Kicked out of Chinapol

Chinapol is an invitation-only email discussion group that is popular among Sinologists and East Asian studies types. The invitation policy is not clearly stated, but the objective seems to be to keep riff raff like yours truly out of the discussions of political and academic issues.

Why would anybody want to fill their inbox with threaded discussions when it is so easy to set up a Internet forum? What is the point of a closed forum? Shouldn't academics believe in education and information exchange? Or are we poor lumpen Net users outside the ivory towers of Asian Studies departments too uncouth to participate in elevated debate?

The answers to these questions are not clear, but here is a different critical take on Chinapol and its problems, from journalist Philip J. Cunningham, who was unceremoniously booted off the Chinapol list. This is his story about his excommunication.

Since your correspondent has never been graced with an invitation to the exclusive list, he has no way of evaluating Cunningham's charges against Chinapol, but there is a comments section if any readers feel that this opinion piece is unfair.

UPDATE from Philip J. Cunningham:

I don't think most readers are getting the fact that the post I offered for publication [below] was word for word the post that got me booted, not rudeness or other alleged things. It seems it's being read as something I wrote later.

Chinapol has an America problem

by Philip J. Cunningham

Some of the best minds in the China field are stuck in an outdated paradigm of America-good, China-bad. The annual State Department report on human rights is an example of this. You have basically competent researchers and scholars missing the forest for the trees, failing to take into account the incendiary and distorting influence of the US on China and everything else we talk about. We live in an age of US hegemony, we live in an age when some of the things we like least about China, such as heavy policing and military buildup, are directly related to US provocations and attempts to contain China.

For better or worse, Chinapol is anchored in the US, which gives it the unhappy distinction of being associated with the war machine of the world's most awesome military power, indeed America is more guilty than any other nation on earth of dropping bombs and expending bullets by the billions.

But Chinapol is about China you protest! It's not about the US!

Presumably, German Tibetologists exchanging arcane data about their field in the 1930's would have insisted the politics of Germany had nothing to do with them either.

While such a harsh comparison is not fully warranted, you get the point. A Martian trained to recognize meta-narrative frame would quickly note that many Chinapol conversations about China are really more about America than China, by omission or commission.

Recently I tried to raise, in what was perhaps an overly casual but nonetheless serious way, the point that the "China-bad, America-good" mindset (of certain self-styled human rights organization and their undiscerning cheerleaders) is anachronistic in today's world where the US military is doing most of the killing and where some NGO's deliberately or inadvertently work hand in glove with darker forces. One only has to consider the political influence of the anti-Castro Cuban lobby or the Iraqi exiles to see how a so-called China dissidents funded and focused on the overthrow or ruination of a US competitor country can be problematic fellow travelers in the China field.

If the neo-cons ever got their way and took on China, mano a mano, the usual suspects --holier-than-thou-human-rightists would be trotted out to frame the impending attack in terms of democracy/freedom, (presumably not weapons of mass destruction which China possesses in abundance), and American groomed, house-trained Chinese freedom fighters would be cheerleaders leading the attack like Chalabi and his gang.

Thus I thought the Howard French commentary in the NY Times, pointing out how US complaints about human rights, illegal detention, etc ring increasingly hollow due to US violations was a good turn for a good newspaper which at times seems irremediably stuck in the America-good, China-bad paradigm.

Speaking of human rights and hypocrisy, what right is more precious than life itself, yet the right to live that has been unceremoniously denied to perhaps 100,000 Iraqi civilians by a Pentagon that can't even be bothered to count the "enemy" dead who include no small number of women and children and decent men minding their business.

I'm not saying Chinapol should become Iraqpol, and I'm not even saying that the US is completely mistaken in its foreign policy, though I believe the likes of Cheney and Rumsfeld have inflicted serious damage on America and the world. And before any further misunderstanding accrues, I am not criticizing those members of Chinapol who happen to work for the US State Department or other agencies; quite the contrary --some of the most professional and seasoned postings come from the government sector. One can find really good people in the most unexpected places, which as those of us who live in China well know, it's outstanding individuals who make so-called authoritarian China much more of a delight than it otherwise might be.

But however you cut the cake, the American government, or in the very least a bellicose cabal within it, has been making the US the hypocritical joker of the world, doing the opposite of what it preaches to others, what with its trumped up wars, its killing for peace, its Abu Ghraibs and Guantanamos, its defense of torture and its attacks on civil liberties, and its intrusive spying.

