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What’s Wrong with The Economist’s “Angry China” Article?

I just read The Economist’s lead article this week titled “Angry China”. I came away from it disappointed, and I would like to explain why.

The main gist of the article is that the Chinese government should be worried about the rising tide of Chinese nationalism because a great deal of the anger now directed at western policies and interests are in fact, anger at Chinese government policy. Handled the wrong way, this tide of Chinese nationalism could very well turn against the Chinese government, leading to unpredictable consequences.

Here are the money quotes:

China’s rage is out of all proportion to the alleged offences. It reflects a fear that a resentful, threatened West is determined to thwart China’s rise. The Olympics have become a symbol of China’s right to the respect it is due. Protests, criticism and boycott threats are seen as part of a broader refusal to accept and accommodate China.

There is no doubt genuine fury in China at these offences; yet the impression the response gives of a people united behind the government is an illusion. China, like India, is a land of a million mutinies now. Legions of farmers are angry that their land has been swallowed up for building by greedy local officials. People everywhere are aghast at the poisoning of China’s air, rivers and lakes in the race for growth. Hardworking, honest citizens chafe at corrupt officials who treat them with contempt and get rich quick. And the party still makes an ass of the law and a mockery of justice.

This is a classic “bait-and-switch” argument. The anger directed at the west is in fact domestic Chinese anger at Chinese government policies, according to this thesis. This is a dismissal of any anger at the west as an argument completely without merit, and an attempt to shift all of the blame onto the Chinese government.

It is exactly this kind of argument which Chinese see as western hypocrisy and double standards. Of course there is anger at some Chinese government policies, but these are a separate issue. Please don’t try to change the subject!

Sure, there are some aspects of Chinese government policy which Chinese citizens would like to see change. But the pro-Tibetan independence folk have committed the sin of lumping Chinese citizens together with the Chinese government in their criticisms. To the Chinese, it seems like a classic attempt to hijack the Olympics, something which almost all Chinese are truly proud of, and to turn it into a bully pulpit for their claims of Tibetan independence.

What angers both the Chinese government policymakers and people is that while the country has developed in economic terms and yes, even in human rights terms, that has not been recognized in the west. Instead, there continue to be politicians and media figures who continue to hector China, and play a leading role in shaping western opinions and political policy about China. To the Chinese, it seems like no matter how hard they run to the finish line, there is always someone out there moving the finish line even further away while they are running the race.

Trying to steal the Olympics and letting the Chinese have their day in the sun would be very similiar to insulting an American simply because George W Bush is his president. This is exactly what the pro-Tibetan independence supporters, and the China media critics have done.

Why should these people, who have little deep understanding of China and the Chinese (or Tibetans for that matter) have such an influential role in shaping opinion about such an important relationship as the west’s relationship with China, and be given so much ink and free air time? In light of this, why shouldn’t Chinese get angry about this very unfair and one-sided view which is put forward in much of the western media, and then passed off as the truth? And why doesn’t the western media instead reach out to westerners who have lived in China, and maybe, even speak the language in order to get a deeper understanding of the country?

Is this fair?

The real reason many Chinese are angry is not redirected anger at Chinese government policies, it is a genuine anger at a very biased and one-sided view about China which casts it as irresponsible, selfish, oppressive and wrong, and then throwing all Chinese citizens into the same basket.

The Economist is, generally speaking, a fair and open-minded newspaper, and usually presents well thought-out positions and arguments . It should look deeper than dismiss all of the Chinese anger out of hand.

If this lead article is the best that they can do, then I’m not optimistic about relations between China and the west.




48 Responses to “What’s Wrong with The Economist’s “Angry China” Article?”

  1. John Guise says:

    Hi Paul

    I agree with you. The article does miss the boat on the issue. I think it is a case of the Western media trying to show that the Chinese people aren’t the Chinese government to the outside world, but by doing so they have to show that the people can’t be agreeing with the government. While that is true in so cases it is always the case. Unfortunately in order to sell papers/magazine/advertising airtime today, you have to show the world as black and white (this is true in China as well but for different reasons such as government legitimacy), you can’t show it as the many shades of gray that it really is.

    Great post.
    J.

  2. Elliott Ng says:

    For most people based in the US, including policymakers, editors, and other influentials, the rate of change in China and dynamism is simply inconceivable to them because it is outside of their experience. The closest experience to China I have personally experienced is the Y2K/dot-com/telecom boom of the late 90s, and that was localized to one industry. Layer on political, legal, physical, demographic, infrastructure, business-practice, and other changes that are much more complex and opaque that Western societies, then introduce the language barrier, and you can see why Westerners don’t get it unless they have been immersed in it like you, @samflemming, @kaiserkuo, etc.

    As a relatively new observer of the painful disconnect between the West and China, I feel one root cause issue is the need for the Western politician, media professional, and Western consumer, to compress complexity down to a simple one-dimensional message*. George W Bush is this way. Hollywood blockbusters are this way. Consumer marketers are this way. For some reason, simple clear explanations that are black and white is what Western consumers and voters want.

    Problem is: the simplistic mental model people have is out of date. People probably think about China in 1993 – 2000 era terms. I think that I think in 2005-2006 terms. Its easy to fall behind when things are moving so fast.

    The solution is massive many to many information exchange between people who are interested in that exchange. If you want to change this situation, I think the solution is to create some reason why information elites MUST become interested in this exchange and to create the right operating mechanisms to facilitate this.

    Anyway, these are my unformed ideas at this point Paul. Look forward to having further dialogue with you on this.

  3. The hypocrisy and double standards are there on both sides of the Olympic issue. The nationwide protests are however exclusively in China.

  4. Brandon says:

    Thanks for directing me to this great article, Paul.

    Your “bait-and-switch” analysis is right on, and it’s something that I didn’t adress explicitly.

    To Charles Frith: “The nationwide protests are however exclusively in China”

    Are you saying that those hundreds of thousands of oversea Chinese protested around the world don’t count?

  5. Tim Bray says:

    First, there is a long tradition of politicizing the Olympics. China’s experience is no worse than several previous hosts. And given that the Olympic movement is a civic entity in the sense that it is publicly funded and controlled, many of us find arguments that it should be divorced from politics fairly unconvincing.

    Second, the Chinese Government is self-consciously using the Olympics as a stage to present itself as a model citizen of the world. Those who are unhappy with its world citizenship cannot be expected to stand by deferentially.

    Third, if you listen to those who are shouting, they are making very specific allegations about certain behaviors of the Chinese government; with respect to Tibet, to Falun, and so on. I read the news carefully and I’m afraid the Chinese government has been massively ineffective at rebutting those allegations; it is naive to blame the problem on the media. It is indeed worrying that the Chinese populace, who are not really under attack, find themselves in the position of defending some of the least attractive of their government’s positions.

