China Update: Chen, Yang

By James Fallows

1) As everyone on the China beat has been discussing, the civil-rights activist Chen Guangcheng and his immediate family received permission to leave China and at this moment are en route to Newark. (No jokes, please.) Here is the Flight Aware track just now about an hour ago, when I had to leave the hotel for the latest airport.

ChenFlight.jpg

This is the beginning of a whole new set of challenges and complications for Chen and his family, rather than any kind of final resolution. But compared with the prospects as of a month ago it is a far happier development than many people expected. All best wishes to him and his family (including the relatives left in China) in what comes next; they will need luck and support.

2) Yang Rui, of CCTV, has understandably responded with displeasure about the item I posted late last night, concerning his tweet on the need to "cut off the snake's head" of foreign presence within China. (Link to his site in Chinese.) It might be useful for me to point out that:
  •  Like many other foreigners in China, I have enjoyed the informal, off-camera talks and meetings I had with Yang Rui several times while in China, including one group dinner in Beijing and a couple of post-show conversations at the CCTV studio;

  •  I have understood his on-camera demeanor to be part of the balancing act necessary when running a flagship show for a state-run media company;

  •  What I don't like is the anti-foreign tone of his recent dispatch -- especially coming from him, in his role as a soft-power, Mr. International face of modern China. Again it's the difference between an anti-foreign rant from a Rush Limbaugh or a Sheriff Joe Arpaio and hearing the same thing from, say, Brian Williams or Fareed Zakaria.

    I am just about absolutist in believing that increased presence of foreigners is good for any society, as well as being good, broadening, life-expanding, etc for the foreigners themselves. I think it's good for America that so many Chinese (and other international) students, travelers, etc come here; I think it's good for China that so many American (and other international) students, travelers, business people, etc go there. A big theme of my new book is the value to both China and America of the surprisingly dense network of these unofficial human connections as they have developed in the past three decades. If I could, I would arrange for vastly larger numbers of people from each country to spend some serious on-scene time in the other.

Time for the next airplane. Good wishes to the Chen family.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/china-update-chen-yang/257414/