Author Archive

Is Chinese Meritocracy a Viable Alternative to Western Democracy?

April 19th, 2009 142 comments

David Brooks at the New York Times wrote a column more than a year ago, “The Dictatorship of Talent”. He characterized the Chinese political system as a form of “meritocratic paternalism”. Read more…

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Friday Musings on China's Bad Press in the West

March 27th, 2009 79 comments

I have been thinking about two questions about China’s image in the Western Media (AKA “international public opinion”).

Question 1: Why is China portrayed as either collapsing (“this time it’s over for China”, “chaos”) or menacing (the “China threat”) so prevalently (despite notable exceptions)? Why these particular traits?

Question 2: How should the Chinese (在朝和在野的中国人) react to their national image in the “international public opinion”? Particularly, what should we do about our “bad press”? Read more…

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Cultural Differences: Can American Workers Compete?

February 10th, 2009 72 comments

With the Big Three US auto makers begging the US government to bail them out of bankruptcy, there have been many images on TV and in newspapers of American auto workers at the production line. I watched closely and unconsciously compared them with images of Chinese and Japanese workers, mostly from the same media outlets. My brain computed a couple of differences between images of American and Chinese industrial workers. Read more…

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Dealing with the Activist Scoundrelism of the West

February 9th, 2009 165 comments

Throwing a shoe at Wen Jia Bao created very little arousal among the Chinese. Time has changed since the Olympics. One Chinese commenter on MITBBS was concerned about how the shoe-thrower walked out of the building on his way to jail bare-footed, in the snow falling in London at that time. Did the police lend him a shoe to remedy his uneven legs? Read more…

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Chinese elitism versus American parochialism (aka Sarah Palin-style "democracy"): Musings on how different political systems function. Part I: The Chinese story.

September 28th, 2008 32 comments

Prologue: On my last trip back to China I brought back some reprints of Republican-era books. The following musings are based on my hasty reading notes.

Abstract: The Chinese society functions well when the stuff of its elite works. The American society functions well when the stuff of its elite works and is embraced by its masses (which is far from automatic). The challenge for the Chinese society is that historically the stuff of its elite (e.g., Confucianism, Legalism and revolutionary socialism) has often failed to work. The challenge for the American society is that the stuff of its elite (e.g., science, education and secular humanism) is often rejected by its masses. Read more…

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Evolving a self-correcting mechanism for the Chinese society: Thoughts on the tainted milk crisis and other Chinese scandals

September 25th, 2008 136 comments

The problem of Chinese powdered and liquid milk producers lacing their products with industrial chemicals has left the Chinese public (especially the parents) in panic. The facts of this crisis have been well-documented. I have a few thoughts about its implications. Read more…

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How do Americans really rank countries on their Olympic medals?

August 24th, 2008 51 comments

The answer is “whichever way that looks good on us”.

The Olympics simply won’t allow me to go back to work. Came across this cute piece on (Chinese source). Here is my rough translation. Read more…

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Falsifying Documentation and Its Impact on International Public Opinion: "Underage Chinese Gymnasts" and "Bogus Americans".

August 23rd, 2008 86 comments

ChinaWatcher’s response to my last post has struck me as particularly thoughtful and reasonable. However, I have a different view on the following statement and feel the issue is important enough to write a separate post, to ensure sufficient attention. My writing is 99.9% dead serious and 0.1% over the top satire. The Olympics have been criticized for being uptight and lacking in fun. We need to make it up for Beijing. Read more…

What you can do to verify He Kexin's age: On subjectivity and procedural justice.

August 22nd, 2008 135 comments

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has found no proof that Chinese Gymnast He Kexin was underage. The issue was raised by the US gymnastic team based on their visual inspection; “they don’t look like 16, but a lot younger”. How much credit should be given to the subjective impression of the American competitors who have lost to Kexin and her teammates? Moreover, what can you do with your subjective impressions? Read more…

Dalai Lama offers olive branch. Is he going to visit China this November?

