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Politicofacting Jon Huntsman on China

September 15th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Couple of days ago, I was listening to this NPR segment where Bill Adair of PolitiFact.com was asked to weigh in on the recently CNN hosted 2012 Republican debate. PoliticFact.com specializes in fact-checking assertions made by American politicians. For example, on the following attack on Obama’s stimulus from Texas governor Rick Perry:

“He had $800 billion worth of stimulus in the first round of stimulus. It created zero jobs.”

Adair tells NPR:

Yeah, we rated it Pants On Fire. It’s just ridiculously false. Even if you look at the most conservative estimates from independent groups, the estimates range somewhere from 1.6 million to 3.6 million jobs. So there’s no question there have been many jobs created by the stimulus.

Opposite to “Pants On Fire” on PolitiFact.com’s Truth-O-Meter is “TRUE.” I have just visited the site and saw Alan Grayson’s comment that “$360 million of our tax dollars went straight to … the Taliban” where it was rated “MOSTLY TRUE.” Another rating after that showed “MOSTLY FALSE.” “MOSTLY FALSE” again. That followed by “MOSTLY TRUE,” “HALF TRUE,” and so on. You get the idea.

First, allow me to digress a bit here. I find it interesting that American politicians are getting away with “Pants On Fire” type of statements though. Where is the public outrage? Credits to NPR and PolitiFact.com for bringing this to light. PolitiFact.com also won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009, so its work is indeed valued. Perhaps Americans have become accustomed to not expecting always truth from their public speakers. Perhaps their politicians know in this democracy, the public only hears short sound bites, and nothing else matters. (For more on this, make sure to read Allen‘s “Understanding Democracy” article.)

As Janet Carmosky recently wrote, “China Bashing Season Officially Kicks Off,” I know we are in for another year of “Pants on Fire.” Perry and other politicians are capable of outright lies against their own President, what would spare ‘China’ or anyone else?

In this post, I’d like to take a moment looking at what former U.S. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, said while campaigning in Milford, New Hampshire in early August 2011:

There are 500 million Internet users “and 80 million bloggers who are driving discussions in China. … So you’ve got a lot of people voicing frustration and discontent.”

In fact, PolitiFact.com weighed in on it too and rated it “MOSTLY TRUE.”

Is it?

I encourage you to follow the above link to see PolitiFact.com’s analysis. In summary, it said:

He’s right about the 500 million and his estimate on bloggers is low, but his underlying point is valid. But it’s worth noting that experts say the vast majority of bloggers are writing about social rather than political topics. On balance, we rate his claim Mostly True.

I would say, that Jon Huntsman comment is mostly a “Pants on Fire.” As the site said, most of the chatter in China is social rather than political. Politics is a niche just as is in the U.S. and anywhere else on this planet. People are idolizing pop stars. People are discussing movies, sporting events, video games, fashion, and so on. Certainly, people go online to complain about all sorts of ills about society. Those and pop culture dominate.

Given the typical aversion to politics in China, I’d say political discussions are even less popular compared to the U.S.. At least for China, there aren’t so many foreign invasions like the U.S. to speak of. In the U.S., there is an army of dissidents speaking against them. For example Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky

If you’d followed the link above, you would have noticed Jon Huntsman’s campaign team provided PolitiFact.com Reuters and Epoch Times articles as sources for the numbers. Epoch Times?! So much for a candidate who supposedly has a nuanced understanding about China. His team is digging in the wrong place!

At least PolitiFact.com had the senses to get to the real source, the Chinese Internet Network Information Center.

Yes, there were suicides at Foxconn. There are migrant workers who are struggling. China is going through an industrial revolution right now. We have hundreds of millions of people moving from rural areas to cities. The whole country is in transition, and with it comes tremendous stress.

I can personally attest to the fact that most of my friends and relatives in China are forward-looking and optimistic about their future. This is definitely in alignment with PEW Poll results showing high government approval ratings by Chinese citizens.

In fact, PEW also finds increasingly around the world, people think China is a growing power.

Jon Huntsman is of course insinuating the Chinese are dissatisfied with their government politically. That is false. Absolutely not in a way such that they would want a “jasmine revolution.” (See my prior article, “U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman caught on video teased by Chinese at ‘Jasmine Revolution’ rally at Wangfujing.”)

A last hint: read the essay by Ai Weiwei in Newsweek where he was saying Beijing is like a ‘prison.’ Even he complained about Chinese are generally not interested in what he had to say about the Chinese government.

  1. raventhorn2000
    September 15th, 2011 at 15:37 | #1

    At this point, I just say, I give up trying to help the Westerners.

    As a human being, I have tried to help them see the Chinese point of view from Chinese cultural/historical point, without trying to be too pushy about it. Afterall, my opinion is just my opinion.

    But after so many years, and keep seeing the BS that comes out of Western Media and Western Politicians, I can only say, I give up trying to help.