    The Chinese people and government have massive achievements to their credit, for instance lifting a greater number of humans out of poverty in a shorter period than has ever been accomplished anywhere. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion, based on careful and balanced observation, that certain practices of the Chinese government are fairly loathsome. It is hard to understand why reasonable people should not raise these issues, forcefully and vocally, when given an opportunity to do so.

  6. john o says:

    @Elliot Ng

    “the need for the Western politician, media professional, and Western consumer, to compress complexity down to a simple one-dimensional message*. George W Bush is this way. Hollywood blockbusters are this way. Consumer marketers are this way. For some reason, simple clear explanations that are black and white is what Western consumers and voters want.”

    I think it’s a little funny to say “Westerners need a simple one-dimensional message.” I mean, that seems like a pretty one-dimensional message itself. I also just can’t stand references to bias or perceived bias in the “Western media” Unlike certain state-owned operations like Xinhua or the China Daily, I find it pretty difficult to lump, say, The Guardian newspaper and, perhaps, Fox News Network (which, yes, is a joke) as the general “Western Media” Agence France? Reuters? OK and People are the Western Media, so is Maxim, it just doesn’t add up. I keep being reminded that Westerners must remember that not everyone in China thinks the same and believes the same thing, but it seems accepted (by people from both continents) that the Western media and Westerners only have one opinion, to discredit China and prevent it’s rise as a power.

    Anyway, I’m not an expert on any of this, and I’m happy to admit it, but at the same time, I believe it’s hard to make a generalization that all Westerners need to generalize and simplify things. Personally I find it difficult to find two Westerners that agree on more than 3 topics at the same time, but maybe I’m weird.

    My two fen…

  7. +mOdOk+ says:

    Tim Bray said,

    “..it is hard to avoid the conclusion, based on careful and balanced observation, that certain practices of the Chinese government are fairly loathsome. It is hard to understand why reasonable people should not raise these issues, forcefully and vocally, when given an opportunity to do so.”

    While that may be true, I believe that their efforts might better be directed toward their own governments, some of whose atrocities far outweigh those of the current Chinese administration, particularly on an international scale. Finger-pointing is not necessarily bad, but I get quite riled up when people stand on patriotism and defend the actions of their own government, while criticizing another nation’s.

    Who is more likely to bring about change in your country? A native or a foreigner?

  8. I would agree with you, IF the Economist did what you said it did, but it did not. It said that we should not fall for the impression that China is united behind its government; it never said that “The anger directed at the west is in fact domestic Chinese anger at Chinese government policies.” I also have to fault you for doing the same thing to the West that you accuse the West of doing to China: acting as though we/they are a monolithic block.

    China’s anger at the West is real and not government directed. If that is what you are trying to say, just say it. No need to set up a well-written and thoughtful Economist article up as a straw man. Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

  9. I’m fascinated by this discussion and I think you changed my mind about the Economist article, which at first I agreed with. It may be true that Western media prefer the news in black and white instead of shades of gray, and I agree with Elliott that “For most people based in the US, including policymakers, editors, and other influentials, the rate of change in China and dynamism is simply inconceivable to them because it is outside of their experience.” One magazine that makes an effort to explain that dynamism is National Geographic (where I work), which devoted its entire May issue to China, with articles by Peter Hessler, Leslie Chang, Amy Tan, and others: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/featurehub
    In addition, Hessler’s earlier article for Geographic, “China’s Instant Cities,” just won a National Magazine Award for best reporting: http://intelligenttravel.typepad.com/it/2008/05/natgeo-sweeps-m.html

  10. tom says:

    I was dissapointed that the respected Economist would run such an article as a lead feature.. but then we’ve seen Reuters, CNN, and even BBC slip up in recent China coverage as well. It seems that journalists, especially western journalists, take China’s restrictions on free speech very personally. Perhaps understandable. But when you make that into a vendetta against a nation (oops, i mean government) you distort reality and can have an adverse effect on international relations.

  11. Phil says:

    Is this blog for real? If so, it’s pretty scary.
    This paragraph is where the craziness is:
    “What angers both the Chinese government policymakers and people is that while the country has developed in economic terms and yes, even in human rights terms, that has not been recognized in the west…To the Chinese, it seems like no matter how hard they run to the finish line, there is always someone out there moving the finish line even further away while they are running the race.”
    Are you seriously saying that what makes Chinese people angry is that they haven’t been given a pat on the head and a biscuit by the West for doing such a good job? Could you be any more patronizing?
    Never mind that your premises are false (anyone who reads English language newspapers will know that they are full of articles about the wonder of Chinese growth, alongside those about pollution); the psychological portrait you paint of “the Chinese” (nice lumping together there, by the way. You speak for the whole nation, do you?) is pathetically juvenile.
    Are you willing to stand by that statement that “Chinese people” feel that they are “running to the finish line” that has been set by “the West”? Would you like to write that in Chinese and post it on Tianya? You’ll be drowning in fenqing in an instant.
    I understand what you’re trying to do: a lot of people in the US/Europe are genuinely confused by this big Chinese reaction to the Tibet protests, and would like it explained. But you might want to frame your expectations in terms of your own feelings, not by trying to speak for an entire nation, and certainly not by dismissing them as disappointed schoolkids.

  12. Mashanghao says:

    Can anyone seriously sympathize with Chinese protests at the politicization of the Olympics when China politicizes the event itself by refusing to let the Taiwanese team compete under their own flag and singing their own anthem? Hasn’t China boycotted more Olympics than anyone else anyway? I thought they boycotted all Olympics prior to the 80s over the Taiwan issue, then boycotted 1980 over Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

    Give me a break. . .

  13. Jack says:

    First of all, the article did state many positives of China’s rapid change in its 30 year period and encourages engagement between all sides instead of playing the blame game. I don’t see the Economist playing a bait and switch game with this. Pomfret’s China wrote a similar kind of sentiment and used the Nanjing Protest of 1989 as a point of comparison.

    Second, the Chinese media and netizens has been as much adding fuel to the fire as the protesters. The protesters and the foreign media is wrong when reflexively blaming the Chinese government on the attempt to keep order during the Tibetan Unrest. They did not link the Chinese people to the government, and in fact were calling on the government to “Free China”. Though that message is naive, it doesn’t seem to indicate hostility towards the people. It was a knee-jerk anti-establishment sort of message, the same kind seen in WTO protests and against the War in Iraq.

    It was CCTV that framed the issue as Tibetan hooligans inflicting violence on Hui and Han in Tibet and adjoining prefectures. Then the Chinese Internet (more indicative of grassroots sentiment) distorted this and the Western protests into a narrative in which once again the West is out to emasculate China. This was the second knee-jerk reaction, this time by the Chinese both domestic and overseas. The fuel were mostly due to Western media incompetence (not exactly lying), uncouth and ill-timed (but I still say not racist) remarks of Mr. Cafferty, and the photos of Jin Jing during the Paris relays.

