The Man Who Loved China

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Liang Jiajie

quote:


As I understand it, those "township-level units" have contested elections, making their councils somewhat accountable. Deputies to people's congresses of township-level units are elected directly by their constituencies to five-year terms. Does this also apply to people's congresses of the next level, the 11 urban county-level districts ("qū") and the two counties?

The majority of elections take place at the village level in about 1 million villages which represent about 80 per cent of the population in the countryside. Some governments at the town level hold elections, but the number is far fewer (I do not know the number) than that of villages, and it is a recent development. Another recent development is the election of street committees in urban areas. In other words, elections are held at the lowest administrative level of local government.

quote:

Are decisions like building Nбnjīng Metro Line 2 taken at the Region (Shм) level, or the provincial level?

I did not follow the debates behind the construction of that project, but local governments are responsible for the economic and social development of their jurisdictions, and the metro line is under the jurisdiction of Nanjing Shi, not the province. So, given the costs of this project, the final decision must have been taken at the prefecture level.

quote:

Do each of these regions have their own daily newspapers?

Party committees at each level of government publish their official newspapers, so the newspapers are essentially Party newsletters. Generally, people will hold public officials accountable when they independently take notice of problems in their surroundings that is affecting them.

Liang Jiajie

quote:


God (that mythical creature) knows where the mind of the average Chinese citizen is "at", these days. But I would think not open to ideas about a growing environmental threat to the life of our species. Perhaps only at the pathetic level of understanding of George W. Bush some years ago?

But perhaps you do not know, really, about the level of thinking of the mainstream citizen of China, Jiajie, the potential for change? It is obviously more difficult to categorize 1.3 billion people in attempting to speculate on where we have to go next, politically, to improve chances of our success at survival?

All talk of confidence, ultimately, in the ability of "the people" to make the right decision, aside?


I can only write in generalities. People are aware of environmental degradation because it is directly affecting them, and some have thus launched unsuccessful lawsuits against corrupt local officials and business people who allow the pollution. Therefore, when their water source and food source of a village is polluted, the people understand that there is no choice but change.

George Victor

I have benefitted from our exchange, Jiajie,and the reading of The Man Who Loved China. Thank you for your patience, a primary requirement of a good teacher.

I hope that it has all been of some use to you. It would be reassuring to know that you represent the mainstream of Chinese intellectuals in your rational understanding of the situation. I was also reassured by my conversation with the good professor from Beijing so many years ago.

But I do not expect to ever understand realism, with its terrible implications for collective action - or non-action.
George

Liang Jiajie

Our exchange rightfully placed under question some of my assumptions I had left undisturbed for too long. Thank you for that. Introverted reflection is fine but a dialogue obligates us to pause and to respond clearly and honestly to criticism, making us vulnerable to the ache felt at the realization that some of our assumptions are false, or to the long process of re-evaluation.

Now I have a question for you. When Needham began his research in China, he realized that most of the Chinese with whom he discussed Chinese history reflected back to him Marxist assumptions; he discovered that they had read the translated works of European Marxist theorists and that he would have to search somewhere else for a unique Chinese position regarding the history of China. It can be assumed that he arrived in China with a few expections. Following my post regarding Tibet, you felt “floored” and thus decided to look to Chinese philosophy to understand my position. I thought that perhaps you were going in the wrong direction because I am certain that your part of the world includes persons who think like me. And I am a product of the twentieth century. What did you expect as you began the exchange? Why were you confused?

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
[b]Following my post regarding Tibet, you felt “floored” and thus decided to look to Chinese philosophy to understand my position. I thought that perhaps you were going in the wrong direction because I am certain that your part of the world includes persons who think like me. And I am a product of the twentieth century. What did you expect as you began the exchange? Why were you confused?[/b]

I too am interested in the answer to this. The comment in question was:

quote:

Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
[b]I have accepted as fact that the central government will not abandon Tibet. I have accepted as fact that the international community cannot, and is not capable, to force the central government to grant independence to Tibet. And I have accepted as a fact that most Chinese would not support a central government willing to succumb to international pressure on such an emotional issue. I therefore work with those assumptions while contemplating the Tibet question.[/b]

But so do I, and so do most well-informed commentators I have read (which excludes 99% of American commentators.) I thought those statements were non-controversial. What am I missing?

George Victor

Hello Jiajie and Wilf.

Here's the question:

Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
I have accepted as fact that the central government will not abandon Tibet. I have accepted as fact that the international community cannot, and is not capable, to force the central government to grant independence to Tibet. And I have accepted as a fact that most Chinese would not support a central government willing to succumb to international pressure on such an emotional issue. I therefore work with those assumptions while contemplating the Tibet question.

I have just learned (CBC) that the central government of China has agreed to again provide free education to the impoverished kids in those 1,000,000 villages.
On the same broadcast, I"m told that perhaps 200,000,000 rural folk are at various stages of transit into the cities to find employment.

"Most Chinese" would not accept that government "succumbing" to international pressure on Tibet?

But given their situation, to look to "most Chinese" would seem so 1930s.

It would seem that all there are in great fear of the people who made Mao possible. And while that may be a "realistic" understanding of the political situation, I would have thought some advice from the "new Confucians" would have brought some control to growth. Seen to it that village schools providing free education would have been erected as well as those "blade runner" structures witnessed by Winchester.

Our own "philosopher king" the late Pierre TRudeau, made our own multi-ethnic phenom possible by disavowing nationalism. Certainly the nationalism of the great unread, which he transcended in the 40s and 50s.

You have studied CAnadian history Jiajie, the conquest of the French by the British on the Plains of Abraham. And some of the French-speaking descendants objected to a Beatle being brought to that ancient battlefield to perform at a ceremony celebrating the 400th anniversary of France's settlement there. Paul is British, after all.

And no nationalist in Quebec has been jailed lately. Not even murder of a kidnapped British trade commissioner resulted in more than a short prison term a third of a century back.

But given that "most Chinese" are apparently onside with the government's treatment of Tibetan nationalists - and we have NO IDEA of their treatment - you wonder at my being "floored'?

Pardon me but this nationalist can't accommodate that polarity of action even in the name of cultural understanding.

Moreover, while "we" could once afford not to be concerned with the goings on over there in Africa, Asia, wherever, it seems to me that we must hold true to the sense of empathy that we have developed here since the death of Wolfe and Montcalm.

We don't "buy" the excuses given by our government for intervention in Afghanistan. It's basically oil-related. Can't justify all the death. But read Rory Stewart's The PLaces in Between to understand that it's also pure ignorance on our part to be there.

There's no attempt to modify Chinese nationalism now, on Tibet, because the nationalist fervour in 1954, the year of the pact with India, one year after the Korean War peace agreement, can't be rescinded.

And Tibet could not be allowed to pass laws, like Quebec, stipulating certain conditions that would insure cultural viability, language and beliefs? It's just ce serra, serra ? (with apologies to Italian-speaking Canadians for the spelling, etc.

My wife taught English as a second language to many 7 year olds coming to Mississauga from around the world, not as a specialist, but as a Grade 2 teacher. I got to help in her final couple of years (we both had B Ed.s) And by golly, even the newest newcomers could read the new language by year's end.

Again, surely the newly rich, the newly educated and well-to-do, can enter the contest there? It's not a matter of "don't buy Chinese" as we didn't "buy South African wine" or "California grapes" etc. etc. to force China's hand.

But when Chinese foreign policy starts emulating our own in Africa and elsewhere, it is time to start being at least as critical of made-in-China policy as we are of our own misbegotten ventures.

A July 22 footnote.

Yes, indeed, my "part of the world" does indeed include many who think like you. I believe Wilf, who also asks the question, is in line with your thinking.

But, then, I believe that that is how we have arrived at our present quandry. Today's intellectual is first a professional, someone who must fit into the society they have inherited, and which increasingly needs to change direction.