While some neo-cons clearly have China in their sights, one hopes it will never come to that, and not just for China's sake.

Indeed one of the joys of studying and observing China at this particular historic juncture is that despite serious problems, there is a bright side to the picture as the world's most populous nation, enjoying a separate peace of sorts, enjoys an economic boom probably without parallel in the history of planet. China, given its capacities and confidence provides a much-needed counterweight to runaway US influence, or to put it another way, China's rise is not unrelated to America's self-inflicted fall.

Each time I have tried to raise, usually in response to an implicit America-good, China-bad C-pol posting, I find myself being accused by people I have never met (who clearly don't know what they are talking about) as not caring about human rights. To the anti-China crowd, anything less than constant condemnation makes one some kind of apologist for China.

Well, I do care about human rights and I stand by my China work record. I also believe human rights starts at home and for those of us China-watchers who are American citizens or non-citizen residents, I think the role of the US in all of this needs be addressed from time to time with the same candor and verve as Chinapol's critiques of China.

China doesn't exist in a vacuum, international relations are part of a complex dialectic, and China and the US react to one another. The US role in all of this is part of the forest that gets obscured when we focus too much on certain trees.

To say human rights starts at home doesn't mean it ends at home though home is certainly a good and important place to start. That a posting suggesting Americans should look at human rights with some humility brought on a torrent of abuse from distant interlocutors with vested interests in the America-good, China-bad paradigm, and therein lies the problem.

What could have been a conversation about how the political winds blowing across the US might in some way influence how America-centric Chinapol is a necessary conversation unfortunately and ironically brought to a halt by a handful of red-baiters worthy of McCarthy era.

If Chinapol is not the place to address institutional and structural blinders in the view of China as presented on Chinapol, then where is?

I'm only half-joking when I say I enjoy greater freedom of speech on Chinese national television than I do on Chinapol. I appreciate the many off-line comments and words of support I have gotten but I am surprised that so many smart people are reluctant to stand up and state what they believe more openly.

As the Bush administration forces its interventionist Pax Americana upon the unwilling and recalcitrant around the globe, words that many Americans were brought up to treasure and identify with such as human rights, freedom and democracy are increasingly robbed of meaning, so often they are used to fuel US government propaganda.

Chinapol, despite its inherent diversity, the important links it fosters and its impressive collective wisdom runs the risk of being reduced to a mere caricature of itself, a forum of forced binary choices, in which one must choose between panda-hugging and dragon slaying, then its utility as a forum for free thinkers is sadly limited.

I was there on Tiananmen Square on the 4th in 89 and I have not minced words about what I saw or why I thought the China government was in the wrong. And I owe as much to my country of origin.

Human rights abuses in China can and ought to be discussed seriously but given serious US abuses of the same, a touch of humility would help. The holier-than-thou America-good, China-bad paradigm offers no solutions, only more problems.

There are currently 36 Comments for Kicked out of Chinapol.

Comments on Kicked out of Chinapol

Cunningham has a reasoned approach. What are his credentials?

It seems he is a victim of "kill the messenger" syndrome.

Probably need to look at the sponsor of the Chinapol site. It probably is a US government agency with a political interest in the US appearing like a polished apple.

As far as I know, Chinapol is organized by a professor at UCLA and has no government ties.

Maybe Cunningham is just a lefty who can't stay focused on the real issues without knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

Every feud has two sides. After reading Cunningham's story, I am interested in what Chinapol has to say.

I'd like to hear Chinapol's side as well. There's certainly a "US good, China bad" paradigm in widespread use, but there's also a more reasoned "US less bad, China more bad" paradigm, after all.

Don't have much time for Philip J. but that doesn't mean I don't want to hear what he's saying. Too often these days we see groups like Chinapol and the Huffington Post getting rid of anyone with "disagreeable" opinions. So much for debate.

Most Sinologists I know would and do criticize the US before China an most of those issues... maybe I just met the wrong group of sinologists or something.

Cunningham doesn't substantiate to what degree the Sinologists on the list engage in "America good, China bad" rhetoric, or what the stated scope of the group's discussions entail. Without this information, his complaints are weak. Since he is no longer part of the list, he might as well tell us what the ground rules were. It's not as if he would be breaking confidentiallity requirements now.

