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, China Airborne, was published in early May. 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 US 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 two most recent books, Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009), are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book, China Airborne, was published in early May. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.
What concerns me most about US criticism of China, is the existence of a military-security lobby in Washington that seeks enemies and would like to have China in that status.Those who comprise this lobby vary widely in their motivation, from weapons production and sales to racial paranoia. But collectively they are dangerous.Finally, stepping back, the arrogance of the US in dictating to the rest of the world is stunning, especially as in the last 20 years we are further and further adrift from our alleged principles and from acting on best scientific knowledge. The US is lacking in the ability to reverse-think. My favorite example is imagine how the US would react if China declared Tibetans and Uighurs to be terrorists and decided to strike such groups with drones in the United States, offering $500 to the families of anyone killed as collateral damage.
I'm an American and have lived in China since the fall of 2004, mostly in the capital of [a westerm province] but with a 15-mointh stint in [an eastern province] in 2009-10. I've been teaching English as a foreign language all these years (surprise!) at universities and at private training centers.
The rant you linked to in your piece was interesting to me insofar as I've shared many of the same experiences as that disaffected writer, but he lost his argument as soon as the piece descended into incoherent and rambling sentences. It reminded me of a post I could have written on a "bad China day," the expression many of us expats here use when we have troubling experiences or the culture shock is just too much. In those cases, I think it can be healthy to vent to other expats or Chinese friends, but I certainly wouldn't want to publish something in that frame of mind. It wouldn't be well-thought out, would be rife with shaky-at-best conclusions based on anecdotes and stereotypes, and would be the mirror-image of the "you Americans are like this" one hears from many Chinese that may be an interesting data point but worthless as any sort of constructive addition to the conversation about China.I much prefer to take the long view. China is still a developing country, and as such it is experiencing the same advancements and their subsequent challenges the rest of the world deals with. In the western Chinese city in which I live, in 2004, traffic as a problem was something that only existed in the news for rich, eastern cities. Now, traffic is a huge problem here. The city is fairly aggressively trying to address certain problems with barriers separating sides of the streets, pedestrian bridges and tunnels, and more traffic light-governed intersections. However, much more needs to be done. I sincerely believe this because I've seen so much waste in terms of time and money in countless accidents of the fender-bender variety. On my bicycle (my preferred mode of transportation), I see one or two of these almost every day. Often these accidents appear inexplicable as they occur in broad daylight and there's no evidence that there was a vehicle malfunction. Instead, as locals and expats alike will tell you, drivers frequently weave in and out of lanes and make turns without looking.But then you think about traffic policing, and you realize that if the authorities only punish speeding caught on camera or lack of proper paperwork (which they do by setting up random check points and then stop random vehicles), and not the breadth of moving violations that constantly occur, how can we expect people to think of the consequences of reckless driving? Same goes for the reckless behaviour of pedestrians, whom I've never seen ticketed for crossing against green lights or jumping barriers even when there's a traffic police officer present.A school that I've worked with started teaching "moral lessons" last year. Among my favorite moral lesson topics were "always flush the toilet" and "red light stop, green light go." So, okay, the school made a translation error by calling these moral lessons, but I respected the intent. I suggested to a local colleague that while "red light stop, green light go" is certainly useful, perhaps we could have also encouraged students to look both ways before they cross a street. This, among other ways to behave within my surroundings and society, was drilled into my head from a young age at home and in primary school. This way of preparing to cross a street seemed like a revelation to my colleague.I know that sounds crazy to an American audience. How do people just not know that you shouldn't throw yourself into oncoming traffic? The point is, if you've never heard of these concepts, how can you be expected to live by them? Is the old Chinese lady crossing the street against a green light with her eyes firmly looking down at the pavement doing this because she's rude and lacking in character, or may it have something to do with the fact that she recently moved into a new high-rise apartment with her family and the chaos of a city and its traffic are totally new to her?I'd argue the latter. And look, it's up to China and its people whether they want to change these behaviours. But China and its people have undergone mind-boggling, rapid change. To expect American behaviour, when we've had a car-dependent culture for 60 years now, is folly. I've focused on just this one narrow detail in that Chinese American's rant, but I'd argue that this applies to its other aspects. China is busy negotiating the messy details of rule-of-law, government accountability and private citizen responsibility. This is not a character defect issue.
