China is often regarded as a nation without Freedom of Speech – or at least a nation that disrespects Freedom of Speech, or a nation with serious infractions of Freedom of Speech. I have often argued that such disparaging conclusions rarely turn out to based on Freedom itself, but a disrespect of China’s social, historical, and political contexts and current interests. I will use recent events to further demonstrate my thinking.
For those of you paying attention on issues surrounding “Freedom of Speech” on the international stage, you might have noticed that France caused quite a stir last week by finally abolishing a law against insulting its president.
The law in question was thrown into the international spotlight when President Sarkozy charged fellow Frenchman Hervé Eon for holding up a cardboard sign at a 2008 rally telling Sarkozy “Casse-toi pov’con,” a profanity in French that directly translates mildly to “break yourself off, poor jerk.” Here is an excerpt of the article “Yes, it really was a crime in France to insult the president until this week. Here’s why” from the Washington Post: Continue reading Freedom of Speech: Case Study on That Medieval, Backward, Senseless French Law Against Insulting the French President
If a survey is conducted in the West about the Opium Wars, very few would know about them today. Even the few who actually know about them will likely not hold the Brits and other Western powers responsible. The reason is because the West has been whitewashing this history.
Case in point was the 1997 Hong Kong hand-over. The Western media spent virtually no time educating their audience how Hong Kong was forcibly taken by the Brits (and hence the hand-over). They instead focused majority of their effort vilifying the Chinese political system and sensationalizing an imminent destruction of Hong Kong’s way of life. This clever tactic is willful omission – by not talking about the miseries of the Chinese at the hands of the drug-pushers and Western invaders, the perpetrators were absolved of their sins. Continue reading New national story or not, Orville Schell and John Delury’s article whitewashes Western atrocities
It might come as a surprise to casual observers that the city of Detroit is filing for bankruptcy. To those seasoned industry watchers, it is an event waiting to happen. Detroit has a prominent place in US history because it is considered “a metonym for the American automobile industry and an important source of popular music legacies celebrated by the city’s two familiar nicknames, the Motor City and Motown.” Continue reading Who Stole Jobs from Detroit?
Recent discussion of “National Humiliation” motif in Chinese history lessons got me thinking of the wider implications of some noted cultural differences, particularly involving the concept of “shame” in Asian societies.
So the wider philosophical discussion here: First, I must qualify that I believe that the Asian societies are mischaracterized as “shame-based”. I believe it is not all “shame”. Indeed, the larger part of motivation in Asian societies is “virtue-based”.
“Virtue” is the positive flip-side of “shame” in Asian culture. If one feels “shame” for doing wrong, then one is honored as “virtuous” for doing right in Asian societies. And “Virtue”, far more than mere “shame”, is a primarily motivator for people in Asia to better themselves.
The following short CCTV report is actually a great summary of the key issues confronting America today. There are so much junk in the American press, it is difficult to make heads and tails of what is happening with them. America should demand and hold her leaders to account when they make promises or make lies. The current climate has no shame, no accountability. It is a sorry state of affairs. It is also difficult to see how American society improves from here.
Western propaganda has become an art-form, and for the unsuspecting audience, it is invisible. If you decide to be critical though, you will immediately see how thinly-veiled the propaganda is. Some of you might have heard about the recent high-speed rail crash in Spain, killing 69 people according to the latest count. The weird coincidence is that China’s Wenzhou crash was exactly 2 years ago. Below are two articles from CNN reporting on the crashes. On the right column is of China’s crash two years ago and on the left column is a recent coverage for Spain’s. Notice how the Spain article is about the accident while the article on China is a condemnation of China’s HRS and governance. CNN can find tons of criticism and dissatisfaction on Spain’s Internet too if it wants. Yes, right now. CNN can find critical things to write about the Spanish government: for example, Spain woefully under-funds its infrastructure. These are CNN’s explicit choices to make. See the glaring difference in the articles as a result of the choices CNN made. Welcome to “free” press.