The change does not come about, because that would require your professional to step out of role and perform as the intellectual of old. Look at the hold of capital on the small investor and would-be comfortably retired, professional or not. How does that person perform the historic role of thoughtful critic?

This has not been a problem in the past because growth was not challenged on a planet with apparently infinite capacity to absorb growth.

In my view, the state must again intervene and provide the cushion, the controlled and safe investment opportunity, with zero growth in mind, and an eventual diminution of population.
That will all become all too clear in time, due to the effects of environmental overload, but I am afraid we don't have much of that most precious commodity left.

(30)

[ 21 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 22 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

George Victor

Just so that "footnote" of today is not lost in passing, on re-reading your query, I now see it as central, and I'll repeat it.

It is a very radical position,( radical coming from the Greek "root"), and it's always brought forward by the establishment as thinking that must be suppressed. But then, if a radical change in understanding is not brought to our situation, I really don't see any way out!:

A July 22 footnote.

This footnote, Jiajie, is properly in response to your question. I'm sorry that I was diverted to answer the question posed by Wilf, which was not really your query from philosophy.

How, indeed, does thinking diverge across cultures in the age of capitalist hegemony?

Sadly, it does not, and apparently cannot, without understanding the dynamics, which, I think, can only be seen from economics AND sociology/social psychology.

Yes, indeed, my "part of the world" does indeed include many who think like you. I believe Wilf, who also asks the question, is in line with your thinking.

But, then, I believe that that is how we have arrived at our present quandry. Today's intellectual is first a professional, someone who must fit into the society they have inherited, and which increasingly needs to change direction.

The change does not come about, because that would require your professional to step out of role and perform as the intellectual of old. Look at the hold of capital on the small investor and would-be comfortably retired, professional or not. How does that person perform the historic role of thoughtful critic, the Greek citizen?

This has not been a problem in the past because growth was not challenged on a planet with apparently infinite capacity to absorb growth.

In my view, the state must again intervene and provide the cushion, the controlled and safe investment opportunity, with zero growth in mind, and an eventual diminution of population.
That will all become all too clear in time, due to the effects of environmental overload, but I am afraid we don't have much of that most precious commodity left.

I believed, fancifully, that you would have understood that motivation from a materialist perspective. But I was looking in a mirror. Somehow, Marxist principles help us to understand only up to the point of revolution, and not the contented society coming out the back end of it.

And what you see me doing in this is coming to grips with my own thoughts, giving them substance. We cannot expect the farmer to think except as a farmer, the worker as worker, or the professional elite to break out of their box. Not if they don't understand their motivation from their place in that society.

(30)

[ 22 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Panama Jack

Interesting discussion, haven't had time to scour the entire thread but has anyone read the feature article in the July 10th Georgia Straight ?

[url=http://www.straight.com/article-152876/who-were-bcs-first-seafarers?#]Who were BC's first seafarers ? [/url]

Besides the bad title (apologies to the Haida who were most certainly sea faring), it discusses Menizes book and his critics.

George Victor

Yes PJ, it was offered to us further back on this thread, which looks like it might be at the end of its natural life.

I might have offended the "professionals" in China and Port Hope with my pronouncements - if they understood my babbling attempts at coming to grips with THE philosophical and existential problem of our age - and the book is now history.

Liang Jiajie

Hi George,

I apologize for the lateness of my reply and I appreciate your patience. My computer breathed its last breath a few days ago, so I had to search for and buy a new computer. All is well now.

I have a brief remark regarding nationalism in China. Can you remember the demonstrations against the Beijing Olympics a few months ago? The most significant dynamic for me was the large number of overseas Chinese who supported the Olympics as they waved Chinese flags and defended China. Their response to the demonstrations is important because they live and work in liberal democracies, so one would expect them not to defend China as it is known in the Western media. That said, it was not a defence of the CCP. It was a defence of China as a nation and as an abstraction because their conception of China transcends the Party and whatever it represented in the past, whatever it represents today, and whatever it will represent in the future. In other words, for those overseas Chinese, China is a good place, with or without the Party, and its integrity must be defended. The same can be said of mainland Chinese.

So a Party administration buckling under international pressure by granting independence to Tibet would be, in the minds of too many Chinese, threatening the integrity of China. Since the 1950s, Tibet has been considered a part of China and that sentiment is stronger than ever among Chinese today.

quote:

But, then, I believe that that is how we have arrived at our present quandry. Today's intellectual is first a professional, someone who must fit into the society they have inherited, and which increasingly needs to change direction.

The change does not come about, because that would require your professional to step out of role and perform as the intellectual of old. Look at the hold of capital on the small investor and would-be comfortably retired, professional or not. How does that person perform the historic role of thoughtful critic, the Greek citizen?


You know that China's polity is very different than that of Canada. It is extremely difficult to become an activist in a country whose government suppresses challenges to the general order. However, if the Party, local governments, and citizens will not listen to environmental activists, it will have no other option but to listen to the environment and subscribe to a new attitude. My hope is that the universal nature of environmental degradation will reach beyond social distinctions and international borders to coerce an attitudinal change.

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
[b]So a Party administration buckling under international pressure by granting independence to Tibet would be, in the minds of too many Chinese, threatening the integrity of China. Since the 1950s, Tibet has been considered a part of China and that sentiment is stronger than ever among Chinese today.[/b]

No doubt. However, I am not so certain about the Xinjiang Uygur province.

Recently shown on our TV screens was[url=http://onatightrope.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=53&Ite... the movie On A Tightrope. [/url] "Director Petr Lom achieved the impossible. With official permission, over 18 months, he filmed an intimate story of everyday life, a rare and moving slice of contemporary life in one of the world’s most remote places. In a tender, touching account, four orphaned children attempt to learn Dawaz, the ancient Uyghur tradition of tightrope walking, as part of their training to earn their own living when they leave the orphanage."

The attitude of the teachers was remarkable. They were muslim Uygurs themselves, but they made the children recite daily chants against any religion. They explained "they are forbidden to follow the religion until they are 18." They clearly disbelieved what they preached, a dismal example of what Jean-Paul Sartre called "bad faith." They were living a lie. It seemed to me that such a culture could not long continue.

I have the impression that many Chinese do not trust most Uygurs to be sincere about being part of China, and I have the impression that such mistrust is well-founded.

But perhaps I am drawing too many conclusions from insufficient information?

George Victor

Your return message was just what I needed to make my morning coffee satisfying, Jiajie.

As a Luddite, I have torn emotions at the news that your computer has been replaced. However, I always celebrate at news that the human factor remains a must!

Yes, the Chinese immigrant population of Canada is impressively on the side of China on the Tibet question. In fact, my friends in Mississauga were half-seriously considering returning there if the economy here "tanks". Only half-seriously, however, with one youngster now in university and the other, the really brilliant one, about to be.

I understand your position. As a retiree taken care of by insurance and pension in Canada, I can hold forth with all sorts of subversive thoughts, and be treated simply as an eccentric, even without the protection of Needham's superior intellect and accomplishments under that appellation.

But, as radically different as the polity of China is, ours is depressingly similar in the self image of its "citizens".

I no longer use "citizen" to describe the corrupted voter/taxpayer/consumer of goods, whose view of self is a product of a half-century of lifestyle and supporting propaganda by the admen and conservative intelligentsia who have had nothing to lose in the game.

I had a larger question for you, but must retreat into a second (or third) coffee first.

George

George Victor

I have a date with the Mississauga family for noon, Saturday, and will have some questions and comments after that. Not sure if they could be described as an example of your typical Chinese immigrant to Canada. But they might have fun answering that question when I put it to them. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Until the weekend...

Liang Jiajie

quote:


Originally posted by Wilf Day:
[b]
The attitude of the teachers was remarkable. They were muslim Uygurs themselves, but they made the children recite daily chants against any religion. They explained "they are forbidden to follow the religion until they are 18." They clearly disbelieved what they preached, a dismal example of what Jean-Paul Sartre called "bad faith." They were living a lie. It seemed to me that such a culture could not long continue.