    In this context, the issues regarding China and the West are not constructively discussed anymore among the People, whether Chinese or Non-Chinese. Instead, they’re tossed back and forth like political dodgeballs meant to deliver nasty welts to the other side.

    One reassuring sign that things are at least returning to the status quo is an attempt by governments to calm down the blowhards on both sides. France has made diplomatic efforts to apologize and has invited Jin Jing to Paris, while China has started speaking to envoys of the Dalai Lama. Gavin Newsom’s bait and switch of the Torch allowed the George W. Bush to remain mostly unwavered in its support of China’s Olympic Games without kowtowing to pressure from the Left.

  14. Matt says:

    I’d agree that there’s some baiting and switching going on, at least at some level. Take one look at the cover, and then read the article. Images talk, and what you see is not what you get.

  15. Ma Bole says:

    Perhaps not exactly classic bait-and-switch. One of the points that The Economist tries to make is that the apparent unanimity with which the Chinese have responded to recent western criticism is a thin veneer that masks deeply-rooted social discontent and anomie. Of course, Chinese people don’t need to be told when to feel angry with the West – nationalism pre-dates the founding of both the CCP and the PRC – but western shock at the ugly flag-waving spectacle all too often gives rise to talk of the Boxers, the Yellow Peril, etc. In fact, The Economist makes an important point – i.e., that the Chinese are not a monolithic group who share a common view of what it means to be Chinese. In fact, contemporary China is a seething mass, and the CCP is sweating bullets as it tries to keep a lid on it all. It is a point worth making again and again.

    Food for thought: the CCP must be thanking their lucky stars that these recent protests originated in Tibet. Because the protesters were ethnic Tibetans, and because their violent actions were largely perpetrated against Han and could be spun as separatism, their grievances never found a larger sympathetic audience within China. On the other hand, had the protesters been poor Han farmers in Anhui province angry over local corruption, encroaching development, environmental pollution, or poverty, things might have gone very differently. In this case, protests may very well have resonated with the majority Han and led to sympathetic protests throughout China by other agrieved groups (e.g. migrant workers, activist university students, laid-off factory workers, etc.). Such protests would be much more difficult to control and isolate. Likewise, it would also be quite difficult for the CCP to characterize such protesters as separatists, “jackals in monks’ robes”, etc.

    In short, Chinese society is nothing like the single-minded nationalist monster that it is often said to be. Rather, it is dangerously fractured, and nationalism is just about the only glue that holds it together. I, for one, have no problem with The Economist’s take on things.

  16. Janman says:

    Why are so many long nose Westerners blogging on China’s affair instead of India’s affair. I guess it’s the case of Westerners’ distaste of black skin – skin color discrimination of course.

  17. sotospeek says:

    Blame the Western Media seems to be the gist of this article, because they are biased in their reporting of the Tibet incident. Those that argue, “you can’t blame ‘all’ Western Media”, and they’re right – you can’t blame them all. But let’s not forget that immediately after the riots in Tibet broke, there was a wave of reporting from the Western Media that used photos of Nepal Police cracking down on Monks and claimimg they were Chinese Police. Never mind these were not accurate reports -the damage was done. Had the story broke, “Rioters in Tibet destroy, burn, and killed Han Chinese – civil unrest follows etc”, might be just as much an accurate report – but nobody in the West reported that first. This will not be the first “propaganda bomb” hurled at China from the West – there will be more to come. All government relationships behave like a marriage on the brink of murder, but left in divorce court for decades.

  18. truthseeker says:

    The world keep telling China to have a dialog with the Dali Lama, a good proposition and it appears that the Chinese givernment is beginning to do so.
    Why don’t the world also encourage a dialog between the western media and the Chinese people, both in China and outside of China to get a better understanding before passing judgement?

    I have seen a debate on a China TV channel about whether the people should boycott the French Chain store in China, and there were many Chinese people voicing their objection and suggested a broader world view than just the China view. The world also should look at this situation with a broader world view than just the ‘Communist China again its own people and the West view’.

    Someone suggested that readers can only understand black and white. I think this is an insult to their intelligence. I think the problem is that the writers and critics are unwilling to understand beyond black and white. The world is not black and white. If our eyes can only see black and whitem not even shades of grey, the world will be very ugly, literally. Adding grey scale, and eventually color, the world will be a much more beautiful place to live in.

  19. john o says:

    This is sort of random, but I’ve seen the phrases “perceived bias in the Western media” and “(Perceived) failure of the Western media to report of the violence of Tibetans towards Han Chinese” more than I have seen mentions of a.) violence of Han Chinese toward Tibetans, b.) the assault of a Duke student and her family, and c.) The issue of Darfur (though with this it’s pretty tight) Now, I can’t read Chinese media, so I am reading these phrases in the Western media.

    I’m all for fairness, but the “Western Media”-bloc should act like CNN and grow a backbone. Incompetent reporting is a bad thing, but it is slightly mitigated by being restricted from reporting at all. Besides, they HAVE reported on the violence of Tibetans against Han Chinese, and most have explained how that might have been motivated. The use “perceived” has lessened some of these quotes, but the quotes themselves mention that which they essentially apologize for not mentioning, which I find a little ridiculous.

    I know this comment is sort of off-topic for this particular post, but this is by far the most intelligent group of responders I’ve seen on blogs dealing with China (and I see a lot), so I figured it would be as good a place as any to share.

  20. john o says:

    @sotospeek and @trutheseeker

    I agree with you both, excellent posts. I did want to say, however, that while criticism of media for mislabeling Nepalese police was an avoidably dumb thing to do and it hurt the credibility of said publications, the errors were nowhere near as widespread as they have been interpreted, and they were a rather direct result of restrictions that rendered accurate reporting nearly impossible. This information does not excuse mislabeling documents or photographs, but it is information that should be included when discussing the errors.

    In truth seeker’s post I would argue something similar. The post is excellent and extremely good advice to media, everyday citizens, and gov’t, but I believe that for a dialog to exist and grow between Western media and the Chinese people the former needs more access to the latter. The promises made by Beijing for more freedom for foreign journalists, have, since March 14, become largely lip service, and that again effects the quality and depth that reporters are capable of. I want to stress again, however, how much I agree with you, dialog is what will eventually bring us through all this, and the sooner it starts, the sooner people can stop being angry and actually enjoy the Games in August.

    Also, soto speek, your quote: “All government relationships behave like a marriage on the brink of murder, but left in divorce court for decades.” – Absolutely brilliant. I laughed out loud a little, and I promise to quote you when I inevitably find myself saying that out loud when people discuss this issue. Cheers.