August 16th, 2008 124 comments

According to New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, Dalai Lama no longer insists on the “meaningful autonomy” of Tibet in the one-country-two-systems model. He will accept communist rule in Tibet. According to Kristof it is imperative for the Chinese authorities to reciprocate. He suggests a possibility for Dalai to visit China in November, for the commemoration of the 6th month of the Sichuan Earthquake. Read more…

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The Beijing Olympics: East-West Confrontation and East-East Conciliation

August 15th, 2008 29 comments

Before the commencement of the Olympic Games in Beijing, some Japanese were concerned about anti-Japanese sentiments among the Chinese, that their athletes might be booed and taunted in the competitions, and that the Chinese audience might refuse to pay proper respect to their national flag and anthem. Read more…

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From the Beijing Olympics, Come the Drums of Change

August 14th, 2008 25 comments

Harold Meyerson at the Washington Post compares the Beijing Olympics with Russian involvement in Georgia and believes that the Olympics are a game-changing event in world history while Russia’s Georgian adventure is not. The theme of the Chinese model of development offering an alternative to Western democracy has been repeated by many in Western media. Read more…

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The Olympics Demonstrate China's "Soft Power": on Baloney and Silliness.

August 10th, 2008 103 comments

Watching the NBC broadcast of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing gave me a sleepless night. Something about the ceremony and the games bothered me. I had to think it trough.

What do you make of the following features of the Opening Ceremony? Read more…

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Will we see a "Thank You, China" banner from the European and American attendants to the Olympics?

August 8th, 2008 48 comments

The closing ceremony parade would be the most appropriate occasion for such expression of appreciation. Who will be the most likely among the spectators to display such affectionate banners, resident laowais or first time visitors?

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Japanese athletes and spectators brace against booing in Beijing. Are they over-reacting?

August 7th, 2008 27 comments

How will Japanese athletes and their supporters be received during the Olympic Games in Beijing? Will they be booed by Chinese spectators? Will the Chinese show the propriety to stand up in respect when the Japanese national flag is raised and the Japanese national anthem played in the award-giving ceremonies?

From their past experiences in sports engagements with China, the Japanese are worried. How are they preparing themselves for possible slights and confrontations with the Chinese?

Do you think the spirit of hospitality in the Chinese governments’ adivce on the 8 questions Chinese shuold not ask foreigners during the Olympics will help put our Japanese visitors at ease?

This article is from the Sankei website (original in Japanese). 北京五輪で日本人の気骨を, by 平和・安全保障研究所理事長, 西原正, Fujisankei Communications Group, Opinion Magazine, July 29, 2008. Read more…

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How do the Chinese really feel about Japan, the new Yomiuri/Xinhua Survey

August 5th, 2008 100 comments

August 15th is drawing close. It is a good time to think about China’s relation with Japan.

Besides, a new survey on this topic was discussed in Yomiuri Shimbun, August 4, 2008.

“Only about one-third of Japanese think the relationship between Japan and China is good in contrast to nearly 70 percent of Chinese who view the relationship positively, according to a survey conducted jointly by The Yomiuri Shimbun and a weekly magazine published by Xinhua News Agency.” Read more…

Categories: Analysis, culture Tags: ,

Why are the Chinese so upset II: Being an internationalist

August 3rd, 2008 19 comments

Thanks for all the thoughtful feedback to my previous post.

Your suggestions of overcoming East-West misunderstanding with multiculturalism (Alice Poon), attention to individual choices, within-group differences (Wu Di) and between-group commonality (Daniel) remind me of the Foreword written by former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations Hatano Yoshio for Nitobe Inazo’s well-known book “Bushido: The Soul of Japan” (Kodansha, 1998 edition). Read more…

Why are the Chinese so upset about the Western human rights activists and advocate journalists? Do not violate my Chinese feelings, or, rather, sensibilities.

August 2nd, 2008 83 comments

After lamenting Western misunderstandings of the Chinese, their political arrangements and culture, it behooves to examine some Chinese misunderstandings of the West with regard to the attention their country has received from human rights activists and advocate journalists, especially in the run-up to the Olympics.

Why are the Chinese viscerally sickened by the following scenes from the Western media? Read more…

Moving on without closure: The hardiness and resilience of the Chinese society

China presses hush money on grieving parents,” according to New York Times

Parents of children killed in collapsed school buildings in the Sichuan earthquake have been offered cash settlements, relaxing of the birth quota and pensions by the local government. In exchange, they are pressured to sign a contract to give up demand for investigations into official negligence and corruption associated with the collapsed schools. Some parents have relented and signed the contract, while others have refused.

A while ago at the collective funeral for the victims at one of the schools with a large casualty, the grieving parents’ pain was so profound that some bite on their fingers and wrote their children’s names with a wish of a “good journey” in their blood on a piece of white cloth. The pain of losing a child can never be compensated with money. My discussion will focus on a cross-cultural understanding on the money in question. Is it correct to label the Chinese authorities’ offer to the grieving parents “hush money”, or even “compensation”? Read more…

What would the Chinese government do or fail to do for the Chinese to revoke their loyalty and support?

