A reader makes a point (following this post) about why the Iranian drama seems so much less compelling from inside China than it does in much of the West. There is more, well, John Bull-esque swagger to this note than I'd probably have if making the point myself. But I basically agree with this perspective. It's not all government info-control and censorship.

"I think it's good to keep in mind that Chinese folks tend to have a certain antediluvian sense of detachment when it comes to foreign affairs, sort of almost pre-war British John Bull-esque isolationist vintage. They just don't care particularly about what happens in foreign countries. They really couldn't give a whistle if a foreign country is communist or democratic or whatever. They just want to be left alone to make their wages and buy their house and cars.

"And I think that detachment is probably much more powerful than any silly, heavy-handed government innuendo and propaganda, at the end of the day. Everyone paid more attention to Europe and America, that's true, but Europe and America are important and rich and to be emulated in their wealth; toward the developing world, the feeling is sort of a disinterested bemusement from the average man-in-the-street.

"So I think the best way to view the Iran coverage in China is, frankly, to ignore it. Government press might have (really stupid) agendas to pursue in relation to this, fighting the colour revolutions and so on, but the average man couldn't care less. And it's quite exactly the same thing when that clown Hugo Chavez is feted in the Chinese press; he's viewed more as a curiosity than as some glorious David, hero of the Developing World-cum-Israelites.

"And I personally think that, for China at least, this is not an unhealthy attitude. Splendid (Sino-)Isolation ought be cause for relief for the rest of the world.

"....Another thing I forgot, and this is I think how someone used to describe the pre-war British, is that the Chinese generally find foreigners funny. Not serious, not genuinely dangerous, not heroic and considerable (as an European might for MLK, or an American for Thatcher or both for Mandala), but nice and funny in a harmless sort of way."

Again, while the writer is deliberately heading into campy-Orientalism by the end of the note, and while a billion-person country has exceptions to any generalization (I know Chinese people who quite clearly are inspired by Martin Luther King, or Gandhi, or Isaac Newton, or John Dewey, or....)  the basic point rings true to me. Including the "not unhealthy" part -- worth bearing in mind when you hear the next "China as master of the world" scare-lecture.

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