Brief Chat with Andrew

This afternoon, I talked with Andrew, correspondent for Wall Street Journal  about the misunderstanding between Chinese and foreigners in the last few weeks. I am pretty outspoken these days, and accepted more of interview request from US and France, because the recent events clearly show the importance of communication. I may be wrong, but I believe talk is better than fight, and protest is better than boycotting. I enjoyed the talk with Andrew, since he has wrote many articles on China for Wall Street Journal. He is also one of the very few journalist who insisted to do the interview in Chinese. I appreciate it. Here are some of the note I talked about.

I saw misunderstanding

In the last few weeks, I saw protests; I saw boycotts; I saw many news headlines in all major media; and I saw hundreds of BBS posts; but in short, I saw misunderstanding – that is the major thing I saw. Behind it, from some limited times, I saw conspiracy, but most of the time, it appears to be misunderstanding to me, more than anything else.


There are at least four levels of mismatches I saw between western world (France, British, and America) and Chinese world.

  • First Gap: Facts
  • Second Gap: Logic and Reasoning Process
  • Third Gap: Result

The first gap is about facts. People in France know different facts about China, than people in China. Interestingly enough, both pointing figure to the other camp claiming that they are brainwashed.

The second gap is reasoning process. With more and more comments on this blog, I saw people in France is protesting against Chinese government, and people in China perceive it as protesting against China – a ethic  entity. People in France value freedom and human rights more important than unity of a country or economic growth, while people in China thinks the other way.

So, the final result is completely different.

Western Standard?

I think media in US is using western standard to measure China. Freedom and human right are important. I do agree. China is still far from what everyone is expected, especially on the freedom of speech, and democracy (to enable people of the land to really make decisions for themselves). After several hundred years, we still didn’t find out a way to govern this land better. I am trying very hard to write blogs to help increase the awareness to people that they do have certain rights. Awareness is the first step. If the government see the human right record in China is 9 out of 10, US may give it 3 out of 10, I may say it is 5 out of 10. That is the reason in China,  I am trying to stand on the opposite side of the government to improve the political system, but when I talk with western media, I will try to stand on the same side of the government and want them to be aware that the human right record has already been improved.

As I talked in this post, entering a train via door instead of window is also human right, to be able to enter a restroom instead of piss in the public is also human right, and to have clean water to drink is also human right, just as freedom of speech or democracy. It is too easy to take it for granted that everyone in China already have the basic human rights. No, they didn’t yet.

I am in Nanyang, even in city, I saw poverty. Is there anyone in France want to protest for poverty in China? This is what I call the western standard.

China is the elephant in the story "Blind men and the Elephant". Western media saw only the tail and say "it is a rope". There is not doubt that it is the truth (although it sometimes makes mistake like recently pointed out by Chinese netizen, it generally is telling more truth than most media in China), but the problem is, to tell the truth does not guarantee completeness. For people in China see the bright side of the elephant, but often, it is not complete either. 

Willing Help vs Be Able to Help?

The last conversation with Peter on this blog was great. He, as a protester against Chinese government in San Francisco, asked sincerely: "What I can do to help create a better China?" I do appreciate the sincerity and the willingness to help, but the problem is, how to help, or whether people need the help or not. People think the democratic political system, and the market economy system, even the culture in American can help people in China, just as they believed in Iraq.

American tried very hard to help people in Iraq. Does it work?

Just as the central government is trying to help Tibet. From economic numbers (even from United Nation, not from Chinese official numbers), Tibet improved so much, but the problem is, whether it is what the Tibetan want? Do they value economic freedom as you do? Do they want to change the way you want them to change? This rule applies to China and to America.

Willing to help is good, but not everyone is able to help.

To help is good but to force others to accept the help is often written in the history book as invasion. That is the reason why people in China often use the term "Interfere Internal Affairs" to describe what American are doing.

Talk and Talk

There are many ways of communication. Wars can also be counted as one – to show the other country that a country is really angry, boycotting is another, protest is the even less destructive one (but still damage economic, political, and culture relationship).

"Talk" is the method I personally prefer, although it is perceived as the weakest way.

