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It seems that Huanqiu Shibao’s headlines are increasingly drawing upon the angst and ardor of the “netizens,” or wang min / 网民 of China.
Such as the top headline for the day, 环球网友正签名谴责美国对台军售, or “Huanqiu Netizens Sign a Petition Telling America to Cease Military Aid to Taiwan,” which drags one to a big new page indicating that Google was just kid stuff. Now we seem to be stepping on the PLA’s turf.
The above header reads “American Government Officially Declares Military Aid to Taiwan Totaling Nearly 6.4 billion US dollars, including Blackhawk Helicopters, In Spite of Our Side’s Strong Objections.” (France24 provides analysis, with video, in English.) I suppose we could have had a similar freak-out in this country if, say (and yes, this is a totally unwarranted and counterfactual application of geopolitical relativism which is inherently unfair in which to engage) China had sent a fleet of destroyers to Haiti after the earthquake and then made a military pact with, say, the Dominican Republic, where the remnants of the Richmond Confederacy had been somehow holding out for the last century-plus. But then again, Taiwan is a unique case in all regards — just ask Kobayashi Yoshinori. And the Huanqiu’s protests could all be “empty cannon shots of propaganda,” as Mao said. Maybe it will indeed take ten thousand years to recover Taiwan, as the Chairman said it might; or perhaps global warming and earthquakes will make all of that quite irrelevant. But in the meantime there a few hundred million Chinese readers who are getting the message that the U.S. is meddling again with the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.
Does Barack Obama wake up every morning and, as he straightens his pajamas and plods into the bathroom and wearily brushes his teeth, think to himself: “Thank you, Harry Truman”?
Then we have another headline for the day, 全球网民激辩中印发展前景 吁两国结成贸易同盟, or “Netizens of the Whole World Aroused in Debate Before the Prospect of Sino-Indian Development; Implore the Two Countries to Unite/Establish a Trade Alliance.” India India India! This is one of the great unexplored themes in U.S. media analysis of China: the rise of Chinese nationalist consciousness in the new media era with reference to India. Perhaps everyone in the U.S. (that is, everyone in the chattering class with the exception of Mr. Big Print, Fareed Zakaria) still in the swoon of anti-Americanism of the Bush years. Multilateralism is a catchword today, but unilateral modes of thinking get crammed into brain canals.
Somehow the mainstream U.S. media, so enamored of the Google-freedom narrative (on the verge of triumph, as if it were the equivalent of ripping the figurative burqa and dragging Afghanistan’s women into the light of civilized day), missed the whole Google-Hillary/Gates-India-cybersecurity connection whose simultaneity manged to easily Chinese fear of India with the Chinese apprehension of U.S. “interference” in China’s administration of the internet. Goddammit Edward Wong and the NYT! I am hardly one to believe in anti-China conspiracies of military-industrial complexes, but dear heavens, could Hillary and Bob Gates have made it any easier for Xinhua to just tar American efforts with the brush of “external interference,” “harmful to China’s security,” or the dreaded compound “America-India opposition to China”?
Really, readers of the Anglophone press on East Asia are languishing in a deep suffering, a mode of ignorance! It is no less wicked than the Great Firewall of China! If ya don’t peruse the Chinese internet, then your search results are, too, incomplete! Yes, Baidu is crap, but so too is rank Anglophonism! Mondialisation exiger quelque chose autre! Choisi l’autre!
Just as Chinese netizens have chosen to “study the other,” venturing into the Japanese internet to uncover how “Japanese netizens assess China’s requirement for middle and elementary schools to screen patriotic films / 日本网民评价中国规定中小学校必须看爱国电影.” This is BBS culture at its best — bring forth something that passes the censor because it expects elicits some predictable knee-jerk reactions, but in the process bring forth an implicit question/auto-critique: Should we be watching nationalistic films all the time in elementary school? Maybe Chinese and Western high school students all need to link up to fight censorship by their leaders, question the need for strictly national historical narratives (yah, like, what about the transnational history of trash, bro?), and pull together some counternarratives. An education that doesn’t spur some form of counternarrative, or at least nurtures the capacity for counternarrative, sort of borders on indoctrination.
But maybe today the real story involves the first day of travel snarls for several hundred million people who are going to be moving through China’s immense-bellied transportation system, heading home for Spring Festival. Behind steel grills and glass gills, tickets flick like syllables off the tongue of some prodigious poet, innumerable, necessary, tokens of the future.
Within its given limits, the Chinese press can be really freewheeling, an exercise for the reader in handling contradictions.
