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A conversation with Shaun Rein on China

(On January 5, 2012, I sat down with Shaun Rein, founder and Managing Director of the China Market Research Group, to talk about China. He gave us his insights into major events of 2011. In this hour-long interview, we touched on many topics: pollution, CNN and Christian Bale’s recent run-in with Chinese police, food safety, Weibo, and so on.)

YinYang:2011 was another eventful year for China. Just when her bullet train seems unstoppable, a fatal collision left the whole country in doubt. China achieved space docking, something only the U.S. and Russia have managed. Then there was Tiger Mom.

I have invited a real China expert to weigh in on these events and other events that mattered to China. What were the Chinese narratives? How did the Chinese feel about them? I couldn’t have found a better person to do this with. He actually lives in China. And his firm provides strategic market intelligence to Fortune 500 firms. He is the founder and Managing Director of the China Market Research Group. Public sentiments and consumer sentiments are his firm’s forte.

Shaun Rein from CMR. Welcome to Hidden Harmonies, Shaun.

Shaun:Very nice to see you YinYang. [Video was too laggy, so we soon opted for audio only.] Thanks for inviting me.

Tiger Mom

YinYang:Sure. And I should add, Shaun is the author of the upcoming book, “The End of Cheap China: Economic and Cultural Trends that will Disrupt the World.”

Okay, Shaun, here we go.

Tiger Mom. She certainly created a storm in the U.S.. She did too in China, didn’t she? So, ah, was it about Chinese moms beating American moms as how the Wall Street Journal framed it?

Shaun:Well, the Tiger Mom phenomenon hit the entire world. You know, a lot of people were wondering the “Chinese way” as defined by Amy Chua is better. But, actually I really want to break it down, YinYang, from two points. The first side, actually, Tiger Mom is not something that you run into that much in China anymore. I think part of it is you have this whole generation of parents who were raised during the Cultural Revolution, and because of the horrors of those times, they were unable to go to school, choose who they wanted to marry, and to get the types of jobs they wanted. So, you have created this generation of parents who really coddled their children. So you have 22, 23-year old’s who really are immature. They are unable to overcome challenges and difficulties. One of the things we find when we talk to human resources executives is as soon as they start to do constructive criticisms with the young employee, the young employee often gets angry, then quits the job then and there.

It’s very common for 25 year-old people still living at home and have their parents cook and clean for them, and even to do their laundry. So, you know, one of the issues with Tiger Mom is that it doesn’t actually really exist in China in the same way it does in the overseas Chinese communities. And just from a standpoint within China, it’s a problem because you have a lot of very spoiled younger executives that have never really had to deal with challenges and overcome hardships. So, that’s one bucket that I am concerned about, YinYang.

But the second point that sorts of pop up, and I talk a lot about this in chapter 9 in my upcoming book, “The End of Cheap China,” is that the educational system in China is a complete mess. And that is sort of what Amy Chua is looking at; is how do you train people to think analytically. And I think in China right now, the education system is doing a disservice to young people and not training them to think creatively, how to think analytically. There is too much rote memorization in the classrooms. Class sizes are just too large. And that’s why you have Xi Jinping’s daughter studying in Harvard right now. Xi Jinping is most likely the next president of China.

So, going forward in 2012, I hope you are going to see more reforms in the education system because they are really needed. And you are going to have a little more of Tiger Mom within China and little less spoiling of younger generations.

Food Safety

YinYang:Food safety. 2011 we saw stories after stories of fake meat, contaiminated drinks, and even gutter oil. When will we see an end to such kind of stories in China?

Shaun:Unfortunately, YinYang, I see this madness recurring. I am not sure if you are scared of the “Made in China” label when it comes to food. But I am. And so are most Chinese. And most people here know that I am very supportive of the Chinese government at the central level. But there are a lot of problems at the local level at oversight of food safety; a lot of corrupt officials; a lot of unsavory businessmen that are willing to cut corners.

In fact, YinYang, my firm interviewed 5000 Chinese consumers in 15 cities and the number one biggest concern in life, ahead of concern for being able to pay for healthcare for families or educaton for the kids, was food and product safety. Everybody here is really nervous about eating a toxic bun or fake meat and then die. And that’s why actually another chapter of my book is just on food safety, because it’s such a critical problem and the government needs to address better.

On the good side, for Western brands, there is lot more trust for foreign multinational FMB companies, and so they really have an opportunity to create trust with the consumer; to charge a premium for ensuring healthy and safe food. And really being able to capture more market share. Frankly in the last year, my firm’s food and beverages business has really been soaring because it is really clear that the Chinese companies are trying to move towards the up-market dining destinations.

Food safety is a serious issue. No one can really deny that it is a major problem, and that it needs to be addressed better by local governments and by the central government that needs to get more buy-in from local corrupt officials.

YinYang:Any specific steps the government took to combat this issue.

Shaun:Oh yeah, I guess what you saw in 2011, the government shut 50% of the nation’s dairies. And that was one of the reasons why you saw soaring dairy prices. In 2011 dairy prices went up 25% year-on-year. And so the government is really trying to consolidate that part of the sector. They are really trying to get more state owned ownerships. So you see like COFGO, the big state owned giant in food, acquire a massive stake in Mengniu Dairy. You are seeing a lot more investments going into Bright Foods, which is the owner of Bright Dairy, one of the largest fresh milk producers in the country.

So, the government is really trying to get better oversight that way. They have shut and arrested several thousand businesses and people I believe over the summer of 2011. And I believe they are trying to send a strong message that they are not going to tolerate corruption in the food sector anymore. There has to be a better system in place for the supply chain.

You know, you can take a look at Walmart. I think a lot of Americans, like John Bussey who is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, saying that China shutting 13 Walmart outlets in Chongqing last year was more protectionism. And, that is just BS. I mean, basically, China was saying here is Walmart that is intentionally labeling meat products wrong, and this is one of the largest hypermarket chains in the country. The government naturally has to shut it down.

They weren’t targetting foreign businesses specifically and trying to be more protectionist. What they were trying to do was to save the health of the everyday Chinese, because that is what Mainland Chinese people want.

I think a lot of the fear-mongering that you get from John Bussey and a lot of these analysts you get from the United States is really misguided when it comes to food.


YinYang:And Walmart China is in a mess. Their China president has recently resigned.

Shaun:Yeah, Chen stepped down. They had major management turn-over aside from the president. They also lost the COO, the head of human resources, and they are really trying to get their mojo back in the country. I think frankly its going to be very difficult. If you look, their market-share dropped from 8% to 5.5% over the last three years. Not, even before the food scandal, really because they are facing a difficult, more competitive environment as prices rise for real-estate and as very fast-moving and aggressive domestic Chinese in the retail sector move up the value chain. And compete head to head with the Walmarts and Carrefours.

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.

Sports and Li Na

YinYang:What would you say about sports, Shaun? For example, Li Na won the French Open. I suppose when a country grows more economically, it can build more tennis courts. What’s your take?

Shaun:Yes, sports are getting much bigger here. When I first came to China in the 90’s, a lot of people were very skinny, and part of it was just that people didn’t have very good nourishment. What you see in the last 10 to 15 years increase of food has really made a much healthier population. And now that people aren’t worried about starving and shelters over their heads, they are starting to spend lot more time on sports leasure. And you see basketball and tennis is really popular.

And what I like about Li Na specifically is Nike is now her sponsor and is really doing an excellent job in using home-grown celebrities to promote their products. And I think that’s going to be one of the keys going forward for Western brands is that they can no longer just use some blond haired blue eye-ed girl to pitch their products in China. They have to create local celebrities and by doing so they will create more emotional connections with everyday Chinese.

Steve Jobs and Apple

YinYang:Apple is huge in China. With the passing of Steve Jobs, I think there was a lot of outpouring of sadness from Chinese consumers.

Shaun:Yeah, Steve Jobs is one of those guys that you know even if he may not be one of those nicest guys according to rumors, he is beloved by Mainland Chinese. He created innovative products that made life better and happier for just about everyone who touched it. What you have seen more specifically towards Apple is Apple is not just looking at China as the market to produce in but a market to sell in. And in my upcoming book, “The End of Cheap China,” I talk a lot about Apple actually in how they are selling so well here.

Their sales quadrupled from 3 billion to 12 billion (USD) in the last 13 months. It’s now become their second largest market. In the book I talked about Apple and some of the strength they have and some of the mistakes they also made. Because I actually think they can sell a lot better here than they currently are. But that is something that is exciting.

Traffic safety

YinYang:Ok, Shaun, last year there were tons and tons of traffic accidents. And the story I remember the most is in Gansu province they had a van carrying 19 kindergartners, and that van crashed with a truck. And these 19 children died, including the driver and another adult on the bus. I saw the picture of that van. I mean – my gosh – I mean with U.S. standards that van is for probably 8 or 9 people max. They jammed all these kids in there. It is just terrible and sad.

Shaun:I actually drive myself, YinYang, and it scares me every day. I don’t have a chauffeur. I drive myself, and almost every day I feel like I almost get into a car accident. Because the road system is absolutely chaotic. A lot of it comes from the scooters and mopeds. When you are driving down the street, you can get a guy on a bicycle, or a guy with chickens, a guy on a motorcycle, a scooter, a truck, or a car. There are just too many different types of vehicles and nobody is obeying the laws.

You saw Shenzhen just announced they are gonna fine cars 500 RMB if they don’t allow pedestrians to cross in cross-walks. They are going to charge pedestrians 100 RMB for jaywalking. I hope that people are actually going to adhere to these new regulations, and that the police actually enforces them. Frankly, not sure if that’s gonna happen.

YinYang:Yeah, and every time I see a picture of a moped with a whole family on it just makes me cringe. What more can the government do?

Shaun:I think everybody knows that it’s a problem. It’s scary out there. Part of it is the rules. When I took my driver’s test, it said, when you are turning: do you, A, let pedestrians go first in a cross-walk, B, do you just keep driving, or, C, do you make sure you don’t hit them. Now, the answer is C, something to that effect, just make sure you don’t hit them. But there is too much leeway to what exactly that means. I think they need more definite laws. Like, no turning or they have the right of way.

Wenzhou bullet train crash

YinYang:The Wenzhou bullet train crash. I guess the back drop, you know, China in this past decade has been building out railroad infrastructure at a really fast pace. Chinese companies are building rail road and bullet train systems around the world. So, the stake is really high. Anyways, the Wenzhou train crash left 40 people dead. And I remember watching CCTV, and as the rescue and investigation was going on, panelist were really critical of the Ministry of Rail in how they handle the situation. So it was a really big news.

