A short commentary of commentary this time.
A little while back, a few Expat “tossed the room” before they packed up and left China, by explaining in detail their “reasons” for leaving. (With nothing but their own confessed reasons, perceptions, etc.)
We didn’t bother to question them much about those reasons. Hey, who are we to question their motives? It’s their personal choices.
But we also didn’t really ask the question that they didn’t bother to answer themselves: If China was so awfully full of problems (which they must have known to start with), why did they go to China in the first place?
Well, I found a little confession from an Expat online recently that might explain it, and I thought I share it here. (I cannot verify the identity of the person, so I’m NOT going to trace his/her history or background on this one).
I do sympathize a bit with Yu’s position here, and as you say, most foreigners have found themselves in a similar position at one point or another. During my brief period of work as an English teacher, I once found myself at what I was originally told would be a class but ended up being the company wanting me to impersonate a British fertilizer executive. By the time I realized fully what was going on, it was already happening, and in the interest of keeping my job, I ended up doing it, although I did a rather intentionally shitty job of it and quit that gig fairly soon afterwards.
That said, though, I think the ethical alarm bells have got to go off before the point where you’re asking questions of State leaders at the Party Congress. As you say, many good China reporters got their start in Chinese state media; but it’s also worth saying that many of those people left Chinese media jobs because they reached a point or a realization that what they were being asked to do was unethical (not to mention personally damaging). Very few of us get the opportunity to ask questions of State leaders, but I’d like to think that most people, if presented with the kind of opportunity Angela Yu was given, would hear the alarm bells and back out beforehand.
That is, in essence, saying that she should have just quit her job on principle, which I realize is a lot to ask of anyone. But she must have realized what she was doing when she got the questions she was supposed to ask, if not before then, and at that point I think most aspiring journalists would think, ‘OK, this is obviously crossing a line that I can’t cross.’ And in the long-term, having crossed that line is probably going to be more damaging to her career than quitting her job would have been damaging in the short term (though I don’t know her financial situation so perhaps I’m wrong).
Of course, all this discussion of Yu is sort of missing the forest for the trees. The forest is that the Chinese government is apparently looking to replace the foreign press with “foreign” “press” (at least to some extent) at official events. That’s not too surprising, but it is concerning.
In this relevant passage, the Expat literally confesses to participating in a scam to “impersonate a British fertilizer executive”. Now, it sounds pretty illegal, or at least implied by the Expat as rather unethical and corrupt.
The Expat’s reason for participating in this rather distasteful activity? To “keep my job”, according to him.
The “Keep My Job” Expat apparently was willing NOT to just risk ethics, morals, principles, but also do it while suffering the other assortment of bad things in China, such as air pollution, poison in the food, etc.
Well, there you have it, the priority of an Expat’s ethics list: #1 “keep my job”.
Notably also, his “keep my job” justification sounded pretty hollow in the same comment when he criticized journalist Angela Yu for “crossing a line that I can’t cross”, even though in reality, Angela Yu was actually doing things far more clearly legal and ethical (such as asking the questions that her employer wanted her to ask, instead of just her own).
I also have no doubt that a variety of excuses and other circumstantial justifications may follow for the “Keep My Job” Expat on his confession of unethical conduct. He already included ones like “intentionally doing shitty job”, to “quit the gig soon afterwards,” as if such excuses can UNCROSS the line he had admitted crossing.
Well, no need to justify any thing, we are not here to judge ETHICS of “KEEP MY JOB” Expat, just to illuminate his PRIORITIES and motives for why he was in China in the first place.
We didn’t expect the “KEEP MY JOB” Expat to be altruistic to start with, but at least now, he admits his motives as at least mercenary enough to “impersonate” someone he was not.
What else has he “impersonated” that he was not?? How far would he take his pretenses in the keeping or pursuit of a “job”??
The lesson here is rather simple. People are just People. Most People are susceptible to corruption of ethics for personal interests or gains.
Though, it is hard to imagine how some “KEEP MY JOB” Expat have the ethical soapbox to stand on to ridicule others as mercenary. (it’s nice that you are willing to admit your mistakes, but that doesn’t make you a Saint, it only confirms that you didn’t have much ethical credibility to start with).
And I’m sure this was not the only “KEEP MY JOB” Expat. Others in the same discussion sympathized with the same “KEEP MY JOB” motive, albeit didn’t quite stray so far into the realm of immorality of “impersonation”.
Like I said, we didn’t expect altruism in the Expats. They are only human. And it’s not like they pass any moral character exams before going to China.
So, “KEEP MY JOB” Expats.
Do yourselves a favor and drop your pretenses and impersonations, and get off your moral high horse. We all know why you went to China. 1 of you confessed to it and made jackasses of you all, NOT because of his past conducts, but because MANY of you are still trying just as hard as he in justifying your “KEEP MY JOB” as some kind of holier than thou goal.
Side note: As a lawyer, I note that the confessed conduct of the “KEEP MY JOB” Expat may actually be in the area covered by the “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” (FCPA) of 1977, which states that it is illegal for US citizens or residents to act in furtherance of a foreign corrupt practice, which may include rendering any services of value (no matter how “shitty” of a job was done). And there is no legal excuses of “KEEP MY JOB” under the FCPA.
I note this to explain a relevant US law, and to warn others to be aware of potential legal issues arising from such conducts.
Of course, it is also possible that the “KEEP MY JOB” Expat was just entirely exaggerating his experiences as some kind of personal encounter with corruption in China.
But hey, I’m not judging, and I’m not the authority to prosecute any one under the FCPA. (But I imagine that if some day that “KEEP MY JOB” Expat applies for any US Federal Government related job or funding, even for contracts, he might have to explain his little confession in a lot more detail to Uncle Sam. Or the IRS can also ask questions. It’s kind of difficult to NOT ask questions when people admit to “impersonate” ____ while in China.)