I have the impression that many Chinese do not trust most Uygurs to be sincere about being part of China, and I have the impression that such mistrust is well-founded.

But perhaps I am drawing too many conclusions from insufficient information?[/b]


I should qualify the name Chinese because I use it often and because it is essential in the context of a discussion regarding nationalism. When I use it, I mean Han Chinese. The vast majority of people in China identify themselves as Han Chinese and some believe it is a distinct biological race.

I also probably lack the information required to offer a thoughtful conclusion regarding the situation in Xinjiang, but it is likely accurate to say that the average Chinese knows very little about that region of the country. If Chinese have put into question the loyalty of people in Xinjiang, their attitude is probably based on their understanding of the violent clashes between the army and separatists in 1999 in Xinjiang and Gansu. There were also violent demonstrations in Tibet in the 1990s. I think you are correct that many Chinese have a well-founded doubt, but it is difficult to form a personal opinion because I do not have enough knowledge, and the required information is difficult to find.

The life of those teachers is indeed tragic. Did the teachers explain why they taught those chants to the students?

Liang Jiajie

quote:


Originally post by George Victor:
[b]
But, as radically different as the polity of China is, ours is depressingly similar in the self image of its "citizens".

I no longer use "citizen" to describe the corrupted voter/taxpayer/consumer of goods, whose view of self is a product of a half-century of lifestyle and supporting propaganda by the admen and conservative intelligentsia who have had nothing to lose in the game.[/b]


Can you characterize the "half-century of lifestyle"?

George Victor

I see from your postings of April 28 on another thread, Jiajie, that "for the West to maintain its affluence, it needs Asian markets..."

That is what my friend in Mississauga also believes, as you will see, below. We have to be able to compete, as well.

But I believe that our speculations since April 28 may have inserted a mitigating factor into that materialist' assumption about the future?

Yes, Jiajie, to answer the question first, before reporting on that luch with my friends:

The improvements in the life of the majority of North American workers since the Second War - slowed since the early 1970s and now actually beginning to reverse - together with their investment opportunities, created the middle class to which most aspired.

This did not create a higher quality of political performance or expectations of higher performance from the politicians. In fact, since the California tax revolt of the late 70s, the great middle has been appealed to first by the siren song of lower taxes. Maintenance of a lifestyle unknown to any previous generation of working people has been pivotal in defining the nature of our polity, its goals.

Lifestyle corrupts, and it seems to me that a really cushy one corrupts completely (to fiddle with a verbal play on power).

Each generation is burped on the scene to learn (or not to learn) from scratch about our social and political institutions and cultural mores. And we’ve been taught by television and the admen. In the early 1970s, participating in a symposium at Trent University , I put forward the argument about the corrupting influence of advertising.

I shall never forget the advertising execs and flacks there arguing that they were not causing people to buy, only to understand the choices that advertising made clear. It was before the public confessions by the tobacco industry execs. It was a leading New Democrat and academic who brought the debate forward.

Some have been uncertain about the outcome of the “human experiment” since Rachel Carson. Our capacity to do ourselves in with our chosen lifestyle, bombs aside.

But to the “lunch” - a half dozen vegetable dishes and shrimp on rice - a Cantonese feast:

My hosts came to Canada in the middle Trudeau years, and were sure that they had found the promised land of freedoms.

By the middle years of Brian Mulroney, they were packing to return to China when Tienanmen happened. They unpacked their bags.

But now, they would again pack to return to China except for the kids - a son studying math and business, and a daughter who fully expects to enter U. of T. in a year’s time and study medicine. Her grades make that a more than likely outcome. She was the top student in Grade 2, and seems to have continued to excel through her third year in secondary school.

And dad - I cannot speak for mom - no longer believes Canada will be able to compete in a globalized world, or that its media are telling him the truth. In fact he’s sure that stories about China, reported in the media here from any western source, are biased and reports on events, beginning with Tienanmen, are exaggerated.

For me, this means that even a practicing scientist is vulnerable to nationalism’s corrupting, distorting effect and rational becomes rationalization to meet the desired object (Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia).

What is more, he cannot understand the laid-back attitude of Canadians toward the disappearance of their manufacturing base. Not just the “hollowing out” concerns about the transfer of control to other countries, but the actual loss of industry and its skills.

He is convinced that Canadian educational facilities are being degraded, comparing their product to those overseas.

And while he marveled at Canada’s capacity to absorb the greatest ethnic variety and number (relatively) of newcomers, the revelation that “that’s what Canada does” (if with somewhat narrower lenses in the past), led only to a cautionary note. Canada should beware because in the event of conflict with any of those countries of origin there would be a resident fifth column ready to do damage. And I thought that that, too, represents the position of a great many Chinese on the eve of the Olympics and with Tibet in the wings.

On Tibet and the Falun Gong…both people showing a tendency to “unnatural” practices in their customs, social structure, and treatment of people within their fold that rational people should suppress.

On the media…as much as I pointed out that from time to time the media will get it right, and I told him of Graeme Smith’s work for the Globe and Mail in Afghanistan, he would not concede, and does not try to find “the truth” out there in the aether. And since I was there on a fact-finding mission as well as to enjoy the company of friends, we will meet again.

But to me the severity of the grip of the materialist lifestyle - the reminder of the hold of Homo economicus - was again a huge downer.

But I believe the children are more complex and may break the mould. And the mother of the children, whose every action spells empathy for the other, wants to be able to again read Marx on Capital , the source of the ideas delivered by her father, the political officer in the peoples’ army. I believe that she represents exactly the human being that Marx envisioned.

She cannot yet read in the language of her adopted country, and wondered if she might find at least the introductory chapter, the one in which Marx described the lifestyle of people in the society he hoped might result from his work… published in the language of her birth. I believe she is her father’s daughter.

I said that I would inquire, but could only leave them with a copy of Winchester’s The Man Who Loved China.

v

[ 27 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
[b]The life of those teachers is indeed tragic. Did the teachers explain why they taught those chants to the students?[/b]

They said it was required. They were raising these orphans, and the policy of the orphanage was to raise them as good communist citizens of China, not as Muslims. It was part of their opening exercises each morning, along with the other recitals that one might expect.

This might have made more sense in a different context, but here they were living in an all-Muslim, all-Uygur community, and their Muslim teachers were ordered to teach them to fight against all superstition and religion. Or perhaps to pretend to fight, since the real message was "until you're 18."

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]And dad - I cannot speak for mom - no longer believes Canada will be able to compete in a globalized world, or that its media are telling him the truth. In fact he’s sure that stories about China, reported in the media here from any western source, are biased and reports on events, beginning with Tienanmen, are exaggerated.[/b]

Even with only 22 days in China as my basis, I have no doubt your friend is correct.

I see two main reasons for this. First, simple ignorance of recent developments: too often the assignment editor assign a story based on his preconceptions, and tells his writer what spin -- sorry, perspective -- he expects. Second, what I might call western-centrism: we assume we are far more important to the Chinese than they actually consider us to be, and we assume they are doing things for reasons that relate to us, when in fact China spends 98% of its time thinking about China and doing things for their own reasons. When we judge them by our standards, we are not only biased but we miss the real story.

quote:

Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]What is more, he cannot understand the laid-back attitude of Canadians toward the disappearance of their manufacturing base. Not just the “hollowing out” concerns about the transfer of control to other countries, but the actual loss of industry and its skills.[/b]

I understand the American laid-back attitude to their decline: overconfidence. The Canadian attitude I find as puzzling as your friend does. I plan to make sure my granddaughter learns Mandarin. She'll need it.

quote:

Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]Canada should beware because in the event of conflict with any of those countries of origin there would be a resident fifth column ready to do damage. And I thought that that, too, represents the position of a great many Chinese on the eve of the Olympics and with Tibet in the wings.[/b]

I don't see any sign that a large enough number of non-Chinese are in China, large enough to be a danger they worry about. I imagine your friend might be saying "if China had such a vast number of non-Chinese residents, we would beware." But they didn't seem to be worried about a few Tibetans or a few foreigners. On the contrary, outside Shanghai and Beijing we were quite rare and they were extremely friendly.

quote:

Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]On Tibet and the Falun Gong both people showing a tendency to “unnatural” practices in their customs, social structure, and treatment of people within their fold that rational people should suppress.[/b]

The only Falun Gong members I met on my trip were a couple of pitiable souls talking to themselves outside the Chinese Consulate in Toronto. Not to be compared with Tibetan Buddhists.

