The Economist, it is time for a new editorial overhaul

The Economist recently announced a dedicated weekly section on China.  It said, China is the second country for them to have done this for, followed only by their singling out the United States since 1942.  In my view, the extra attention they give to ‘China’ as a topic is hardly going to help Westerners’ understanding of China.  Their editorial staff really needs an overhaul, as one of their reader observes:

You need an editor and staff with some personal background in China (and I don’t mean expats with Chinese spouses). You need better academic resources. And somehow you must all learn that western values are not universal values, and that all cultures are internally legitimate yet benefit from external contact. To fail in this regard will simply amplify existing cultural misunderstandings and cripple the great impending social and political globalizations that must follow the economic one already in progress.

The Economist’s coverage of China is bigoted, as exemplified by their debut article – which I am rebutting in this post (my rebuttal on the right).  If The Economist is genuinely interested in improving China for the Chinese, they’d be able to discuss the issues and policies specifically – not a wholesale rejection of the China ‘model.’

The paradox of prosperityFor China’s rise to continue, the country needs to move away from the model that has served it so wellJan 28th 2012
IN THIS issue we launch a weekly section devoted to China. It is the first time since we began our detailed coverage of the United States in 1942 that we have singled out a country in this way. The principal reason is that China is now an economic superpower and is fast becoming a military force capable of unsettling America. But our interest in China lies also in its politics: it is governed by a system that is out of step with global norms. In ways that were never true of post-war Japan and may never be true of India, China will both fascinate and agitate the rest of the world for a long time to come. Former U.S. Secretary of State, Brzezinski, recently argued that our world is safer when there is a hegemonic power to enforce a world order.  Sure, so long as that world order is fair and just.Comparing to our world’s past, my personal opinion is our current world order maintained by the U.S.-led West has generally been better.On the point China’s rise is able to ‘agitate,’ the U.S. should be expected to make room for China too.  Our world order should not be rigid, and perhaps even one day to pass the hegemonic baton, to China, India, Russia, or whomever.  The alternative to this arrangement is obviously a multi-polar world or a very strong U.N..Calling China’s “system” as “out of step with global norms” is ridiculous.  What is this ‘global norm’ anyways?
Only 20 years ago, China was a long way from being a global superpower. After the protests in Tiananmen Square led to a massacre in 1989, its economic reforms were under threat from conservatives and it faced international isolation. Then in early 1992, like an emperor undertaking a progress, the late Deng Xiaoping set out on a “southern tour” of the most reform-minded provinces. An astonishing endorsement of reform, it was a masterstroke from the man who made modern China. The economy has barely looked back since. China still has a long ways to go from being a superpower.  The Chinese constantly remind themselves of this too.  They have tremendous problems to solve internally – pollution, corruption, food safety, poverty, and wealth inequality.The Economist is clever enough to no longer outright call the 1989 incident a Tiananmen ‘massacre,’ but is careful to say it ‘led to a massacre.’  Leaked U.S. cables of the U.S. government have corroborated with Chinese government official figures of deaths – in the couple of hundreds outside the square involving mostly Chinese worker protesters clashing with the army.Has the Economist call on the British government their NATO bombings of Libya – resulting in thousands of dead Libyans a ‘massacre?’China in fact has legal basis for suppressing the protest, whereas the NATO bombing was against international law – bombing of a foreign country without U.N. authorization.The students and workers protested because by 1989, China had already underwent 10 years of privatization reforms.  The protesters feared their jobs and social safety net would no longer be guaranteed.  They were against corruption too.The Western lead isolation was an “anti-Communist” knee-jerk reaction from the Cold War.

The Chinese are clearly better off with the 1989 protest failed.  Look at where China is today.  As we see in Egypt, a revolution does not guarantee a timely and positive transition towards something ‘better.’

Compared with the rich world’s recent rocky times, China’s progress has been relentless. Yet not far beneath the surface, society is churning. Recent village unrest in Wukan in Guangdong, one province that Deng toured all those years ago; ethnic strife this week in Tibetan areas of Sichuan; the gnawing fear of a house-price crash: all are signs of the centrifugal forces making the Communist Party’s job so hard. China is indeed a society in transition.  The country is undergoing an industrial revolution.  For the first time, there are more urban dwellers than there are farmers.  Hundreds of millions of Chinese are to continue to move into cities.  This phenomenon causes tremendous social stress.China’s progress is overwhelmingly a positive one, though there are certainly problems as I pointed out above.”gnawing fear of a house-price crash” is another stupid narrative.  The Chinese government have actively been combating escalating housing prices by limiting the number of homes a citizen can purchase and tightening lending rules.  The result has been a resounding success – housing prices have dropped by 20%! (Update Feb 8, 2012: Reader Stu took issue with this 20% in the comments below. Please see my response beneath his comment.) Again, The Economist is an ignorant fool on this issue.The Economist often likes to repeat this idea that there are “vacant cities” in China in trying to argue a ‘housing collapse.’  That’s rather stupid too.  Let’s suppose there are such cities in China.  Are we talking about 100,000 vacant apartments?  What about the 100 MILLION Chinese who are yet to move into cities in the next few years?
The party’s instinct, born out of all those years of success, is to tighten its grip. So dissidents such as Yu Jie, who alleges he was tortured by security agents and has just left China for America, are harassed. Yet that reflex will make the party’s job harder. It needs instead to master the art of letting go. This logic is backwards.  If China becomes more rich and affluent, the trend then is more freedom.  The Chinese Internet is vibrant.  Criticisms of the Chinese government is plenty abound.Compared to few decades ago, China is more open society today.Chinese dissidents get into legal trouble for the most part because they violate Chinese law.  One may argue there are perhaps too many loopholes giving Chinese authorities too much room for abuse.
China’s third revolution
The argument goes back to Deng’s insight that without economic growth, the Communist Party would be history, like its brethren in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. His reforms replaced a failing political ideology with a new economic legitimacy. The party’s cadres set about remaking China with an energy and single-mindedness that have made some Westerners get in touch with their inner authoritarian. The bureaucrats not only reformed China’s monstrously inefficient state-owned enterprises, but also introduced some meritocracy to appointments. Talking about legitimacy – the West needs more self introspection.  PEW and other reputable organizations consistently showed the Chinese government enjoying popular support, and in contrast broad disappointment in the West.Why must this dichotomy be viewed as a ‘authoritarian’ vs ‘democracy’ issue?Within the Chinese government there are liberals and conservatives too.  The reason they have a plan is because they don’t politicize everything.What is the reason for democracies not being able to compromise and turn economics into politics?So, instead of propagandizing China’s progress as a ‘authoritarianism’ challenge to ‘democracy,’ The Economist should educate its readers that when a society politicizes everything, it bogs down and is unable to solve problems.
That mix of political control and market reform has yielded huge benefits. China’s rise over the past two decades has been more impressive than any burst of economic development ever. Annual economic growth has averaged 10% a year and 440m Chinese have lifted themselves out of poverty—the biggest reduction of poverty in history. I really can’t blame the Economist’s ignorance here, but it is still vacillating in its own convoluted thinking.  If we look at China’s history, she’s had dynasties where her economic output dwarfed any other civilization on the planet.China’s rise is also because she is not being invaded and colonized.  Her freedom is giving her a chance to develop.
Yet for China’s rise to continue, the model cannot remain the same. That’s because China, and the world, are changing. China’s reform continues for sure, because her society is changing.  She is going through an industrial revolution as I mentioned above.  But this is not what the article had in mind.
China is weathering the global crisis well. But to sustain a high growth rate, the economy needs to shift away from investment and exports towards domestic consumption. That transition depends on a fairer division of the spoils of growth. At present, China’s banks shovel workers’ savings into state-owned enterprises, depriving workers of spending power and private companies of capital. As a result, just when some of the other ingredients of China’s boom, such as cheap land and labour, are becoming scarcer, the government is wasting capital on a vast scale. Freeing up the financial system would give consumers more spending power and improve the allocation of capital. This paragraph contradicts itself.  China is weathering the global crisis well, because exports is not the gravy train for China as much as The Economist would like to paint it.  China’s over-all import-export is basically balanced.  (For a discussion of how we think trade actually benefits China, look here.)China needs a lot of investment in infrastructure.  For example, she has to build the highways and rail systems to connect the country.  That is a must.  There is still massive demand for infrastructure.  The Economist has to be blind to not know 200+ million Chinese rode the railway system alone during the Chinese New Year week.  People wait days to buy tickets!In China’s latest 5-year plan, it is certainly calling for more domestic consumption.This narrative that “the model cannot remain the same” is plainly stupid.  Who is telling The Economist China is not changing and not reforming?
Even today’s modest slowdown is causing unrest (see article). Many people feel that too little of the country’s spectacular growth is trickling down to them. Migrant workers who seek employment in the city are treated as second-class citizens, with poor access to health care and education. Land grabs by local officials are a huge source of anger. Unrestrained industrialisation is poisoning crops and people. Growing corruption is causing fury. And angry people can talk to each other, as they never could before, through the internet. This paragraph is first of all contradicting few paragraphs above.  440m have been lifted out of poverty.   If that is not trickling down, I don’t know what is!Certainly, Chinese society is more delicate because there are still hundreds of millions of people below the poverty line.Chinese society is still largely unscathed, managing 9% growth in GDP despite the softening in demand from U.S. and Europe.  That is sound governance, and the Chinese government should be applauded.Certainly, there are mistreatment of migrant workers, issues with access to healthcare, pollution, and corruption, income inequality, and so on.  The Chinese are not happy with these problems.  But, the government is also sober about these issues.Again, whats wrong with ‘the model?’  What does The Economist suggest China do instead?
Party officials cite growing unrest as evidence of the dangers of liberalisation. Migration, they argue, may be a source of growth, but it is also a cause of instability. Workers’ protests disrupt production and threaten prosperity. The stirrings of civil society contain the seeds of chaos. Officials are particularly alive to these dangers in a year in which a new generation of leaders will take power. The general trend in the current Chinese industrial revolution is that majority of the population will continue to migrate to cities.
That bias towards control is understandable, and not merely self-interested. Patriots can plausibly argue that most people have plenty of space to live as individuals and value stability more than rights and freedoms: the Arab spring, after all, had few echoes in China. For once, it acknowledges some truth.
Yet there are rights which Chinese people evidently do want. Migrant workers would like to keep their limited rights to education, health and pensions as they move around the country. And freedom to organise can help, not hinder, the country’s economic rise. Labour unions help industrial peace by discouraging wildcat strikes. Pressure groups can keep a check on corruption. Temples, monasteries, churches and mosques can give prosperous Chinese a motive to help provide welfare. Religious and cultural organisations can offer people meaning to life beyond the insatiable hunger for rapid economic growth. Yet, none of these ‘values’ are new to the Chinese.  And to say that there is no organization in labor or freedom to worship in China is ludicrous.  It says The Economist is completely ignorant about China.What China opposes is Vatican trying to exert political control over Christians worshipers in China.Many Westerners in fact lament the power of the church in Western governments.  Freedom from religion is also a value Chinese and Westerners alike share.
Our business now
China’s bloody past has taught the Communist Party to fear chaos above all. But history’s other lesson is that those who cling to absolute power end up with none. The paradox, as some within the party are coming to realise, is that for China to succeed it must move away from the formula that has served it so well. China’s bloody past was far worse when invaded by Japan and the West.The Chinese lesson is not to let foreign political forces undermine their own government.  When the government is weak, the people are open to foreign exploitation.
This is a matter of more than intellectual interest to those outside China. Whether the country continues as an authoritarian colossus, stagnates, disintegrates, or, as we would wish, becomes both freer and more prosperous will not just determine China’s future, but shape the rest of the world’s too. China will certainly continue to evolve and her people become more free.We also hope that China can inject a more humane culture into our current international relations climate. The West has been way too aggressive in bombing and invading foreign countries.A more peaceful world is also a possibility with China’s rise.If The Economist wants to expand coverage of China with more ignorance and bigotry, I guess it’s just nothing new.

