The Protests, the Olympics, and the "Yellow Peril"


There is so much great stuff out there on the Olympics, I could devote the next few months to nothing but that on here.

Though I have studiously sought to avoid covering these issues too often, I could not resist saying something about this Shanghai Scrap post, entitled, The Protests, the Olympics, and Race. It is damn good and it is hugely thought provoking.

So what do you think? The comment lines are open, but please confine your comments to the issues raised in the article itself.

I will start off by saying I am troubled by how quickly people are willing to write off 1. 3 billion people as “brainwashed” and I think that is ignorance at best, racism at worst.

I will be getting on a long airplane flight shortly so please be patient in waiting for your comments to appear.

UPDATE: Just came across another “damn good” and “thought provoking” piece along these same lines. This one is by Brendan O’Neill on his personal blog and it is entitled, Invasion of the robotic thugs, with this explanatory byline: “The attacks on the ‘horrible, ominous, retarded’ Chinese men guarding the Olympic flame are historical prejudice repeated as farce.”

40 responses to “The Protests, the Olympics, and the "Yellow Peril"”

  1. I mentioned racism against Chinese/Chinese Americans who support the Olympics torch run in an earlier comment. Here are some excerpts from internet commenters.
    **One thing is for sure, after seeing all these commie flags waving, if we ever go to war with China, it’ll be time to open up the concentration camps to house these alien loyalists. What we did to the Japanese was plain wrong. However, all these red banner wavers belong behind razor wire because you know where their loyalties will lie.
    **As for those ethnic Chinese who blindly waved the red flag of genocide and slavery, shame! Shame on you for supporting the regime of T1an*nmen, T1b*tan genocide and other crimes, the regime that went to war against the United States in Korea over 50 years ago and was responsible for most of America’s tens of thousands of combat deaths in that war. For those of you who are apparantly of divided loyalty for America versus your ethnic ancestry it’s time for you to make a choice: Either you are 100% for America , or you are not. If not, it’s time for you to pack your bags and return to your mother country. I, for one, have no tolerance for traitors: If you love Red China so much, why are you still here?? Just askin’.
    I do hope however these represent the minority of anti-China protestors and that most understand the Chinese diaspora’s support is for the people not the government. At the same time, I must say the Chinese are such amateurs at PR –you do not wave a big ass red flag at these events, you hold a flag with a peace dove in one hand and the Olympics flag in the other, and bring out the stuffed pandas!

  2. I think it’s a mixture of personal and national pride. It’s not brainwashing. I am sure Americans/Canadians/Europeans would feel the same way if they were hosting the Olympics and there were protests during the torch relay. The Americans/Canadians/European governments may not shoot themselves in the foot with such bad PR though.

  3. I think he has some good points. Certainly there is a good amount of China-bashing and oversimplification of the country.
    But… I do think taken on its own merits, T1bet is an important human rights issue, and I am very disturbed by the willingness of many people to say that criticizing China’s T1bet policy stems from racism, ignorance, anti-Chinese prejudice etc. rather than from legitimate reasons. I don’t care what Richard Gere, Mia Farrow, Students for a Free T1ibet or even the Dalai Lama think- I’ve read the arguments, read the history, went to T1bet, and came to my own conclusions, and I resent me views being dismissed because some B-grade actor happens to hold the same views as me.
    Just to clarify, I do think brainwashing is an issue- but again, before people hold this as conclusive evidence that I’m racist, let me emphasize that I do not think all 1.3 billion Chinese have been turned into pro-CCP zealots. I do think the CCP has used education and its control over media to convince many Chinese that China is under threat, and that a united front is necessary to protect China, and I think that there was a similar issue in the US post-9/11. I do not think that China is some sort of threat to the US or to the world (like NHYRC), and I don’t think the Chinese governments actions are necessarily any more reprehensible than those of the US. That’s beside the point.
    The point is that I think many of the CCP’s policies are fundamentally, morally wrong, and I am disturbed by the fact that many Chinese commenters cannot accept this view or address it directly, without changing the topic to Iraq or throwing around accusations of racism.
    Sorry for the semi-pertinence of this comment, but Dan, when you mentioned brainwashing, I felt I had to clarify myself.

  4. Dan,
    Thanks for sharing that article. I command the author for saying out loud about the racial subcontext of these “protests”. That was exactly what the Chinese people felt when they saw that the majority of the protesters were white. It is less of case that the Chinese think their country is immune from criticism; the Chinese culture urges people to self-criticize. However, when people see that some foreigners who can’t even pinpoint China, less T1bet on a map, get all excited thinking they know China better than the Chinese, they think that is racism.
    In a resolution criticizing China, Chris Daly, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said that demonstrating against the torch relay would “provide the people of San Francisco with a lifetime opportunity to help 1.3 billion Chinese people gain more freedom and rights.” To his credit, Mayor Gavin Newsom did not sign Daly’s resolution.
    Speaking for 1.3 billion people? I’ll bet you that he has not polled more than 13 Chinese. He is saying that because he thinks he knows better than the 1.3 billion people.

