The Yang Rui Saga Morphs Into the Surreal

By James Fallows

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 I will let you find for yourself news about: his threatened and then apparently withdrawn lawsuit; how NMA-Taiwan has decided to approach the topic; his world-travel slideshow; how a Chinese-speaking foreign guest musician fared under Yang Rui's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:

美国的媒体为何不敢为巴勒斯坦建国呼吁?怕被犹太老板炒鱿鱼

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/05/the-yang-rui-saga-morphs-into-the-surreal/257622/