Tag Archives: Idiots

Yang Rui, etc.

For any foreigners currently living under a rock ((by which I mean not on Twitter)), I suppose I have to start by showing you this rant, posted by CCTV Dialogue host on Sina Weibo:

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 Integrity

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).

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An Open Letter to Relativity Media

These people aren't allowed to leave their house. Hilarious!
Dear Relativity Media,

Let me start by saying that I have no grudge against your company. You guys have made some great movies! Blood Diamond? I enjoyed that. The Social Network was great. Granted, you also made Doom, but everybody makes mistakes. So I want you to know it’s not about the movies.

It’s not even about 21 and Over, although let’s face it, if I wanted to watch The Hangover again, I could just watch The Hangover, and if I wanted to watch a shitty version of it, I could watch The Hangover II, so I’m not sure what market you’re shooting for with this film. But hey, that’s why I don’t work in the film business.

No, my concern is not with your terrible-sounding movie, which I’m sure will gross a bazillion dollars. It’s with the place you’ve chosen to shoot it: Linyi, Shandong, China.

Now, I suspect you had reasons for choosing this location. Probably even a lot of reasons. And it certainly seems like you’ve made good friends with the local authorities, who are more than happy to have you visiting Linyi:

The Chinese Communist Party Secretary of Linyi’s Municipal Committee, Zhang Shajun, who ranks above the local mayor, issued a statement welcoming the production to his city and adding that he “particularly welcome(s) my good friend (Relativity CEO) Ryan Kavanaugh and his great company” to his “historic city,” adding: “We promise to provide the best service possible in order to help make the movie successful worldwide.”

And you guys are excited too, clearly:

Tucker Tooley, Relativity’s co-President said the Sky land partners love this “hysterical film and it’s gratifying they want to build a foundation immediately alongside our cast and crew. We are very much looking forward to shooting in China, especially in a place as amazing as Linyi.”

Linyi is an amazing place, and what’s more, it makes total sense to shoot an American buddy-comedy there, especially these days when the US is full of icky poor people whining about how they don’t have jobs because American companies have taken all the work overseas.

I wonder, though: do you guys know who you’ve hopped in bed with?

It’s a rhetorical question; even if you didn’t know before, after yesterday’s media firestorm you certainly do. So you know that those same local officials praising your decision to come to Linyi are probably the ones paying teams of thugs to surround Chen Guangcheng’s village and beat anyone who tries to get near it. You know that they’re the ones who’ve been holding an innocent ((Convicted of a crime, yes, but served his time and was released; by Chinese law he should be free)) man and his family hostage, without charges or any kind of legal proceedings.

Until recently, your Linyi government pals were the same ones preventing Chen’s six-year-old daughter from attending school. But hey, good news on that front! They’re letting her go to school now, as long as she never leaves the sight of a couple of their agents. After all, you never know what kind of trouble a six-year-old could get up to! In fact, that sounds like it could make a hilarious movie! Six and Over! There you go, guys, that one’s a freebie. Use it for the prequel.

So anyway, yes, Linyi is an “amazing” place, in that it’s currently at the center of a human rights firestorm, and its government is clearly complicit in something that’s completely indefensible even by the sometimes-Orwellian laws of China. Sounds like a great place to film a comedy. And I’m sure all the money you’re paying those Linyi officials is being used only for, you know, tourism or something. I’m sure none of it goes to paying the thug army they’ve got surrounding Chen’s village.

Now, to be fair, you probably didn’t get yourselves into this on purpose. My guess — and this is just pure speculation — is that you were offered a ridiculously cheap place to shoot with some extra perks and you said yes without looking into it. And yes, in doing that, you placed your foot squarely into the PR bear trap that you’re in right now.

Because now, you’re kinda fucked. If you stay in Linyi, it’s a PR nightmare. My little blog is one thing, but I have a feeling we’ll see this story in some Western papers come Monday.
My guess? That’s just the beginning.

But if you leave Linyi, you’re definitely going to piss off local and perhaps national government officials. My guess is you’d be giving up any chance to shoot in China again for a long time. These guys don’t like being criticized, and they don’t like being embarrassed by Western companies that grow a conscience.

So, what should you do? I’m no expert, but let me help you weigh the options here. You can either piss off the American media and whatever percentage of your audience chooses to pay attention, or you can piss off some government leaders who are giving you a great deal on shooting your hilarious movie so long as you keep quiet about how they’re using your money to hold a blind man hostage.

Personally, I’d say leave Linyi. Like, tomorrow. Or hey, even today! It certainly seems like the moral choice, and I don’t understand why you’d want to shoot an American buddy comedy in China anyway (well, except for because of this).

no-commentWe know you’re aware of the issue (see image). And while I understand the “no comment” response — you probably need some time to get your ducks in a row — please be aware that people are not just going to forget about this if you choose to do nothing. People haven’t forgotten about Chen and his family, and even though they’re beaten and robbed, people keep trying to visit him. Relativity Media needs to seriously consider which side of that equation it wants to be on.