  5. I believe that it was Rawls who said that for some reason there are in this world naturally some people who value freedom of speech, thought, etc., and there are people who don’t.
    In my view, this is the fundamental distinction between people. It is a distinction that transcends race, gender, ethnicity, etc. How do we account for this distinction? One explanation is economic: a truck driver is more likely to value freedom of movement than, say, an accountant. But, this is an incomplete explanation. Perhaps, there are people in every group with authoritarian dispositions? In any event, Rawls did not suggest that people’s ethical positions are racially motivated.
    Thank you.

  6. I was in Paris yesterday, they still had the sign “Paris defend les droits de l’homme partout dans le monde” up at city hall – that that section the torch relay could have been cancelled because of a message defending human rights beggars belief. I guess that some out there feel that the Paris government has no right to say this based on – based on what?
    Does race have a part in the whether you are likely to support the torch relay or not? On the face of it it would appear so – as I said before, the people I know who went to the pro-China demonstration were all of Chinese extraction (and mostly born in China) and went there to (as they saw it) defend China against criticism. I saw no-one who was white waving a Chinese flag, and I must assume that most of those of Asian appearance in the ranks of the pro-t’bet/human rights/democracy camp were either T’betans or FLG supporters.
    However, none of the Taiwanese I know (even those who are pro-KMT/reunification camp) felt the need to do this. In the article it describes the pro-China demonstrators as ‘Asian’, but I do not know any Koreans or Japanese who turned out to support the torch, or who are even all that supporting of the Beijing olympics.
    To be frank, I think that ‘race’ here is just another way of tackling the issue of Chinese nationalism, one which makes it easy for those who opposed the relay to be portrayed as racists. I cannot think that I am the only one who as felt a distinctly nationalistic and triumphalist strain in the way in which the torch relay was organised, in which the pro-China demonstrations were organised, and in which the Chinese media has reacted to those protests – protests which given the current political situation were absolutely inevitable.
    The emphasis amoungst the pro-China camp was much more about defending China from criticism than defending the Olympic ideal – something which the CCP government, at least, has not really shown that it cares about.
    The idea that the disturbances would have been somewhat ‘toned down’ if there had been more Asian demonstrators on the pro-t’bet/human rights/democracy side is somewhat dubious. If there had been more T’betan refugees and FLG supporters I can hardly think that the result would have been more peaceful.
    As for the buck-toothed PLA soldier, I hardly think this is evidence of wide-spread racism amongst the pro-t’bet people. They strike me as being rather wide-eyed students of the hippy type who are enchanted by the idea of a buddhist nation at peace with the world – although I severely doubt that an independent T’bet would be like that.
    One might also ask why similar fuss is never made about the way cartoons in the Chinese press always portray people of European decent as big-nosed sex-mad barbarians – but then less is expected of state-controlled media.

  7. I’m afraid that I can’t follow the logic underlying Minter’s article. Minter’s argument appears to be:
    All protesters are white;
    All whites are racist;
    Therefore, all protesters are racist.
    This is obviously rubbish.
    The logic should be:
    Some protesters are white;
    Some whites are racist;
    Result: It doesn’t logically follow that just because some protesters are white and some whites are racists that any of the protesters must necessarily be racist.
    The article’s reasoning is illogical.
    Thank you.

  8. I think we all need to be a little bit less inflamatory when we discuss this issue, I know a few times I’ve made that mistake. Let’s recognize that within the pro-China camp and pro-T/b*t camp and those who fall somewhere in between there are a wide variety of nuances and motivations. Some may be subconsciously racist, some may be acting out of patriotism/nationalism, some may be acting out of a high minded sense of just, some may be rebelling against there parents, etc. and many probably have multiple motivations. All these forces
    I’m have no way to be sure how the Chinese would react if they had a free media. I suspect they still would be nervous about T/ib*tan independence. At root this may be thought of as a fundamental conflict of interest. However, some mainland Chinese people may see more nuances involved and might find it easier to compromise. Westerners would have less of an excuse to get involved.

  9. It’s not about race. Rightly or wrongly, the protestors are angry about T1b*t / Buddhism and related issues. The intensity of the protests are due to this fact. I think it’s also a good idea to think about the fact that the protests were necessarily physical, given that there was a physical symbol with a moving trajectory that represented an idea which the protestors opposed. Obviously, the protestors were going to attack that symbol, or impede its progress.

  10. From jms:
    **One thing is for sure, after seeing all these commie flags waving, if we ever go to war with China, it’ll be time to open up the concentration camps to house these alien loyalists. What we did to the Japanese was plain wrong. However, all these red banner wavers belong behind razor wire because you know where their loyalties will lie.
    **As for those ethnic Chinese who blindly waved the red flag of genocide and slavery, shame! Shame on you for supporting the regime of T1an*nmen, T1b*tan genocide and other crimes, the regime that went to war against the United States in Korea over 50 years ago and was responsible for most of America’s tens of thousands of combat deaths in that war. For those of you who are apparantly of divided loyalty for America versus your ethnic ancestry it’s time for you to make a choice: Either you are 100% for America , or you are not. If not, it’s time for you to pack your bags and return to your mother country. I, for one, have no tolerance for traitors: If you love Red China so much, why are you still here?? Just askin’.
    My comments:
    I believe and certainly hope this is minority view. American people should understand, ethnic Chinese in this country, whether they are here studying or settling down, are the best bridge between the two countries. For that matter, I hope more Americans travel, visit, study, do business or live in China. What better ways to promote understanding and the bonds between the two countries. I believe US and China will be the two most powerful and important countries in the world. In a time like this, you need those kinds of connections, bridges and bonds that force the two countries to work out the differences.
    Unlike European countries, US is an immigrant country with people of multiple cultures, ethnicities and religions. US should have more experiences, positive or negative, in dealing with racial and minority relationships. In that sense, Americans can understand and even have much to offer to China when it comes to dealing with minorities.
    I believe 30 years from now, US will look back with great satisfactions that it has the largest population of citizens of ethnic Chinese outside greater China, who will be the strongest connections between the two most important countries in the world, in good time or bad.