Shaun:Sure. The railway disaster was a disaster. It’s aweful. I think what comes from that clearly is the government needs to do a far better job of policing some of the local officials. And officials within the ministry are just corrupt. I mean the head of the ministry got into trouble for stealing, I don’t know, hundreds of millions of dollars. Just some ludicrous number. So, there obviously has to be much better oversight. I think the government has done a OK job at being able to crack down on this disaster and investigate the 54 people as you mentioned. But it becomes an issue of credibility.

I think going forward in the next ten years you are going to see a lot more social instability with Chinese who are angry, seriously angry at corrupt local officials. And I think the central government, who generally garners the support of most Mainland Chinese really needs to do a better job at fixing problems at local level before they emerge like the train disaster.

Once the problem happens they need to make it very clear the process of arresting and investigating people is very transparent. We need to do a better job of knowing what the punishments are, because there is going to be a credibility issue, especially at the local levels.

The second part of this though, YinYang, you know, a lot of people say the bullet trains are not good for China and that it’s going to be something that loose a lot of money for the country and will end up causing the country to be like Japan. You know, creating a lot of infrastructure projects that are not needed.

That is just not true. I think when you really analyze, most of these railroad programs are not boondoggles. These are legitimate, very good infrastructure investments that are not only going to create jobs in the short term but they are also going to create more business efficiencies over the next ten years.

You know, taking a train ride in Shanghai, where I am based, to Wuhan, only takes several hours. You know, three years ago, it took 11 or 12 hours. So what you are seeing is lot more business trade and productivity taking place throughout the country because of the rail system. It’s not like bridges to nowhere where you had in Japan, where you have Tokyo building up multi-billion dollar train tracks to prop up a hamlet of people in the middle of nowhere. These investments are really quite good.

In general we need to take a step back. Fix the problems in the government system. Fix the corruption at the local level; lack of oversight and lack of transparency.

But we really shouldn’t let some terrible tragedies stopping us from investing in high speed trains and other rail networks which we really need as the country continues to urbanize.

YinYang:What about the criticism that the Ministry of Rail is pushing forward bullet train systems too fast?

Shaun:I think it’s valid to say that maybe it is spending too fast and we need to take a step back and look and make sure. You know it’s never bad to cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s to make sure that the spending is as efficient as possible. And to root out the corruption.

But, you know, China if anything is actually under-investing in infrastructure. And you know, this is where I totally disagree with people like Nouriel Roubini. Right now the country is at about 50% urbanization rate. That’s up from 30%, you know, just 15 years ago. And that’s going to continue. And so in order to relief congestion in cities, in order to have good living environments for people, you need to have better trains, you need to have better subways and roads. You can really open up the country better.

Because right now if you look at it, Shanghai for instance, has one of the densest city population in the world. You got 24 million people who are crammed together. If you are someone who aregue China doesn’t need to have a more spread-out Shanghai, I don’t understand what planet you are living on. You really need these investments.

But again, I think it is criticism the government needs to double-check, tripple-check, and quadrupple-check are very valid. We need to make sure that this clear demand and construction doesn’t go so fast that we put public safety at risk.


YinYang:Ok, Shaun, on pollution. Last year one big story that broke – I guess in Beijing, the local government has been publishing air quality reports since around the time of the 2008 Olympics. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing publishes one too. A Chinese Weibo, microblog, user took the U.S. Embassy results and published it on his microblog. And that created a stir because the U.S. Embassy result showed it much worse than the Beijing local government’s version. So, as a result, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, I guess the ministry responsible for publishing such reports, they are now going to revise their monitoring system. Anyways, Shaun, give us your take on what is going on in terms of dealing with air pollution.

Shaun:Yeah, you know, it’s one of – pollution is a serious problem here. It’s ridiculous for anyone to say it is not. It’s ridiculous for anyone to say it is getting better. You know, when I talk to wealthy Chinese, a lot of them are trying to get foreign passports right now because they are worried about health-care and pollutions for their families. And they are worried about getting access to better education for their kids. And they also just want to have more ability to just move around. You know, if you have an American passport, you can travel more easily and pretty much do anything while Chinese passport there are still a lot of restrictions of traveling into other countries.

So when you take a look at this big concern in the Western media about rich Chinese going abroad is really not because they dislike the government. It is because they are very uphappy with pollution and some of the quality of life issues.

But there is one key point, YinYang, I want to highlight here. We interviewed these wealthy Chinese. Most of them are remaining in China. Or at least the husbands are staying here, the fathers, in order to continue their business. But they are putting their kids and their families abroad because of worries about pollution and the health-care system. You know, pollution is really bad.

Whenever I travel abroad, my face feels better. My eyes feel better. My lungs. And then when I come back to China I get rashes, start to cough right away until my body adjusts.

YinYang:And pollutions impact to society is increasingly more measurable isn’t it?

Shaun:Yeah. It’s really a serious issue that is starting, actually, just from a political standpoint, it’s becoming a problem. There are still so many Chinese who are still covered by the state-owned health-care system, pollution is starting to affect budgets of hospitals. What you see now is – in the 1950’s – only about 10-12% of deaths were due to heart disease and brain disease. That number has topped 40% in 2011, because of the pollution and fattier diet. So what’s happening is the state-owned health-care system is starting to creek under the increased expenditures needed to take care of pollution related illnesses. It’s something the government need to do a much better job at addressing.

The other thing to keep in mind is a lot of people are saying the Chinese leaders somehow have clean air. You know, that is just ridiculous. They are breathing the same air that everybody else is. And I can assure you they don’t like the pollution either.

YinYang:What do you think the government is doing to combat this pollution issue. I mean do you see China moving the more polluting industries to outside China to poorer countries?

Shaun:Well, it’s starting to happen. You are seeing the government over the last 5 years has made it very difficult for high polluting high water-usage industries to get business licenses in China. You know, even in the height of the great recession, I have a client in the chemical sector that was trying to invest in a 1 billion USD factory, but the government wouldn’t give it the permits, because they said it was too high polluting.

So what you are starting to see are a lot of light industry and other high polluting sectors are starting to move out of China to go into markets like Vietnam and Indonesia that is willing to take little bit more pollution right now because they need more of the capital.

There are far more needs to be done, and you know, I am not a pollution expert, and I don’t quite understand why there are so much pollution here. I don’t know if it’s because of the cars, which I tend to doubt, because it’s been bad for 10, 15 years when there weren’t even a lot of cars here. If it is factories, if it is just even peasants burning, or if it just all of the massive construction. I have heard reasons for all of it. I don’t know.

I think the government needs to make it #1 on the national agenda, and they need to get the best scientists coming together to figure out what needs to be done.

Bailing out Europe

YinYang:There were talks about China possibly bailing out Europe.

Shaun:No. I don’t think China should be Europe’s white knight. You know, I don’t think bailing out Europe is even possible by buying few Italian bonds. I think the problems within Europe are far more serious than China alone can help fix. The problems in Europe really needs to be fixed by Europe. The governments there need to come together to cut down the size of bureaucracies, cut down on the social welfare benefits that are strangling the future of the countries.

Within China, you know, politically, a lot of Chinese say, why on earth should China, which is still a relatively poor nation on a per capita basis bail out much wealthier nations like Italy and Greece? It’s just doesn’t make sense to pour Chinese farmers tax money to do that. And I think politically it would be very difficult for the government to be able to do it.

What I do see happening is two things. The government is going to use the weakness in Europe to buy more hardcore assets. You know, machinery, you know, maybe airplanes from Airbus that China needs in the long term. And I think they will ultimately give more money to the IMF and other multilateral organizations like that. But I really don’t see them doing too much by buying bonds, or shouldn’t they.

Rule of law

YinYang:Okay, Shaun, this next one involves China’s Got Talent judge, Gao Xiaosong. So, he was in a car accident. Actually, he was drunk, and he caused a four car pile-up. So, as a result, he was put in jail for 6 months. Celebrities definitely help build awareness about crime and punishment, don’t they?

Shaun:And just like the Li Gang incident, YinYang, and I think what’s critical here is a lot of people say Mainland Chinese hate rich people. That is just not true. I mean they idolize people like Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. Or Robin Li, the founder of Baidu. They actually like rich people, but those, there is a difference, these people seen they have build their businesses and worked hard and did it from talent and skill.

The issue that is sort of bubbling up is a lot of discontent towards people who they feel make their riches by being corrupt and by cheating people and by feeling they are above the law. And that’s one of the issue you run into when you get, say, the son or a daughter of a local official who sort of misbehaves. And that’s something that can cause confraglations very quickly because there is a lot of anger. And probably truthfully these people are probably corrupt. You know, it always amazes me when you deal with a vice mayor of a small village or a small city and he is driving a Mercedes or even a Bentley. You know, where does he get the money?

So, something I think the government needs to address better is ensuring punishments that are metted out to these corrupt people are transparent and they are harsh. And that there is no feeling that just because you are wealthy or well-connected that you are above the law.

So I think in this specific case of the judge, that was a good thing. You know, it was good that Gao was caught and put in jail just like everyday people would. Because it shows that we need to move toward more rule of law rather than rule of brute power.

YinYang:And more than just the ordinary public, the traffic police and the police officers themselves need to be fully aware that everybody is equal under the law.

Shaun:Yeah. Exactly. I think it’s very clear that police officers need to know there is a law for the whole country, not a law for the everyday Chinese and then a law for the well-connected wealthy people.

The one time I was at Pudong, sorry, at the Hongqiao Airport, and there was a truck parked right in front of the terminal blocking everybody. And a policeman came by and said, “sir, you can’t park there.” And the driver said, “I can park anywhere I want, because my boss is a high military official.” That is just an inappropriate behavior and needs to stop. The police officer, I have to give him credit, said, no, these are the rules; you need to leave. And pretty soon hundreds of people came by and really crowded around this driver. And the police, actually, I gotta give him gumption, he had a tow truck come and say that they were gonna tow the truck away, oh, the car away. Because it was just inappropriate behavior.

So it needs to be very clear there needs to be more of a rule of law that fits the entire country.

Weibo, China’s microblogging phenomenon

YinYang:Weibo, China’s microblogging platform has become an integral part of Chinese society. 2011 we saw more signs of that.

Shaun:The platform, YinYang, is incredibly important. You know, when I talk to a lot of Westerners, they feel that China is an Internet blackhole. Because everybody knows Facebook and Twitter are blocked. And it’s really not true. The online community in China is extremely vibrant, and especially Sina. And I think with Weibo, it’s very vibrant, because a lot of people are using it for gathering news information. And I think because of the restrictions in traditional media, a lot of younger Chinese look to Sina to get their more first accounts of what’s really going on. And it’s a blooming area.