The above having been said, if Cunningham spent as much time on the mailing list complaining about Iraq and the American "war machine" as he does in this response to his getting booted (and in most of his recent editorial pieces), he probably deserved to be tossed off the list. Most academics would object to the tone of his writing even if they agree with his politics.

And that's why this perplexes me a little, since, to echo Jeff and Brendan, most Sinologists, and indeed, most American academics, are extremely critical of the US, and are more likely to ridicule both governments for their perceived shortcomings than to side with the US. Unless Chinapol was an explicitly right-wing list (why would Cunningham be there to begin with?), I can't see America-boosters coming to dominate any discussion on a list that's representative of the prevaling discourse in China studies.

The alternate Sinologists' chatgroup Pangolin.pol has been growing, in part thanks to the reportedly personalized if not politicized management of Chinapol by UCLA professor Rick Baum. Apparently, it would be best if Chinapol could follow the lead of Pangolin in dropping the practice of "yellow carding" contributors or even kicking people out--better to leave it to the China-watching community itself to comment, and distill what's useful. As for criticizing human rights abuses by the U.S. or Chinese government, I hardly think it's an either/or choice--certainly not for victims of arbitrary detention with no access to lawyers, or innocents falling foul of anti-terrorism or state secrets laws.

I'm curious, Dinah, is Baum's management "political" in the ideological sense or in the academic sense? (Kissinger's remark about conflict among academics just came to mind.) This is starting to sound more like an Internet community spat akin to, say, a blogfight, than the political debate Cunningham makes it out to be.

Danwei's "Kicked Out of Chinapol" was just posted on Chinapol. I strongly doubt that it will elicit much notice, never mind response, given that Chinapol's more than 500 members represent a who's who of [admittedly predominantly Western] China experts in government, academia, business, and media, and most of them have better things to do with their time.

To address a couple of misperceptions, and provide some perspective on the tempest in a teacup that was Philip's red carding by Chinapol.

1. Anyone with a legitimate professional interest in China can join Chinapol (at least that has been the de facto policy so far). I have successfully referred dozens of people to the list. The moderator is a great guy, if a tad quick with the referee's whistle for some members' (ongoing and erstwhile) taste. Indeed a spinoff list, Pangolinpol, was created by Chinapol defectors who took exception to Chinapol's red card policy.

2. The simple reason for a closed versus an Internet forum is confidentiality. Members including ambassadors, assistant secretaries of state, CEOs, and bureau chiefs post regularly with the confidence that their written comments will not appear in the next news cycle's headlines.

Re: Philip's red carding, my opinion is that he somewhat deserved it.
He joined the list, posted a plethora of comments over the course of a short period of time--some informed and relevant, many of the "I live in Beijing therefore I am qualified to comment on a China-related issue I know very little about" ilk--then wrote his rambling protest and got booted. I spoke to Chinapol's moderator at the time, who confirmed my suspicion that the banning was less a matter of the critical content of Philip's post--there is heated debate on Chinapol on a regular basis on everything including the wisdom of the present U.S. administration's foreign and domestic policy--than the fact that he had demonstrated himself a loose cannon who could not be relied upon to observe basic net etiquette.

I don't know Mr. Cunningham personally and have never engaged in any online debates with him (nor any other sinologists) but I have had the chance to observe his remarks on the chinapol listserv for quite some time.

His remarks are often unacceptably rude. This has nothing to do with the hundreds of other chinapol members being mired in a America-good/China-bad mindset.

He has the hallmark attitude of a non-Chinese who has lived in and observed China for a long time and does not like it when new voices enter the conversation, or dispute his pt of view. His tone is dismissive and belittling.

An example: a chinapol member posted an English-language article from a Thai newspaper that he thought might be of interest to others on the listserv. Mr. Cunningham disputed the significance of the article (fine) and then proceeded to ridicule the other person's lack of fluency in Thai. I'm pretty sure it is these nasty personal attacks that explain his ejection from chinapol.

His own assertion in the article that since chinapol was founded and is administered in the U.S. it is therefore "associated with the war machine" - is typical of his strange logic. Isn't Cunningham himself, thus, "associated with the war machine" if he was part of Chinapol?