  11. Greg,
    I think jms’s opinion is a minority opinion- though despite the US being my own country I only feel confident talking about the northeast portion of it. I agree that having Chinese-Americans can be a link, but I also think that link fades over time- those Chinese-Americans I know who were born in the US don’t really relate to China, and often see things from the American perspective when it comes to things like T1b*t. On the other hand, they do retain some sort of emotional connection. Anyway, I do agree that is one point for optimism in what appears to me to be an increasingly depressing situation. I personally worry that the worldview the CCP promotes (ie, happy T1b*tans, racist Westerners, victimized China) is on a crash-course with reality as Westerners- and many other non-Chinese- see it. I’m not sure what the West can do to address what to Westerners is obviously imperialism (to Westerners, even if T1b*t was a proper province of China for 700 years straight, that fact alone doesn’t make it not imperialism) without causing some sort of nationalist backlash that inevitably involves cries of racism.

  12. We can debate all day but I agree that your opinion should be respected, just as should that of the 1.3 billion people. I just want to point out that the assumption that Chinese people don’t know better is not acturate at all. This is our free will, and it just so happens that it is also aligned with that of our government’s.
    About T1bet. Many Chinese know as much as the West know, if not more. Many of my friends have traveled to T1bet, many times. I have personal friends who are T1betan monks. I called them after the news of the riot broke out, concerned about their safety. Do many T1betans have bones to pick with the Hans, absolutely. Do most of them want “independence”? Not according to my personal observations. Mind you that the official stance of Dalai Lama is not independence as well, and he endorses the Olympics in Beijing. The issue is very complex and there should not be denying the Han government did not do a good enough a job to repair ethinic relations.
    About the Olympics. You protest to send a message to the Chinese government, but the Chinese people also received the message. They think that the Olympics is theirs to host, not their government’s. Do not assume it was the government who taught people to feel this way. The ordinary people reacted first while the state media was trying to keep it quiet.
    I might be at fault in questioning your motivation, but maybe you should also pause to think why 1.3 billion people feel differently. 1.3 billion people waited for a century for a chance to play a gracious host and a chance to be respected. What are they suppose to think when you tell them that their country is not good enough to be a host, and anything they do should meet ungentlement-like actions.
    When 1.3 billion say to you, please come to my house and let me show you who we are. You say, I don’t have to know you to judge who you are, I don’t have to see to know that you are this backward third world nation and that your house is a sh1thole; not only I will blindly reject your invitation, I will try everything in my power to stop other people to go to your home. You are Chinese / commies for God’s sake, when on earth is a time for your to host a party?
    Still wondering why 1.3 billion people don’t see the same light as you do?
    OK, I admit we might be a little bit over-sensitive about racism. I found these interesting pictures of people’s reaction to the torch relay in Agentina. See for yourself
    Do you want to know what the 1.3 billion people think about these pictures? These lovely people are our friends because they are happy for us.
    We only want to be a gracious host once in a hundred years, can you be a respectful guest, once, for a change?

  13. Steven Blayney – I’m sorry, but I think you’ve completely missed the subtlety of Minter’s point. It’s not that all whites are racist, etc etc … but that the racial divide between the two camps intensifies the anger and arguments over T!bet … and thus deepens the racial divide. It is happening on the Chinese side, for sure –
    (take at look at this horrifying post from Global Voices Online, if you don’t believe me:
    And it is there on the western side as well. Nobody is discounting that compassion and concern for human rights is motivating the protests (read Minter again: he says this). But the race factors intensifies them.
    I think it’s difficult for people who are convinced that they have the moral high ground to step back and take a look at how discrimination effects them, too.

  14. I don’t know what exactly Minter was trying to say, but I don’t think racism is the issue here, at least not the most prominent issue. Do white people came out in London, Paris and San Francisco to protest the Beijing Olympic torch relay because the Chinese are no white, non-western, non-Judeo Christian? While I don’t doubt that there are some who felt this way, but I don’t believe the majority were protesting China because China is not white. I do believe though, that the fact that China has been portrayed in the western media as a menacing threat (who is taking away jobs, something the LEFT hates; who is threatening the interests and dominance of the west, something the RIGHT hates) adds fuel to people’s existing perceptions, convictions and paranoia about China. The vast majority of these western protesters, as well as those newspaper editors condemning China know very little (next to nothing) about T1b*t, the history, the conflict, the ground reality etc. But they have already been told that China is a bad guy that they should be afraid of, therefore the natural knee-jerk reaction after they heard about the violence in T1ib*t was, “the evil China is killing innocent, peaceful T1bet*ns”.
    This is mostly not about race (I think race is a minor issue), but about perceptions.