Continue reading How CNN uses disaster to propagandize against a government
A recent article in WSJ by Orville Schell, “A Rising China Needs a New National Story,” suggests to China to “move on” from a traditional national narrative of “Century of Humiliation” to some thing more positive, like July 4th fireworks.
The article surprised me a bit, because I would have thought a student of Chinese culture like Orville Schell would have understood the rather Asian culture theme of motivation by “negative feedback”, a lesson that the Tiger Mom have practiced consistently with her own children.
The Tiger Mom, like my own Chinese mother, does not overly praise her children, but rather tend to emphasize her children’s mistakes and urge them to do better.
Some Westerners perhaps do not understand/ agree with this method, and just wish that the Chinese would just be more positive in self-motivations, but surely Mr. Schell (and any one who claim to know China) should have understood that Chinese do not talk about “humiliation” as some kind of insult to the West (despite the obvious connections), but rather as a lesson to remind themselves to be better.
It is simply a different cultural approach to self-identity. The Asian cultures emphasize on self-reflection and self-examination of one’s own weaknesses. Despite Mr. Schell (and others’) suggestion that the Chinese government act more Western in this regard, the “negative feedback” motivation resonates with Chinese people, (indeed as Mr. Schell admits, with overseas Chinese as well). Perhaps Mr. Schell should examine the “WHY” more in detail.
On Sunday, Abe and his party secured a victory to win landslide victories. According to Foreign Policy,
Riding a wave of stimulus money to the voting urns, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party secured a majority in both of the country’s legislative houses, delivering a stamp of approval for his economic policies and possibly setting up Japan for its most significant constitutional revision since World War II.
A man with deeply nationalist roots, Abe has embarked on a twin project of national renewal, launching an aggressive stimulus program — better known as “Abenomics” and which has injected a measure of dynamism to the sluggish Japanese economy — while also floating the idea of revising the country’s pacifist constitution. Abe’s military initiative comes in response to what many in Japan see as the danger of a rising China to the country’s west and the need for Japan not just to have a self defense force but a bona fide military to counter that threat. On Monday, Abe linked those two projects. “Economics is the source of national power. Without a strong economy, we cannot have diplomatic influence or dependable social security,” he said. “I want to make Japan’s presence felt in the world.” Continue reading Abe Wins Huge in Japan… and some thoughts on the coverage…
I’m getting sick of this “debate” on the rule of law (or laws in general). It’s a recurring theme marred in confusion. So I will try to make this as simple as possible. Just let this “debate” die in this thread because it is distracting, boring and I’m just goddamn sick of it.
It has been two weeks since “cross-straits” team Peng Shuai (彭帥) (mainland) and Hsieh Su-wei (謝淑薇) (Taipei) won the women’s title at Winbledon. Moments after their win, a Japanese reporter has already created a lasting stir within China. The controversy went as follows, according to Phoenix News Media Ltd (in Chinese):
My translation below:
After the game, a Japanese reporter asked Hieh Su-wei, “Being the first to win a grand-slam as a ‘Taiwanese,’ can you talk about what it means for your ‘country.’ After a short exchange between the two, Peng Shui interrupted. She said, “Excuse me. I am still sitting here. I cannot accept Taiwan is a ‘country’ type of talk. Tennis is sport. We don’t want to bring politics into this. We don’t want to discuss this type of issue. Furthermore, since when we were young, we have always thought of ourselves as a ‘cross-straits’ team.
