Bear with us today, it’s a long road to the question.
A few places around the China blog community have linked Bob Page’s excellent article “Are online relationships between China and the US boiling over? Rednecks against Red Guards?”, which is itself a response to Kaiser Kuo’s excellent lecture at UNL, “Shouting Across the Chasm: Chinese and American Netizens Clash in Cyberspace”. Kuo said of the relationship between American and Chinese netizens:
Each side seems well prepared to believe the worst about the other. But this is the Internet we’re talking about, which many of us believed would bring down barriers and usher in the death of distance, the good times of a global village. Instead, it has made us more fractured and tribal […] It’s also true within America, where nowadays you only read the political blogs and viewpoints of those who happen to be on your side of the political aisle.
Listen only to those who are shouting the loudest on each side and one could very easily conclude that this is a war between Red Guards and rednecks.
With this thought in mind, we were interested to stumble across this post on popular video gaming blog Kotaku, which concerns the spat between two government bodies: the Ministry of Culture and General Administration of Press and Publication, which Warcraft’s Burning Crusade expansion is caught in the middle of. The original post seems fair enough and — perhaps unsurprisingly — the comments range from intelligent and reasoned to…well, something else entirely. We think they’re interesting, especially when compared and contrasted with the netizen comments about the West in ChinaSMACK posts. Here are some samples:
First, I would like to say I don’t know what China is like. Never been there. I’m SOMEWHAT educated. I go to college, whatever that counts for. Maybe the reason people in China are so into WoW (I can’t even give an estimate of how many are addicted, but I know half of all registered users for WoW are from that region right? I’ll work with that) is that it just plain sucks to live there? Just a blind guess, no offense to anyone, I would LOVE to be terribly mistaken.
I mean, I hear kids are learning multiplication tables when they’re like 4? I was still learning to wipe my own ass when I was 4 (sometimes still can’t do it).
Isn’t that the theory we got going on with Japan? Their social structure is so intense a lot of the men are somewhat.. despondent?
I don’t know. But I’m thinkin’ the issue goes beyond WoW. WoW is just the most attractive, easy, and cheap escape.
Again I swear to God if someone takes offense and calls me a racist uneducated bastard I hope you get mauled by a bear. A bear with swords. And lasers.
Also feel free to tell me what it’s like in mainland China!
eff CHINA AND EFF COMMUNISM! VIVA LA REVOLUCION!!!
Hey China. Maybe if your country didnt suck so much and your citizens were actually worth something and could make a life for themselves, they wouldn’t need to have fulfilling virtual fake lives in online games.
It’s the most logical thing to do if you are to build up home grown video gaming force. Nothing can rise from the pummelling that WoW would dish to all competition. I bet this has nothing to do with skeletons or violence issues. China is not letting a foreign company drain it’s gaming potential revenue. I bet a chinese rip off of WoW x Final Fantasy is being made right now to be released next year. Biggest smoking nation on Earth? Get ready for the biggest MMO community that Blizzard [the company that makes WoW] could only dream about.
This is just until they cook up a totally castrated version of the game that shows absolutely nothing resembling violence or morbidity and kicks you off after 90 minutes of play with a cheery “Give thanks to the party for wisely regulating your time!” message, presumably.
Looks like Blizzard is having a hard time figuring out who to bribe.
All in all, seems to me they look pretty similar to what Chinese comments about a comparable Western issue might be. Some crazy, some reason, and plenty ignorant. Still, as Kaiser Kuo put it,
I want to make it clear, lest you think that I feel that the burden of understanding or the blame of misunderstanding should fall squarely on Western shoulders that I personally believe there is ample blame to go around.
Indeed. Kaiser Kuo makes some prescriptions for remedying the misunderstanding from the Western side — his audience, like the audience of this blog, was primarily Western — which Bob Page summed up in his article in so concise a format that we’re just going to steal it:
1. Do not be condescending with Chinese on the Internet. They know how to access information and circumvent firewalls, using proxy servers and virtual private networks. Do not assume they are brainwashed drones. It does not support constructive dialogue.
2. Learn what Chinese people actually think when their defenses are down. The conversations taking place when it’s not believed ‘whitey’ is around are decidedly more nuanced. Westerners can read this dialogue, translated into English from Chinese, on “bridge blogs” such as ChinaGeeks, ChinaSmack, ChinaHush, and Danwei. (Another valuable resource: EastWestNorthSouth*.) [*sic, he means EastSouthWestNorth]
3. Read a book of relevant history. China is freighted with historical baggage, and it’s not something Chinese people easily shrug off. To start, Kuo suggests “The Search for Modern China” by Jonathan Spence.
The real purpose of this post, though, is to put the question to you. Do you think it’s important for regular people in China and the West to understand each other? What more can we do to stem the tide of extremism and raise the volume and visibility of some of the more moderate, sensible dialogue that’s happening in both places but rarely heard about outside their borders?