110 thoughts on “The Economist, it is time for a new editorial overhaul

  1. Global norm = current norm dominated by West.

    History = recent history dominated by west.

    Political end point = western liberalism as defined by end of Cold War.

    These are all a problem of mindset, summarized by the notion of the “End of History” whose author doesn’t even subscribe to anymore.

    A dedicated section to China is past due. But so is a change in mindset.

  2. When the West simply cannot imagine a world where its ideals are no longer supreme, so ends of the possibilities of the future.

    And they wonder why their “creativity” is failing?

    The real question is, is there any imagination left in the West other than raw paranoia?

    Why is it that the un-creative Chinese can imagine their own bright future in the past bleak decades? But the supposedly brightest of the West see nothing but their own fears??

    You want to see creativity??!!

    See the countless Chinese imagine and create their future, despite all the “no’s” from the nay-sayers.

    Those who fear that true power of creativity, know well enough that they themselves are lacking.

  3. Thanks yinyang. You have summarised things in an awesome fashion.

    And this reader has hit the nail right on the head:

    “You need an editor and staff with some personal background in China (and I don’t mean expats with Chinese spouses).”

    Hahaha….give this reader a medal!

    I’m sick of white men posing as China experts and ‘old china hands’ simply because they happen to fuck a yellow female dog. The whole racism thing is driven home when such white men’s opinions are treated with more respect than those of Chinese people such as ourselves. It happens all the fucking time.

  4. The Economist … sigh. Woefully predictable. And easy to pastiche. Perhaps you’d like to pre-empt them next time? It shouldn’t be too hard to write their articles before they do.

  5. I was a subscriber of The Economist for long years and stopped a few years ago because I felt it started to become detached from global reality. A magazine of The Economist’s stature should be objective and scholarly in global politics and should analyse and discuss issues and not preach ideology. On China, it should assess its policies and not reject its system, wholesale.

    The Economist should not only deldicate a special weekly section on China but also reset its mind on China. A good beginning is to use proper language : call China China and not Communist China or Red China; call the Chinese Government by its official name and not the Chinese Regime; call the Tiananmen Square event and crack down by force by facts and not Tiananmen Square Massacre; call China a one-party state and not Commnunist Dictorship, etc.

    I read that a person’s mind directs the way he thinks which decides how he speaks which eventually leads him how to act. The Economist should overhaul or reform itself along this line.

  6. I was a subscriber of The Economist for long years and stopped a few years ago when I felt that it was becoming ideological and detached from global reality. A magzine of The Economist’s stature should be objective and discuss issues and not reject a sysem, wholesale.

    It is nice to know that The Economist will start a special weekly section on China. More importantly, it should return to its intellectual and scholarly past. A good start is to use proper language : call China by its official name and not Communist or Red China; call it the Chinese Government and not the Chinese Regime; call China a one-party state and not Communist Dictatorship; call the Tiananmen Square event and the crack down by force they way it should be and not the Tiananmen Square Masscare, etc.

    I read that a person’s mind stimulates him how to think which decides how he speaks which eventually leads him how to act. The Economist should also overhaul and reform itself along this line.

  7. @Wayne

    Sigh. It’s worth noting that the “yellow dog” comment – as crude as it is – says basically the same thing as the far more polite “and I don’t mean expats with Chinese spouses” comment. Both are offensive, sexist, bigoted and way, way, WAY below the standard that this blog is supposed to represent. Frankly, I find it ironic that a post which rails against a bigoted viewpoint from the Economist would take a shot at expats who have married locally. Really? I know that during my 12 years living in China my friendships with Chinese people have made me more sympathetic and understanding of the country. Had I chosen to marry locally (I’m married to a Canadian) surely that sympathy and understanding would only have grown.

    I’m very, very disappointed that this point-of-view is being peddled here. To be sure, there are foreign reporters who live in compounds and have little interest in China. Perhaps, in the future, discussions on this board would be better served by criticizing that mode of behavior, and not personal lives.

    In the interest of raising the discussion, let me pose a question: who or what is the ideal profile of a foreign correspondent in China? An ethnic Chinese? Is Chinese language essential? That might make for an interesting, altogether separate post, yinyang! I’d like to see it.

    In the meantime, I hope comments like those of Wayne can be condemned and forgotten. Totally out of line.

  8. I agree with Cliff that we should discuss issues and offer views and this cannot be done well when excessive and abusive language is used. Everybody is entitled to an opinion but nobody has the truth.

  9. @Cliff

    While I don’t agree with Wayne’s tone, he does have a certain point as these ‘experts’ who work for the Economist only have a Western View of China. They think China should encourage consumerism and remove State Owned Enterprises. In many cases, it simply does not work and have Chinese consumers to encourage to buy Western goods is probably good for the UK, but not for China.

  10. so let me get this straight; the geniuses at The Economist think China should stop doing what they’re doing even though it’s proven to have tangible benefits, simply becausethe ideologues at The Economist are uncomfortable with any other government that isn’t a Liberal Democracy? Even a faux Liberal Democracy like India would make these hypocrites happy, y’see it’s not China’s political system or economic system that frightens these people, it’s China’s power that they’re afraid of. Well tough shit, live with it, deal with it and accept it; a powerful China is good for the world even if it is to provide a counterbalance to the excesses of a morally-and financially- bankrupt West.

  11. It is more like a new China bashing column to me. I have almost stop reading the Economist entirely. It is not just Eurocentric but also decidedly anti-Euro due to its pro-British position. The world economy is not just about OECD states, and that’s how the Economist always phrased its articles.

    Frankly, I will judge an economist or a publification based on their prediction or analysis for the last ten or even twenty years. If they can’t even predict the trend, they they are in no position to try to make a living in this line. On both account the Economist has failed miserably, so is Forbes, Fortune Businessweek etc. I still remember the front page “Death of HK” article of Fortune. Maybe that’s the reason it has gone the way of the dodo bird.

    I would die of embarassment if I wrote an article like this:
    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1995/06/26/203948/index.htm

    @Cliff
    I would feel that at the bare minimum, Chinese language skill is essential. For example, how can a reporter be even to qualify to report from say the US but can’t even understand English.

  12. Ray and I have almost identical experieces and feelings. I quit subscribing The Economist about 3 years ago after reading it for over 10 years, for reasons quoted by Ray. I still keep a hard copy of the 1995 issue of the Fortune Magazine in my book shelf and show it to friends who insists on believing a negative prediction made in an article writen by a Western jounalist. If one cares to dig deep into the record to find how wrong prominent Western figures and media have been on China from its founding in 1949, one should also suspect how wrong they can be for the next 60 years. My reading is that they have been consistently wrong because they do not understand China and they look at things from the Western point of view based on Western standards, experiences and values which they believe to be universal.

  13. To All:
    To repeatedly called mainland China’s economy as communist is a misnomer. Despite the founding of the PRC on 1949/50, the first reform was the redistribution of land to all the citizens. I won’t called it communist at all as it allowed personal initiative on their own land. It became a state controlled collective farming economy only on 1958 (the beginning of the 2nd 5 yr plan). It was a disaster so it was partly reverted back to the old format. The fact most people don’t realized is many factories own by industrialist are run by their owners into the 1970s.

    As we all know market economic reform started again in 1978. So in reality China’s economy was barely communist for 20yrs since its 1949 founding. Is it objective to call China’s economy communist if it is only so for less than 1/3 of its existence? I believe this fact is lost on most commentators when they repeatedly say China’s economy is communist. The PRC practiced market economy most of the time. On top of that those commentators also blamed China’s economic backwardness on using the socialist model (In Kerala of India, this model has proven to be the most effective for a land scared area with large population) pointing to the boom after 1978. However, they failed to consider that China’s backwardness was also attributed to the embargo and sanction by the US from 1949 to 1978!

    China’s boom from the 1978 was simply made up for lost time during the period it was cut off from the world economy. The US was using its economic muscle to bully the likes of Cuba, Iran and DPRK. The PRC was in the same shoes many years ago. I will leave the politics for another discussion and just concentrate on the economics. Another advantage that China has and seldom reported is the overseas Chinese connection. Immediately after 1989, the biggest “foreign” investors are those from HK, Taiwan and Chinese diasporas.

    How many economists in the west managed to identify those few points that I have mentioned? They can only see the growth of the manufacturing/export industries and later infrastructure investment. To them China is purely a centrally planned economy. Again this is also one of the biggest misconception. A province like Sichuan or a mega city like Chongqing has more leeway and initiative to introduce their own local business model than Los Angeles or Arkansas. Here’s one of the reason of difficulty of doing business in China, the rules and regulation of Shanghai does not apply to Chongqing. Mainland China is consist of very different economic segment joined or semi-joined together.

    My advice for the editors in the Economist is if they want to understand China they should stop their traditional top down central based analysis of China. They should report one major development, one city, one province or one county at a time. Only through this way can outsiders get a better grasp of the economic picture of China. For example, one myth that has become conventional wisdom is the ghost cities of China. The belief is that China is filled with those! The reality on the ground is that housing is in severe shortage all over China forcing the central government to order the building of 65 million additional housing units. Yes, there are ghost cities and empty malls but to report the 1 out of 100 occurrence is either intellectual deficiency or dishonesty.

  14. Of course the Chinese language is essential.

    Would you have any ‘expert’ on US or British affairs be taken seriously if he or she did not know english, at least to a reasonable level?

    So how on earth can a Westerner who does not know Chinese understand anythign more about China than a Chinese who does not know English understand about the US?

    Or does white skin somehow confer some sort of special wisdom upon their wearers?

  15. So I assume this new column of theirs will have Gordon G. Chang as their lead, no? (!)

    The Economist has become a joke, and whats dangerous and worse is a lot of people in the West actually believe and think what it publishes is true, objective, fair and real.

    This is how long term disasters, just waiting to happen are made, by indoctrinating populations in propaganda and of course bullshit.

  16. However, they failed to consider that China’s backwardness was also attributed to the embargo and sanction by the US from 1949 to 1978!

    Excellent point. Many people forget this when they blanket condemn the Mao years saying why did not trade and opening up start earlier, and china lost twenty years under Mao and all that bullshit.

    For fucks sake there was a period when Americans were not even allowed to go to China. In fact it was Mao who took the initiative and met Nixon in 1972, which of course paved the way for further improvement in relations.

