Philip Cunningham on the Zhao memoirs and TSM

We all know I’ve had my rifts with Philip Cunningham before, ever since I first saw him on CCTV-9 at the start of the Iraq war in 2003. But I have to thank him for writing a superb piece (proxy required here, I’m afraid) that makes mincemeat of the revisionist movement I referred to in an earlier post to shift all the blame onto the students and the US media.

I said from the very first day this blog shifted from a place for personal doodling to a place to chronicle my feelings about Chinese life and politics that the students at Tiananmen Square were not angels – but that I loved them anyway. Cunningham knows better than I do. He was there, he stood with them and watched them and knew them. I was only “there” as a spectator watching CNN the first year I was able to afford cable TV, and later, through the books and articles I read after moving to Asia. So I was delighted to see that Cunningham’s observations are so close to my own. This is a sampling; please read the entire article.

The students were indeed imperfect, and in unwitting ways mimicked the best and worst tendencies of their communist elders. But they did not carry out the bloody crackdown, rather certain units of the PLA did. As for the units of the PLA that refused to join the crackdown, they should be considered people’s heroes on a par with the man in front of the tank.


To blame it on the students, as many young people in China do today, is to fall for a propaganda line, to take one’s eye off the ball.


As best I could judge, from studying the crowd every day for a month on the square, is that the ever-shifting crowd largely organised and ordered itself, at once subject to the vagaries of mass psychology and the kinetics of crowd dynamics, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Countless individuals poured into Beijing’s most central plaza to create a vivid living tableau with their passion and dedication to peaceful change; they became part of a whole beyond individual control yet coherent and compelling.


The only real crime was demanding a military solution and then turning the guns on unarmed civilians.

The value of releasing Mr Zhao’s belated memoir, which goes for the jugular by singling out a hard-line clique within the CCP, on this, the 20th anniversary of an unnecessary tragedy, is to get the public eye back on the culpability of those most culpable.

Philip (and this is rhetorical, because I don’t think you hang out here much), I always knew you were brilliant. I also felt you were maddeningly unfair in your taking it easy on the CCP while going after the US with no mercy. But that doesn’t matter right now. I’ve been reading your blog and articles like the one referenced above, and I have to say I have a deep respect for you. It may still piss me off when I think back on those conversations you’d have with Yang Rui on CCTV 9 – the ones where I nearly threw something at the set because I felt you were applying such blatantly different standards to the US and China – but I think your contribution to clearing the air over the tragedy of Tiananmen Square is without parallel, and I admire you for it. There is a lot of obfuscation out there as the anniversary day nears, an insistence that the Chinese people don’t care about the “incident,” that it can all be blamed on the students and the Western media, that the CCP “had to act boldly” or else there would have been no economic miracle, that the bloodshed was all for the best…. So much bullshit. For your clearheaded, unsentimental yet passionate recounting of what actually happened and who is and who is not to blame for the bloodshed, I have only two words: Thank you.

The Discussion: 34 Comments

Once again – I cannot believe that somebody who blames the massacre on the government could then turn around and work for the same people by appearing on CCTV. Especially with that thug Yang Rui. I’m all for nuance and the subtle approach, but some things are just so black-and-white that there is no room for temporising.

The Tiananmen square deniers are clear victims of brainwashing – put it like this, soldiers carrying live ammunition were in the square, and sustained gunfire was heard coming from the square and its surrounding area for hours afterwards, and the hospitals were flooded by people who had suffered bullet wounds. No massacre? What, did the New York Times shoot all those people?

May 19, 2009 @ 1:08 am | Comment

It is too bad that Cunningham has wasted his time. For those who has the ability and inclination to doubt the Chinese government, they already know what is going on. For those decided to be cheated will not change their mind just because a westerner wrote about it, no matter how good the reasons are. It is an issue of faith. There is no rationale. Some one just accepted CCP as God.

May 19, 2009 @ 4:17 am | Comment

Bill, I’m not sure I follow you – Philip Cunningham accepted the CCP as God? I used to think that, but looking at his writings a little more objectively I’d have to say that’s not quite the case.

Once again – I cannot believe that somebody who blames the massacre on the government could then turn around and work for the same people by appearing on CCTV.

