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Thank you for this, Marco, very good stuff.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Sun Feb 21st, 2010 at 07:10:23 AM EST
is in the eye of the beholder.  But if there was anything relatively balanced, it was in what Fish wrote.  It was surprising to read that in a Newsweek article on the eve of the Dalai Lama's White House visit.

And yet, it still had to be cut down to size before being deemed fit for consumption by the Chinese public.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Sun Feb 21st, 2010 at 02:34:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and one wonders to what extent some of this is overkill. It can be portrayed, sometimes rightfully so, as silly and make the leadership look not very bright. PR is not, even now, a Beijing leadership specialty.

But I do think your diary is a really good one, and hits subtly at both this and also at certain sacred cows to which some putatively progressive Westerners tend to take kindly.

And you are right, the Fish article is quite good and, coming from Newsweek, surprising. Perhaps official America is finally coming to grips with PRC power? (Meaning the PRC world view needs finally, in America, to be taken seriously..)  

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Sun Feb 21st, 2010 at 05:22:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
redstar: Perhaps official America is finally coming to grips with PRC power? (Meaning the PRC world view needs finally, in America, to be taken seriously..)

I understand how the media and journalism can usually be conflated with "officialdom".  But I am going to put this journalist along with many others closer to the camp of "the people" and "popular opinion".  Why?  Because, with respect to the Tibet issue, I feel that on the Chinese side, it's the government that is the originator and most passionate agent of its point of view, while on the non-Chinese side, it's "the people", i.e. popular opinion, who are most aactive in forming the conventional wisdom/consensus on "The Truth" about Tibet.

This is oversimplifying things, but if the Chinese government had not been so long and so obstinately obsessed with Tibet, I wonder how strongly the general Han Chinese population would feel about it.  And on the U.S. side (among others), would the government put Tibet-related concerns for "human rights", "economic imperialism", "cultural genocide", etc. above other China-U.S. issues that directly affect the U.S.?  For example, Obama did not meet with the Dalai Lama last October almost certainly in order not to jeopardize any chance of success for the impending summit in Beijing the following month.

On the U.S. (non-Chinese) side, I think the pressure for "freeing Tibet" comes from popular opinion, and the media there has been responsive to and even complicit with that popular opinion.  I don't see the U.S. media serving Washington in this bias, but rather simply being the conduit and expression of this popular opinion (in turn reinforcing it).  Thus, Fish's article is a surprising break in that feedback loop that does not, I think, represent a coming to grips with "PRC power" (I would say, with "the Chinese way of seeing things") by official America, but rather by public or popular America.

A note on the Chinese side:  It's true that if the PRC comes out looking too "soft" regarding Tibet, then it will get blasted in Chinese popular opinion, and in this sense, it may seem that in China, like in the U.S., it's popular opinion that drives government.  But the original source of the Chinese fixation and sensitivity about Chinese sovereignty over Tibet is the government itself.  And it's the government's propaganda machine that has in turn engendered the public's fixation and sensitivity about Tibet, especially vis-a-vis world criticism.  In short, extreme reaction by the Chinese public in regards to Tibet is in large part blowback to their government's extreme propaganda efforts on that issue.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 03:11:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Incidentally, how do you see popular views on Japan in China? Is it as strong as often reported? Was it enhanced propagandistically in recent times, or all the continuing memory of Japanese occupation?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 06:44:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo: Incidentally, how do you see popular views on Japan in China? Is it as strong as often reported? Was it enhanced propagandistically in recent times, or all the continuing memory of Japanese occupation?