    The first thirty years were not lost. China established her independence against both superpowers (not an easy thing), raised life expectancy and increased literacy. These were the foundations of the Deng reforms. Pretty much incontrovertible facts.

    Maintaining that independence was something only a maverick, out of the box thinker like Mao could have done. Most of the other men, while heroes, were pretty much standard apparatchiks who would have stuck to the Soviet model and followed the Soviets lock step. This would mean of course, no reform, even after Mao’s death, and China would have simply been a Soviet satellite. Then when the Soviet union collapsed China would have similarly collapsed with catastrophic consequences.

    Without independence both from the US, and the Soviets, Deng would never have struck out on his own. Afterall what was the Brezhneve doctrine ‘the issue of socialism in one country is the concern of all other socialist countries’

    Now I don’t hate the Soviets, but the fact is China had to be independent. And this was achieved under Mao.

  17. Collectivization had to happen.

    A country where the land was split up between several hundred million farmers would have simply gone nowhere.

    CHina would have been stuck in a time warp, sort of like medieval europe.

  18. @Wayne
    What Cliff said above is absolutely right, and please refrain from those type of comments on this blog:

    I’m very, very disappointed that this point-of-view is being peddled here. To be sure, there are foreign reporters who live in compounds and have little interest in China. Perhaps, in the future, discussions on this board would be better served by criticizing that mode of behavior, and not personal lives.

    For me, inter-racial marriages speak more about acceptance and tolerance than anything else. Over the years I have known quite a few such couples – and – yes with Chinese women included. Some Chinese men with White women. They all ABSOLUTELY add to understanding between their respective cultures.

    You have a lot of great insights. I sincerely hope we can avoid this type of distraction.

  19. @Wayne

    Agreed. I agree with the notion that having a Chinese wife is not a credential to understanding China. But there is also no reason to disparage such unions.

    My personal experience with White people who have Chinese wives (and of course this is a generalization based on only a few data points) is that they think they understand China and exaggerate their understanding beyond what it really is. Communication between couples is hard enough – to say that interracial couples must understand each others’ cultures beyond what is superficial is probably a stretch. Besides, most interracial marriages that I know is – as correctly noted by Wayne some time ago – about assimilation. The dominant culture remains white. It’s not necessarily that while people dominate in the marriage, it’s just that few white people marry into Chinese culture. Most Chinese who marry white already have adopted Western society already…

    So interracial marriage is really not about a badge of understanding per se.

  20. It is a good start. I wonder why it takes so long for the magazine to get a weekly column on China. Wall Street Journal has several articles on China every day and even on the tiny Hong Kong about once a week. Most articles from WSJ are unbiased and full of good information and insights.

    The readers at Economist are changing more pro China. I had a comment on Tibet two years ago and it did not generate a lot of ‘likes’, but got over 300 ‘likes’ on the same comment on Nov. 2011.

    I welcome the media to spread understanding of the two countries instead of hatred.

  21. One point not mentioned which I feel is important is the journalist needs to be an “atheist” and/or non-religious. Far too often, the objective point of view is tainted because of personal opinions, morals and dogma. According to Wikipedia, only 4% of Americans and 18% of the EU do not believe in a god so chances of an atheist journalist reporting on China is rather slim. That said, like any news, if you want the truth, you must spend time to visit the area otherwise you are at the mercy of publications and news outlets.

  22. For journalist to be good at journalism, there has to be sincerity and respect. Chinese leaders or official spokespersons often say those two words toward people who criticize China on ‘human rights.’

    It sounds superficial, but we are human beings bound by human nature. When people can be sincere and respectful, that then accords the chance for understanding. Otherwise what we get is what we see in the likes of The Economist – cesspool of bigoted nonsense.

  23. The Chinese economy, in a state of autarky since the days of Mao Zedong experienced some radical transformations after Deng Xiaoping took over in 1978. From being an excessively centrally planned economy it matured to a more open economy from his time and is now the growth engine for the world economy for the past ten years. Driven by rapid economic growth and rising incomes, the standard of living has risen and consumer goods such as cars and television sets which were once reserved for the elite are now within the grasp of the common man. Between 1978 and 2002, the amount of goods passing through Chinese ports had increased ten fold and the number of foreign visitors to the country had crossed over a million.

  24. @TonyP4
    I am less optimistic. Judging from the voters sentiment in the PIIGS, I doubt the deficit can be cut to a sustainable level. In the Euro zone, except for Germany (and smaller countries like Austria, Netherlands, Luxembourg etc) there will be recession or no growth. Check out the unemployment figures for the PIIGS.

    On top of that only Germany and the smaller states I’ve mentioned (which has negligible share) can come up with the fund for ESM. I predict 2012 will be worse than 2011 for the Euro zone especially since Germany and France’s growth are stalling. Here’s a breakdown of ESM. The 3rd largest EU economy, the UK would also have little growth.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/25/us-eurozone-esm-idUSTRE72O2OW20110325
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/12/08/uk-eu-summit-imf-idUKTRE7B70LT20111208

    I am way off on my final 2011 GDP figure prediction on China mainly by not accounting for the high inflation. China’s official figure take into consideration its inflation figure which is among the strictest in the world. I am still expecting at least 8% growth for China mainly because infrastructure investment is still huge. China is investing more on highway construction than even the rail. I find it odd it is rarely mentioned. That’s one reason China has new automobiles sales figure that is more than the total of US and Japan combined in 2011 (will probably sustain at the same level in 2012). There will be a slow down on private housing start but off set by the government “security housing” which will numbered at least 65 million over the next 2-3 years. The housing industry will pull along the domestic market in the form of commodities and appliances sales figures. Basically, China’s service economy will still be around 40% due to this reason. In western economies it is around 70% or more.

    Sad to say, I am not sure how the housing market will go for Canada which I have substantial investment! The outcome will probably be decided by how the EU and US will go. Although there is slight recovery, I see housing market as weak in the US and most of EU. Property market is overheating in some major cities in HK, Singapore, Malaysia etc. I foresee a correction in 2012.

    Stock market in the US and EU (China too) NO LONGER reflect the economic reality on the ground. I would say less than a third of the population will benefit if the stock market rise (same goes for rise of price of gold). China’s stock market lost 1/5 of its value in 2011! The price of oil, commodities and metal will also decide how the economy of 2012 will pen out. Basically a rise in energy cost will hurt most of the world, while a collapse would actually be a better option. I believe if oil hit even $120 for a few weeks it will have a ripple effects again. The Arab Spring HAVE NOT solved the economic issues in those countries!

  25. @Wayne

    What’s up kid? small man sydrome?

    Don’t let the bitterness eat you up too much.

    On the general point, of course Economist China writers should be able to speak Chinese (do we have any indication that they don’t?). But they do not need to be ethnically Chinese. How many non-Chinese does Xinhua have working for it in the UK or US for instance.

    I have a friend who is a very good journalsit based in HK who was going to apply for a job recently advertised at The Economist. However, in the end he did not reply, telling me that his Chinese was not good enough to do justice to the position and did not want to rely on a junior reporter acting as translator.

  26. But they do not need to be ethnically Chinese. How many non-Chinese does Xinhua have working for it in the UK or US for instance.

    Can’t you read? Where did I say they had to be ‘ethnically Chinese’?

    [Rest of the comment deleted by yinyang for attempting to set up a physical fight.]

  27. Guys (MikeO and Wayne), I was going to spend some time to digest it here, but am going to rush it now since I don’t want to see this thread to degenerate much more.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201111/the-art-listening-how-open-are-your-ears

    Art of Good Listening. I think it is applicable here. If Economist wants to carry out insightful reporting of China, a minimal qualification is that they be able to understand the Chinese perspective. Not just regurgitate, but to really understand, empathize, synthesize, and then to apply that perspective to the issues at hand. Facts are important, but mindset and perspective also are.

    Here’s five key listening patterns that I monitor for in my clinical practice, and that I observed for better and for worse in the dining hall today. Truly great listeners do all five.

    The Hungry Listener: A hungry listener has a real appetite for learning others’ perspectives, for finding out what’s going on in others’ lives, and for caring about others. By contrast, narcissists are anorectic when it comes to listening. They have little interest or willingness to engage in others’ worlds.

    The Hunter: Exploring with open-ended how and what questions, a good hunter has a knack for asking the kinds of questions that lead to fascinating conversations.

    The Gatherer: Thinking out loud about what you have heard enables you to be nourished by new data, new thoughts, new insights and understandings. It enables you then to do something with the data like attach it to formerly held ideas, creating a new file, or in some other way registering the information you have heard in your internal data pool. At the same time, chewing on and digesting aloud the data you have taken in indicates to your conversation partner that you care about what you have heard

    The Problem-Solver: Listening to understand underlying concerns is key to creating win-win solutions.

    The Porous Listener-Porousness referse to the extent to which there are openings in a membrane. Porousness in listening refers to the extent to which you are open to receiving new information. If by contrast automatically you habitually spit out or close your mouth to new data that people try to feed you, you will end up starved for personal connection as well as under-nourished in terms of new ideas. This walled-off kind of listener is the antithesis of the hungry, hunting, gathering and problem-solving porous listener that people enjoy talking with.

    What’s so important about listening skills?

    A porous and hungry listener with hunting and gathering skills plus the ability to track down underlying concerns has the highest odds of being able to sustain strong positive relationships at home and at work.

    When people talk about having a “great relationship,” they in large part are referring to how openly they listen to each other, plus how much positive feedback they give each other.

    A huge part of feeling connected with someone entails feeling that when you speak, the other person cares about what you think and feel. Feeling heard is feeling valued.

    Because such a big indicator of loving is listening, a great listener is a great lover.

    How would you rate yourself on your listening habits?

    Here’s a self-assessment quiz.

    Score yourself on each question as 1 (the statement is not true for me at all), 2 (I mildly disagree), 3 (I partly agree and partly disagree with the statement), 4 (I mildly agree), or 5 (the statement is totally true for me) .

    ___ 1. I prefer talking to listening to what others may say.

    ___ 2. It mostly doesn’t occur to me to ask questions.

    ___ 3. When others are talking I’m often thinking about what I’ll say next.

    ___ 4. The main point of talking is to impress people, or at least to entertain them.

    ___ 5. My perspective is usually right, so if others disagree, I convince them to see it my way.

    ___ 6. It bothers me when people get their facts wrong.

    ___ 7. It’s important to point out when people are wrong about something.

    ___ 8. Most people are boring, so I usually need to do most of the talking if the conversation is going to be interesting.

    ___ Total score

    Scoring: The higher your score, the lower your listening skills. The closer your score is to 40, the highest possible score, the more strongly you probably need a skills upgrade. By contrast, a score in the 8 to 16 range passes, and the closer your score is to 8, the better your skills probably are.

  28. Having worked in banking with the Americans and Europeans for 35 years, I observe that Americans listen less than the Europeans do. Having observed international politics for even longer, it is clearer than American politicians do not even listen and speak. They preach and instruct.

  29. I am not too concerned with editorials as they are usually biased, although I have doubts many could differentiate between opinion and facts. IMO the bigger issue is editorials disguised as regular news articles coming out of the likes of AP, Guardian, etc. I have seen AP business articles discussing Chinese GDP dedicating quarter of an article to talk about AiWeiWei or Tibet, as if the later have any bearings on business or economics. On controversial issues (usually Human rights related), the detailed responses from the Chinese government are automatically painted as propaganda and completely shielded by the Western media, even if the CCP response is closer to the truth. By the same token, a disproportionate amount of attention is paid to dissident politics to build the perception of popularity even if few in China cares or knows.