FOARP, I really think you are too dogmatic. I had friends here who detested the government and blamed them for every sin under the sun, yet they took money from it and worked for it, either as a professor in a government school or a functionary for BOCOG, or whatever. And I don’t hold that against them. I hated the Bush administration but I still supported them by paying my taxes. I have friends in DC who worked for the Bush regime. I don’t denounce them because they work for the regime that condoned torture. Let’s stay rational – if you want to be totally untouched by the corruption of the world, you will exist in a cocoon with little possibility of getting much done. Another friend of mine is an outspoken critic of the CCP, and an occasional defender as well; he appears regularly on CCTV, and that’s fine – he’s making a difference. Do we all just get up and leave any country whose government does bad things? If so, where do go? And is there anything wrong with trying to make things better?

May 19, 2009 @ 3:22 pm | Comment

I think I’d sorta draw the line at working in the Bush Administration…. 🙂

Just ordered my copy of the memoirs. I’m looking forward to reading!

May 19, 2009 @ 3:33 pm | Comment

Right, Lisa – but if you were a State Department employee, would you have resigned? It’s a tough issue. At what point is someone an accomplice as opposed to a functionary? Each of us has to make our decision. It’s nearly impossible to say what the “right answer” is.

May 19, 2009 @ 3:42 pm | Comment

Well, I was being snarky, but yeah, there were plenty of people in the State Department fighting the good fight during the years of Bush. It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is.

May 19, 2009 @ 3:53 pm | Comment

@Richard – You may remember the little set-to I had with Chris Gelken (of BizChina fame) a while back on Sinocidal, after he started writing editorials in the Korean Herald accusing the western press of being one-sided. I understand that, after a spell of working for the Iranian state media, he is now back in China working for CRI. I found him typical of many of the foreigners who work for state media, the kind of person who might easily have followed in the steps of William Joyce, the kind of person MAJ would be if he weren’t quite so obviously bat-shit insane. I am not saying that all of them are, just a good portion.

Essentially my attitude hasn’t change. Sure, there is a necessary level of compromise involved in living and working in China, even if all you have done is pay taxes or work for a university. I have no beef with people who work in areas of tourism, state run industries, development, engineering, education, health care, or law reform for the Chinese state, these people do make a genuine difference even if they do also advance state policy. However, appearing in state media requires a higher level of compromise. Certainly higher than I would ever wish to make, and I cannot for the life of me see an upside to it. I understand that you have made your own choice and do not need me to recapitulate all of the things which you have surely already considered and are your own personal business.

May 19, 2009 @ 4:06 pm | Comment

Appreciate your straightforward response, FOARP. As I said on Danwei, I saw some opportunities for reform, and if I am disillusioned I’ll leave. I have several friends who have worked for Chinese media, including some of the bloggers on my blogroll, and I don’t fault them at all for it. I guess we each have to have our own standards and decide what lines we can and cannot cross.

May 19, 2009 @ 5:15 pm | Comment

somewhat tangentially, but reading the other thread just now it struck me how offensive it is when people who blame the students refer to them as naive. naive not to expect the army to shoot them dead? naive to think their government could change, listen to them, care about them. naive to think they could make a difference?

is this the same kind of naivety Daniel Pearl had when he thought he could walk around Pakistan and NOT be killed?

this is such obvious “blame the victim” drivel

schoolyard bullshit, akin to the threats against Taiwan: any declaration of independence will severely threaten peace across the straits…
Taiwan: yes, but it’s you who will, like, attack.
CCP: But you asked for it, so it’s your fault.

curiously, victim blaming is a feature of fascism. a harmonious society would tend to engender more of this as well, as supposedly everything is “fair” and “just”.

and it makes the blamers feel safer.

May 20, 2009 @ 3:12 am | Comment

Cerebus, nice to see you here.

May 20, 2009 @ 4:58 pm | Comment

The real problem with Philip Cunningham is not his back-and-forth sense of politics. The real problem is that we really cannot be sure what he did or saw in 1989.

Cunningham says that he was a journalist. Who did he file copy for? You cannot find his name on any stories during that time, only commentary about Thailand and Japan years later, with the rare reference to the 89 events when he apparently felt like it. Now, it all comes back to Cunningham, that he was a major figure in the demonstrations, marching, reporting, interviewing–but never writing anything or filing copy.

But now his writings and posts indicate that he was a translator, a fixer (“find me someone I can interview and film”), and someone who was supposed to get a sense of what was going on, so real reporters at the BBC and ABC could talk about it. But Cunningham a “journalist”? Hardly. He was never accredited, nor did he (by his own accounts) have a journalist visa. What sort of journalist marches with the protestors to show his support? Do that as a real reporter and one would get fired. Cunningham didn’t because he was never a reporter.

