Hu Xingdou: Wen Jiabao, Hero of the Chinese People

China's greatest hero!

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao really has been on a roll in the past 8 months, seemingly mentioning the need for political reform and the importance of universal values like human rights, freedom and democracy on every possible occasion, starting with his prominently featured article about his former mentor Hu Yaobang in March.

The reactions have been diverse. Parts of the Western press celebrated Wen as China’s new reformer, weighing the possibility of fundamental change in the country’s political system. In liberal Chinese media too he was applauded for his orientation and determination on further reform, especially in the run-up to the party plenum in mid-October when hopes where running high that political reform might be a central issue – which it was not. Others stayed skeptic. Writer Yu Jie suggested that he was merely putting on a show in an attempt to mollify a public that is increasingly unsatisfied with the practices of officialdom. Others, like Hu Ping, pointed out that he might be sincere, but still in no position to take any kind of action.

Still, support has been pouring out to Wen, especially since it became known that the words of the Premier himself had repeatedly fallen prey to the censorship system, most notably his discussion of political issues (see below) during a CNN-interview in late September, cementing his status as a leading figure of the Chinese liberal wing. He also seems to have gotten a verbal smack on the back of his head: A prominent editorial in the party-mouthpiece People’s Daily dismissed the possibility of introducing Western-style democratic institutions (no surprises there) but also stated that “the idea that China’s political reform is seriously lagging behind its remarkable economic development is contrary to […] objective facts” – which seems to be a direct rebuttal to his words in Shenzhen (also see below).

Maybe the greatest impact of his speeches was that they served as an “ideological beacon” for intellectuals to launch their arguments for political reform and discuss specific steps deemed necessary (see for example here and here), but also to voice their general support for universal values and the ideals of freedom and democracy.

When I first read the article below on Hu Xingdous blog I filed it under the latter category, since it contained no explicit reform suggestions. When I found that the article had been harmonized a few days later, not only from his blog but also from others where it had been re-posted, I started wondering about why it had been deemed censorable. While it seems that a few posts containing parts of Wens harmonized interview have been deleted and the way Wens words were pieced together on Hu’s blog does make him sound like a co-author of the Charta 08, the use of the word “hero” and its implications might also have been a reason.

Grandpa Wen always has an open ear for the people...

Once someone is elevated from the status of a normal person – which even Grandpa Wen still is – and is adapted as the hero of a cause, his original words and actions become less and less important. A hero serves as a canvas on which hopes, ideals and expectations are projected. He can become a catalyst for change.


Wen Jiabao, Hero of the Chinese People

Hu Xingdou, October 8th, 2010

Wen Jiabao is a real hero of the people and a true man of modern China. Within the last couple of month he has brought up [the topic of] political reform on six occasions, showing extraordinary courage. Especially the views that he expressed during an interview with CNN on September 23rd were groundbreaking:

  • “The people’s wishes and need for democracy and freedom are something that cannot be stopped.”
  • “No political party, organization, or individual should be above the constitution and the law. All must act in accordance with the constitution and laws. I see this as a defining feature of a modern political system. I have summed up my political ideals in the following four sentences: to let everyone lead a good and dignified life, to let everyone feel safe and secure, to create a fair and just society and to let everyone have confidence in the future.”
  • “Although there are various debates and views in society and in spite of all kinds of obstacles, I will do everything in my power to unswervingly pursue the realization of my ideals and advance the process of political reform. I would like to say the following to underline my determination: ‘In spite of strong wind and harsh rain, I will not yield until my last breath.'”
  • “It is the people and the power of the people that determine the history and the future of the nation. The wishes and will of the people are irresistible. Those who will walk along this way will thrive; those who go against it will fail.”

Wen Jiabaos “appeal” represents the conscience of officialdom and the hope of the people. It embodies the determination of the people and is a call out from a developing society. His words resonated with and shook the soul of every Chinese.

Before this interview, Wen Jiabao cited and further developed Deng Xiaoping’s ideas during his recent speech in Shenzhen:

  • “We should not only promote the reform of the economic system, we also have to move forward with a reform of the political system. If we don’t ensure a reform of the political system, we are in danger of loosing the advancements we made in the economic reforms and will not be able to realize our goal of modernization.”
  • “We must continue to emancipate us from old ideas and dare to explore. We cannot stagnate and even less move backwards. Stagnation and regression might not only ruin the achievements of 30 years of political reform and destroy valuable opportunities for development, it could also suffocate the vital undertaking of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Furthermore, acting against the will of the Chinese people can only be a dead end.”

