Just a short note on unhappy China

Too wiped out to put up anything new, and know I’ve been delinquent the past couple of days. In the meantime, two worthwhile links:

Unhappy China – a translation of one of the best critiques of the much-discussed book. (Via Danwei.)

An Unsure China Steps Upon the World Stage – a good read after the Unhappy China link above.

Aside from that, let me just make one brief observation: This week I’ve been reading scores of articles on the financial crisis from a wide array of Chinese media, some written in English and others translated into English. One thing I suddenly realized today: Nearly every single one of them begins by stating matter-of-factly, in more or less these words, “The global recession, which was caused by America’s financial irresponsibility….” At a point later on in each article, with uncanny regularity, appears another matter-of-fact reference, this time to the certainty that China’s situation is now improving, the worst is over and it’s now just a matter of putting the finishing touches on a successful stimulus plan.

Now, I am the first to admit this disaster was to a very large extent caused by American fiscal irresponsibility. However, I also know that the exact same message planted in the opening sentences of one article after another after another after another is no coincidence and is part of a propaganda campaign that has two clear intentions:

1. To make it clear that it was America’s malfeasance that spoiled the party, and
2. To make it clear that China is bouncing back rapidly and was better prepared for catastrophe (through its savings) and better prepared for the arrival of new world order to come.

Keep your eyes opened for similar memes. They don’t just appear in a vacuum, and they are clearly choreographed. And for the record (yes, another mandatory disclaimer), I am not necessarily disagreeing with either of those two items – there’s some truth to both, though how much is impossible to say yet. I’m simply pointing out that we’re witnessing a campaign to engineer the way Chinese people look at this disaster – as entirely America’s fault, without question, and China’s opportunity. China was blameless, a victim, but thanks to its wisdom it will ultimately benefit from America’s blight on the world.

Both of the two links above offer insight into this mentality and how it relates to the present mood in the country. The popularity of Unhappy China makes perfect sense.

The Discussion: 43 Comments

Yeah! Sorry France…America is reclaiming the throne as most favored nation to (mis)direct China’s anger on…just click your heels three times and repeat “China has no problems, BLAME AMERICA”, “the CCP will will lead us to a bright future, BLAME AMERICA”…”BLAME AMERICA”, “BLAME AMERICA”, “GOD DAMN THE AMERICANS”…all questions answered, it’s just that simple. Don’t think about, JUST DO IT!

This campaign has been in the works for some time, I’m dreading future political discussions…

April 2, 2009 @ 9:22 pm | Comment

Dead Chicken (死鸡 )

Marc Faber: “The best that the government could have done would have been to take a more severe recession in 2001, and then all the excess that followed would not have occurred. Now, we have an environment where the patient has died; no matter how much stimulus there is, it’s not going to revive the economy.”


April 2, 2009 @ 9:26 pm | Comment

Andy, you’re right, it’s probably been in the making for some time. It was only today that I noticed it regimented and put into place, assembly-line style, so blatantly, Could be I just hadn’t been looking before. Being forced to comb through hundreds of Chinese media stories is a revealing exercise.

April 2, 2009 @ 9:32 pm | Comment

As I write this, I’m looking out my apartment window at the adjacent apartment building. Some Chinese bloke who did not pull his bedroom curtain shut is busily humping his girlfriend. But he doesn’t seem to know how to do it properly. He must work for an American investment bank.

April 2, 2009 @ 9:38 pm | Comment

I agree with the opinion mentioned- “‘Unhappy China’ is All for Show”
By Jing Kaixuan (景凯旋)–except the sentence as quoted as ” in Relationships between nations are not like romantic relationships, which might demand a bit of petulance and coquettishness. I think it is amused to flirt with USA. If USA say “I love you” three times a day and make me laugh,I am yours. Sorry,France, it is too late to do the “right” thing,bad boy.

April 2, 2009 @ 9:43 pm | Comment

@ Thang Long .
Kinder reminder:AD is will be banned in the comment.