    Now there are a lot of anger in China. People who follow Weibo or go on forums can easily dig up articles criticizing China’s current state, on issues which Chinese actually cares about (usually corruption and inequality before the law). The problem is that very few Western journalists report the stuff in popular forums in China (when they do it’s only stuff from popular English China blogs like Chinasmack). This lead me to believe that most reporters working for western papers simply can’t read Chinese or have very limited literacy, and that definitely makes me question their ability to report on China altogether.

  30. “I observe that Americans listen less than the Europeans do. Having observed international politics for even longer, it is clearer than American politicians do not even listen and speak. They preach and instruct.”

    And let me guess, Chinese politicians are by comparison paragons of virtue and understanding?

    Oh, but I guess not many of the 5 of you here actually know, since you all prefer to live in the West

    lmao

  31. @Enoch
    You’re right. We vote with our feet. That’s why US has so many immigrants legally or illegally. I came here to escape communism from Hong Kong as most of our classmates did. It turns out it is not that important as HK is still the same in general after the takeover.

    Most come here for better college systems and settle down for economic reasons. After TSM, they’re allowed to stay, a win for US for a change and a loss to China. However, many return recently with practical knowledge and it is definitely a win for China.

    I like to promote mutual understanding of the two nations to have a better, peaceful world. Many media and politicians do the opposite with their own agenda.

  32. Enoch : I have lived 48 years in Hong Kong and 12 years in Canada, been to USA, Europe and Mainland China on business trips many times. I feel the Chinese are pragmatically materialistic and secular whereas the Westerners are romantically idealistic and religious (I do not mean believing in a religion).

    There are things I like and dislike both in the East and in the West. The world is not black or white but grey.

  33. Enoch :
    Classy site you guys run here. Sure it wouldnt be legal in the PRC, but I guess thats why you guys all became Americans!
    A Han supremisit site run by ex- Chinese who chose to become Americans. More contortions than an Anaconda, LOL!
    LOL

    I was in Shanghai two weeks ago and will be there later this week, and I can attest that this site is accessible in PRC.

    There is also a big misconception on why people become Americans. None of the naturalized US citizens I spoke to came to the US purely because of political freedom, most came because they see US as an opportunity to lead better lives. By contrast, there are plenty of Westerners who write about how horrible China is and complain about China’s lack of political freedoms, yet they still manage to stay and work in China. Like the Chinese abroad, most Westerners in China are there clearly for the opportunities as well. However unlike many overseas Chinese, many do not want to admit the fact that political freedom is not a priority for them.

    On another note, I wonder if trolls like “enoch” are sock puppets of other trolls who frequent here. It seems that we have a different troll making the same type of comments on a weekly basis.

  34. @LOLZ

    all in all 1 in 20 taiwanese choose by free-will live and work in China.

    There are about half a million taiwanese in Shanghai along seeking their forturnes and future.

    There are about 100 thousand South Koreans in Beijing residing long term.

    in addition there are large number of Japanese nationals. etc etc.

    all hail from countries by west’s definition examplar of Political freedoom.

    what does that tell you. that means economic opportunities figures more in people’s choices than simply “political freedom”.

    reality of this world just done jive with what Enoch said. but ofcourse he and his kind makes up his own reality to live in. and when shit hits the fan. he jeers and cries.

    ===

    p.s. no one should threaten any one. especially with violence.

  35. Yo, anybody here knows what is a Han supremisit site? Issit some kind of a 5-seater Chinese sofa looted by Enoch’s unwashed great2-grandfathers from the burnt-down Summer Palace?

    The Big Mac index of parity purchasing power is among the few credible things – maybe the only – left about TE. Dis rag is not beneath lies and sensationalism. At the peak of the Diaoyutai spat, it reported (without attribution/citation of source) that the fishing boat captain was drunk. If this were true, the results would have shown in blood tests that the Japanese would have conducted at once after arresting the crew; parties determined to widen the rift between the two countries would have gone to town with the finding.

    Anyways, the special section sounds like old wine in new bottles. The `editorial’ seems a taste of things to come: one long, yadda-yadda China this, China that, rant that delivers all the known stereotypes. Yawn.
    But nada a word about what will make this “new” section (specialist writers? dedicated columns?) insightful about a changing China.

    More like a desperate attempt to shore up circulation, rather than any effort to present the country with a fresh eye for readers. Maybe TE will soon go the way of Far Eastern Economic Review. Goodbye, TE!!

  36. if the economist want to be taken seriously they ought to follow the practice of Atimes.com; at least the Editors at Atimes allow contributors from north korean apparatchiks to offer their perspectives, and Chinese specialists like dr Jian Jianbo, journalist Peter Lee, economist Henry CK Liu as well as the Panda Bashers/Heritage Site contributors such as Willy Lam amongst others.
    I’m hoping this practice by the staff at Atimes continues, and that they don’t become just another Western propaganda klaxon.

  37. FUCKING DISGRACEFUL:

    http://www.chinasmack.com/2011/stories/foreign-men-boast-about-sexual-conquests-in-china-reactions.html

    Chinese women, to tell the truth are by and large dirty fucking slut traitors.

    They spread their fucking cunts for the biggest loser white man.

    If anyone here reads stuff like this and their blood does not boil, they are not a man. They are a hanjian:

    At a glance, a foreign man of 18 years old to 81 years old, regardless of physique and regardless of appearance, sleeping with tens of Chinese women over 1-2 years of staying in China is basically the average. If effort is made, even sleeping with 1-2 hundred Chinese women is an easy affair (this is referring to women who aren’t prostitutes). Many [of these women] are students, white-collar workers, Chinese women with character and looks. What more, not a penny is needed, with many Chinese women instead paying money for laowai to sleep with them, even taking them out to show them off to others, as if it gives them “face”.

    WHAT IS THE CHINESE MAN GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS?

    ARE WE DOGS OR MEN?

  38. @wayne

    Oh dear, how insecure. making threats on the internet. what’s up, daddy play hide the cucumber at bedtime again last night?

    funnily enough, I work at Hopewell Centre. Hope to see you around in your site boots (guffaw)

    ps. I am not white.

  39. The core belief of the Economist is the “Anglo Saxon” economic model, and by extension the social norms and narratives of the Anglo Saxon countries. Other than China, it has the habit of mocking many other nations that it considers non-conforming of the “global norm”. For example, this piece of nugget in 2005 mocked Germany. The unemployment rate in Germany was at 11% then, compared to 5% in the UK — see the historical trend. Good thing the Germans didn’t heed their advice of emulating central European countries (yes, it was THAT bad). Another example is this piece on Brazil’s racial relationship, which is quite laughably bad.

    Ray/Mark Chan, love your remembrance of Fortune’s proclamation of the death of Hong Kong in 1995. Kind of remind me of the story between Michael Dell and Steve Jobs. After Jobs reclaimed the Apple CEO position in the late 90s, somebody asked what Dell’s advice to Jobs might be. Dell said, (paraphrasing) “shut down the company and return cash to investors.” Of course Jobs remembered that but didn’t say a thing. Years later when Apple’s market cap overtook Dell’s, Jobs sent a memo reminding everybody in Apple. Today’s Apple’s market cap is mind-boggling 14 times of Dell’s.

    Tony/Ray, my guess is that the market (defined as S&P 500) may go up 10% in the Q1, choppy to scary in the middle, and end the year at breakeven with the first Mormon US president. It’s easy said than done to kick Greece out of the Eurozone (EA-17, not EU-27). Since all assets and liabilities of the Greeks are in euro, there are a plethora of technical problems of converting them to the new drachma. If there is no incentives built in, which means somebody else will have to foot the bills, nobody will convert their euros to new drachmas (both assets/liabilities). The Germans don’t even want to save euro, and you think they are willing to pony up to pump up the new drachma? The best case scenario is for them to muddle through this and eventually the global growth will lift their debt loads.

    Not all PIIGS are created equal. Greece/Portugal are always hopeless. Italy has had the legacy debts, but after the euro era it has run much smaller fiscal deficits than decades before, and its trade has been reasonably balanced. Before the global financial meltdown, Spain/Ireland were the superstars. Spain was like Florida of Europe, and Ireland was like the mix of Florida and Silicon Valley. They both had handsome fiscal surpluses in years prior to the Great Recession. Sadly they both drank the kool-aid of the “Anglo-Saxon” economic model, especially when it comes to their banks.

  40. @jxie
    I agree Italy is in a better position, it has a better export industry than UK except the defence sector. If you look at the unemployement figure, execpt for Italy the rest of the PIIGS are anywhere from 13% – 25%. On top of that look at other weaker EU economies like the Baltic states, Slovakia, Bulgaria etc who also have unemployment over 10%. This would create unemployment pressure in the stronger EU states too. That`s why I am passimistic.

  41. @ Wayne, do not get upset on a BS article at a tabloid site like Chinasmack, in which some idiots who spent their life-time savings on Chinese prostitutes brag that they have slept with hundreds of “non-prostitutes”. Try not to go to that site at all. It is just one of those exploitative websites that makes you sick.

    BTW, Western media bias against China is undeniable: http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2012/01/31/flaying-flowers-an-example-of-western-media%E2%80%99s-bias-against-china/

  42. @jxie
    with that in mind, how is it that a total idiot like Gordon G Chang manages to still find work after being wrong for a total of 20 or so consecutive years?
    i had the misfortune of coming across an article by him about why the Chinese are buying gold; according to him, it’s apparently because “the Chinese have no faith in the government” riiiiiiiight, sure, the same miniscule >20% of the population in China who are dissatisfied with their government as opposed to the ~80% surveyed by Pew who overwhelmingly approved of where their government’s fiscal and political policy was heading?

    it’s a funny thing about ppl like Gordon Chang; he reminds me of proponents of Creationist Science who don’t go out there and find facts and then make a conclusion based on those facts; rather he, like all creationists, form an opinion first and attempt to find anything, absolutely anything that’ll support their absurd claims, even if it’s taken out of context.

  43. @Wayne
    only the most pathetic individuals would actually need to boast about their supposed sexual prowess; i’m sure that now that these individuals have been “outed”, all Chinese will be sure to offer them the same respect they themselves have shown to Chinese people.

  44. Great post yinyang.

    The Economist is a very successful publication. It is read by the global elite “community” in a way no other weekly publication is read (not Time, Newsweek, US News or any of the lesser publications). I enjoy reading it and its witty and lively writing and commentary. When I see it in business lounges it is usually the first one I pick up, next to the FT, which owns half the Economist Group. It is intelligent and informative about the world in a way no one writes about, certainly not any US publication.

    It’s also in its own way a spinmeister that reflects the former British empire’s business interests. The Economist is a “viewspaper” and highly opinionated in its presentation.

    “In fact, it’s a sort of weekly free market hymn book, singing the praises of economic liberalism while also extolling the virtues of liberal social reform. This is music to the ears of the business elites in the major cities of the United States – where sales are growing apace – though I would guess that the social reform message is less welcome in what my American friends call “the fly-over states”.”