Many of the people who post on chinapol have spent a lifetime engaging with China, learning the language and history, forming deep personal relationship with Chinese people, and studying China's role in the world. Those who post are as often non-Americans as Americans and seemingly represent every view under the sun. Mr. Cunningham's self-styling as a clear-eyed maverick is bought at the price of smearing so many others.

As someone who had quite a hard time getting onto chinapol, I understand how the invitation-only, play-by-the-owner's-rules model might chafe. But, to be fair, chinapol is a listserv owned by one person and he has a right to do with it as he wishes.

As far as I can tell, the moderator of Chinapol wanted to restrict the subject to China-related issues. Within this confine, on China-pol there are panda huggers and dragon slayers, with the rest being chronic lurkers, but all are serious China-watchers and sinologists, overwhelmingly interested in China-related issues alone. Cunningham butted in and consistently went beyond the confine set by the moderator, with a missionary zeal against America, especially the current administration. When the debate was on Chinese cops killing peasants, Cunningham got upset and shifted the debate on America's "atrocities in Fallujah," etc, etc. It's like having Cindy Sheehan in a meeting on Chinese Laogai. This is what triggered the moderator's short temper to flare up, who ordered Cunningham to find somewhere else to vent his anti-American sentiment. Although I have several run-ins with the moderator on Chinapol, Cunningham's ouster evoked no sympathy from me. As a matter of fact, I think the man, by virtue of being obsessed with how "wrong" America always is, has completely lost any sense of proportionality and moral fortitude, and thus become callous to the stupefying sufferings of the Chinese people he pretends to care, which makes him a hypocrite, to say the least.


Jeremy, how can you have lived so long in Beijing and not developed a thicker skin? At any given moment, there are hundreds of millions of conversations taking place in the world, in real space, in cyberspace, on the phone, via snail mail, etc., and the participants haven't all invited you and the rest of the world to listen in. It's not a good use of your energy to get indignant over this.

As for the notion of yellow cards, red cards, etc.: the virtue of the web is that all kinds of communciation is possible at very low cost, and so there's a niche for everyone. Those who think a degree of policing adds value to a discussion (whether or not they agree with every particular application of it) stay; those who prefer a free-for-all, leave. Everybody's happy. What can there possibly be to complain about?

Finally, on the issue of why Phil Cunningham was expelled: is he willing to have his previous postings to Chinapol made public, so readers can judge for themselves whether it was for his principled airing of unpleasant truths, or just for plain rudeness?

I am glad that some of Chinapol`s certified right-wing government types have taken the time to respond, though I think tags like "ymc" are cowardly. Why not identify your US Naval College affiliation or whatever when you take a stand? Full names, especially in the case of military and government affiliations, ought to be used in the name of full disclosure.

To those unfamiliar with Chinapol, government types tend to dominate the discourse, though there is a full spectrum of American opinion on China. During my year on Chinapol I frequently felt it unfair the way the Chinapol right-wingers jumped on the odd Frenchman or Australian, and American dissident thinkers of whom there are a few, who strayed too far from the US paradigm.

Crossing the invisible pro-American line guarded by self-appointed, self-styled patriots can result in a listserv feeding frenzy.

Chinapol is not open to scholars from China unless they have a foreign affiliation that UCLA-based moderator Rick Baum deems acceptable in his opinion. I found this out the hard way when I nominated an eminent Chinese scholar with a Phd from a leading US university, now teaching in Beijing. Rick Baum instantly vetoed the idea, saying that Chinese were not welcome to join except in special cases and that I had no business even mentioning the existence of Chinapol to Chinese, singling out the fact that CCTV Dialogue anchor Yang Rui had heard me mention the organization which was in itself unacceptable, even though Rick Baum appears on Yang Rui's show from time to time.

I find Rick Buam's uncollegial stance pretty narrow for a China discussion group in this day and age.

As for moderator Rick Baum's legendary "discipline" he pokes fun at anyone he choses, flaunting his status as moderator, (if he cares to dispute that I will provide examples) I got a "yellow card" warning early on for having the temerity to suggest that Dow Jones had inflicted more damage on the Far Eastern Economic Review than had Beijing, saying that a once good, informed, pro-free speech publication had been "brutally eviscerated" by its capitalistic owners.