  21. scott says:

    “…similiar to insulting an American simply because George W Bush is his president…”

    Is it fair to insult all the Americans who voted for George Bush as their president?

  22. Beijinger says:

    @Sotospeek:

    Had the story broke, “Rioters in Tibet destroy, burn, and killed Han Chinese – civil unrest follows etc”, might be just as much a accurate report – but nobody in the West reported that first.

    But that WAS how it was reported in many western media (before it was reported in the Chinese media), including by the Economist correspondent. The allegation that the Tibetan attacks on Han Chinese were not reported by western media is simply a lie perpetuated by the Chinese propaganda machine and now mindlessly regurgitated by pro-China protesters who cannot be bothered to check for themselves.

    And The Economist isn’t a US media, either. And its correspondent lives in China, and speaks Chinese.

    etc

  23. Alice Poon says:

    @ Truthseeker:

    “Why don’t the world also encourage a dialog between the western media and the Chinese people, both in China and outside of China to get a better understanding before passing judgement?”

    I would like to share these blogposts:-

    http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1165&Itemid=158

    http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1175&Itemid=158

    http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1176&Itemid=158

  24. ann says:

    The internet needs more balanced analyses like this. As a politically moderate Chinese living overseas, I was not just angry, but also disillusioned at the media hegemony on reporting the Tibet riot. I don’t care who first reported the riot as monks and Tibetans brutalizing Han and Muslim Chinese, be it Western or Chinese media. What matters is public perception, and to this day, more than majority of westerners (at least here in US) believe that bloody repression by Chinese police occurred during the riot, due to the media’s manipulative and downright false reporting. True one cannot just blame the media, because the media, being a business, always panders to the audience for ratings and advertising bucks. If I am less severe in my judgement, those westerners who criticize China from outside the country without making an effort to learn the truth are lazy and close-minded. If I am severe in my judgement, they have no interest in learning the ever improving economic environment, the growing civic consciousness among Chinese and the continued empowerment of civil rights through the rule of law that have taken place in China. Instead they press for a human right movement and a democracy to the western standard even when there is no humanitarian crisis and when China is going its own and successful ways. Stop patronizing the Chinese by projecting your resentment of the Chinese government onto the Chinese. But first, take a look at the riot footage, if you haven’t already, if you are still confused about what had us fuming. (http://www.anti-cnn.com)

  25. ann says:

    @ Truthseeker:

    “Why don’t the world also encourage a dialog between the western media and the Chinese people, both in China and outside of China to get a better understanding before passing judgement?”

    The mainstream media in the west never gave pro-China supporters the air time or column space as they did with Tibetan separatists. More importantly, whatever the pro-Tibet camp has to say, they accept as truth unconditionally. Yet they hold the other side’s arguments to stringent standards of scrutiny (as was the case when students debated monks at U.S.C.). Even though I can understand the double standard, just like we know propaganda is a reality in Chinese media, it’s not easy to carry out a dialog when the western media refuses to listen. But frankly I am tired of and don’t want to talk about Tibet any more. Allow me to be lazy and share some of the pro-China arguments via videos:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROTyGOJ2ZZI

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N8r1I66SA8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpgmomcxrp4

  26. Jack says:

    @Ann

    I’ve watched most of the clips of the video, and other than the text it adds nothing that I haven’t watched already. Its ridiculous to say what happened in Tibet was “terrorism”. Terrorism usually has a stated political goal, and uses fear and violence to reach the goal. After the Tibetan Unrest, there was really no stated message by those who participated in the riots. Honestly, I half expected the video to end by saying these attacks were initiated by evil “Tibeto-Fascists”.

    Honestly, this just proves my point: The level of dialogue on this issue has dropped to the point where people are talking from their gut instead of their brain. Anyone, whether lefty protesters or bolshy Chinese stridently proclaiming to wear the aegis of Truth (yes, with a capital T) has actually been imbibing the Kool-Aid.

  27. Beijinger says:

    Ann, you have summed up the difficulty; it doesn’t matter if the western media is right, you say, because it is wrong anyway. Therefore you are angry. You are angry because the pro-China side wasn’t given the chance to speak by western media hegemony. (Over what? I may ask. Why do so many Chinese people rely on it to find out what is happening in China?) The trouble was, though, the pro-China side was given the chance to speak, through the spokesmen of the chinese government, and they came out with gibberish that everyone laughed at. Unfortunately, ordinary Chinese, including overseas Chinese, are so used to the Chinese government spokesmen speaking gibberish that they discount it. They listen to Zhang Qingli being quoted calling the Dalai Lama a jackal and say “now can we hear the rational pro-China side’s version”, and don’t hear it. But when it comes down to it, that IS the pro-China side’s version, perhaps sadly for all Chinese everywhere….
    I expect words to have meaning, to have referents in the real world. For example, this post, which you call balanced, is well argued, but it does not claim to be balanced – it says the Economist is wrong, it doesn’t say, ‘on the one hand, here are the arguments in favour, on the other, here are the arguments against’. You call it “balanced” because you agree with it, in the same way that you are angry with the western media ‘”hegemony”, whatever that is, because you disagree with it. But your use of words in this way renders them meaningless.
    Debate needs more than just repetition of feelings and instincts – it needs to analyse how what it said relates to what is actually going on in the world. That is why these endless Youtube compilations are so depressing – why do Chinese supporters expect anyone to take this endless ranting seriously?
    One final question: when you see these videos of violence in Lhasa on March 14 (to say nothing of all the peaceful protests by monks before and since, that you have not been allowed to see because no-one was allowed to film them), do you never stop to ask: how did it all go so wrong? How did the Chinese government let it get to this? How did this place, which we were all told was being won over to Chinese rule by growing prosperity, suddenly turn out this way? Does it never occur to you to be more angry at something real – namely, the disaster that is Chinese policy in Tibet, and I have never heard even a patriotic overseas Chinese try to defend it – rather than at “perceptions” by people (the west in general) who, on the whole, don’t really care that much?

  28. Beijinger says:

    Oh, meant to say – Alice Poon, great posts. Fascinating.

  29. Windswing says:

    A sensible English blog on the topic at last! Will certainly come back to read more from the same author…

  30. ann says:

    @ Jack

    “Its ridiculous to say what happened in Tibet was ‘terrorism’. Terrorism usually has a stated political goal, and uses fear and violence to reach the goal. After the Tibetan Unrest, there was really no stated message by those who participated in the riots. ”

    There is no stated message from the rioters? That’s just your opinion or your denial. I think we all know what their message is. Are you saying the rioters didn’t qualify as terrorists because they failed to follow up their crimes with a press conference? Let’s explore the definition of terrorism. Here is one from Wikipedia: “In one modern sense, it is violence against civilians to achieve political or ideological objectives by creating fear. Most common definitions of terrorism include only those acts which are intended to create fear (terror), are perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a lone attack), and deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants.”