Update April 21, 2008

The outcome of the chat is published on Wall Street Journal today: Games Tensions on Slippery Track with the quote on my part:

"American people feel that freedom and self-expression are very important. Chinese people feel that national unity is very important," says Wang Jianshuo, 30 years old, who works for an Internet company in Shanghai and writes a blog in English and Chinese. "There is a big gap between the West and China on which values are more important. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different."

The article appeared on Page A9 of today’s Wall Street Journal. The short quote reflected what I saw pretty well, and I think I am at least doing something to help this country (not necessarily helping the government) better than boycotting French products.

22 thoughts on “Brief Chat with Andrew

  1. “To help is good but to force others to accept the help is often written in the history book as invading. That is the reason why people in China often use the term “Interfere Internal Affairs” to describe what American are doing.”

    Great statement, JS! You use the word invasion, a Chinese friend I talked to opted for another word: “colonization”.

    When discussing how to help a country as large as China or India, people often try to figure out how to do the best to the majority of people because it’s hard to help literally everyone. In this context, we mustn’t only think about whether foreign aid is welcomed in China. No, we need to go one step further. We must also ponder if the large-scale Westernization really benefits the majority(!) of Chinese people. I find it quite understandable if some ordinary people complain about being colonized; being flooded by undesirable Western stuff extinguishing (sic! – I know it sound harsh, but he used this word) the Chinese culture; being employed, paid bad and looked down upon by Western people who are often considered the superior race; and faring worse than prior to the economic reform in relative terms.

    I’m not criticizing the economic reform at all (no wonder, since I grew up in Europe). But I do have understanding for people who have not benefited from it. If Western countries, esp. the U.S., continue to push through Western support and aid, they’re not necessarily doing a favour to the majority of Chinese people.

  2. Sorry, forgot my conclusion. In the end, if you do not fully understand the one you are criticizing and would like to help, it may be better to refrain from making premature judgements.

  3. To JS:

    You wrote: Tibet improved so much, but the problem is, whether it is what the Tibetan want? Do they value economic freedom as you do? Do they want to change the way you want them to change? This rule applies to China and to America.

    To help is good but to force others to accept the help is often written in the history book as invasion.

    I completely disagree.

    Do you suggest that if Tibetan people do not value economic freedom and development introduced by the Chinese government, we can just conclude China ‘has invaded’ Tibet???

    America’s ‘helps’ to Iraq is totally different from Chinese governemnt’s ‘help’ to Tibet. First is from country to country. The other one is from central government to one province within one country. You can describe the first one as an invasion with no doubt. But you can not in the second case. The same as you can’t say Shanghai is ‘invaded’ if Shanghaiese people does not want their city to become a financial center even if the central government want them to.

    By the way, who gets to conclude that Tibetans does not want economic freedom and development? I am sure there are different opinions among Tibetan people. What shall be the criteria to make such conclusion?

    I believe in one thing though: The majority of Tibetan people don’t want to go back to slavery under Dalao Lama, if they really understand the consequence of being ‘free’ from China.

  4. Chinese often say: “we can not be democratic because we are too poor, we can not have human right because other basic need are not fullfill” you say the same classic things.


    — Did Western countries wait to be develloped to become democratic ? no!! in 19th century europe was much more poor than China now.

    — If first development then democratie, why does China government block Hong Kong from having a full democratie ? why does the Chinese government do not give more democratic right to Shanghai/Beijing which are more develloped than many Eastern europe countries ?

    Because of these two point I do not agree with the development first, human right after

    Please read again all the human right: (in Chinese)

    Does we need to be rich to have that ?

    Developement and human right improvement can be done at the same time, it is not one after another.

  5. :-(

    I just post a message including the link to the declaration of Human right from the UN website ( it was working a few weeks ago, but today it is blocked, yes not good to let people read about their right.

    So please use this link:

    For your information, China sign this declaration, and China add in 2004 in his constitution: “China protect and respect the human right”

  6. Logic,

    You said: If first development then democratie, why does China government block Hong Kong from having a full democratie?

    Hong Kong did not have democracy under British rule till 1997. Why should they change all of a sudden just because it’s given back to China? Were Hong Kong people happy then without democracy before 97? I think so.