I think that it is wise to separate "criticism of China" into criticism of the government and criticism of the people. It is easy and correct to criticize a kleptocratic regime which seems to run the country merely to line its own pockets but is smart enough to let sufficient crumbs fall from the table to keep the bulk of the population happy. We (and by we, I include tens of millions of Chinese people) are all familiar with stories of corruption and intrigue that reach right to the top of China's government, and we are also familiar with the knowledge that when officials fell threatened, they will brutalize and even murder those they fear...I think that many, maybe all, foreigners living in China, and for that matter, many Chinese nationals, are aware of certain aspects of Chinese society that are not flattering. I refer to the absence of basic norms (not by all people, but by enough to make aspects of life here annoying) of common courtesy and common sense. To the obvious examples with a high "eeew factor" - the expectorations, the spitting, the "snot rockets", the use of any public space by all age groups as a toilet (be it for urination or defecation). [JF note: a very senior Chinese official has himself been making some similar points.]
But there are other things that can leave you scratching your head. Things such as people jamming the entrance to a lift (or a subway car) and blocking the exit for those waiting to get off [JF note: this has gotten better over the years, especially in post-Olympics Beijing], standing in the middle of a doorway while engaged in a phone conversation, bellowing into their cellphone while holding said phone 3-4 inches from their ear because the person bellowing at the other end is hurting their ear... Car owners who feel that the car is an extension of their body and that if they want to barrel down a packed city street at 50 using the horn to blast obstructions out of their way, because a set of wheels gives them the right. The fact that across large parts of China, cars are allowed to share sidewalks with people and that those sidewalks are not constructed to allow for cars and so quickly disintegrate to become pot-hole strewn assault courses ready to soak the foot or snap the ankle of unwary pedestrians.I want to make the point that in a country of people and crowds, there seems to be a general uncertainty of how to behave in such crowds. Is this a legacy of Communism, where for hundreds of millions of peasants the only thing they actually owned was themselves and they were going to use that thing the way they damn well wanted? Or is it because China is a new urban society, and that standards of behaviour that might have suited village life simply aren't suitable in cities? Or is it because that while many Chinese are unhappy about the things I have outlined, there's a feeling of powerlessness and that the only thing they can do is keep their head down and get on with their own life?
Not sure if you noticed it but at least two mainland Chinese were intimately caught up in the Boston Marathon bombing - first, the poor girl, Lu Lingzi, who got killed, and second, "Danny" the man who got carjacked but escaped from the Tsarnaev brothers. Extraordinary coincidence and yes, Boston is among the most cosmopolitan cities in the US, but still, it shows the degree to which the US and China are inter-linked at the most basic human level, even in tragedy.
On the assorted points of disagreement:I've been thinking quite hard about the amount of negative China articles that have appeared on your blog, usually in the form of links to Western laments about Chinese life and culture, as well as, of course, pictures of Beijing's pollution . This is part of what I view as a general media trend of China-bashing . Clearly, you love China, so I'm not accusing you in any way of being anti-China or malevolent, but I think you would agree there has been a rise/change in tone in coverage of China over the last year and a half.A prime example is the piece you linked to two days ago, where the author made sweeping generalizations based on singular anecdotes that paint the entire Chinese populace as rude, shallow and sub-human (or at least sub-Western.) In analyzing a country of over a billion people, how can we take seriously someone who can paints with such a biased (and shockingly untruthful, if we were going to compare anecdotal memories) brush? Wouldn't it be similarly possible to write a similar anecdotal and nonfalsifiable story about America? Or any other country? Would we assume a fair appraisal if a Chinese person did the same to us? I doubt it.So why does this piece get coverage from you and the rest of the internet? I believe it's because it fits a media narrative that has been growing in strength over the last year or year and a half. I would summarize this narrative as: "News Stories That China is Not As Good As The West." Examples of these stories include the story making the rounds the last week on the quality of lamb in restaurants, ubiquitous reports on various degrees of Chinese corruption and of course, pollution pictures.Now these are big important stories (except the lamb one,) but the focus on on China as opposed to say, India seems particularly acute. I am assuming that this is due to the news media's need for a rival to the United States in the post Soviet Era. As China actually has some potential to pass the US in GDP (kind of meaningless) and perhaps have a say in regional (and maybe global?) security matters, I guess this is makes for news? I am assuming it's the present version of the Cold War Era "look how long the Soviets had to wait in line for bread" stories.But at least China is open for Westerners to visit, as opposed to the USSR of the 70s, leading to a particularly annoying narrative: the disgruntled foreigner leaving China because of excess pollution/corruption/hurt feelings. What kills me about this type of article is the total lack of acknowledgement of a huge advantage any Westerner gets when living in China: a five or ten fold increase in purchasing power.Some small examples from my time there:
- You can ride the Beijing subway, whose frequency and coverage exceeds all American lines with the possible exception of New York, for 30 cents (2 yuan.)