At the National Work Conference for Legal Administration, Wen Jiabao – referring to the lack of rule of law and the personal rule that has taken hold in China – stressed, that the rule of law is the most important benchmark of a mature and modern political system, we must “govern according to the law and built a government founded on the rule of law”. “In a time of peace and development, the greatest danger to a ruling party is corruption. And the root of corruption is a lack of supervision and restriction of power. If these issues are not sufficiently resolved, the nature of the political power itself can change, leading to a situation where the whole undertaking comes to a stop because the leading figure ceases to exist.”

Wen Jiabao can be described as the direct successor of Deng Xiaoping in the cause of reform and opening-up. He holds up Deng’s ideas and continuously appeals for a liberation from old ideologies and further political reform. He cares about civil rights and peoples livelihood. Sparing no effort, walking into impoverished villages and dangerous mines, he also was the first to appear in the earthquake disaster area and at the location of the mud-slides. Countless Chinese were moved by these actions and history should always remember the name of this great Premier.

In one of his answers, Wen also pointed out that “democracy, rule of law, freedom, human rights, equality and fraternity are not [values] exclusive to capitalism, [but that] these are common achievements of the entire world reached in a long process of civilization and values pursued by all of humankind.” He believes that universal values are the root of the party and the foundation of the republic.

Thousands sacrificed their lives for the universal values of freedom and democracy. But now a group of people – that had once proudly pursued these ideals – has sunken into vested interests. “Freedom” and “democracy” became a thorn in their sides and thus turned into “sensitive” and “filtered” words. Have these people done justice to their predecessors and comrades-in-arms that sacrificed themselves for freedom and democracy? The word “republicanism” itself contains the concepts of freedom and democracy and thousands of corpses have piled up in the building of the republic. So when groups with vested interests and reactionaries try to ban those ideals today, they are essentially trying to subvert the republic and overturn the state!

Fortunately the people’s hero Wen Jiabao defends the founding principles of the party and the republic like a lone soldier and courageous knight. But he is by no means alone, the majority of 1.3 billion people stand behind him.

A small number of people – failing to understand high-level politics – criticize the Premier who is fighting bravely on his own for “showing off and playing nice” and insinuate that he is “all talk but no action”. They do not comprehend that Wen is only one person amongst nine and accounts for only one vote in nine, even less that his policy making power lies in the domain of economics. Expecting him to abolish the reeducation through labor system and to release certain people [is futile since these] are by no means things that he can accomplish. Furthermore [it should be considered] that for politicians speaking actually equals acting. [Speaking] is a form of social mobilization and its power and value might even be stronger than that of some particular actions.

Some people object that Wen is only about saving the existing system, since he always uses [official] terms like “socialistic” and other such concepts in his speeches, and that he hasn’t really pushed for independence of the legal system and freedom of the press as [a realization of] universal values. This understanding is indeed naïve. If Wen Jiabao – who is part of the system but also wants to promote social progress – had abandoned the language conventions of said system (and as a matter of fact, real socialism isn’t such a bad thing), he would have been cast of the stage a long time ago. And where are the opportunities to do something good for the people then? With populists and ultra-leftists accusing him of being a “capitalist roader” he is already being attacked from all sides.Therefore Wens distinctive way of speech actually reflects his great political wisdom.

Some denounce the support for Wen Jiabao as “infantilism” and think that it is a manifestation of a “servant mentality” of relying on wise monarchs and honest officials. Actually, in a people’s society officials can be criticized, but should also be praised, as long as all judgment is passed on the basis of dignity and equality. Indeed, China should not wait for wise monarchs and honest officials, instead citizens have a responsibility to show their appreciation and enthusiasm to the politicians with modern concepts that are here now.

Therefore, we give all our support to Premier Wen and hope that he realizes his aims – “To promote political reform with all one’s strength” and “to let equality and justice shine brighter than the sun.”

At the moment Wen might be the most powerless politician and some people might even rejoice when they see him besieged, but the majority of the Chinese people stand upright behind their hero – Wen Jiabao!


While it remains to be seen if Wen Jiabao is an idle talker, a true reformer or if he will turn out to be China’s highest ranking dissident, there surely are more eyes on him now when it comes to the political direction that China is going to take in the future. If the picture that Hu Xingdou draws of him is any indication, he does have the potential to become more than simply a politician/benevolent grandpa. As a hero, even an accidental one, he would not be so “powerless” anymore – just remember the chain of events that the death of the much revered reformer Hu Yaobang set in motion.

