A nice offhand allusion in the NYT

By James Fallows

The third paragraph of Sharon LaFraniere's story today in the NYT, about the Chinese government's obsessive over-preparation for the 60th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the People's Republic, on October 1 (background on the celebrations here):

"China's government at times resembles an exasperated parent trying to rein in a pack of rebellious children. Its edicts are persistently flouted by censor-dodging Internet users, wayward local officials and rioting Uighurs."

Two things strike me about this. First, it's good to see correspondents flat-out saying how things look to them, rather than having to rely on "Some observers say" or "Mr. X of YY think tank observes..." Second, this little context-setting aside is so much more realistic than the standard Western press references to a big, omniscient, all-powerful Chinese regime effortlessly working its will on the populace, whether in a good way by installing green technology or in a bad way by squashing dissent.

Over the past three years, I've emphasized maybe a million times how diverse, churning, individual-minded, and generally resistant to control much of today's China seems. If I were writing LaFraniere's sentence myself, I'd say "often resembles" rather than "at times resembles," and I'd replace the reference to the Uighur uprising (an exceptional, real emergency) with something about one billion rule-evading ordinary citizens. But this is a worthy step toward a sane perspective on China -- worth bearing in mind as we prepare to see the (deceptively) precise and orderly displays on October 1.
 
Photo from the NYT about the kind of precise pageantry we'll be treated to. Don't be misled.
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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2009/09/a-nice-offhand-allusion-in-the-nyt/27412/