James Fallows

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.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

James Fallows: China Daily

  • Chinese Media: The Bad and the ... Puzzling

    黄皮白心”的香蕉人" and other great moments in international understanding. Bonus: the person Megyn Kelly should meet on her next trip to Beijing.

    Gary Locke on the job in China. ( AP photo, via NPR )

    1) Banana Man. Based on everything I have heard and observed, Gary Locke has done an excellent job as U.S. ambassador to China these past two and a half years. He managed the Chen Guangcheng episode with aplomb; he streamlined the visa-application process for Chinese visitors, which had been a chronic source of unnecessary friction; he was a tough advocate for U.S. commercial and technical interests; especially in his early days he was lionized by the Chinese public for his non-big-shot style of life, in sharp contrast to that of many Chinese grandees.

    Banana Man character from Adventure Time

    And of course as the first Chinese-American to head the embassy in Beijing, he personified something valuable about the United States and about U.S.-Chinese ties.

    It was this last point that occasioned an unbelievably ugly parting shot at Locke last week in the state-controlled media. As you've read in the press, and as you can see discussed in enlightening detail through a series of exchanges on ChinaFile, the government-run China State News called Locke "banana man." It helpfully explained that this meant someone who was yellow on the outside but white on the inside.  (黄皮白心”的香蕉人", or "a yellow-skin, white-heart 'banana man'"). Of course this was a fair term for Locke because he served white masters in Washington rather than being loyal to "his" people, fellow Chinese.

    Lots of good reading at the ChinaFile site, including this in the kickoff post by Kaiser Kuo:

    In the context of this regrettable editorial, which was as subtle as a barking doberman, “banana man” was meant with unmistakable malice—that Locke is a “race traitor” who lacks the political loyalty to the Chinese nation that his blood should somehow confer. This is of course naive nonsense, and the patent ridiculousness of that phrase should have been obvious even to a writer totally unfamiliar with the complexities of the American discourse on race.

    But while there will be many Chinese—indeed, already have been many—who will object to the editorial’s broadsides against Ambassador Locke, I suspect they’ll focus much more on the irony that state media would call out Gary Locke for living well but projecting everyman simplicity rather than on the “banana” comment, as many American commentators have. The expectation that anyone with a Chinese phenotype will have a “Chinese heart” to match, even at multiple generations of remove, is widespread in Chinese society. The plasticity of identity in multiethnic societies—that what you “owe” the race or the old country as, say, an American is entirely up to you—is still a fairly alien concept for most Chinese. We see this at work in the way Chinese law enforcement treats naturalized Chinese with U.S., Canadian, or Australian citizenship. It reminds us of the truth in what the late Lucian Pye said about China’s fundamentally civilizational notion of itself.

    I mention this partly to point you to the interesting back-and-forth about "race treason" etc. at ChinaFile but mainly to seize the occasion to note the good use that Gary Locke has made of his time in Beijing. We are used to public figures falling short of potential, and the Obama-era ambassadorial corps in general has come in for its share of ridicule. On the principle that you should miss no opportunity to give a deserved compliment, I wanted to say that Gary Locke has represented his country very well and will be missed.

    2) What can this mean? Let's hope it means something good. In politics, we will long remember the spectacle of Karl Rove marching with Megyn Kelly to see the "real" results from Ohio in 2012. Everything Rove had heard told him that Romney was going to win. So why wasn't reality conforming to the selective version of it he'd cocooned himself in?

    This is the problem generally known as "epistemic closure"—walling yourself off from facts that don't fit your world view—and for a while after 2012 the GOP debated what to do about it. We can all think of other domestic illustrations. An international one is the role of the Chinese state media, who have viewed part of their mission as squelching complaints about whatever the government has decided to do.

    Thus it is intriguing to see this item by writer Shan Renping in the state-controlled, tough-toned Global Times arguing that China was putting itself at a disadvantage by declaring certain topics undiscussable. Whoa! Here is the headline... 