In Brief: Han Han on Criticism from Li Ao and Chen Wenqian

Han Han may be beloved (to some) on the Mainland and despised (by some) in the Party, but two of his harshest critics, Li Ao and Chen Wenqian, are from Taiwan. In general, he has declined to respond at all to their criticism, but in a recent interview, he finally spoke out.

We asked him: “When people praise you, how do you feel about it? When people belittle you, how do you mitigate that? Taiwan’s Chen Wenqian and Li Ao have been heavily critical of you, but you haven’t responded, what does that mean?

Han Han said: “In the past I fought many battles through my blog, but later I gave myself a rule: if the opponent is older than 70, under 20, or a woman, I will not respond. Li Ao and Chen Wenqian both fall under this rule. But I would like to say to Mr. Li Ao: if A and B have a disagreement, and then A and you have a disagreement, this doesn’t mean you have to go and side with B [on everything]. There is another kind of attitude, it’s called independence.

We asked him, “How can you be so blunt?” He said, “Aside from the girls and family members I like, seeing everything else as devoid of substance is OK.”

Not attacking children and old folks, that part makes sense. But refusing to respond to criticism from any woman? That’s just plain sexist. And sadly, this is far from the first time.

It’s not difficult to imagine how a young, famous, attractive race car driver/professional writer might come to have a skewed image of women. But that doesn’t make this attitude acceptable, or any less disappointing for those of us who enjoy his writing and social criticism on the occasions it doesn’t betray this bias.

Very possibly, Han Han’s lifestyle will allow him to look down on women and others in general for the foreseeable future. But one wonders to what extent his fans, as they age and mature, will begin to shy away. Moreover, one wonders to what extent his much-touted influence will wane as media elites and intellectuals continue to edge away from his positions, afraid of being associated with his increasingly-public misogyny.

There are few sharper tongues in China, and at his most poignant, he drives directly to the heart of this country’s most fatal flaws. It’s a shame he insists on blunting his own sword with these sexist, arrogant remarks.

Thanks to Isaac Mao (@isaac) for tweeting the quotation and thus calling it to our attention.

Fatal Car Accident Uncovers More University Plagiarism

Recently, the “My Dad is Li Gang” incident has been white hot on the Chinese internet. The short version: a drunk rich kid plowed an expensive car into two pedestrians on the campus of Hebei University and tried to drive away — twice — without even stopping to see how they were. One student was killed in the accident, and another seriously injured. When accosted by guards, the kid cried arrogantly, “Sue me if you dare, my Dad is Li Gang.” Li Gang is a high-level police official.

The scandal has drawn attention, again, to the privilege and wealth associated with government officialdom. Li Qiming, the son, has already been arrested — and done some public weeping on CCTV — but the anger and attention has brought to light several other issues. Li Gang, it turns out, owns five houses, and his son was driving a remarkably expensive car, and netizens are enraged at yet another example of official corruption and arrogance.

The Hebei University president, too, has been implicated in a scandal that would never have come to national attention if it weren’t for Li Qiming’s murderous drunk driving. Netizens have uncovered that he’s suspected of having plagiarized 27,000 characters of his thesis. The following is a translation from Wang Keqin’s blog, with occasional commentary interspersed from us.

As early as March of this year, a netizen called “Truth Seeker” posted on the website Xinyusi that large parts of the seventh chapter of Hebei University Party Secretary and President Wang Hongrui’s Ph.D thesis were identical to content from a Master’s thesis written by Yanshan University Electrical Engineering student Wu Jianzhen.

Apparently, at the time, no one was particularly interested, and the story was not picked up by major media outlets. But then…

Yesterday, a reporter from the Morning News borrowed the two thesis from the National Library. After carefully examining them, the reporter discovered that there was indeed a high degree of similarity between Wu Jianzhen’s third and fourth chapters and Wang Hongrui’s seventh chapter, and that many paragraphs were completely identical.

Additionally, the reporter also discovered that Wang Hongrui had been the assistant advisor for Wu Jianzhen’s Master’s thesis. Wu Jianzhen completed his thesis and defense in August of 2001; Wang Hongrui finished his thesis and became a Ph.D in October of 2002, so there’s a one year and two months’ difference between when the two graduated.

From later in the article:

Wang Hongrui’s Ph.D thesis is 123 pages in total, with Chapter 7 spanning pages 92-121 and subdivided into six sections. In total, it contains about 29,000 characters. Aside from a few headings and summaries at the end of sections (270 characters in section 7.1, 300 in section 7.2, 120 in section 7.6 and 1000 at the end of the chapter) that did not appear in Wu Jianzhen’s thesis, about 90% of the content (approximately 27,000 characters) is essentially the same as Wang Jianzhen’s chapters 3 and 4. Most paragraphs are exactly the same, and most of the changes that do exist are just added transition words like “because of this…”, “we know that…” etc.

