Reflecting back on the China 2.0 Tour–lead sponsored by Edelman Digital Media China and organized by us, Web2Asia and The China Business Network–I am impressed most by the open-mindedness and sense of inquiry that the participants brought to their visit. This is in refreshing contrast to the arrogance, ignorance, rehashing of old stereotypes, and dogmatism of most Western commentators on China. We planted seeds of deeper understanding, which was our initial goal.
Michael Butcher dispels a few misconceptions. He speaks of needing to understand the historical context and the shadow of this tumultuous recent past on the psyche of the government and the Chinese people. He strikes against the misguided a-historicism carried by most Western critics of China today. He also talks of the sense of freedom and opportunity, to contrast the popular view that the Chinese people are under the tight control of a repressive regime. Learning: Some understanding of modern Chinese history is helpful to understanding why China is the way it is.
Robert Scoble highlights a few other wrong and dated ideas on China. First, according to Scoble, the idea that China is just a country of copiers/cloners is over. Second, “Americans are being fed only the negative stories about China and that is lulling them into complacency.” This point of view is in stark contrast to the firestorm of criticism that Robert unleashed on FriendFeed on the 3 day mourning period after the Sichuan Earthquake. Robert’s attendance at CNBloggerCon was well received and I was impressed by his desire to learn. Learning: China is rapidly becoming an innovator. Western media’s focus on attention-grabbing negative stories about China is dangerous to our economic health in the West.
Shel Israel addressed the issue of censorship in China and concluded that “censorship can be a major hemorrhoid to the China tech community, but it is not the Orwellian horror that so many Westerners seem to think it is.” Shel concludes that the scale of social media in China is too large for a low-tech government bureaucracy to repress. This is not to say that house arrests don’t happen, servers don’t get unplugged, and blogs don’t get blocked. (See Rebecca MacKinnon’s post on “Getting Beyond Iron Curtain 2.0″ for a richer view on Internet censorship in China) Shel also highlights what I’ve heard from many Chinese people over and over again. Things are getting better. The government, despite its corruption and obsession with control, has delivered growth and opportunity to millions of people. Learning: The world has got to get beyond the view of China as a totalitarian state with complete information control. It is instead (in Ted Koppel’s words) an authoritarian state barely in control of its people.
Ernst-Jan Pfauth of The Next Web captured perfectly the frustrations of those who have a foot in both China and the West–that most Western observers paint a black and white picture of China that lacks the nuanced grays required to truly explain the dynamics in China. He then applies this toward helping the Western Web 2.0 audience know that portals and bulletin boards (BBS) are alive and well in China. Learning: Nuance is the enemy of a easily packaged story that satisfies editors, advertisers, and the Western public back home. Good journalists will fight hard to get across this nuance in an attempt to better equip us for the complex world we live in.
I hope we transformed a few people’s thoughts on China, and that for at least a few, there is interest in digging deeper. That was our original goal. It is vitally important, especially in rough times, that the Western public gain a richer and more three-dimensional view of China. We need this view to influence our political leaders and the policies they adopt. We need this view to remain economically competitive and to be successful in the face of globalization. And we need this deeper understanding to share our best values and virtues with the world, in an effective way that helps us to jointly, and collaboratively, build the future that we want to live in.
George and Christine, we did a good thing. And my appreciation also goes to the extended team of Brian Eng, Markus Gruber, and Min Guo.
I’m also grateful to the bridge bloggers who helped engage in great dialogue for this tour. I confess I was a bit tired of the China 101 discussion myself toward the end of the tour and wanted to get away to dig a little deeper myself! All the more reason why I’m appreciative of the service of the tireless bridge bloggers/analysts who contributed (and I’m sure I missed people): Richard Burger, Tangos Chan, Paul Denlinger, David Feng, Benjamin Joffe, Kaiser Kuo, Andrew Lih, Gang Lu, Ryan MacLaughlin, William Moss, Adam Schokora, Kenneth Tan, David Wolf, Frank Yu. CN Reviews Edict: Add these blogs to you RSS reader right now!!