Cunningham was a student at Beshida. He happened to know some people from the campus, who knew some others, and because he was studying Chinese, he was in the right place at the right time. He ended up filming one of the student leaders, as part of his work for the Beeb. He never asked her any questions in the film shown in the PBS documentary on the events. But Cunningham did turn that film over to ABC, contrary to that leader’s instructions and his promise not to do so. She later turned on him and disavowed any relationship.

Other student leaders who he talks about in his postings have also stated elsewhere that they felt betrayed, saying that they never realized that the irregular, friendly conversations would then become the basis of interviews he gave later on about the demonstrations, interviews in which he claimed he was privy to all sorts of inside secrets. You can bet that he never told his subjects that he was conducting interviews as a journalist because he was never a journalist, he was a student.

So, either Cunningham lied to those people about what he was really up to, or he is lying to us about his access and his role. Perhaps he has done both.

As for his “review” of the Zhao book, where is the review? Did he read the book, which was embargoed for weeks, and sold out in Hong Kong? The essay does not indicate that he did read it, for much of the piece is about Philip Cunningham. But if Cunningham knew everybody and saw everything (“I was on the square every day for a month), why didn’t he see Zhao?

He even claims that the Tank Man photo was taken from his hotel room. Where did that claim come from? In an opinion piece a few months ago, Cunningham criticized the BBC and John Simpson, mentioning that he was in a hotel room rented by THEM, which he says overlooked the square. The picture of the Tank Man was taken by a photographer from a completely different vantage point, and in the photographer, in his account of the famous shot, said that he rented a hotel room for himself. Not surprisingly, the photographer mentions nothing at all about Cunningham, probably because he had no idea who Cunningham was nor that Cunningham would make such a claim 20 years later and try to steal the spotlight.

Zhao’s book is a memoir. Cunningham’s account is something else.

And this comment is loaded with innuendo and some outright falsehoods.

May 20, 2009 @ 9:19 pm | Comment

@Belinda – Well, that seems pretty conclusive. Not a journalist, went against the express instructions of his sources, disputed level of involvement (and the man he is disputing with is John Simpson, probably the most respected British journalist since the late James Cameron). I think anyone familiar with the expat scene knows exactly what this kind of person is – a fantasist, the type of which one meets far too many.

May 21, 2009 @ 6:06 am | Comment

This is Belinda’s first comment (welcome). She might be totally spot- on with all her points, but I’d prefer to do at least a bit of checking before I take it all at face value, FOARP.

Belinda, I casually,referred to Cunningham’s piece as a “review,” which you jumped on. He never called it a review, I did. More accurate would be calling it a “reaction” to news of the Zhao memoirs. Don’t make mountains out of molehills.

Cunningham says that he was a journalist. Cunningham says that he was a journalist. Who did he file copy for? You cannot find his name on any stories during that time

He filed stories for the BBC and ABC, I believe. His interview with Chai Ling, as you mention, is available online. Remember, there was no Internet then – how did you determine he never filed stories at that time? If you’re just using google, it doesn’t cut it. I wrote hundreds of articles for US papers you’ll never find online.

But Cunningham a “journalist”? Hardly. He was never accredited, nor did he (by his own accounts) have a journalist visa. What sort of journalist marches with the protesters to show his support? Do that as a real reporter and one would get fired. Cunningham didn’t because he was never a reporter.

I don’t know if he ever claimed to be an accredited reporter. Do you? But just about anyone who was there, as applies to any major historical event like an earthquake or 911, in the thick of history, is a potential reporter. Unaccredited perhaps, but not to be discounted or invalidated out of hand simply because they are not accredited or have friends on one side or the other. And no, you would not get fired for marching in the protests if you were there talking to the marchers and gathering material. Think about embedded reporters. There they are in the battle marching with the soldiers. And yet they are still reporters. Most of the reporters there “participated” in one way or another, befriending students and asking for their help. Sorry, but that is how journalism works, for better or worse. Of course, that has to be followed by independent research. But when you’re right there in the midst of a crisis, a reporter needs as much guanxi as possible to get statements and find out what’s happening.