    Nobody is trying to reduce the totality of the Tibetan separatist movement to terrorism. But when you dismiss the recent terrorist act by the separatists as a mere ‘lefty protest’, are you sure you don’t have a strong prejudice against the ‘bolshy Chinese’ that guides your views?

    “The level of dialogue on this issue has dropped to the point where people are talking from their gut instead of their brain. ”

    Although I don’t aggree with your assessment, there does exist a gulf in our attitudes towards the Tibetan separatist movements. Make no mistake that I am not a stranger to the pro-Tibet clamouring of cultural and religious crack downs or the more credible argument against land confiscation in the 1950s. But has the main
    stream media in the west made any attempt to show and tell the world the economic progress that has been, and continue to be made in Tibet? Has the media ever explored the serfdom and misery that was Tibet under Dailai’s rule? Have they ever had anything good to say about what have been achieved in Tibet? No. They romanticize about a lost Shangri-La that was never there to begin with. They dismiss the phenomenal and continual development of Tibet as the sinicization of Tibet. And they lend sympathies and support and agitations to fight for independence in the absence of a humanitarian crisis or systemic discrimination.

    Call me patronizing, what the Tibetans want are opportunities to participate in the economic advancement of their nation which is China, and improving their livelihood in an ever improving economic environment. This is not to dismiss their cultural, political and religious needs, which are well looked after by the government. The cultural or religious crack down arguments hold little water if you take a close and objective look at the evidence. And Tibetans are well represented on bodies like the National People’s Congress and the People’s Consultative Conference. In fact they are over-represented, given the size of the Tibetan population. There are thousands of Tibetan officials, CCP members, and military recruits in Tibet. Indeed, many of the most ardently anti-Dalai officials are Tibetan.

    Read more before you talk.

    http://www.swans.com/library/art9/mparen01.html

    • Nick says:

      @ann

      You argue, in essence, that Tibetan people are better off (economically and otherwise) as a result of Chinese rule and therefore those (especially, in the West) who are critical of China’s policies with respect to the Tibet question, should temper their criticism. By that reckoning then, China should fore-go entirely its stance on the question of Taiwan. Because, arguably, the Taiwanese people are significantly better off in all aspects of their lives, under the “breakaway” government. Would that be fair?

      Jack is absolutely right in that you are speaking from your gut rather than through any deliberate analysis of the ground realities.

  31. MY says:

    Hi Paul, excellent take on the issue. I watched the changes of tone in some western media since the Tibet unrest broke out. I have to say that it was a knee-jerk reaction in some media and politicians at first – that Chinese government can’t do anything good when it comes to things like this. Later on, when Chinese people protested, it turned into a theory that, the Chinese people are good but doupped by their government, and the government is the real evil since they are just exploiting the nationalism to divert the real anger that Chinese have towards them.

    While I have to applaud the willingness to be open-minded by these western media but I have to say that it might be a long way for some of them to really understand why the Chinese are raging this time. The core of the issue is that, communism (as China is often labled in many of the western media) is still a black and white thing to many westerns. From this point of view, it is not difficult to understand why many westerns fail to understand that most Chinese genuinely support their government for its policies and directions over the last 20-30 years. There are many things that Chinese government could do better including Tibet, but demonizing it certainly does not reflect western media well with the Chinese people.

    There was a serious public debate in early 1980s in China, after the government apologized publicly the wrong doings in the Culture Revolution and country recovered slowly from its wounds and started to reform, that whether China should remind to claim that it carries socialist ideology or let the capitalism take over. Obviously many things were to be achieved at the time likely had to be accomplished through “capitalist” means, e.g. privatization. The debate concluded that socialism might be the eventual goal of capitalism which will provide better equality economically and socially, at the same time, socialism might have to be achieved through capitalism first to generate enough wealth in order to do so. The result is, like Deng said famously, “doesn’t matter it’s a black cat or white cat, as long as it catches the mice, it’s a good cat”, another alternative of his words on this can be translated as “developing is the unchangeable goal”, and the government promised that by 2000, China’s GDP will quartriple and many Chinese will be middle-class as their western counterparts.

    The long story short, the government delivered what it has promised. The journey is not a easy one, trial and error, but if you ask Chinese if anybody else could do a better job, most of them will tell you that, not sure and maybe, but they don’t want to take that risk. To most Chinese, everything is still changing and changes for the better, the GDP will quartriple in another 20 years and the medical care, social welfare system are going to be better and better. The political reform is not there yet but it will be eventually. For the moment, every Chinese wants peace and prosperity so they can enjoy a good life as they always hoped for many years, and they know that they will live just as good as (maybe not exactly the same and why it should be) those in the developed countries, economically, socially and politically. Some Chinese people gives this 20 years, others 30, and most of them understand that China came a long way, and this is what they are willing to give to the government.

    To be brief, I think that it is a mistake to think that the Chinese people would want to see their government to be demonized or belittled by some of the western media and politicians. Again, this does not mean that they support everything the government does, but to suggest that the anger towards these western media and politicians is actually their anger towards the Chinese government is in denial of the reality on the ground. And this unfortunately will only fuel more anger from the the Chinese towards the west, which would be a lose-lose situation for all.

  32. Jim says:

    Thanks Ann, for sharing the videos. I am one of the westerners who used to believe in the recent ‘crack down’ in Lhasa. I think some of the media outlets here are capable of demonizing other countries and governments. The eyewitness account at the anti-cnn website you provided did mention a few days’ peaceful protest though. Maybe there was a provocation which turned the protest into a riot. But nevertheless, i think it’s an important lesson for the media that having no access to the real story is no excuse for making up stories. Thanks for your information!

  33. ann says:

    @ Jim

    The videos are the work of some Tsinghua University alumnus, not any government agency. I am glad you didn’t kill the messenger but instead found the message helpful. :)

    @ Beijinger

    When I talked about pro-China supporters, I wasn’t referring to the spokesperson of the government. I agree with you that the diplomatic awkwardness and the spokesperson’s reactionary remarks were unbearable to watch. But you are reducing the voices of the Chinese people to those of the government. I therefore charge you with attempting another bait-and-switch.

    You are stretching it too far, to say that this article needs to reiterate every argument in favor of the government as the source of the Chinese’s anger, in order to be considered balanced. This is not a scholarly paper. The author was more likely presenting certain information and situations that the westerners did not realize in order to balance the information. And back to my point. You readily accept anything offered by the Tibetan independence side such as ‘the disaster that is Chinese policy in Tibet’, but when counterarguments were made or information supporting the contrary was offered, you expect them to attain the standards of an academic debate. How can anyone who made no pretense of his double standard have the audacity to talk about a meaningful debate, unless it’s all hypocrisy of course.