Of course, this isn’t the first instance of university officials being guilty of plagiarism that China has ever seen. But perhaps it’s instructive to note that whenever a specific place comes under this kind of scrutiny, little corruption scandals seem to pop up everywhere. Right now, Li Gang’s family and Hebei University are feeling the heat. The anger in the air over the accident, the arrogance, and the corruption is quite palpable. Whether that anger will translate into any kind of justice remains to be seen.

More on the “My Dad is Li Gang” and plagiarism scandals on ESWN.

The “Chinese Professor” and American Scaremongering

The following American political advertisement has been making the rounds among China watchers even as it makes the rounds on television sets in America. James Fallows also wrote about the ad, praising its technique if not its content.

As I see it, there are two issues with this. The first is obvious, and Fallows points it out as well:

If you know anything about the Chinese economy, the actual analytical content here is hilariously wrong. The ad has the Chinese official saying that America collapsed because, in the midst of a recession, it relied on (a) government stimulus spending, (b) big changes in its health care systems, and (c) public intervention in major industries — all of which of course, have been crucial parts of China’s (successful) anti-recession policy.

This is undoubtedly true. But then Fallows takes things a step further than I’m willing to go:

Although I realize that many Chinese people will take offense at it, mainly the chortling section at the end, for me it passes the test for the proper use of “foreign menace” themes in US discourse. Although the ad is clearly meant to make Americans shudder at the idea of a Chinese-dominated future, at no point does it say that the canny foreigners did anything wrong. It uses them as a spur for us to do better — which, as laid out at length here, is the right way to use foreign comparisons. And the stated argument, even from the triumphalist Chinese professor, is that the Americans erred by turning away from their own values.

I can’t agree with that. For one thing, as he’s pointed out earlier, the ad is patently misleading. It’s hard for me to believe that any argument based on lies is ultimately what’s best for the American people. But moreover, the ad reinforces the paranoid idea that Chinese people are somehow intent on replacing America, and using their ownership of US debt to turn Americans into slaves. The bluish tint, the eerily synthetic-but-vaguely-asian-sounding soundtrack, the cultural revolution posters, and the sinister group laugh at the end of the advertisement are all meant to make us feel threatened. The professor is shifty from the start, but the whole room erupts into laughter at his joke and we, the audience, can see the truth: all Chinese people want to destroy or enslave America. This argument is just as stupid coming from American political groups as it is when it’s coming from the propaganda arm of the Chinese government.

Fallows is right; the ad doesn’t explicitly say the Chinese have done anything wrong, but the atmosphere created in the advertisement certainly implies it. And while this will probably work as a “spur for us to do better”, it will also work to further the deepening suspicions many Americans already harbor about Chinese people.

In fact, it already has. That link will take you to a poorly-doctored version of the same video, with the subtitles replaced. The new subtitles advance a far more paranoid (and profane) version of the China-America entanglement.

Of course, C.A.G.W. isn’t the only political group waving the “Chinese devils” flag to rally the troops ((Because now that there’s a democrat in office, we’ve got to stop all this wasteful spending and go back to the carefree, thrifty days of George W. Bush!)). Many democrats, faced with more difficult races than they were hoping for, have adopted similar tactics, although because they’re democrats, they’ve generally done it much less competently.

So, a message to all American political organizations: if you’re going to play the China Boogeyman card, could you please do it in a way that makes sense and is based on reality, rather than the made-up future where China is a small-government, high-tech, education capital but still apparently adorns the walls of its classrooms with Cultural Revolution era kitsch?

[Incidentally, there’s something else that bothers me about the ad. Granted I’m not a native speaker, and I’ve long since given up on hearing anything other than a southern or Taiwanese accent coming out of the mouth of anyone “Chinese” in something filmed in the US ((Apparently, CAGW couldn’t find any 东北人 to play the professor because they are all 活雷锋 and wouldn’t do something that demeaning.)), but the “professor’s” cadence on that last sentence makes my teeth grind. I’m not talking about the tones, the way he says 现在他们都得给我们干活 sounds weird. And now that I think about it, shouldn’t there be a change-of-state 了 there?]

Foreigners Struggle to Combat Chinese Cheaters

Below is a translation of this article by Southern Weekend. The article outlines the lengths that some test takers are willing to go to for good marks, and what foreign testing institutions, like ETS, are doing to stop them.


