Another Lesson in How to Fail at Soft Power

I came across this story a couple days ago, and found it mildly amusing, but eventually decided it was worth sharing here because it’s indicative of the larger trend. First of all, here are the basics for those that haven’t already read the article:

Citing “strong resentment from the local Chinese community,” the Chinese government has asked the city of Corvallis to force a Taiwanese-American businessman to remove a mural advocating independence for Taiwan and Tibet from his downtown building.

But city leaders say the mural violates no laws and its political message is protected under the U.S. Constitution.

Taiwanese artist Chao Tsung-song painted the 10-foot-by-100-foot mural last month on the side of the old Corvallis MicroTechnology building at Southwest Fourth Street and Jefferson Avenue. The work was commissioned by property owner David Lin, who is renovating the space for a restaurant and has rechristened the building Tibet House.

In vivid colors, the painting depicts riot police beating Tibetan demonstrators, Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule and images of Taiwan as a bulwark of freedom.

In a letter dated Aug. 8, the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco formally complained to Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning about the mural’s content and asked for her help in having it removed.

“There is only one China in the world,” the letter reads in part, “and both Tibet and Taiwan are parts of China.”

Now, I can’t be too sure about the quality of the reporting here, because the article refers to Tibet as a “country” and as a “breakaway province” (it most certainly is neither, though some might like it to be). But I’m guessing the basic facts of the case here are true.

Let’s think about this from the perspective of the local Chinese consulate general. A business owner in your area of the US has put up a mural that you find offensive. If this were China, of course, you could have it taken down, and maybe have the guy beaten or tossed in jail for a little while to teach him a lesson. But you don’t have those powers in the US, so your only real options are to ignore it or make a big stink about it. Why in hell would you ever choose the latter?

If you ignore it, the only people who ever hear about it are the people who happen to visit or drive by that building, most of whom probably aren’t even going to understand its meaning. If you make a big stink about it, on the other hand, you turn it into a news story. What’s more, you turn it into a news story that the local government has an active interest in promoting because it makes them look awesome. ‘We stood up to pressure from the Chinese government and defended the first Amendment rights of an American business owner’ — what US government official wouldn’t want that story on the front page of every newspaper? That is exactly why what could have been a tiny non-story is now being discussed on this blog and elsewhere despite the fact that I don’t even know where Corvallis is.

The other question is what the hell did Chinese consular officials think they were going to gain from sending that letter? Surely Chinese diplomats are given at least some basic training in US laws, so they ought to know the local government wasn’t even going to consider taking the mural down. And while I understand this is probably the sort of thing that has to be done from time to time to please the overseers back in China, I can’t imagine anyone in China would have heard of this mural either of the Chinese consulate general hadn’t broadcast it to the world by formally making a complaint about it.

The complaint makes the Chinese government look petty and weak even as it draws attention to two issues the Chinese government doesn’t want anyone talking about. The publicity helps ensure that more Americans are going to come down on what the Chinese government would consider to be the “wrong” side. Sure, consular officials may have scored some points with their buddies at home, but they did so by putting yet another scratch in China’s already-battered international reputation and by setting the country back even further on its increasingly unrealistic-looking quest to wield some kind of measurable cultural power outside its borders.

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39 thoughts on “Another Lesson in How to Fail at Soft Power”

  1. Your analysis is correct as far as a western liberal is concerned. The consular official would much better ignore the issue than make a fuss about it. But as a self styled China Geek you betrayed total lack of understanding of China and bureaucracy. With the nationalism raised over South China Sea islands and Easten China Sea islands with Japan, the safer course for some burecrats is to cover their ass rather than deep analysis for public relation as espoused by the West.

    As for your self satisfying congratulation on your freedom of expression and first amendment, please note the trouble of the planned muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan and the opposition to it. And if someone would paint some Iranian flags on Corvallis I am sure they would find some excuse to prevent it.

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  2. Ngok Ming Cheung: You may want to try reading the post again; I did in fact specifically mention that this is probably bureaucrats covering their asses for the folks back home. But that doesn’t make it any less of a failure from a soft power perspective, which is what this post is about.