Several of the journalists befriended students and “participated” to some extent. This is just a journalistic fact: you must cultivate sources, hopefully on both sides. If Cunningham were there as a NYT or CNN reporter you’d be correct, he should not have marched with and supported the students. But from what I can see he was there as a “citizen journalist, at the right place at the right time (as you say) – and that is exactly when citizen journalists are valuable. He was always upfront about joining with the students. If you found that he was deceptive, or lied about this you might have an interesting point. Right now, all I see in your comment is a lot of hostility toward Cunningham (something I’ve felt myself at times in the past) and tons of circumstantial evidence but no real case.

As for his “review” of the Zhao book, where is the review? Did he read the book, which was embargoed for weeks, and sold out in Hong Kong? The essay does not indicate that he did read it, for much of the piece is about Philip Cunningham. But if Cunningham knew everybody and saw everything (”I was on the square every day for a month), why didn’t he see Zhao?

As mentioned, I called it a review, not him, and that was not a correct descriptor. Did he make any false claims in the essay about reading it? What exactly is your beef here? “if Cunningham knew everybody and saw everything… why didn’t he see Zhao?” Wow. Have you ever been in a massive demonstration with so many people – probably more people per square foot than anywhere on earth at the moment? Do you think that just by being a the site (which is not exactly a little picnic area but the size of a small city) he had to have seen Zhao? What exactly are you trying to say?

I am willing to give you the complete benefit of the doubt and believe everything you say. But you have to explain how you researched your claims and what exactly Cunningham did to make you so negative and skeptical. I’m skeptical by nature, but knowing how journalism works and looking at Cunningham’s work over the years, not always uncritically, I can’t understand where you are coming from.

FOARP, you in particular, as a natural researcher and cynic, should see that Belinda’s points beg for clarification before being accepted a the final word.

May 21, 2009 @ 9:39 am | Comment


As someone who participated in the movement and who narrowly escaped arrest afterward (that’s another story), I have three things to say:

1. I have no regret for what we (most of us students) did by then because we did the right thing;
2. But I had realised that the government also did the right thing by taking “bold actions”;
3. The CCP proved to be much better than the so called “student leaders”.

We all did what we had to do, otherwise China wouldn’t be today’s China. Any (realistic) alternative history would be too dreadful to contemplate.

May 21, 2009 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

Image, that is the party line, 100 percent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The only mystifying part is the crackdown. The simple argument Cunningham makes is that Deng could have had his way, dealing with the students and ending the demonstrations, but without the bloodshed. That’s all. To say the only way was to open fire is incomprehensible. And I know there were a few isolated areas where opening fire on violent workers was perhaps justified. But on many of the side streets along the square it was unnecessary. Peaceful demonstrators were killed, and I won’t hail that as bold or brilliant strategy.

And the thing about imaging any other solution is “too dreadful to contemplate” – that is precisely what they want you to think. Is it really too dreadful to think of a peaceful solution?

May 21, 2009 @ 2:12 pm | Comment


As an economist (in a prestigious Inidan brokerage house by the way), I can tell you that, when the CCP do things (especially with regard to economic policies), they alway overkill – better to be safe than to regret.

It is dreadful to think of eastern Europe, Russia, southeast Asia and Taiwan. These places were immensely richer than China before their “democracy”, but thinking a poor China to go down the same degeneration is dreadful.

Again, mind you the old Chinese proverb (you don’t hear this in any western media I bet): sometimes it takes a lightning hand to show a buddha’s heart “以霹雳手段,显菩萨心肠”

Not that in anyway I compare the CCP to buddha (they are the most cynical bunch in the earth, comparable to the British). But it is the least bad choice.

May 21, 2009 @ 2:34 pm | Comment

Yeah, better safe than sorry, like locking up all the Mexican passport holders.

You really are a talking points machine. Press the button, out pops the talking point. It’s so easy to blame this or that nation’s failure on democracy. Taiwan, however, only did better and better under democracy, until it was overshadowed by a rising China. Your argument that democracy is the demon that ruined all these nations is simplistic and ignorant (with all due respect). About the CCP being the “least bad choice” – for now I’d probably have to agree, but only because they made any competition impossible through censorship, imprisonment and repression over the decades. China is no longer the totalitarian police state it was just 30 years ago, but all political dissent is still stifled. Criticism is allowed, and today’s media in China love to wag their collective fingers at the government and tell them they need better building inspectors, that we have to have more rural healthcare, that the gaokao sucks, etc. But true political dissent that in any way poses a threat is instantly extinguished. So who could step into the CCP’s shoes? Sad, that a government that achieved so much is so terrified of any competition. Praise it all you want – I praise it myself when I think it’s deserved. But it’s still a one-party dictatorship that will destroy anyone who stands up to it. No wonder the Tank Man photograph scares the party totally shitless.