The foreign testing institutions’ battle to combat Chinese students from cheating has been going on for years now.

In the quest to go abroad, cheaters have not hesitated to hire substitute test takers, also known as “sharpshooters”, to take tests such as the TOEFL and IELTS on their behalf. Some have even gone as far as to forge degrees, resumes, etc. Such tactics have forced foreign testing institutions to implement tedious measures and protocols. However, in spite of new measures, the “Substitute Test Taker” industry still thrives.

Students Preparing for Exam

Tongji University graduate student “Du Mou” is a sharpshooter who specializes in taking English-language tests [such as the IELTS and TOEFL]. Finding someone [like Du Mou] is as simple as running a Baidu search for “TOEFL test-taker”. Hundreds of websites on pages and pages of search-engine results belong to agencies waiting to serve.

Lin An, a student looking to take the TOEFL, hired Du Mou to take the test for him. They agreed upon a price of 20,000 RMB, which included Du Mou’s guarantee that he would produce four grade 7’s on the test. In addition to taking the test on Lin An’s behalf, Du Mou would handle all of the paperwork, including forging an identity card, which is his specialty.

IELTS requires that before test takers enter the examination site that they provide their identity card, test registration papers, and a color passport photo taken within the last six months. Exam proctors examine these credentials carefully before allowing students to take the test. Such protocol appears to be a safe approach, but Du Mou has a way around this. Using a computer, his photograph and Lin An’s, Du Mou produced a new picture which resembled both of them. This new picture was used to create the fake identify card.

Lin An expressed his worries to Du Mou about using fabricated credentials, but was reassured that the new identity card was a first generation card, and could not be detected by IELTS machines as fraudulent.

Finally, Du Mou chose to take the test in Wuhan, away from Lin An’s home province of Guangzhou. Du Mou said that the Wuhan testing site was “safer” than others. However, Lin An’s worst nightmare came true when Du Mou’s forged identity card was detected as a fake, and he was refused entry to the test site.

The failure of Lin An’s hired sharpshooter proves that IELTS and others have increased their vigilance regarding how they monitor test takers. Since the 90s when the craze to go abroad started to pick up, the battle of foreign testing institutions to combat cheating amongst Chinese students has not rested.

Originally, advertisements offering substitute test-taking services were just a psoriasis for foreign language testing institutions like TOEFL, IELTS and GRE. Now, specific details on pricing and registration procedure can easily be found on any site advertising such services. Such companies even make the services they offer sound valiant, as if you could find them in the Fortune 500: “Ten Years Of Business Producing Glorious Results”.

Example of Substitute Test Taking Website

Moreover, there is no shortage of independent sharpshooters, many of whom recruit and grow bigger by working offline. Du Mou recruits from his school, building up his stock of sharpshooters, enlisting the help of students from prestigious universities, or those serving as teachers at foreign language training schools.

Du Mou frequently visits the forums of schools such as Fudan and posts “wanted” ads in the classified section. Initially seeking students with a high English level interested in part-time translation work, Du Mou requires applicants to submit a photograph along with their resume. When he finds a client who resembles one of the recruits applying for “part-time translation work”, he persuades the recruit to become a sharpshooter.

Another aspect of the battle to combat cheating is that such fraudulent behavior taking place in China is “training” test invigilators, and making them more astute. “Originally, there were limits to how ETS imagined combating cheating, to the extent that they believed students using old tests to study from was cheating,” said a senior teacher at a foreign language training institute. ETS is the abbreviation for America’s Educational Testing Service, and is responsible for organizing GRE, TOEFL and IELTS exams across the globe. In late 2000, ETS sued a New Oriental testing site because one of its teachers, either through memorization or some other means, used ETS’ bank of old tests to create and publish a textbook.

For westerners, exams are for testing one’s ability [to apply their] knowledge and experience, and not for evaluating the polish of their test-taking technique. However, analysis of test questions is the cornerstone to every [Chinese] teacher’s class work [….]

“We’ve begun implementing new procedures and safety measures, which begin at registration and follow a student all the way through until they’ve complete the test,” said an ETS official. Such measures include plain-clothes personnel who attend exams and monitor test takers undercover. These personnel also collect and examine details and handwriting samples from individual students. ETS even takes a picture of each test taker and includes that picture alongside copies of the student’s transcripts whenever it sends transcripts to a business or other institution requesting said documentation [….]