    As this is a blog about China, the “America does this too!” argument is pointless and irrelevant, but just for the record, the Muslim cultural center in Manhattan opened in 2011, so I’m not too worried about it. Fox News can shout as loud as they want, but at the end of the day, we still have a couple laws that work. And I doubt anyone would care about Iranian flags. There are plenty of Iranaians in the US and I’m sure some of them have flags from their home countries just as many Chinese-Americans do; no one cares that much.

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  3. It never ceases to amaze me how CCP officials at all levels of seniority have a gifted innate ability to shoot themselves in the foot. It’s as though they make such talent a job prerequisite. ‘the CCP: only those who can stick their foot in their mouth need apply’.

    If I was a businessman, I would take note. Put up a mural depicting oppression of Tibetans. Watch local Chinese official go ape-shit. Have local government rep go on record defending your right to put up said mural. Get picture and name of your business in local paper (and if you’re really lucky, the 6 o’clock news). End result is free advertising and notoriety that you can’t buy, all for the price of a few gallons of paint.

    I’d also like to learn more about this “strong resentment from the local Chinese community”. I imagine it would be amusing.

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  4. I’m in an internet cafe and there’s a guy called Ngok Ming Cheung on the computer next to me frantically searching for an example of American officials forcing Iranians to take down their flags.

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  5. Yeah, the thing is, even if they get what they want, they still make themselves look bad.

    A good example of this – the ROC flag on Regent’s Street. The Chinese Embassy complained about it to the Regent’s Street association, they took it down thinking they might be violating some Olympic law. The thing then became a massive self-pwn because hundreds of angry Taiwanese descended to stage a demo on Regent’s street, festooning the street with ROC flags and making international news.

    The request to Leeds City Council to prevent the Dalai Lama appearing at a conference there was another good example. The Council wasn’t even responsible for the conference, and anyway stood only to gain by telling everyone that they weren’t going to bullied in such a fashion.

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  6. This is no different from Chinese Embassy officials attempting to interfere with film festivals and book fairs. Melbourne @ Germany. Net result. More bums on seats and increased book sales.

    They do have a habit of working the phones and attempting to monster commercial and cultural organisations when there is non-harmonious content.

    In fact, such organisations should include such content in their events. Tip off the local embassy and then sit back and enjoy the sound of cash registers going into hyper drive.

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  7. Mr. Custer,
    I guess I must hit a sore point that I didn’t even rate a mister from you. I did read the title of your article, it was an attack on China’a soft power campaign, but using a consular offiicial who maybe somewhat naive and ernest and lacking understanding of U.S. Constitution is like shooting a fish in a barrel, no fun at all. I suggest you might try the State Department official who’s so afraid of the China’s soft power campaign that he/she tried to shut down the Chinese language program at U.S. high schools and colleges by using a technicality to deny renewal of visas of teachers from China. Certainly Chinese official can’t compare the efficiency and deadliness of “The Quiet American” as written by Graham Greene.

    I have to also disagree with your notion that just because it’s a blog about China what happened in U.S. is irrelevant. For Chinese dissentants they compare what happened in China with the idealized version of America. Of course they find China fails that test and I agree with them, but I also like to point out emperor has no clothing on him and U.S. also fails that test. I wonder if you and Tibetan exiles are familiar with a book by Chris Hedge, “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.”. I visited Tibet in May this year. My view on Tibet may mirror over 95% of Chinese and different from you. One has to be aware of history, your own and China’s before making statement on democrcay and human rights.

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  8. To NMC,
    it’s true that mocking a Chinese consular official for committing a public faceplant does not rate as a high degree of difficulty endeavour, but it is no less amusing. And laughter really is the best medicine.

    If those confucious institutes is all the CCP has going for her “soft power” campaign, then i agree it’s not much to worry about. I would be surprised if anyone has one molecule more of respect for the CCP on the basis of any of those institutes. And btw, immigration rules are the rules…if CI instructors contravene those rules, then it’s their own damn fault if the State Department shuts them down based on written rules. Remember also that written rules in the US mean more than they do in China…or maybe you weren’t aware of that.