    ... and a specimen quote. (It refers to the "two sessions," an annual big legislative fandango now underway in Beijing that gets extensive coverage.) Emphasis added:

    There will be public  press conferences every day during the two sessions. Mainland reporters [from China itself] may restrain themselves, but their overseas counterparts will ask taboo questions. The wonderful nature of the two sessions' press conferences lies in the bold questioning by non-mainland reporters, which exposes the disadvantage of mainland media and demonstrates the aggressiveness of their outside counterparts. 

    This is a predicament for China's soft power. There is a reason for the country to keep its current practices when dealing with sensitive issues. However, at the same time it damages the credibility of the mainstream media.  

    When Megyn Kelly goes to China, I hope she meets Shan Renping. 

  • Happy and Unhappy in China

    Laughing through the airpocalypse, no longer laughing at a familiar joke

    This new video by Stephy Chung, shot over the past few days of worse-than-ever airpocalypse in Beijing, is worth noticing for several reasons:

    - If you've spent any time in Beijing, you'll recognize many of the scenes and even more of the details and moves. A high proportion of the people shown are foreigners, along with young Chinese dancing the way people would in any country. But the stretch from 1:10 to 1:20 is a little distillation of Chinese-style public dance and movement. On walks in Beijing I have stopped to watch the very people shown in this passage, and I've talked with the elegant woman who pops in at 1:15 (just before the pink-haired girl with Mickey Mouse sweater). Plus, where else do you see such enjoyment of haw-on-a-stick? (The red things starting at 0:47) And the heavy tarpaulins at subway and store entrances, and the little ceramic pots of yogurt, and lots more.

    - The clip also shows the hunkered-down nature of winter in big city China -- the bulky coats, the hats and gloves, the general discomfort. And of course the air, which I won't belabor except to say that all the messages I've received from friends in Beijing this week center on the unendurable new level of pollution. And the willed denial of those circumstances that is necessary to get through the day.

             ++ Bonus policy point: In the largest sense, "sustainability" is obviously the challenge for any society or economic system. But in a very immediate way, environmental sustainability is by far the largest and most urgent challenge for China. The country's blackened skies, poisoned lands and waters, and untrustworthy food are a public health menace; they are an emerging political threat to the government; they are the main challenge that China's rise creates for the world as a whole. ++

    - The video is obviously a planned and staged production, but it both portrays on purpose and captures by accident some of the individualistic spontaneity and chaos of Chinese life, which for me is an enormous part of the appeal of the place and its people.*

    - It's also a complement to the Pomplamoose version of the same song I mentioned recently. If you didn't see that before, you should see it now: it's embedded once more down below.

    On the other hand: yesterday the latest offering from the state-controlled China Daily arrived inside the WaPo at our house. The pages look a little wrinkled here due to exposure to yet another dose of the unending polar-vortex snow:

    I've always joked that the China Daily was my favorite newspaper, because it so often rivals The Onion in the earnest preposterousness of its views. 

    The joke is wearing off for me, because of the crackdown on international and domestic reporters underway this past year in China. It's harder and harder for outsiders even to get visas there. (On my latest trip three months ago, I got no word about my visa until literally the day before departure, and this for a gathering that the Chinese government itself had authorized. The visa was for a single entry only, and ten days' stay.) It's riskier for domestic reporters to look into "sensitive" matters, above all involving the personal fortunes of the rulers' families. Last month, civil-society advocates in Hong Kong were alarmed when the editor of a leading independent newspaper there, Kevin Lau of Ming Pao, was fired after his paper had undertaken some muckraking investigations of the mainland leadership. A few days ago in Hong Kong he was stabbed, in a still-unexplained but ominous attack.  (I discussed this yesterday on Here and Now, along with Shirley Yam of Hong Kong.)

    So drollery about "my favorite newspaper" doesn't seem as droll any more. And although I understand all the logical reasons why China Daily should be able to piggyback on the Washington Post -- it's a free country, the material is marked as a special supplement, closing down info is never a good answer, the WaPo needs the money --  the contrast is grating. At a time when China is trying to keep foreign reporters from even entering its country, it's injecting a direct shot of Chinese-government perspective into our capital-city papers. This is not "dangerous" in any way, but it's annoying.