On one internet post, a former sharpshooter outlined procedures administered by some test officials. For example, if the official notices that one’s identity card was recently issued, the official will ask for the identity card number and place of birth, and even call the prospective test-taker to see if his or her accent matches that of the registered birth place. If a test taker often visits the same site, it’s also possible that proctors will recognize him or her from a previous exam. Such details help examiners see through a sharpshooter’s game [….]

In July of 2001, the German embassy established a department to investigate those interested in traveling abroad to Germany. The department’s main responsibility includes examining the authenticity of go approach application documents. The processing fee for the initial application is 2,500 RMB, but includes the stipulation that should the documents initially submitted require further investigation, the applicant agrees to pay another fee as well as provide all diplomas, certificates and transcripts in the manner as Chen Baoya. Applicants may also need to attend a face-to-face interview.

Another Substitute Test Taking Website

Only mainland Chinese students are required to undergo such procedures.

Although some companies dealing in the go-abroad business have shared their trade secrets related to proctoring exams and combating cheating, they have refused to share statistics on what percent of Chinese students cheat. They have made it a point to proctor mainland Chinese test sites just as they would any other site, and hold them to the same international standards. However, the department of the British Consulate General affiliated with cultural education stated, “In view of the enormous scale of operations [that take place in China] and their complexity, we invest a great amount of resources in this area in order to ensure there is fairness in upholding our strict standards.”

The insincerity of some Chinese students has already become an issue for many. In 2000, ETS sent a letter to all American universities suggesting that they carefully examine all admission documents originating from the Chinese mainland relating to the GRE and TOEFL exams.

An ETS official told Southern Weekend reporters, “Chinese students are one of the world’s most gifted, hardworking and dedicated group of students. Just like most other countries, most Chinese students fairly and sincerely take part in exams [….]”

Dumb Arguments About Liu Xiaobo

Liu Xiaobo winning the Nobel Peace Prize has given rise to a lot of discussion. The Global Times, for one, has been running vicious op-eds slamming Liu and the Nobel Peace Prize daily since the award was announced. Some of the discussion happening outside official media, in contrast, has been interesting and productive, but there are two specific arguments against Liu Xiaobo that I’d like to address here.

Dumb Argument #1

The first appears as oft-cited evidence that Liu Xiaobo is a traitor to China. Commenters generally post this quotation from an interview Liu Xiaobo gave:

“(It would take) 300 years of colonialism. In 100 years of colonialism, Hong Kong has changed to what we see today. With China being so big, of course it would take 300 years of colonialism for it to be able to transform into how Hong Kong is today. I have my doubts as to whether 300 years would be enough.”

Indeed, the quote is pretty shocking. But what these commenters generally fail to mention is that (1) the quotation is from 1988 and that (2) Liu has since suggested that at the time (he was giving an interview to a Hong Kong publication) he was just talking and hadn’t fully thought his response though.

One could argue all day about whether Liu actually meant this, whether he still believes it, and whether that makes him a traitor, but the fact is that he hasn’t said anything like that since 1988, which is why his detractors go back so far to dig something up against him. As James Fallows puts it:

“It’s in no way representative of Liu’s general position, which is that of a Chinese nationalist working to bring universal values to his own country.”

Liu is a professional writer with a large body of work; if he were truly a traitor who wanted China to be subjugated to foreign powers, presumably it would be easy to find evidence of that in his writing, but I have yet to see a single argument against Liu online or in the Chinese media that quoted even a single line from anything he has written.

Dumb Argument #2

The second argument suggests that Liu deserved his eleven year sentence and/or is a traitor to China for accepting money from foreign organizations, with a side helping of “Americans are hypocrites because that’s illegal in America, too.” Here I am quoting commenter Charles Liu on this post:

Liu Xiaobo has received hundreds of thousands of US government funding via the NED in the past five years to conduct domestic political activity in China (including advocating abolition of China’s constitution.) Check NED’s China grants for Independent Chinese Pen Center and Minzhu Zhongguo magazine, which Liu heads.

If Liu were American he would be in violation of FARA (Foreign Agent Registration Act). Ron Paul had once commented “What the NED does in foreign countries… would be rightly illegal in the United States”.

As you might expect, this is a clever mix of truth, lies, and intentionally misleading suggestions. In actuality, if Liu were in the US, he would be perfectly fine, assuming he did register and keep records of who gave him money, as is required by the FARA. Moreover, there’s no reason to think Liu would have been sentenced to a day of jail time even if he did refuse to register in the US. In fact, not a single person has been convicted in a criminal case under FARA since 1966.