- You can take a taxi for 2 miles (maybe 3 or 4?) for an initial fee of 10 yuan in Beijing, or $1.60.
- You can swing into a hutong restaurant and order enough (incredible) food for 4 easily for 80 yuan, or maybe 3$ a person.
- You can hire a maid for 50/100 yuan to clean your likely cheap apartment.So why wouldn't someone expect a tradeoff if they moved to China between prices paid and living standards? And why isn't it explained by China watchers that while Chinese GDP per capita is 1/6th the US? That China is not a developed country, and that it's nowhere close to being one, despite it's massive growth of the last few decades? That Westerners who travel or live there that are expecting the comforts of home are fooling themselves?Excuse the rant. I'm not sure why I'm responding to you about this. I think it's my fear that over the coming decades, the US and China will be thrown into an antagonistic relationship that will be an antagonism of choice. And people who do not share the love for China and the Chinese people you and I do, will look to this rising negative tide for rationalization of fear and hatred of the other. But in doing so, both countries will be turning their backs on incredible places and peoples that offer so much to each other.Thanks for listening. And here's hoping you have many future sunny Beijing days. The mountains ARE beautiful when you can seem them.
If domestic politics continue to drive Chinese diplomacy, ... the result will be an increasingly isolated China. Perhaps the best hope is that [new president Xi Jinping] will begin confronting the reality that Beijing's heavy-handed foreign policies are the principal cause of its rapidly deteriorating security environment... But [this] would also require a serious discussion with the Chinese people that is at odds with the current government's jingoist rhetoric. In the meantime, whatever China's defense white paper has to say, the U.S. rebalancing to Asia is not containing China. Besides, a U.S. policy of containment is hardly necessary when China is so effectively containing itself.2) The Hidden Harmonies blog is known for stoutly defending anything Chinese against criticism from any outsider (the authors are not big fans of my work). Now it offers a bracing "what's really wrong with China" essay by an ethnically Chinese foreigner, writing under a pseudonym, who has moved to China and is alarmed by what he has seen. I've frequently noted that, even though a thousand aspects of modern Chinese life drive me crazy, I still can't help liking the openness, the vim, the life of most of the people I meet here. That is, I find it easier to get along with the people than with the whole system. This blog writer sees things differently:
After living here for more than 9 months, I have come to a most repugnant conclusion. It pains me to even think about it for I am a Chinese person who has often defended the traditions, institutions, values and dignity of the Children of Heaven. But the truth is often painful at first. I realize now that much of the problems in Chinese society, and a plethora of problems there are, are not from the Chinese government (not a surprise to me since I am a long time China watcher suspicious of the anti government rhetoric of the west). What is surprising is that the myriad problems within Chinese society comes from the behavior, values and the beliefs of its people, a people that with all their traditions of wisdom behave in the most atrocious, despicable manner towards each other today. In a sense, I'd always expected this but were perhaps too proud to admit it and needed first hand experience for verification. Now I cannot escape that basic truth.
Encrypted traffic, especially [a certain protocol] is being focused on. China operates like one big LAN as best they can muster. If they outright block all encrypted traffic they go off the grid and no one is willing to do business there. Their choice? Randomly detect and disrupt encrypted traffic that has a high probability of being non-business traffic. If I were them, I would also be "white-listing" corporate data streams.