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23425658-the-secret-of-the-economists-success-is-wowing-america.do

    But this commitment to free-market ideology and British interests also means that it will denigrate other points of view and peoples — whenever and wherever it can — in its characteristically slick, smug and smart way. With the perspective of hindsight, we can observe the absurdly inhumane results. For example, during the Great Irish Famine (1845-1852), the Economist opposed food aid to the Irish and advocated self-reliance, free markets and laissez-faire policies. Over a million Irish died. Well, they made their point.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Economist_editorial_stance#The_Great_Famine

  45. perspectivehere :
    I enjoy reading it and its witty and lively writing and commentary. When I see it in business lounges it is usually the first one I pick up, next to the FT, which owns half the Economist Group. It is intelligent and informative about the world in a way no one writes about, certainly not any US publication.

    Sometimes I found myself taking a few more steps to a newsstand or in a bookstore or in a library just to read it. The issues are always interested to read, though sometimes I violently disagree with them.

    Gordon Chang is a broken clock, which is useless. The Economist differs in the sense that even though they obviously violently disagree with China’s economic model, it at least acknowledges (maybe grudgingly) the increasing significance of China by adding a China section.

  46. @zack

    I think the problem of Gordon Chang is not that he is stubborn and refused to see things objectively. I think his problem is a manifestation of a deeper issue hidden within him. We must realized that he grew up in the 50s and 60s in the United States. Even though he is half Chinese, he bored an unmistakable Chinese last name. That means unlike many Eurasians, he can’t passed off as being white. Life for him must be hard growing up during those time. This is the era of McCarthyism. I suspected that he must have been constantly being taunted and bullied in the school yard for being a ‘Chinese Communist’. This must have cause a permanent psychological scar in his formative years. For Chinese Americans, such experience probably only sharpens their racial consciousness making them more determination to succeed. For half Chinese like Gordan Chang, the reaction induced is to hate his Chinese heritage.

    This, I think, is the reason the man cannot see anything good out of China.

  47. @Antioxidants
    gordan chang is a peddler, nothing more. he knows how to sell to a certain audience, just as the economists does. it’s not as if there aren’t the same people in china who does the same thing in order to achieve notoriety and than try to leverage their fame for personal glory. the west is only too happy to build personality cults as we see with julian assange, liu xiaobo, ai weiwei. even if their intentions were genuine, the self righteous need by the west to glorify their own agendas drowns out any merit the original message might hold.

    @scl
    nothing wrong with chinasmack. if anything, the articles and comments serves to illustrate the kind of attitude westerners really have about china and chinese people in general.

  48. yinyang – this had the potential to be a great thread … until Wayne started spewing some of the most vile, bigoted and sexist material that I’ve seen on a blog in some time. This sort of thing alienates readers, including me. I hope you’ll do something about it. I have no interest in reading a blog that tolerates hate. I have encountered Wayne’s comments in other places but he seems to be reaching a new low with this material. On top of that, making physical threats.

  49. If you want to understand the thinking and psychology of many Chinese fenqing (an abundance of whom congregate here) look into inferiority complex. Feelings of sexual insecurity are a powerful trigger and you will often encounter it among the fenqings when it has to do with foreign male-Chinese female relationships. You will better understand posters like Wayne and other such fenqings;

    “An inferiority complex, in the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis, is a feeling that one is inferior to others in some way. Such feelings can arise from an imagined or actual inferiority in the afflicted person. It is often subconscious, and is thought to drive afflicted individuals to overcompensate, resulting either in spectacular achievement or extreme schizotypal behavior, or both. Unlike a normal feeling of inferiority, which can act as an incentive for achievement (or promote discouragement), an inferiority complex is an advanced state of discouragement, often embedding itself into one’s lifestyle, and sometimes resulting in a retreat from difficulties.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inferiority_complex

  50. If you guys dont like the Economist then I wonder what you think about a boot licking rag like the Global Times????!!!! Me thinks you all would dance a different tune. Can you write an article demanding media independence in the PRC and the resignation of the running dog HuXijin??? In the name of Hao Leifeng I demand it!

  51. Haikun :
    If you want to understand the thinking and psychology of many Chinese fenqing (an abundance of whom congregate here) look into inferiority complex.

    You’re amazing. You figured this all out already? — Hans Gruber

  52. @jxie Oh yes, we like our racist reactionary fenqings, but if you Westerners don’t kow-tow to us and print only flattering stories about China then we will get our pretty pink fenqing panties in a twist!!! Oh yes your logic is straightforward my friend, haahahah! You silly kids are too much really :D!

  53. @pug_ster who is ranting? surely not me. I don’t see anything in your post refuting the fact that posters here don’t mind racist fenqings, as long as their racism is directed at the “West” and thus plays into the larger group think mentality here. Cheers.

  54. Let us all start a petition demanding the resignation of Hu Xijin who has proven to be little more than a running dog of the CCP agenda!!! Forget the Economist; Global Times loses Chinese face in the international media and makes Chinese people all seem like irrational and reactionary teenagers! Hao Leifeng punked Hu Xijin, this is a fact!

  55. From Wikipedia:

    “Critics say editorial anonymity gives the publication an “omniscient tone and pedantry” and hides the youth and inexperience of those writing articles. “The magazine is written by young people pretending to be old people,” quipped American author Michael Lewis in 1991. “If American readers got a look at the pimply complexions of their economic gurus, they would cancel their subscriptions in droves.”

    John Ralston Saul describes The Economist as a “magazine which hides the names of the journalists who write its articles in order to create the illusion that they dispense disinterested truth rather than opinion. This sales technique, reminiscent of pre-Reformation Catholicism, is not surprising in a publication named after the social science most given to wild guesses and imaginary facts presented in the guise of inevitability and exactitude. That it is the Bible of the corporate executive indicates to what extent received wisdom is the daily bread of a managerial civilization.”

    These critics have a point. If one considers how wrongheaded many of its views have been, the Economists’ “omniscient tone and pedantry” becomes quite laughable.

    This December 2005 piece is a good example:

    “The little yellow god: Even at $500, it’s still a barbarous relic”
    http://www.economist.com/node/5246636

    The article states: “In the past five years the price of gold has doubled. This week in Asian trading it briefly surpassed $500 a troy ounce—a level last breached in 1987…. This being gold, the resurgence has brought forth all manner of alarming prophecies. The price is an omen of rampant inflation; bonds are doomed; the dollar is about to fall prey to the United States’ reckless deficits; the euro will shortly be revealed as a worthless creation of bureaucrats. The world is an unpredictable place. But, with the possible exception of a fall in the dollar, not much of the above catalogue of doom looks likely; and none of it has much to do with gold’s good run. The dull truth is much less bullish for gold. Investors have put money into a wide range of metals, and precious metals’ prices, including gold’s, have risen with the base. Meanwhile, gold remains fundamentally unattractive.”

    Hmmm. At $500 per ounce in 2005, The Economist considered gold to be “fundamentally unattractive”. (Also note how the writer dismisses criticism of the Euro! Very smart wasn’t it?)

    +++++++++++++++++++++

    It never learned. In 2010, The Economist came out with this:
    “Store of value: Low returns on other investments and fears about the world economy have caused the price of gold to soar. Don’t count on its continued rise”
    http://www.economist.com/node/16536800
    At that time, gold was selling for $1,200 an ounce. The article cites all the reasons why the price will likely come down.

    This morning the LBMA fixed gold at $1,759.50 per ounce. (http://www.lbma.org.uk/pages/?page_id=53&title=gold_fixings&show=2012&type=daily)

    An investor listening to The Economist in 2005 would have lost out on the opportunity to more than triple his money in six years. An investor who followed The Economists’ view in mid-2010 would have missed a 46% gain over the last 18 months.

    Boy, the TE has sucked at predicting prices.

    Now, if a newsmagazine (a) calls itself “The Economist” and (b) adopts a “pedantic, know-it-all” tone, and (c) seeks a smart managerial class readership, how can it get away with making such huge blunders? Considering how wrong it has been, how does it have the gall to maintain their “pedantic, know-it-all” tone? Why does anyone believe anything it says?

    Perhaps it is because The Economist is VERY good at “[creating] the illusion that they dispense disinterested truth rather than opinion.”

    Or maybe because smart people read it like the way this writer reads it:

    “perhaps the most trustworthy indicator of all is articles about gold in The Economist – experience has shown that this esteemed rag always gets it wrong! Its latest gold article on December 1st (2005) is just one in a stream of many proving this indicator to be an ‘old faithful’ of reliability. In short, when it comes to gold, always do the opposite of what The Economist may be recommending or saying about gold. Because they are a ‘one-way’ street and are always bearish, their articles therefore are an unfailing indicator to buy gold.”

    http://www.fgmr.com/the-economist-does-it-again.html

    Perhaps Economist articles about China will be as reliable? Au contraire?

  56. @pug_ster running dog isn’t racist, it is a political term often employed in Communist rhetoric to describe those who serve obediently the will of their reactionary masters. I find it quite fitting to describe many commenters here.

  57. @perspectivehere

    Love Michael Lewis…

    Well of course the Economist beyond reporting is in also the opinion business, more or less. If it (or more precisely its anonymous writers with possibly “pimply complexions”) has a high batting average, it should be doing something else other than reporting and doling out opinions. Very few in the opinion business have high batting averages; those have, tend to charge obscene amount of money for their subscriptions. Most successful investors when talk to the public, are talking their books so you shouldn’t follow them. Once in a while, you have somebody like Jim Rogers with a very high batting average and wouldn’t mind telling you what he sees — listen to everything he has to say.

    Why I read the Economist? Could be the sense of that, “oh how the fuck can you still talk in a such a snobby and smug way, when you have been so wrong for so long? — but wait, I really love the way you phrased that, though I still think you know jackshit.”

    Pardon my language — just trying to get the point across.

  58. lol. quoting you jxie in the quotes section:

    Why I read the Economist? Could be the sense of that, “oh how the fuck can you still talk in a such a snobby and smug way, when you have been so wrong for so long? — but wait, I really love the way you phrased that, though I still think you know jackshit.”

  59. @YinYang
    After reading your rebuttal, it seems to me that you actually agree with a lot more of the Economist’s article than you disagree with. Aside from your denial of the housing price fears, it seems like it’s mostly matters of tone and phrasing you disagree with, as well as what’s left unsaid. I realise that you’re trying to rebutt the primary thesis of the article, that China’s “model” has to change, but what this model is is not well defined in either the article or your rebuttal. At the end you and the Economist both agree that you hope China will become more free and prosperous. Perhaps you could put your overall disagreement with the Economist’s article a little more concisely?

  60. @Lime
    Well, read The Economist’s first paragraph and my rebuttal next to it. Now, where do you think I agree and disagree?

    > it’s mostly matters of tone and phrasing you disagree with, as well as what’s left unsaid.

    It’s much more than that. The Economist is dishonest.

    If Japan continued to grow, and let’s suppose its GDP over-takes that of the U.S., then the Japan bashing from the 80s would continue today. Why is that?

    If India is in China’s shoes today in terms of growth, I have no doubt there will be a lot of negativity targeted at them.