Moreover, the whole thing is a false analogy, as Liu was convicted of “attempting to incite subversion of state power” based on the contents of Charter 08, not because he had accepted money from foreign governments and thus violated some law similar to FARA. Quoting from the official verdict read at the end of Liu’s trial, he was convicted because he “published inciting articles”, and because he “drafted and concocted Charter 08″ and then posted it on overseas websites.

Specifically, he was convicted of violating article 105 section two of the PRC criminal code, which reads:

“Whoever incites others by spreading rumors or slanders or any other means to subvert the State power or overthrow the socialist system shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights; and the ringleaders and the others who commit major crimes shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years. “

In fact, accepting money from foreign organizations can, in some cases, be illegal in China, as evidenced by Articles 106 and 107 of the Criminal Code:

Article 106: Whoever commits the crime as prescribed in Article 103, 104 or 105 of this Chapter in collusion with any organ, organization or individual outside the territory of China shall be given a heavier punishment according to the provisions stipulated in these Articles respectively.

Article 107: Where an organ, organization or individual inside or outside of the territory of China provides funds to any organization or individual within the territory of China to commit the crime as prescribed in Article 102, 103, 104 or 105, the person who is directly responsible for the crime shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights; if the circumstances are serious, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years.

But neither of these laws were even mentioned in Liu’s verdict. From the verdict: “The procuratorate found that Liu Xiaobo’s actions have violated the stipulations of Article 105 (2) of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China…” No other article is mentioned.

So, in short, Liu’s crime and sentencing in China are in no way comparable to FARA and, in the words of those who convicted and sentenced him, he was not imprisoned for accepting money from foreign organizations like NED.

“Universal Values” and “Western Imperialism”

“Trying to impose western so-called ‘universal’ values on China” is a charge that has been leveled at Liu Xiaobo, the Norwegian Nobel committee, and a whole lot of other people. It is of only tangential relevance here, but we’ll quickly address it anyway. Since detractors rarely, if ever, cite specifics from Liu’s body of work, it’s difficult to know which “Western values” he is supposedly trying to force on China.

In terms of Charter 08, though, as a recent joke being passed around the Chinese internet points out, most if not all of the ideas in the charter are evident, and often more strongly worded, in speeches and writings of revered CCP leaders like Zhou Enlai:

Hu Jintao: Has Liu Xiaobo confessed yet?

Prosecutors: He’s confessed everything and we’ve corroborated his statements.

Hu Jintao: So [in Charter ‘08] where does he get the phrase “federated republic?”

Prosecutors: This comes from the report of the second congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The original wording was, “establish a free federated republic.” Only, the word “free” is not in the Charter.

Hu Jintao: Then… then, what about the military being made answerable to the national government and not to a political party?

Prosecutors: We’ve looked into it! This comes from The Selected Works of Zhou Enlai. The original wording was, “We must make the military answerable to the national government.” Only, the word “must” is not in the Charter.

Hu Jintao: Then… then … then, where does all that stuff praising Western style democracy come from?

Prosecutors: The Xinhua Daily ran an editorial that read, “America represents a democratic society.” Only, the Charter doesn’t say “America represents.”

Hu Jintao: Then… then… then, what about an end to one party rule?

Prosecutors: This is a slogan from great grandfather Mao when he opposed the Guomindang [the Nationalists]! The original wording of the slogan was, “Topple the one party dictatorship!” [When the Nationalists were vying for power with the Communists, Mao strongly advocated a multi-party government. Failure to create a multi-party state led to civil war.]

Hu Jintao: Then… then… then… then, what about freedom of association, freedom of speech, and a free press?

Prosecutors: These are all part of the Constitution!

Moreover, it’s worth noting that “human rights” is not in and of itself a Western concept. In fact, one of the principal drafters of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights was P.C. Chang, a Chinese citizen who was a dedicated Confucian, a lover of traditional poetry, and a member of the anti-Japanese resistance during World War II. Chinese people in Hong Kong and Taiwan, among other places, have adopted so-called “Western” values like freedom of the press and democracy, yet they are still recognized as Chinese.

Yes, of course, some of these ideas have their origins in the West, but there’s plenty of precedent for a belief in fundamental freedoms and human rights in China’s native traditions, too (this will be the subject of a future post at some point). In any event, the idea that Liu’s advocating things like democracy and freedom of the press is somehow fundamentally “not Chinese” is ridiculous.


There are, certainly, arguments to be made in favor of not giving the prize to Liu Xiaobo. Others may have deserved the award more (I don’t personally think so, but I don’t know a lot about many of the other candidates, either). Arguments that Liu Xiaobo is a traitor to China or that he deserved his eleven year sentence, on the other hand, seem to be few and far between.