    “Of course they find China fails that test and I agree with them, but I also like to point out emperor has no clothing on him and U.S. also fails that test.”
    —(a) how has the US failed “that test”? (b) even if the US did fail “that test”, does it change the fact that China failed it? If not, then how is it relevant to a discussion of China’s failure thereof? Perhaps you need to familiarize yourself with the concept of tu quoque, and grasp why it is called a logical fallacy. (hint: it’s called a logical fallacy for good reason).

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  9. “One has to be aware of history, your own and China’s before making statement on democrcay and human rights.”

    Being aware of history is always good. But letting it get in the way of making a stand for what’s right would hinder all progress. Whose history isn’t full of blood, exploitation, and oppression? Certainly China couldn’t claim that kind of purity. So are we all supposed to sit around quietly watching other people suffer because our ancestors were a bunch of assholes? Sorry, but that’s fucking stupid.

    Everyone is a hypocrite, and if you deny it, you’re really just proving the point. It is OK for America to criticize China for doing things wrong even though American does them wrong too. The reverse of that is also OK. Is that hypocritical? Sure. But who fucking cares? Life is hypocritical; get over it. If you can’t get past the fight to see who is the bigger victim and look at the actual problem, you are just wasted space.

    With regard to Tibet, I am well aware of its history, and I think it was probably a pretty unpleasant place both before and after 1949. The fact that it sucked before 1949 does not excuse what is happening now, and it doesn’t mean that I have to sit quietly and pretend everything is cool when people are setting themselves on fire in the streets.

    Tl;dr http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_quoque

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  10. Mr Ngok Ming Cheung.

    Tibet is about the last place on earth I would idealize, let alone visit.

    Try this for a pretty evenhanded read:

    China’s Great Train: Beijing’s Drive West and the Campaign to Remake Tibet. Abrahm Lustgarten. Henry Holt 2008.

    And no, I don’t come from the US-PRC axis of critical comparison.

    Good old Sino imperialism, military access roads, mineral extraction and population dilution and yes, the Tibetans would enjoy reaping some of the rewards of all the Beijing subsidies poured into Tibet, but that definitely aint the case.

    Did you enjoy the announcements while on your train trip.
    “Dear passengers, most parts of the region still remain in their natural status. You will be lucky to see groups of Tibetan antelopes feeding on grass and drinking in rivers. Let’s enjoy the eye’s feast bestowed by nature, never to invade their colonies and let the lovely antelopes enjoy their leisure lives.”

    How about this one.

    Dear passengers…on the plateau the temperature often drops to twenty degrees below zero at night, so it is easy to catch cold while going to the toilet. To solve the problem, the railway company installed toilets with electric heaters inside. Due to these effective measures, the health of constructors of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway could be well ensured”.

    I really envy your authentic travel experiences.

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  11. When I first saw China Geeks I found it somewhat refreshing in exposing various problems in Chinese society which official Chinese publications omitted or minimized. Various comments by those defending China were usually inarticulate or poorly stated. I thought I might try to open a dialog as a Chinese American seeing both sides of the issues. from the response of your two comments lacking civility and with F and S words I know I was mistaken. You were not interested in dialog, but similar to Fox News want to preach to the believers and drive or silent those you do not want, as you said a waste of space. So as you wish I will not bother your again after I explain myself here.