Rick wrote a rude warning, saying not to criticize Dow Jones again, as he valued Wall Steet Journal members participation in Chinapol. To his credit, WSJ veteran and current "Review" editor Hugo Restall took the time to explain to me some of the financial problems the magazine had been facing and did not seem nearly as perturbed about my criticism as did Rick, who apparently keeps his commentator base happy with a velvet glove approach to US government agencies and right-wing media.

The red card which led to my ouster came from the above posting, made available to Danwei, which came in the context of a discussion about ethically-challenged human rights groups and the larger fear that the US government would cultivate Chinese "Chalabis" for collaboration purposes should the neocon dream of taking on China ever come to pass.

HLC: "Jeremy, how can you have lived so long in Beijing and not developed a thicker skin?"

HLC, my skin is plenty thick. I don't mind if I am not on the Chinapol list, but I thought it fair to explain my ignorance of the background to Philip Cunningham's piece.

this is a silly question, but is Chinapol even accessible from the internet, i just cannot seem to find its url.

No, Chinapol is a listserv thing: email only. No website.

thanks, no wonder google doesn't return any meaningful results ...

Like Philip, I am also living in China. My total time here has only been one and a half years. I stuck my neck out enough in this country early on to realise that if you are going to live here long term you need to (and can't help but) adopt a similar set of cultural values and opinions of the country you are in. Indeed, after a while, it becomes positively comfortable and the attitude is re-inforced vigourously by other Chinese.

As far as I am concerned, you could easily see the same opinions and complaints against the United States in any Chinese newspaper or from the mouth of any well-educated, patriotic and optimistic Chinese.

It is right that he is not on the Chinapol list. As much as he would proclaim 'dis-interested' observer status, his presence is akin to that of a Chinese spy or propaganda agent.

When I worked as interpreter and production assistant to Steven Spielberg in Shanghai and London on the "Empire of the Sun" in 1987, I noticed that the largely British crew had very clear ideas about who was in show business and who wasn't. One night in a disco in Shanghai, some of the gaffers, electricians and the like were lighting firecrackers under any hapless attendee who wasn't "one of them." Not being known to that particular crew, but working inside Spielberg's magic circle, I almost got the firecracker treatment until UK producer David Thomson said, "lay off boys, Phil's one of us now."

I have been on both sides of the fence with Chinapol and I can confidently report, that I feel more comfortable being on the outside, academic prestige and Washington, DC guanxi be damned. I like many individuals who happen to be in the group and especially respect the writing and thinking of those who make an effort to avoid the pitfalls of nationalism in their discourse. But membership in a secretive group that excludes Chinese scholars and saves its firecrackers for people "outside the circle" is not an organization I can readily feel proud to be part of.

There's a powerful cinematic scene in Tian Zhuang-zhang’s Blue Kite, I think it was, about the politics of ritual denunciation; unable to decide who must be expelled from the group, those in attendance wait till somebody leaves the room and then the group opportunistically singles that person out for denunciation.

It's hard to criticize people face to face; incurable gossips, timid schemers, ideological witch-hunters and their net progeny, secretive listservs and anonymous posters, of course know this. That’s why they thrive in the shadows behind closed doors.

Chinapol has a similar dynamic. One of the unwritten rules of this thoroughly undemocratic and free-speech challenged China discussion group, a pattern that became apparent to me reading posts over the course of a year is that it's open season on writers, scholars, journalists and political figures outside the group, while fellow members reserve for themselves, for the most part, a smarmy kind of reflexive self-regard.

This double standard, a typical we-them stance, of course extends to the excessive zeal with which China and Chinese people are criticized, ridiculed, condescended to and made a laughingstock of on Chinapol. Chinese citizens are given no chance to answer to these charges and sometimes outright prejudicial comments, while Washington, and Americans in general get off light; the default good guys so to speak. Kind of like the egregious double standards of US Vice-President Dick Cheney and the war he whipped up; there's a world of a difference between him doing the shooting and him being shot at. He’s special, he gets a free pass; others don’t.