I am, as ever, open to other interpretations, but our discussions on this in the past have gone off the rails, so the rules here are going to be a bit stricter. If you’re going to make an argument in the comments (one way or the other) you need to support it with actual evidence, and you need to do it without attacking other commenters personally. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Chinese reactions on the Chile mine rescue

The successful rescue of 33 miners trapped underground in Chile for 69 days had drawn a lot of comments from netizens in China. China’s coal mining industry is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. According to official figures, 2,631 coal miners died in 1,616 mine accidents in China in 2009, but the figures could be much higher as accidents are covered up. The latest incident came right after the Chile rescue: an explosion at a coal mine in Yuzhou, Henan province in central China killed 20 miners, and trapped another 17 underground.

While there are accusations that government officials and mine owners are using the ‘spiritual fervour’ of the rescue for other purposes, Chilean miners at least had the freedom to thank God, families and rescuers, instead of thanking the country first, a etiquette not to be neglected in China. Blogger Yu Tianren wrote:

Facing TV cameras, the second rescued miner thanked God, his family, colleagues, and almost everything else, except the government.

Perhaps because the Chilean government thinks that rescuing citizens in disasters is a natural responsibility, it does not force its citizens to recite ‘thank the government, thank the military.’ Conversely, if a government forces its citizens to thank itself for things that are apparent, does that mean that the government does not view those things as its responsibilities?

Another blogger kaiecon wrote:

No doubt, we can be cynical and say that the Chilean president had spent a lot of resources to implement this perfect rescue mission. He did not really care about those people, but only his political ratings. But if all politicians gain popularity in this way, wouldn’t the world be a better place? Why do we need to care about their motivations?

The key point is that all miners have survived. The mine has collapsed, and the rescuers spent 17 days to locate the miners after drilling unlimited number of holes. In the end, they found the miners, all in good conditions. There is a lot of luck in it. But I am curious: is there anyone in China who can guarantee that miners could survive for 17 days in a collapsed mine?

Perhaps the most sarcastic comments come from Li Chengpeng’s sina blogpost, which attracted over 100,000 readers. Here are some extracts of the post:

People as gloomy as me will suspect that Chinese people, who view the live broadcast of the rescue, can be grouped into two categories: the majority which hope that all the 33 miners could be rescued, so as to prove something; and a minority which hope that the rescue will be stuck, also to prove something… The perfect scenario would be that a middle-aged dishevelled Chilean woman rushed out and fought with the president, accompanied by a flying shoe. Then, the Chinese media could ridicule with headlines like ‘The Chilean miner reality show failed, president got beaten up by angry families, flying shoe hit Chile’s corrupt political structure.’

Unfortunately not. Not a single one of the 33 miners, all with names, died after the 69-day ordeal. Those heartless miners also did not thank the party and the government. Instead, they wet kissed with lovers, held the Bible and played football. The leader of the mining team was the last one to surface. These made the feelings of Li Wenhao, propaganda head of the State Administration of Work Safety, complicated […] Right after he made the comment that ‘the Chilean mining team leader was the last one to leave is consistent with China’s practice of regularly sending leaders down to visit mines,’ a news broke out in Nanning of Guangxi province that a leader was choked to death while on a mission to inspect safety conditions in a mine.

This is almost a coincidence made in heaven. It is very suitable to be filmed in montage. It is therefore wrong to say that China does not have good tragicomedy. Other people’s comedy is our tragedy; conversely, other people’s tragedy is our comedy. For example, if you were to make a film about the Wanjialing mining accident in a style of righteousness, and join the Cannes film festival, people might think that it is not a positive movie but a comedy, and put it in the same category as Mr. Bean.

While the miners were being raised to the ground, I tweeted the question ‘Chang’e-2 rising / miners rising, which one is greater.’ Some people are not happy about this question, and I could only reply, ‘They only have 33 people with real names, we are organizing a census. They spend 69 days to rescue people, we have spent ten thousand years on propaganda.’ Some are still not satisfied with my answer. The countering viewpoint that I find most challenging is: the fact that miners got multi-million dollars book deals is the result of advertising-driven behavior of capitalist publishers; whether above- or under-ground, those miners are classified into different classes; they are overdrawing their lifetime of blessings. My response is that I will treat this as an intellectual problem. I believe that many Chinese miners wish to be embraced by capitalist publishers: God, please classify us into different classes in whatever sensational hype you wish!