A little over 16 hours away from China’s painstakingly prepared and widely anticipated (by Chinese, in both instances) National Day holiday parade, celebrating the People’s Republic of China’s 60th anniversary, I’m reading an angry, angry post by Richard Burger of The Peking Duck fame.
What’s Richard angry about?
He’s angry at the people angry about the the Empire State Building, a New York City icon, commemorating the PRC’s anniversary by lighting itself up in red and yellow colors. For those of you trapped behind the Great Firewall in China, I’ve reprinted most of Richard’s comments below. If you use RSS, you can copy and paste The Peking Duck’s RSS feed address directly into your RSS reader to bypass the GFW.
China has done bad things, and it’s done good things, like all countries. China has its fair share of atrocities, injustices and a considerable legacy of repression and injustice. But China is not Nazi Germany, they are not a nation of deranged Maoists, and they happen to be one of the linchpins in the global economy that keeps America afloat. They happen to be moving in the right direction, despite some infuriating steps backwards. We all know the story, we all know the bad stuff and the good stuff.
So when I see Americans go insane over the Empire State Building turning red and yellow to mark the 60th anniversary of the PRC, I have to say it’s simply nuts. We recognize China, we trade with China, we work with China – our fates are tied together, perhaps inextricably. Seeing the outpouring of hate and paranoia from the right-wing blogs, while predictable. is a good reminder of the prejudices many in America bear toward our No. 1 trading partner, and of our ongoing inbred stupidity when it comes to scare words like “Red China.”
Here, Richard links to a Village Voice article reporting on some of the American bloggers going completely ape-shit over the news. He also quotes some of them more completely. The anti-Chinese comments on Village Voice responding to that article also rank right up there with the most retarded Chinese netizen comments chinaSMACK regularly finds and translates, a similarity I openly hope some foreigners remind themselves of before fashioning themselves superior by default.
I know, the Chinese blogs and message boards aren’t always overflowing with nuanced, compassionate, thoughtful dialogue about the US, but really, this is absurd. The hypocrisy is beyond belief as these bloggers pound on their made-in-China keyboards.
I’m all for constructive criticism of any autocratic regime. I’m for calling China (and the US, etc.) out for their crimes and misdemeanors. But this is not only ridiculous when you consider how innocuous the actual event it – this hyperbolic, coordinated reacton is much more sinister than that. It is being used as a tacit attack on “Obama’s America,” as Rush Limbaugh has proudly called it. What these ignoramuses are saying has almost nothing to do with China, a country they know virtually nothing about. It is all about smearing Obama, because this is happening here, in “Obama’s America,” an America that encourages palling around with terrorists and coddling dictators and appeasing madmen, the new socialist communist fascist Muslim America.
…It’s embarrassing and it’s stupid. The PRC plays a vital role in America’s interests, it’s here to stay (at least throughout our lifetimes), it sucks in many ways but the extension of this courtesy, lighting up the Empire State Building, is not an act of appeasement or treason. This is diplomacy, whether it’s done by Bush or Obama. Grow up and get used to it.
Richard makes another good point here. Above and beyond the criticism of many Americans suffering from the same ignorance and hypocrisy that afflicts China’s worst hypernationalist fenqing, this is a veiled cheap shot against Obama’s administration. No, his administration isn’t beyond criticism, but the rhetorical tactic employed here is contemptible, a tactic based not on facts but on fears and misleading associations.
Speaking of fears and misleading associations…let’s go back and take a look at that AFP news report again:
NEW YORK — New York’s iconic Empire State Building will light up red and yellow Wednesday in honor of the 60th anniversary of communist China.
The Chinese consul, Peng Keyu, and other officials will take part in the lighting ceremony which will bathe the skyscraper in the colors of the People’s Republic until Thursday, Empire State Building representatives said in a statement.
The upper sections of the building are regularly illuminated to mark special occasions, ranging from all blue to mark “Old Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra’s death in 1998 to green for the annual Saint Patrick’s Day.
Just last week the tower turned bright red.
However, that was not to mark some other communist achievement, but the 70th anniversary of the film “The Wizard of Oz” in which Dorothy wears ruby slippers rather than the silver of the original L. Frank Baum novel.
Emphases mine. Now, feel free to accuse me of reading too much into this…but was it really necessary or relevant to mention “communist” in this piece of news? Other than to tap into their target audience’s negative preconceptions about “communism”, for a country that is “communist” only in name?
Does the Chinese media emphasize “democratic” or “capitalistic” descriptors when they mention the United States of America or other Western nations? Any other fear-mongering descriptors? If they do, what’s the next appropriate question?
The 1957 statute
It defines the fundamental principles that guarantee the independence of AFP and the freedom of its journalists.
“Agence France-Presse may not under any circumstances take account of influences or considerations that would compromise the accuracy or objectivity of the news; it must not under any circumstances pass under legal or de facto control of an ideological, political or economic group.”
Is the 60th anniversary of the PRC a “communist” achievement? Or a Chinese one? Is “communist” ideology the main reason behind the PRC making it to 60 years? Would “PRC” or “Chinese” not have been a better, more objective descriptor to use before “achievement”?
Yes, there are far more obvious examples of media bias but I like this one for its simplicity. In fact, it stands out to me precisely for how subtle it is in reinforcing — and propagating — dangerously out-dated but still closely-held Cold-War rhetoric and attitudes amongst the Western world.
Seriously, what use is the word “communist” in today’s world, as applied to the PRC? What, if anything, does it tell us about how to deal with modern China and all its problems, including the problems the West loves assailing it for? Does it say anything about Tibet? About Xinjiang? About human rights? About censorship? About corruption? No, it says nothing. All it is today is a catch-all bogey word, used to represent, convolute, and confuse a multitude of ills without providing any meaningful information or guidance.