Long before I joined Chinapol, bits and pieces of Chinapol discussion and gossipy comment on articles I had written and interviews I had conducted had been forwarded to me by friends who happen to have been members. The sort of ganging up and one-sided commentary I saw, concerning documentaries about '89 or the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade or whatever, was enough to make me not want to join. Last April, however, after a spike in comments about an op-ed piece I wrote for the Los Angeles Times, I decided to join Chinapol if only to see more directly what kind of feedback my articles and op-eds were getting and perhaps engage in some productive discussion about topics of common interest. Of course, as soon as I joined, I became more or less "one of them" , though not a “made member” and the open hunting season attitude ceased, replaced in time, in discussions of controversial issues, by the rather more congenial toasting and roasting that one associates with fellow insiders.

Ignorant commentary about my identity and work, for example, a discussion asserting that the Thai-based commentator Philip Cunningham could not possibly be the Phil Cunningham who worked on Gate of Heavenly Peace, was gradually replaced by polite, collegial requests for information on internet crackdowns or social unrest in China.
Finally, a rumination on rudeness. If speaking truth to power is rude, then I am rude. If collaborating with the Washington war machine is professional, then I am unprofessional. If talking in hushed, respectful tones about “Dr. Rice” and the “Secretary of Defense” while mercilessly ridiculing Hu Jintao is professional, then I am unprofessional. I have no government affiliations and I am proud of this. I am a freelance writer and teacher.

When I consider my postings on Chinapol, some in response to topics I feel quite passionately about, I may have had a habit of over-stating my case sometimes, which is to say using one or two adjectives too many, but I did not engage in ad hominem attacks or use improper language of the sort that certain of Chinapol's "made" members use with impunity. I was carded for two political observations, discussed above.

And I think Chinapol is at once too polite, that is to say, afraid to speak the truth to power, while at the same time it is unforgivably rude in its jokingly low regard for the people of China.

This whole thing reminds of the Daily Kos affair that's just gone down in the U.S. - secret mailing lists and partisan politics.

What a great thread. I'm happy to see so many people in China are on to Cunningham. He's smart and he's charming, but to hear him talk about Chinapol's double standards is rather lamentable, considering his own double standards when it comes to Bad America and Good China.

Cunningham obviously is a product of a democractic society, because only a democratic society can breed and tolerate such kind of people severely critical of his own country or countries like his own. Endowed with such democratic virtues, Cunningham moved to live in Beijing, continuing to criticize his own country or countries like his own, which is all fine and glorious. The problem is, as a loudmouthed social critic who claims to care about human injustice everywhere, Cunningham and his ilk have been glaringly mute in comparison about the egregious repression and infliction of pain and suffering in China where he lives, because he knows very well that the moment he starts acting like he still lives in a democratic society such as the US and conducts vigorous criticisms against government abuse in China, he will be kicked out of China in a very short moment. The numbing disparity displayed by Cunningham and his ilk between high decible criticism of the US and the relative muteness on China's far more serious abuse of human rights can be explained by the following possibilities: 1) Cunningham is cowardly, afraid of being kicked out of China; 2) Cunningham has jokingly lower regard for the people of China, caring only about the American people but not about the Chinese; 3)Cunningham is a willing "useful idiot" for Beijing's decades-old surrogate prapaganda practice against the US, and 4) all of the above.

Yes, I find Cunningham's attitude quite amusing as well, richard. As ymc stated, he'll attack the US but never talk about China in that way because he doesn't want to suffer the consequences.

Dear Mr Cunningham, if you really are a victim in all of this, please give permission to Chinapol to publish all of your relevant correspondance from the list.

Wow, I've just transliterated the name "Philip Cunningham" into Chinese characters, and it literally translates as "Dancing Monkey."

One thing (among many) which I find so disingenous and dishonest about Cunningham's logically fallacious positing of US human rights abuses against Chinese human rights abuses, is an obvious fact which Cunningham glosses over again and again: Since when is the US the world's principal representative of Human Rights?

Step back and read that once more. Is the US the world's principal representative of Human Rights? No? Correct, the answer is "No." So, what the HELL do US Human Rights abuses have to do with discussions of Chinese human rights abuses?

If Cunningham officially represented the US government, then he would have an obligation to answer for US human rights abuses. But he doesn't represent the US government. What he does represent, is the ideal CCTV White Dancing Monkey.

In other words - just to make it all the more clear - if you're a US government official criticising Chinese human rights abuses on CCTV, then I think you have an obligation to address US human rights abuses before criticising China.

But if you don't represent the US government, then misdirecting the conversation away from China and toward the US, is just the act of a Dancing Monkey.