  15. At this end, it’s mainland China only. At the other end, you don’t see Russians and Argentines all worked up, so it’s not quite a racial thing.
    There are sizable African and Muslim immigrants and descendants in countries such as the UK, France & the US. However, they were noticeably missing in the anti-China protests. That’s the troubling sight if you ask me. So Africans aren’t particularly upsett over China siding with “Arabs” oppressing “Africans” in Sudan, or Muslims over oppression against Uigurs, but some whites are.
    If you ask me, the answer is rather simple. Many just refuse to see it.

  16. ChesterG wrote:
    “…the racial divide between the two camps intensifies the anger and arguments over T!b*t … and thus deepens the racial divide. It is happening on the Chinese side, for sure -”
    Again, I don’t see any logical link between skin pigmentation and one’s ethics. If what you say is true (i.e., that race is an important factor driving peoples’ thinking), then this suggests that the predominant ideology of the Chinese may be race-based nationalism. If this is true, then we’ve got a huge problem since it is in the nature of an ideology to give the masses a sense of place, regardless of whether the ideology fits reality or not (see Arendt). If the Chinese are starting to use terms like “anti-Chinese”, then one should start to worry about where things might be headed. The masses will push this race-based nationalism forward, thus driving the leadership and policy forward with it. But, again, it’s all very irrational, illogical.
    Thank you.

  17. @Dan – Brendan O’Neil jumps straight from main-stream media pieces objecting to these men acting seemingly as police to extremist blogs peddling ‘yellow-peril’ style racism and late 19th century attitudes. Quite a stretch I feel.
    Is O’Neil going to say that the Japanese decision to prevent the precesence of these People’s Armed Police stems from fear of this ‘horrible, ominous, retarded’ manifestation of Fu Manchu-style eastern inscrutability? Or is it simply that it is unacceptable in a democratic, independent nation that paramilitary police of a tyranny should be allowed such a prominent position at a public event? Please note that many of the serious commentators also drew parallels with the role that the US secret serice insists on playing during state visits by the US president – and these men are also described in similar terms to the ones used above.

  18. Sorry Tian, I first of all know for a fact that all 1.3 billion Chinese do not have the same viewpoint. Seems like the sort of thing non-Chinese people would be called racist for saying, and at any rate it’s ridiculous. Even if it were true, that does not make them right. Second of all, the lack of willingness to even consider the possibility that China did something wrong is disturbing in and of itself. I personally think a lot of this has to do with education- Chinese national identity is based on China reclaiming Qing territory, no matter what the people on that territory happen to think. I think that’s why there’s such a lack of communication- most people in both China and the West assume that we have always had our current national identity, and never stop to think if other people could have different ways of viewing national identity, or if there is some fault with the way we view ourselves as a country.
    Finally, I have had the opposite experience in Tibet. Many Tibetans I met in Qinghai, Sichuan and the TAR told me they wanted independence, hated the government, hated Hans and/ or were oppressed. Many also liked the US because, they said, Bush helped Tibetans. (Very ironic from any viewpoint.) I did not ask people their opinions; they offered them. As for Chinese people “knowing Tibet better,” there are many Americans who are convinced there’s no such thing as racism, because they never encounter it themselves. The “I have Tibetan friends!” thing doesn’t work either- that’s a pretty common thing for many Americans trying to convince others (and themselves) that they’re not racist to say. Anyway, given the response of many Chinese people to the riots, I think Tibetans would be wise to not openly tell Hans what they think. In addition, Tibetan culture is quite different from Han culture- Buddhism may be all the two have in common. Confucianism, Legalism and Daoism are not part of Tibet’s cultural heritage, and important Tibetan historical figures like Guru Rimpoche, Milarepa and Tsongkhapa aren’t exactly known for their great influence on Hans. Same goes for Bonpo. Many Tibetans are nomadic; Chinese have not been nomadic for thousands of years. Point is, the roots of Tibetan and Chinese culture, Tibetan and Chinese lifestyles and therefore Tibetans and Chinese world views are arguably more different than those of the Chinese and Korean, Japanese or Vietnamese. I think this cultural difference is partly why the CCP has failed to end the threat of Tibetan separatism so far- actually I think they might have created a Tibetan national identity.
    Pffefer, I mostly agree with you about how China generally gets portrayed in the media, but I disagree about to what degree the media exaggerates, and I think the CCP’s restrictions on Western journalists and general lack of openness is partly to blame. I think most of them actually do care about the country, but simply loath the CCP- as do most Chinese people I know. I think I know how you feel, however- I hate it when non-Americans bring up Iraq just to humiliate me. I don’t mind if they’re just joking, but some people will only be satisfied if you tell them that Americans are idiotic barbarians. And even then they’ll rub it in.
    However, when it comes to Tibet, I think the Western media basically has it right, even if they don’t know what they’re talking about.