Several blogs have summarized two of the key findings from the 2008 Pew Global Attitude Survey in China . 1. The Chinese are overwhelmingly satisfied with the direction of their nation, its economy and its government’s handling of issues critical to their lives (often with consensus in the upper 80 percents). The Chinese satisfaction with the state of the nation has improved significantly since the last time they were surveyed a year ago. 2. Compared to their sanguine and optimistic view of the nation, the Chinese are far less satisfied with at least two critical aspects of their personal/individual lives, i.e., their career/financial situations and family lives. Their perception of their personal lives has not improved since the last time they were surveyed.

How would you explain the disparity between the Chinese attitudes toward their country on the one hand and their individual lives on the other? What do you make of it?

The data suggest that the Chinese personal/individual lives have been decoupled from China ‘s national life to a significant degree. Read more…

Chinese Exceptionalism -义理和人情

Before switching from posting immature opinions on things I know unprofessionally to the work I do for a living for a few weeks, there are some thoughts I really want to get out of my chest. I hope these thoughts will help non-Chinese understand some puzzling phenomena in the Chinese social and political life.

1. My English translation of the key terms (义理, 人情, 隐忍) might be a bit off. Suggestions are welcome.
2. If you disagree, please trash, ridicule, tear it apart or ignore. Don’t worry about me committing suicide out of shame. Read more…

Why are most of the advertising models in China Caucasian?

July 18th, 2008 46 comments

This is a follow up to DJ’s post on the Official Chinese Olympic Fashion, but from a different angle. Instead of mutual respect between the host and guests, I have some introspective and soul-searching thoughts about the Chinese identity fantasy in the context of a global culture.
Read more…

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Is there xenophobia in China? If yes, what is it like?

July 17th, 2008 57 comments

Chinese people (like all people) have stereotypes about different groups. Within China, Northerners view those from the south as sneaky and lack sincerity. Southerners believe those from the north are lazy and unintelligent. Chinese stereotypes are held more strongly and more widely spread. The Chinese tend to over-generalize from a few individuals’ behaviors to the individuals’ group.

Read more…

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"You are quite Americanized."

July 16th, 2008 67 comments

I am thinking about writing a piece on “searching for a Chinese identity”, not just at the individual level, but also at a collective cultural level. The heart of the controversies surrounding the Beijing Olympics is the building of a collective Chinese identity, who we are, what we stand for, how we present ourselves to the outside. There are a lot of confusions in this aspect.

Here is a case of individual experience with cultural identity for Chinese living in the West. After years living and working in the environment, you acquire the language, behavior structures and subtle mannerism of the people you work with, simply out of necessity. In my line of work, you can’t survive a week if the students do not understand what you are talking about; they tear you apart limb by limb. Many Chinese individuals in America have encountered this type of situation. Your acquaintance looks at you and gives you a compliment: “you are quite Americanized.” My reaction depends on the way he or she puts it. Most of my acquaintances deliver this compliment out of innocence. I just have a vacant feeling of irrelevance and let it pass. Once in a while someone gives me this compliment in a patronizing and condescending manner, awarding me an alien identity that is supposed to be better than my original. Then I am quite pissy about it. As a Chinese, how would you react if an American tells you that you are “quite Americanized”?

Read more…

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The Chinese Olympic Journey

July 15th, 2008 45 comments

“We went out to swim in the big pond, but ended up finding ourselves. The ocean did not drawn us, just made us wiser and better”. This was a bit of sentimentality I shared with an undergraduate classmate who also came to the United States for graduate school and spent years trying to “make it” out here. The same sentiment parallels the Chinese experience with the Olympics in particular and their transactions with the world in general, since Deng Xiaoping opened the window on the world (allowing the flies to come in, along with some good stuff).

Two recent Western comments on the Chinese preparation for the Beijing Olympics caught my eye. 1. According to James Fallows, the Chinese authorities’ tightening of control over the situation was defeating their own purpose of impressing their audience – the West, especially its media. 2. Meanwhile, Richard Spencer at the Daily Times started to wonder aloud over his fish pond in his Hutong residence who the games’ intended audience really was. Could it be that the Olympics were designed as a reward for the hardworking Chinese, instead of a “coming out party” to entertain foreigners? My first reaction was Spencer had a more astute grasp on the Chinese psyche. Then I realized both comments could be right, but apply to different stages of the Chinese experience with the Olympics.
Read more…

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