Sunday, August 07, 2005

English blogs in China

English blogs in China:the disappointing ethnocentrismmajones Updated: 2005-07-22 09:48

I would like to draw the attention of readers to the plethora of English-language China blog sites that currently pollute cyberspace. As a foreigner living here in China, I am deeply disturbed and embarrassed by the blatant anti-Chinese discourse that most of these sites peddle.
Sites like Peking Duck (, The Horse's Mouth ( and the Angry Chinese Blogger ( all identify themselves as anti-Chinese Communist Party sites, though they also pretend to like and to admire the Chinese people.
The problem with these sites is that they not only attract anti-CCP rants, but also vomit loads of puerile China-bashing. Just take one of today's threads from the Peking Duck for example: one contributor, a guy by the name of Gordon (who also happens to run the Horse's Mouth site), posted a passage from John Mandeville's "Travels" which he described as "humorous" even though it is blatantly insulting to Chinese culture. Here is the "humorous" passage:
"The aims of meals in China are to transfer food onto the table and floor, and to get other people's spit into your mouth. These purposes are facilitated by eating with sticks, and by swirling your sticks round in the communal dishes. It's also polite to talk with your mouth full, so that everyone can see exactly what you're eating. And the Chinese love dogs and cats; normally one between two is enough. Amuse your friends by showing how far you can spit the bones! Chinese restaurants are easy to locate: just look out for what appears to be a pet shop. Most Chinese people like the idea of trying Western food, but in practice they are invariably disappointed that it does not taste like Chinese food. Ideally, Chinese food should not taste of food at all, but instead of chilli paste, salt, vinegar and of course MSG."
This kind of "humor" in my opinion is outright insulting to all Chinese people and their food culture. But what I find particularly sad is that this kind of vindictiveness is typical of many of the contributors and hosts of English-language China blogs. They seem to always find it necessary to ridicule China every chance they get, and most of the bile that dribbles from the mouths of these self-proclaimed China "experts" constitute little more than pure nonsense. Today's conversation over at the Peking Dork (sorry, Duck) centres around the safety of Chinese food, with some commentators arguing that the only safe food to eat in China is KFC or McDonald's! Everything that grows in China, some of them are claiming, is far too toxic to consume.
Earlier this week, the Peking Duck crowd were busy filling in their time whinging about how many Chinese are in the habit of allowing their young children to defecate everywhere in public, and even on the floor of other peoples' homes. The subtext in all of these rants is always the same: that the Chinese are somehow less civilised than Westerners.
Here is yet another typical example of the kind of ridiculing so common to these blogs, this time from Gordon of The Horse's Mouth: "Not only does this country lack the rule of law," he says, "but it also lacks quality control for any and every goddamned thing it produces. It doesn't matter if you buy a 30rmb CD or a 300,000rmb flat, you still get short-changed."
It's absolute nonsense of course, but Gordon would rather portray China as being dysfunctional and inferior instead of producing far more balanced assessments.
In another of Gordon's threads, titled "China, the beautiful", a guest blogger complains how he thinks "China is a nasty filthy country" characterised by extreme pollution, populated by people who spit everywhere and whose public toilets are too dirty to even describe. The point of this rambling overstated case soon becomes clear when the guest blogger draws a comparison with his own country: "I am willing to concede that there are places in my own country, the US of A," he says, "that sometimes are not clean, but by far, the United States most certainly exceeds anything in China in hygiene, hospitalization, and charitable trusts."
And that sums up what these blogs are really all about: they provide forums for arrogant ethnocentric Westerners to boast about how great they think their own countries are when compared to China - and in doing so they can't help but to ridicule and to belittle and to exaggerate and to distort.
The other thing that these sites all share in common of course is that they reserve all of their most stinging attacks for the Chinese Communist Party, and when doing so, they almost always fail to acknowledge any of the positive legacies of the Party. They prefer instead to view the CCP as monolithic and "evil". Richard Burger, who runs Peking Duck, outlines the "purpose" of his site in his rant titled "Looking back at China, the purpose of this blog": The CCP is a "destructive" force he claims, "like an elephant brushing up against a sapling and crushing it....I also have understood for a long time that the current CCP is amazingly similar to the ancient emperors' regimes, in which government was to be used not for the benefits and protection of its subjects, but for ensuring the survival of its leaders."
And Richard's ranting silliness continues: "As far as trade and commerce goes, I think the CCP has been a bungler, hardly the geniuses some would have it. The people made their money because the government got out of their way, not because the CCP offered great financial wisdom. With foreign trade, the party deserves even less credit. Ask any foreign company doing business in China what kind of hoops they had to jump through and how many palms they had to grease along the way. It's as though the CCP has put up every conceivable obstacle to real free trade for outsiders. This is a key component of the corruption system that keeps Party members rich and that created the 'princeling' phenomenon."
What Richard and others like him fail to appreciate and to adequately acknowledge is that the CCP has brought about more good than it has bad. They refuse to see that China's stunning economic development has produced a dramatic political liberalisation in this society compared to two decades ago, one that promises to eventually transform China into a modern nation. Impatient Westerners like Richard do not understand how much China has changed. Consider Deng Xiaoping's wider legacy for example: according to the World Bank, since China opened its economy in 1978, when Deng first came to power, its gross domestic product has increased from $362 billion to $11.9 trillion. Last year alone, GDP grew 9.1 percent. As a result of the rapid economic growth and adequate poverty reduction policies that include having wealthy cities forming partnerships with poorer areas, the number of people in China living on less than $1 per day dropped from 490 million in 1981 to 88 million last year. During this period the country's output has increased more than eightfold and the average income has risen by 7% a year, passing $1,000 for the first time in 2003. China's economic expansion has been on a scale and at a speed the world has never seen before. Since opening its economy in 1978, China has accounted for three-quarters of all the people in the world lifted out of abject poverty! Perhaps no other world leader can claim to have done so much for humanity, as Deng Xiaoping. Still, his legacy is certainly a mixed one, for he nevertheless does have some blood on his hands - but too many foreigners prefer to fixate themselves on "that" incident, rather than to open their eyes to the bigger picture.
If we accept the notion of modernity with Chinese characteristics, as I do, then the need for a critical reading of it cannot be denied because Western modernity itself has also been subjected to sharp criticism. Many of the criticisms raised in these English-language China bog sites are valid, for sure, but the problem with most of them is that they seriously lack in fairness and balance. They are nowhere near objective enough. Instead, they serve as little more than hate sites.
by China-lover!
The above content represents the view of the author only.


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