    Hey, you know what, it’s easy to make money from fools. And since the Westerners are so willing to let their corporate masters and political figureheads squeeze profits from them, I am not going to stop them from putting the chains on themselves.

    I gave up, and I’m going to take my cut.

    Thank heavens if one day these fools finally decide to turn against their corporate masters and politicians, I will still have a home in China. (As will for most ethnic Chinese in the West).

    Let’s just keep eyes open, and keep 1 suitcase packed.


  2. September 15th, 2011 at 15:55 | #2

    Very funny!

    With this half-truth nonsense that is prevalent in U.S. society, my fear is if the country tailspins towards a rapid economic decline, that makes for a perfect climate for fascism. A crazy person may take over, and with the awesome U.S. military, I don’t think there is a safe place for anyone anywhere on this planet.

    We want rationality, and above all anywhere at the only super power.

  3. raventhorn2000
    September 15th, 2011 at 18:11 | #3

    I also fear the rise of extremism in the West, which is becoming more and more frequent now.

    But I think the West might implode into rounds of infighting first, with the extremist factions declaring war against their own people for control.

    “Control” is the keyword here. A total decline of the West is not possible, there will always be the rich few who stand to gain by keeping “control”. And the Rich few do not want to see global wars NOR fascism. They much rather continue to tame their own people and continue to squeeze wealth wherever they can.

    Wealth and Greed is the new “opium” of the West. And they will forget every thing they are for it. And as result, they will more likely crack from within, instead of declaring wars on the world.

    And the Rich few will not go down in West quietly, they will fight to keep control.

    Hence, the conflict from within. They may try to divert the blame to China/etc., but that only works so long.

    Even now, the poorer “middle Class” in US are realizing, hey, the top 1% filthy rich owns about 70-80% of the wealth in US.

    That’s like discovering the Thief living next door to you!

  4. September 16th, 2011 at 11:23 | #4

    By the way, what you said is quite appealing at times: “At this point, I just say, I give up trying to help the Westerners.”

    Yeah, revolutions happen throughout history.

  5. HuntsmanHAter
    September 18th, 2011 at 00:08 | #5

    Guys –

    I’m with you on Huntsman and the games that get played during US political campaigns. It’s kind of sad. But, to be fair, this isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s much improved from the 19th century and early 20th century campaigns. This kind of thing has always been part of the US political system. And, for most of US history, it hasn’t been an impediment.

    But where you guys lose me, and start sounding like a parody of yourselves, is in the comment thread with the apocalyptic vision of the Western downfall. Seriously fellas – things ain’t that bad, and you are well in the fringe minority in expressing these kinds of opinions. But, more seriously, I think this kind of fringe thinking really alienates the potential audience that could be attracted to what you have to say about Western media. Until you let go of this sort of thing though, you guys are going to be stick with a relatively small audience. And that’s a pity.

  6. raventhorn2000
    September 18th, 2011 at 09:41 | #6

    “In fact, it’s much improved from the 19th century and early 20th century campaigns.”

    That’s pretty generalized.

    Perhaps the system and transparency has increased with media coverage, but the message of the politics has gotten more openly idiotic, (instead of being merely idiotic underneath).

    I don’t think that’s “improved”. I think the “openly idiotic” has the effect of dumbing down the public, over time.

    *and I’m not envisioning some “apocalyptic vision” of the Western downfall.

    In fact I said, “A total decline of the West is not possible”.

    But if you think that my scenario of the Rich squeezing the rest of the people dry in the West is “Apocalypse”, then we are already there.

  7. silentchinese
    September 19th, 2011 at 12:13 | #7

    What Can Huntsman or any Repub candidate do or say wrt China? They can’t really hold up china as a shiny city on a hill or his/her campaign/political life would be over in a second.
    Hunts and Romney prob knows that there is nothing they can do.

  8. raventhorn2000
    September 19th, 2011 at 13:48 | #8

    On the other hand, no one is expecting them to praise China. (Frankly, China doesn’t need their kissing up, which is usually opportunistic and quickly forgotten).

    But their propensity for reaching for China as the “hot button” during campaigns, is indicative of how totally vision-less the US politicians have become.

    Can’t solve their problems, blame China. Yeah, that will get the votes, but not much else, and then send an envoy to wine and dine the Chinese leaders after the election, and ask nicely for more bond purchases.

    There is nothing more spineless than a US politician right before a November election and right after.

    I call it the “Thawing the Jellyfish” stage, ie. in between when they are frozen, and when they are cooked.

  9. xian
    September 20th, 2011 at 15:31 | #9

    I think the operative word is “a lot”. How much is a lot? By sheer amount or by percentage? I’m sure a small percentage of anything in China could be “a lot” elsewhere.

    I find Huntsman to be the most moderate and the least nutty out of all the Republican candidates. That probably why the American media pays him little attention, hah. Either way, Americans aren’t gonna elect a Mormon president.

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