    So, when you are the top dog, any up and coming player on the global stage that could potentially unseat you is viewed with a lot of skepticism. That’s in many ways human nature.

    But to indulge in that is very dishonest.

    It is not that the Brzezinski type of perspectives don’t exist in the West. The truth is, if we accept a world order when its a hegemon at the helm, then we need to shed this almost racist view that some other player cannot possibly be the hegemon some time down the road.

    The Economist is in fact propagandizing for a possible conflict down the road with China.

    As regards to the ‘model’, you should watch this interview by Al Jazeera of Zhang Weiwei, former interpreter to Deng Xiaoping:

    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2012/01/former-deng-xiaoping-translator-zhang-weiwei-on-chinese-thinking/

    You might also read Jxie comment #47 above:
    http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2012/01/the-economist-it-is-time-for-a-new-editorial-overhaul/#comment-48710

    This is also where the ‘West’ contradicts itself in trying to paint China a bogeyman. Why is The Economist so intolerant of other’s in how they organize their society?

    Finally, I find it a bit amazing you cannot see what’s wrong with the article despite I put things side-bye-side in my post.

  61. @YinYang
    Well, looking at the first paragraph and your accompanying rebuttal alone, the Economist’s central point is that China’s military and economic power is developing quickly and may soon overtake the US (thus justifying their weekly column). You don’t seem to disagree with this. They use the terms “unsettled” and “agitate”, which give it a negative tone, but really just imply that people around the world, and especially America will be worried about this. You say the US should be willing to make room, but this doesn’t contradict anything in the original article. As to the global norm thing, they don’t say what they mean by this, but I think we can assume they mean that China is developing economically while showing no signs of transitioning to a democracy. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the trend, since the end of the Soviet Union has been for more countries to move away from dictatorships towards democracies (and not only western ones). Would you disagree with this?

    This article is not all that anti-China when you consider the Economist’s ideology. The Economist is a newspaper that takes editorial stances, meaning they don’t pretend to be unbiased about anything. They are pro-market-oriented capitalism and pro-democracy. If you read their articles on topics other than China, you will see that this is consistently true. Having read many of your posts here, I realise you are an authortarianist, and thus you and the Economist are going to have a fundamental disagreement. I don’t think this makes either of you dishonest, however.

  62. @Lime
    It’s pretty interesting that your definition of this ‘model’ comes down to democracy vs. authoritarianism.

    I was thinking things like 5-year plans, meritocracy, technocrats, local experimentation, pragmatism, and non-alignment. You see, I would argue there is a lot the West could learn from China. Certainly, there is a lot China could learn from the West.

    For example, Obama probably managed a budget in the millions – the largest ever for the first time in his life – during his election campaign. He would then have to leap all the way towards managing trillions overnight. How about some experience and training in-between? When we talk about ‘models,’ that’d be something to think about, no?

    You said:

    I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the trend, since the end of the Soviet Union has been for more countries to move away from dictatorships towards democracies (and not only western ones). Would you disagree with this?

    Is the U.S. a democracy? Is China a dictatorship? Did Russia’s “democracy” allay any fears from the West? Is Saudi Arabia a democracy?

    As I have said above, Japan’s democracy in the 80s didn’t allay any fears either. The Japan-bashing of the 80s were the same as the China-bashing today.

    During the height of the British Empire, British citizens enjoyed tremendous freedoms at home. Yet, this same nation were atrocious around the world. Professor Noam Chomsky described the British behavior in India during the colonial days as similar to those of the Nazis.

    So, what you are saying (okay, you are saying the Economist is saying) is no different than the Crusaders – if you are a non-Christian, you are evil. In this case, ‘democracy’ is ‘good’ and non-democracy is ‘evil.’

    You don’t see anything wrong with that?

  63. @YinYang
    The article says “for China to succeed it must move away from the formula that has served it so well” and then says “Whether the country continues as an authoritarian colossus, stagnates, disintegrates, or, as we would wish, becomes both freer and more prosperous will not just determine China’s future, but shape the rest of the world’s too.”

    So it’s pretty clear they are advocating moving away from being an authoritarian colossus. The problem with the article that I see is that they don’t explain what they want the Chinese government to move toward, but, based on what I know about the Economist from past readings, I’m guessing they would prefer to see it move toward a democratic system. They don’t explicitly say that anywhere in the article, though.

    I don’t think the Economist ever puts its pro-democracy arguments in terms as theological as “good” and “evil”, but they do seem to believe that democratic systems generally lead to happier and healthier societies. To your question, no, I don’t see anything wrong with that. You may disagree and believe a state is better off with a strong, one party system, and that’s fine too. Different people (and newspapers) have different opinions; that doesn’t make them dishonest or malicious.

    The article basically states a lot of obvious and fairly widely known facts. Generally, China’s economy has been growing stronger and people’s lives have been improving. In the process there are some problems arising within the Chinese society. You seem to generally agree with most of the facts, even the negative ones; there are pollution problems, migrants workers are sometimes mistreated, there is ethnic strife in Tibetan regions. So what is dishonest about pointing these things out? How is it “China bashing”?

    Finally to your other questions, I don’t really see their relevance to the article. I was a preteen in the 1980s, so I didn’t read the Economist too much then. I don’t know how much Japan bashing it did. There are probably different writers now anyways. Yes, the British committed atrocities in colonial India. I don’t know why you would cite Noam Chomsky on this, as he’s a linguist and not a historian. I would recommend Mike Davis’ Late Victorian Holocausts if you want to learn more on that topic. But what does this have to do with the Economist’s article?

  64. I’m still quite surprised and at the same time not surprised about the way pro-China bloggers hate the Economist. I wonder perhaps, for the Sinophiles here, whether the Economist tends to hit the mark a bit too closely?

    Research standards? Awesome compared to almost any other neutral, pro- or anti- Chinese coverage in the media. If you look at most pro-China news sources, it’s rehashes of Global Times or official government outlets. If you look at most mainstream media in the UK/US, it’s rehashes of AP newswire stories with very little extra information. And if you look to the blogosphere, most of the time it’s just rehashes/translations of Weibo memes. The Economist is one of the few publications where I (a foreigner living here for several years) actually learn new things about China.

    Writing standards? Probably one of the best written publications around (talking purely writing style here, not content).

    Anti-China? Not really. They’re anti-everything. Negative sells better than positive, and the Economist is no different from any other newspaper. Plus, if you bother to read the non-China coverage (UK, Europe, America stories…) then you’ll see that they’re more often totally scathing of our own politicians, and relatively kind towards China. Many pro-China fans can’t seem to get past this, seeing *any* criticism of China as some kind of organised western vendetta…

    Getting predictions wrong? I’m pretty sure that if the success of a magazine, newspaper or journalist were based on how many predictions they get right, we wouldn’t have any left to read today (whether pro-China or anti-China).

    Editorial overhaul? Again, considering that most publications seem to consider “somebody that’s been to China once” as a qualifier for the Editor’s job, the Economist does OK. I take the point about ‘foreigners married to a Chinese girl’ – in fact, it’s mostly foreigners who live in China and have close, regular and direct daily experience with Chinese people who tend to hate China the most. Isn’t that strange :)

  65. @Lime
    The Economist has been spewing this nonsense last year, 3 years ago, 5 years ago what you quoted below:

    “Whether the country continues as an authoritarian colossus, stagnates, disintegrates, or, as we would wish, becomes both freer and more prosperous will not just determine China’s future, but shape the rest of the world’s too.”

    You then said:

    they do seem to believe that democratic systems generally lead to happier and healthier societies.

    So, let’s see, during these 5 years, Chinese government approval rating has consistently been great. The latest PEW poll shows U.S. congress approval rating at single digits.

    More Chinese than ever have been lifted out of poverty. China has been driving 50% of the worlds growth for some time now. As compared to the U.S. and U.K., we have riots in London last year and we have the ongoing OWS.

    You have reality backwards.

    And talking about shaping the rest of the world. As I recall, it is these so called ‘democracies’ that are bombing foreign countries. Are you saying that is what we want more of?

    Think of it this way. Let’s suppose China believes the U.K.’s system needs to change to better British citizens’ lives. During last year, should China have helped organized the London rioters politically and give it support? Would you want that?

    So, think why China doesn’t do any of that nonsense. Now, let’s suppose the Chinese media day in and day out propagandizes that the way forward for the Brits is China’s ‘model.’ What do you think happens when the U.K. becomes very weak and China becomes very strong?

    Even if China is a ‘democracy’ then, it would be very easy for the Chinese government then to get popular support to invade or undermine the then U.K. government. In fact, by very definition of ‘democracy’, the government would have to act on that public sentiment, wouldn’t it?

  66. @westiseast: “[I]n fact, it’s mostly foreigners who live in China and have close, regular and direct daily experience with Chinese people who tend to hate China the most. Isn’t that strange”

    Yes, that is pretty strange. I lived in China from 2006 to 2011 and while I have my own opinions about the country (especially the real estate market that’s still in an awful state despite the recent downturn in prices) I never hated it. I even feel very close to it (if I hated it, it would be a bit like hating my grandparents’ hometown – doesn’t make much sense, does it?). I did notice a number of foreigners though who could go on to no end about how bad the place was, not just because of problems any developed country has, or the political system, but how the culture fundamentally is wrong-headed, how the language can’t cope with modern concepts, etc etc. This sentiment I’ve never understood and I don’t understand why anyone thinking like that stays, year after year.

    @YinYang: The China model, as far as I understand, does indeed point to a macro picture of an authoritarian system with “state capitalism.” This is the backdrop and the rest is details. Of course one can argue that China has found a very successful package and the implementation also play a vital role. I wouldn’t argue with that, but in most discussions I’ve seen, Chinese or Western, the China model is seen as being a different path from the multi-party capitalism of the West, and that is its deciding characteristic. Even Zhang Weiwei sees it that way even though he’s added some thoughts similar to Martin Jacques’, like China as being a civilization state.

  67. @westiseast
    I think you raise a good and important point. I can speak for myself – which is that I pay way more attention to China related issues.

    That said, you would have to agree it is inexcusable for a journalism outfit to not have balance (i.e. always focusing on the negative).

    Lack of balance is a form of dishonesty.

    THAT, in fact is also what is contributing to the political gridlock in countries like the U.S. and the U.K..

  68. #81: ‘…in fact, it’s mostly foreigners who live in China and have close, regular and direct daily experience with Chinese people who tend to hate China the most. Isn’t that strange ‘

    That is very telling. For normally people tend to accept each other as socialization and appreciation of each other point of view deepens. But in your case, I take it that you are one of those who hate China not for being ignorance but for really knowing Chinese. If one can HATE a whole group of people as a result of close association, IMO, it is the hater who is the problem rather than those whom he hates.
    Also, why do they stay there if they hate the people, culture, language so much?

  69. @Wukailong
    Certainly, one difference in the ‘model’ is the role of the government in managing the country’s capitalism. But, would you argue Singapore’s model is different than from the China model despite Singapore being a ‘democracy?’ I would say China’s and Singapore’s are very similar – the state plays a huge role in orchestrating the countries economies.