    You wrote: Developement and human right improvement can be done at the same time, it is not one after another.

    I believe it’s possible, depending on what kind of human right improvement you are talking about. In the case of China. The most important thing for China is to get all Chinese people a much better living standard. Stability of the country is then vital in order to achieve that.

  7. Jianshou, Thanks for your wise words. This past two weeks I have often wished I had time to add a comment to what you have written. But your words today speak to the heart of this stuation. You got right to core of the issue when you addressed the desire of so many of us in the west to “do something” to help China. You were brave to challenge us that its always what we want to do. An even braver to say that we then want to impose that change and to name that invasion. Thank you. I have posted some thoughts on your words on my ReconciliationTalk blog. I hope you can read them.

  8. Jianshou, As a English person I want to thank you for the wise words in your post today. I have been reading what I could over this past two weeks as you have tried to comment on Tibet and how our protests are being seen in China. I have been travelling and too busy to comment but want to say how right you are.

    Todays post got right to the heart of our arrogance in Britain, America, etc. We are always asking what we can do to help you. But we are not listening. And we want to help in our way. And we want to force that help on you and others. Thanks for challenging that, for naming it as invasion and pointing to how it can all go so badly wrong. Thanks for calling to talk together.

  9. sorry for two (slightly differrent) posts. One seemed to have a fault but then after I had rewritten it showed.

  10. The Americans want to help the Iraqis? I am shocked and awed, I must say.

    WJS, you may have confused the Iraqis with the Israelis, whom the Americans have no trouble helping.

  11. Slick, Didn’t the Americans start the war against Irag a few years ago with the so-called aim of trying to help Iraqi people, of course this was not true, the American government was trying to fool the whole world like idiots. But if that hadn’t been their apparent purpose, why the hell they eliminated the previous government of Iraqi people’s own?

    Now the arrogant Americans try to help Chinese? What the heck they are trying to help with? Everybody knows American treats China like a bomb, cuz they are so much in fear of Chinese people going forward faster than ever, and even the most arrogant will be crashed and frustrated, that’s simply what they reacted against China.

    So next time, when you feel shocked, better use your brain to think a bit.

  12. There’s one thing the Western media is really good at — Quoting things out of context.

    Let’s say in the long conversation with a Western reporter, a Chinese is heard saying that “I understand that the human rights of my country – China – can use some help, but …”

    Next day, on the Western press, you may see this on the headline “Chinese criticizes their own government’s human rights policy !”

  13. Interesting comments on trying to do “good” while actually doing “harm”. Using the analogy of the European settlers & missionaries to “save” Native Americans. One may say, “Why couldn’t they enjoy the fruits of the “white fathers'” material goods & well-being?” Maybe they didn’t enjoy that way of life in the 1st place (or at the very least want a more spiritual life to balance the nice salary & house). Could the same be for a majority of Tibetans too? Very thought provoking blog!

  14. Jet So,

    Yes you could argue that Tibetans don’t want the help, but you’ll need some proof. The fact that they attacked Hui Muslims in addition to Hans during the riots seems to indicate economic competition as the root cause. They don’t hate economic development, they’re just pissed that they’re not getting their share.

    I think their protests have been hijacked by the pro-independence exiles, many of whom don’t even speak Tibetan.

  15. The communist party is smart and is clear about all the misunderstandings. With power in control, and protected by the ugly constitution written by itself, why should the communist party let people know about the facts or how others think about it and risk losing power? No, no no… They are not naive. To confuse, mislead and manipulate the brainwashed masses is the party’s foremost job.

    By the way. I was brought up in China, but I agree that a single person’s human rights is more important than a country’s sovereignty (unless he is a soldier and should sacrifice his life for his country). And China should not exclude me from “people”.

  16. Hey Cindy,

    your conclusion that Pro independence Tibetans don’t speak Tibetan is a joke. I wonder where and how you draw that conclusion? I have seen them at protests..yes, they speak Tibetan as a first language and the country they reside in (ie. India, USA, France etc) as a second language. The language they cannot speak for nuts is Chinese

  17. At the time facts become widely available in China, the communist regime will collapse, definitely. That’s why the communists do not alow free internet, free speech, satellite tv, shortwave accessibility…

  18. 王千源, Caught in the Middle, Called a Traitor (I think it is important to readers on this site to read this.)