  19. Pffefer,
    I think you are right on regarding the issue. What irratates me, and about 1.3 billion people, is that the anti-Chinese camp are full of people who doesn’t know a thing about China, the history, the facts and the reality on the ground. Auguing whether this is a racial divide won’t come to any conclusion if you still define it as the difference in skin colors. To me, the racial divide is rather the division between cultures, social ideologies and what news channels one has been watching.
    To all the people who are upset when the Chinese community think they were biased, here’s a quote of a commentary from a senior CNN correspondent, Jack Cafferty, “Well, I don’t know if China is any different, but our
    relationship with China is certainly different. We’re in hawk to the Chinese
    up to our eyeballs because of the war in Iraq, for one thing. They’re
    holding hundreds of billions of dollars worth of our paper. We also are
    running hundred of billions of dollars worth of trade deficits with them, as
    we continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the
    poisoned pet food and export, you know, jobs to places where you can pay
    workers a dollar a month to turn out the stuff that we’re buying from Wal-
    Mart. So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed. I think
    they’re basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the
    last 50 years.”
    If you think that growing up under comments like this you are not brain washed, then there is really no point for us to debate here. I invite you to go to China, go to T1bet, see for yourself if China is what you have imagined.

  20. Not sure about the Brendan O’Neill/”Invasion of the robotic thugs” article. It was overly long given the premise so I only read about half, but he conveniently ignores that these “torch thugs” apparently entered Britain on a tourist visa and British officials did not know who they were, so according to my info it is wrong to state that they worked in tandem with the British authorities. Also, they did not only protect the torch and its bearer, they manhandled protesters and therefore assumed policing powers which they did not have.

  21. See a related article posted today by O’Neill that covers in more detail the Free T1b*t postcard.
    I think the point of this discussion is not that most/all “westerners” are racists (whether overtly or subconsciously), but that the media, which makes money by sensationalizing things, has deliberately fanned the flames of resentment towards anything Chinese (including, deliberately or not, Chinese people). For many, the resentment is vague, stemming from ignorance, and includes notions of China as a mysterious threat to Western jobs, ecohealth, safety (toys, food, drugs), etc. In short, much is reported of the bad from China (everything except maybe adorable little ling ling and xing xing at the zoo) and little of the good (nobody wants to read an article about the benefits their country has received from trade with China, for example).
    The ignorance (and unfortunately, bigotry–whether or not you call it racism is open to debate) is certainly not helped by the media portrayal of the protests/torch guards/china diaspora, as there is little attempt to separate the CCP regime and ordinary Chinese(much less parse out the differences in their feelings and motivations therefor).
    Going back to the original linked article, I think it’s abhorrent that the free t*bet campaign thinks its a good idea to keep on its website such a postcard–that paints a false black/white, good/evil picture of the t*bet/china issue. This is precisely the kind of thing that spreads ignorance and racist undertones and obscures the real issues relating to China’s presence in T*bet.
    In short, the average joe does not read blogs such as clb and therefore is not cognizant of the real debate, and is much more heavily swayed by the oversimplification/sensationalist tendencies of the mainstream media. This is particularly dangerous for long-term progress.

  22. @Dan – I think we first need to identify what is meant by ‘brainwashing’. According to Max Hasting’s book The Korean War The phrase was invented to describe the process of political re-education that former followers of the KMT and other regime enemies were subjected to in re-education camps after the end of the civil war. The Chinese for it is ‘洗脑’ (literally ‘wash brain’), and it entered the English language through press reports, especially those concentrating on the political re-education tactics that were used on UN POWs captured during the war in Korea. These are the kind of tactics that inspired books like ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ – as well as much concern surrounding the former POWs during this period of ‘reds under the bed’ paranoia.
    In reality the tactics were fairly ineffective and consisted of combining sessions of repeating communist theory parrot-fashion with various punishment for disobedience. Most of the POWs agreed that they were better treated by the Chinese than by the North Koreans, but the camps were hardly Disneyland. Of 7,000+ US POWs and 1,000+ UK POWs, only 20 US POWs and 1 UK POW decided to refuse re-patriation after the end of the war.
    Is ‘brain-washing’ an accurate term for describing pro-CCP state education, media controls and dispersement of propaganda through the media in China? If you mean of the kind that UN POWs were subjected to, then no, of course not – although regime enemies and criminal elements are still subjected to a modernised form of this through labour reform camps.
    Do these controls, then, constitute an attempt to control the thought patterns of the Chinese people? I would say that based on the way that political commentary in the media and political education in schools takes the form of a virtual CCP soliloquy this is certainly true, but again, is only marginally more effective than the type used on UN POWs. In any country propaganda is only effective where it goes along with people’s own prejudices, and is bound to fail where it does not.
    In conclusion – Brainwashing? Yes, after a fashion. Brainwashed? No, at least not the majority. Are accusations of brainwashing an attempt to dismiss all opinion that is not informed by the western media? Perhaps, but if so it merely forms a mirror-image to the attempts by some to dismiss western commentators as biased due to the effect of western media.
    Once again, I do not think that race is the important matter here. Instead it is simply the natural result of the reality-disconnect between western concepts of world events and those informed partly or wholly by the Chinese media. It is a lot easier for people to talk about ‘brainwashing’, ‘racism’ and ‘media bias’ than it is for them to see the true dis-connect between viewpoints.

