Self-Regard and Foreign News in Today’s Chinese Press

By “today’s Chinese press,” I mean today’s (December 28th-29th). So let’s get on with it:

1. Dr. Kim will take your questions

One of the big questions we all should have as we communicate outwardly with this great medium of online technology, is: does the internet really serve as a connector and knowledge facilitator, or does its use just drive us more inward, rendering societies more nationalistic, even tribal, as a result or in spite of online globalization?

China’s relations with South Korea are a fascinating and important test case for this question. Lately South Korean and Chinese netizens have been going toe-to-toe on multiple historical issues, not least of which is the Koguryo/Great Wall stretching into Korea debate. And then there is straight-up ridiculous — yet ready made for internet controversy — stuff like this hotpot place in Taiwan that has allegedly stopped allowing South Korean patrons.

Faced with all this nonsense, what’s a Chinese government to do? Send Xi Jinping to Seoul, that’s what! And call Dr. Kim!

Dr. who?

Dr. Kim!


Huanqiu Shibao’s BBS is getting warmed up for the new decade by inviting a South Korean scholar to field netizen questions about history in Northeast Asia on January 6. Fantastic! Real-time dialogue furthers the Sino-Korean field…and Huanqiu shows that the CCP isn’t content to just let the nationalistic flame burn the candle down all the way: a bit of rationality should keep South Korea and China bound together in what are largely positive relations since 1992.

Unlike with Japan, the history issue with South Korea can be resolved or at least managed without the kind of venom whereby netizens are calling for nuclear bombs to be dropped on the offending country.

The Dr. is In -- taking questions from Chinese netizens


…but can he overtake views like this board’s assertion that “little little South Korea, only as big as China’s Hebei province — how could they ever hope to compare to China?”? Is that what we call cultural chauvinism?

2. Paper Still Drives the Conversation: French Media Papyrus Aggregator Issues

The French newsweekly Le Point carries an 80-page special on China, as rich and heavy with data as a crême brule after a Magreb-inflected feast which in turn is followed by some late-night Nutella-banana crepes. Yes, that rich.

And when confronted with such munificence, what’s a netizen to do?


Get to a scanner, that’s what!

The Huanqiu BBS carries a gangload of scans from the Le Point special, and much discussion thereafter. As anti-French as these netizens are supposed to be, folks on the board seem to be pretty grateful to be presented with this much data, in some excellent permutations.

Forget ye not the rush of self-realization that comes with the Shanghai Expo -- God, I hope Jiang Zemin makes an appearance. Do you not long for his beautiful visage as well? Come to think of it, wouldn't he have made a much more striking cover photo for Le Point? Perhaps the editors could be urged to reissue the cover, or at least to adorn the present covergirl with Jiang Zemin-style specs.

3. Racism Deserves China’s Attention

One of the rarely-discussed side benefits of China’s global rise is the credibility and fresh perspectives it can bring to discussion of race in America or in China. This bilingual story on racism against Chinese-Americans in China is one area where that conversation is continuing.

Frankly, I’m hoping to encourage or to see more Chinese engagement in America’s urban problems: let’s get netizens and real university students in Chengdu engaged with the housing crisis in Detroit, educated about the civil rights struggle in the United States, and doing service learning projects on Native American reservations. Start treating Third-World America (e.g., the parts of the U.S. that are stubbornly broken and thus the Third World tag comes to the fore) like something that needs global pressure to fix, and we might make progress. Heaven only knows there isn’t a huge groundswell from within the U.S. for Barack Obama to make fixing ghettos or improving Indian reservations signature issues of his presidency, but get a Chinese celebrity in touch with some Indian figures with clout, issue a few press releases, and see what happens…

Time for a paradigm shift, sift the parameters around and see where they fit. Jiggle the handlebars on a dirt bike, tighten what needs attention, and then speed up and over obstacles which themselves caused great uprootings. Take it up!

4. The Perils of Soft Power, or Ballad for the Perfect Ambassador

OK, so you find Dr. Kim boring, stuffy, uninteresting, lackadaisical in his approach to “edu-tainment” versus bookish attainment. His vestments are grausam, his gaze unappealing. What’s that you’re squealing? Bring on the boy bands? But how could I do so and remain true to the course? Of course! Find a boy band on the cultural diplomacy Trojan Horse!

It wouldn’t be hard, just fickle, open your browser a little and search for words like “hanjian” and “Confucius,” that would be ruthless, and scatter the marrow down over cliffs grown over like Dokdo or Weihai, trophies of naval conquest on rigid display like Admiral Yi’s rock beard in Seoul. But hirsute heroes don’t appeal, professor! We need youth at all costs, for without destruction of arterial ventricles beat senseless with hormonal agitation, how can we live, and live truly? Suffer me this, an unruly band, man with Rain moniker, not Rainman or Honegger, being his own winsome self on camera 2:

South Korean mega-star Rain, embroiled yet never ruffled, beyond doubt the "Ambassador to Shandong" -- somebody dial up Epstein for another sweet missive on soft power!

It sounded so perfect, a blending of souls: “Call Rain for the concert, the crowd’s out of control!” For provincial committees, it was all far too good: “The Korean in Shandong,” like Rabe in Nanking, would witness to some strange new venture in time, a reeling of line which would stretch cross archipelagos and peninsulas hence, an underground freeway which would put this place head and shoulders above the competition terrestrial. North Korea won’t make it easy, so call Inchon, they won’t be leery of more investments on this earth of the Yellow River. Rabelasian feasts bring us closer to peace, and sweet strains of harmonicas tumble from I-Pods hacked out of their matrix in Kaesong like Bisquick; no that’s wrong, but your song had it right all along when it said that perfection can be found in the arts.

So why not send the troubadour jangling, his costume so merry, to Shandong? This haggling for fees won’t do! Just stick a thick stack or two of R.M.B. in his envelope already bulging with won, with inflation abscond away from the land of morning dear god my stash of bills has been embalmed by a policy wash yet again — Currencies run rings around the yuan so slowly floating that we Chinese must be gloating with our ability to summon such rich entertainers.

But provincial gain for Shandong becomes pain for nation-huggers at home, watching cultural commodities snaffled up by gamers in Seoul.

Which is all to say that the main discussion of the day is occurring this way on a BBS — yea! — with the real forte of the CC Pays moyen, denizens of the bended knee, I bring you Rain, and this notion of imperial gain or humility stain:

South Korean entertainers can’t kick off the decade on Confucian turf!

Two thousand years of examinations imperial don’t give Koreans the right to smash off a few eight-legged essays ethereal in Hangul, hanja or other tongues brute. No, the right to entertain or to abstain from Rain has been gainsayed again by the commissars trained to blast debate like a shower of tomes tumbling from Yanbian libraries down to the earth of 1968 struggle. Humble? China needn’t cross any sea to prove that rough soft power wrassling brings serious hassle from netizens armed with keyboards humped over from Taibei like pearls swum up from Cheju, so you might consider minding the landmines when crossing the border: send Rain first to Pyongyang, then we can ready-order various weaponry to which we’re accustomed: just don’t truss up Confucius to your cultural ransom, oh hostage-son prince! Our heritage might otherwise be lost in your hair rinse, for though your mane is spectacular and your visage is calm, we know as netizens that your voluminous charm might prove deleterious to our imperatives cultural. We’re in touch with our ancestors just as yours met the point of Sui Yangdi’s spear: Step off from the Han frontiers! Our heartland is already in arrears to merchants from your land of the half-peninsula; Wheat-fed, our insulin dwindles, yours seems poised to grow. But just keep your tributes central, now, to Pukkyong you go.

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