought of the protest. I replied I was all for freedom of speech. One emotionally charged individual shredded a Carrefour advertisement and threw it defiantly in the air, only to be reprimanded by his countrymen because ‘a Chinese would have to clean that up’. Since when did that matter in China?!

After this awkward loss of face, the individual made in my direction to make amends and demanded to know if I was French. Sadly for him, I’m not. He tried to explain how angry he was in faltering English at which point a sizeable audience was forming around us and I made my escape.

The protest was not too large (down the street there was a larger crowd for a Lenovo promotion show), and mostly onlookers not taking part in the chants. One middle aged ayi bought the students a crate of bottled water (not Evian), and some throat sweets to help with the chanting. bless.

It was very peaceful and while some looked like they wanted to eat me, others smiled and said hello. and that’s basically China.

May 2, 2008 @ 1:19 am | Comment

There is a huge backlash against the Chinese student demonstrations in Korea right now. For more, read the headlines in Chosun Ilbo:

May 2, 2008 @ 1:27 am | Comment


Nice comment.

I have met every one of those so called student leaders of the 1989 demonstrations except Wang Dan, and getting to know some of them reasonably well. (I lived in Princeton at that time and just about all of them settled in Princeton after leaving China.) The best I can say about them is that Bai Mong (White Dream), who wrote the declaration of hunger strike, is a chain smoking women chasing literature thug but a nice person nevertheless. He is not exactly political either. For the rest, I realized that I despise just about every one of them. They have blood on their hands.

I also never met any Chinese who experienced the June 4th trama, directly or indirectly, who did not feel fortunate that China did not follow the path of Russia.

China is on a right path. And the support shown by all the Chinese in and out of the country when she is bullied is nothing but rational expression of free speech.

May 2, 2008 @ 1:34 am | Comment

This Youtube video from Seoul will probably make headlines:

May 2, 2008 @ 1:42 am | Comment

William, thanks for sharing your story. Here’s a question for you: does greater freedom of expression necessarily lead to “democracy”? And when we talk about democracy, what are we really talking about?

I recently watched the HBO series JOHN ADAMS, about one of the founders of the American republic. I really enjoyed it. Much of the series dealt with issues like, what is the proper role of government? How much is too much and how much is not enough? How do you allow for democratic expression without becoming overwhelmed by the rule of the mob?

I’m far from a nationalist at this point in my life, but I do appreciate the governmental structures set up by the founders. I wonder if it’s still possible to live up to their ideals and also their pragmatism?

May 2, 2008 @ 1:49 am | Comment

China is on a better path than Russia, I do admit. China is very self examine at this point in time about where the country is going, whereas in Russia…..they are sort of doing their own little thing, Putin is the king, that’s the another thing, how much the foreign press aren’t more critical of Russia? They are no better and in most ways worse than China.

May 2, 2008 @ 1:53 am | Comment

To live up to the standards of the founders of the US….the founders were very wise men who thought of the downside of human beings. But I think in the end, people have to enforced rules that are just and reasonable. There are laws in China, regarding corruption, but some officials don’t follow the rules than we have this huge problem. That goes for the west too. Corruption is everywhere but for each country is a matter of degree.

May 2, 2008 @ 1:57 am | Comment

In the name of stability, CCP tries to silence those who want to speak up about social injustice. That’s wrong. That’s unjust, that does nothing good to improve China’s image to the people and to the world.
The CCP no doubt has been putting lots of its own people in house arrest recently because of the Olympics.

May 2, 2008 @ 2:11 am | Comment

Now all the eyes are on CHina, it’s a great thing, the pressure the CCP is feeling to get their act together when it comes to safety issue(train crash), child labor issue, media issue, and freedom of the press and expression. People in many parts of the world enjoy the freedom to simply speak their minds, why shouldn’t Chinese have that simple right? All the world media will make China give a little, I hope, so the global media when they come to Beijing can do their jobs on reporting what they see and reporting on what the people feel and hope, as well as their fears.

May 2, 2008 @ 2:22 am | Comment


Thanks for sharing your story. I can totally relate and I share the same feelings as yours.

I did came to the states after the 64 incident though. However, I wasn’t trying to escape repression, I was here to pursuit higher education. I remember I had to lie to the school security office (about participating in the demonstrations) to get my passport.

Have you heard that Wang Dan is planning a hunger strike if Chinese government doesn’t allow him to go back to China? I almost fell out of my chair when I read that news . That was funny! Oh, the irony. Life must be miserable if you are somebody else’s lapdog.

May 2, 2008 @ 2:41 am | Comment

Yes, imprisonment and exile always get a laugh out of me. HI-(wait for it)-larious!

May 2, 2008 @ 2:58 am | Comment

Notice how Carrefour is the only French company receiving protests? There are so many others in China but they are centered on infrastructure, energy and dual use technologies, so they are protected by the CCP and PLA.

May 2, 2008 @ 2:59 am | Comment

Kebab boy,

Haven’t heard the “design flaw” issue of the French nuclear power plant?

The real protest can only be felt by the people at the very top.

May 2, 2008 @ 3:40 am | Comment


Learn to deal with dissent. The fact that I called one of your statements patronizing is no reason to get “mad”.

Yes, you did indeed give a list of reasons explaining why the Western media provides biased reporting. So, if that’s the case, why are you critical of fenqing displeased with biased Western media? Why do you patronizingly conclude your previous discussion, by implying that protests aimed at Western media are borne of an inability to accept reasonable criticism?

Don’t “some” Chinese have the right to be angry with a Western media too lazy, too rigid in their world-view, too inward-looking to get the full story? Why aren’t you *encouraging* the Chinese marching in the streets of both China and the United States, after all, we’re bringing a spotlight onto the specific biases of the Western media that you too view with regret? Aren’t we participating in the political process in the progressive West precisely the way it was intended to function?

May 2, 2008 @ 3:53 am | Comment

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