    Your juvenile attempt to dismiss our dispute with the western media as us prejudging the media is really pathetic. The “rotten” state-run Chinese media with respect to public opinion implies that China is in no position to “demonize” the western media. We can only hope to restore the truth of the matter and get their due understanding and respect, with watchdog projects like http://www.anti-cnn.com.

    Since you tend to equate the voice of an individual with that of the government, let me repeat myself. I don’t agree with the policy to forbid worshipping of the Dalai Lama, or to ban peaceful assembly. You can blame the government for their part in contributing to the recent disturbance, but what you refuse to acknowledge, and is common knowledge to many Chinese, is the long-term mobilization by Tibetan separatists in a tolerant social environment to rise against the “oppressor”. But what can I say, one man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist.

  34. snow says:

    Jim,
    “The eyewitness account at the anti-cnn website you provided did mention a few days’ peaceful protest though. Maybe there was a provocation which turned the protest into a riot.”

    As far as I know, from reading sources provided by Xinhua based on confessions made by the Lahsa rioters and the government agencies’ in-depth investigation of activities and documents of Council of Tibetan Youth and public statements made by its spokesmen in past years, the riot was pretty much premeditated and planned by radical Tibetan separatists to seize the opportunity (1959 uprising anniversary and 2008 Olympics) to stage a political showcase. Dalai and the Tibetan Youth were both reported to have emphasized that 2008 was their “last chance” and called for “Great Uprising.”

    In fact the Chinese police securities had been specially informed to excise extra restrain when dealing with the protesters to avoid possible violent clash for bad publicity in the Olympic year. one explaination put it: It was this excising of restraint on the government side, which would likely prevent violent confrontation from happening, that made many “peaceful protesters” feel frustrated and start to act proactively, eventually leading to the brutal riot.

    Yet hardly anyone in the Western media would take Xinhua seriously in this case, although they have no problem from time to time selectively citing sources from Xinhua to back up their arguments on other occasions.

    I believe that there are more complex and deep rooted economic and social causes for the riot to happen. However, one would be too naïve, if not biased, denying that direct influence from Tibetan government in exile, lavishly financed by western powers, played a vital role in instigating this riot. For how Washington’s message (by awarding the highest civilian medal to Dalai shortly before the riot) was taken in by the Tibetans and many more, see The Unusual Suspect, http://21stcenturysocialism.com/by Hilary Keenan.

  35. [...] was something which needed to be examined more closely and discussed more openly, if only because the article attracted a large number of readers and comments (34 at the time of [...]

  36. [...] the western media and some outside observers talk about “Angry China”, they really miss out on the real story, and even the real questions which need to be asked. For [...]

  37. Robert Vance says:

    Paul,

    I agree with what you write here in part. The Chinese people are as loyal as ever to their government. There is of course general disatisfaction with government policies but most people in China believe that the government is moving the country in the right direction. I wrote about this recently in a post about Chinese patriotism (http://www.teachabroadchina.com/why-chinese-patriotism-is-to-be-respected-and-feared/) I do believe that the feelings of resentment towards the Western media were very genuine.

    However, I disagree with you on your opinions about the Western media. I think that again and again we have seen the Chinese people take comments personally that were directed at their government. As an American, if I took offense everytime the foreign media took a potshot at my government, I would have killed myself a long time ago. The reason why the Western media has been seemingly so ‘one sided’ is because they are bringing to light the continued failures of the CCP in the areas of human rights and religious freedom. When the Western media criticizes the CCP, it runs crying to its people that the Western media is ‘badmouthing’ them. I think the CCP needs to toughen up and stop redirecting the criticism to its people.

  38. MY says:

    Robert, I read your post on teacabroadchina, and it is a good one. However, I disagree your conclusion that “The reason why the Western media has been seemingly so ‘one sided’ is because they are bringing to light the continued failures of the CCP in the areas of human rights and religious freedom. When the Western media criticizes the CCP, it runs crying to its people that the Western media is ‘badmouthing’ them.”

    Western media’s “badmouthing” has been going on for 60 years, the day when CCP took power. Having grown up in China and received orthodox “communist” education, and knew that the western powers were not friendly to CCP, I was still shocked by the level of one-sided negative reporting about China in Europe when I went there to study in early 1990s. After returned to China and worked for 10 years and saw the changes China has gone through, I moved to North America in 2000, and again, I was taken back by the same one-sided negative reporting about China. I think that this is perhaps the experience of very Chinese who has been in the west. Typically western media’s reporting about China is generalizing one incidence to an overall and blame CCP for every problem that China has been facing which are really typical to any developing countries.

    The reason that Chinese has kept silent for so long to this type of biased reporting, is that they knew that their government is not perfect and China is not perfect, although they also believe that the definitions of human rights and religious freedom in China are not exact the same as in the west given its stage of social and economic development. Overseas Chinese do not feel that need and desire to explain since to a foreigner, especially westerns to understand China, one need to overcome the culture, history and ideology barriers which are indeed a lot layers to go through especially if the westerns haven’t realize these layers.

    However, the main western media’s behavior in the recent Tibet reporting is beyond what they’ve done previously. It was outright lying, deliberately created false and misleading information and this type of unverified information were used by some western public and politicians as “truth” to attack China. I think every Chinese discounts what they hear from Xinhua is a norm among Chinese in the last 30 years, but they did not expect that the western media, which is sold by the west to them as balanced and unbiased under the freedom of speech and democracy, can deviate so much from the very principles that it preaches. This is does not mean that they will believe everything that Xinhua tells them from now on, but rather, lost their trust in the western media, and further, in the western type of freedom and democracy which the west has been trying to convince them are better than what they have.