When Western countries invade Iraq out of “human rights,” “democracy,” and “freedom,” those become ideologies used as propaganda to dupe their public into supporting unjust wars. Obviously, there are merits in the ideas carried behind those words. But the essence of the propaganda, the power behind the propaganda, is the religious believe in the absolute and universality of those ideas. There is no universality. Regular Hidden Harmonies readers know we frequently argue against that notion. So, today, in this brief post, I would like for our readers to meet another one: “rule of law.” In fact, Allen has been hinting he’d offer us a full treatise for some time now, but recently, in a fit of rage at me, I thought he offered up a really good summary. It was enough to wake me up fully. I used to believe in the absoluteness of “rule of law,” but no longer. It’s another religion. Continue reading “human rights,” “democracy,” “freedom,” and now, “rule of law”
In the field of media criticism, it pays to be picky about language. Around touchy issues of sovereignty and legitimacy, journalists frequently navigate intractable disputes where no term is truly “objective”. A wise man once said, if you want to create social change, then it is of paramount importance to identify “who are [your] enemies [and] who are [your] friends?” But there’s the risk of being so hypercritical and without humility as to impart devious significance to routine, apolitical phrases. In the English-language Tibetan studies circuit, which leans almost entirely pro-separatist, one phrase regularly trotted out for criticism is “China’s Tibet”. This blogpost at High Peaks Pure Earth is representative in its mocking tone, if not for the most academic exposition of the idea. “There must be a psychological condition that describes an anxiety so acute that there is an overwhelming need to constantly state and re-state that something belongs to you… China’s rather childish and possessive nature!”
While the recent sensationalized story in the media painted a bleak picture of state of corruption, there is a much undiscussed topic of “legalized” corruptions in many forms.
Undoubtedly, because such corruptions have somehow become “legalized” in some nations, the amount of them are rampant and costly.
I like to start a discussion of them here. I will take a stab at making an initial list. Commentors are welcome to add their own.
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, http://www.humanities.uci.edu/history/faculty_profile_wasserstrom.php, co-founder of the now inactive China Beat blog, wrote a piece recently:
Needless to say, the premise of his piece is the usual kinds of China-bashing.
A recent poll conducted by Global Transparency found that Corruption is on the rise globally, particularly among many of the “Democracies”. China was not in this survey, but China was in a previous survey where outsiders were asked to rate China’s corruption by outside perception.
1 interesting point about the recent poll is that almost 1/2 of 107 nations surveyed perceived their own political parties as corrupt.
Another: Indian people not only perceived corruption in some abstract manner, but more than 50% of Indians surveyed reported paying bribes themselves http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2013/07/09/surprise-indians-still-find-india-very-corrupt/. Globally, the average is about 25% of people paid bribes.
It got me thinking. How many Chinese people actually paid bribes?
Recently, in a period of comparing coverages of the Snowden saga in various blogs, I came across this frustrated admission from 1 of HH’s previous comment participants:
“I’d happily participate in bridging the gap if this was still a sphere of blogs in the first place. But nothing on Twitter or Sina Weibo seems to last, most of it looks both chaotic and boring, and I doubt that I’ll ever become a microblogger in this life. Next life, something still hipper (and still more boring) will have replaced the microblogs.But I’m wondering: are there still active English-language Chinese blogs?”
You can read the comment section to find out that “PekingDuck” sort of imploded recently.
But obviously, some folks have forgotten HH, or rather pretended that HH does not exist.
Well. Here are some facts/stats from the net to dispute their narrow vision. (Some of you have seen these stats, which are not that great, but HH is ahead of some “English-language Chinese blogs”, and more diverse in readership. And HH doesn’t sell any thing, like marketing tips, hobby movies that never get done, etc.)
So thanks to all of our audience, HH is still alive and kicking. Perhaps it is ironic, but we lived up to our name, “Hidden Harmonies”, in that we are harmonious to some, and hidden to others.
Long life, harmonies to all, even if you choose to ignore its existence!
As Snowden considers asylum offers from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, and perhaps mulls a second application to Russia (Putin had earlier said if Snowden wanted to apply asylum there, he’d have to stop releasing NSA leaks), should China Consider Giving Snowden Asylum?
By the answers, I am hoping to gauge people’s attitude toward Snowden. For me, I am neutral. I personally have nothing against government “snooping.” I have nothing to hide in general. As long as they don’t pick on me for little trivial things (I trust governments generally enough that they wouldn’t), I have nothing against government tapping, government cameras, government sucking of emails, etc. So what Snowden has revealed does not hit me in the stomach on that level.