[ 27 July 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

George Victor

Quote from Wilf Day:

I don't see any sign that a large enough number of non-Chinese are in China, large enough to be a danger they worry about. I imagine your friend might be saying "if China had such a vast number of non-Chinese residents, we would beware." But they didn't seem to be worried about a few Tibetans or a few foreigners. On the contrary, outside Shanghai and Beijing we were quite rare and they were extremely friendly.

If you also believe that the western media largely distort (and lie a bit?) you will not believe the story that a half-million people have been mobilized in Beijing down to the neighbourhood watch level. There is a certain circularity there, a "can't lose" proposition if "stories" can be put down to media bias and distortion, but we'll perhaps learn more in ensuing weeks.

posted 27 July 2008 02:52 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I see from your postings of April 28 on another thread, Jiajie, that "for the West to maintain its affluence, it needs Asian markets..."
That is what my friend in Mississauga also believes, as you will see, below. We have to be able to compete, as well.

But I believe that our speculations since April 28 may have inserted a mitigating factor into that materialist' assumption about the future

I had thought, Wilf, that some concessions about the perhaps problematic nature of our reaching a future point in some ongoing "competitive" future due to climate change and other environmental factors might have altered Jiajie assumptions there since the April postings.

I see that it has not caused much doubt in your own mind. Life in the future is an extension of 2008. And I guess I do not recall you ruminating on climate change - you'll correct me if I'm wrong.

But that is what I'm on about in the third paragraph, above.

I did not challenge my Mississauga friend on that point. One does not want to be a complete Jeremiad at your host's table. But out here, without our granddaughters present?

[ 28 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]If you also believe that the western media largely distort (and lie a bit?) you will not believe the story that a half-million people have been mobilized in Beijing down to the neighbourhood watch level.[/b]

Sure I believe it. Clearly they are on the watch for any saboteurs, terrorists, pickpockets, and other hooligans and panhandlers attracted the world over to major sports events like the World Cup and the Olympics. And they will also be on the watch for any western tourist who gets lost and/or drunk and needs help, which would be lovely -- street signage in Beijing, although bilingual, is sparse, and finding a toilet is not always easy either. Since I saw few police officers in Beijing, neighbourhood watch volunteers are very appropriate. It all fits in nicely with the way they have spruced up the hutongs. They are making Beijing clean, safe and presentable for the Olympics. If we had the Olympics in Toronto, don't you think we would suddenly find shelter for all the homeless?

By shutting down all construction before and during the Olympics to cut pollution, they are also sending a vast number of migrant workers home, a handy by-product of the shutdown. Although I felt the presence of millions of migrant workers was most obvious in Shanghai, no doubt they contributed to over-crowding in Beijing as well.

As for climate change and other environmental factors, clearly the Chinese will tackle pollution as soon as they can -- but their first priority is the huge and worrying discrepancy between the urban rich and the rural poor. One sees many new factories in greenfield sites. As rural areas catch up, they will become more polluted. That is a major issue they are working on, but not by stopping development.

As to climate change, I am not qualified to assess Chinese attitudes to it, but I would speculate that they are like all developing countries, not keen on being told to stop catching up to the west while the west pretends to be addressing the issue. I mentioned earlier that Shanghai's Pudong is built on sand, and is sinking anyway. It is wonderfully impressive, but those buildings are not built to last a thousand years like classical Chinese buildings, which is just as well since Pudong will be under water long before that, climate change or no climate change. Their second generation of new development will have to be built on higher ground. If the icecaps melt, China will cope better than New York.

George Victor

I hope that Jiajie will tell me whether his concerns regarding our timeline - how much we have left to ward off a really miserable future - i.e. as the Gobi marches on them out of the west, the rivers coming off the glaciers above the Tibetan plateau lose their summer flow, wheatlands and rice paddies go barren, etc., etc....whether he sees any of that as being still "realistically" controllable.

We "rational" beings have long understood "point of no return" as a rather dangerous concept to play with.

From your end, Wilf, rather than your take on China,or suggestions for my self-analysis,i.e. put Toronto in the place of Beijing, etc., I would really appreciate hearing your thoughts on the environmental question. Are you, too, just being "realistic"?

And is it a sin to tell another natiion that, you know, we really, really, respect your need for independence to grow the life chances of the rural population, but, to stop just short of obsequiousness, we really, really don't want to see the grandkids suffer?

Surely there's a middle way? (That used to be a very acceptable position in Chinese philosophical circles).

Although I hope that bit about melting icecaps and "China" being better off than New York , and a second generation of construction allowing for adjustment to climate change is not your serious self. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 28 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]as the Gobi marches on them out of the west, the rivers coming off the glaciers above the Tibetan plateau lose their summer flow, wheatlands and rice paddies go barren, etc., etc....whether he sees any of that as being still "realistically" controllable.[/b]

Controllable by treaty? Or only by a world government, which it may take such drastic events to create?

Liang Jiajie

George:

My comment of April 28 was aimed at those who believe China is a commercial threat and that the West can do without it. More important, as you pointed out, my comment is based on the assumption that Canadians (and Westerners generally) define affluence as materiel wealth and value it above all else. But some days I believe that countries like Canada can do without China's manufacturing capacity and exchange rate. After all, Canada's material affluence after the Second World War originated from the rise of the manufacturing sector in which many Canadians were factory workers who could afford a house and a car on a single income. Moreover, there was a time when Canadian businesses did not rely on Chinese factories to assemble their products at affordable prices -- that time only ended very recently.

The popular definition of affluence among well-to-do Canadians and Chinese must change. The definition must include the quality of the natural environment, literacy and numeracy, spirituality, the dignity of labour, aesthetics....

Regarding the meeting with your friend: His willingness to emigrate from one country to another over what he believes to be his country's future lack of global competitiveness reveals his good station in society. Our perceptions and our reasons for taking such life-altering decisions are relative to our position in a society so that, for example, one person's reason for emigrating is for another person an abstract and inconsequential reason. If your friend returned to China, I doubt he would find much difference in his material well-being. A Canadian from the middle- or upper-class can own a business in China, have access to mobile phones, flat screen televisions, mutual funds, credit, cars, nice apartments, and vacations. But if a Canadian wants to participate in politics and defeat certain ideas to change society for the better, China is the wrong place. A Chinese miner, on the other hand, would take the opportunity to work in Canada and throw aside as privileged speculation warnings that Canada's global competitiveness may decline or that its media is bias.

Liang Jiajie

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]I hope that Jiajie will tell me whether his concerns regarding our timeline - how much we have left to ward off a really miserable future - i.e. as the Gobi marches on them out of the west, the rivers coming off the glaciers above the Tibetan plateau lose their summer flow, wheatlands and rice paddies go barren, etc., etc....whether he sees any of that as being still "realistically" controllable.
[/b]

George: I am not an engineer or scientist, so I cannot offer original and practical thoughts on this subject. I can only repeat the projections of scientists that I have read. However, I am interested in what the natural environment can teach philosophy and how that experience can change human attitudes.

