Twofish's Blog

April 13, 2008

Answer to question

Filed under: china — twofish @ 1:47 am

if you actually asked most Chinese for their views on particular subjects (Tibet, Taiwan, human rights, FLG, democracy, Chinese history, etc., etc.) their views exactly mirror the views presented in the Chinese media on a daily basis. Can you ,explain that?

It’s actually quite simple. If you live in a one party authoritarian state and someone you don’t know well asks what you think, you are not going to reply that you disagree strongly with the government. You are likely to repeat the party line whether you believe if or not. This makes it difficult to figure out what people really think. Sometimes people really *don’t* believe the government viewpoint, but they just aren’t going to tell a stranger that. Sometimes they really *do* believe the government viewpoint, in which case the don’t have any limits on saying what they think. It gets even more complex because typically a person will agree with the government on some issues and disagree with them on others. But you have to know someone very well before they will tell you which is which.

People are limited by the information they have, both through their education and the media. The same is true in the West, but it works differently. This is true everywhere.

Educated Chinese that really are interested in finding things out usually have a much broader view of things than most educated Americans, since there is higher English reading ability and also there are more people in China with close relations in the West than people in the West with close relations in China. So access to information really isn’t a major factor in opinions I think.



  1. So now the spin machine in China makes the NED connection, and possible labeling of TYL as a ‘terrorist group’. It doesn’t take too long. Wow… can’t wait to see what comes up next.

    Comment by anonymous — April 13, 2008 @ 8:20 am

  2. Trying to get TYL labeled as a terrorist group isn’t that far fetched. The Department of State labeled the East Turkestan Independence Movement a terrorist organization, and I don’t think it has done anything worse than the TYL. The difference is that Tibetans are Buddhists and Uighurs are Muslims. I doubt that DoS would label the TYL a terrorist group because the Tibetan movement would scream like the Uighur movement did, and the Tibetans are much, much, much better at public relations than the Uighurs are, and so the State Department was willing to blacklist ETIM in a way that is politically impossible for the TYL.

    This points out the limits of spin. ETIM gets blacklisted because you just whisper the word “Islamic nationalist” and most Americans think of “bin Laden” “9-11” “car bomber.” If you say “Tibetan” people react with images of “summer of love,” John Lennon, “peace and love” etc. etc.

    You can only get people to believe what they are prepared to believe.

    PR and spin can shape those emotional reactions, but they are basically created by historical events outside of people’s immediate control. You can use and package these emotional responses (and there are multi-billion dollar businesses designed to do exactly that), but you really can’t create them.

    As far as the NED goes……

    The thing that the NED has to think about is how did it get such a bad reputation, and why being “funded by the NED” is now the kiss of death. This isn’t just with China, Iranian and Arab democracy groups are running away from the NED, because any hint that you are being funded by the NED points you out as a traitor.

    There is a story that in 1968, the Soviet Union was thinking about funding the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party said no, since they realized what a stupid idea it was.

    The problem with the groups that the NED funds is that they are composed of young idealistic people, usually college students that are full of enthusiasm but missing some real world cynicism. NED ends up killing those movements.

    There is a historical link in all of this. Both NED and the adulation that the Tibetan independence movement has comes out of the 1960’s. Carl Gershman is a former 1960’s student radical and the pro-Tibet protesters are ideological heirs of that era.

    The one thing that the United States did that *has* vastly promoted the dissemination of “American values” and indirectly promoted American interests is to let tens of thousands Chinese students study in the US. If you really want to see the centers of power and influence, don’t look at NED. Look at Harvard, MIT, Columbia, and the hundreds of excellent universities that exist in the US.

    Comment by twofish — April 13, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

  3. I have an idea to promote democracy in China and thinking of getting NED funding.

    Basically, my idea is to follow American model. To create a new nation, The Union of Chinese states that would comprise China, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Vietnam and possibly Japan into a single nation that is multi party and democratic. Just like America – unino of states, manifest destiny.

    Most Chinese reject outside intervention because they think NED wants china to be the next Soviet -split up. But my idea will not split China up, it will actually make it bigger.

    You said you met the head of NED once. You think my idea stand a chance for NED funding? This union can be the most powerful nation in the world and it will be democratic.

    Comment by mahathir_fan — April 17, 2008 @ 8:55 am

  4. >>So access to information really isn’t a major factor in opinions I think

    That is only true if you discount education. The type of education you get is even more important than access to information because your education limits what you can do with the information you have access to. Someone given a strict, fundamentalist religious education, for example, will process a given set of facts entirely differently from someone with a scientific education. The same applies to differences in educational systems across cultures and states. Education is the canvas, information is the paint. No matter how much paint you have, it won’t alter the shape of the canvas. Of course, access to information is important, but it is necessary and not sufficient.

    >>Educated Chinese that really are interested in finding things out usually have a much broader view of things than most educated Americans

    I guess it depends on your definition of “educated.” Do you mean the typical college graduate? If so, I disagree. The typical college graduate in China is just as ignorant as the typical American college graduate. You qualified this with “that really are interested in finding things out.” Well, if you say that, then you also need to use the same qualification with “educated Americans.” I’d say most educated Americans that really are interested in finding things out have just as broad a view as their Chinese counterparts.

    Sometimes I here Chinese marvel at how “ignorant” Americans are compared to them. Then I point out something obvious: you went to Beida, etc. You are a member of the Chinese elite. You live abroad. And you are comparing yourself to the average student/person in the US. Is that a legitimate comparison? That would be like an American graduate of Yale Law School moving to China and comparing themselves to a farmer in rural Jiangxi. …which is not to say that a lot of Americans aren’t stunningly ignorant. They are. But you need to make a fair comparison.

    Comment by jim — May 6, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

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