    Fundamentally, the issue I have with the Economist type of narrative is mostly about distilling some complex system that’s different down to a single point – very much like a religious exercise of intolerance. That’s why The Economist used the terms “authoritarian colossus” vs “democracy.”

    I would agree – China is more ‘authoritarian’ than compared to the U.S. as a label only. But that’s partly because China is less a legal society as compared to the developed countries. The U.S. has one legal professional for 300 citizens. For China, it’s somewhere around 1 to 9000. As we know, China is quickly changing and becoming more a law based society.

    Should the West be fearful of a country who has a “bigger” government role in its society’s economy? But what about the fact that the U.S. being a ‘democracy’ with a $700 billion military budget. Doesn’t that speak of LARGE government involvement in the economy?

    At the rate China is moving, privatization will increasingly play a bigger role in Chinese society. So, is the Economist arguing that trend should stop?

    Last year, Wu Bangguo said that China’s path will remain “one-party” for the foreseeable future. Japan managed just fine with one party ruling for the most part since WW2.

    To me, single party vs. two parties vs. multi-paties are mostly semantic. Perhaps for single party systems, they air their dirty laundry less. At the end, it is about the ability to reach agreement and compromise.

  70. @Wukailong
    I forgot to add: if the Economist is genuinely interested in a ‘better’ China, it should be a cheerleader in the China ‘model,’ which has been evolving and going in the right direction. ;)

  71. @westiseast
    Most of your comment is based on a fallacy: That The Economist shouldn’t be criticized because others do it too. Well, so what if others do it? They are also criticized. I don’t see what relation that has with criticism of The Economist per se. The point here is that two hypocrites don’t make a right.

    Writing standards? Probably one of the best written publications around (talking purely writing style here, not content).

    Yes – they are one of the best publications when it comes to writing style (and yes – talking about purely writing style here, not content), and no one is denying that. (Except the occasional gaffes). But what they lack in original reporting and sound cognitive analysis, they make up for in a higher quality of prose then their competitors. In fact, I’ve often joked that the only difference between The Daily Mail and The Economist is wordplay.

  72. The article “Words as Weapons” in the Journal of Contemporary History by Alice Goldfarb Marquis shines a light on the historical roots of the news media in England as sophisticated channels of mass propaganda:

    “The first effective channels for mass propaganda developed during the nineteenth century, with the approach of mass literacy and the proliferation of the printed word. What came to be called the ‘yellow press’ developed rapidly during the 1880s and 1890s.

    In England, the growth of the popular press, as well as its concentration in a few ownerships, is epitomized by the spectacular careers of Alfred and Harold Harmsworth, the self-educated sons of a Dublin barrister. Between 1888 and 1890 they acquired control of newspapers with circulations totalling more readers than had ever been available before. Alfred, who became Lord Northcliffe in 1905, founded Answers in 1888, bought the London Evening News in 1894, founded the Daily Mail in 1896 and the Daily Mirror in 1903, and bought control of The Times in 1908. His younger brother Harold became Lord Rothermere and by the first world war was owner of the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Pictorial, the Leeds Mercury, the Glasgow Daily Record, and the Glasgow Evening News. Newspaper circulations in England (as well as in the United States) rose most sharply between 1890 and 1910 and tended to level off in the 1920s.

    Along with this growth of the popular press went the notion that the public’s thinking could be moulded and channelled through the printed word. Dissemination of wire-service news from one centralized source to hundreds of newspapers in widely scattered places provided an irresistible temptation for centralized control of press information.

    Thus the era in which propaganda acquired its modern definition and its evil connotation clearly lies in the first two decades of the twentieth century, and more specifically in the accelerated manipulation of mass opinion by government and the press during the first world war.

    The public’s thirst for information about the war, the various governments’ urgent need to mobilize the entire civilian population, the development of bureaucratic machinery for manipulating public opinion, and the technical means for accomplishing these goals all converged into one brilliant burst of rhetoric. The orgy of killing on the battlefield took place against the backdrop of an orgy of loaded words, and the silences were equally deadly, for they often masked the truth. Small wonder that Ludendorff wrote, during the war: ‘Words today are battles: the right words, battles won; the wrong words, battles lost’. Truth or falsehood were beside the point: words were simply another weapon, as morally neutral as a cannon or a bomb.

    Whether propaganda actually changed the course of the war remains problematical. The fact is that it was widely perceived as having had a major effect on the war; during the post-war years, the discussion of the effects of wartime propaganda became as laden with strong feeling as its content. ‘It became perfectly clear’, Professor Harold Lasswell wrote in 1927, ‘that the practice of propaganda and the practice of talking about propaganda were dominating characteristics of this period.’

    The content, the organization, the methods and the effects of this powerful new weapon may be compared within two environments: the ‘open’ society of Britain and the ‘closed’ society of Germany. Just as in the war of weapons British tactics finally prevailed, so they did in the war of words. This verbal victory had a profound and totally unexpected effect in Germany, as will be seen later.”

    ….

    “As in so many other areas, in the field of propaganda the first world war marked a watershed. The new mass media opened new avenues for reaching vast new populations. For writers and readers alike, the war of words permanently debased the coinage of public dialogue. But disillusionment also laid the foundation for a new scepticism and a reading public whose sophistication demands propaganda so subtle that it avoids even the word propaganda.”

    http://web.viu.ca/davies/H482.WWI/Propaganda.%20Words%20as%20Weapons%20(1978).pdf

  73. Somebody above said the trend is towards ‘democracy,’ but when you look closer, say, at the U.S. constitution, the other democracies are adopting a different one – according to this study cited in the NYT:

    “‘We the People’ Loses Appeal With People Around the World”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/07/us/we-the-people-loses-appeal-with-people-around-the-world.html?_r=3&partner=MYWAY&ei=5065

    “The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere,” according to a new study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.The study, to be published in June in The New York University Law Review, bristles with data. Its authors coded and analyzed the provisions of 729 constitutions adopted by 188 countries from 1946 to 2006, and they considered 237 variables regarding various rights and ways to enforce them.
    “Among the world’s democracies,” Professors Law and Versteeg concluded, “constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall. Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s.”

  74. @YinYang
    So your problem with this article is not so much with the information it presents or even with the argument it’s making, but with it being unbalanced (ie, too negative)?

    I’m still not really understanding your comparisons and references. Comparing a private newspaper calling for political change to China hypothetically funding riots in Britain seems a bit beyond comparing apples to oranges.

    For discussion’s sake, I’d like to point out that Wen Jiabao has also said China needs political reform. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12729687

  75. westiseast :
    I take the point about ‘foreigners married to a Chinese girl’ – in fact, it’s mostly foreigners who live in China and have close, regular and direct daily experience with Chinese people who tend to hate China the most. Isn’t that strange

    I for one find it strange that expats who hate a country would still live there, this only makes sense for masochists. It’s clearly unhealthy to live in a place which you hate, especially when there is nothing to prevent you from leaving.

    From what I have seen in Shanghai, most expats never go beyond their little expat circles, save the few Chinese girlfriends/mistresses/spouses. In fact most expats in China can’t even speak Chinese well enough to communicate with the locals. The expats who hate China the most are typically ideologues who simply cannot accept Chinese Culture and China’s rise, feel powerless to change this fact, but for some reason still decide to remain in China.

  76. Frankly, I think this discussion about expats hating China is pointless. I know of a number of expats who are very knowledgeable about Chinese – the language, culture, and even politics.

    It’s all anecdotes.

    I think most things that people observe are symptoms of human nature. When I go back to China, I get horrified with people clearing their throat in public. The norm is different about noise. People in China are dirt poor and expats are rich in comparison. Such differences cause prejudice to wider for some – on both sides. However, overall, I do believe more contact helps build familiarity and understanding.

  77. @Wukailong
    the last line was a bit of a flippant dig – I kind of agree, it’s such a strange thing why so many foreigners stay here in China, and yet hate it so much. Of course, there’s people like you (and me) who enjoy it here.

    @Maitreya – it’s not really a fallacy. The Economist is accused of holding a neo-liberal, anti-China agenda because it writes articles critical of China and its government. However, it writes articles critical of the UK, US and European governments too (perhaps more so). It’s not anti-China, any more than it is anti-UK, anti-India, anti-US or anti-Colombia. If the pro-China lobby can accept that China is not perfect and this country and government faces/causes many problems, what’s the problem with analysis and criticism?

    @YinYang – I thnk what’s not good in a publication is too much extremism. So for example, most of the mainstream press in the UK/US is pretty jingoistic about China. Most of the China pro-government press is even more extreme in the other direction (ie. zero balance whatsoever). The Economist gives much more balanced insight and analysis than any other publication around.

  78. @westiseast
    Are you interested in doing this exercise – pick an article in the China Daily, Xinhua, or any mainstream Chinese media. Enlighten us why you think it has zero balance. I will publish it on this blog for all of our readers to see.

    I hope you find it worthwhile. Simply post the article and your analysis as a comment here and email me. I will take it from there.

  79. @YinYang
    For the sake of argument, OK :)

    http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2012-02/05/content_14538362.htm [The straight news version]

    So this is the straight news reporting. It focuses on the Russian and Chinese side of the story exclusively, with some relatively emphatic writing not contained in quotes or given as opinion – eg. “meddling”. It doesn’t mention any of the violence or killing going on in Syria right now at all, but instead repeatedly uses the words “regime change” and “forced regime change” to describe the motivation of the bill (framing this whole situation as stable country being forced into regime change, instead of an unstable country that is already collapsing). There’s no quotes from European sources, Arab league members, Syrians on the ground, or any pro-resolution people at all, whether that’s to express support for the resolution, or just in criticism of Russia/China. Throughout the piece, the resolution is repeatedly framed as if its a ‘Western’ bill, raising the spectre of the usual bogeyman (‘the imperial powers’) – despite its support from all members of the temporary security council (India, South Africa, Pakistan, Colombia, Germany, Azerbaijan, Togo…) AND the Arab League.

    http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2012-02/06/content_14541141.htm [The editorial version]

    The editorial version is similarly unbalanced (although its editorial, so perhaps fair game). It’s got zero balance because it concentrates almost solely on “why we’re right”, as opposed to giving the reasons and rationale behind the Chinese decision as well as the opposing view. There’s very little information given, mostly opinions. There’s no mention of the risks of the veto (ie. the possibility that the situation in Syria might get worse, not better). Again, there’s no quotes or perspective from anyone supporting the resolution, no quotes from anyone (Syrians, government officials from China or elsewhere) that might give some perspective on the various opinions. The writer doesn’t even offer quotes from the other side so he can refute them or knock them down – it’s just a simple, absolute “we’re right and everyone else is wrong” type argument.

    Btw. I don’t always agree with the Economist, and I’m not making a broadsweeping defense of everything they write, or everything that the ‘western’ press writes. There’s crap in the western press too, and that’s why I don’t read Daily Mail editorials – because they’re the same nonsense as China Daily editorials. It’s just that when you look at quality of research, balance, analysis and writing, the Economist is head and shoulders above 90% of the mainstream news and non-mainstream blogs.

  80. @YinYang
    I thought I could tease a coherent thesis out of all your insults and dark insinuations against the Economist if I questioned your reasoning, and that you might just have a strong case and some interesting points to make. But that appears to be futile. I think I can guess what your thesis is though.