People are talking about news. Joining friends. And they are looking for jobs. They are trying to share information about products.

It’s a very vibrant community, and contrary to what a lot of Westerners think, China’s government is also quite supportive of it so far. They have been trying to get public security bureaus and other government officials to use it to be able to communicate directly with everyday Chinese citizens. It’s a market that is important from a political standpoint, one from society and also business. You need to have a Sina or other social media networking strategy in place if you are a Western business trying to reach out to younger Chinese.

When you take a look at it, Chinese under the age of 30 on average spend about 22 hours a week online. On the United States, the number is less than 12 hours. So, it’s a much more Internet savvy community here than really in most other markets in the world.

YinYang:It has become a way for ordinary citizens to feedback to the government.

Shaun:Yeah. It’s one major new way. I applaud it. And I think there needs to be lot more. Part of the problem is when some times when people have grievances, they don’t know how to express them. And I think Weibo talking directly, appropriately, with the public security bureau is a good thing.

I support the idea for real name registration. I don’t like a lot of the anonymity, a lot of the, you know, massive attacks on people. And you know, you see like human flesh search engine which have appeared can be a double-edged sword. I mean some time you see a corrupt person and you have this human flesh search engine going after them, that’s great. That helps to right a wrong. But you also get a lot of people who are innocent getting caught up by that by accident. Or by malicious people.

You know, I think there should be a lack of anonymity. There is no need for that. There needs to be a continued support for online spheres. It’s clear that microblogging and social media sites far outweigh any negatives.

YinYang:I was really moved by this story of this veteran journalist. His name is Deng Fei. He launched on Weibo a movement to provide free lunch, free meals, to impoverished children in China. More than 500 journalists joined him. By September of last year, he raised more than 17 million yuan in donations, and they were able to provide free lunches to 10,000 kids in 77 schools. That was an awesome story.

Shaun:It’s great. I mean, initiatives like what he did are absolutely amazing and show the power of microblogging and why the government needs to continue to support it. Because you are able to rally support from Chinese people throughout the whole country to a good cause. Helping impoverished people. Helping child beggars. Helping to expose society’s problems. I think its really great we have such a vibrant online community

Again with the caveate that we need to make sure that we don’t allow for too much rumors to be spread because they can go very quickly and cause a lot of anger, unrest, and social disturbances.

YinYang:What is your take on the Guo Meimei story involving Red Cross China?

Shaun:That was a good one. It’s a mix. Red Cross China seems to have gotten hit. You know there are still questions how closely related she was with Red Cross China specifically. And I think that’s a problem for donations for Red Cross China.

Guo Meimei just goes to show there is a lot of sensitivity by everyday Chinese that people who are in positions of power are abusing them through corruption. You know, making a lot of money for themselves and spending lavishly on girls or luxury products in cars and houses when they really shouldn’t be. It’s a mixed bag. Guo Meimei shows some real issues within society and cleavages that needs to be better addressed by reducing the GINI coefficient and ensuring more income parity.

CNN making news assisting Christian Bale confronting Chinese police

YinYang:Shaun, this is something you have actually written about in your Forbes column. And I hope you don’t mind us revisiting it. And, this is Christian Bale and CNN confronting local police in wanting to see a blind activist who is currently under house-arrest.

Shaun:I think the problem with the situation is not with what Bale did. Ok, you know, in general, I am a firm believer in freedom of speech. And I am a big believer in having the news go around countries and shed light on dark areas and try to right wrongs.

The problem with what happened in this specific case was CNN actually creating the news.

You know, they drove Christian Bale to confront police. They translated for him. And it really made it appear they are not objective any more. The issues is CNN and all Western media outlets when they try to shed light on dark areas in China, I think a lot of people are going to question whether or not they are trying to contain China. Whether or not they are agents or influenced by the CIA. So it was really shameful what CNN did.

Now, in terms of the the specific case with this activist, I don’t have an idea. Okay. Obviously I know what’s happening according to the Western press. But again, how objective is it. I haven’t spoken to any government officials about the issue and not really what I am interested in doing.

What’s key here, and at the end of the day is that the Western media needs to maintain journalistic integrity. They need to follow the news, not create news. So I think it would be far better in case if they had just sent a news team to that city and went on their own, rather than translating and creating the news for Christian Bale. I think they are on very slippery slope. And they are not going to win a lot of support from Mainland Chinese who think they are just going to be a tool of the CIA.

YinYang:Shaun, how do you respond to the criticism from some that the government is simply wrong?

Shaun:If the government is wrong, well, then we will have to figure out who is wrong there. [local vs central, specific official, etc.] I think, you know, we need to shed light on that. I am not saying media shouldn’t cover the story of the activist. That is absolutely something that they can do. And if there is dirt, if there is something illegal that is going on that is everybody’s moral obligation to sort of uncover that. But it needs to be done responsibly and in the right manner.

I think Reuters has covered this subject lot better by giving a lot more background info than what CNN did. What CNN did was a celebrity stunt. You know, I think at the end of the day, reforming China needs to be done in the right way. And I think no matter how well intentioned you are as Christian Bale might have been, you know, the way he goes about it might be counter-productive.

You know, I have gotten a lot of criticism for my view on this. It’s clear that I am not saying Bale is wrong. And the issue is not about the activist specifically. It is really about journalistic integrity. All the power go to media outlets that want to go around and cover this activist and to see if he as been wronged. But if they are going to do that, they need to get the two sides of the story, and make sure they are objective in how they cover that.

I think a lot of people has misread what I wrote. And they really didn’t quite understand it. And I have gottened attacked by people who I think very unfairly, in part they don’t understand how to fix things in China.

You see guys like Richard Burger and Charlie Custer who just hate the Chinese government so much. You see Richard Burger liken it to tentacles and afraid and evil. When you start to deal with critics like that you really can’t rationalize with them how to fix things in China, because they start off at a point that China’s government is evil. Anybody who doesn’t say that is a dimwit, ignorant, or cowered into submission. And for somebody like me who is generally supportive of the government, as I might add, most Chinese are, according to independent research firms like the PEW Research Center and the World Health Organization, that, um, I am evil.

YinYang:Well, the main reason I started blogging was actually CNN. Back in 2008, during the Lhasa riot, CNN took this image and cropped it to completely flip the story. Chinese troops were arriving in their trucks and a group of rioters were on the street pelting rocks and bricks at these trucks. CNN ignored first hand accounts of Western tourists of the rampage by these rioters. They cropped that image and took out the rioters. So, when you see that picture, you see a street with debris all over. CNN wanted to paint a picture of a heavy-handed crack down. CNN woke me up to what the Western media were doing – it’s propaganda. I want a better relationship between the Chinese and Westerners.

Shaun:There is very clearly bias in the Western media about China. I think anybody who argues against that is just not thinking logically what a lot of Western media outlets are doing. Again, CNN made mistakes with that. CNN also at some point was using police and label them as “China is cracking down on rioters” when it was really, I can’t remember it was Nepali or Indian police. But, you know, they are using pictures from different countries and they call brutalizing everyday people and then they say that is Chinese.

I think CNN really needs an editorial overhaul. And, again, I want to be very clear, not saying that CNN shouldn’t go and probe for and uncover truths and probe into dark areas. That’s really what a media organization should do. But they need to do it objectively and maintain journalistic integrity. Otherwise you are going to give fodder to dark areas.

Osama bin Laden

YinYang:Last year we saw the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden. I know China is aligned with the U.S. in countering this idea of terrorism. Can you give us a sense of how the Chinese feel about Osama bin Laden’s death?

Shaun:In general, the Chinese people really were very sympathetic to Americans for 9/11. You know, because it was a terrorist attack. And a lot of innocent Americans died. So I think most Chinese were fairly pleased that Osama bin Ladan had justice given to him. That was just something people here were sympathetic with the United States on.

I think there are questions and those questions are very rightful about what the United States did post-9/11. And I think a lot of what Bush did under his administration like Guantanamo and what has continued on with the United States in Guantanamo under President Obama has really hurt American prestige.

A lot of Chinese view America as somewhat hypocritical pushing for human rights but at the same time not adhering to the highest values of honor, morality, in Guantanamo and other cases.

I think there are sympathy about 9/11. There was certainly happiness that Osama bin Laden was brought to justice. But I also think there is a wish within the Chinese leadership and within the everyday people here that America would start to look after its own problems a little bit more. Because there are serious issues.

America has really lost its standing as the beacon of light. Which is too bad, because the world is really dark in certain areas. And it was always great to see America do the right thing. And I am not sure it is always doing the right thing anymore.

Gadhafi and Lybia

YinYang:Shaun, can you weigh in on Gadhafi and Libya? It was kind of interesting. China along with the BRICS abstained from U.N. resolution 1973. I should add Germany too. China has a big stake in Libya with so many workers there and had to evacuate right before the bombing. Can you shed some light on what was happening there?

Shaun:I really don’t know. I haven’t been privy to senior discussions in the Chinese government about this. I don’t know enough about Gadhafi and Libya specifically to comment too well on those specific situations.

What I can say, though, is that the United States needs to be very careful about what it is promoting in the Middle East right now. I think the Arab Spring uprising could be good in certain areas. I am also worried about what is going to fill the vacuum of the leadership changes. We need to make sure the new governments are friendly towards the United States. And, are actually better than what they replaced. I am not convinced they are always going to be.

The Middle East is still a major friction area, and what I am concerned about is in the last year or two United States has started to pivot its focus in looking at the Middle East back into Asia Pacific. There is a worry that they are starting to create enemies and look for bogeymen where there really aren’t any.

You know, I don’t think China is definitely going to be an enemy of the United States. But far too many people in the West seems to see it as a major threat. I do think the threat in the Middle East is still very serious. And even though you are toppling some of these regimes, I am not convinced that the new leaderships are necessarily going to be better for American security.

China embracing existing world order

YinYang:In 2011 we saw crisys in the IMF and the World Bank. Looks like China is working hard within these organizations. China is not trying to create alternatives and compete with them head-on. We continue to see China essentially embracing the existing world order that’s been dominated by the West.

Shaun:China is very interested in working within the existing system and world order, as you said. You know, giving money to the IMF and working through the United Nations and WTO and these types of multilateral organizations.

And I think what you also gonna see is China’s leaderships, they are looking to make money. You know, I think everybody here wants to get rich. It makes more sense to focus on peace and stability so your families can put up buildings, or factories, or sell more products to Chinese consumers.

I think everybody here wants to make money right now, and they are not that militant. That might not be the case if America continues to provoke a response from China, like Secretary of State Clinton’s misguided statements in the South China Sea last year.