    Bonus point one, the Pomplamoose cover of Pharrell Williams's Happy. 

    *Bonus point two, a passage from China Airborne that is relevant in weighing the always-mixed news out of that country.

    The plainest fact about modern China for most people on the scene often seems the hardest to grasp from afar. That is simply how varied, diverse, contradictory, and quickly changing conditions within the country are.

    Any large country is diverse and contradictory, but China’s variations are of a scale demanding special note. What is true in one province is false in the next. What was the exception last week is the rule today. A policy that is applied strictly in Beijing may be ignored or completely unknown in Kunming or Changsha. Millions of Chinese people are now very rich, and hundreds of millions are still very poor. Their country is a success and a failure, an opportunity and a threat, an inspiring model to the world and a nightmarish cautionary example. It is tightly controlled and it is out of control; it is futuristic and it is backward; its system is both robust and shaky.

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  • China Aviation Update: Let's Look on the Bright Side

    Why China's pilots have the opportunity to be the world's best.

    On the bright side, another barrier removed as China progresses toward aerospace eminence! As reported by a writer for my favorite newspaper, the China Daily, more people will soon be able to learn to fly:

    The report also pointed out the opportunity China has to close the gap in this field as in so many others:

    Fewer than 100 Chinese people are receiving training for private licenses, and the relaxation will unleash a market that has huge potential, [aviation spokesman] Qian said.

    Zhong Ning, a spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Administration, said only 345 people in China have private licenses. 

    As a benchmark for the 345 private pilots in China, there are about 600,000+ active certificated pilots in the U.S.

    On the other hand, the Chinese pilots will face a new test of their skills. Via the South China Morning Post:

    And also Reuters:

    For more, naturally see China Airborne. And soon: how we should feel about the testimony today of an Asiana pilot that he was "very concerned" at the prospect of making a visual landing without instrument guidance at San Francisco Airport, before the fatal "landing short" episode this summer.  

    (Initial reaction: What??? Visual landings are what pilots first learn to do -- and what you do in most instrument approaches, once you finally break out of the clouds and are relieved to see the runway. And what about the other pilots in the cockpit, at least some of whom should have been comfortable with visual landings? But all this is what the NTSB will look into.)

  • Hong Kong, Chrome: 2 Updates and Pentimenti

    Two Honk Kong protests rather than one. And, a workaround for a browser problem.

    1) Two weeks ago I shared a photo, via Beijing Cream, of contrasting front-page treatment in the South China Morning Post (which is not run by the Chinese government) and the China Daily (which is) on the 16th anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer to control by the People's Republic of China. The two papers revealed their different editorial approaches -- one featuring celebrations of the anniversary, the other showing protests -- but it turns out that they were reporting on different rallies, not the same one. Apologies for misunderstanding on my part.

    2) Last week I noted that the switch from version 27 of Google's Chrome browser, to release 28, had zeroed out Gmail's offline function on my computers, leaving me with absolutely no messages in the inbox rather than too many. For me this was a "reproducible" problem, related to the Chrome 27/28 difference. When I was using 28, Gmail Offline didn't work; if I "de-upgraded," back to 27, it worked again. Then if I re-installed version 28, the problem reappeared.

    I heard from the Gmail tech team, which suspected that the root of the problem was a corrupted local storage file. On their advice I did the mail-system counterpart of a cold reboot. I force-purged all cached mail messages from my systems; deleted all extant Chrome versions; did a new install of Chrome 28; and in other ways cleared the decks. Then I re-synched Gmail Offline for my accounts -- and now it works, even with Chrome 28.

    The Google team says: See, it was a problem with your cached files! I say, Yeah, but it was a problem that appeared only when I installed Chrome 28. We're both right, and in any case I am glad to have it solved. For safety's sake, if you use Gmail Offline, and are upgrading to Chrome 28, you can go through the purge-and-restore steps described here.

