I was watching the SBS program Dateline earlier this week, and it made me think of this site, as it featured an extended interview with the Chinese dissident, Wei Jingsheng, during a tour he was making of the UK. Wei now lives in the United States, as you probably already know. Anyway, he compared the coming Beijing Olympics to the one hosted by the Nazis in Berlin, in 1936. In his opinion, the Olympics, for the “Communists in Beijing” is all about presenting to the world a positive image, a “whitewash of itself”.
There is, of course, almost certainly some truth to this claim, though Wei, I think, goes way overboard with many of his criticisms of China, and comes across as a man with a serious chip on his shoulder, out for revenge. Sure, he was treated appallingly, and so his ill-feelings are very undertsandable, but I think he often allows his feelings to cloud his judgement.
We also watched the SBS interview with Wei Jingsheng. Despite my posting the above photo and caption as a provocative reminder that hosting the Olympics does not necessarily involve social or political reform – which was CHINA’s own main argument for why Beijing should be awarded the Games – I disagree with Wei that the Beijing Olympics are a “whitewash” of China, although the Games are indeed being shamelessly and cynically exploited for propagandistic and commercial purposes, more so by Westerners than the Chinese.
Wei’s points about the Olympics might have been more persuasive if he attacked the entire false premise of the Olympics instead of the current host nation.
But I wouldn’t use the phrase “chip on his shoulder.” A “chip on the shoulder” means gratuitous aggression, wanting to start a fight just for the sake of fighting. Wei doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, but a rightful and righteous grievance.
Fair enough Ned – he does have a legitimate grievance. I said that. But Wei’s problem is that he greatly exaggerates China’s current human rights problems, which undermines the value of his arguments, and damages his entire discourse.
Ned – I should like to add here that I still intend to address in detail the issue of religion and human rights, as I promised to do so long ago. I have, apart from setting up the http://www.flowingwatersneverstale.com website to help promote my book (which includes a supplementary essay on the Chinese tendency to appropriate the foreign in ways that are culturally specific), but also I have made some progress in setting up a site that will contain four discursive texts: the first one, titled “Shenzhen – city of kitsch” is taken from my book; the second, which I plan to begin working on tonight, with we on “Chinese governance and society”, and will include a discussion on human rights, religious tolerance, the rule of law, and issues of democracy; the third text will explore the “Tibetan Issue” and the fourth will reassess the violence that errupted in Beijing back in June 1989 – providing what will be a more nuanced assessment.
So far I have completed only the Introductory and Shenzhen pages, but if you want to take a look at what is at present a work in progress, then you can visit the site at:
I will not be hosting any discussions on either site, as I simply do not have the time to monitor comments, let alone to engage in ongoing discussions. I am composing the site merely as a platform to make my own views public, so that others can, if they like, discuss and debate the issues I raise. I may be able, from time to time, to enter into such discussions should other bloggers ever decide to link to my texts as a means of providing topics for debate on their own cyber forums.
Anyway, the discussion about religion in China that I have been promising for so long will materialise sometime soon, over the coming days. I know that you and Catherine have a strong interest in this particular issue, and I will try to be as balanced as possible in my assessments.
Best regards for now,
MAJ, always good to hear from you. Actually you got us discussing Wei at length last night. One thing that bothers me about him is that he was a former Red Guard, and I’m not sure how purely idealistic his criticism of Deng was – ie, the criticism which got him sent to prison.
Criticising or resisting a repressive or corrupt government does not necessarily make one morally correct. Mao had every good reason to fight against the KMT, and he did it heroically, but he was a son of a bitch and an opportunist in his own right. Thus I’m always a bit wary of assuming that any putative “dissidents” are morally pure or personally unambitious – history demonstrates that most “dissidents” are opportunists, and all the more prone to being exploited by, say, foreign intelligence agencies. The CCP propagandists (whom I despise) do have a valid point about that, alas.
Oh and we’ll take a closer look at your site soon, thanks.
Yes, well I’ve just finished re-reading Harry Wu’s 1996 book, “Troublemaker” – another high-profile, “opportunistic” dissident who likes to be creative with the truth. More about him in my text on Chinese governance and society, which I am working on right now.
Dear Ned and Catherine,
I have just posted the first installment of my discursive text on ‘Chinese governance and society’, which, when finished, will examine the social, economic and political transformation of Chinese society, focussing on the key areas of human rights, the rule of law, media freedom and democratic reforms. So far I have completed only Part I: Introduction, Part II: Gray’s pluralism verses the discourse of Enlightenment, and Part III: the issue of human rights.
Part III does, as promised, include a discussion of religious freedom/persecution – though please keep in mind that the overall text is not yet complete, and in the next section, which I have yet to write, and which will deal with the rule of law, I will offer evidence to show how legal developments are expanding civil rights, allowing many people to challenge the government, very often successfully – and will include examples of where individuals who have been persecuted by the state for their religious practices have successfully taken the government to court.
Your critical response will be greatly appreciated, and please feel free to either link to the site, or to copy and paste it (or parts of it) into this site, should you wish to initiate a more open debate/discussion on the discourse I have so far developed. I am, as may have noticed, constantly re-shaping my views, altering my assessments as new evidence and events come to light. I may therefore make alterations to what I have already produced should I be so pursuaded by the counter-arguments of others!
Mark Anthony Jones
Very cool! Now go and see my most recent post about your new site,
By the way, the photos on the introductory page on that site are damned good. But please don’t regard that compliment as a “discourse”…. 😉
Thanks Ned – I’m not a bad photographer, even if I don’t say so myself! Gao Ying is also a very good photographer (all the photos of me that appear on my sites she took). If you visit the “photos” page on the http://www.flowingwatersneverstale.com website, you will also see an award-winning photo of mine of a Hakka woman in Yongding County, Fujian.
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