YinYang:In 2011 we also saw the successful launch of China’s space module, Tiangong-1. That is going to eventually become part of China’s space station. They also demonstrated few days later with the successful space docking. To date, only the United States and Russia have achieved this techonolgy.

We often think of space in the military context. But people should bear in mind, I guess, just like NASA, for example, few years ago in their Chang’e lunar probe, a lot of the data they collected, they made them freely available to scientists around the world. And this is something that NASA has done, and I think it is a cause for celebration.

Sure, anyways, there is a military context. You know, from China, with this advancement I guess, what’s the take from within China? I know from the U.S. media, they look at all these success stories with a lot of suspicion.

Shaun:Ah, that’s a very loaded question, YinYang, in a subject.

I think in general, China is not as warmongering as a lot of the Anglo-saxon nations; missionary based like the United Kingdom and the United States. Historically, China doesn’t like to go beyond its borders. Now with borders, there are some definition issues with that. With India, Taiwan and Tibet. In general, what China considers its sort of area, it really stays to that. I don’t think you are going to see China taking a war-like aggressive stance by sending soldiers and setting up bases throughout the entire world like the United States.

Now, that said, I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that China is going to remain weak, timid, and meek. You know, I think as threats from the internal side sort of disappear, and threats from outside rise, I think you are going to see more militarization in China.

I think a lot of people here believe that the United States is trying to contain China’s rise, and that the best thing for China to do is to be friendly with other nations. Promote economic interdependence. Push for more soft power. But at the same time in the background really modernize the military to be able to withstand security risks.

My hope is that you are gonna have cooler minds prevail. You know, I am very concerned about the risk for trade war in 2012. You saw after President Obama announced he was going to rotate 2500 marines in Australia, the Chinese government responded by slapping more tariffs on American-made SUV’s. My hope is that it is not going to spiral out of control, because increased trade tension, and certainly obviously military tension doesn’t really help anybody in China or the United States except for people with vested interests in selling more weapons.

Foreign policy with missionary zeal

YinYang:Kissinger in his book, “On China,” essentially acknowledged this idea that the U.S. pushes her values with missionary zeal.

Shaun:China is clearly a much friendlier nation to the Western world than the Western world is to China. I mean that is very obvious. You know, you have most of the senior leaders in China have sent their kids or grand kids to the United States to study. They are embracing American culture and American ideas, and then tweaking it or taking the best of it to come back to China.

My concern is that no matter how friendly China is, they are always getting bashed by American politicians. You know, a lot of the China bashing has become far to mainstream. And, at some point, my fear is that people within China are gonna take massive umbridge. And, say, you know what, let’s not allow for American hegemony anymore. And, let’s take a much more muscular diplomacy in the coming decade. I could see that happening. I think that calmer mind will certainly prevail in China. I can’t say the same is true in the United States where the political system right now seems far too rancorous to have rational thought and decision making at most of the levels.

YinYang:And that’s all the time we have. You have incredible insights, Shaun. Thank you very much.

Shaun:Thank you so much. Happy New Year! Bye bye.

  1. zack
    January 7th, 2012 at 02:38 | #1

    wow, thanks for doing this, yinyang!:)
    i have a lot of respect for Shaun Rein; an analyst who cuts right to the core of issues.
    i look forward to seeing the rest of the transcript.

  2. Wahaha
    January 7th, 2012 at 21:43 | #2

    …..and I talk a lot about this in chapter 9 in my upcoming book, “The End of Cheap China,” is that the educational system in China is a complete mess. And that is sort of what Amy Chua is looking at; is how do you train people to think analytically. And I think in China right now, the education system is doing a disservice to young people and not training them to think creatively, how to think analytically.


    I disagree the conclusion above.

    (1) Creativity is a rare talent, at least 99% of people don’t have such talent, they are born to do “trivial” jobs. For such people, the system in China forces them to prepare for the future challenge, which in general is good for them. Of course, some parent (1% ?) may go too far.

    (2) Creativity may create something great, but also may create something bad, even evil. I remember a great and “creative” Holland movie called “The vanishing”, since the movie, there have been other movies related to some people buried alive, and some criminals did such crimes. Why in America do the some youth think killing innocent people is OK ? ask the creativity of Hollywood.

    (3) The educational system in China does suppress creativity, I believe.

    (4) Don’t even think there is such system that will fit 100% of the people, this is impossible according Yin & Yang.

    I said before when I talk about political system : the perfection doesn’t work for human society, because it is not ruled by science. If you try to eliminate a flaw, other flaws will surface, like if you enforce food safety more strictly, the food prices will go up; the same can be said for medical safety, doctor responsibility, limiting the abuse by police, limiting the power of government, etc.


  3. January 8th, 2012 at 00:42 | #3

    Sure. I have a lot of respect for Shaun Rein as well. He is trying to help the West understand China.

    I’ve just updated the the transcripts with more topics. I want to highlight his point about how he is attacked by ChinaGeeks and PekingDuck on his views about CNN making news with Christian Bale:

    You see guys like Richard Burger and Charlie Custer who just hate the Chinese government so much. You see Richard Burger liken it to tentacles and afraid and evil. When you start to deal with critics like that you really can’t rationalize with them how to fix things in China, because they start of at a point that China’s government is evil, anybody who doesn’t say that is a dimwit, ignorant, or cowered into submission. And for somebody like me who is generally supportive of the government, as I might add, most Chinese are, according to independent research firms like the PEW Research Center and the World Health Organization, that, um, I am evil.

    Too many in the West indeed start off viewing the Chinese government as evil. That’s wrong and unhelpful to mutual understanding.

  4. zack
    January 8th, 2012 at 01:02 | #4

    it’s apparent that the likes of ppl at the Chinageeks/Pekingduck etc etc aren’t concerned about bridging gaps and addressing trust deficits between China and the West;rathers they are narcissistically obsessed about a paradigm that paints the West and their expat class as morally (and therefore culturally and genetically) superior. I hazard a guess that it’s not so much China’s style of government that earns their enmity, rather it is China power and ability to endanger the Washington Consensus and the sense of conceit amongst Western ideologues, that’s gotten them so rabidly and irrationally hateful and spiteful.

    i really liked Rein’s honest analysis in regards to China’s local government corruption and woes and how they should be addressed; personally i don’t think the Chinese government is going to give up on HSR; that test train that could reach up to 500km/hr is proof that investment in rail will be a big part of China’s future infrastructure, not to mention that HSR leaves less of a carbon footprint than jets.

    finally, i want to add that the desire and aim on your part an on Mr Rein’s part to enlighten Westerners about modern China is indeed a honourable and noble one; but your message will only have effect if those in the West are willing to listen, and willing to let go of propaganda about an ‘Evil China’. Sadly, i think there still remains a large proportion of Westerners who remain willfully ignorant and nationalistic (guided by insecurities over their apparent decline) and who will remain steadfastly anti China.

    i mean look at the new hampshire republican presidential debates this evening; how many times was the China card raised with the mentality of being harsh/stern/”bringing China down”? (although huntsman seems to have dropped that line of rhetoric after the previous debacle).

    that’s why i believe things like CCTV and CNC World moving into the US market is such an important thing; i do think CNC World needs to have a channel on youtube much like AJE and RT do; it seems they’ve yet to really break through as much as AJE have done recently, but that’s because AJE gives its viewers the same anti China diatribe its american viewers want to hear. key word being ‘want’ to hear.

  5. zack
    January 8th, 2012 at 01:55 | #5

    btw, about CNN, i think what they’ve done and what they’re doing is actually criminal; forget about journalistic integrity, it’s highly apparent they’ve got an anti China agenda and they ought to be brought to task over it. It makes me wonder how there haven’t been lawsuits against CNN for blatantly misrepresenting the truth; it also wouldn’t help if that bitch from AJE, melissa chan, tried being objective just for once

  6. JJ
    January 8th, 2012 at 05:01 | #6

    Excellent interview yinyang! Thanks for doing this 🙂


    I disagree that creativity is “a rare talent” that most people don’t have.

    I believe that creativity is a learned skill, and in the right environment, can be cultivated.

    However, I do agree that the East Asian educational system does seem to suppress it to a certain extent. I think the over emphasis on after-school tutoring and the big college exams pound away at students.

  7. pug_ster
    January 8th, 2012 at 08:58 | #7


    China whiners from Chinageeks and Pekingduck has always gotten bat crazy with the way they criticize Shaun Rein. They see China thru a tinted lens and rails at anybody (especially Westerners) who they think that goes along with the so called ‘CCP apologists.’ Many people here does criticize China one way or another including Rein and these China whiners really have no tolerance towards others who don’t agree with them on China.

    US has always been Xenophobic towards China or any other countries who does not agree with them. Even if CCTV or CNC comes to the US, many Americans are close minded about it including AL Jazeera and Russia today.

  8. zack
    January 8th, 2012 at 13:07 | #8

    how is it that these China whiners can afford to set up websites in China and earn income from ads from their websites, and then have the fricking nerve to bitch about the very country they’re profiting from? (because china’s government and modern China and its people itself are very very closely intertwined; bitching about one is bitching about the other)
    i certainly hope Beijing is taxing them to the core for this; i was happy to read that expat workers would have to contribute to the social services sector in China. Finally, these expats are being treated with equality, rather than reverance as they were accorded duirng the 90s, it’s high time they paid their fair share.

  9. January 8th, 2012 at 21:52 | #9

    At this point, the transcript from the interview has been fully uploaded in the OP. If you read the article when it first went up couple of days ago, you might be interested in Shaun Rein’s take on Weibo as a platform, the CNN/Bale issue, and China’s foreign policy.

  10. January 9th, 2012 at 00:40 | #10

    I don’t blame Beijing for the air pollution problem. Asia as a whole does not have a culture of doing environmental planning and this is the case not only in China but more advanced nations like Singapore.

    When I was working as a urban planner in California, pretty much every project larger than a given size needs to do a Environmental Impact Report, and the developers must take steps to reduce impacts to a “less than significant” level before their developments are approved. The same is true for cities wanting to change their plans. They have to jump through hoops to get anything done. The EPA (which most republicans want to cut) and its California equivalent are really one-of-a-kind type of agencies. You’ll be hard pressed to find them anywhere else in the world. Impacts to traffic, the noise environment, air quality, conservation, fauna and flora, historic and cultural resources, green spaces, quality of life issues, must all be considered. That is not the case for a city like Singapore. Even though urban planning is very well established here, the emphasis is not on the environmental aspect of it. When people talk about conservation they usually mean the conservation of historic buildings, not environmental quality.

