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Jim Hoge of Foreign Affairs Magazine on China

Jim Hoge has been the editor of Foreign Affairs magazine since 1992. He holds the Peter G. Peterson Chair at the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a director of Human Rights Watch and the Foundation for a Civil Society. He is also the chairman of the International Center for Journalists.

He recently had this to say about China.

Based on some of the organizations with which Jim is affiliated, I would have guessed Jim to be as ideological, myopic, hypocritical, bigoted, and  biased as many others we have called out on this blog. I was preparing for the worst because in reading many reports from Western media last few years, I get the distinct sense that many people in the West wish – even root for – China to fail.

Consider, for example, Francis Fukuyama WSJ’s article titled “Is China Next.” If you think the article is bad, the comments were worse. Our good friend Larry at bearcanada.com wrote in one of the comments:

It is truly painful to read many of the posts here, and in similar publications on the net.

So many people, who may never have travelled more than 100 miles from their home, may have never been outside of their home state, who likely cannot find their own country on a map of the world. But who “know” everything about China.

So many posts, full of bias, of bigotry, of racism and even hatred, for a country nobody understands or knows anything about, a country that has never done anything to the US or to Americans.

I know this sounds terrible to say, but a famous American author recently wrote that Americans get their politics from the same place they get everything else – from their ignorance and simple-mindedness.

And from a “Christian” country, whose god is a god of love, of tolerance, of peace and forgiveness. Do unto others…, turn the other cheek…, let he who is without sin…

And what do we have, from these people of God who pride themselves on their “freedom of religion”? Bitterness, hatred, condemnation, intolerance, obvious pleasure in the poverty of another people (dirty peasants), arrogance in one’s implied superiority.

What would anyone think of Americans, reading all these posts?

For your information, nothing like this happens in China. No Chinese newspaper writes hateful articles about the US, although God knows they have much reason to do so.

The Chinese are tolerant to a fault, and they are charitable rather than small-minded. They take no pleasure in seeing your country in a financial mess; nobody in China is cheering at millions of Americans losing their jobs or homes.

But you would cheer, wouldn’t you? And so many of you would cheer even louder if China were to stumble or to fail. That would be proof that you are really superior, that God is on your side.

In a recent NYT blog by Nicholas Kristoff there was a post that China’s tragic earthquake in Sichuan that killed 100,000 people was “just nature’s way of telling us there are too many Chinese in the world.”

What fine people. And so even-handed. You take such pleasure in condemning China about vague “human rights violations” and so conveniently forget that it is your country that has Abu Graib, Guantanamo Bay, the secret torture prison at Baghram and the new “Peace Medicine” torture facility in Indonesia.

I would have to say that the Chinese are far better Christians than most of you.

I have something I wish all of you would read. It’s a kind of photo-essay, an editorial, titled, “If we’re going to learn about China, let’s first meet some real people.” Maybe it would do some good.


However surprisingly, in this particular video at least,  Jim appeared to be relatively grounded. Jim argued, foremost, that trying to play up fears on China is wrong. China may be more assertive in its foreign policy, but it is not of the malignant sort that forebodes an expansionist power. China and U.S. are not competitors. China has its own problems to deal with, so does America. Each must recognize its strengths and weaknesses and address its problems accordingly. The U.S. is still the sole superpower and is projected to be so for the foreseeable future. However, as China and others fast arise, the U.S. needs to start preparing the institutions it has built and led to be more representative of a multi-polar world.

While I don’t agree with everything Jim advanced in the video, it is refreshing to see another clear head from the West speaking about China. Americans in general have nothing to fear but fear itself. The biggest fear the world have to fear is a delusional, fearful American public.

  1. May 21st, 2011 at 23:47 | #1

    Well said, Allen (and Larry).

    Mostly agree with Jim Hoge too.

    The main objection I have is his citing of ‘Manchuria’ and worker’s back pay. And his casual mention of issues in Xinjiang and Tibet. You get the sense he commands little details and facts particular to those issues. Maybe I should not be critical, because he didn’t get into it. But that’s more the character in general of the American understanding – everything ‘negative’ is viewed in the context of a ‘bad’ government and is superficial.

    Many well-meaning and respected Americans are in fact working constructively with China. China grants the “Friendship Award” to foreigners who make big impact to Chinese society, and I’d say, Americans are in fact well represented. They are well known in China.

    The American media is really a clog in hindering the two countries relationship from moving forward. We all need to help make the level-headed voices heard more while debunk the ridiculous narratives.

