Thursday, March 11, 2021

A Crisis of Harmony: King Know-it-All


This is a post that began with an SCMP article on Chinese-made Donald Trump kitsch that they are still selling in China. This creates a conundrum for me. Much like the documentary itself, I really want to make this post series politically neutral, even as I knew that this was going to be impossible. Let's be real, here - we all know where this started.

So let's drop the pretext for a moment and talk Trump. God willing, this will be the only time I have to do this.

Read the rest on Find the Fabulist.

Friday, March 5, 2021

A Crisis of Harmony: One Month Out

It's been about a month since I finished editing A Crisis of Harmony and around three weeks since releasing it. Those of you who've seen it (and if you haven't, then what are you waiting for?) will recall that I ended it with skepticism that Sino-American relations would improve - skepticism not shared by my interview subjects.

Sometimes you're not happy to be right.

Recent polling by Gallup and Pew suggests that not only have American opinions of China not improved since last year, they've actually gotten much worse. Gallup's polling shows that just 20% of Americans have a remotely favorable opinion of the PRC, the lowest they've ever recorded. This is comparable to the American opinion on Russia, and just a few points ahead of Iran.

But it's the more detailed Pew poll that's most interesting here. I encourage you to read the entire thing - it's long but fascinating - but here are some of my personal takeaways, the bits I'm still chewing over myself:

Thursday, February 11, 2021

和谐的危机 A Crisis of Harmony: Culture Clash in the Middle Kingdom

 新年快乐!The documentary is out:

I'll be doing some supplemental posts and videos relating to the documentary. The written posts will appear in this section of my writing blog. Some of it might find its way here, but I'm going to spare you too much self-promotion.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

A Crisis of Harmony: The Fear Game


Not an hour ago, I opened a stream from Bloomberg expecting to see news on a report from the WTO. Instead, I was treated to an eyeful of Mike Pompeo, former U.S. Secretary of State and neo-McCarthyite crank. He was bragging about how successful he'd been in turning public opinion against the "Chinese Communist Party." He often speaks like this, in part because it allows him to repeatedly use that scary word "Communist," but also because it lets him act like his campaign to inculcate paranoia in the American people is really only aimed at the government, not the people.

This is garbage. Follow Pompeo's speeches as I've done, and you'll know that he also teaches people to assume that all Chinese people are party members. Friendly Chinese people are suspect, he says; they're liars, behaving that way to create a new dupe. International students are suspect, Chinese Americans are suspect, even white people like me are suspect because we're too friendly to them.

And you know what? Pompeo was a terrible Secretary of State, but if inculcating anti-Chinese fear really was one of his objectives, then it's one area where he succeeded.

Opinion of China pitched down sharply during his tenure - not all because of him, obviously, but he must be proud. Tailgunner Joe must be looking up and smiling.

But I'm not afraid of China or the Chinese. I don't think people here are brainwashed, or conniving, or aggressive. And if you're open-minded, I hope you'll hear my case.

A Crisis of Harmony will premiere February 10th, 2021 at 8:00 PM Central time. Watch it then if you can, later if you can't - or both, it could help my metrics. I'll do a Q&A video if I can get enough questions, so feel free to ask, either in the comments on the video or via my website. I do look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, January 29, 2021

A Crisis of Harmony: The Root

Cross-posted to Find the Fabulist.

Let's talk about China for just a moment - the first of many moments to come, I'm guessing. You see, Americans don't exactly like the Chinese at the moment.

My guess is that this isn't shocking to you, either because you've seen the polling already or because you have enough sense to infer what's been going on in the world over the past few years. We've got us a trade war, a controversy over Hong Kong, and that was before the whole planet went on lockdown. Pandemic-related xenophobia is a global phenomenon, but in the U.S. in particular it has pushed public opinion to new lows.

So maybe this isn't late-breaking news, but here's something you might not have known: The Chinese have the same take on the U.S. 

That's right - Chinese people have a lower opinion of the U.S. than anywhere else in the Western world, or even Japan, of all places.

It's a situation that defies easy narrative. Blame the former stat on conspiracy theories and China-bashing media loudmouths and you probably not too far off the mark, but why would the Chinese have such antipathy towards us? Propaganda, you might say, or censorship; they've been brainwashed, they don't see how noble we are, etc. At least, that's what I usually hear.

But that's all too simple, isn't it? These two countries have a relationship that's contentious but close, and goes back a long way. There's a history that's seldom explored in our history textbooks, one with deep valleys, but also high peaks. We were an ally in the Big One and an enemy just a few years later. We have over 2 million Chinese immigrants, a third of a million Chinese students, and some 5 million total people of Chinese descent.

So what do we do when we don't understand? We go deeper.

I can't claim to understand everything there is to know about China, or Sino-American relations. Hell, most days I struggle to understand Americans. That's why I'm getting my information from sources who would actually know these things - Chinese people, the same ones often sidelined and overlooked by Western media narratives and our hero-villain-victim view of the people of the world.

It's a small start towards understanding. At the very least, it'll be one more laowai YouTube channel with a bitter host complaining about Chinese culture or spreading conspiracy theories. But you're here to read, so keep an eye on this space - there's more to come.