  39. Beijinger says:

    MY – a lot of western journalism doesn’t try to sell itself as impartial and unbiased. it is overtly polemical. One of the things it likes making polemics against is dictatorship, based on experience of what dictatorships have done in the last century. that’s clearly and understandably tough for people to take who are loyal to their country which happens to be a dictatorship, even if it is less of a dictatorship than it used to be. The fact that polemical journalism is also employed against other governments, including the media’s own, ought to be a consolation but somehow isn’t. Partly, of course, many of those Chinese who are angry haven’t really read much western media – after all, it’s not primarily for their consumption, and it is very easy to be swayed by selective collections drawn from news.google.
    Of course, more and more “western media” have been accentuating the positive in China’s great changes in the last few years. For some reason, Chinese readers seem to discount this (though oddly, not Chinese officials, who often now stress that much western reporting on China is accurate. Perhaps they know more…) One problem is attitudes like those of Ann, who says that an article that puts one side of an argument is “balanced” because it puts the side she agrees with as a “balance” against those who criticise. As I say, this seems to distort the basic meaning of words. There seems in general, too, often to be an assumption that the starting point should be good news only.
    Perhaps the effect of Xinhua-style reporting, which you say most Chinese discount, is stronger than you imagine. As you will see, Snow is prepared to assert something above you on the basis of what s/he has read on Xinhua (don’t quite know how seriously he takes it). In general terms, it is frightening how many arguments which claim to be sceptical of the Chinese government’s newspapers and history books take positions identical to the government’s and repeat as facts things for which there is little evidence outside what the government says.
    There is certainly a clear expectation that “balanced” reporting means giving equal weight to the Chinese view of things as to the Tibetan side, whatever the objective reality. What one needs is critical assessment of what information is available. Ann, my comments earlier about China’s disastrous policy did not rely at all on what Tibet campaigners say, I’m afraid, and I specifically said you only had to watch the PRO-China videos to see the reality of Tibetan anger. As it happens, close reading of official Chinese sources would lead to the same conclusion – the widespread protests, not just March 14, are reflected in the Chinese accounts, in however limited way; the eye witness accounts of Chinese people there; even some government officials are in a subtle way admitting the mistakes that have been made. The repeated calls for reintensified patriotic education campaigns hint both at what has failed and the desperation that more of the same must be done.
    Of course, I am also being unfair: in my case it is backed up by my own personal experience of visiting the place and talking to locals – including Chinese migrants, who are often pretty honest about how unpopular they find themselves.
    It’s not a black and white situation, but it is one the Chinese government’s current policies are worsening. As it happens, I too disagree with the Economist – I don’t think nationalist protests are about to turn against the government either. What I find baffling and frightening is the willingness of so many people, including people who call themselves “moderate”, to turn on the messenger so viciously – however flawed he is – and not consider the reality of the situation in the least bit relevant.
    To find errors in a vast array of very disparate western media reporting (given the huge volume of reports, online, in print and on tv, and the circumstances under which the instant reporting was conducted, the anti-cnn collection is pretty small beer) and conclude, in the face of all the evidence, that criticism of China over Tibet is without foundation, its rule over Tibet is fair and positive (Cultural Revolution anyone?- again what happened in Tibet is available from published Chinese sources),and that the wild contradictions inherent in Chinese positions are less important or simply don’t matter at all, as seems to be the case, is to me extraordinary. And from there, that because of these mistakes, the whole edifice of “western type of freedom and democracy” is untrustworthy – is this not a little disproportionate?
    Ann, you talk about bait and switch? I did not give any opinion at all on whether the protests and riots were “stirred up” from abroad. How much does that matter? There is certainly no evidence that they were stirred up by the Dalai Lama himself ; if some radicals are on the mobile phone to friends and relatives in Lhasa, that would hardly be surprising. But you will note that this does not make a major conspiracy – there was clearly no supply of arms, for example. The actions of participants, of whom there were in total tens, if not hundreds of thousands in all parts, was marked often by spontaneity. Again I ask, why would people act this way, given the inevitable consequences for themselves, if they did not feel strongly.
    The initial protests were peaceful. They turned violent after a repressive response. The violence, the Chinese eye witness reports suggest, was spontaneous This is, sadly, often the result of a repressive system which gives no voice to peaceful resistance. And not even the Xinhua reports have given much in the way of evidence to contradict these assertions.
    As for your suggestion that I am juvenile, I am afraid I do not understand what you are trying to say in that paragraph. My example was not to say you were prejudging the media; it was to point out how difficult it is to conduct a dialogue – which everyone agrees is necessary – when those with whom you are conducting it do not seem to think it is relevant whether what they say is true or not.

  40. MY says:

    Correction: The other western media I read which has reported objectively the Tibet incidence was Economist – “Trashing the Beijing Road”.

    Last words: when western democracy, which has been mostly successful in the last century, is increasingly hijcked by popularlism which often short change long-term vision with electability, is something that we all should worry about.

  41. Anna says:

    Your reading of the Economist article is incorrect. The author is not arguing that “The anger directed at the west is in fact domestic Chinese anger at Chinese government policies,” He is arguing that the Chinese government’s vehement response to protests surrounding the torch relay is out of proportion. It is legal to protest in Western democracies and people use that right regularly to protest many things, in this case the failure of the Chinese government to live up to its promises to have an “open Olympics” and improve its human rights practices when it was awarded the Olympics in 2001. He is also making a second separate argument that not everyone in China walks in lock-step with the government and that they too protest, about unfair taxes and fees, lack of compensation for land that is confiscated, forced abortions, about pollution, and many other things. The difference between China and democratic countries is that in China people are regularly arrested for their protest activities and charged with “inciting subversion”, a crime against the state which then means authorities do not have to follow their own laws regarding due process.

    You have also been reading too many Chinese governmental accounts of what happened in Tibet and the response by protesters in the West when you say the “pro-Tibet independence folk”. First of all, you cannot lump all of the protesters together – some want “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet and a smaller percentage would not mind seeing Tibet independent. Second, who said they are lumping Chinese people together with the Chinese government??? Perhaps you say it but that just means you have not been listening to what the various groups of protesters have been saying.

    The rest of your “article” is not even worth commenting on it is such crap.

  42. Lao Wai says:

    I think a lot of this hoo-ha is to do with face. Basically, the Chinese think that they are inviting us to a party, and are offended when we then say how ugly their house is.
    They are so used to a media which rarely reports China’s shortcomings such as political repression, forced abortions, laogai ‘re-education’, intellectual property theft and suppression of minorities such as the Tibetans that they react badly when the Western media do. They seize on a few trifling inaccuracies in a few papers and TV reports and then say the Western media are biased and never show the Chinese side. But we have shown the wonderfully baroque insults of Xinhua, calling the Dalai Lama a ‘wolf in monks robes’. We are back to ‘running dogs and lackeys of imperialism’.

    After decades of lies, distortion and propaganda put out by the Chinese, it is a bit much for them to complain about a few minor inaccuracies. The problem is this; if you impose very strict limitations on Western reporters, you can’t really complain if their reports are sketchy and sometimes inaccurate.

    I live in London and on the BBC it was quite clear that Tibetan rioters had killed Hans, and it was obvious when protests were in India or Nepal.
    I can’t speak for CNN or what it said, but that is freedom of speech. Sometimes you won’t like what you hear. We are used to it. Western media criticise Western governments and indeed countries and peoples every day.

    Chinese demonstrated here in support of China, a right we would not be granted in Beijing. I will not be convinced that there is any sort of freedom in China until the Chinese can legally demonstrate against their own government as they can in India.

    I think the Chinese feel slightly embarrassed about their political system- you can tell that by the sharpness of their reactions. I have spoken Chinese for over 25 years and I wish better for them. But I think that the more powerful they get, the more criticism they will receive and they had better get used to it.