  23. J B,
    I am not sure if I understood you, on a couple of things you said. First, different ways of viewing “national identity”: I understand that Han Chinese and Xizangren might have very different views regarding their national identity and as citizens of China, I think they need to reconcile and bridge their differences. But why should anybody care about how foreigners view OUR national identity, however different they maybe? I mean within a country you do want to have a consensus among your people, but who cares what foreigners think what your national identity is or should be? Do the Americans care about what the Chinese or Russians think what American national identity should be? Should they care? No.
    Secondly, I don’t know what made you think your experience and observations in Xizang are more credible those that of Tian’s. How many Xizangren did you meet? Where did you meet them? I thought all foreigners traveling in Xizang were accompanied by Chinese minders (so the western media told us). What made you think those Xizangren that you met were more representative of the people in Xizang than those that Tian met? Simply because you are a foreigner so they revealed their true feelings to you? Am I correct to guess the chances of Native Americans telling Tian how they hate the whites and the US government are much greater than the chances of them telling you that?
    Third, about why western media have always been casting China in a negative light: You blamed it on “the CCP’s restrictions on Western journalists and general lack of openness”. I can hardly agree. Western journalists have been digging up a lot of dirt in China for a long time. Without access, they wouldn’t have been able to do what they did. I think it is the typical western upbringing, all the perceptions, convictions that come with it that have clouded these people’s eyes, which have led people to believe that “Chinese government is evil, they can do nothing right; Chinese people are oppressed, they are dying to be liberated”, something like that, you know what I mean. Most foreigners, journalists or not, came to China with these perceptions and convictions and the distrust/hostility toward the CCP, and their experience in China only reinforced these convictions (of course the Chinese government takes most of the blame). An interesting phenomenon is that the most anti-China folks out there seem to be those who have been to China, to China’s chagrin. So much about the overrated importance of interaction and communication.
    Finally, I don’t know where you got the impression that most Chinese loathe the CCP from. The PEW Research Center told us that 89% of mainland Chinese are satisfied with the national government:

  24. It is completely ludicrous to say that the entire Chinese people is of one of the same opinion when it comes to T1b*t. There is a huge variety of view on the T1b*t issue, but a lot of people do not dare to speak frankly.
    If you are Chinese and try to initiate dialogue, you may face serious consequences, which one Chinese student at Duke has learned recently. After she was seen at a pro-T1b*t rally last week, her personal information was posted at the Duke Chinese Scholars and Students Association Web site, and both her and her family members in China have received death threats and harassment. What is even more scandalous is that the DCSSA has refused to take responsibility for what has happened and tries to blame the bad publicity on anti-Chinese sentiment. For more info, please read:

  25. Just got back from being out of town so have not had much chance to comment. Glad I waited though because the comment from ceh (around four comments up) perfectly reflects my views.

  26. This is a great discussion, though I think people are a little off track when they suggest that the original linked post was suggesting that westerners are racists for supporting pro-t1bet. I don’t think that was the point at all. The point I think is that small differences get sensationalized into big ones.
    Anyway, since this is the China Law Blog, I thought you all might get a kick out of how the original post has been re-written and expanded on another website. OnlineIP discussion anyone? See the new post here:

  27. Pffefer,
    First of all, I explained why I felt it unlikely that T1b*tans would tell Hans if they supported independence, namely because many Hans would not react too kindly. I don’t think this is a ridiculous thing to say because the situation is similar when it comes to opinions on race in the US; that is, many white Americans are unaware that racism (as opposed to racial tension) persists. In fact, I’d say the chances in China are even lower of a T1b*tan telling a Han they hate Hans, because in China many, maybe most, people think it is an undeniable fact that T1b*tans are happy to be part of China and are generously treated by the CCP. That many native Americans (or African Americans) hate white Americans would surprise very few people in the US. If white Americans were as unaware of racism as Hans than I don’t think Obama’s call for racial dialogue would be nearly as well-received- in fact, I don’t think we would have even gotten as far as having Black History Month. The reaction to Chang Ping certainly suggests as much.
    Second of all, you are free to believe whoever you like, it’s up to you to judge who’s more credible. My point was that in my experience, there is little to support the “happy T1b*tans” point of view. I think that was worth bringing up when Tian brought up what his T1b*tan friends told him. I also wanted to make the point that being within the same borders does not mean you understand T1b*tans better.
    As for why Chinese people should care what foreigners think, of course you don’t need to pay attention, I’m just airing my views because I think they are pertinent. I do think China’s case is unique, because China’s definition of China happens to involve saying that other peoples “became Chinese” and then claiming their territory, without considering whether or not these peoples actually do consider themselves Chinese. In the case of T1b*t, where the evidence available to me overwhelmingly suggests that T1b*tans do not consider themselves to be Chinese, and are no more Chinese than other Asian peoples, China’s view of its own national identity justifies what seems to me to be imperialism. In my view, China is occupying a people that have as much right to their own country as Americans did in 1776, and other colonized peoples have had since. If one country annexes another through force, I think it is an international issue, not a domestic one.
    Even aside from T1b*t, I think the Chinese definition of national identity logically leads to disturbing conclusions, like the necessity of using military force to retake Taiwan even if the Taiwanese want independence. I’ve even heard educated people (though very few of them) even say that Korea should pay tribute, and that everything east of eastern Europe should be part of China. I’m sure there’s someone in the US who wants someone’s territory, but I have yet to meet them, and I’ve met far more Americans than I have Chinese. Obviously that doesn’t mean that I can say for sure that these views are popular in China, but it is disturbing to hear that people still think this way.
    I think most people dislike the CCP because I have heard most of my Chinese friends criticize it and very few people say good things about it. Loath might be too strong a word, I’ll admit. As for the Pew poll, perhaps my own views are limited since I mostly knew urban Chinese, especially Beijingers. On the other hand, I also found that the people who said good things about the CCP tended to be people I did not know well- I suspect many Chinese people are more defensive about the CCP when talking to foreigners they don’t know well.
    Finally, I sort of agree with you on the media. I’m sure a lot of people do come to China with preconceptions. But regardless, even though reporters can dig up a lot of bad news in China, this does not mean they do not get harassed by government officials or run into other assorted problems, and indeed there are many stories about the difficulties of reporting in China. Certainly the reporting environment is not what it is in the West. I think part of the problem is that a lot of Chinese think things are very free now, because there’s been an improvement over the last 30 years, but to many Westerners the government is still oppressive. Hence the feeling among Westerners that of course Chinese people would want to be free of the CCP. I personally think that issues among the Han, and minorities who could not practically have their own country (eg, Manchu, Tujia and almost everyone not T1b*tan and U1ghur), should be left to China.
    What makes you so sure reporters go to China with those sorts of impressions anyway? If, as you seem to think, people become anti-China after they go there (which I think is wrong, by the way), doesn’t that suggest that reporters are not necessarily prejudiced from the beginning, and become “prejudiced” during their time there? And what do you think it is that gives non-Chinese a negative impression of China while living there?