    One has to understand that even for California, the measuring and control of PM2.5 is a fairly new phenomenon. There aren’t alot of weather stations capable of doing that kind of measurements. The standard up till about 5 years ago was PM10. Various air management districts did not standardize a “standard” for PM2.5 until 3 or 4 years ago and the standards were only tightened after the Governator (Arnold) signed a strict environmental bill. Therefore the western criticism that China does not have standards for PM2.5 and have no instruments of measuring them is a little harsh considering USA isn’t that far ahead.


  11. January 9th, 2012 at 12:10 | #11

    Interesting background.

    I was encouraged by what Rein said about China trying to clamp down on high polluting and high water usage industries.

    He mentioned he’s not sure which particular thing is the source of the big pollution. Curious if you have a take on that. Perhaps the sheer number of people and their electricity usage?

  12. melektaus
    January 9th, 2012 at 12:22 | #12

    Enjoyed it and thanks to yinyang and Shaun.

  13. January 10th, 2012 at 03:23 | #13

    He mentioned he’s not sure which particular thing is the source of the big pollution. Curious if you have a take on that. Perhaps the sheer number of people and their electricity usage?

    The short answer is “I don’t know” since I haven’t worked in China before. One can, however, find out what’s the major source of air pollution if the Chinese authorities (presumably) have air quality monitoring stations scattered all over the country and shares that info with the public.

    The Cal EPA, for example, requires various air management districts to measure a handful of air pollutants such as Carbon Monoxide, Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, PM10 and PM2.5, Lead, and other toxic air contaminants such as Acetadelhyde (sp?) etc. By just looking at the composition of air pollutants, geography, and prevailing wind direction, it’s easy to guess what’s the major source. For example, pollution in San Joaquin Valley is different from that in Los Angeles. The former is caused primarily by agriculture activity, diesel trucks traveling along its length, and geography (the valley traps air) while the latter primarily by motor vehicles.

    If I had to take a guess, I think China’s air quality problems are caused by coal power stations and motor vehicles. Like you suggested, a lot of Chinese did not own cars or have electricity two decades ago. They do now.

  14. January 10th, 2012 at 07:29 | #14

    I agree with Wahaha as I posted same ideas here before. A society needs a small percentage of geniuses (less than .5%). The geniuses will do similar tasks like Gates and Jobs and I worry more about protecting intelligence properties to nourish such environment. As long as China has schools for them, they should be OK. Most professional jobs like accountants, computer programmers, lawyers… are not required for geniuses but jobs following the rules with some creativity.

  15. January 10th, 2012 at 07:39 | #15

    China has been moving too fast. It is time to slow down and set priorities. They need regulations/enforcements on product quality, water/air pollutions, corruption… China should not wait for problems to surface and should proactively fix/reduce/prevent problems before they happen.

    We do not have to be #1, but we should compare ourselves to China 5 years ago. China is doing good, but it really has to re-prioritize. They will never pass US in GNP per capita – at least for a long while and it is not our priority but improving our living standard is.

    When China moves up the value chain, the low-end manufacturing will become less important. China’s home market will offset the importance of export. Product dumping is not a long-term solution to create jobs, which is used to reduce social unrest.

  16. silentchinese
    January 10th, 2012 at 08:12 | #16

    CHina don;t have the time, they have to reach parity before 2050, that’s the goal of those who are in power.

    they are afriad if parity is not achieved before that date, china will never have the chance.

  17. zack
    January 10th, 2012 at 08:22 | #17

    can’t agree more; according to government policy, China aims to bring the majority of its 1.3 billion ppl to middle class levels by 2020, and it’s seen the ‘middle income trap’ that’s ensnared the likes of thailand and malaysia, where the leaders sit on their laurels and end up serving the white man like the bitches the West wants them to remain. No, China is to develop and develop as fast as the Meiji Restoration was for the Japs, 30 fricking years ago, China was an enclosed nation, now it’s the 2nd largest economy with a booming space program.

    now whilst i acknowledge there are concerns over ‘speeding up’ and environmental pollution, living a rustic quaint life the way westerners have masturbated over Tibet isn’t going to help the problem either; rather, i have confidence in the Chinese government’s policy of investing in solar and wind tech, and even potential breakthroughs in thorium/fusion research.

  18. pug_ster
    January 10th, 2012 at 09:27 | #18


    There’s a difference between producing accounts, programmers and lawyers. We need more researchers and other jobs which create new ideas and products instead of people who just make them. China should be pumping more money in research and attracting the best and brightest from abroad in investment in its sectors. Not just in green technology, but in pollution control, medical and technology. China shouldn’t be wasting money in foreign reserves and invest in China. They need to build substantially more public housing and have better land regulation. They should be protecting its key industries and build a higher wall for foreign competition to do business in China.

  19. silentchinese
    January 10th, 2012 at 09:44 | #19


    all signs lead to a substantial global perturbation at mid-21st century, depletion of oil, climate change, food, water resources. China’s plan is to get to a position where it can have enough strength to dicatate some of these issue when difficult situation arises. that’s why the urgency. No one will know what difficulties will arise, but having strength is better to have none.
    If they fail to push on to the goal. then they have failed in their responsibilty to the the entire population of china.

    The predominate powers today will not act out of good will when the difficult time arise.

  20. colin
    January 10th, 2012 at 12:58 | #20

    Excellent interview. Shaun’s assessments are realistic, and without holding valid criticism that are due.

    I think creativity is innate, but it’s full potential can be expressed with better schooling and facilities. To the oft quoted question as to why isn’t china creating many steve jobs’, the answer is simply that china is still developing and catching up, trying to reach parity. Once parity is reached with developed counties, I don’t see how a population of 1.3B won’t create it’s share of geniuses. The government does need to be care about allowing letting these individuals reach their full potential.

  21. dr.gerbs
    January 10th, 2012 at 23:03 | #21


    Very good point. I also believe this is the reason China is pushing forward and modernizing so quickly while overlooking certain social economic problems such as pollution; which with time can be properly addressed. This really is China’s last opportunity to possess it’s own sovereignty and not have it’s population slave to the West when the shortage in global resources come to a head.

  22. jxie
    January 11th, 2012 at 14:44 | #22

    The single most crucial reason why pollution is so bad in China can be boiled down to one word: energy. By far the biggest energy source of China is coal. Coal by itself isn’t necessarily that bad if it’s burning low-sulfur varieties of coal properly. The worst offenders are those small power plants and small factories that have few to no “clean coal” technologies being applied. The coal produced in most mines in Southern China and old mines in Northern China contains high sulfur. China should do whatever it takes to quickly bring low-sulfur coal from Xinjiang to Australia to replace the high-sulfur varieties.

    Nuclear energy and renewable energies are nice but they take time to ramp up to a meaningful level. In the meantime, China should pursue getting natural gas from countries such as Turkmenistan, Russia, or even Iran as quickly as possible. Starting an energy super ministry with enough power (money, diplomatic wherewithal) is a good start. China needs to stop spending its diplomatic chips on the East Sea to the South China Sea issues fronts. There are unlikely any major discoveries of energy in those places (compared to the overall Chinese need). Status quo of no clarity in territorial disputes is fine for now. Instead look westward.

    Another major contributor to the urban smog is automobile emission. China is already the largest car market so it has much more leverage than the state of CA in forcing manufacturers to improve emission control technologies. Driving a big-ass SUV in a middle American Hickstown doesn’t have the same effect as driving one of the 10+ million cars seemingly perpetually in traffic jams, in any one of the major population centers in China (Beijing-Tianjin corridor, Great Yangtze River Delta, etc.).

    In the past several years, more than half of the sand storms that plagued Northern China to even Koreas have originated from Mongolia. This can be a delicate issue and for sure major Western news outfits will twist it to yet another China threat topic, but China should seriously consider funding and building protective forests in Mongolia to counter the desertification trend there.

  23. zack
    January 11th, 2012 at 22:16 | #23

    you’ve got some great ideas there, Jixie; i do have one small point of contention and that’s the south china sea.True, there may not be as much natural gas as Beijing officially says there is, but those areas also serve as a protective function/buffer against any would be aggressor. Being able to stake a claim early in the game means nations like the US will have to think twice if they want to do something apocalyptic like launch a D-Day invasion of eastern China. Needless to say, China has a very large coastline and it is more or less vulnerable to such an invasion, that’s why Taiwan is such a strategic spot for the PLAN if they had it. they could build deep water ports in the east coast of taiwan and monitoring stations in the case of any potential US shenanigans. Taiwan is also integral to the US asia-pacific strategy; if taiwan is reunified with the mainland, US plans for east asia go tits up, that’s why obama and hilary are on the warpath when it comes to east asia. constant diplomatic/political assault with the hope of containing/rolling back Chinese influence.

    by planting forests in mongolia, did u mean inner mongolia, or outer mongolia?

  24. Cal Vespers
    January 11th, 2012 at 22:21 | #24

    Very glad that you did this post. I don’t alway agree with Rein, but even when I don’t, I hardly think he deserves to be the object of personal attacks from the under-employed consultants like Richard Burger who populate much of the English-language blogsphere.

    Really, yinyang, I wish you’d probed the question of Burger’s hatred more deeply. It is my opinion that Burger, in the case of Rein, often comes off as a spurned lover (that’s a reflection on Burger, not Rein). At a minimum, Burger’s attacks on Rein are both disengenuous and intellectually dishonest. Take, for example, his January 3 post attacking Rein, subsequently taken down while the comments remain open – and then proceeds to attack Rein personally. Is it possible, perhaps, that Burger – a man who consults in the same arena as Rein – has lost clients to the more suave operator? That’s one guess. Whatever the cause, it’s an unprecedented and ongoing attack on someone no more or less offensive than anyone else who’s written in the English-language blogsphere over the last decade – and that reflects on Burger, not Rein.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think Rein often gives too much credit to the national Party and its ability to manage China. But I simply can’t understand how that “sin” – one made by other foreign commentators – is responsible for so much irrational hatred.

  25. LOLZ
    January 12th, 2012 at 00:39 | #25

    Nice interview. I agree with much of the stuff Shaun Rein had said.

    I don’t think pollution is the only reason why the wealthier Chinese are sending their kids overseas though. Most would agree that many foreign universities (particularly the US and UK) are superior in terms of education quality, so it makes good sense for people who can afford it to send their offsprings to the best institutions possible. Political instability is another major reason why people send their kids abroad. Although the chance of an actual rebellion is quiet low (certainly much lower than the western media makes it out to be IMO), the reality is that many do fear for their safeties should a revolution occur.