    These updates offered For The Record.

  • Why We Love the Chinese State Media, Edición Mexicana

    My friendship for you is like ... a particularly hoppy IPA.

    Out of the office and away from electronic communications since early this morning. Many, many things to catch up on, so let me buy time by starting with this. My very favorite newspaper, honoring a trans-Pacific partnership:


    In case you can't make out the super-highlighted part above, here is the detail. Who in Mexico would not be moved by this touching imagery? Or for that matter, in China or anywhere else?

    Thumbnail image for Tequila.jpg

    I do hope someone is having fun writing these headlines. Really, the world will be duller when this kind of earnestness is no longer on display.Weightier matters tomorrow. For now, viva México! And 中国 加油 ! Or as we say it locally, USA! USA! 
  • Clash of the Titans: Chinese State Media vs. United Airlines

    Why does this make me think of the Iran-Iraq war?


    This is now more than a week old, but in case anyone has missed it I wanted to take note.

    I bow to no one in my devotion to the works of the Chinese state media. And I bow to very few in my accumulation of miles on United Airlines over the decades, with resulting expertise in its corporate culture and the pre-flight-video stylings of its CEO, Jeff Smisek.

    I had intended to give both themes a well-deserved rest. But they have come together in an irresistibly delicious combination. 

    Over the past few months, the (state-run) People's Daily in China has launched a lovely series called "Dishonest Americans."  Supposedly this is meant to give Chinese readers a more balanced and "objective" picture of American life, when juxtaposed with their own overly rosy impressions. Or so the PD editor has claimed: "Most Chinese people think that Americans are honest, reliable, and righteous. However, once you live in that country for a while, you may discover the descriptions above are a bit misleading."

    For me the irresistibly delicious part was the recent Those Dishonest Yanks item about a bad experience a Chinese family had had with United Airlines. And the People's Daily conclusion was that the family had endured huffy and put-upon-seeming treatment from a United rep  ... because they were Chinese!  

    Yes, I am sure all members of the U.S. traveling public will agree that this is the only possible explanation for passengers having a less-than blissful experience on America's largest airline. 

    Humiliation.jpgYou can read the whole account here. If you need to crank out a "China and the world" seminar paper this weekend, I recommend these extra-credit points:
    • The "disrespect and humiliation" angle. As I've argued many times, in a country as huge, shambling, and diverse as China, flat-out nationalistic tension is rarely the first thing on people's minds. Before someone responds as "a Chinese," he or she is likely to react as "a person from Sichuan," or as "a member of the Wang family," or as "a school classmate of Mr. Chen," or as "your friend," or as "someone who sees a chance of profit," or any other natural sub-unit of a billion people. But the ever-present apprehension about "disrespect" from the outside world, especially the mighty and mainly white North American/European world, always has the potential to evoke a purely nationalistic/tribal response. Bonus reading on this point: Never Forget National Humiliation, which always seemed as if it should have an exclamation point at the end of the title. 

      Thus I am fascinated that this is exactly the context in which the United problem is presented: as a matter of "insulting" and "bullying" the Chinese travelers. The next time I have an airline-hell experience, I will have to protest about being "bullied" and "humiliated."

    • The "hey, wait a minute" angle. The growth of the Chinese economy is of course now supporting a surge of outbound Chinese tourism, which I view as beneficial for just about everyone involved. (Good for foreign economies; good for the Chinese to see more of the world first-hand.) But it also means that China is encountering its version of the "Ugly American" backlash that U.S. tourists and expats started experiencing long ago. Early this month, a prominent politician, Wang Yang, warned his fellow citizens that their boorish behavior overseas was hurting the whole country's image. A few days later, a huge uproar began in Egypt about a Chinese teenager who etched his name and "I was here!" in Chinese characters on an ancient temple at Luxor. It is coincidence that the Chinese media are portraying Chinese travelers as pushed-around innocents at the moment when the contrary impression is growing. (And, for the billionth time, among such a big and varied populace, there are plenty examples for any impression you'd like to find.) But the coincidence is interesting.