  28. J.B., let me first make clear that I don’t claim to know what the T1betans think just because I happen to have a few friends. Some of them may very well want indepence but that has not stopped me from being there friends. I was also invited into T1betans’ homes a couple of times. I still have a standing invitation from a beautiful young girl who works at GeSangMeiDuo, a T1betan restaurant in Beijing. She is studying English in Beijing and was in some commercials with Jackie Chen. She calls my wife sister and could not stop talking to us about her dreams and goals, and seeking our advise and help. In another incidence, when we visited a T1betan friend’s home, his mom waited outside the village for hours for our arrival. She burst into tears when she saw the guests from the furthest place she knows. Will these people speak in a different voice under a different circumstance? Probably yes. My monk friend went to the street and protested. You see, the reality on the gound isn’t as black and white as you might think. Sometimes you also need to seperate a vent of frustration, the making of a point, from absolute determination. Not the best example but I heard some people from Shanghai and GuangZhou saying they should be independent countries so their GDP per capita could be among the world’s top. The point is, I don’t pretend to be an expert on T1betan issue, but to say that the West knows better is really not well-founded as well. One thing you are right is that T1betan people are very very different from the Hans, therefore the Hans should be very careful with their imperial mindset — sorry, not to rub it in, but the most recent example I can think of is still Iraq. We should not go in there trying to export our values and way of life.
    About the west media, looks like most of you don’t think they are biased when it comes to matters regarding China. Fine, let’s call them opinionated. Also let’s look at some of the facts. When reporting the riot, most media conveniently ignored the fact that the uprising turned violent. Nancy Poloci was in CA when the Rodny King riot broke out. What did the state government do? They sent in the national guards – that is what government do. It is one thing to investigate why some T1betans went violent, it is another to think the government should stand by. The palestinians may have good reasons, but they doesn’t appear to make their violence acceptable. Some other facts, when CNN put up a picture of “Chinese crack down of T1betans”, they conveniently “forgot” to put the caption under the picture as “Napalean police beating up the monks”. The list can go on. I am not saying they are biased, but they are certainly opinionated, and therefore NOT impartial. No doubt the West media is much better than the Chinese media since they can say whatever they want – arguable but true for the most part. However, the problem lies exactly in that they said what they want to say – simplifying issues, filtering facts and creating perception through sensation. In stead of looking at the facts and use logic to draw conclusions, they start with an opinion and support that opinion with selective facts. One of my professors who is a China expert and former senior advisor in the Clinton administration, told me that the reason he refused showing up on Lou Dobbs is because “he is not serious about seeking opionions or debates. He simply wants me to justify his point”.
    I agree with you that 1.3 billion people don’t speak with one voice. In fact, here are some voices of reasoning: if can read Chinese. Some of the main points: (1)China does not have a culture/system of allowing minority opinions. Tolerance of the majority with minority view is very low among Chinese; (2)China does not have democracy and its people tends to self-censoring (my comment: kind of similar to the notion of being politically correct); (3) No sides in this big debate will prevail since each side came from a different value system and priorities, therefore there is no need to get too excited over what the West had to say about China; (4)In all the demonstrations, the pro-China camp were trying to dominate the anti-China camp (I am not sure if I completely agree with this observation but I do believe there are extremists in both camp.) (5)the Hans have been using its majority size to culturally dominate the T1betans (I think this is true even though sometimes it is done subconciously)
    So I guess we’ll never settle this debate since everybody thinks his opinion is superior. All I know is that in the most likelihood, T1bet will remain part of China, the games will go on and China will continue to grow economically and politically. For all those who truly give a damn about China, let just hope that she will be better tomorrow than today.