So, China is like a company with an IT director bent on stopping anything but official corporate business from being conducted on their network. That's the way to think of it.... China is doing nothing to [foreign] servers directly, but is disrupting the protocols they all use.
Thousands of users can connect to VPNs with no issue in China, so it definitely varies regionally and by ISP.
Of course we are very capable in the cyber area, and do apply our tools to collect against more traditional intelligence targets.What I like about this note is the reminder that many troublesome aspects of China now -- environmental ruin, dangerous factories, government bribery, and intellectual-property theft -- have their counterparts in the rapid-development phases of America, England, and many other countries. But the difference in scale, speed, and degree in China's case put it in a different category. (Plus, the other stuff was then; this is now.)
However what the Beijing is doing, brazen intrusions into corporations, media, legal offices, etc is far beyond the scope of our activities. The Chinese State is involved in outright systematic theft of our IP, technology, M & A plans, and so forth. And yes historically this has always been part of industrialization process, think of America vis-a-vis the UK during the late 18th early 19th century but that was spontaneous, this is top down state led and on a totally different scale.
Is the Chinese military a monolithic perfectly formed hierarchically controlled entity?And what I like about this note is the reminder that even the PLA is full of several million Chinese people many of whom are pursuing their own dreams and schemes. Both perspectives are true, which makes the PLA hard enough for people in China to figure out, let alone outsiders.
My last stroll by the base on Xixi Rd. in Hangzhou was the usual blasting in and out by neon-camo paint job-pimped out Range Rovers of the top brass. Army personnel blasting around in camo pimpmobiles probably do lots of stuff the ruling faction doesn't know or like. I suppose there are are multiple factions involved with hacking. China could have a few Jack D. Ripper types.
Or, more than a few. I kinda think the hacking could be all sorts of stuff that's only slightly understood.
Next, the authorities stressed that Chinese organizations and individuals were a serious source of electronic threats--but far from the only one, or perhaps even the main one. You could take this as good news about U.S.-China relations, but it was usually meant as bad news about the problem as a whole. "The Chinese would be in the top three, maybe the top two, leading problems in cyberspace," James Lewis, a former diplomat who worked on security and intelligence issues and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, told me. "They're not close to being the primary problem, and there is debate about whether they're even number two."If you'd like to see that kind of "well, how much can we really prove here?" analysis applied to the current NYT report see this post from Jeffrey Carr, and a related article in Business Insider.
Number one in his analysis is Russia, through a combination of state, organized-criminal, and unorganized-individual activity. Number two is Israel--and there are more on the list. "The French are notorious for looking for economic advantage through their intelligence system," I was told by Ed Giorgio, who has served as the chief code maker and chief code breaker for the National Security Agency. "The Israelis are notorious for looking for political advantage. We have seen Brazil emerge as a source of financial crime, to join Russia, which is guilty of all of the above." Interestingly, no one suggested that international terrorist groups--as opposed to governments, corporations, or "normal" criminals--are making significant use of electronic networks to inflict damage on Western targets, although some groups rely on the Internet for recruitment, organization, and propagandizing.
Contacted Monday, officials at the Chinese embassy in Washington again insisted that their government does not engage in computer hacking, and that such activity is illegal .... [JF note: pirate videos are also "illegal" in China. So is speeding, bribery, etc.]
''Making unfounded accusations based on preliminary results is both irresponsible and unprofessional, and is not helpful for the resolution of the relevant problem,'' said Hong Lei, a ministry spokesman. ''China resolutely opposes hacking actions and has established relevant laws and regulations and taken strict law enforcement measures to defend against online hacking activities.''
Mandiant [a security firm] discovered that two sets of I.P. addresses used in the attacks were registered in the same neighborhood as [the military's] Unit 61398's building....
"Either they are coming from inside Unit 61398," said Kevin Mandia, the founder and chief executive of Mandiant, in an interview last week, "or the people who run the most-controlled, most-monitored Internet networks in the world are clueless about thousands of people generating attacks from this one neighborhood."
I'm often asked what the international community can do to help promote democracy and rule of law in China. I sincerely hope that people around the world will lose their fear of offending China because it's rich and powerful. I want people to stop turning a blind eye to the abuses that people throughout China are suffering. Stop supporting the myth that anyone who urges the Communist Party to abide by their own laws will be retaliated against and be treated as an enemy of the state. Don't do anything on the basis that China's rulers will be pleased or not pleasedIn the last part of the panel discussion, Jerome Cohen, Cheng Li, and Dorinda Elliott enlarge on what this means in practice.