    On another note, after reading Cal Vesper’s post I went to PKDuck to read about the rants on Shaun Rein. From what I gather, a group of rather petty people (the same dozen regular China-bashers who comment on just about every Chinese blog site) are calling SR petty for blocking the PKDuck writer (Richard Burger) on Twitter, this is after the Burger’s initial personal attack on SR. Apparently Burger is upset that SR got his somewhat pro-CCP article published on Forbe, and in his article SR dared to plug in his book (just like everyone else). I can see why the two bloggers/writers would dislike each other due to their ideological differences, but why is Burger offended that someone who he clearly does not have respect for blocked him on twitter? WTF does he think he is LOL. In his rage, Burger written another attack post on SR on Jan3, then apologized for the rude post and removed it. However he kept his comment section to the Jan3 attack post where most of the comments were simple continuation of personal his attacks against SR but made by peoples other than him. Now that is just manipulative and petty.

    The sad thing is that PKDuck is actually one of the more neutral blogs on China. China-bloggers and their egos, oh well 🙂

  26. JC Lau
    January 12th, 2012 at 10:18 | #26

    I agree with Cal Vespers about Burger’s pettiness. His is a very mean spirited blog filled with verifiable lies. For example, in the comments to his December 22 post Burger wrote: ” I so agree about the foreign correspondents in China, all of whom I’ve worked with over the years.”

    What kind of garbage is this? Richard Burger has worked with all of the foreign correspondents in China? I know for fact that when people tried to comment on this dubious point, Burger refused to post the comments. And he has the nerve to be upset when Rein blocks him on twitter? Burger is a very insecure person of minimal accomplishment (his greatest claim to fame is a very brief stint at the Global Times), so it’s no wonder he would be threatened by someone like Rein who is published in much better places and quoted in international media. His lies and distortions really don’t surprise me anymore. A very small person.

    LOLZ, I respect your opinion but I don’t think it’s right to call Burger’s blog “one of the more neutral blogs” on China. It’s a bunch of rubbish and I shall not comment upon it again.

  27. pug_ster
    January 12th, 2012 at 11:03 | #27

    @Cal Vespers


    Richard has commented here before and many of us commented about his behavior and I have commented that his blog is nothing more than a hate site. Of course, he denies this. I don’t think we need to ‘probe’ into this as this is something that many of us know already.

  28. January 12th, 2012 at 12:26 | #28

    Agreed with your observations about AJE. They are bashing China as a way to earn points in the West.

    Regarding CNN, I think there is no way to really prove their agenda. China has to approach from the point of what Chinese laws they break and regulations they are violating as a media entity.

  29. January 12th, 2012 at 14:26 | #29

    @Cal Vespers
    I think it would be impossible for anyone to get into other peoples head. Shaun Rein is very articulate and if he had more to share, he would have divulged.

    It is insane how these people could come out attacking people like that.

  30. Billemet
    January 13th, 2012 at 10:16 | #30

    When did Shaun Rein become an expert on Chinese foreign policy? On government policy-making?

    He is a PR specialist. Period.

    What he says about selling products to Chinese customers might be worth listening to.

    What he opines about other matters is not. And I’m surprised that that anyone bothers to ask him about issues he hasn’t a clue about.

  31. January 13th, 2012 at 10:42 | #31

    When did you become an ‘expert’ on Shaun Rein? Agree or disagree with his views if you like. No spamming please.

  32. Billemet
    January 13th, 2012 at 11:04 | #32

    How is challenging someone’s expertise “spamming”?

    If you want to present an interview with someone, you might want to check their credentials. Asking Shaun Rein about Wenzhou for example is no better or more revealing than asking anyone in China about the event. He has an opinion. Big deal.

    It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing. It’s about someone presenting someone else or themselves as something that they are not. Why agree or disagree with someone who is not an expert on that specific aspect of China.

    This is a major problem with all too many blogs about China. One sees it with Peking Duck–a self-promoting, PR guy–who likes to talk about his views on Chinese leadership politics, for example, without a clue as to what actually goes in political affairs in China. He then passes himself off as if he is an expert on all things China. (BTW, it’s widely known in expat circles in Beijing, that Peking Duck’s presence in China has had a lot to do with a specific lifestyle that is illegal in many countries than anything he can actually offer to supposed clients. He’s a huge fraud.)

    And here you risk doing the same: asking Shaun Rein about China’s role in the world order. Why don’t you ask him about civil-military relations in Fujian while you are at it, and how that affects cross-strait relations with the DPP. I mean, really.

  33. raventhorn
    January 13th, 2012 at 11:23 | #33


    You can certainly bring up critiques of Rein’s expertise.

    But since Rein is not here to defend himself, if you repeat the critique too often, it would be considered SPAMMING.

    Now, any specifics of whether you disagree with Rein?

    If not, move on.

  34. pug_ster
    January 13th, 2012 at 12:11 | #34


    Oh yeah, talking about his ‘specific lifestyle’ and his ‘circle of friends’ has alot to do with this topic at hand, troll.

  35. Charles Liu
    January 13th, 2012 at 14:08 | #35


    And to address Billemet’s concern, first of all DW had a list of questions, I’m not sure if they were all covered, in what order compare to the final edit. Even that Shaun Rein gave very frank, critical answers. To Shaun’s credit when he was asked about his OpEd on CNN, he very clearly stated he does not know much about the activist.

    It’s an interview and it develops and gets edited. If Billemet wants to question Shaun Rein he’s more than welcomed to invest the effort DW did and blog his interview, then maybe there’s more to discuss.

    Thanks DW, for contributing to an alternative voice in the China blogsphere to counter the PKDs and CGs out there that’s largely led thru the nose by the Official Narrative.

  36. Billemet
    January 13th, 2012 at 17:52 | #36

    Ah, the Pugster. Critic of all, creator of…creator of what? One sees Pugster commenting everywhere, blasting columns and commentaries on China without ever being specific about what he dislikes. Bad translations? Poor analysis? The Pugster never says. I’ve never seen his essays or columns, only his jealousy about never being asked to contribute himself.

    It’s nice to see how people who interview Shaun Rein support each other. Which is what Charles Liu is doing here with his comments.

    To repeat, Shaun Rein knows his stuff in his specific area. It’s just head-shaking to see him asked and then answer questions about which he is not qualified to comment.

  37. pug_ster
    January 13th, 2012 at 18:03 | #37


    The Troll keeps on trolling. First talks about Shaun Rein and now me. For the record, I am not a prolific writer so you are partially right, I don’t write much. But I do enjoy reading blogs about China and get a kick from reading other people’s garbage.

  38. raventhorn
    January 13th, 2012 at 18:24 | #38


    Is there a specific point Shaun made that you disagree with?

    I think you are beating a dead horse/issue. This thread is about the substance of the interview.

    If you keep posting comments that have nothing to do with the subjects in the interview, what’s the point of your “critique”??

    Straying off topic by repeating irrelevant comments will be considered SPAMMING.

  39. jxie
    January 13th, 2012 at 20:00 | #39

    Quite frankly Rein sometimes can come across as too much a self-promoter. The key in this game is mutual promotion. Maybe he doesn’t have the network to fall back to just yet. Rein needs to build a network of opinionators fast (hint, plug this site more).

    One thing many probably can’t stand is the fact Rein, as somebody who is relatively new to this, has an outlet in Forbes, but they don’t. Well among all major publications in the US, Forbes can be said as withstanding the recession the best in terms of retaining readership and ad dollars. Forbes also gives an outlet to Gordon Chang so it’s by no mean a pro-China “rag”. The key here is giving out a diverse range of opinions. Emulating Jim Rogers, many wealthy families in Manhattan hire nannies who are fluent in both English and Chinese — it’s said that such type of nannies has become a rare commodity. There is certainly the need out there among folks with high net worth, who Forbes tries to cater to, to have a different voice about China.

    The problem with most of the blogs created by expats or former expats in China is, they are somewhat an echo chamber among themselves. Personally I actually quite like Richard’s style. Richard has run his site for a long time. We all have our hits and misses, but for this long duration, what’s his batting average — pretty damn close to 0 I will guess? Other than his gold pick of course. Maybe it’s time for him to retool his game?

    Custer on the other hand comes across as quite an egotistic jerk, sometimes overboard even if he personally manages to achieve more than Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs combined. The parting comment he left here, which was probably deleted, had multiple paragraphs and he basically started every sentence with “I”.

  40. jxie
    January 13th, 2012 at 20:07 | #40


    Unless there is a nuclear exchange prior, I don’t think anybody can take the Chinese east coast D-Day style. There are so many land-based radars, missiles, supporting bases I think China can even win an Air Force flight vis-a-vis the US. The South China Sea though, at this point in time is a different story. You don’t start something that you can’t win at the end.

    It’s Outer Mongolia.

  41. jxie
    January 13th, 2012 at 21:04 | #41

    Between my extended family and family friends, there are about 10 in the process of getting foreign passports. If you ask them if they want the “freedom” (voting, “free” media, etc.) in the West, they will look at you like you are a moron from outer space. By far the most important reason is ease of travel. It can be insanely hard and tedious to get a visa to travel oversea, and the experience at the customs can sometimes be humiliating. One of them who spent near $100k shopping in the US, decided not to go to the US again before he acquires another passport (Canada in this case) because he was harassed by a dumb agent who made in all likelihood less than 1/1000 of he makes.

    For a host of reasons, methinks China should start recognize dual-citizenship.

  42. January 13th, 2012 at 22:47 | #42

    I think as China becomes richer, this visa issue will naturally take care of itself. The U.S., Canada, etc are already wooing Chinese tourists. Business travels are much easier nowadays. I think in 10 to 20 years time, China may have arrangements with many countries where visas may not be required at all.

  43. zack
    January 14th, 2012 at 00:48 | #43

    be that as it may, it doesn’t stop american ‘think tanks’ hypothesizing and masturbating over potential scenarios of ‘storming eastern China’ ala D-Day style, or ‘bringing China down internal revolt style’.

    i agree with you that planting trees in outer mongolia would be highly beneficial against the encroaching desertification (and btw the Chinese green wall has been shown to have marked effect against desertification), but will ulaan bator allow it? the mongolians are notorious for being sinophobic to the extent of collaborating with Russia and the US at the expense of Chinese interest. ironically, there are supposedly more mongolians living in China proper than there are mongolians living in mongolia itself-and these ungrateful little shits have the audacity to bitch and moan and work against China when they get all the minority benefits that comes from being an ethnic minority in China.

    granted i may be generalising, so i accept that.

  44. January 14th, 2012 at 08:37 | #44

    Yes, Mongolian in inner Mongolia outnumbered the Mongolian Republic at least 2 to 1. On top of that they can write in the traditional Mongolian script while those in the republic cannot. What an irony?