    I quoted Chris Hedge on his book not because what U.S. did to Native Americans or African Americans 150 years ago, but continue to do today at Pine Ridge, South Dakota; Camden, New Jersey; Welch, West Virginia; and Immokalee, Florida. If you bother to watch Bill Moyer Reports every week you will find plenty of injustices happening today due to the nature of Capitalism. To me the threat to Tibetan culture is less from paternalistic policies from Beijing than the globalization and Capitalism which acts as a universal solvent for profit. Dalai Lama 14th can return to China anytime for visit or permenant stay if he wants but obviously under restriction. He can stop all those self immolation if he make a statement. The push against modernity is not limited to Tibet, it’s all over the muslim world. I wish you the best of luck, but to equate 20 self immolation to 2 million deaths in Iraq as like you said bigger victims seem to me to be ludicrous.
    best wishes

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  12. “but continue to do today at Pine Ridge, South Dakota; Camden, New Jersey; Welch, West Virginia; and Immokalee, Florida.”
    —and thanks to the American system, people are allowed to know about these things, and to talk freely about them on the intertubes. Such would not be the case under the CCP. And it goes without saying that there are problems in the US. But how, pray tell, is that relevant in a discussion about problems in China?

    If you’re saying that the root of the problems in Tibet is in fact “capitalism”, and not the CCP’s administration thereof, then I suppose that’s ok. But then would you advise something other than capitalism, remembering that one alternative has already been tried in China and didn’t work out so well?

    Do you really think the unrest in Tibet is founded on a distaste for “modernity”? Cuz that would be hilarious. And since when did Custer or anyone else “equate” self immolation by monks with non-combatant deaths in Iraq? You know what’s really ludicrous? Arguing against something the other person didn’t say. Why is it that you people stoop to such levels so frequently?

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  13. Please point out to me where i equated 20 self-immolations with 2 million deaths in Iraq. Point out where I did that, and I will shoot myself in the fucking head.

    It’s not that I’m not interested in a dialogue, it’s that i’m not in interested in a dialogue with people who fail to understand basic logical fallacies and the general principles of debate. I used to have more patience than I do, but I’m sure you’ll understand that this is probably the thousandth time someone has basically tried to tell me that since the US has done immoral things in Iraq — a war which I disagreed with, protested, and voted against in terms of my political choices, by the way — I’m not allowed to talk about China. It’s bullshit, and I’m tired of being polite about it because no matter what I say, it doesn’t sink in.

    If you want to have a real dialogue here, read this book http://www.amazon.com/Attacking-Faulty-Reasoning-Edward-Damer/dp/1133049982/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347419218&sr=8-1&keywords=attacking+faulty+reasoning (or something similar) and come at me with an argument that makes sense.

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  14. Incidentally, since we’re on Tibet now, this has always been my favorite take on Tibetan history:

    http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Struggle_for_Modern_Tibet.html?id=Ujvo4OMT-uAC

    it is, of course, just one man’s perspective, but he was unlucky enough to have experienced the horrors of both pre- and post-communist-takeover Tibet, and it seems to be a pretty frank portrayal of the whole thing. The downside, of course, is that it’s a bit old so doesn’t cover anything from the last decade or two really. But for history, it’s a great place to start.

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  15. Charlie,

    ‘It’s bullshit, and I’m tired of being polite about it because no matter what I say, it doesn’t sink in.’

    As long as you have this site you will attract people who disagree with you. It’s always hard establishing dialogue, but using profanities is only going to make it harder. China’s modernity is inseparable from that of America. For the foreseeable future, people will always compare the two.

    On the subject of logical fallacies, do you think the following could be interpreted as an ad hominen?

    ‘If you can’t get past the fight to see who is the bigger victim and look at the actual problem, you are just wasted space.’

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  16. I shall now go out of my way to see this place in Oregon, give the owner some business and take photos next time I visit the West Coast of the US.

    Praise Mr Lin!

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  17. This US/PRC comparison nakes even less sense when you are not (like the majority of the commenters here) American. One wonders how people like Mr. Ngok respond to critics from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Luxembourg, Ireland, Denmark, or Sweden. Actually, one need not wonder because one sees how Chinese critics are treated: continue pointing at the US as if this proves anything.

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  18. Xilin,

    An ad hominem would be using something unrelated (and bad) about someone’s personal history to discredit their argument.

    As you can see, it patently does not work due to a lack of relevance.