George Victor

posted 28 July 2008 08:36 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by George Victor:
as the Gobi marches on them out of the west, the rivers coming off the glaciers above the Tibetan plateau lose their summer flow, wheatlands and rice paddies go barren, etc., etc....whether he sees any of that as being still "realistically" controllable.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Wilf (quote):

Controllable by treaty? Or only by a world government, which it may take such drastic events to create?

Oh, I believe a "progressive" (to use the idiom of this venu) must demand a treaty that would bring all the U.N. members together as signatories to an agreement that forces us all to act as Homo sapiens, responsible for the terrible destruction of our biosphere, and not some corrupted, nationalist representation of "human beings" with all our "human failings" that will be forgiven by the gods, our children and grandkids, etc..You know, the world's wusses.

We have access to all the information needed to now declare the absolute need for such an agency and event. We must not continue to grovel before power and ignorance.

Others may plead ignorance, but we cannot - at least I hope that your New York/China comparison "apre le deluge" did not represent your true thoughts on possible future outcomes... [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

As to climate change, I am not qualified to assess Chinese attitudes to it, but ... climate change or no climate change. Their second generation of new development will have to be built on higher ground. If the icecaps melt, China will cope better than New York. [img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

George Victor

Quoting Jiajie:
The popular definition of affluence among well-to-do Canadians and Chinese must change. The definition must include the quality of the natural environment, literacy and numeracy, spirituality, the dignity of labour, aesthetics.... (end quote)

I desperately needed to hear that. Now all we have to do is overcome the reactionary forces that stand in the way, eh?

And for that reason, I cannot accept this reasoning:

George: I am not an engineer or scientist, so I cannot offer original and practical thoughts on this subject. I can only repeat the projections of scientists that I have read. However, I am interested in what the natural environment can teach philosophy and how that experience can change human attitudes.
(end quote)

The scientists that I have read, Jiajie, Tim Flannery and James Lovelock, plus those on the IPCC, convey a feeling of urgency that does not come from some sort of naturalistic "communing with nature".

You earlier suggested that the native peoples might have something to contribute regarding our attitude. But I read yesterday that, for instance, a couple of native-controlled logging operations at Clayoquot Sound, B.C. are determined to cut a few thousand metres of wood in old growth forest, fought for by environmentalists since the early 90s.

I had been through there in 1969, and took my family there in '94. Trees going to the sky, some there since an Arab culture saved the last vestiges of Greek and Roman culture from the Christians.

No, we're going to have to depend on science. And on honest reportage of events.

You and Wilf (and my Mississauga friend) tar all news outlets with the same brush.

But I've just now finished congratulating a friend of my daughter's from secondary school days for his continued success in bringing "another take" on the Afghanistan situation. A young guy who impressed the hell out of everyone for his honesty, brilliance and nerve...preferred the "older" girls.

He has already won the Amnesty International media award for his uncovering the ill-treatment of detainees handed over to the gentle mercies of Afghan police by Canadian forces there.(Dec. 07)His work forced the Canadian government to end the practice.

Beginning March 22 the Globe and Mail carried his interviews with the Taliban, relating why they fought. Which turned out to be for all the natural reasons... relatives killed by bombs, reduced to starvation by destruction of poppy crops, etc. You did not read it in the New York Times...

He was co-winner of Canada's most prestigious Michner Award for the same action.(April this year).

And now from China comes news of the "silencing" of Hu Jia, Yang Chunlin and Ye Guozhu for their human rights activity.Amnesty International has comdemned the suppression of rights activists and journalists "and the use of arbitrary imprisonment."

How we would ever bring off that project (above) for the survival of the species without some awareness on the part of China's people (and the people of Canada who also trust no media)I've no idea, Jiajie.

So I guess I would make that another, early project. Win freedom for ALL to tell it like it is. It might get a bit corrupted in some IT venues, as you witness here, from time to time. But I can't go along with the appeal for infinite patience while things work themselves out.

We've got to reconstruct an industrial base in Canada that is environmentally sustainable. And we have to expect the same from all, sooner rather than later.

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]We've got to reconstruct an industrial base in Canada that is environmentally sustainable. And we have to expect the same from all, sooner rather than later.[/b]

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

I'm not convinced "expectations" will work any better than "wishes." I hope I'm wrong. After all, the west eventually abolished slavery even before the slaves had a vote on the matter. Was that just by application of Christian ethics, philosophy and expectations? Or was it because the industrial revolution made it possible to run profitable enterprises without slaves?

George Victor

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."
I'm not convinced "expectations" will work any better than "wishes." I hope I'm wrong. After all, the west eventually abolished slavery even before the slaves had a vote on the matter. Was that just by application of Christian ethics, philosophy and expectations? Or was it because the industrial revolution made it possible to run profitable enterprises without slaves?
(end of Wilf's quote)

The expectations would, of course, have to be supported by something more than aphorisms.

But, again, Wilf. I have asked for your take on the science of climate change, folks you have read, anything to indicate that you see it in serious light. You have not replied to the question.

i.e."
From your end, Wilf, rather than your take on China,or suggestions for my self-analysis,i.e. put Toronto in the place of Beijing, etc., I would really appreciate hearing your thoughts on the environmental question. Are you, too, just being "realistic"?
(end of quote)

Howcum?

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]I have asked for your take on the science of climate change.[/b]

The science of climate change is in no doubt at all.

What is in real doubt is the willingness of any single country's government to act ethically. Has any signatory to Kyoto actually cut their carbon emissions? I'm sure the Chinese are quietly pondering this question.

George Victor

Realism has won the day.

So, since we do not try to pressure anyone to do anything "over there" , how about here in old Canady?

Like, what do you think of the idea of approaching Cambridge city council to request - fiollowing the lead of Toronto's planning agencies - abolishment of the Ontario Municipal Board because of its dead hand on any attempt to speed planning - for environmental reasons. No use? It's like they say, you can't fight city hall?

Think Ill try anyway. Just for fun, and at least raise some sign of life among the taxpaying/consuming citizenry.

You never know until you try.
Or, Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Had a soc. prof who had fun pointed to the contradictions like: Absence makes the heart grow fonder/ Out of sight, out of mind.

Anything for a laugh. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]Realism has won the day.

So, since we do not try to pressure anyone to do anything "over there" . . .[/b]


There was lots of "pressure" on China to sign on to Kyoto. Canada's ability to pressure China to do anything is slim to nil. Is that bad? Should 30 million pressure 1,300 million? Even if they should, they can't. Let alone you and me.

An interesting letter in the Globe this morning about Barack Obama's hubris in addressing a Berlin crowd as though he was already president. The letter made a wider point: if he becomes president, and his excessive pride promises so much to Americans when so little may be available, will such pride cause not only his own downfall but America's?

Recognizing limits to power is not only "realism" but much healthier than thinking someone appointed us God, or gave us power to know better than the Chinese what China should do.

Of course, as a democrat, I can imagine a democratic world government knowing better than any one nation. That would include a world cabinet of 20 containing one American, four Chinese, and sadly no Canadian.

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: Wilf Day ]

Liang Jiajie

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]The scientists that I have read, Jiajie, Tim Flannery and James Lovelock, plus those on the IPCC, convey a feeling of urgency that does not come from some sort of naturalistic "communing with nature".

You earlier suggested that the native peoples might have something to contribute regarding our attitude. But I read yesterday that, for instance, a couple of native-controlled logging operations at Clayoquot Sound, B.C. are determined to cut a few thousand metres of wood in old growth forest, fought for by environmentalists since the early 90s[/b]


My sense of urgency does come from the conclusions of scientific research; not from commuting with nature. Though I understand and accept the general conclusions of scientists, my position is based on an appeal to authorities and their consensus because I am not a scientist who can defend their research from those who deny the human factor in climate change and minimize environmental degradation. So when you ask me how much time we have until climate change in Asia begins to affect peoples, I can offer only academic articles which are not the result of my work.