April 2, 2009 @ 9:45 pm | Comment


April 2, 2009 @ 9:52 pm | Comment

Quote from Times Online (Jane Macartney)

“The Government’s Xinhua news agency said the book had failed to find an audience among ordinary readers. On douban.com, a popular community for book reviews, it has drawn widespread criticism, with about 300 of 400 comments giving the book just one star out of five. However, an online opinion poll found 78 per cent of respondents approved of the book’s criticism of elites.”

This is revealing…

April 2, 2009 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

Richard: I take Thang Long’s remark as a apartment-lease advertisement.

April 2, 2009 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

Have you ever hear of the fenqing phenomenon, the angry youth who habituate the Internet? 🙂

April 2, 2009 @ 9:59 pm | Comment

Ah, now I get it, amadeus. Good to see you have a sense of humor!

April 2, 2009 @ 10:00 pm | Comment

This article on the CAEA chinese language webpage must be part of the wave.


“CNNC requires nuclear power enterprises to take the lead in risk management.”

The article leads off with the global financial crises, then mentions risk management principles for china’s nuclear power industry. Then talks about cash flow mangement and exchange rate management. Last part says something about strengthening management and control of the financial derivative products profession, being cautious in developing the financial derivatives profession, the importance of abiding by the principles of hedging investments and prohibiting speculative behavior.

It is almost like this article about risk management discussions at a Chinese nuclear power conference was really addressed to wall street, geitner and bernanke.

Also saw today in the news that China is allowing several countries to use RMB instead of dollars to make purchases in china and wants to isolate the global economy from problems with the US dollar.

They have some valid criticisms, but as far as China’s ability to isolate the US from the global economy, well good luck with that.

April 2, 2009 @ 10:18 pm | Comment

[Quiet set…Action kids.]

“China is bouncing…rapidly and prepared…to come.”

April 2, 2009 @ 10:30 pm | Comment

Richard: just for your information,I’m a Ph.D too,either Philosophiae Doctor or Pretty Huge Dick, of which you think I am. But I am sure I not the Ph.D which the author of the above article thinks. So,please delete the comment #10, it seems to kindly remind that I am that kind of Ph.D. I really mean it. And give me an apology.

April 2, 2009 @ 11:26 pm | Comment

Amadeus, you totally misunderstood something. Time to set the record straight quickly. Comment #10 was addressed to Andy R., not to you. Your comment came in between. Look carefully – I refer to “fenqing” in response to Andy’s description of how polls on the Internet show 78 percent approval for the book Unhappy Chinese, far, far more than in offline polls. That’s why I linked it back to Jeremiah’s post on how the fenqing have a disproportionate presence and voice on the Internet. Clear?

So please understand, I was not addressing that to you. I do apologize for any misunderstanding.

April 2, 2009 @ 11:34 pm | Comment

Yeah, everyone is saying it’s America’s fault. It’s just sooo useful from deflecting from what went on in their own nations.

The only reason Gordon Brown can have a love-in with Obama is that the Prez was elected after everything started going wrong. Can you imagine what it would be like if, arguably, Obama’s administration could have done something but didn’t?

Brown: Oh, goody, I can palm off responsibility for my cr*p management of UK financial institutions on to the Americans.

But wait, that means criticising Obama in some way. The British public likes Obama.

But that means I can’t blame the financial crisis on America.

And that means I have to accept responsibility for the UK’s recession.


*Brown’s head explodes*

April 3, 2009 @ 12:37 am | Comment

not everyone is blaming america – here’s richard spencer’s latest missive


April 3, 2009 @ 12:41 am | Comment

Seriously, it is America’s fault. Yes, every country has its problem. But regarding this financial crisis, as a matter of fact, it is America’s fault. Period. You might not want to hear this. But, personal feelings can hardly change this fact. Let’s focus on what we can do to get out of it.