    Custer hasn’t mentioned anything beyond Ngok’s use of faulty reasoning in his arguments. Summarily, Ngok’s arguments suffer from problems of relevance (he uses tu quoque a lot) and false premises. Hence, dismissing his attempts at logic is relevant.

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  19. Tony, my understanding of an ad hominem is that it can be anything about the person, factual or otherwise, used to discredit them and, by extension, their argument. I would argue that calling someone a ‘waste of space’ qualifies. It’s not related to Charlie’s argument; it’s just a personal dig. I agree with Charlie indicating the logical flaws in Ngok’s argumentation, but whether Ngok is or isn’t a waste of space is irrelevant. If you disagree with this, fine, but we probably agree that the use of profanities and personal insults doesn’t help what should be a reasonable, adult, debate.

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  20. It’s not ad hominem because (a) it’s hypothetical and (b) it’s not really part of any debate or argument anyway. It wasn’t meant as an attack on Ngok specifically, I mean the colloquial, collective “you,” as in, “if one cannot get past the battle over who is the bigger victim…” It’s as much a reference to China’s insistence on continually playing the victim card as it is to Ngok or anyone else.

    I agree the use of profanities doesn’t help the debate, but I am not interested in having that debate anymore. It is pointless and I have said the same thing in much more civil language literally hundreds of times before. There are nearly 600 posts on this site and I’ve had the same discussion in the comments of nearly every one of them. I am sick of it, and if using profanity gets these people to go away, frankly I am OK with that at this point.

    I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, but I do have a problem with a lack of reasoning skills and the constant red herrings and tu quoque bullshit that take away from having a discussion ABOUT CHINA, which is the point of this site.

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  21. Perhaps you could use ‘one’ in the future.

    Seriously, Ngok could be anybody. He could be someone just interested in debating these things, or he could be someone trying to troll you. Who knows?
    Flaming people to get rid of them or debating logical fallacies ad nauseum is a false dichotomy. I believe there is a middle way.
    If you send too many people packing you’ll just end up like Hidden Harmonies.

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  22. So it looks like I wasn’t wrong to be alarmed when the Chinese government tried to, for instance, dictate what films were shown at foreign film festivals. Because Chinese censorship attempts have now literally come to my town, sooner than I would have expected.

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  23. To xilin,
    I agree there should be a middle way. NMC might be capable of such a middle way, but if he is, he certainly hasn’t shown it yet. And I’m not sure he’s done enough to justify being given the benefit of the doubt. I also agree f bombs don’t necessarily add to the discourse, but we’re all adults and I don’t think it’s too big a deal either. And better to say it if you must rather than the numbnuts who start sprinkling the $&@ around.

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  24. to Xilin,
    Thank you for the support for my right of free speech. Normally a site can restrict comments if it involves profanities or personal attack. Mr.C seem on the verge of banning me by the excuse of irrelevancy. He can as he said of the consular offiicial, ignore me or making a big fuss, and he choose to be rude, attack and using profanity to try to silence me. The irony of a free speech advocate. The intent of my original post is not trying to stop the attack on China by equating China and U.S., but asking if one want to question Chinese attempt at soft power, by all means do it. The big push in soft power involve subsidized teachers to teach Chinese overseas, cultural exchanges in arts and people, trade and aids. I was making fun of his attempt at making fun of the official.
    Since Mr.C’s return from China he acted more like a spurned lover, full of vitriol. I take his reasons at face value of pollution, family consideration, but I suspect more likely his visa expiration and Chinese official’s refusal to renew it. I want to state I totally disagree with the policy of restricting travel for those China considers unfriendly. As a Chinese American who was born in China I also face difficulty in obtaining visa, more so than any other foreigner.

    China today has many problems. I do not want to minimize it. I also want people to know it is a process, one does not make utopian jumps at instant solutions. One compares China today with 10 years ago, 20 years, 30 years ago. U.S. with 236 years since independence still falls short of its ideals and I think is going the wrong direction. If Justice Scalia has his way I suspect the constitution will worth as much as Chinese constitution is today.

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  25. Nah, as much as I disagree, Ngok makes okay points and he should be responded to seriously. (Okay, I was also a smarty.)