    By Grace Wang (王千源)

    Sunday, April 20, 2008;

    I study languages — Italian, French and German. And this summer — now that it looks as though I won’t be able to go home to China — I’ll take up Arabic. My goal is to master 10 languages, in addition to Chinese and English, by the time I’m 30.

    I want to do this because I believe that language is the bridge to understanding. Take China and Tibet. If more Chinese learned the Tibetan language, and if Tibetans learned more about China, I’m convinced that our two peoples would understand one another better and we could overcome the current crisis between us peacefully. I feel that even more strongly after what happened here at Duke University a little more than a week ago.

    Trying to mediate between Chinese and pro-Tibetan campus protesters, I was caught in the middle and vilified and threatened by the Chinese. After the protest, the intimidation continued online, and I began receiving threatening phone calls. Then it got worse — my parents in China were also threatened and forced to go into hiding. And I became persona non grata in my native country.

    It has been a frightening and unsettling experience. But I’m determined to speak out, even in the face of threats and abuse. If I stay silent, then the same thing will happen to someone else someday.

    So here’s my story.

    When I first arrived at Duke last August, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. It’s in the small town of Durham, N.C., and I’m from Qingdao, a city of 4.3 million. But I eventually adjusted, and now I really love it. It’s a diverse environment, with people from all over the world. Over Christmas break, all the American students went home, but that’s too expensive for students from China. Since the dorms and the dining halls were closed, I was housed off-campus with four Tibetan classmates for more than three weeks.

    I had never really met or talked to a Tibetan before, even though we’re from the same country. Every day we cooked together, ate together, played chess and cards. And of course, we talked about our different experiences growing up on opposite sides of the People’s Republic of China. It was eye-opening for me.

    I’d long been interested in Tibet and had a romantic vision of the Land of Snows, but I’d never been there. Now I learned that the Tibetans have a different way of seeing the world. My classmates were Buddhist and had a strong faith, which inspired me to reflect on my own views about the meaning of life. I had been a materialist, as all Chinese are taught to be, but now I could see that there’s something more, that there’s a spiritual side to life.

    We talked a lot in those three weeks, and of course we spoke in Chinese. The Tibetan language isn’t the language of instruction in the better secondary schools there and is in danger of disappearing. Tibetans must be educated in Mandarin Chinese to succeed in our extremely capitalistic culture. This made me sad, and made me want to learn their language as they had learned mine.

    I was reminded of all this on the evening of April 9. As I left the cafeteria planning to head to the library to study, I saw people holding Tibetan and Chinese flags facing each other in the middle of the quad. I hadn’t heard anything about a protest, so I was curious and went to have a look. I knew people in both groups, and I went back and forth between them, asking their views. It seemed silly to me that they were standing apart, not talking to each other. I know that this is often due to a language barrier, as many Chinese here are scientists and engineers and aren’t confident of their English.

    I thought I’d try to get the two groups together and initiate some dialogue, try to get everybody thinking from a broader perspective. That’s what Lao Tzu, Sun Tzu and Confucius remind us to do. And I’d learned from my dad early on that disagreement is nothing to be afraid of. Unfortunately, there’s a strong Chinese view nowadays that critical thinking and dissidence create problems, so everyone should just keep quiet and maintain harmony.

    A lot has been made of the fact that I wrote the words “Free Tibet” on the back of the American organizer of the protest, who was someone I knew. But I did this at his request, and only after making him promise that he would talk to the Chinese group. I never dreamed how the Chinese would seize on this innocent action. The leaders of the two groups did at one point try to communicate, but the attempt wasn’t very successful.

    The Chinese protesters thought that, being Chinese, I should be on their side. The participants on the Tibet side were mostly Americans, who really don’t have a good understanding of how complex the situation is. Truthfully, both sides were being quite closed-minded and refusing to consider the other’s perspective. I thought I could help try to turn a shouting match into an exchange of ideas. So I stood in the middle and urged both sides to come together in peace and mutual respect. I believe that they have a lot in common and many more similarities than differences.

