Last week I met with Elliott Ng, publisher of CNReviews, a US-based site which aims to help westerners get a better understanding of modern China. Today, Elliott posted on his site an idea about bringing both Chinese and western bloggers closer together through their attendance at a Chinese Bloggercon event in November to be held in the southern city of Guangzhou. As one can see from reading the comments section of the posting, the discussion has already become “lively”.
In 10 years, we probably we won’t talk about blogging, we will just call it writing, and writing will come to include the term blogging almost automatically in everyone’s vocabulary. It’s just that now, the technology and its capabilities are new enough, that some people have become enamored with its possibilities. Blogging, from my point of view, is just a new form of writing.
I’m convinced that a good part of the reason for the popularity of blogs has been because the mainstream media has done such a bad job of explaining for example, China and the west to each other. In particular, the US mainstream media, under the pressure to achieve profits and ratings, has turned everything into a gladitorial epic struggle. One moment it’s between China and the west, the next day it’s between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the following day it’s between the rulers of Myanmar and the international community. And on and on it goes.
Part of my reason for writing this blog is to highlight issues and bring to peoples’ attention issues which I believe are not shown correctly and intelligently in most of the western media. There is an awful lot going on in China, and 99% of it cannot be analyzed intelligently in terms of a gladitorial contest between opposing forces. Besides, gladitorial contests are a Roman form of entertainment! The Chinese much preferred strategy games to achieve their ends. Chinese heroes are Sunzi (writer of the Art of War) and Zhuge Liang, who used his wits to achieve his strategic goals.
The server logs indicate that most visitors to this site come from the US. If the articles on this site show visitors from the US and the west that there is more than one possible interpretation to events in China and Chinese behavior, then it has done a good job. It would be presumptuous to ask anyone who has not lived in China for more, but it certainly is a good first step. This is why I like writing about China as a medium. The reader can think things over, and then decide to agree or disagree. When they want, they can post a comment. I must say that I have been very impressed with the intelligence, thought and perception behind the vast majority of the comments, even when my opinions may be different. This is the kind of dialogue which engenders respect, even when people are separated by time, distance, language, culture and even opinions. The world needs more of this kind of dialogue.
I have become disconcerted at what I call the dumbing down of American society. Too much, issues have been reduced to 15-second sound bites and become trivialized. The relationship between China and the west is far too complex and complicated, and the relationship is so deeply intertwined, that it simply cannot afford to be trivialized.
It would be great if American bloggers visited the sites of Chinese bloggers, and western bloggers with a Chinese angle, such as this one, and posted thoughtful comments and questions about China. In my opinion, it would be entirely improper if well-known American bloggers came to China, lectured the Chinese about freedom, human rights and freedom of speech, without even making a dedicated effort to understanding what the Chinese bloggers were thinking about and discussing on their blogs. The Chinese would feel insulted, and I would agree with them. They would be insulted, yet again, by yet another example of arrogance, ignorance and stupidity. And then the Americans would move off, completely oblivious to all the damage which had been done to an event which had the best of intentions, but then didn’t play out right.
If China is about to become the great power that many think that it will become in the 21st century, wouldn’t it make sense to start reading the blogs of Chinese bloggers to find out what they are thinking about and saying? What’s so difficult to understand about that?
Why is it that Robert Scoble is so quick to condemn China’s lack of rule of law (as he recently has), and then quickly changes subject to something totally unrelated to China? The answer is simple: Robert Scoble is a media gadfly who is seeking new subjects which he can feed to his followers. He is not really interested in his subjects; he wants to stand in the spotlight and serve his own agenda. And he will move wherever the spotlight moves, as long as he is in the center. China is interesting to him only so long as it serves his purposes. After that, it becomes yesterday’s newspaper. He is incapable of going deep on any subject.
When are people like Robert Scoble actually going to make an effort to understand what Chinese are thinking about before they lecture them about how they should run their country? Is that too much to ask?
I hope that this event is not turned into a spectacle. The way to do that is to start talking to each other, through our blogs, NOW.
That is what real dialogue is about.