Joint statements of Sino-Canadian cooperation sit alongside justifications for executing another three Xinjiang rioters. Little thumbnail photos of South Korean women’s nightclub attire glow next to Sun Yat-sen-esque oil paintings of Zhou Enlai. If you can’t handle dissonance, it’s best not to look.
Today’s web version of the nationalistic-popular Huanqiu Shibao [a watered-down, woefully incomplete, and fractionally useful English version of which can be viewed here] contains a wide array of items worth a comment or two.
– A longer historical article about Soviet women who fell in love with Japanese prisoners of war after 1945.
– An extensively-argued BBS posting, replete with jpgs. of relevant treaty sections, arguing that the Diaoyu Islands are eternal Chinese territory. But doesn’t anyone seem to mind that this trenchant patriot stuff is being done by netizens who depict themselves like this?
– This completely fascinating Chinese photo essay of a 6-day journey to understand Japan, in which Japan appears as dirty/rotting/disorderly/and old. Not only are such things meant bolster the modernizing pride of the Chinese people, they have fundamental continuities with Japanese depictions of China in the 1920s!
– Along the lines of Japanese appearing less than civilizationally superior on the Huanqiu news site is this photo gallery of Japanese sleeping on the subway [地铁上睡着的日本人].
– Another image gallery of Japan uploaded to the Huanqiu BBS that is stirring discussion are these black-and-white photos of Hiroshima atom-bomb victims. One reader comments “Of course I feel a lot of hatred toward Japan, but looking at these photos, I can see that [Hiroshima bombing] was a tragedy.”
– This reflective blog posting on a new and centrally-published Cultural Revolution memoir by Zhou Enlai’s secretary for eight years.
– An editorial (in English) upbraiding Canadian PM Harper for waiting four years into his term to visit the PRC, and for a lot of other things:
By playing up China’s human rights issue, keeping away from the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and meeting with Dalai Lama, Harper has long turned a cold shoulder to China. He seems to be bent on appeasing his electoral base, particularly in the western parts of Canada.
Is that a dig at Vancouver, the city charmed this past September by the Dalai Lama (along, of course, with its esteemed Francophone homologue, Montreal)?
– In true Huanqiu style, a special report (mostly derivative from the British press, but a new item nonetheless in China) on how the CEO of the American security firm Blackwater was a CIA agent.
– A photo gallery of drunken American university students who, ostensibly, spend more time on the bathroom floor than the library. To my chagrin, I’ve misplaced the URL — perhaps it is in my folder entitled “Fodder for the Wipe Out America’s National Humiliation Campaign”?
– And finally, on the need for a strong nation, the Huanqiu shares polling data from India about perceptions of “the China threat.” As should be apparent to casual observers of the Chinese media, India’s profile continues to rise in multiple (mostly negative) ways in the PRC. Of course, 53% of recently-polled Americans foresee military conflict with China, but at the moment Xinhua is leaving that statistic alone in favor of much better stories about Obama addressing an important US-China celebration in New York City.
While Americans are stuffing themselves with large quantities of bird meat (or, in my case, giant bowls of Vietnamese soup), another hunt for protein is on in Antarctic waters by Japanese ships. The L.A. Times has an excellent blog post on this topic, dating from November 19.
CNN covers the annual controversy from Tokyo in a 2008 report:
Meanwhile, the American satirists Matt Parker and Trey Stone are winding up their South Park show with a predictably offensive depiction of crazed Japanese whalers. Of course, as I’ve described before, this kind of depiction of Japan is quite popular among certain Chinese netizens. Ecorazzi, a kind of quirky West Coast website, takes apart the whaling episode and its connection to World War II memories. Nationalistic cartoonist Kobayashi Yoshinori defends Japanese whaling in an English translation by the Tokyo-contemporary-culture aggregator Tokyo Damage Report [东京灾害报告].
Whales: ancient, wise, and all-too-tasty.
Amid the highly-charged atmosphere of autumn 1950 in Beijing, seeking out any and all “enemies of the people,” the city courts put a Japanese on trial for espionage. Almost fifty-nine years later (e.g., this past June) I happened to meet a bureau chief of a major Japanese news agency who was doing some research on a similar topic in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archive. One of the beautiful and yet frustrating things about the archives is that often one is reduced to copying sources by hand or typing them in the archive onesself, because, as in the case of this document, it has been handled by a ministry other than the MFA.
MFA File #105-00076-01, “Materials Regarding Japanese Devil Special Agents and the Shangcun Xilai Incident” 关于日魔特务上村喜赖案材料Guanyu Rimo tewu Shangcun Xilai an cailiao, Sept. 11, 1950, 15 pp. [pp. 4-5 are here excerpted]