  43. David Ng says:

    To those such as Beijinger, Anna and Lao Wai, who would have it that the response of indignant Chinese is overblown due to their regular consumption of propaganda, I would make the (highly subjective) retort that I found much of the Western reporting on Tibet to be biased, despite pretty much reading Australian newspapers for a living (and never having read Xinhua etc in my life). Oddly enough, the Aussie newspapers were somewhat less biased than say, the BBC. The bias is subtle, often a matter of emphasis and word choice (“crackdown”, “authoritarian” etc), but it is there if you’re looking. More blatant of course was the use of the Burmese (?) footage, which, contrary to Lao Wai’s assertions, was highly unprofessional journalism as opposed to a minor accuracy. While I accept Beijinger’s observation that Western reporting is often polemical these days, I am old enough to remember when it was less so, nor am I convinced that this is a positive development.

    I concur with MY’s view that the Chinese people (or several loud mobs of them the world over, for the pedants) are aggrieved by the criticism of the CCP of the Western media, and that this has the potential to undermine East-West relations and global development. Yes, this is partly created by a disconnect between the media’s view of the CCP as a repressive dictatorship and the ‘people’s’ view of the party as a more complex entity (from inception to Cultural Revolution to now) to which they are willing to give some kudos for dragging them out of the shit.

    However, I think the point MY has not bothered to explain (though he would be well aware of it) is that most Chinese have a legitimate dislike and distrust of the West and its institutions in general. It is the lack of historical context on the part of the West that I imagine is causing the greater disconnect. From my sparse understanding of modern Chinese history, the country entered a period of turmoil, warlords, and a power vacuum directly after the invasion of the imperalist powers, which the CCP eventually managed to fill. We then entered a remarkably shitty period which ended in the 80s, when the current drive to economic development began.

    Given this history, even an overseas Chinese like myself, without the benefit of propaganda, would be inclined to feel outraged at the constant harping of the Western media on China’s problems – bearing in mind it is an edifice, the ‘fourth estate’, of those same governments which had a large hand in creating the conditions that led to the CCP, not to mention the people’s years of poverty. Of course, the CCP itself is also to blame, but at least it’s trying to pull them out.

    Of course, this is an emotional response, but I would suggest it’s these same emotions that are fueling the hostility displayed by Chinese all over the world in the wake of the Tibetan protests. Possibly compounded, in the case of the overseas Chinese, by experience or knowledge of white xenophobia, the only type to have a global reach due to extensive imperialism and domination. To the Western media or other commentators, this is all ancient history and irrelevant to the issue at hand, in this case Tibet. But to many Chinese people, it is not, and if you consider their experience, that view is equally valid.

    In summary, I think that China, and some other developing nations, need to improve their human rights records, and the Western media are entitled to voice their concerns with perceived abuses of such. However, holding such countries to the ever-increasing standards of developed countries is hypocritical and inflammatory, especially where the actions of past Western governments have restricted progress in those countries (e.g. BBC criticising the Indian caste system which was due in part to British colonial rule).

    With power comes responsiblity, and with the global reach that the Western media now enjoys comes the responsibility to take a holistic view, which includes history as seen not only by the conquerers (to whom the Opium War is a historical foonote) but also the conquered (to which it was a major contributor to China’s current state). If a fuller context for Chinese issues is too much to ask (e.g. the portayal of the CCP as a nationalistic guerilla movement that became a cult of personality, rather than the flippant ‘authoritarian government’), then neutral language, standards that account for differing developmental stages, and use of the correct footage should be a bare minimum.

    To dismiss these sensibilities on the part of developing peoples as a cultural quirk (e.g. the need for ‘face’) is trite, patronising and offensive, as is the assertion that their anger as being “out of proportion”. In psychoanalysis, trauma is resolved via narrative, and in this sense, misrepresenting the Chinese people’s position and then dismissing their righteous anger as misguided is to deny them any voice at all. In my opinion, it is verging on bigoted. It is a shame that the ignorance and resulting knee-jerk bias of many people in developed countries, not to mention their institutions, should pose one of the largest barriers to true understanding and global progess, when these people are in fact the best placed to widen their understanding and make a difference.

  44. You miss the point. Many in the west, out of ignorance, arrogance and laziness (because they won’t do the homework or are in denial), believe what the Economist lead article says.

    However, your response here is one step in the right direction to correct this missconception and educate if the masses in the West will pay attention. I’m not holding out much hope in that area since lack of respect for education by many western children and parents (unlike China where education is important) and not taking the time to read is a major flaw in western civilizations.

    I’ve been a guest on numerous radio talk shows attempting in my own limited way to explain why most of the Western media has been twisting the facts and getting it all wrong about this Tibetan issue.

    No matter, China is now too powerful to be pushed around like the Western powers (mainly France and Britain) did to China during the 19th century. There will be no more Opium Wars to force China to do what the Chinese do not want. Today, the Chinese will make the decisions in China.

    Robert Hart, an Irishman that arrived in China in 1854, wrote in a letter decades later in 1889, after he had been Inspector General of Imperial Chinese Customs for some time, that by 2100 China would be back on its feet again (meaning a super power), and he hoped that when that day comes wisdom and not revenge will shape China’s actions.

    I have faith that most Chinese are more sensible and understanding of the West’s ignorance, failures and limitations and will adjust accordingly while not allowing other’s to dictate what China will do.

    I’m sure that China is more than willing to let other nations alone if other nations will leave China alone while being an equal partner on the world economic stage.

    It is important for the West to wake up and set aside the arrogance that has been displayed in the past regarding China and other countries like India and realize that the world is a big place and we have to work harder to understand each other and get along and accept the differences.

    I fear what will happen if this shift does not take place. The world can not afford more wars like WWII or worse.

  45. ZsaZsa says:

    Hi,
    Never read the article in the Economist – I will eventually.
    So, why am I commenting here. Well, everyone above seems to be putting forward valid arguments but methinks you are all missing the general simplicity of the situation. People all over the world are always angry about something or the other. I guess it is just now that we are noticing China. They are more in the spotlight now than ever before. Imagine this. If you were living in a country of over a billion people in a time of flux, wouldn’t there be a chance that you too would be angry at something? I think so. It is probably a whole load of different ‘angers’.
    Of course, then there is all the crap about folk wanting to boycott the olympics. The reaction to that and its ‘anger’ would be heard above all others. Anyone calling for a boycott should probably shut up. Miserable bXXXXXXds!
    I say, let the Chinese enjoy their moment of pride and all other nations should enter willingly with an open heart. I’m sure then more folks can be a little happier.
    Zsa Zsa

  46. [...] west never seem to tire of telling the Chinese, especially Chinese government, about how China should become a more open society, and the Chinese never tire of telling the west to shut up and stop interfering in China’s [...]

  47. [...] the western media and some outside observers talk about “Angry China”, they really miss out on the real story, and even the real questions which need to be asked. For [...]