Two great, absolutely must read posts over at The Useless Tree Blog. One is Understanding China — or not and the other is More on Understanding China. Both ask whether it is possible for non-Chinese people to understand China and both answer in the affirmative:
The point is that there is no one perspective, inside or outside of a culture, that will yield uniformly valid and reliable knowledge. Knowledge is always a product of the interaction and collision of multiple sources and perspectives. That is why it is so important, insofar as the production of knowledge is concerned, to try to maintain as open and free-flowing an environment as possible. Distortions and obstructions are inevitable; the only way around them is through access to more information, more analysis, more points of view.
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If there is a problem with knowledge about China, it is less a matter of how some Americans get things wrong (which is obviously true: some Americans do get some things wrong; and at times many Americans get some things wrong); the much larger problem is the limitations on knowledge within China itself.
These are two very thoughtful posts and I urge everyone to read them.
And if you want to read more on somewhat similar issues, check out Looking Out Airplane Windows In China Is For Grizzled Old China Hands ONLY.
What do you think?