Needless to say, this topic deserves (at least) a diary of its own, but I'm afraid the situation is still quite bad.  I can only speak anecdotally, but in addition to coming across the usual 憤青 fènqīng hyper-xenophobic, anti-Japanese comments online, I've seen/heard a troublingly high number of comments about Japan that indicted a deep and lasting ("積重難返 jīzhòngnánfǎn") antipathy towards Japan and the Japanese.  The most recent occurrence was particularly disturbing:  In Beijing I hung out with some Italian friends who were also friends with a young woman from Nanjing.  This Nanjinger is brilliant, open, cultivated, fun.  After we had become relatively casual with one another, one evening, lubricated by a glass of wine too many, I stupidly dared to ask her for her opinion about whether I should declare my Japanese background if I were ever asked in Nanjing.  She gave the same advice that a friend of mine from Tianjin did: don't bother, avoid the question, avoid the topic.  But the really disturbing part of the conversation was when she later recounted how  a Japanese tourist was beaten up in a McDonald's in Beijing and though the police came to intervene, when they found out the nationality of the victim, they waited outside until it was over.  As she told the story, I sensed it was a urban legend (I could not find any evidence of it online, at least in English).  But regardless of its veracity, you could tell that she could hardly suppress the grim satisfaction she felt at the image of a Japanese getting beaten up by a group of Nanjingers in a McDonald's while not only customers and other staff, but even the police, looked on doing nothing.  But beneath that rage, I sensed an extreme anguish, since she had just told us some horrible stories that her grandmother had witnessed in person (e.g. a Japanese soldier running a young neighbor through and tossing her away  with his bayonet).  She did not actually weep, but she was obviously on the brink of it.  And this feeling is generalized to the entire (at least Han) Chinese population, through education, television shows, news (or news suppression), movies, and so on.

I have a similar take on the Chinese-Japanese antipathy that I do on the Chinese-non-Chinese debate about Tibet:  On the Chinese side, the primary instigator is the government, through its tacit approval if not active encouragement of negative portrayals of Japan in education, media, etc.  But on the Japanese side, I have, with utter regret, the feeling that it is Japanese people, not the Japanese government, who are the source of most anti-Chinese sentiment and portrayals in China.  And as the U.S. media is the conduit and expression of "pro-Tibet" anti-PRC opinion among the public in the U.S., the Japanese media is the conduit and expression of anti-China popular opinion in Japan.  How many times did I hear, the last time I was in Japan in late 2008, the phrase "中国怖い!China is scary/I'm afraid of China!".  From cab drivers, friends, relatives, relatives of friends, whoever.  Though I have to admit that such statements usually came from people in their 30s and older.  And of course, as always, popular opinion feeds the media and the media in turns feeds it back into popular opinion.  That's why I am a fan of Watanabe Tsuneo.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 08:05:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
marco: beaten up in a McDonald's in Beijing

That should be:

   beaten up in a McDonald's in Nanjing

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 08:18:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or even Burgerjing ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 08:31:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There seems to be some indication that the new government in Japan is interested in moving toward closer relations with China and being less cozy with the US.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 09:45:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed.  But my feeling is that a lot of the sinophobia in Japan is "grass roots", not government-led.  While a more China-positive government in Japan will hopefully help, a significant change in popular perceptions of China will probably have to be ground-up.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 10:16:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I recently saw an article about cash flush middle class Chinese going on shopping binges in Tokyo. Closer economic ties might be a means of burring the past.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 10:27:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, shopping-binges by Chinese "nouveaux riches" in Tokyo are probably not the sort of "closer economic ties" that will improve things.  Ironically, back in 1986, I remember hearing locals grumble about cash-flush middle class Japanese going on shopping binges ... in Paris!

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 11:10:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, the elites are not the people.

I wonder if the cross-Chinese-Sea popularity of manga/manhua and anime has a small but wider positive effect, though.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 01:10:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Elites do have a disproportionate ability to influence public opinion in a direction that supports their interest.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 01:15:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also in the opposite way...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 01:50:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It would be nice if there would be Chinese and Japanese leaders at the same time who would see the Franco-German rappochement as an example to follow. (Of course, it could not be followed 1:1, given the much stronger economic and size differences between the partners.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 01:14:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There some early stirrings for the creation of an AU.
by Richard Lyon (rllyon@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 22nd, 2010 at 01:16:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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