Weekend Xinjiang / Uighur / 愤青 update, #1

In response to three previous posts (here, here, and here), a series of reactions and updates. First, from a reader with a Chinese name*, a measured discussion of some of the reasons behind the frequently thin-skinned, defensive, 愤青 (fenqing, "angry youth") reaction from China to critical comments from abroad:

"You discussed Chinese people's "tone of response to outside criticism" in recent posts. I agree that many Chinese people do not react well to outside criticisms, and that's certainly something worth their self-reflection. But around this particular event-time, it would be helpful to put these people's emotions within the context of many foreign media's portraits of the unrest in Xinjiang:
"1. Initial western media reports tend to gave readers/viewers the impression that most of the dead must have been Uighur demonstrators killed in police gunfire (this might have been most western journalists' assumption, as Christian Science Monitor's Peter Ford conceded). And when it was later discovered that actually most of the dead were Han Chinese (often murdered brutally), many western media reports only mentioned this crucial fact in passing (often buried deep in the middle of their reports), or simply ignored it (e.g., NBC's July 10th Nightly News). The impact of such portraits on the public opinion in the West is clear: numerous people on Twitter, perhaps the majority of the commentators in the first couple of days, condemned the perceived Chinese police's slaughtering or even genocide of Uighurs. Wouldn't an ordinary Chinese person get emotional over such media portraits and the resulted public perception?  
"2. It's clear that the coverage of the Chinese domestic media on Xinjiang is censored. But crucially one important aspect of the censorship (admittedly not the only aspect) is to frame the unrest as a criminal act, not ethnic conflict---and this was done in the light of preventing the rise of Han Chinese nationalism. How else could one interpret things like the removal of grim pictures/videos of the dead from Chinese websites, and CCTV's reports about some ethnic Uighurs providing shields to ethnic Han Chinese in the riot? I'm not saying such censorship is necessarily the best way to promote ethnic peace in China, but some western media's assertions that the Chinese propaganda machine has been censoring the Chinese media in order to incite Han Chinese anger at ethnic Uighurs are quite disturbing.
"3. China's policies in Xinjiang can and should certainly be examined and debated, but let me make an imperfect analogy: would/did the western media condemn US policies right after the 911, or did they initially show enormous (and well-deserved) sympathies to the US government and people after 911? Why in China the whole thing is reversed? (On the other hand, it might be a good thing for China not to have sympathies to squander, unlike the US government.)

"The Chinese government and Chinese people should certainly do some serious self-reflection, but I am afraid so should many Western media practitioners.  Whether such self-reflection is worth the trouble when pandering to the market is the overriding concern of media organizations is of course a different issue."

Next up, some less-measured statements.
* I use the awkward construction "reader with a Chinese name" because I often can't tell, unless people spell it out for me, whether someone is a Chinese citizen, a citizen of someplace else, a Chinese citizen resident long-term in America, etc. 

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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.

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.


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