    You’re struggling to say that because the governments of “western” countries have done atrocious things, and because the Economist is a western newspaper, it shares responsibility for these atrocious things (apparently including those done a century or more ago in colonial India). Thus, it has no moral authority to criticise the Chinese government. You also want to say that being a western newspaper with a pro-democracy point of view, the Economist is obviously an agent of western domination, and disingenuous when it says it wishes that China will “become both freer and more prosperous”. It’s really trying to undermine the Chinese government to make sure the powers that be in the west remain where they are (presumably just like whoever it was that was doing the Japan-bashing in the 1980s). So, regardless of how accurate the Economist’s information may or may not be or how sound its argument is, at the end of the day it’s just another China-bashing arm of western imperialism and deserves everyone’s contempt. That’s your argument, right?

    Seeing as I couldn’t get you to explain even that much yourself, I agree that continuing to discuss the possibility that this reasoning may have a few rather large holes in it would indeed be a waste of both our time.

  81. @YinYang
    I would just like to add that as frustrating as I find your methods of argument, I do actually really admire your dogged persistence and devotion to your cause on this blog. Don’t take my criticism of your work too personally.

  82. I found this “E-Thesis” to be quite relevant to our discussion here.

    The Development of Modern Propaganda in Britain, 1854-1902
    MELLER, PAUL,JONATHAN
    http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/246/1/The_Development_of_Modern_Propaganda_in_Britain,_1854-1902_-_FINAL_CORRECTED_THESIS.pdf?DDD17

    Plaudits to Durham University for making these important works generally available.
    http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/

    “Summer 2011 News
    Durham University Library is in the process of digitising its extensive collection of PhD, MPhil and Research Masters dissertations from 1899 onwards. Once digitised, the full text of these dissertations will be made freely available for anyone to read via the Durham University’s e-theses service.

    If you do not wish to have your research made available in this way, please follow the general procedures outlined in the Take-down policy and contact us with the reasons for this as soon as possible.

    Durham e-Theses contains the full-text of Durham University Higher Degree theses passed after 1 October 2009.

    The content is freely available for personal research or study, educational, or not-for-profit purposes.”

  83. This gives you a flavor of what awaits readers of this very illuminating historical study:

    “Introduction

    ‘The manufacture of public opinion remained long in its infancy but it has made extraordinary strides of late years… Since public opinion has become the motive power by which ministries are sustained and overthrown; since legislation answers to it as the electric bell answers to the pressure of a button; it is important to mark how this dominant force may be created, influenced, or directed.’1
    Blanchard Jerrold, 1883.

    Although debates raged in nineteenth century Britain as to the beneficial or malignant nature of public opinion, by the time Blanchard Jerrold wrote his article it had long been recognised as the „motive power‟ in British politics. However, as the electorate burgeoned, the question that detained many theorists was how, and whether, such mass opinion should be controlled. With this came the unsettling idea that groups and individuals, inside and outside Parliament, may wish to, and be able to, manipulate that opinion for their own benefit, and it was this issue that Jerrold tackled directly in his article. Jerrold was, however, far from an aberration, and phrases like the „manufacture of public opinion‟ in fact appear frequently in the works of theorists, journalists and other authors in late nineteenth century Britain. The infamous critic of the Boer War2, J.A. Hobson, wrote of „the modern manufacture of public opinion‟,3 whilst Graham Wallas feared „the manipulation of the popular impulse‟ and the existence of „manufactured opinion‟.4 Apart from marking an important new strand of debate in theoretical circles, these arguments were also the more obvious manifestations of a growing recognition of and reaction to the adoption of modern forms of propaganda in Britain.

    The fact that such a debate was taking place and that propaganda was becoming a phenomenon, and indeed a word, which was generally understood, should not come as a surprise to historians. Terence Qualter has argued that „modern mass propaganda came into existence as a major political force because of the emergence in the nineteenth century industrial state of a peculiar combination of circumstances‟, involving vast social, political and technological developments, all of which provided the ideal environment in which a modern form of propaganda became not only possible but necessary.5 The raft of education acts between 1870 and 1902 meant that, by the outbreak of the Boer War, an entire generation of Britons had grown up under a system of compulsory education. This newly literate public was then satiated by the concurrent rise of a cheap mass press, which had itself been facilitated by the erosion of the „taxes on knowledge‟. During this period, this new medium was joined by the illustrated journals, photography, music halls, modernised forms of art and caricature, advertising and commercial ephemera and eventually the cinema, providing a far wider range of tools for the propagandist. Technological developments were found in the expansion of railroads, steamships, cabled and, by 1896, wireless telegraphy, all of which increased the mobility of both people and information around the world. Finally, three reform acts led to an increase in the electorate to nearly two thirds of the adult male population, including for the first time coal miners and agricultural labourers. The combination of these developments produced a situation in which propaganda had become a key method by which politicians could gain popular backing.”

    Footnotes:

    1 Blanchard Jerrold, „On the Manufacture of Public Opinion‟, The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review (January-June, 1883), p.1081. Blanchard Jerrold was a journalist and playwright (1826-1884) and the son of Douglas Jerrold (1803-57), also a journalist and early contributor to Punch.

    2 Throughout this essay this will be the designated term for the war fought between Britain, the Transvaal and Orange Free State 1899-1902 as, although latterly called the Anglo-Boer war or Second South African War, the Boer War was the contemporary terminology.

    3 J.A. Hobson, The Psychology of Jingoism (London, 1901), p. 130. 4 Graham Wallas, Human Nature in Politics (London, 1908), pp. 66, 85. 5 Terence H. Qualter, Propaganda and Psychological Warfare (New York, 1962), p. 32.

  84. “The result has been a resounding success – housing prices have dropped by 20%!”

    I think you need a source for this extraordinary claim. In fact, if it is true, it sounds like the “house price crash” that you’re using the figure to deny is already well under way.

  85. @perspectivehere
    > Perhaps Economist articles about China will be as reliable? Au contraire?

    It’s like in Galileo’s situation. The Economist is like the choir. It knows only one type of tune. It knows there are still many listeners. It’s more work to change the bible.

    It will continue to sing the tune even in the midst of a stupid excommunication. Who knows, that religion might have many millions more followers if they’d not been so mean to Galileo.

  86. @Stu
    Thanks for pointing this out. You are right in that I misinterpreted the 20%. I will update the post. In my recent interview with Shaun Rein, this was the conversation:

    yinyang:Shaun, we often hear a housing bubble in China. How real is it? And, is there an imminent collapse of the housing market?

    Shaun:I think there’s been a lot of fear about a collapse of the real-estate sector here. I think fears are far exaggerated. We are going into a slow period and maybe prices are going to drop, maybe even 20%. But, that’s actually healthy for the market. And, it’s been caused by the government, because they have been trying to reign in some of the froth in the marketplace. And the reason why I am not overly concerned is that there are still a lot of pent-up demand.

    We interviewed several hundred consumers in different cities recently about their house buying habits and whether or not they would sell. We found there is massive pent-up demand. The majority of families told us that they would like to buy a house as soon as some of the restrictions on buying a home ease.

    You know in 2009 the government made it very difficult to get loans, to buy multiple properties in many cities.

    So I think what you are going to see moving forward is prices are going to drop. You are not going to see panick selling, because most home owners’ mortgages are not under water. Even if prices drop 10%, most of the consumers told us they wouldn’t sell their homes. They really didn’t care. They are just going to hold and wait it off.

    So the proof in my point you seen housing prices have dropped – you seen 20% – 30% discounts in certain properties – that’s really coming from sales made by developers directly. When you take a look at the second home market, prices have remained very stable, because people are just not panick selling. There is a lot of pent-up demand there.

    I am lot more concerned about the commercial sector. You are seeing a lot of stupid developments that are being launched by developers – you don’t need 60, 80-story buildings, you know, in basically farmland.

    There’s too many luxury malls that are sprouting up across the country that are trying to have Louis Vuitton sell. You know, Louis Vuitton is very popular here, but there are only so many consumers who can afford a Louis Vuitton handbag.

    So, I think you are going to see a wash-out in the commercial sector. I hope you are going to see some major realestate developers go bankrupt and go bust. Because I think you need lot healthy of a market.

    So, will it be a weak real-estate sector in 2012? Absolutely. Is there going to be a systemic risk? Absolutely not. You just don’t have the same debt problems you have in the United States. And you just see a lot of pent-up demand here.

  87. Regarding Galileo, there are a lot of myths about that:

    GALILEO GOES TO JAIL
    AND OTHER MYTHS ABOUT SCIENCE AND RELIGION
    Edited by Ronald L. Numbers
    http://www.hup.harvard.edu/resources/educators/pdf/NUMGGJ.pdf

    “Historians of science have known for years that White’s and Draper’s accounts are more propaganda than history.9 (An opposing myth, that Christianity alone gave birth to modern science, is disposed of in Myth 9.) Yet the message has rarely escaped the ivory tower. The secular public, if it thinks about such issues at all, knows that organized religion has always opposed scientific progress (witness the attacks on Galileo, Darwin, and Scopes). The religious public knows that science has taken the leading role in corroding faith (through naturalism and antibiblicism). As a first step toward correcting these misperceptions we must dispel the hoary myths that continue to pass as historical truths. No scientist, to our knowledge, ever lost his life because of his scientific views, though, as we shall see in Myth 7, the Italian Inquisition did incinerate the sixteenth-century Copernican Giordano Bruno for his heretical theological notions.”

  88. @westiseast

    Again – The Economist may be anti-X or anti-Y, but we here are primarily concerned with it’s anti-China rhetoric. Now, if there was some substance in it, then it would have been an entirely different matter altogether. ;-) The problem with its analysis and criticism is that, in a nutshell, it is wrong and does not stand up to scrutiny, as has been repeatedly demonstrated.

  89. Following up on my previous comment on cultivating empathy and an ability to listen, I note that US VP Biden had this to say of Xi on his recent visit to the U.S. As reported by Reuters:

    Biden told reporters the talks with Xi had been very forthright, and was also intensely curious about the workings of the American political system.

    “This is a guy who wants to feel it and taste it….” said Biden. “He is intensely interested in understanding why we think the way we do, what our positions are, and the need to actually broaden this kind of understanding.”

    I wish more in America would reach out to understand China – instead of demonizing it.

  90. The Economist just posted, on its new China blog, a reflection on its 170-year history of reporting on China. It starts off by apologizing for fabricating a massacre of Westerners during the Boxer Uprising. But then it congratulates itself on opposing the Opium War and on warning readers early about “foreigners being deceived by fake Chinese products”. Then there’s a long list of “prescient” predictions that its writers made which turned out to be correct. The post ends with the lament that The Economist didn’t know and couldn’t report on the full horrors of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, but now that it has more reporters in China, it won’t continue to make such grievous mistakes.

  91. Rob Gifford is now the new China editor at the Economist. I just listened to this 2004 NPR report he filed while traveling 3,000 miles cutting across China.

    http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=3842900&m=3843117

    My sense he is an agitator – interested in exploiting and widening whatever ethnic tension exists within China. Or to link everything negative they can find to demonize the Chinese government. And that’s the likely impulse he will continue to steer the Economist in their China coverage.

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