    The blog world should be a liberation space.

    Any yes Custer, you have been a bit crotchety of later.

    Extended tour of duty, plus a documentary in gestation, and possibly a young Custer on the way?

    Whatever, avoid the HH syndrome.

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  26. Ngok,

    Charlie’s critcism is of a few officials, but you described this as an ‘attack on China’. You equate criticism of government with criticism of the nation. This is illogical in a Chinese context as it is in the context of any other nation.

    You then follow this up with a classic example of an ad hominem. I do wish you had read more carefully my post on having a civil, adult debate. Your ad hominem is that you attempt a character assassination in support of your rhetoric. But I don’t really see the point of your rhetoric.

    Charlie’s post does not state that all China’s soft power policies are doomed to failure. As you note, and as Charlie would probably also, there are a number of significant success stories. This example, the subject of this post, however, is an example of what is colloquially termed a ‘face plant’.

    Charlie hasn’t challenged your right to free speech here, and all your posts are present. As far as I know, when he does remove comments he provides a reason for all to see (e.g. racism). If you want to see censorship in process go on Hidden Harmonies using your current username, disagree with one of the moderators on something, and then see how soon you get banned there.

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  27. Ngok,

    I appreciate you being so obliging in retroactively justifying my cursing at you. Solid ad hominem attack!

    So you think China refused to renew my visa, so I just whipped up a US immigration visa for my wife on short notice? You may be aware that that process takes anywhere from four months to years, it’s not the sort of thing one could do on a whim just because one’s visa was canceled. In fact, my visa is fine and if I wanted, I could fly back to China tomorrow.

    Also, thanks for demonstrating once again what has to be my favorite total misunderstanding of what freedom of speech is. First of all, I have made no attempt whatsoever to censor you here. If I had, you wouldn’t be able to post. Second, freedom of speech is a legal right that protects you from criminal prosecution/legal persecution because of things you say. It means, basically, that you cannot be sent to jail for your beliefs. It does not mean that you can say whatever you want on whatever blog you want. You can’t. Unless I’m calling for you to be arrested because of your comments, I’m not limiting your freedom of speech.

    This blog has rules. Since I have also violated them here, I’ll give you a pass for also violating them (speculation about a commenter’s personal life, especially when used to attack their character, is one of the fastest ways to get banned here). But if you break them again, I will block you, and you can go shout about it all you want on Hidden Harmonies if you’d like. Until you’re paying for the hosting fees and domain registration fee for this site (which you’re welcome to contribute to, it’s getting expensive), it remains privately owned, and whatever freedom you have here is granted by me, not the US or any other constitution.

    (Please note, that another one of our commenting rules is that there is no “tu quoque” allowed…this is a blog about China and if you insist on making tu quoque-style comparisons with America, I’m going to delete your comments because that isn’t the point of this site. It isn’t interesting or relevant. Knowing that America also does things wrong isn’t going to help resolve any of China’s problems; all it does is derail productive discussions and turn them into stupid “your country is worse!” “No, yours is worse!” arguments.)

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  28. To NMC,
    man, if I had a nickel for every time somebody complains about their free speech rights on someone else’s blog…I’d have a lot of nickels.

    “One compares China today with 10 years ago, 20 years, 30 years ago. U.S.”
    —earth to NMC: no one here is making such a comparison, except for you, and people like you. Hopefully, the very next thing you do in life is to learn what tu quoque is, so that you can stop doing it.

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  29. I think non-PRChinese (in places like this blog) underestimate the difficulty of developing the habit of logical thought without role models and enforcement in early life.