May 21, 2009 @ 3:03 pm | Comment

@Richard – Point taken.

May 21, 2009 @ 3:10 pm | Comment

Taiwan lost at least 8 years under the clueless DDP and now it has a deeply polarised society just a little bit short of being Thail and where the concept of “loyal opposition” is non-existent.

I know the CCP very well and I have no illusions about it. It is extremely paranoid, instinctly presuming any western ideas or advices as sabotage efforts before taking some considerations of their merits. But guess what, this paranoid worked, at least in the financial and economics fronts. The eastern Europe countries took the “shock therapies” at their own peril and lost at least 10 years.

You have to say that the CCP has been extremely lucky these years, not unlike the US after WWI

May 21, 2009 @ 3:18 pm | Comment

deleted after giving “Belinda” more than an entire day to respond and back up her claims.

May 21, 2009 @ 4:11 pm | Comment

Image, the DPP was incompetent, but Taiwan’s economic future was imperiled long ago as it began to lose manufacturing contracts to less developed countries. The DPP’s tragedy was that instead of grandstanding over the unrealistic banner of independence, it could have been forging constructive ties with China to ensure its relevance in an increasingly PRC-dominated Asia. But you can’t say democracy destroyed them. Hell, democracy gave us George Bush but it’s still the best system we’ve got. Not to say it’s not ready for copious reform…

May 21, 2009 @ 4:14 pm | Comment


You got me wrong. I’m all for democracy, but only for the democracy that delivers, such as American and English ones (I know yours are not perfect, but it got your country to where it is today). Democracy is a means not an end, and I’m resolutely against any use of democracy as excuse for incompetence or twisted mentalities (Taiwan being a prominent example).

Furthermore, I think Bush is a great president. He made only one mistake – Iraq. But he made American people safer – a unappreciated achievement because nothing happens. I bet that you will have a different opinion about him 10 years from now.

May 21, 2009 @ 4:32 pm | Comment

Actually, I must apologise to Philip Cunningham, I was totally wrong and out of line.

Belinda has not substantiated at all her claim that Cunningham claimed to a journalist.He is a journalist now, that’s not disputable, and people often refer to him as journalist when he carried out the interview, but I haven’t been able to find a reference where he himself does that. He supported the demonstrations, and took part in them, and worked for the BBC as a fixer and translator whilst doing so, but there is nothing necessarily contradictory or compromising in this. The part about his observation of the blocking of the tanks – well, anyone who has read any history will be familiar with the confusion that surrounds who saw/did what and when. He did release the Chai interview, and Chai claimed that this was done without her permission, but this is not conclusive of anything except the obvious he-said-she-said.

May 21, 2009 @ 4:34 pm | Comment

Actually, it is very disputable. You owe no one an apology.

On his blog, Cunningham says that he was not an accredited journalist. In other places, he describes himself as a “freelance journalist”, and in the essay in question that started this thread, Cunningham says that he interviewed students and demonstrators for the BBC and ABC. He can not seem to make up his mind.

Did he tell the people he was hanging with then that he would be using their conversations? Did he identify himself to them as a journalist, which is why they were eager to talk to him?

All of this is also contradictory, for he was either filing copy or reporting OR he was a fixer and translator. Those are two very different jobs, the first working on his own (where are his stories or stand-ups?) and the other an assistant to a real reporter, a bona fide correspondent.

Cunningham received a Nieman Fellowship from Harvard at some point I think, for his work as a journalist in China in 1989. I understand that Niemans are given to people who are journalists (or claim to be). How did that happen? Did Cunningham turn the fellowship to Harvard down, saying “sorry, I am not a journalist, I was just a translator”? Maybe Cunningham himself can explain.

Cunningham did not write, “I was a language student, participated in marches, supported the movement, and did some work on the side for some news organizations who needed my help, but I was not a journalist who actually filed stories, I just helped some people who did.” Instead, Cunningham puts himself at the center of the action (from interviews to letting someone use his room to take a famous photo), and criticizes the Western media for getting everything about those events wrong (look at his essays on his website and in the Bangkok Post, where he makes fun of John Simpson, after praising him in his first book). He also wrote that people should feel sorry for the soldiers as they suffered, too. Cunningham takes whatever view of the event that will get him noticed.