    • Truth squads and the netizens: The most significant part of the whole episode may be the backlash from much of the online Chinese populace, examining why the state media are making this case just now and whether national stereotypes about dishonesty make sense at all. Here are English-language summaries in Global Post, the NYT and China Digital Times.

    That is all. Now if only the family had tried to sneak a boiled frog, or a leafblower, or an open bottle of beer, or an Atlantic subscription card (etc)  onto the flight, it would be the ideal item I have been hoping for lo these many years. Thanks to Adam Minter, Damien Ma, Ben Carlson, and many other friends in and around China for the leads.

  • Why You Should Get More Than One Newspaper, Cont.

    Personally, I never go wrong believing China Daily.

    This is the kind of item I can post while finishing a print-magazine story. A friend in China sends this compare-and-contrast photo:

    photo (10).JPG

    In case you can't read these, the headline on the left says "Fast growth to continue, Xi says." According to the one on the right, "China's Xi Says Fast Growth Over," both of course referring to China's new leader Xi Jinping. They report, you decide.
  • Seth MacFarlane Is Big in China

    These wacky foreigners. Sometimes you can even understand what they say!

    One of many charming touches in Seth MacFarlane's Oscar-hosting role -- remember that? -- was the line about those wacky, funny-talking Hispanics. It was a good thing, he said, that Salma Hayek, Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz were all so easy on the eyes, since "we" could barely understand a word they say.

    Seth got some flak for that in America, but they appreciate him here in China. According to Still and Always My Favorite Newspaper™, the China Daily, the country's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, had this exchange with a French reporter at his news conference yesterday. Here's how the story looks, with details below:


    Foreign reporters flaunt their Mandarin skills
    Caroline Puel, French magazine Le Point correspondent in Beijing, was surprised twice on Saturday at the press conference with China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

    Besides getting a chance to ask a question out of the hundreds of reporters at the scene, Puel also got high marks from Yang for her Chinese.

    "Your Chinese is so good I can understand your question without asking you to repeat it", Yang told her with a big smile.
    Yes, I did notice the "with a big smile" touch; and this story caught my eye mainly because I find it droll. At the same time, I am trying to imagine the counterpart in America: a Secretary of State Clinton or Kerry hearing a question from a German or Japanese reporter and, before answering, noting that the questioner's English is "so good" that it can actually be understood. It's another little marker on the long road of China's developing a sense of ease as an international presence and power.

    Bonus Favorite Newspaper™ Detail. Here's today's front page:


    Yeah, I could go for some of those cyber rules myself. This morning all of my normal VPNs appear to be blocked, and I am filing this by working out some rococo routing to the Atlantic's corporate VPN, which is not really designed for this sort of international intrigue. The accompanying story is actually worth reading for the Chinese perspective on the ongoing cyber wars. For instance this detail, which is how the situation is often described from the Chinese point of view:
    Cyber security has become an increasingly prominent issue as security threats in a peaceful era, and seems another way for Western powers to apply pressure to contain China's rise, they [various Chinese officials] say.

    Wen Weiping, a professor at the School of Software and Microelectronics at Peking University, put forward his explanation on the belligerence.

    The US believes it is justified to launch military attacks on any country that launches cyber attacks threatening its cyber space, he said, and it must raise a fuss against such alleged attacks to build up a case. Wen said the US also aims to strengthen its cyber security forces as a deterrent and maintain its advantage during the information war.
  • Why We Love the English-Language Chinese Press, Part 12,413

    Pointers in harmonious reportage, for the Western media.

    From China Daily, My Favorite Newspaper on Earth™, with several related manifestations of hyper-earnest Chinese "soft power" all at once:


    My favorite part of this story about China's new leader is the headline, and my favorite part of the picture is the coordinated attire and natural-looking poses. 

    Note for insiders: the gentlemen shown above are the "Magnificent Seven," the newly announced members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo who constitute China's supreme leadership. The man in the non-regulation attire on the right -- not a black windbreaker but some kind of sports coat, with buttons -- is a veteran of US-China negotiations named Wang Qishan. He was also the only one of the seven to daringly wear a blue rather than a red necktie when the lineup of the group was announced in Beijing last month. Some people are born rebels.


