The Yang Rui Saga Morphs Into the Surreal

Yang Rui is the internationally minded anchor of CCTV's English-language "Dialogue" talk show, whose travails following an anti-foreigner screed I mentioned last week.

Since then the complications have piled up so fast that I have managed only to watch in amazement. I will let you find for yourself news about: his threatened and then apparently withdrawn lawsuit; how NMA-Taiwan has decided to approach the topic; his world-travel slideshow; how a Chinese-speaking foreign guest musician fared under Yang Rui's questioning; what foreign guests have recently accepted invitations to appear on the show (this one is delicious and has an Atlantic connection, though not involving me); and so on. I give you this general guidance, rather than links, in fully constructive "teach a man to fish..." spirit.

The latest twist comes via Shanghaiist, and it involves a series of Weibo (Chinese Twitter) messages from Yang expanding on the theme below:


Or, in Shanghaiist's version, "Why do the U.S. media not dare support the call for the establishment of a Palestinian state? It's because they are afraid of getting fired by their Jewish bosses." ( 犹太老板 = Jewish boss.)

As Isaac Stone Fish suggested yesterday, the perception of world Jewry in much of Asia is paradoxically highly admiring and highly conspiratorial. The admiring part can be caricatured as: "Jewish people are just like us! They are smart, hard-working, good with money, and willing to stick together and help each other out. We are natural allies!" The possible drawbacks of this outlook are obvious without my spelling them out. I have been exposed to such views in Asia over the decades in a way I wouldn't be in the United States, because of the default assumption by many Japanese, Korean, or Chinese people that because I'm in the American media, I must be Jewish. This is not the default assumption about me in the U.S. (and I'm not).

I am not meaning to pile on Yang Rui, who has plenty to handle himself -- and I very much don't want to be part of any perception that ordinary Chinese people are "anti-foreign." My experience is quite the reverse: part of the reason I have found immersion in China so interesting and rewarding is the relative ease of getting to know, like, and laugh with people there. But as what seemed likely to be a one-day story keeps growing in complexity and weirdness, I wanted to mention yet another part of the Chinese mosaic it was putting on display. And keep in mind, if you've forgotten, that we're talking about a government employee who is a prominent embodiment of the "soft power" charm initiative through which Chinese officialdom hopes to make the country better understood and liked around the world.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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