However, I believe what Snowden has revealed is important in a geopolitical context. Previously, we thought of the Internet as “free” – run by innovative Stalwart companies devoted to freedom, free from government interference. Now we know the vastness of what we consider to be “free internet” is merely a very nationalized network space that is compatible with one specific set of values and that is at the core of 21st century geopolitical competition.
That’s an important insight for humanity to know.
So – should China…?
[Editor’s Note: clarification added 2013-07-09]: From the above write-up about “geopolitical context,” one might misunderstand me as saying that what Snowden has to say has no relevance to Americans and relevance only to the rest of the world. That’s not what I meant. To the extent Americans are world citizens, they should care. They should understand so they understand why the information they get online in the so-called free internet (and also why the information they get in the so-called free media, why their very perspective about the world, about history) may be so biased and American (or Western)-centric. And then perhaps they may understand why so many things they had taken to be Universal may just be American (or Western)-centric. What Snowden revealed, and he may not even understand it, is to change the paradigm by which we view the world by revealing a blindspot we had universally taken for granted. Others have noted the dangers of relying on “google” for all information on the net – because that essentially allows one entity – which is not beholden to the “people” per se – to define our knowledge, our worldview, our identity… It is equally dangerous to rely on the falsehood of a universal, free internet for our information because there is no such thing as a universal internet. Language and cultural barriers would have fragmented it fr0m the start – though now we see politics from the U.S. already set it up to fragment from the very beginning, too.
Have you ever wondered how a map would look like if it showed Internet freedom versus the NSA dragnet recently revealed by Edward Snowden? Well, it would look like the following map. Click to have a look first and then come back to this post.
Continue reading Internet Freedom vs NSA Dragnet
In the recent run of the fad that is the “soft power” craze of the West, the narrative drown out (just a little while) what human beings really desired in the World.
Yet, with the increasing blundering consequences /fallout from the Snowden disclosures and subsequent Western reactions, we are all shocked into a realization of what we have all forgotten in ourselves.
That being, what “freedom” really means to us all: Human Dignity and Respect.
Eric X. Li, whom both YinYang and I know personally, recently gave this TED presentation on the ideological worship of two political systems – communism … and electoral democracies. As usual, I find Li’s perspective insightful and interesting. It certainly takes guts to stand up and speak against the predominant religion in the world! Now I appreciate even more how Galileo must have felt in confronting the Catholic Church!
I do want to make a quick note about one of the two questions the host at Ted asked of Li at the end of the talk. The host asked about how a non-elected government can legitimately set the agenda without feedback in the form of contested elections. Li talked about how the Chinese government – at all levels – takes surveys of the people on all types of issues, from what people think of the garbage collection at a local level to what people think about the direction of the nation on a national level.
This exchange reminded me of the adversarial vs. inquisitorial approach to resolving legal controversies. Continue reading Eric X. Li: A tale of two political systems (李世默:两种制度的传说)
For the last week or so, Hong Kong has been (very publicly) celebrating the “rule of law” that it claims it has exhibited in letting Snowden leave the country despite strong U.S. pressure to arrest and extradite him. The Hong Kong government made this official statement after Snowden left Hong Kong.
The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government’s request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying later cited the government’s action as “a good example to illustrate the rule of law and the procedural justice that we uphold.” The people of Hong Kong for the most part do back Leung’s sentiments. Even those who suspects illicit political motives seem to concede that Hong Kong did right following its laws, protocols and procedures.
While I am proud of Hong Kong in standing up to U.S. in the Snowden affairs, I urge caution that this is a triumph for rule of law. Rule of law connotates an absence of arbitrariness, an objectivity that is devoid of human whim and of politics. But if the public thinks the Snowden case resulted from an objective, fair and impartial application of rules, I urge them to think twice. Continue reading Everyone in Hong Kong is Celebrating the Triumph of Rule of Law In the Snowden Case – But Is This Really a Celebration of Law, or Politics under the Cult of Rule of Law?