"To arbitrarily assert and to conclude without hard evidence that China participated in such hacking attacks is totally irresponsible," said spokesman Hong Lei.Noted. For the record, here is Chen Guangcheng last night on what Chinese laws "clearly forbid." Let's hope his assessment proves too harsh:
"China is also a victim of hacking attacks. Chinese laws clearly forbid hacking attacks, and we hope relevant parties takes a responsible attitude on this issue."
In China, the law is optional, something that those in power use when it suits them and ignore when it doesn't. The law in China is nothing more than empty words, just scraps of paper.
The Insourcing Boom that Isn'tBy Alan Tonelson [right]According to the two feature articles in December's Atlantic, manufacturing in the United States is making an historic comeback. In particular, changes in wages, energy costs, and technology around the world mean that China and other Asian locations no longer hold all the cards as manufacturing locations. Even better, large and small American businesses increasingly are recognizing that producing - and innovating - back in the United States has become their most lucrative option.Moreover, both "The Insourcing Boom," by Charles Fishman and "Mr. China Comes to America" by James Fallows state that much more is involved than domestic manufacturing's cyclical rebound from an historically painful recession. As the former contends, the manufacturing revival "cannot be explained merely by the ebbing of the Great Recession, and with it the cyclical return of recently laid-off workers." In the latter's words, domestic industry's outlook is better today "than at any other time since Rust Belt desolation and the hollowing-out of the American working class came to seem the grim inevitabilities of the globalized industrial age."Both authors provide numerous and seemingly impressive examples of insourcing and corporate start-ups that support these claims. They also present statistics on energy prices, U.S. and Chinese wages, and the post-2010 rise in American manufacturing employment. But neither gives their readers the most important information they need to know about domestic industry's current circumstances and future prospects - that virtually no national- or global-level data show that American manufacturing is even continuing its recovery from recession, much less stealing the march on Chinese and other foreign rivals. Indeed, nearly all of the most comprehensive statistics portray U.S. industry as still slipping further down the international ranks.For example, during an historically sluggish American recovery, a U.S. manufacturing sector in renaissance mode should be growing faster than the rest of the economy. That was true in 2010 and 2011. But the out-performance is already over. This year, the entire U.S. economy has expanded by only 2.06 percent after inflation. Manufacturing output, however, has actually fallen - by 0.54 percent.A manufacturing sector engineering a big secular rebound should be gaining share in its own home market - the world's largest single national market, and the one its companies should know best. Yet new government data analyzed by the U.S. Business and Industry Council show that more than 100 advanced domestic manufacturing industries collectively lost American customers to imports worldwide last year.In 2011, foreign-based producers supplied a record total of 37.57 percent of total American purchases in industries ranging from semiconductors to pharmaceuticals to ball bearings to machine tools and dozens of other capital-and technology-intensive sectors. In 2010, when the industrial renaissance supposedly was stirring, the import penetration rate was 37.07 percent and in 1997 - the earliest data year - only 24.49 percent. In fact, imports accounted for half or more of everything Americans bought in nearly a third of these industries, including construction equipment, metal-cutting machine tools, laboratory equipment, turbines and turbine generator sets, and of course autos and heavy-duty trucks alike.Companies losing market share rightly are almost never described as winners or viewed as promising. Do industries losing market share deserve better reviews?Nor is the growth of exports compensating for these losses. Since plummeting during the Great Recession as American economic demand nosedived across the board, America's manufacturing trade deficit has rebounded much faster than the economy as a whole, and indeed hit a monthly record earlier this year. This shortfall's strong comeback is an especially important and bearish indicator of U.S. industry's global competitiveness, since mainstream economic theory teaches that trade flows are the means by which market forces create the optimal global division of labor. In other words, the countries that trade a given product most successfully are those that eventually will produce it most successfully, and vice versa.The China story told by these data also clash with that told in the December Atlantic articles. As fast as imports worldwide have been grabbing share of U.S. advanced manufactures' markets, the inroads being made by imports from