  2. JJ
    May 23rd, 2011 at 01:44 | #2

    Thanks for sharing this! These days I mainly just ignore what’s written in the Western press about China.

  3. May 23rd, 2011 at 06:26 | #3

    I agree with Larry that Chinese are tolerant to a fault.

    It’s a different mentality than what exists in the Western “superpower” mentality. A different concept of tolerance.

    In the West, tolerance is a state of mind that can only be achieved by Direct “confrontation” over differences, which is a historically violent process. Ie. the psychologically Western historical masculine concept of “ideological fight and test over boundary limits, followed by mutual respect of boundaries.”

    Eastern societies, by contrast, has a passive-aggressive non-confrontation approach of “tread carefully, discover differences, but ignore differences, focus on similarities.”

    1 example is how China and other Eastern societies approach homosexuality.

    A Western documentary showed some well known gay community areas in Shanghai. Gay men interviewed there largely described that their community is somewhat tolerated, as long as they don’t make too open public display of their lifestyle. And many of the gay people in the community said they are expected by their family to have heterosexual marriages and have children, which they intend to do eventually.

    Western critics would certainly react to this arrangement as “suppression of freedom”, because the hiddenness of the gay community in China represent a subserviant non-confrontation condition, which essentially equates to submission and surrender in Western mentality.

    Western critics simply cannot understand how people can tolerate one another without some direct confrontation and resulting laws of tolerance. (But it is logically obvious that human beings do not need laws to tolerate each other’s differences).

    In Western tradition, EVERY minority had to fight a bitter fight to gain acceptance (or die trying), but that also means that the majority never tolerates any new minority by default. There is always a process of moral judgment and attempted conversion (aka colonial domination).

    It is not to say that there are no direct confrontations in East, but the Eastern tolerance meant that direct confrontations are much more delayed, because the majority rarely attempts to convert/dominate the minorities. (Natural mixing theory).

  4. silentchinese
    May 23rd, 2011 at 07:01 | #4

    raventhorn2000 :I agree with Larry that Chinese are tolerant to a fault.
    It’s a different mentality than what exists in the Western “superpower” mentality. A different concept of tolerance.

    Yeah this reminds me of those paintings where a confucian scholar, a buddhist monk, a taoist master are together playing Wei-qi in a garden.

    I always think the “jouney to the west”/”monkey king” novel’s description of chinese Mythology space sheds a light on how chinese views their cosmos. (what better way to do psychoanalysis then to completely imagine a world with out boundaries).
    The Jade emperor sits on the throne, Buddha is at same level, Taoist and Confucianists all serve within the system. If the confucists fails to contain the problem (The Monkey King), then taoist guy would try to do his thing, then if it fails, Buddha is the last resort.
    whatever and whoever can solve the problem.

  5. pug_ster
    May 23rd, 2011 at 07:50 | #5

    I wouldn’t agree with Jim Hoge on this one. Most of the history books out there was written post 18th century where Western Dominance came to light and could not fantom the day the West no longer holds this dominance. Mr Hoge simply did not take into account when the day when US loses its superpower status or when EU will be broken up. By that time, China, other BRICS nations, and other Asian nations would not be following Western influence as much.

    – One Child Policy – Despite the Chinese government mandating people to only have one child, I don’t think it is such a big burden. Other Asian nations like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore have even lower birth rates than China yet they are doing okay. Despite all that doom and gloom about the problem with the aging population, I have never seen it yet. Countries like Japan have an aging population yet young people are having trouble finding work. I suppose that if China does hit this kind of wall with is population problem, it can compensate when its people can be more productive.

    – Foreign Policy – We are already seeing the Chinese government trying to play a role on its global states within the last few years and I think they are going to play in more of an dominant role. Just like in the recent IMF leader incident.

  6. May 23rd, 2011 at 10:56 | #6

    Good take, and I feel that way too. Tsinghua Professor Yan Xuetong always say political culture in the West is dominated by power. That is certainly reflected in their international relations too.

    Interesting points. In one of Obama’s state of the union addresses, I recall he too said something along the lines America must remain #1. In general, a public figure cannot be ‘defeatist’ in the public. That’d be true anywhere.

    Though when Obama said it, I get the feeling most Americans accept what he said as if it was some god given right.

    That is obviously different than the attitude of a more practical champ – he or she never says in the next year’s competition, the gold medal belongs to him or her. Instead, what is said is more about hard work and strategy with the idea the medal could go to the next person.

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