    AFP/Getty photograph, as noted here; thanks to WY and BB.
  • Book News from All Around, Including China Daily!

    My favorite newspaper on my favorite book.

    Thumbnail image for ChinaAirborneFrontCoverSmall.png

    For the record:

    1) A very nice article on China's aerospace ambitions, by Kelly Chung Dawson, in China Daily. Of course I am particularly grateful for this one.

    2) Also grateful for Eric Liu's article, in Time, about the real dynamics of US-China competition.

    3) And to Brendan Koerner for his item in the Zocalo's  Summer Beach Bag reading list.

    4) And to Margaret Slattery for her roundup of a Foreign Policy summer reading list.

    Seriously, thanks to all for their gracious attention. Hey, read up!

    (Pretty soon, on my book website, I'll do a compendium of video clips and reviews, fyi.)

  • Pushback on 'Helen Keller Brand' Sunglasses

    You learn something every day -- some days, several things.

    I mentioned this morning an ad in China Daily for "Helen Keller brand" sunglasses.

    A reader with a Chinese name thinks my amusement about the ad was unfair.

    Your latest post at the Atlantic includes a comment of a friend of yours who is 'in China' on an ad of Hellen Keller glasses, in which you quote your friend - "If they only used Google [eg, to research possible brand names], they would know, but instead, they use Baidu so they end up with this."

    It seems to me that you share his/her perspective that whoever came up with the idea has no idea who Hellen Keller is - which amuses me and I do very much wonder if the intention of this content is indeed to expose/ridicule this seeming ignorance.

    Does your friend know that Hellen Keller is a junior high school text book figure for Chinese students? - I personally once had to recite three paragraphs from an excerpt of her The Story of My Life as an assignment for my Chinese class.

    Hellen Keller as a brand for whoever (a Chinese person) hasn't heard of the woman doesn't carry more meaning than of a foreign female name representing some exotic Westerness, in contrast, for people who do know about her (that would be a hell lot of Chinese people who've had a reasonable education), I imagine, this ad could have conveyed a good deal of tension - thinking of glasses and the blindness of the woman - as well as a wicked sense of humour, hence making a successful advertising strategy.

    Apparently not for your friend, though, whose first reaction is to assume 'Chinese state media' - or perhaps a much wider range of Chinese people - is too dumb to be reasonably informed, far more surprising for me - as an avid reader of yours - that you consider it worthy of a no small space in your column.

    True that "a self-proclaimed China hand never disappoint". :)

    I didn't know that Hel[l]en Keller was a familiar figure to Chinese school children. Now I do! The person who wrote in sent a link to a Chinese third-grade textbook story about her. And if Helen Keller Sunglasses is meant as an intentionally cheeky brand, in the spirit of "Franklin Roosevelt's School of Ballroom Dance," then I need to view it in a different light, so to speak.

    It's still a little strange, though. Among other things, Helen Keller wasn't typically seen or depicted wearing sunglasses. Maybe "Ray Charles brand" is what we're looking for? Or Stevie Wonder?

    For what it's worth, the person who sent in the item is ethnically Chinese as well, though not raised on the mainland

  • From Bo Xilai to Helen Keller: Today's China-News Roundup

    The U.S. may be finally getting its way on Chinese currency issues -- but may not like the results.

    1) The Atlantic's own Helen Gao has a very interesting look at the interplay among rumor, fantasy, official "fact," and forced revisions to those facts, in the riveting Bo Xilai drama in China. Part of her story is based on following Chinese social media feeds, including this message from Weibo, the counterpart to Twitter:

    "Why does the U.S. not censor rumors?" asked one Weibo user last November. "No matter how wild they are, nobody bans them, and the creators of rumors do not worry about getting arrested. Perhaps for places where truth persists, rumors have no harm. Only places that lack truth are fearful of rumors."