China have been much faster. And although these shipments started from a considerably lower base, they supplied more than six percent of all American purchases of these capital- and technology-intensive products last year.As robustly as the overall U.S. manufacturing trade deficit has risen recently, the China deficit has recovered just as dramatically, and from a much shallower trough. In fact, so far this year, the manufacturing trade gap with China has increased more four times faster than America's global trade gap.Signs of American industry's weakness also emerge from comparing its growth rate with those of leading competitor countries. Last week, the U.S. Labor Department reported that between 2009 and 2011, American manufacturing output expanded more slowly than industry in Germany, Sweden, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, and only slightly faster than manufacturing in Japan, whose industry is widely described as hemorrhaging competitiveness. These years of course cover the period when the U.S. manufacturing renaissance allegedly was well underway.Data for China were not provided in this survey of high-income countries. Yet the consulting firm IHS reported this earlier year that in 2010 and 2011, America's share of world industrial output not only has fallen behind not only China's, but has been falling faster than that of the 27-nation European Union, whose economic problems are by now all too well known.Other major problems with the articles revolve around insourcing claims themselves. Do the new investments in U.S. manufacturing mean that outsourcing has stopped or has slowed significantly? None of this essential context is presented. But last July, a major Bloomberg News investigation spotlighted a study reporting that continuing outsourcing neglected by the news media has entirely offset the job creation credited to insourcing.In addition, improved American competitiveness is far from the only reason for insourcing. Scratch an instance of reshored manufacturing, and significant federal, state, and local government subsidies can often be found beneath the surface. For example, according to GE official Kim Freeman, the $800 million Louisville appliance investment detailed in "The Insourcing Boom" was keyed by $100 million in such supports. Over the last year, two New York Times articles have made clear that subsidies have been "increasingly important" spurs to new and retained domestic manufacturing investments.Using taxpayer dollars to pay manufacturing companies to move or stay may make perfect sense in many cases. And certainly most of America's major trade competitors engage in such practices pervasively. But relying substantially on government inducements is likely a losing proposition for domestic manufacturing advocates. After all, industrial rivals like China, Germany, and Japan are financially strong. The United States remains saddled with enormous debts - many owed to these very countries, and is unlikely to win a worldwide subsidy competition.American manufacturing still retains many strengths. Some of it, moreover, may boast considerable growth potential. But no one should underestimate the continuing weaknesses and challenges made clear by the most comprehensive, most detailed data. Without presenting this readily available big-picture evidence, accurately describing domestic manufacturing's present circumstances and realistically assessing its prospects simply is not possible.Alan Tonelson is a Research Fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, which represents nearly 2,000 small and medium-sized domestic U.S. manufacturers. The author of The Race to the Bottom (Westview Press, 2002), Tonelson contributes to the Council's AmericanEconomicAlert.org website, and can be followed on Twitter @AlanTonelson and on Facebook at Tonelsonontheeconomy.
"Supply chain is one of the big challenges for U.S. expansion," Woo said. "In addition, any manufacturing we take back to the U.S. needs to leverage high-value engineering talent there in comparison to the low-cost labor of China."There is a lot about America's job-creation problems -- and potential -- in those two sentences. For a guide to what lies behind them, I gently re-direct your consideration to the December issue of our magazine.
Now you know -- or at least have a sense of the triangulating / guessing / thread-following exercise the rest of the world goes through in assessing Chinese developments. For a more ominous reading, see the reaction today from an ASEAN diplomat.The Ministry of Foreign Affairs website press conference transcript is lovingly redacted and edited to conform to the message MOFA is trying to put out. If the question as posted said "fishing boats", I would like to think it's because that's what MOFA wanted it to say.
But, having said that, looking at the reports on the new regulations, they don't appear to be targeted at fishing boats (or transit vessels or the 7th Fleet for that matter):
1) They are part of an upgrade/clarification of coast guard regs throughout China. Media reports show that, for instance Hebei and Zhejiang have also issued new regulations at the same time.