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  30. Xilin,
    Let me respond to your post of 9/14/12 2355 and indirectly to Mr.C, others I find mostly name calling, trolls, Yang Rui etc. First, I do have a life, I don’t surf the net constantly and ready to pounce on any perceived slur immediately. So you have to excuse my tardiness. Second I do like to take time to think through before shooting off, there were two more threads on China Geeks since this one. Third I am on borrowed time, Mr. C has used his power of ownership, or Citizen United decision money is speech to threaten to silence me if I am straying off topic if I post anything off topic as irrelevant and a waste of space. If you want to enter a debate with me I am happy to oblige, I give permission for Mr. C ro give you my email address to enter a dialog. He intrepreted my sarcasm as a personal attack while those others calling me a troll as legitimate. I am going to use the free pass he gave me to expand on the two topics since.
    On Petition as I do the movie Last Train I very much sympathize with the main characters, but then what? Post letters cursing Chinese officials as heartless and then return to our 1% or more likely 10% cocoons. For the petitioners who have the illusion of honest officials or good emperor to redress their wrongs and injustices I hesitate to prick their bubble. In the news we have the murder of a labor organizer in Bangela Dash and over 400 textile workers burned to death in Pakistan. To Mr. C they are irrelevant to China, so off topic. Yet China is linked to the rest of the world and U.S., whether the decline of income of the middle class here or the suicide of thousands of farmers in India, they are all linked to past and present, dots to be connected to almighty dollar. And speaking of dollr Mr. C crowed in the second thread. Certainly Chinese government doesn’t represent eternal China and attacking one doesn’t mean the other. I get that. It’s fascinating that to west public relation is everything. If you have a poll that whether public is aware Xi is missing in action for a week or even who is Xi I would guarantee over 90% would give you a blank stare. To Chinese government the policies for next decade and the direction it would affect the 1.3 billion people is paramount, not the west’s fascination with who’s appearing or not, as you can see the stock market is not dropping like a rock. Whether Obama or Romney sppear in campaigns is less important than whether their policies will affect people.

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  31. TO NMC,
    cry me a river. Good thing you’re taking it off-line with Xilin, so he can set you straight and save us the trouble.

    “In the news we have the murder of a labor organizer in Bangela Dash and over 400 textile workers burned to death in Pakistan. To Mr. C they are irrelevant to China, so off topic.”
    —(a) tell us how they are relevant to China
    (b) shit happens everywhere. Tu quoque is when someone uses shit elsewhere to excuse what happens in China. That, btw, is what you do.

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  32. @NMC: You were not “on borrowed time.” You are subject to the same rules of discussion as everybody else. However, since you have intentionally broken several of them with your latest comment — and in fact, called attention to the fact that that’s what you’re doing — what do you expect me to do? You are clearly trying to get me to block you; presumably so that you can then go to some other site and crow about how I’m restricting your “freedom of speech.”

    I’m not going to address most of your post, because it’s mostly incoherent. If you want to make an argument about how I’m not “connecting the dots,” you’re gonna have to actually connect some dots yourself, not just list random bad things that happened outside China and say “They’re connected!”

    With regards to PR, however, it’s not everything. I write from this perspective because it’s more objective than the other ways I could approach these topics. I could just as easily write a piece condemning the government for not being transparent about Xi’s situation on moral grounds, but others would argue that’s subjective. If an executive has disappeared or died in ANY country, the public has a right to know about it — it has many potential repercussions from the stock markets to national security problems, potential succession struggles, cancelation of important meetings that could affect public policy, etc. etc. It would be an equally easy argument to make stick. But looking at the PR repercussions gives us a more clear, objective way to measure what happened in this particular case.

    Yes, what’s ultimately important to any government is policy. But policy doesn’t just appear out of thin air. The people in power shape policy, so their arrivals and disappearances, their sickness and health matters. And although Chinese people (tragically, in my opinion) don’t have any real way of selecting those people or shaping those policies, they ought to at least have the right to know who is creating the policies that are going to affect their lives. And if one of those people is going to be sick for a couple weeks and NOT doing his job; presumably either (a) important things are being left undone or (b) someone else is now affecting policy by doing them. Either way, the people should have the right to know.

    As for Petition…return to your cocoon if you wish. Plenty of people might instead choose to try to help them. There are lots of ways; the simplest is generally just to talk to them and (if they want it) help them to get more publicity and attention on their situation by spreading the word.

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