Why the hell don't you mention French Human Rights abuses? Or North Korean? (I mean, just to be fair, since North Korea criticises America all the time.) Or Fiji? Or Brazil? "Just to be fair and balanced." The human rights abuses of ALL countries are fair game, if you don't represent any particular country.

And yet you dance and dance on CCTV, and then you disingenuously pretend it's all for "balance."

Of course, if Cunningham is correct, and the discussions on Chinapol are so hopelessly distorted by blind US worship (which they are not), then why should they matter at all? If he is correct, and I am sure he believes he is, then we are hapless dupes who have fundamentally misunderstood reality and, as such, we can be safely ignored. As academics (as most Chinapolers are) we have no real political power anyway (unless Cunningham wants to argue that Bush is an intellectual's President), so our conversations should be of no concern to him or the world at large. If he is correct, then we are irrelevant and there is no story here.

But Sam, that would mean he couldn't scream and rant about being rejected from something. When you have a head as big as his....ooops, I mean a reputation as great as his, you should never be refused access to any discussion group.

Simple life!

Anyone on first-name terms with Yang Rui automatically sacrifices any remaining vestige of journalistic credibility.

If you want to be a champion of integrity and human rights, Phil, 'Dialogue' shouldn't be on your CV until they decide to start one.

Does anyone want to share some of the comments or discussions at Chinapol, I'd be interested in reading it. Feel free to email me!

p.s. Howdy Ivan ;)

Hey, Philip, in your previous lifetime was your name "Walter Duranty?" You know, the NY Times correspondent in Moscow in the 1930s, who collaborated in covering up Stalin's terror-famine while writing pangyrics about how Stalin's Russia was the wave of the future?

There's a book about him titled, "Stalin's Apologist."

And then there was Lincoln Steffens, who returned from Stalin's Russia and reported,
"I have seen the future, and it works."

OK, enough already, comments closed. Further correspondence about this subject will be accepted by email only - jeremy -at-

i think people are kinda veering off topic here...

the germaine thing seems to be this:

from the description given, it appears that chinapol is a listserv of china scholars and china-watchers -- people who professionally have a stated interest in china. not hobbyists. not backpackers. it's a group of some importance, of some influence, when it comes to shaping the dialogue for China discussion in the US.

therefore, it's reasonable to say that if they have a bias in the list, it's a concern for those who seek to bring more balance to the US dialogue about china, and vice versa.

the larger picture is also relevant: the degree of power that the US wields over the rest of the world (economic, military, cultural) is out of proportion with the degree of knowledge your average American (or even your average politician or CEO) has about the countries, places and people affected.

sure, your average Chinese probably knows less. i'm not
America-bashing. but your average Chinese doesn't have a constitional right to vote. as Americans it is our privilege but also our responsibility to be informed. as much as I dislike our present administration, as an AMERICAN i cannot divorce myself from it. it is a function of our system, a system of which i am also part, and not just when my guy wins.

dialogue and free speech are so important then, to our process. and it is also why Phil is so vocal.

in this instance, the problem appears to be, phil questioned a fundamental assumption of the list, for which he got booted. sure, it's the right of the listmums to police as they like. and i can't speak to what else happened prior to his booting (someone complained about 'netiquette').

but i've done plenty of verbal sparring with phil the many years i've known him. i don't always agree with him (thus the sparring) and even when i agree i almost always take exception to some portion of his argument or another. but i have always appreciated that, if i bother to take on his best argument with MY best argument, i'm usually sharper, not duller, for the effort.

which is why i think it regrettable Chinapol reacted the way they did. i don't know whether Chinapol has an america problem or not, i just think his question about bias in the perspective of the list was a good question, for which there should rightfully be no fear of an answer.

and if our intellectuals and policymakers can't be asked to answer such fundamental questions, because 'they don't have time' or 'can't be bothered' -- or worse, if one draws from the example of Chinapol, and our best and brightest thinkers must be protected from the question -- then we -- and by we i don't just mean americans, or chinese, i mean, 'we who are free to openly ask questions and explore their answers, and we who depend on those who are', by which i mean ALL OF US -- we are in a world of hurt...

EDITORS NOTE: Comments are closed. Further correspondence about this subject will be accepted by email only - jeremy -at-

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