    But the Chinese protesters — who were much more numerous, maybe 100 or more — got increasingly emotional and vocal and wouldn’t let the other side speak. They pushed the small Tibetan group of just a dozen or so up against the Duke Chapel doors, yelling “Liars, liars, liars!” This upset me. It was so aggressive, and all Chinese know the moral injunction: Junzi dongkou, bu dongshou (The wise person uses his tongue, not his fists).

    I was scared. But I believed that I had to try to promote mutual understanding. I went back and forth between the two groups, mostly talking to the Chinese in our language. I kept urging everyone to calm down, but it only seemed to make them angrier. Some young men in the Chinese group — those we call fen qing (angry youth) — started yelling and cursing at me.

    What a lot of people don’t know is that there were many on the Chinese side who supported me and were saying, “Let her talk.” But they were drowned out by the loud minority who had really lost their cool.

    Some people on the Chinese side started to insult me for speaking English and told me to speak Chinese only. But the Americans didn’t understand Chinese. It’s strange to me that some Chinese seem to feel as though not speaking English is expressing a kind of national pride. But language is a tool, a way of thinking and communicating.

    At the height of the protest, a group of Chinese men surrounded me, pointed at me and, referring to the young woman who led the 1989 student democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, said, “Remember Chai Ling? All Chinese want to burn her in oil, and you look like her.” They said that I had mental problems and that I would go to hell. They asked me where I was from and what school I had attended. I told them. I had nothing to hide. But then it started to feel as though an angry mob was about to attack me. Finally, I left the protest with a police escort.

    Back in my dorm room, I logged onto the Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association (DCSSA) Web site and listserv to see what people were saying. Qian Fangzhou, an officer of DCSSA, was gloating, “We really showed them our colors!”

    I posted a letter in response, explaining that I don’t support Tibetan independence, as some accused me of, but that I do support Tibetan freedom, as well as Chinese freedom. All people should be free and have their basic rights protected, just as the Chinese constitution says. I hoped that the letter would spark some substantive discussion. But people just criticized and ridiculed me more.

    The next morning, a storm was raging online. Photographs of me had been posted on the Internet with the words “Traitor to her country!” printed across my forehead. Then I saw something really alarming: Both my parents’ citizen ID numbers had been posted. I was shocked, because this information could only have come from the Chinese police.

    I saw detailed directions to my parents’ home in China, accompanied by calls for people to go there and teach “this shameless dog” a lesson. It was then that I realized how serious this had become. My phone rang with callers making threats against my life. It was ironic: What I had tried so hard to prevent was precisely what had come to pass. And I was the target.

    I talked to my mom the next morning, and she said that she and my dad were going into hiding because they were getting death threats, too. She told me that I shouldn’t call them. Since then, short e-mail messages have been our only communication. The other day, I saw photos of our apartment online; a bucket of feces had been emptied on the doorstep. More recently I’ve heard that the windows have been smashed and obscene posters have been hung on the door. Also, I’ve been told that after convening an assembly to condemn me, my high school revoked my diploma and has reinforced patriotic education.

    I understand why people are so emotional and angry; the events in Tibet have been tragic. But this crucifying of me is unacceptable. I believe that individual Chinese know this. It’s when they fire each other up and act like a mob that things get so dangerous.

    Now, Duke is providing me with police protection, and the attacks in Chinese cyberspace continue. But contrary to my detractors’ expectations, I haven’t shriveled up and slunk away. Instead, I’ve responded by publicizing this shameful incident, both to protect my parents and to get people to reflect on their behavior. I’m no longer afraid, and I’m determined to exercise my right to free speech.

    Because language is the bridge to understanding.

    Grace Wang is a freshman at Duke University. Scott Savitt, a visiting scholar in Duke’s Chinese media studies program, assisted in writing this article.

  19. Mob mentality at work. It is really distressing, there is no excuse for that kind of behaviour. These fen qing are disgraceful. Where are the Chinese voices in support of Grace? Why aren’t they heard?