2) It appears their target is nationalist demonstrators from neighboring nations intent on island-related mischief. The main purpose of the new regs is to establish a clear public policy allowing for the Coast Guard to take action against people who try to land on the islands or sail around the islands and piss off the PRC (like the Taiwanese and Hong Kong demonstrators did to Japan around the Senkakus). I'm assuming that's the reason why the Coast Guard announced it is not going to permit any "hooliganism" (寻衅 滋事)inside China's claimed territorial waters (a catchall term for activity without a clearly identified legitimate purpose, according to the PRC and in this case probably includes spraying coast guard vessels with fire hoses, hotdogging, etc.).
3) So the new regs forbid crossing borders or entering ports without permission; illegal island landings; messing with facilities on islands China claims; propaganda that violates China's sovereignty or national security. The regs are written not to impinge on lawful freedom of transit. The Coast Guard is only supposed to go after ships that illegally "stop or drop anchor" while transiting.
4) I think the reason why the Hainan regulations were given such prominence is because the PRC wanted to put the Philippines and Vietnam on notice that sending out nationalist armadas/landing parties to contested islands would elicit an escalating response from the Chinese. Going after demonstrators in an organized, legalistic way (instead of ad hoc reactive response) is a relatively cheap and easy way for the PRC to assert and demonstrate effective sovereignty of the areas it claims. One could call this escalation, and/or an attempt to set clear ground rules to help avoid conflict.
5) I see the intent of the regulations as written is to promote the PRC's idea of routine, lawful maritime enforcement. It will be interesting to see how energetically this is spun as "PRC violates freedom of navigation".
6) Maybe MOFA screwed up, or maybe they wanted a chance to frame the question as a low-key issue of "fishing boats" to keep the disruptive "island demonstrators" issue off the table.
In the still of the deep night, removing that mask of insincerity, we say to our true selves, "I am sorry." Goodnight.You can see the Beijing News posting, on Weibo and in Chinese, at this site -- as long as it's still there. Moral, in case one is necessary: this is why the wrinkles and tensions of the real, fractious China are so much more compelling than the single-minded all-successful authoritarian economic powerhouse we generally hear and read about.
While I think this is a relatively minor offense, I just thought it was interesting that the New York Times article you linked to in today's blog made certain to include this:>Senator Stabenow has done some China-blaming of her own. From her Senate Web site: "China has a clear pattern of flagrantly violating trade rules and it is long past time to stand up to them." And on Monday, in a conference call with reporters, she said, "We can't continue to sit back and let China's policies cost us jobs.''<
How is this even remotely comparable to the offensive commercial in question? Why does it deserve inclusion? It just serves to tar Senator Stabenow, unfairly, with the same brush.I liked the NYT item but the reader has a point. It's one thing to talk about trade rules, currency valuation, etc and something else to run "me likee!" ads. The "to be sure" reflex really is deep, for all of us in the journalism business.
* The ad is actually aimed at angry, declining Vietnam-era people. The imagery is of southeast Asia. The young lady looks far more Vietnamese than she does Chinese. If the ad agency is that smart (and not simply guilty of "seen one Asian/seen 'em all"), they aimed at a specific demographic in Michigan, the fat droopy-mustached "men" left over and falling into the shadows ever since Vietnam.I think that's it; thanks to all.
* The young lady is overwhelmingly Asian American. [Versus actually foreign.] Just listen to her. This ad's real insult is to millions of American young women of Asian descent,who look and speak like this young woman.
* Most important, Hoekstra with this pathetic loser's cri-de-coeur hands to the cynics and the tough hombres in Beijing the tool with which to bolster their own grip; they point to stupid China-bashing artifacts like this one (and all the others at the TPM site) and say, whenever some American rightly calls attention to some rotten thing they're doing, "There they go again! It's just more China-bashing." Thanks, Pete, for making all the things you don't like about China all the more likely to succeed.
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|Ideas 2009||Ideas 2011|
|Obama||Obama in Asia|
|Occupy Wall Street||Olympics|
|Public health||Reader comment|
|Security Sanity||Security Theater|
|Self-pity and its discontents||Small Business|
|Volcano||Walk like an American|
|Wine||Year end pensee|
The tech-industry veteran Linda Stone on how to pay attention
In his reprise as governor, he's been as ruthlessly practical as he's been reflective,…
James Fallows talks with space entrepreneur Eric Anderson about the next wave of space exploration.