Because maybe it’s just my sense of humor, but holding an innocent blind man and his family in their house, beating and robbing well-intentioned net users trying to visit him, and then lying about it to the world does not sound like a great premise for a hilarious buddy comedy. And every day you’re in Linyi shooting 21 and Over, you’re funding that, too, whether you want to be or not.

Do the right thing here.

Sincerely,

C. Custer

Update: Who to Send This To

If you’d like to send this letter to Relativity Media or people associated with the film, Artists Speak Out has collected a good list of people and ways to contact them.

I recommend you check out their whole post, which also includes sample messages to send, but excerpted below are a bunch of contact details from their post:

Send Tweets to the Lead Actors in 21 and Over

Miles Teller
@miles_teller

Justin Chon
@justinchon

Skylar Astin
@SkylarAstin

[…]

Call, Fax or Email Relativity Media

Phn: +1 310 859 1250
Fax: +1 310 859 1254
pressrequests@relativitymedia.com

Greg Forston
SVP, Theatrical Distribution
greg.forston@relativitymedia.com

Matt Garelick
SVP, Theatrical Distribution
matt.garelick@relativitymedia.com

Wendy Merry
Vice President, Field Marketing
wendy.merry@relativitymedia.com

Jernei Razen
Director of Development
jernejr@relativitymedia.com

John Sinayi
SPV, Theatrical Distribution
john.sinayi@relativitymedia.com

Rob Springer
Senior Vice-President, Sales & Operations
rob.springer@relativitymedia.com

UPDATE: Relativity Media Responds:

Their official statement:

“From its founding, Relativity Media has been a consistent and outspoken supporter of human rights and we would never knowingly do anything to undermine this commitment. We stand by that commitment and we are proud of our growing business relationships in China, through our partnership with Sky Land, its strategic alliance with Huaxia Film Distribution Company. As a company, we believe deeply that expanding trade and business ties with our counterparts in China and elsewhere can result in positive outcomes.”

One (Bad) Approach to China: Unbearable Arrogance

Fair warning: if you dislike or cannot understand sarcasm, you will want to ignore portions of this post.

I recently read, with some displeasure, this translation by Alice Poon in the Asia Sentinel. It’s worth reading all of if you’re the sort of person who likes making yourself angry, but in case you aren’t, it’s an essay written by a Japanese teacher visiting China, lecturing Chinese students about manners and morality, and talking about how the Chinese education system is flawed because it doesn’t contain a moral component. Where did he get the idea Chinese students had no manners?

One evening after school, I was walking and chatting with another young Chinese teacher in the senior high section. Students were leaving the school premises – they were wearing school uniforms and back-packs; some were chatting loudly, some were eating snacks, while others were flirting with each other. I felt very lonely – not one student paid any attention to us.

Dear God, how could they? Those heartless Chinese bastards. Everyone knows when you’re a student, and you see a teacher walking and conversing with his colleague, you should interrupt them to say goodbye! He continues:

If I behaved like this in Japan, the first time I would be warned; after a couple of times, I would be considered having bad conduct, which would adversely affect my school report. If no improvement was made after several times, my parents would be summoned to the school to attend a ‘three-way’ meeting with the teacher and student. If there was still no change, the student would be expelled. In Japan, students are required to say goodbye to their teachers, basically accompanied by a bending of the body, preferably at 45 degrees.

Ah, yes! Because as we all know, the degree at which one bends one’s body is a direct reflection of one’s level of respect everywhere, not just in Japan! And if the body isn’t bent properly, it stands to reason the student should be expelled. After all, school is about bowing and saying goodbye to teachers, right?

As if being subjected to the barbarism of the Chinese in school wasn’t enough, the poor fellow got on a subway, and what did he see but — horror of horrors — “a child eating a hamburger and speaking loudly and dancing on the seats.”

Ah, yes! Children eating and playing in public — how dare they! What morally bereft parents would allow their child to run around a subway eating and making noise! Surely, in Japan, no such thing would ever happen:

In Japan, parents would probably use the occasion to teach the child a lesson and let him know what is proper and what is not. In my family, my parents would spank my butt, let me reflect on my bad behavior by making me stand outside the house for the whole night, and make me go hungry for a day.

Ah, yes! Exposing your child to the elements overnight, and then starving them for a day! Truly this is the technique of the educated, morally upright parent! What China needs is more child abuse!

OK, I’m all sarcasmed-out. In all seriousness, I could break the logic here down and rip it to shreds but it’s not even worth it. Obviously this guy is, at best, seriously self-absorbed and, at worst, in need of psychiatric help. But it’s worth noting because (1) it’s kind of funny to read things written by morons and (2) expecting China to conform to your own cultural norms is a pitfall that’s very easy to fall into (although few ever fall as deep as this man).

For a much better assessment and discussion of the education system in China, check out this much longer translation and commentary we wrote earlier today. I fear it will get ignored because this one has more swear words.