April 3, 2009 @ 12:48 am | Comment

Both the referenced articles were interesting. I had not been aware of “Unhappy China”. I doubt I will read it, but it was good to read the opinions of the chinese scholars who disagree with the unhappy chinese.

I thought these two quotes to be worth commenting on:

“Chinese anger demands the emergence of a group of heroes to ‘lead our people to successfully control and use more resources, ridding [the world of] of bullies and bringing peace to good people.’”

If china cannot rid it self of its own bullies how can begin to rid the world of bullies. If they cannot recognize the bully within themselves, how could they possibly determine who the bullies are in the rest of the world.

What do they mean by “peace” here? Hu Jintao’s harmonious society?

“would mean not just a ‘qualified break’ with the West, but could only be accomplished through [what they call] the ‘liberation of the whole world.’”

How can they liberate a world they know nothing about and how would they know if the world wants to be liberated. sounds like the neocons and iraq.

It was refreshing to hear the voices of actualchinese scholars who disagree with the authors of “unhappy china”

April 3, 2009 @ 1:05 am | Comment

I find the pattern/meme of these articles interesting, thanks for pointing it out Richard.

So it’s a calculated campaign from the top?

April 3, 2009 @ 1:09 am | Comment

bloomberg is reporting that China leaders plan to make it easier for trading partners and consumers to do business in yuan.

The People’s Bank of China will provide 650 billion yuan ($95 billion) to Argentina, Belarus, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea through currency swaps.


Zhang Ming some finance expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said “China has learned from this financial crisis that we must reduce reliance on the dollar and promote the yuan as a regional or international currency,” “We need to shield our economy from any more turmoil in the U.S.”

Indonesia import/export businesses and Hong Kong retailers were mentioned as being happy about this.

The international finance and international economics people will understand what this means more than I.

I guess it simplifies things to exchange currencies directly with out using the dollar as middle exchange currency. especially beneficial in countries where lots of chinese go for tourism, like hong kong, south korea or those they import and export a lot with.

Sounds to me like this will make it hard for china to fix their exchange rate with the us dollar and it be forced to float the exchange rate with the us more in the future.

i doubt this will help shield them from turmoil in the US economy. seems to me south korea, indonesia, argentina will still have to use dollars for trade with us and other countries.

i would think a stronger yuan would mean they would be spending more overseas.

if they swapped $95B with Argentina, Belarus, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea that means they now have $95B worth of those countries currencies. i guess those countries never have any economic turmoil.

April 3, 2009 @ 3:40 am | Comment

Keep your eyes opened for similar memes. They don’t just appear in a vacuum, and they are clearly choreographed. And for the record (yes, another mandatory disclaimer), I am not necessarily disagreeing with either of those two items – there’s some truth to both, though how much is impossible to say yet. I’m simply pointing out that we’re witnessing a campaign to engineer the way Chinese people look at this disaster – as entirely America’s fault, without question, and China’s opportunity. China was blameless, a victim, but thanks to its wisdom it will ultimately benefit from America’s blight on the world.

Maybe a fenwai or a crappeyouthe (british fenqing) can create anti-CCTV.com

China is almost universally called a “currency manipulator” “trade cheat” or “red/communist China” whenever the time arises.

Payback is certainly a bitch.

April 3, 2009 @ 4:53 am | Comment

Lindel ,

If you looked into the economic problems of those countries. Most of them involved the foreign capital such as USD. Some of these deals make sense because countries like Argentina and Indonesia have raw materials and agricultural goods that China really needs. Unlike U.S., which is an agricultural goods exporter, China can have a backup food supply without using USD. The size of the swap line is quite small that it can easily managed so that uncertainty in those countries will not affect China anywhere near the scale of impact by U.S. If the scale is controlled to an extent, this swap-practice can extend to any country that has a large trade relationship with China. This would eventually make China a better position to secure natural resources supply and foreign markets.