I suppose not all First Nations subscribe to their ancestors' religions. But their traditional religions provided them with a conception of nature that helped to sustain their natural environment prior to the arrival of commercialization and Europeans. For example, generally the First Nations believed that the natural environment was imbued with spirits worthy of their respect and they acknowledged that humans required the natural environment to survive thus respected and lived by its patterns. Besides the conclusions of science, the history of First Nations is a good starting point for a change in attitude because it teaches that their attitude worked.

quote:

You and Wilf (and my Mississauga friend) tar all news outlets with the same brush.

I have tarred only Lou Dobbs, CNN, FOX News and single articles or features about China. In fact, I find generally Western media to be more trustworthy than the state-controlled media of China. All journalists have biases, but in Western media I find debate or opposing viewpoints.

quote:

So I guess I would make that another, early project. Win freedom for ALL to tell it like it is. It might get a bit corrupted in some IT venues, as you witness here, from time to time. But I can't go along with the appeal for infinite patience while things work themselves out.

Perhaps this is an unfair question. How do you think Chinese can win their freedom to tell it like it is?

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: Liang Jiajie ]

George Victor

"Pride goeth before the fall", with Barack, Wilf?

Your position reminds me of "Saruman the White" in his capitulation (in that way only, of course, 'cause you impress the hell out of me otherwise. Always did).

I add (fresh from Kabul), the position of one less than half our age, that has the moxy and nerve I could only aspire to...

Hi George,

Lovely to hear from you! How's Melanie these days? And the rest of
that gang? I'm afraid I've lost touch ...

Rory is a wonderful guy. I've been drinking with him in Kabul several
times. And for a former British spy he's surprisingly
non-interventionist. We disagree about some things, but that's
alright. You should see the fortress he's refurbishing in Kabul - it's
beautiful.

Anyway, hope you're well.

All the best,
Graeme

On Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 2:51 AM,
> ----- Original Message -----

> Sent: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 3:06 AM
> Subject: From the Waterloo Region fraternity

> Hello Graeme
>
> You were one of the gang that went to Montreal for an Eastwood grads' outing
> - which I always thought took a lot of chutzpah on your part as the junior
> on the expedition.
>
> But then, those "girls" simply put your present exploits down to "well,
> that's Graeme". Having met you, that sort of resonated.
>
> Now that you are in Kabul, can you "do something" on Rory Stewart - or if
> he's not in town, on his project? A few of us think he understands, maybe
> has some answer(s).
>
> I hold your work up as the reason one has to read the Globe to have any idea
> of what in hell is happening there!
>
> Regards from Melanie's dad.

This was the first time that I made contact, because your position, Wilf, has left me wondering at my own "nerve" in daring to imagine a way out of Homo sapiens' mess. And then I read another piece from him in the Globe.

A few more like Graeme (and Rory, you hafta read him) in positions of authority "out there" and here, and "the world's our oyster". Anyway, I think so Wilf.

Chou en-lai always seemed what China needed, not that cult figure Mou. Too full of himself. Left a bad example. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

George Victor

Perhaps this is an unfair question. How do you think Chinese can win their freedom to tell it like it is?

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: Liang Jiajie ]

"All's fair in love and war."
Now Wilf's got me started and I can't stop.

That is definitely the place to start, Jiajie, and I have to regroup to bring forward all the hubris at my command to even think about that one.
George

Wilf Day

quote:


Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]Chou en-lai always seemed what China needed, not that cult figure Mou. Too full of himself. Left a bad example. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img] [/b]

Except that, like Churchill, he was a great war leader, apparently what China needed against the Japanese, more so than Chiang Kai-Shek was. I expect he did a few things (like Britain bombing Dresden) that we might not be proud of today. But when Deng Xiao Ping said Mao was 70% correct (and Zhou EnLai would have said the same thing) he was speaking of the wartime and post-war leader.

quote:

Originally posted by George Victor:
[b]I don't remember Winifred being that accepting of fate.

Your position reminds me of "Saruman the White" in his capitulation (in that way only, of course, 'cause you impress the hell out of me otherwise. Always did).[/b]


You have the advantage of me, and your PMs are disabled. Just click on the second button in the top line of this post.

RosaL

quote:


Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
[b]

All journalists have biases, but in Western media I find debate or opposing viewpoints.
[/b]


But they are barely distinct. It's as if you had people from different schools of marxism debating, except that what you have in the US is people from different schools of liberalism (in the philosophical sense) debating.

It's the kind of thing you do with children all the time: "do you want to take your nap now or do you want to play for 5 more minutes?" You give them a very small choice to disguise the fact that they don't get to decide the big questions. This is a good strategy in the case of children, who aren't ready yet to make those kinds of choices, but when it's done to adults, I don't know ....

ETA: I think the biases of journalists are less important than the interests of the media corporations that employ them.

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: RosaL ]

George Victor

Yep, they have to make a buck to meet payroll and investor expectations and that's where the trouble starts, Rosal.

In Canada, the Globe and Mail is the only one not experiencing declining readership (and hence,rates). And frankly, I don't know how anyone can understand Canadian politics and business without the Globe. But, of course, they mention the NDP as little as possible. Makes the corporate advertiser feel better.

But what do you know of France's support of the press (did in the past anyway) to maintain that balanced opinion in the republic. I'm desperately trying to answer Jiajie's question of how one would go about opning up opinion and reportage within China.

China has a state press now. But with support at arm's length, it could be different? Sort of a crown corporation in Canada's experience?

Here's a bit from 1998:

European Journal of Communication, Vol. 13, No. 3, 291-313 (1998)
DOI: 10.1177/0267323198013003001
© 1998 SAGE Publications

State Support for the Daily Press in Europe: A Critical Appraisal
Austria, France, Norway and Sweden Compared
Paul Murschetz
This article compares the subsidy schemes of the daily press in Austria, France, Norway and Sweden. In those countries, financial subsidy schemes to daily newspapers seek to balance the objective of promoting economic competitiveness in the national media grid with the wider objective of securing plurality of titles and diversity of views. This article locates financial subsidies within a broader framework of press regulation, looks into the instruments of public press intervention in the four countries and critically examines the results to safeguard economic competition and press diversity. In contrast to the Anglo-Saxon minimalist approach to press regulation which rejects the interventionist approach to providing cash injections to newspapers in need, the continental-style authorities in Austria, France, Norway and Sweden adhere to a public policy of granting subsidies to their press, according to which the democratic and political function — namely to guarantee that citizens have access to information, are accurately informed and actively take part in the political process — is promoted. However, public austerity programmes, increased commercial competition, shifting audience tastes of newspaper readers and the inherent weaknesses of the current instruments have forced all four countries to rethink their subsidy schemes. This article argues that government policies that aim at engendering economic opportunity and prosperity of daily newspapers, editorial pluralism and diversity of opinion need to respond adequately and effectively to these pressures of changing market conditions, which not only endanger the normal functioning of the press market but also a public service culture of newspapers.

Key Words: politics of subsidy • press diversity • press economics • press regulation • press subsidy

This article has been cited by other articles:

S. A. Gunaratne
Public Diplomacy, Global Communication and World Order: An Analysis Based on Theory of Living Systems
Current Sociology, September 1, 2005; 53(5): 749 - 772.
[Abstract] [PDF]

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

George Victor

Mou played God, Wilf, and in that way the peasantry needed a cult figure to fight effectively. When he began to believe his image, things went downhill.

Zhou did all the work, and was quite intelligent enough to wage war. But he didn't represent God, (or smoke cigars with a victory sign from the free hand). To me, he always represented a sane presence on the international stage.

Liang Jiajie

quote:


Originally posted by RosaL:
[b]

But they are barely distinct. It's as if you had people from different schools of marxism debating, except that what you have in the US is people from different schools of liberalism (in the philosophical sense) debating.