  20. Actually I forgave Wangqianyuan for her ignorance because she is only a 20 year old girl. But after reading the above stuff, i began to realize that she is more complicated than i thought.

    Didn’t she see that neither side turns to the street for talking to the other side? That was the emotional moment of what Mr.bush called as “with us or against us” , on both sides. Regretfully she took the wrong side. Now she became a shame to her school, and to the whole native town of Qingdao.

    If she wants to excise her rights of free speech,cowardly on a foreign land, she now got it. But she should have learned the lesson that free speech would also be hurting. People criticizing her on the internet are also excising their rights of free speech, just like her. Bad language? perhaps,but same expression.

    I guess her real purpose was to apply for the status of political refugee in the states. Now she is much closer to her goal by further publicizing her one-side story to those people already hostile to China. And she calls that a bridge? I only see a bridge to her traitorous future.

    Moreover, I can’t imagine what would happen in Dharmsala if any Tibetan there dared to support China.

  21. well well… seems a big LOL to me regrading to 王千源’s letter, the bridge wont be built within 2 hrs between ppl to ppl, especially at that aggressive moment, in the middle of protest…….and as she metioned “fen qing (angry youth)”, i believe they must be so furious about everything at that moment,but its disgraceful to attack on a lady like her (王千源). I think this blog is giving us a platform to express ourself and understand each other more, may be this is wot 王千源 needs more or less.

    At last but not at least, china grov’t may be not the best option for every one, but i did see the improvement in every aspect (i have just been back to china this easter; i saw the change and i felt the change; i truely pround of myself for being a chinese) remmember….. we r trying to catch up weatern country in 30 years in which they already developed for more than 200 years….time is sth that we need, we can solve tibet issue in someday but not in 1 day not by olympic……

  22. This morning, I received a poem entitled ” to the western world ” from a friend of mine. I have no idea where the poem was from and how many people have read this before. Anyway, I tried to translate it into English as the questions put forwarded in the poem reflect the real thinking of quite a lot of ordinary Chinese people.

    Due to limited time, I was not able to polish my translation well enough. However, I tried my best to make it true to its original . I know some visitors to this blog have profound understanding of both English and Chinese languages. Your comments to the translation is welcome.

    Here goes the poem in both Chinese and English:


    During the opium war, when the opium smuggled from the Britain undermined our body and morality, turning us into ‘the Sick men of East Asia’, you called us yellow disaster;


    When your propaganda portrayed us as “the next super power “, you said that we are a threat to all of you.


    When we closed our door, you broke it through with your drugs.


    When we embrace the free trade, you condemned us for “stealing’ your jobs.


    When our territory was split into pieces, your armies marched in to share a spoon of soup,


    When we tried to put together all the fragments back, you said we are impeding a free Tibet.


    When we tried to pratice communism, you hated us because we are “communists”


    When we tried to learn from Capitamlism, you hated us because we want to be capitalists.


    When we possess 1.3 billion people, you said that we were destroying the earth.


    When we tried to control the population, you said that we are violating human rights.


    When we were struck by poverty, you thought we were dogs.


    If we offer you with loans, then you will say we put your countries in debt.


    When we establish our own industry, you said we are the cause to the pollution.


    When we sell our products, you accused us of resulting in the global warming;


    When we buy petroleum, you called that exploitation


    But when you started a war because of oil, you called that liberation,


    When we get lost in the chaos and confusion, you said we should rule the countory by law


    When we tried to safegard the law and strike down the violence, you said we were violating human rights.


    When we keep silence, you said we should be entitled to free speech.


    When we utter our own voices, you said we were brainswashed or behaved too defensive


    Why do you have such a bottomless hatred for us ? We asked.


    No . We don’t hate you. You answered.


    We don’t hate you either. But, do you really understand us ?



    Of couse we do. You repied, You have AFP, CNN, BBC…..


    What on earth do you want from us ?


    Think clear before you make an answer …


    Because all you have is limited chances


    Enough. It’s hypocritical to say that we have the same world.


    What we called for is one world, one deam and peace for all.


    This blue planet should be big enough to hold us all.

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