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.
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.