It's the kind of thing you do with children all the time: "do you want to take your nap now or do you want to play for 5 more minutes?" You give them a very small choice to disguise the fact that they don't get to decide the big questions. This is a good strategy in the case of children, who aren't ready yet to make those kinds of choices, but when it's done to adults, I don't know ....

ETA: I think the biases of journalists are less important than the interests of the media corporations that employ them.

[ 29 July 2008: Message edited by: RosaL ][/b]


That is the case with mainstream media, but I have found alternative media websites produced by Americans. (I do not remember the addresses.) And in France and Italy, I have found a variety of newspapers which offer different viewpoints from socialist to conservative.

In my previous post, I was referring to the coverage of China in the media. The coverage of China on the CBC and Radio-Canada is very different than that of Fox News and CNN. The latter provide news through the framework of China as a potential military and commercial threat insofar as it affects the position of the United States in the world and do not go beyond those two themes. However, though the former have covered the modernization of the military and of the economy, both networks have produced documentaries that examine other facets of Chinese society that revealed the complexity and diversity of China.

George Victor

I've just finished listening to a recorded CBC "Ideas" program from the University of Toronto in which two Canadian writers, now living in New York, debate the idea of "Canada, nation or notion".

The debate was put together by our now right-wing national news magazine, Maclean's, and one of the speakers, Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, Tipping Point, etc.) in explaining the (up to now) success of Canada on the international stage, put it down to our "unencumbered" status. And he used the success of Chinese business people everywhere in their adoptive countries, as an example - because they are on the "outside" of the adopted culture, they are "unencumbered".

Malcolm came out of that little town of Elmira, near here, where they produced agent orange and destroyed the aquafer while producing a poison aimed at stopping the spread of communism into former French Indo-China only a few short years ago.

We didn't know what was going on over in that sleepy little town on the edge of Mennonite country, until too late.

And your own assessment of the position of "news" out of the right-wing U.S. media, an exercise in nationalist rhetoric, compared to the reflective, broadly evaluative assessment of Canadian CBC programs, can be seen as partly due to our "unencumbered" position in the world.

A friend just e-omailed me this, as a case of an encumbered U.S.:

Sent: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 3:06 PM
Subject: A new kind of Dollar Diplomacy

"It turns out the biggest supporter of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
bailouts has been the Chinese government. The Chinese own about half a
trillion dollars in Fannie and Freddie securities and they've put the
warning out to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson they expect to be repaid in
full. The fear among Mr. Paulson and other Treasury officials is that if
Fannie and Freddie debt isn't repaid at 100% par, the Chinese may start
dumping their hundreds of billions of dollars of Treasury securities,
possibly causing a run on U.S. government debt and sharply raising Uncle
Sam's borrowing costs."

- Political Diary
Wall Street Journal
July 29 2008

I'm not sure that China would endanger a couple of $trillion in securities. That might be "cutting off the nose to spite the face" (as Wilf might put it), but regardless, it displays the different "nationalisms" of Canada and the U.S.

I offer this start as a backdoor approach to further discussiion of the need for an informed Chinese population if ANYTHING progressive is to come out of its phenomenal material progress.

Challenged (above) to explain how the individual can turn around the juggernaut in that regard (the realist's position), I offer up the thought that "anything" is superior to remaining supine before the ideas of that central CCP official, who, not many weeks back, exclaimed (in more or less these words), that to be rich is glorious.

No, in the spirit of Malcolm and Graeme, I'd say we must shout from the rooftops that the Chinese people deserve to know more. And that the increasing censorship of the Olympic Games ("China hobbling internet at Games media centre", AP, July 30, Waterloo Region Record) is a criminal act carried out against its own people.

There, I had to say that.

There does not seem to be a rush out there to discover whether or not France, Austria, Sweden and Norway are, a decade later, still providing state assistance to journals in the name of electoral enlightenment.

Anything is superior to the U.S. model, of course, as explained by Al Gore in The Assault on Reason, and by Susan Jacoby in her The Age of American Unreason.

But Canada is slipping toward the same condition. In fact, I'm taking a copy of the late Val Ross's posthumously published biography on the late Robertson Davies, author and one-time editor of his father's newspaper, The Peterborough Examiner.

When Davies' daddy died, he sold out the paper and the city to a Lord Thomson of Fleet, whose son later sold out the whole shooting match to m' Lord Black of Crossharbour (and the Florida penal system). Ken Thomson partially redeemed himself and his old man for the sellout of several hundred Canadian communities by building the Globe and Mail to an information source capable of telling us about the world as it is.

And he fended off the attempt by the neocons to replace it with their house organ, The National Post. We would look and act much more like the Americans if that had not been done.

We certainly need state support of our other newspapers. The U.S. does also as advertising and readership declines (see Jacoby).

Perhaps those ubiquitous "authorities" in China might see their way clear to an arms-length support of an "almost free" news distribution system - no ads, just four pages of news, local, national and international, every morning.

I don't think I'm painting a utopian picture. I think it's the barest minimum step forward to our collective survival as a species. To hell with the nation-state.

The morning will find me heading north with a few ounces of Forty Creek in the saddlebags, bound to bunk in with a couple of fellow retreads. We'll dissect the new biography on Davies, his washroom motto "ne illegitimus carborundum" one to which we have always subscribed, but we had always placed Davies in the position of the bastard.

[ 30 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 30 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 31 July 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

Liang Jiajie

I found a video of Malcolm Gladwell presenting his thesis, but the presentation was only 7 minutes long, so I feel that my response to his thesis may be unfair because more time could have given him the opportunity to present more evidence that could have had a different impression on me.

His example of successful overseas Chinese is not a good one. His explanation of why Chinese have been particularly successful in their adopted countries does not consider Chinatowns, created exactly because of a hostile environment and because of [i]guanxi[/i], which created local, private connections rather than regional connections. Within the boundaries of a Chinatown, family members lived closely together among other speakers of their dialects, and each member helped to operate the business rather than encumber themselves. Also, there was a hierarchy imposed on the immediate and extended family based on the family's lineage, so this allowed for disciplinary action or, as Gladwell says, being "mean." If his definition of hostile environment includes racism, then Chinatowns were a necessity to start businesses which were supported by mostly Chinese customers. The Chinese who emigrated to the United States and Canada were encumbered, but not by family members and the deep roots they set. So the answer to why overseas Chinese have been successful is found in China rather than in the adopted countries of overseas Chinese.

Even if the the example was true, could Canada be analogous to the successful overseas Chinese, unencumbered because he is an outsider? I do not know what he means by an actual unencumbered, successful Canada, so I will continue with the analogy. It would be difficult for Canada, a developed country, to be an outsider in a world in which the wealth of a developed country is largely dependent on international trade and cooperation, a healthy global economy and, in the case of the power states, imperialism. International trade and the diplomatic relationship between countries function mutually so that one can encumber or support the other. Consider the close relationship between the United States and Canada. Perhaps Canada is encumbered by the relationship because its wealth is so dependent on the health of the American economy as well as that of the international economy. That said, I doubt Canada can be "mean" to the United States or another country. The international financial markets would react negatively if Canada threatened to stop supplying oil to the world, making Canada a bully and damaging diplomatic relationships.

Malcolm's analogy is not helpful in understanding Canada's position in the world.

[ 31 July 2008: Message edited by: Liang Jiajie ]

George Victor

I agree. Gladwell's presentation does nothing to explain Canada's position in the world. And I do not think that you are being unfair in commenting on a seven-minute slice. It does not get better over time.