April 3, 2009 @ 5:07 am | Comment

Ah, Chine malheureuse!
Comme tes va et tes viens
Font des brou et des ha
Comme tes pensées floues
Sans objet ou logique
Aboutissent néanmoins
Se couper un chemin
Vers les cœurs incertains
Démunis citoyens
Quel malheur ce réveil
Cauchemardesque d’un sommeil
Encore pire…

April 3, 2009 @ 7:52 am | Comment

zjin, did you read the link Si left?

I think it is America’s fault, mainly. It’s much more complex than that, because there was collusion by many others. But I always put the blame mainly on America. But this post wasn’t about whether that was so or not. It’s about an organized, nationwide campaign to drive home the idea, “This happened to us because of bad people/policies in America.

Matt, from the tippy top.

April 3, 2009 @ 8:52 am | Comment

This is just my impression, but it seems to me the title “Unhappy China” in English gives a completely opposite impression to the Chinese original. “Unhappy China” makes me think of somebody who is unhappy (ie depressed) sitting by themselves thinking about their problems. 中国不高兴 sounds more like “China is really Not Happy” or even “China is Pissed Off”.

April 3, 2009 @ 8:59 am | Comment

The authors were “unhappy” with the translated title, Peter. They wnted to call it something like, Ways to Imprive China (yawn – who’d buy?).

Ferin, China did manipulate its currency and kept the yuan low and never disputed that. But compared with the US bankers’ crimes, that was nothing. Not even a crime, just an unfair practice, but China sure isn’t the only one to implement unfair economic practices.

April 3, 2009 @ 9:04 am | Comment

@Richard #10

Fenqing? Never heard of them…sounds fun though!HAHA

Anyway, my point to posting that quote was that we all need to keep in mind (me especially) that China is NOT full of fenqing (…and according to this article, this book though well-sold isn’t resonating with the majority opinion at least its xenophobia doesn’t seem to be.

What is interesting to me is that its attacks on the elites i.e. the government are resonating…78%?!?!?!

April 3, 2009 @ 9:25 am | Comment

What do you think of Obama meeting the Royal Family in London?
When do you think Obama will ride into Beijing town to explain his economic policies?


April 3, 2009 @ 9:41 am | Comment

Chairman Mao once said; if we want to liberate the world, we must liberate ourselves first. However, the people in China are politically deprived and are virtually political slaves in comparison with the people in the free society. Actually they themselves are waiting to be liberated. The Chinese people has been made miserable by their rulers through out the history and they never have the right to complain or protest it. Historically the Chinese people are just unhappy people and they can do nothing about it. But it doesn’t preclude some people in China from becoming maniac, being out of touch with the reality and fantasizing to free the world.

It is true that China has a lot of money to wield while the Soviet Union had a huge nuclear arsenals to wield and the Middle East has a lot of oil. It has been proven that their advantage can become counterproductive to themselves. Be careful.

April 3, 2009 @ 11:42 am | Comment

Richard, I do agree with your observation that the coverage on Chinese press often include these two points. Like you said in your comments, many of us all agree that it is indeed, to most extent if not all, America’s fault.

However, as for the second point, I have to argue that it is not likely to be a “well-organized national campaign”. Reporters are professionally trained to write stories from a “relevance” perspective. Remember the relevance theory? So why shouldn’t Chinese reporters mention China’s better financial position when writing about this global crisis? I think they should and in fact by mentioning that, it makes those coverage better stories for Chinese readers.

April 3, 2009 @ 2:09 pm | Comment

What really cracks me up about this (my sense of humor is shall we say pretty dark) is that for years the world complained about spendthrift Americans buying too much crap, and the minute that Americans stop buying so much crap, the global economy goes into a tailspin.

Oh well.

April 3, 2009 @ 2:24 pm | Comment


Same thoughts

April 3, 2009 @ 2:43 pm | Comment

Sydney, it is not that they are mentioning it. It is that they are mentioning it with almost the identical words. i’ve been watching this kind of reporting in China for years and it’s quite easy to spot. This was not professional reporting, it was professional stenography.

