New York Times recently was back to attacking China with articles on overfishing, Namibia uranium mining, and Ai Weiwei talking about free speech and censorship. Although per capital consumption of fish by China is slightly above U.S., the per capital consumption of meat by China is less than 1/2 of U.S.. So it’s rather disingenuous for NYT to focus on fish rather than meat. As for new colonialism as NYT claims about China’s investment in Africa is really laughable as most Africans welcome the investment in infrastructure. China pays for any mineral wealth extracted at world market prices and issue loans at below market advantageous rate. They even implied that the price of uranium dropped by half recently due to Fukushima nuclear disaster, and China is benefitting from this decline.
For opinions inside China, West is somewhat more limited in their arsenal. So they use people like Mr. Ai, since parachuting insurgents to Tibet is no longer an option. They exaggerate people like Mr. Ai of their artistic achievements, give out awards like Nobel Prizes, and use intellectual arguments to appeal to the emerging middle class. I am not a fan of Mr. Ai’s work as an artist, but I want to deal with his argument directly here since NYT doesn’t allow rebuttals in their pages, even negative comments are somewhat hidden and discarded.
Mr. Ai’s arguments consist of 2 prongs, censorship and freedom of speech, to which liberals in the West are self evident good and beyond reproach. I beg to differ here and will hold the politically incorrect position. Since the 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court has essentially allowed sexually explicit materials without restriction with the possible exception of child pornography. Yet when the opinion was originally written, the community standard was paramount, gradually the community standard eroded until now it’s non existent. Yet the pushback against it probably caused the election of Trump, and of course if you consider the community standard of China and Chinese law, I rest my case. Given the recent cases of murders and suicides in Facebook I think many will favor some censorship even here. Next is the question of political speech which is more problematical. I do think China has the right to push her standard even in the political realm. As China enter the world community, she has her own vision of what society is striving, not individual rights, but societal rights. The alleviation of poverty, basic human dignity, health and education. As China grows richer and stronger, those political speech became less threatening and as anyone can attest, the political space is also growing. Even in the West, the freedom of speech has an exception, that of yelling fire in a crowded theater. In today’s interconnected world resembles a crowded theater, where internet posting of rumors can go viral and cause panic. So such regulation as true name posting is necessary to control sabotage. And of course any postings by terrorists which endanger society are not allowed even in U.S..
As China considers compiling a new Chinese encyclopedia competing against Wikipedia, I do advise her to giving out her narrative to the world, competing against the narrative by the West rather than suppressing it. China should not just give out blank answers to query about Tibet or 6/4, but share the lives of modern Tibet contrasting with dark history of serfs past. The reaction against corruption which triggered the original grievances of 6/4, the martyring of PLA soldiers by mobs on approach to Beijing, the confusion, and tragedies. I watched the recent TV program of the ascent of Qin Empire, in episode 1, the mother of future king told him it would be easy to be a good person, but extremely hard to be a good king. Mr. Ai can easily tot up his earnings of his artworks, for President Xi, it’s the livelihood of 1.3 billion Chinese he has to worry. History will judge the events of 6/4, but looking at history of Arab Spring contrasting with the growth of China’s economy, I think it has already rendered judgment.