The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on the disaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun. Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. and Europe come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spread deceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls to mask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China and send them packing.*
There are a lot of things I want to say about this, and most of them are swear words ((I seriously considered titling this post ‘Yang Rui Can Go Fuck Himself’)). However, you’ve probably got some creative epithets of your own swirling in your mind at this point, so let’s move on to some slightly more constructive avenues of discussion.
On reading this post, the first emotion that struck me — after anger, that is — was extreme regret. I have taped two episodes of CCTV Dialogue with Yang Rui, although the first one was never aired ((I never heard why, but I was speaking pretty candidly about the Wenzhou crash and I suspect that may have had something to do with it)), and now I really wish that I hadn’t. Of course, I had no way of knowing that nearly a year later, he’d be spewing such hateful nonsense, but I wish there was a way to delete myself from the program retroactively.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Yang was quite rude to me when the cameras were off before and after my appearances on Dialogue. At the time, I chocked it up to the ego that comes with being a professional television anchor ((albeit on a show that I don’t think anyone has ever watched a full episode of)). In retrospect I wonder if perhaps there was something more going on.
Either way though, I want to make it clear that what I regret is the association with him, not my appearance on CCTV in general. In the past, certain people have suggested foreigners who appear in or work for state media — myself included — lack integrity. I think that is nonsense. Although I long ago stopped writing occasional op-ed pieces for the Global Times and I have no intention of ever appearing on CCTV again, I don’t think having done either of those things has damaged my integrity. In both instances, I spoke honestly and directly in defense of my own viewpoints, and eschewed self-censorship ((which is why much of my work fell afoul of ACTUAL censorship)). I don’t regret anything I wrote or said ((At least not for political reasons. I regret a few of my Global Times columns just because they were bad writing, but that’s a separate issue.)), and I don’t think appearing in State media is tacit support of the Party or the Party line if what you’re saying is just as critical as what you’d say to any Western media outlet. Nor do I think taking their money to write content that discredits their editorials and their bosses is doing them any financial favors.
Some may disagree with me on this, and I do understand that point of view. But if I have a chance to go on State media and criticize the response to the Wenzhou train crash, I think that’s just as valuable, perhaps more valuable, than only sharing my criticism here. ((That said, as previously stated, I’m done with Dialogue and probably CCTV as a whole.))
On Soft Power
It’s interesting that this outburst came from Yang Rui, who is in some ways one of the faces of China’s soft power push. Dialogue is an English-language program, which means it is targeted at foreigners in China and abroad by default. The fact that its host (one of them, anyway) is apparently a racist xenophobe is probably indicative of how successful China’s soft power push is likely to be.
But beyond that, it is rather incredible that someone who has been talking to foreigners for years — indeed, someone who is supposed to be one of China’s representatives to foreigners — apparently knows so little about us that he actually believes crazy shit like this:
Foreigners who can’t find a job in their home country come to China and get involved in illegal business activities such as human trafficking and espionage; they also like to distribute lies which discredit China to persuade locals to move abroad. A lot of them look for Chinese women to live with as a disguise to further their espionage efforts. They pretend to be tourists traveling around the country while actually helping Japan and Korea make maps and collect GPS data for military purposes.
It’s so shocking, in fact, that some have wondered if this isn’t satire. I suppose it could be, but if so, Yang seems content to let people continue to think he was being serious; he has updated his Weibo numerous times since that post but none of the updates suggest he was kidding, and some of them suggest he definitely wasn’t. Plus, he doesn’t really seem like the sort for that kind of sarcasm.
If this were any other country, there would be rampant speculation that Yang Rui was about to lose his job. But this is China, and I think we all know that he won’t. That being a rabidly xenophobic (and apparently extremely stupid) person doesn’t disqualify you from holding a post that is dedicated entirely to dealing with foreigners is as strong a sign as any that China has no real interest in soft power. Or perhaps is just utterly incapable of implementing it.
Xenophobia and Weibo Responses
Yang’s comments come at a particularly sensitive time for foreigners, many of whom are concerned about their safety after a British scumbag and a Russian idiot have stirred up a lot of nationalist, anti-foreign sentiment online (all foreigners are the same, so we’re all guilty by association). Probably related is the crackdown on illegal foreigners in Beijing that Yang was commenting on. This crackdown is perfectly fair in theory — every country has immigration laws and the right to enforce them — but the language and imagery that’s being used to promote it is sort of concerning, as is the idea that foreigners will now be required to carry their papers at all times ((technically this has been legally true for a long time, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of it being enforced, and there’s no reason to enforce it because it’s pretty ridiculous)) and submit to random checks. Suddenly, Beijing is feeling a bit like Arizona (that’s not a good thing).
Anyway, the response to Yang Rui’s rant is comparatively heartening. Although there are some commenters who agree with him, there are many who don’t, and as usual, their sarcastic condemnations of his idiocy bring warmth to my twisted foreign heart. Some examples:
Host Yang, you haven’t gone far enough! We should bring back all the officials’ wives and children from overseas to help build the motherland, we must not allow them to be polluted by foreign trash, yes, and also we should close the borders/forbid international travel, so that there is no contact with overseas forces.
There is a reason fewer and fewer people are watching TV…
Yes, and we should close down all the TV channels that speak foreign languages! [Yang works for CCTV English]
At first I thought that it was just Mr. Yang’s English [abilities] that were disappointing, but now I see there are many disappointing things about him.
The fact that this CCTV host isn’t writing editorials for the Beijing Daily is truly a waste of talent.
Isn’t your daughter studying in the US?
Haha, so Yang Rui is really this big a dumbass. A dumbass pretending to be cool but actually a Boxer.
So this is the quality of CCTV? Anyway, where did you study your English? Do the people there think about you this way?
I want to ask, can you speak Chinese? How can someone so incoherent become a TV host…
This is exactly how the Boxer Rebellion started…
Of course, there are also comments in there that are serious and seriously disturbing. But it’s heartening to see that the sane people still seem to outnumber the racist xenophobes.
Stay safe, everyone.
ADDENDUM: This is probably obvious from the post itself, but I would strongly suggest that foreigners boycott CCTV Dialogue and decline any future invitations to appear on the program. There are numerous other ways to interact with the Chinese media; there is no need to support the efforts of a man who so clearly has nothing but hatred for foreigners.
*Note: I have switched out the Global Times translation for the better translation offered by the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog. (Click that link for their full post on Yang).