Lisa, it’s not QUITE that simple, but close enough. The buying of crap would be fine – if people actually had the money to pay for it, Buying on credit is a whole different story.

April 3, 2009 @ 2:44 pm | Comment

Well, without getting into this argument too deeply…there are the people who bought crap that they couldn’t afford on credit, and there are the people who have been using credit because they’ve had no other choice. I mean, I think there has been a hidden recession in the States for many many years, and it’s because wages have not risen for thirty years in America, and at the same time, income inequality has grown tremendously – the gap between the rich and the poor is as big as it was during the Gilded Age.

But you know, China has been fueling the debt and stockpiling dollars – definitely an enabler at the very least. This is an interdependent dance, and the unwinding of it is going to be very complicated. The best scenario is, it happens slowly so that both sides have a chance to adjust their economies to the new reality – e.g., Americans aren’t going to be buying so much of China’s exports, so China needs to encourage domestic consumption to keep all those factories humming and those tens of millions of migrant workers working. Meanwhile, America will need to rebuild its own industrial base and make the kinds of infrastructure investments that China is making now. Unfortunately, I see little sign of this commitment in Washington, which means that the recession/depression is going to go on a lot longer than it needs to.

April 3, 2009 @ 2:59 pm | Comment

No arguments.

“A little bit longer” – as in, several years. And whem it’s over, it really will be a whole new world.

April 3, 2009 @ 3:44 pm | Comment

Well, I said “a lot longer.” I really don’t know how long it will be. Because I honestly think we’ve been in a silent recession for years. But I guess I measure these things differently than the economic geniuses who got us into this mess.

My fear is that we’re watching the endgame of the vast scheme that’s been funneling money out of the poor, working and middle classes in America and into the hands of the very few. And while I’m happy to see China’s standard of living rise, the other side of it is that this scheme is creating the same kind of huge disparity in wealth.

April 3, 2009 @ 3:53 pm | Comment

sorry don’t have my reading glasses! Not sure how to define a silent recession, but I know we’ve been in a working man’s depression for mayn years now. The American worker has now idea how fucked they actually are, and get moved to elect leaders over such important issues as gay marriage and flag-burning amendments.

I’m resigned to the huge disparity in wealth. Evil, but no change in sight.

April 3, 2009 @ 3:57 pm | Comment

“silent recession” = “working man’s depression” – and I’d add to that the middle class as well. I think a lot of American workers knew they were fucked, they just misread the remedy for that. But on the other hand, who has actually stood up for them in recent years? Just about no one.

April 3, 2009 @ 4:15 pm | Comment

swapping currencies with other trading partners seems like a fundamental thing for most countries to do. exhanging to us dollars then another currency adds an extra step and another level of exchange rate risk. it certainly makes sense for prc to swap currency with major trade partners.

but the idea this will isolate china from turmoil in the us is doubtful. also i was pointing out that some of the countries china is swapping currency with have had their own worse economic turmoil

April 3, 2009 @ 8:20 pm | Comment

What scares me about this book after reading it. It makes me remember a book that was published in 1939 by the Nazi’s called in English “Germany The Strong”. Yes it’s true the content is not the same, but after reading Unhappy China it makes me wondering if any of the authors are related to members of Reichsministerium fur Volksaufklarung und Propaganda or Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Many parts of the book read as if they were taken directly from books published in the late 30.

April 10, 2009 @ 9:49 am | Comment

Before finger pointing at others opportunist chinese should do some introspection. has manipulated its currency to get export
advantage even the chinese wont deny it. Its impossible for the chinese to buy influence in the free wolrd with conservative communist ideals.

April 10, 2009 @ 9:56 am | Comment

[…] visit to Peking Duck led me to this interesting post.  It is a short post and I reproduce almost half of it below: Aside from that, […]

April 12, 2009 @ 12:18 am | Pingback

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