  29. J B,
    I think it really matters who you meet and what crowds you hang out with. As you said your Chinese friends had little good things to say about the CCP and that you don’t know many who view the CCP favorably, that tells me that you tend to meet and hang out with those who share similar views. Maybe you met those Xizangren the same way you met your Chinese friends. And your own view does impact how you see the world. If I were a pro-CCP guy I probably would somehow end up meeting mostly pro-CCP folks and I would in turn believe that most people are pro-CCP. You see what I am saying?
    Despite the fact that China has always been a multi-ethic nation, the contemporary concept “Zhong Guo” was quite new. The modern Chinese state (which was first founded in 1911) inherited the “5 peoples-Manchurian, Han, Xizangren, Mongolian and Hui/Muslim/Uighur/Kazak etc making up China” concept from Qing and perfected it (you had the 5-color banner before it was replaced by the ROC flag embodying the KMT emblem which was signed by Dr. Sun) by officially acknowledging that there are 56 ethnic groups. Most of these people are more or less “sinicized”, or they have been under Han Chinese influence or control for a long time. Some of them, such as Xizangren, Uighurs, Kazaks etc. have little common cultural bond with the Han Chinese, you are right on that, but who is to say they should not be Chinese? To say that you are suggesting only the Hans are Chinese. There is no denying there are many unhappy Xizangren, as well as unhappy Han Chinese, unhappy Manchurians, unhappy Mongolians etc. Just how representative they are of their respective population, I don’t know.
    If the US could get away with waging wars against the Mexicans to annex a big chunk of their territory that had nothing to do with the US whatsoever before, why can’t China annex Xizang, especially there have been some sort of prior association between the two for a couple hundred years? I think the question right now is not whether Xizang is part of China (it clearly is part of the PRC and has been part of it for almost 60 years) or whether China’s claim has any historical ground to it (I believe Xizang was part of Qing China after Emperor Kangxi incorporated it into China, and Xizang was officially part of the ROC), the question should be what can be done in Xizang to improve human rights, religious freedom and economic opportunities for all residents of Xizang. An independent Xizang is out of the question.
    What I meant regarding some foreigners becoming more negative living in China: I have known many expats and a few journalists who worked here in China. The majority of them were very opinionated, a lot of them came to China, or were sent to China already with the preconceptions that China is “this and that”, which tend to be very negative. Over time these preconceptions did not go away, on the contrary they helped turn everything they experienced in China into some sort of supporting evidence to reinforce their preconceptions and judgments. Let me give you an example: J came to China on an assignment. He came believing the Chinese had no human rights or rights and freedom or any sort, people were unhappy, he loathed the “commies”. After he arrived, he thought everything was awful, the food, the job, the people he met. He talked to the Chinese often in a provoking and condescending way “We don’t have this kind of !@#$ in the States!”, “I can’t believe you people have to endure this” etc. His job required him to deal with the authorities a lot. He developed an attitude. Later he would get angry for no reason when he dealt with the Chinese authorities. It’s like what I said above, your own view and convictions impact how you see the world. If I think China sucks for whatever reason, everything I run into in China is going to suck. The average joe thinks China is this and that, where does “this and that” come from? None other than these “fair and balanced” western journalists.

  30. I’m sorry, but I simply cannot tolerate the Chinese immigrants protesting our policies, our media, on our soil. Regardless of issue, this is America, the most accepting nation on the planet. Even so, the overseas Chinese waving their flags should be a clear warning sign to Americans everywhere. We are not intolerant, racist, nor sinophobic – as the Chinese are quick to point out. The sovereignty and unity of this nation comes first before any right or ideal, regardless of what the average commoner wants to think. It would be much better for both immigrant and American if you left your nationalism back in China.

  31. The sovereignty and unity of this nation comes first before any right or ideal? Haha, the CCP would like to hire you as their chief spokesman.
    Jokes aside, I too think that flag waving is a little bit too much, which also applies to the anti-China camp.
    So according to you the Chinese immigrants don’t have the right to protest “your” policies and “your” media. I suppose you think the right is reserved only for “people like you”? Of course you do not have the slightest hint of racism in you, except that you just revealed your true “color”.

  32. TK,
    Does the US have laws prohibiting public display of foreign flags? If not, on what grounds are you going to ban these rallies without being called “intolerant”?
    No protesting of US policies, media or anything on US soil? That means foreigners in the US are indeed second class citizens.
    I remember people blasting the Chinese government for removing foreign FLG protesters in Tiananmen Square. I thought the US was better than China.

  33. @TK
    Su*k it. I can exercise my First Amendment Right to wave a Chinese flag anytime I want. That’s freedom and America, baby. If you don’t like it, you are free to leave this country.

  34. Not sure racism is the issue but there appears to be a growing sinocentric suspicion that criticism of China is a criticism of Asia and Asians that I don’t think is supportable. Wouldn’t it have come out in the Tokyo or Seoul Olympics? Why is China emblematic of “Asia” more than Korea or Japan?
    I’ll concede the brainwashing image as ignorance but China’s intractability over its social and ethnic problems certainly doesn’t help that image.

  35. KU,
    Tokyo’s Olympics were held in 1964 and, have you forgotten the treatment that Japan got in the West in the ’80s and early ’90s? Lest you think Japan enjoyed the batting, does “Japan That Can Say No” ring a bell?
    As for South Korea, let me offer you some hints: South Korea has a population of 40 million, has been under military occupation of US. Why would anyone in the West concern about it even if it was still a military dictatorship at the time?

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