    Like it or not, outer Mongolia can only develope if they export their mineral resources. Russia and the US will not be buying that. Only China will. I am under no illusion that some in outer Mongolia has sinophobia approaching Nazi level. But geopolitics will decide the future. China has better Mongolian language program in the TV and radio. In the future, this will pull outer Mongolian closer to China. I am willing to bet on that.

    A similar exchange is happening in the Minnan coast. Since the promotion of Minan language program in Fujian a few years ago, it has now exploded to include song singing contest etc. I was dumb strucked one time when I see an American girl joining the singing competition. Conversely, people in coastal Fujian receive TV shows from Taiwan, so they have become closer due to the exchange.

  45. zack
    January 14th, 2012 at 23:08 | #45

    nice analogy; i can only hope the mongolians -and vietnamese- realise how stupid it is for them to be allowed to be played by US and Russian geostrategists; to endanger their own home neighbourhood for the sake of some vague attempt at “security” (irony of ironies).

  46. Pinkette
    January 14th, 2012 at 23:31 | #46

    I hate to return to the topic of Richard Berger, but I thought the folks reading these comments would be interested to know that he deleted the January 3 post and comment thread that several people have noted above. As a reminder: Berger wrote a very personal post against Rein, deleted it, but left the comment section in which he attacked him in even MORE personal terms. Now, he deletes the entire thread without a trace. What a coward and hypocrite! Can you imagine how he would react if a Chinese blogger or newspaper did the same thing? Why, it would be the equivalent of a war crime! I am sorry to put this in personal terms, but I think we have just witnessed the very definition of pond scum.

  47. Wayne
    January 15th, 2012 at 01:10 | #47


    Berger’s attitude basically comes down to this. Any chinese who comes to the West who does not have a view on China which mirrors his own should go ‘home’ or are ‘hypocrites’.

    Of course Berger never says, nor would he even think to say that German Americans cannot have an independent viewpoint on German affairs, English descended Americans on British affairs, Irish Americans on Ireland, or of course Jewish Americans on Israel. It is only Chinese Americans who he condemns for showing any affection for their motherland.

    Berger almost demands that any Chinese living in the West should be anti-China. That is how he often shuts down debate, by checking the IP address of a commentator he does not like, and if it is from a Western country, saying the Chinese posters views are irrelevant (unless of course he is someone like the execrable SK Cheung).

    The guy needs to learn some basic logic. The validity of an argument and its merits should be debated on what is said, or written down. Not the geographical location of the author! Afterall the fact that the US is an imperialist country is true, whether the person saying it lives in China, Iraq, Nigeria, the North Pole, Antarctica or even the US itself!

    So of course whites can live anywhere and have any viewpoint on any country, including China, and any issue, respectfully considered, but not Chinese. Those Chinese in the West should be ‘grateful’ that whites are so ‘nice’ to allow us there – even though of course the wealth of the west was stolen off the east.

    Don’t believe me? Read this:

    Happy Thanksgiving, even to my trolls who, of course all live in the US, and who should be grateful for what they have here, even if all they can express is scorn for America. Deep inside they must like it here, or else they’d vote by foot.

    Firstly he describes anyone who differs from his ideology as a ‘troll’. Have a look at his website. Apart from one or two commentators, who are regularly banned and abused, it is just a mutual masturabation fest of white people telling each other how wonderful they all are and ridiculing China and Chinese people. Note how he equates saying anything which in his mind is ‘pro’ China equates to ‘scorn’ for America. Which is bollocks. I don’t have scorn for America. I have scorn for US foreign policy, and the interference she has in the internal affairs of other countries. We don’t have ‘scorn’ obviously for her science and technology, nor even her legal system and system of government. In fact there are many things we should study about the US, and learn from, and perhaps even adapt to Chinese circumstances. The key point however is this. What we learn, what we adopt, is what China decides to adopt, not what is demanded of China by the West.

    It is also richly ironic how over 90% of his commentators actually live in China, have married Chinese women, and still have nothing better to do than bash China.

    And obviously those Chinese in the West should be ‘grateful’ to be in the West.

    Pardon me. But should we be ‘grateful’ also for over a full century of Western imperialism, which contributed so much to the development of the West?

    He is a racist hypocrite through and through.

  48. zack
    January 15th, 2012 at 02:00 | #48

    individuals like this Berger obviously suffer from some sort of narcissistic complex; they’ll never admit publicly to holding racist views but that is exactly what they profess. for ppl like him, who can’t get a white woman at home, it’s beyond pathetic to come to a developing country and automatically assume that he’s the shit because things are ridiculously affordable and the lifestyle is comfortable.

    even if China became a dysfunctional democracy like india, they still wouldn’t let up on the bitching because for them, it’s become a need; a need to look down on coloured people like some Age of Colonialism British expat lording over the diry dirty natives, whilst sipping his quinine and tonic. The fact that the West is in obvious decline makes this desire all the more apparent and all the urgent for such individuals.

  49. Pinkette
    January 15th, 2012 at 07:45 | #49

    Twelve hours ago I went to Peking Duck and asked why the Jan 3 Rein post and comments were deleted from the blog. The comment has yet to appear. Presumably, it never will. Richard Berger: censor.

    It just occurred to me that perhaps Berger’s PR clients wouldn’t exactly be thrilled with this thread … after all, if you were a US organization looking for help in China, would you hire the guy who others are calling a racist, a hypocrite, and a censor? Something to think about while I watch today’s football games …

  50. pug_ster
    January 15th, 2012 at 07:49 | #50


    Zack, please don’t delve into Richard’s personal life. We all know about his disgusting, bigoted and racist remarks about Chinese people (and non-Chinese ‘ccp sympathizers) in General but don’t stoop so low to his level.

  51. Wayne
    January 15th, 2012 at 08:08 | #51

    As expected, Berger says this about recent article disparaging mainland Chinese students (discussed in another thread on this website), praising its author, Dan Harris:

    “I thought it was quite brave of Dan to write that post.”

    Brave my ass! It is easy in the West for whites to attack Asian people. Many asian people, if they are recently arrived and struggling with the english language, may not get the full force of what is actually being said, and of course unfortunately we do not stick up for ourselves nearly enough sometimes.

    I hardly think Mr Harris would have the balls to write an analogous article covering stereotypes of blacks or hispanics, in the manner he dishes it out to chinese.

  52. Wayne
    January 15th, 2012 at 08:38 | #52

    One thing that makes me chuckle is the way commentators like Mr Berger and his mates will talk of China against the ‘world’, what the ‘world’ thinks of China.

    Mr Berger said this of China “And China wonders why the world sees it as a prickly, pouting child. “

    The unconscious racial arrogance of people like Mr Berger who assumes that the opinion of a minority of Western countries (mainly Anglo Saxon), represent what the ‘world’ thinks (as an aside note the equating of China to a child —typifies the racist Western attitude to non-whites as children, who are not ‘grown up’).

    Whereas all the international opinion polls show that China is actually very well-regarded around the world – the whole planet that is, particularly in Africa.

    Note this among so many Westerners – the repeated, unconscious assumption that the West and Western viewpoint represents the ‘world’. I suggest next time someone does this, call them out on it – and watch them squirm as their racial arrogance is exposed.

  53. Carroltop
    January 15th, 2012 at 11:38 | #53


    Wayne – great points, esp regarding the anglo-saxon presumption that they are the “world.” However, I have to take exception to your characterization of Dan Harris. I am acquainted with the gentleman, and believe me, he would “have the balls” as you characterize it, to write similarly on other ethnic groups. That he doesn’t, I think, has to do with the fact that his blog is largely concerned with Asia. But I do believe he’s a person of integrity, and intellectual curiosity, open to changing his mind and honest argument. Stereotypes are a hard thing, of course – we all use them, and have to use them at times, as shorthand if we’re going to talk about certain topics.

    Anyway, great incisive coments.

  54. Charles Liu
    January 15th, 2012 at 14:16 | #54


    I too thinks highly of CLB and Dan Harris. However I must also say today’s racism isn’t the overt kind in the past, but this harmless, seemingly rational, justifiable kind.

    Notice how Dan makes a point to say Chinese from Taiwan, Hong Kong don’t apply, suggesting it’s not racism? Why does he even feel the need to make this distinction? IMHO it’s still scapegaoting a group of minority, still bigoted stereotype.

    Stuff like they all cheat, why do they bother to come, basically are the same anti-Chinese sentiment that led to Chinaese exclusion in the past.

  55. Wayne
    January 15th, 2012 at 15:44 | #55

    @Charles Liu


    Why does he even feel the need to make this distinction?

    Of course to escape the charge of racism. And I highly doubt that the average white student, or even professor, could distinguish between a student from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Mainland China.

    Its like white supremacists….they sometimes make evil comments about black people, but then say something nice about Asians….in order to avoid appearing overtly racist. Of course they don’t like Asians, and will attack them in a different situation. But they may use Asians as a prop to get their anti-black message across. And of course it works the other way as well, playing off blacks against Asians.

    All that is required to get the racist message across is to create associations in the readers mind between a certain group of people and some negative trait, which in many cases is simply a perceived negative trait.

  56. Wayne
    January 15th, 2012 at 15:48 | #56


    However if Carroltop believes that this is just a one-off for Dan Harris, then I can accept that.

    A person’s attitude is arrived at by considering what he says and writes in total, not just one article. So I will refrain from attacking Dan Harris as anti-chinese for now.

    But of course one can still criticize the article.

  57. January 15th, 2012 at 20:29 | #57

    I think Dan Harris has endorsed Richard Burger and FOARP enough, and including in supporting their views in attacking Shaun Rein in the article linked below:


    First “extreme position” Harris listed in criticisms of Rein’s article was on something Rein wrote:

    “Real poverty [in China] is pretty much gone.”

    It was taken out of context. Rein obviously knows there are still hundreds of millions of people below the poverty line. What he meant in the Forbes column article was that China (unlike the days of colonialism, foreign invasions, or disastrous programs) is no longer decimated such that people are not starving to death anymore. Even the poorest Chinese have their own homes and plot of land to grow their own food.

    In supporting Burger and FOARP’s attacks on Rein, Harris wrote:

    Before I go off on criticizing Mr. Rein’s most recent article, I would like to put on the record that I greatly respect Mr. Rein’s courage in consistently taking the most extreme positions favoring China, when he must know that by doing so he subjects himself to responses such as mine. His extreme positions have made him somewhat famous in the Chinese blogosphere for, among other things, the following..

    Though I give him credit for telling American companies how stupid they are in expecting China to enforce U.S. court decisions and things like that.