Cunningham’s claim about the Tank Man photo is not confusion. He says that one of the photos was taken from his window, not “might have been taken” or “could have been”. Why is that claim relevant to anyone or anything, except perhaps Cunningham again trying to be the person who saw it all. I guess that helps sell books, though it is noteworthy that the website advertising the book has not a single one of the student leaders praising the account. I wonder why not. Could it be that they feel betrayed? Maybe they do not even remember him?

If people are relying on Cunningham for an inside view and revelations and think that his account is accurate, they might want to think about the fact that he can not get his own role consistent. We call that either confusion or lying. Another word for that problem is credibility. Does his publisher know any of this?

Thank you for reading this response, and to Richard for allowing this conversation to continue. Perhaps Phil Cunningham himself would care to set the record straight, once and for all.

May 21, 2009 @ 6:01 pm | Comment

Bush kept us safe. People crashed commercial jets into buildings on US soil killing thousands of people only once on his watch, so he deserves huge praise and recognition. Even though he was warned weeks in advance of Bin Laden’s determination to strike within the US and did nothing. Anyway, don’t get me started on that one…

May 21, 2009 @ 6:06 pm | Comment

Belinda, you are either obsessed or have a serious ax to grind with Cunningham. I’ve had one myself, but I always tried to be rational about it. Your comment is totaly irrational. You are spitting out accusations left and right. You can’t just say “Cunningham received a Nieman Fellowship from Harvard at some point I think,” and then start making judgments based on your “I think” leading to the conclusion that the guy is a huckster or a liar – all based on an “I think.” That is really sloppy, and just a bit creepy.

I can not name a single journalist who filed copy and also participated in the demonstrations.

Of course you can’t. Because you haven’t read much about it. And it depends on how we define “participate.” Does marching along and asking questions count? I’ve participated in causes and then written freelance stories about them. That’s is perfectly fine. It is perfectly legitimate, as long as I’m not there representing, say, the NYT or BBC. And you can do interviews for ABC and BBC without being accredited. I am in the journalism business. Are you? I’m really wondering what your game is. Do you even know what accreditation means? Just about every one of your assumptions is flat-out false, and you’ve strung them together to create a highly circumstantial case that doesn’t hold up for even an instant. There are no contradictions – you can be a translator and a freelance journalist. You are setting up a set of pseudo-contradictions and then acting as judge and jury. And without any evidence. Sometimes I describe myself as an editor, sometimes as a writer, sometimes as a journalist, sometimes as a blogger. Those are not contradictions. They are all true. According to your logic that makes me a liar. Is this your biggest beef with Cunningham, that he described himself in different terms on some different occasions? What a crock of shite.

So here’s your chance: I want you to put up the links that make you so suspicious, or else I’m removing these comments for slander. Where is the link to the tank man photo allegation? Where are your links showing such dreadful contradictions. Where is your linnk about his being a Neimann Scholar and why that somehow makes him dishonest. If no link, then a plausible explanation of why you say these things, without jumping to conclusions. Otherwise, I’m not wasting anymore time with you. A first-time commenter who comes on and tries to raise hell with what at first sounds like a slick argument but upon further scrutiny disintegrates into a lot of hunches and rubbish….

Waiting for your links or a damned good explanation. Tick-tock.

May 21, 2009 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

At a bit of a tangent, I saw this piece via China Geeks

where Alice Poon skewers those who would play down the TAM. Frankly I think any Chinese or any other of the myriad useful idiots who attempt to justify it should feel ashamed. I feel this extremely strongly as to me it is a clear matter of basic morality so have no interest in discussing it further. So there is no need for anyone to try to debate this with me should they wish to as I would like to make it clear now I will not reply.

May 21, 2009 @ 6:54 pm | Comment

Si, I am with you.

Belinda, just as a footnote, the more I look at your comments the more bizarre they become.

Cunningham used the Zhao book to talk about himself and his views of the movement. The least he could do, in using the book, is tell us about it. He does not. Why not? Because he probably has not read it and because the story of 1989 that seems most important to Phil Cunningham appears to the role played by Phil Cunningham. But how reliable is that story?