    2) Reuters has an attention-getting story today on this topic. It's an answer to this question: If Bo Xilai's wife really did order the killing of a British businessman (as she has now been accused of), why on Earth would she have done that? Here's the Reuters headline. Thanks to Clement Tan, formerly of the Atlantic, for the lead.


    UPDATE: In the WSJ, Minxin Pei has an excellent essay on "what have we learned about the Chinese system??" via the Bo Xilai case.

    3) This story, which is played at the top of the front page of today's WSJ (and has been rumbling around for a while), has potentially large real-world and also political-world significance.


    The real-world ramifications, as discussed over the years, involve the effort to "rebalance" the Chinese economy in various ways -- exports vs domestic growth, investment vs consumption, region vs region, etc. Everyone agrees that a more flexible value for the Chinese yuan RMB will make that process easier.

    Political-world ramifications: the main thing I've heard Mitt Romney say about China is that on Day One he would slap on tariffs to stop their currency manipulation. I suppose now it's time to ask what he'll do on Day Two. Also: if the U.S. is finally getting what many politicians (notably Sen. Chuck Schumer among Democrats) have been asking for, we're not going to like all the results. These will inevitably include a shift of more world trade from dollar-based to RMB-based pricing and settlement. This will have both good and bad effects from the U.S. perspective. More another time.

    4) A friend in China sends this screen shot of an ad at the bottom of a China Daily story.

    MiracleWorker.pngThe Chinese state media never disappoint. My friend writes:
    If they only used Google [eg, to research possible brand names], they would know, but instead, they use Baidu so they end up with this.
  • The Chinese State Media Don't Do Anything Halfway

    The Chinese media's trademarked approach to women's issues.

    The big political news in China appears to be the ouster of Bo Xilai, the most attention-getting figure in China's rising group of Communist leaders. But we shouldn't lose sight of other developments, like the ongoing Chinese state-media observances of International Women's Day.  Previously in this series, stories on "Beautiful service staff" and "Beautiful female journalists" at the big party conferences underway in Beijing. John Hudson of the Atlantic Wire has a nice wrap-up on this theme.

    And again from the People's Daily, another Women's Day-themed story and slide show on female involvement at the conferences. ("Two sessions" refers to the simultaneous meetings of China's two main "representative" political groups.)


    The caption on the picture above says, "A woman is busy in the meeting venue." Bless her heart!

    Of course, all stories in this realm aspire to the greatness of a People's Daily item from a few years ago:


    America's newspaper industry is in crisis. China's is booming. Hmmmm.
  • For the Chinese State Media, Every Day is Women's Day

    There will always be a China Daily -- or so true connoisseurs of the news fervently hope

    The world will be duller, and we will be thrown back on the Onion and its like for entertainment, when someone in China's propaganda ministry stops to ask WTF??? about the state-owned publications that present China's "soft power" face to the outside world. Last week, People's Daily observed International Women's Day with a photo feature on "beautiful service staff" at the main Communist Party plenaries. Now China Daily's exploration of the same theme continues, with...


    Hainan Airlines, by the way, has been a rough counterpart to Southwest, pioneering a lot of innovations for the Chinese air-travel industry. As the story puts it:

    China's Hainan Airlines kicks off its flight attendant recruitment campaign at the Harbin 26th Vocational School in Harbin, Heilongjiang province on Mar 8, 2012. The airliner plans to recruit 1,000 flight attendants through the campus recruitment event, titled "Looking for the oriental beauties".

    I'm not sure which is more interesting: how the airline has chosen to cast its campaign, or the deadpan way in which the state media present it. By the way, for all those primed to write in fury after seeing the word "oriental": hey, tell it to people at the newspaper's head office in Beijing, or the airline's in Haikou. Here's more from coverage of the recruiting drive:


    If the real Chinese media ever wise up, I hope we'll still have China Daily Show, a nice combination (as they name would imply) of the original China Daily and the Daily Show spirit. Here is a feature that will warms the heart of anyone who has read the recent pensees of a venture capitalist named Eric Li:



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