    I don’t agree with Harris assessment that Rein’s positions are “extreme.” There are far more extreme views out there yet he attacks Rein at length. Why?

    The thing that sets Harris apart from people like Burger is that he tries to be respectful in his writing. That goes a long way, and one that I personally appreciate. But (and I venture to guess) for him to take such antagonistic positions towards Rein’s opinion speaks much more about his discomfort in seeing some of the China-bashing narratives being challenged; discomfort not unlike what Burger holds.

  58. LOLZ
    January 16th, 2012 at 05:52 | #58

    yinyang :
    The thing that sets Harris apart from people like Burger is that he tries to be respectful in his writing. That goes a long way, and one that I personally appreciate. But (and I venture to guess) for him to take such antagonistic positions towards Rein’s opinion speaks much more about his discomfort in seeing some of the China-bashing narratives being challenged; discomfort not unlike what Burger holds.

    The interesting thing is that while Rein is pro-Chinese government, he is more of a moderate and realist. I think that is exactly is why he gets bashed hard by the likes of PKDucks and CGeeks, because his more nuanced stances is far more credible. Jealousy plays a big part too for some, the fact that Rein has an audience through his Forbes articles and CNBC appearances simply pisses some bloggers off. I find it funny that one common point Rein’s book, PKDuck, and CGeeks all share is that they are all blocked by the Chinese government.

    At the end of the day, Rein acts as a counterweight to all of the other undeserving “China watchers” like Gordan Chang, who has been consistently wrong about China for almost a decade now yet still somehow to appear on WJS regularly. Between him and all of the China naysayers I think the truth is somewhere in between.

  59. raventhorn
    January 16th, 2012 at 08:53 | #59

    Frankly, I have seen much more plainly lack of basic research in FOARP, CGeek, Duck, and from which they make far more extreme and generalized “conclusions”.

    If you want to compare “extreme views”, Rein is NOT telling people to buy and invest in China like some kind of Madoff ponzi scheme, while the likes of CGeek ARE telling people to take their money and run (at least not get on the HSR).

    So I don’t think Rein’s view is “extreme”, because he’s neither telling people that the sky is falling, nor that the sky will never fall.

    Rein is just say, the sky looks OK right now.

    I guess in comparison to the “sky is falling” group, Rein would look “extreme”.

    I don’t know what would be a “middle” position, the “sky is SOMETIMES falling”??! I don’t think such a position makes any sense.

  60. January 16th, 2012 at 13:20 | #60

    @Billemet #30

    When did Shaun Rein become an expert on Chinese foreign policy? On government policy-making?
    He is a PR specialist. Period.
    What he says about selling products to Chinese customers might be worth listening to.
    What he opines about other matters is not. And I’m surprised that that anyone bothers to ask him about issues he hasn’t a clue about.

    @Billemet #32

    If you want to present an interview with someone, you might want to check their credentials. Asking Shaun Rein about Wenzhou for example is no better or more revealing than asking anyone in China about the event. He has an opinion. Big deal.
    It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing. It’s about someone presenting someone else or themselves as something that they are not. Why agree or disagree with someone who is not an expert on that specific aspect of China.
    This is a major problem with all too many blogs about China. One sees it with Peking Duck–a self-promoting, PR guy–who likes to talk about his views on Chinese leadership politics, for example, without a clue as to what actually goes in political affairs in China. He then passes himself off as if he is an expert on all things China. (BTW, it’s widely known in expat circles in Beijing, that Peking Duck’s presence in China has had a lot to do with a specific lifestyle that is illegal in many countries than anything he can actually offer to supposed clients. He’s a huge fraud.)
    And here you risk doing the same: asking Shaun Rein about China’s role in the world order. Why don’t you ask him about civil-military relations in Fujian while you are at it, and how that affects cross-strait relations with the DPP. I mean, really.

    I think you are missing the forest for the trees – mixing things of different magnitudes together.

    In one way you may be right: Shaun is an economics expert on China, but not an expert about everything China. Want to ask him about economics or Chinese markets – that makes sense. It’s what his company does and what he has built his career around. (He’s by the way not a “PR specialist”; unless you want to call all writers with a perspective “PR specialist”). Want to ask him about Chinese military technologies – well, we’ll have to ask him if he’s got any insight.

    But to me, he’s definitely invested time and energy on China – and has a global enough of an understanding of the world – that asking him broad questions about China make sense – including many of China’s social issues and foreign policy.

    Please note that we are asking for perspectives. We are not asking him to make foreign policy or drive social policy changes…

    If you don’t like it – fine. But to blanket criticize his perspectives based on his “credentials” – that seems absurd.

    If you want to limit people to speak only specifically what they are expert at, you will be pigeon holing a lot of people. People probably should have no right to vote in elections. I mean what does the average Joe you know about economics, policy making, national defense, diplomacy, etc.? (How deeply do you understand about each of these topics? Do you have a Ph.D. in each from Harvard?) Why should the average Joe be allowed the ultimate freedom of speech on each of these topics – to vote based on their understanding of these topics – but not Shaun in an interview for a blog?

    Most bloggers on China should also probably shut up – including the ones that frequent here: Richard, FOARP, Charles, and Dan Harris. Most of what they write on their blogs are – in my humble opinion- way above their heads …

    So unless we are prepared to do what I suggest above, I see no problem with Shaun articulating his informed perspectives on China – that includes perspectives that are not strictly economic or market based.

  61. January 16th, 2012 at 13:32 | #61



    I think you guys are wasting your breath in this case defending Shaun’s perspective to be “moderate” or “extreme.”

    In the China blogsphere, and many things that are politicized and ideologically based, clearly what is “extreme” or not depends on the eye of the beholder.

    We know Shaun represents one of the few sane voices out there about China in the Western press. I could ergo understand how readers who have been accustomed to reading a very narrow narrative on China might conclude that Shaun’s breath of fresh air to be “extreme.”

    Besides – so what if Shaun appears “extreme” to people who we view to be “extreme” in their narrow mindedness?

    Galileo was considered “extreme” by medieval Church authorities. Einstein’s theory of relativity was initially greeted with skepticism and considered “extreme” by his contemporaries. The Beatles – now considered among the classics – were once considered “extreme” music.

    So if Shaun’s rational voice appears “extreme” today to some people – let it be. Time moves on. People ultimately adapt. Don’t waste your breath justifying about what you in your heart know to be right.

  62. raventhorn
    January 16th, 2012 at 14:53 | #62


    I completely agree that it is in the eye of the beholder.

    I find it funny wording from Harris, “consistently taking the most extreme positions favoring China”.

    That’s like saying,

    “Why don’t you agree with me every now and then? That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it??!!”

    Or the “I’m moderate, because I at least admit when I make the most outrageous errors without fact-checking, after I have been caught in the open and can’t weasel my way out of it.”

  63. January 16th, 2012 at 22:08 | #63

    You are right Allen. That was my last comment on Rein vs. his detractors. I mainly want our readers to know this phenomenon – very very rarely is there a voice in the Western press explaining a ‘China’ perspective that gives balance, yet it is fiercely attacked by these ‘China’ bloggers. Incidentally, we are in the same boat too.

  64. LOLZ
    January 16th, 2012 at 22:34 | #64

    Allen :
    Most bloggers on China should also probably shut up – including the ones that frequent here: Richard, FOARP, Charles, and Dan Harris. Most of what they write on their blogs are – in my humble opinion- way above their heads …

    To be fair to the other bloggers, FORAP and Dan Harris are lawyers and should be experts on matters regarding Chinese laws. Their perceptions of the Chinese legal system provide good insight for non-lawyers like me, even if they are biased. However on topics like economics and investments, Rein is far more of an expert in that field than the bloggers who are mocking him. Ultimately I don’t believe any of them are good candidates to speak about Chinese society.

  65. zack
    January 17th, 2012 at 01:41 | #65

    a law degree in this day and age is like an arts degree; anyone can get one and it doesn’t mean anything, unless one also has an MBA or a master’s in international law or international corporation law.
    In any case, a legal background doesn’t imply one is an expert or an authority in history and sociology as well as these expats profiting from their China experience are conveying.

  66. raventhorn
    January 17th, 2012 at 05:43 | #66


    I don’t think FOARP is a lawyer. He has a 1 year CPE law degree from UK, but in UK, one needs to do additionally few more years of law programs, either the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers to become “lawyer”, and I don’t think he has done that.

    In comparison, for example, in US, the law school program is typically 3-4 years.

  67. raventhorn
    January 17th, 2012 at 05:45 | #67


    I don’t think “a law degree in this day and age is like an arts degree”, even though I do think there are some pretty bad lawyers.

    But I do agree, “In any case, a legal background doesn’t imply one is an expert or an authority in history and sociology as well as these expats profiting from their China experience are conveying.”

    I know I didn’t learn Chinese/American/European history in law school. I had to study on my own.

  68. raventhorn
    January 17th, 2012 at 06:47 | #68


    Further addition to your note, in Memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we should remember that MLK was himself called a “radical”, an “extremist”, when he was assassinated.

    When MLK was assassinated, he was considered almost a traitor in US, for his vocal support of the growing Anti-War movement in US.

    His critics even said of MLK at the time, that he should stay in his “field” of expertise.

    What did he say? MLK said for the money US was spending on an immoral war in Vietnam, it could have spent to end racism and poverty in US.

    Today, we remember the man for his words. But Americans forgot how MLK was treated. And yet, US is still spending way more money on immoral wars than on ending racism and poverty in US.

    A symbol remembered, the real message/lesson forgotten. That in itself is a symbol of Education in US.

  69. January 17th, 2012 at 08:56 | #69

    @Raventhorn – Got there before me. No, I am not a lawyer (solicitor/barrister/trademark or patent attorney or agent etc.). Although my title is “Senior IP Advisor”, this basically means that I am a glorified patent engineer. I have passed the CIPA foundation-level exams, but unless and until I pass the advanced exams everything I draft (OA response arguments etc.) has to be filed through outside counsel. People in-house regularly refer questions to me based on my previous expereinces in patenting in China, and because I can read/write Chinese, but I do not pose as a qualified lawyer to them or to anyone else, and I would not like anyone to think otherwise.

    Anyone who needs specific advise on Chinese law in China should (after doing the necessary DD) go and speak to a qualified Chinese lawyer, or at least someone who can put them in touch with one.

  70. January 20th, 2012 at 16:17 | #70
  71. pug_ster
    January 20th, 2012 at 18:10 | #71


    I’ll believe it when I see it.

  72. January 20th, 2012 at 19:45 | #72

    1 million extra visa. That’s what I heard on the news.

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