The book came out that day. He was not writing a review. You’re blasting him for not telling you about a book he probably didn’t own and hadn’t read? A book he never claimed to have read? Seriously, who are you, “Belinda”?

Like Si, I should simply draw a line in the sand and say I won’t argue about certain things. I’d be a lot calmer.

May 21, 2009 @ 6:59 pm | Comment


I don’t know what profession you are in, but you confuse causality and coincidence. 9/11 happened in Bush’s term, but he didn’t cause it. There hasn’t been a single terrorist attack in US soil ever since. That is a great achievement of President Bush, but your limited liberal brain just can’t see that fact, can it?

May 22, 2009 @ 9:42 am | Comment

Please keep your comments relevant to the thread, and don’t talk that way, image. Thanks. You just arrived here 24 hours ago, you can’t just walk in and take whatever liberties with the conversation you’d like. Appreciate your understanding.

May 22, 2009 @ 9:47 am | Comment

@ cerebus – very pertinent comment, and yes, you understood my reservations over at the other place very well.

@ belinda – interesting if you can support your claims. You wouldn’t be the first to question Cunningham ‘self-promotion’ syndrome, but that alone doesn’t make him fraudulent.

@ FOARP – I don’t recall the set-to with Gelken. Wish I’d been there to contribute.

May 22, 2009 @ 11:16 am | Comment

Actually, Belinda’s comments are right on the mark. Cunningham was not a journalist, but a student who was hired to be a fixer for some international news organizations. Go back and search 1989 and even 1990, and you wont find one article with his byline on it. Not one. If my memory serves me correctly, he was interviewed by ABC’s Nightline a few days after June 4, but he never wrote a story or did any interviews other than the one with Chai Ling, which was done with a low-quality hand-held camera. ABC and BBC had professional news people here and they never asked Cunningham to do this kind of work. He was not interviewing Chai Ling on behalf of any news organization–he did it on his own. Cunningham has written a pile of commentaries, but he’s not really a journalist, anymore than a blogger is. Google his name and you’ll see that there are only a handful of stories over the past two decades where he’s actually interviewed anyone in China and then written a proper news story. He primarily does commentaries and only expresses his own opinions. And finally, journalists may walk with marchers to interview people, but they should never join in a protest and then write about it. That’s completely unethical–ask any journalist.

May 28, 2009 @ 10:46 am | Comment

Yeah, Belinda’s right on the mark – even though she (and you) has provided not a scintilla of evidence. If you are going to attack Cunningham, fine. But you have absolutely zero credibility with me if you do not a.) produce some evidence of the claim he made that you are attacking – where exactly did he claim to be an accredited journalist or whatever; and b.) some evidence that he did something that contradicts that claim. The most you are saying is he did something 20 years ago, when he was quite a young guy, that’s journalistically unethical – but in the same breath you are saying he wasn’t an actual journalist, so who gives a fuck? If the worst-case scenario you present is true, he should be chided for siding with protesters 20 years ago. Big deal, if that’s the most rope you have to hang him with your argument is incredibly lame. And if Belinda is so right on the mark, why didn’t she answer any of my questions? Are you aware that John Pomfret, too, was accused of aiding the protesters and had to leave China? Whether he’s guilty or not, that was 20 years ago and at most it may deserve a finger-wagging, but that’s easy for us to say from home. Back then in the thick of things you may have felt differently. I know, I’ve covered events I was passionate about. Very easy to be holier than thou 20 years later and far from the scene of the crime.

May 28, 2009 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

Belinda, you are really being reprehensible. I made a simple request – give me the link to what Cuningham actually said, and then show me where he lied or contradicted himself. But you can’t. That BS, “you can find it on google” is unacceptable. You obviously have an agenda here and I won’t let my site be used for it. If you make a charge of such serious ethical failings and call someone “a liar,” you need to back it up. I gave you several chances to do so. And you came up with nothing better than “Look on Google.”

When I lived in Taiwan and someone asked me what I did, I could have replied, PR director, freelance journalist, student or blogger. All would have been true. One does not negate the other. So cut the crap that he lied about what he was doing in Beijing. Your perspective on what a freelance journalist’s responsibilities are is simply false. Anyway, I am onto you and it’s clear what your game is. If you want to disagree and have actual proof of anything you say, anything at all, email me and I will reopen the thread. Thanks a lot “Belinda.” Who is the same as her friend “Schultz” above.

May 29, 2009 @ 5:50 pm | Comment

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