I feel more comfortable with your own explanation:

His example of successful overseas Chinese is not a good one. His explanation of why Chinese have been particularly successful in their adopted countries does not consider Chinatowns, created exactly because of a hostile environment and because of guanxi, which created local, private connections rather than regional connections. Within the boundaries of a Chinatown, family members lived closely together among other speakers of their dialects, and each member helped to operate the business rather than encumber themselves. Also, there was a hierarchy imposed on the immediate and extended family based on the family's lineage, so this allowed for disciplinary action or, as Gladwell says, being "mean." If his definition of hostile environment includes racism, then Chinatowns were a necessity to start businesses which were supported by mostly Chinese customers. The Chinese who emigrated to the United States and Canada were encumbered, but not by family members and the deep roots they set. So the answer to why overseas Chinese have been successful is found in China rather than in the adopted countries of overseas Chinese.

It did not come to me immediately because out of my own experience, the individual did not need a "Chinatown". There were no such enclaves in small-town Canada.

Among my teenage hunting and fishing buddies in central Ontario, Kwong , whose parents hailed from Canton and who had established a restaurant in the small town of Lakefield, had only his family to support him.

I remember him having to surreptitiously visit the girl he was to marry - they celebrated their 50th anniversary a couple of months ago - because of some ancient custom that would have denied marriage across the two families. I drove the "getaway" car.

I'm afraid I have not been able to suggest the answer to your main question a couple of postings back. What DOES China do to break through official (and unofficial) resistance to media openness?

I believe that in the furor over the Olympics' revelations of broken promises of internet freedom etc. we are perhaps going to see just the slightest advance in that direction. But whether that can be parlayed into an expanding situation out of growing need to know the opinion of others within Chinese society (let alone the world's thoughts) is to be revealed.

I still think that the European idea of state support for an absolutely necessary source of opinion could be a point of entry.

But I just wish that I could find a group of people who did not equate admission of an imperfect system of public communications with a slippery slope that can only end with one group or the other kowtowing to the "winner".

I'm going to post something on Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason to try to find my own footing again in a world apparently going paranoid.

[ 03 August 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

George Victor

I note, with regret, the violence and death in a northwest province of China.

And on the west coast of Canada, the PM "officially" apologizes to a gathering of Sikh-Canadians for Canada's turning back a shipload of their forbears from India on the eve of the First World War.

After polite applause, the crowd indicated after his leaving that they were not moved by an obsequious gesture from a master politician out gathering the ethnics.

One wonders, sometimes, how long the flanks of our world-famous multicultural experiment will hold.

Jacoby would describe it as a sign of more "unreason", flowing from the absence of information. Looking at the isolated, narrowly focused lives of most immigrant communities in the first generation, in the absence of informed opinion and discussion, causality boils down to simple ignorance.

And, again, sometimes religion demands a limited world view.Where it is an exacerbating factor, it's a potent despoiler of community, indeed. But you'll note, here, the difficulty in distinguishing the good from the bad, where the subject is the military or a faith. I can barely imagine the courage it would take to try to modify the muslim faith in so many situations today - including that of the Uighurs.

[ 04 August 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

George Victor

The "Books" section of the Aug. 2 Globe and Mail presents three works of recent Chinese literature aimed at the swelling interest in culture as well as Olympic sports in the West.

There's the Nobel Prize winner, Gao Xinjiang's Soul Mountain (first published in Taiwan in 1989 (English in 1999);

Ma Jian's Red Dust: A Path Through China (2001), and Xinran's The Good Women of China (2002).

The last work is the only one to appear in China, apparently. I'll see if any are contained in the public library system here.

Liang Jiajie

Chinese who have access to the Internet can view the webpages of some Western newspapers and news networks; they certainly have access to the CBC website. They can learn about significant events in China as they are reported outside of the country such as the controversial policies that have emerged out of the preparations for the Olympics. However, generally the persons who can access foreign viewpoints are often not affected by the reported abuses and will too often claim that the journalists are biased. Such reactions are rooted in a person's socialization which includes strong nationalism and exceptionalism, and placing the group before the individual. Even if it was a Chinese journalist reporting such events, he or she would be placed under suspicion by more than a few readers. All of this means that a free press, as essential to the birth and maintenance of democracy and pluralism, is useless if the privileged groups of a society are not willing to question or abandon their prejudices. So the obstacle toward a free press is not to convince only the government, but to convince privileged Chinese to at least be critical of their society and country.

How can outsiders help to convince privileged Chinese readers? First, societies with free presses should lead by example. Enough societies with free presses exist to accomplish that. For example, all the levels of government in China want to eliminate corruption and part of the solution is independent journalists who can expose corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, something that I have seen in the Canadian media. Second, foreign media should continue to critically assess their societies fairly. Third, foreign media must report fairly on events in China and demonstrate its complexity and normalcy. Hopefully the Chinese readers I described above will be engaged.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
[b] All of this means that a free press, as essential to the birth and maintenance of democracy and pluralism, is useless if the privileged groups of a society are not willing to question or abandon their prejudices. So the obstacle toward a free press is not to convince only the government, but to convince privileged Chinese to at least be critical of their society and country.
[/b]

You are also describing Canadian media. One only has to look at the coverage given to democraticlly elected left wing governments to realize that our Corporate Press will never seriously challenge the status quo and ergo as in China we have no real free press only one which has been bought and paid for by the elite for the elite.

RosaL

quote:


Originally posted by Liang Jiajie:
All of this means that a free press, as essential to the birth and maintenance of democracy and pluralism, is useless if the privileged groups of a society are not willing to question or abandon their prejudices. So the obstacle toward a free press is not to convince only the government, but to convince privileged Chinese to at least be critical of their society and country.

I cannot see that privileged groups are at all likely to be critical of the social system that privileges them . That doesn't seem realistic to me. I don't think relying on the beneficence of those who hold wealth and power has ever worked very well, historically [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

Why not try to have a system without "privileged groups" that control the media (and most other things).

George Victor

Jiajie agrees with your position re the difficulty of moving the privileged group, R.

But I think that since it is a "learned" position, the enormity of so many of the changes demanded of society by just the very poisoning or their air, water and food, will have impact. This is unlike anything before, and I would think understandable within dialectical reasoning.

That is, they may indeed not act out of some sudden altruistic feeling - but only when their own butts are exposed.

I just hope that the synthesis to come out of this new understanding is not too bloody late in arriving and leaving us unable to act. The arrival of Charles Taylor's "spirit of Dunkirk"...

As for the power structure of the future...I hope that Rawi Hage is incorrect in saying we are all just territorial monkeys. And James Lovelock (sorry FM) has the remnants moving to the Arctic for relief from climate change.

What do they know, eh?

[ 05 August 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

[ 05 August 2008: Message edited by: George Victor ]

George Victor

Your second point about how "outsiders" can help is helpful, Jiajie. But I need some time to ruminate on my immediate silly thought that, by gosh, we had better see to it that your privileged group read The Globe and Mail and not the National Post.

Right.
How.

Liang Jiajie

quote:


Originally posted by kropotkin1951:
[b] You are also describing Canadian media. One only has to look at the coverage given to democraticlly elected left wing governments to realize that our Corporate Press will never seriously challenge the status quo and ergo as in China we have no real free press only one which has been bought and paid for by the elite for the elite.[/b]

There is no free press in China because it is controlled by the government. But a press can be free of government control and not challenge the status quo. Canadians or Chinese can choose not to change the status quo despite what they read, hear, and see in a free media. Ultimately the decision to change lies with the majority. I think there a free press in Canada because I regularly read Canadian newspaper articles, editorials, and letters that independently challenge and embarass the 3 levels of government, their politicians and their institutions; that reveal poverty and social inequalities; and social movements that indeed challenge parts of the status quo. And the Canadian media may be dominated by wealthy families and their corporations, but their newspapers and television stations belong to them, not the government. They can broadcast their viewpoints and defend their interests like a leftist media network could do and would do. The problem is a lack of diversity of viewpoints but that is offset by a free flow of information that permits for critical assessments of media reports, such as the coverage of the elections of leftist governments which you cited.

[ 05 August 2008: Message edited by: Liang Jiajie ]

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