Scholarship and education

Phil Cunningham responds to Danwei comments

A few weeks ago, Danwei published an article by Philip J. Cunningham in a post that your correspondent titled Kicked out of Chinapol.

Cunningham was attacked in the comments section by several anonymous readers, some of whom were Chinapol members. The comments became nasty enough that we switched them off. However, I was left feeling that I had somehow hung Cunningham out to dry, by allowing some rather vicious attacks on his integrity from anonymous writers without allowing him a proper reply.

I was relucant to publish the piece below when he first sent it to me, feeling a little weary of the nastiness that the affair had caused. But the original decision to publish the piece was mine, and the decision not to delete some of the comments despite their anonymity was mine too, so today I risk bringing the nastiness back again by reigniting the debate.

Here then, is Cunningham's response to the comments. Criticisms and complaints are welcome, but no anonymous attacks on the writer will be entertained.

Chinapol: Comments on the Comments

by Philip J. Cunningham

I will try to address some issues raised by Danwei reader comments in order to continue the conversation and genially ignore the posts that were designed to be conversation-stoppers.

Chinapol is not just another chat group; it is a hidden locus of power, influencing what you read in the media, what books teachers chose to teach in the classroom and what actionable advice is being spoon-fed to Congress and various US agencies that in turn influences US foreign policy.

The gist of what I said first to Chinapol and later to Danwei in "Chinapol has an America problem" is not a critique of one particular Chinapol thread or another, though some are truly objectionable, some truly comic, and some just plain condescending, but the Chinapol paradigm itself. Worse than any individual illiberal argument is the faulty narrative frame for the entire listserv conversation. And this is an elusive and difficult point to express, for if there's one thing that's hard to see it's the frame through which one views the world.

Yet the frame, even if sight unseen, inexorably shapes the patterns of dialogue that take place within its limits. It's a bit easier to notice such things as an outsider who temporarily inhabits the frame and then moves out of it again, or as is said in Chinese, pangguangzheqing.

To reiterate, I joined Chinapol with a clear and curious mind, interested and willing to engage in discussion and debate about China and its place in the world, and left, yellow-carded for criticizing Dow Jones, red-carded for submitting "Chinapol has an America Problem" to the group. Before UCLA professor and former White House advisor Richard Baum, known to Chinapolers, mostly affectionately and somewhat Maoistically, as "Chairman Rick" issued his "non-negotiable" expulsion notice, I was an active member of the list long enough to get an idea of how it works and where it's dysfunctions lie.

Even after Rick Baum's assistant slammed the electronic gate, barring my access to Chinapol, I got dozen of comments off-line sent by ordinary email expressing appreciation from Chinapol members who felt similar frustrations with the limits on dialogue but were not in a position or of an inclination to go public about it for reasons of their own. Still at least one person quit in protest of Chairman Rick's handling of the matter, and numerous emails were sent to him, unprompted by me, aksing him to reconsider the matter. I appreciate the moral support I continue to get from individual members of Chinapol who share similar concerns, but I honestly feel more comfortable outside the circle.

Although the illiberal bias of the organization as it now stands leaves me without any lingering desire to be part of Chinapol, I do think there is a great need for discussion about China and its changing place in the world. Not within the frame as Rick Baum implicitly and explicitly defines it, --excluding Chinese from the discussion while exempting the US government from serious criticism-- but in a more open format.

To those invisible correspondents who have written in Danwei's in comment box requesting to to see specific conversations from Chinapol, I can understand the desire to peek into an opaque organization but concomitantly have to weigh the merits, if any, of disclosing largely banal, largely private correspondence to prove a point; it's not so much any conversation as it is every conversation, not so much what has been said as what goes unsaid, It's not so much the incessant bashing of Beijing, sometimes justified, sometimes not, as the consistently warm coddle, the get out of jail free card given to the powers that be in Washington, even as they influence China by trying to contain it.

Danwei is not stuck in the old paradigm, it's open to the public, savvy, self-knowing. But individuals who post on Danwei frequently sound old paradigm in their shouts and screeds. As Philip Roth has noted in his biographical writing, it was his identity as a Jew writing critically and candidly about Jews that invited, mostly from other Jews, fiece and irrational criticism I find that as an American, trying to write critically and candidly about my own kind, at a time when America is riddled with insecurities, with real and percieved, a similar pattern emerges.

Why is this so? Well, Americans have a deep investment in the American identity as it has been constructed over the years and any truthful comment, or attempt at unearthing certain unpalatable truths about America is not just an intellectual exercise, it touches on identity issues. All the more so if you have been "in government" as many Chinapolers have.

For those Americans whose innate sense of pride and comfort is couched in the terms that US president Bush bandies about with such abandon; freedom-loving, democracy-supporting, generous and benevolent in helping foreigners to a fault, what I have to say is going to shake some deeply-held convictions, convictions so deeply-held that the unreflective are not entirely sure what makes them upset; thus the rants, the lame insults, the flames, in and out of Chinapol. Internet discourse is overloaded and burdened by such hate speech, and I credit Danwei's Jeremy Goldkorn for trying to combat this quietly in his own way.

I'm am offering my view of things; reasonable people can disagree reasonably. But I would suggest to those internet correspondents who offer up cliched insults or feign outrage while hiding behind tags and pseudonyms that reciprocal transparency and sincerity are minimum requirements for a decent conversation. Although Danwei seeks to be transparent and open to the same degree that Chinapol is obsessively secretive, a similar dynamic can be observed when conversation-stoppers and malicious jokers step forward to ruin an otherwise vital discussion.

Is America special? To the unexamined mind is it still the city on the hill, the world's Camelot? If it is, the flip-side of this is the oddly comforting core belief that lands foreign, like China, can't get their act together and never will. Even the French stir tsunami of intolerance for the America-firsters.

Is China special? Is it the ultimate other? I have been an expatriate for a quarter of a century, long enough to understand the stages one must go through, loving, hating, loving to hate, hating to love the host country that one makes a temporary home of. And China, its faults being numerous, it's elite political landscape littered with injured people who have dropped stones on their own feet, its size and scope almost beyond human ability to grasp, is rich fodder for such musing.

But when otherwise intelligent people rest comfortable in old assumptions based on old evidence that China's take on the world is always propaganda, while deluding themselves into believing that America's take on the world is the news, if not reality itself, then you have a serious perception gap.

Yet when the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal launched its dirty war, CCTV offered viewers a rare taste of neutrality and attemped objectivity largely unavailable in the US television media, especially in the early days of freedom fries and journalists in bed with the military. But that doesn't count, because China can do no right.

Chinapol's unexamined self-identification with Washington, it's unwillingness to speak truth to power, puts it on a slippery slope, implicitly defending the war machine and war crimes being commited in the name of the American people. Even at a time like this, a time when the world's most powerful country insists on its right to use its might, a time of international crisis, a time of great injustice, a time when the civilian ideologues in positions of power prod the US military to engage in horrifying bloodletting and violence, the underlying ideology that animates Chinapol discussions is that America can do no wrong (or if it's doing wrong it is not right to make reference to such) while China, the ultimate other, just can't do right.

This, even when, most pointedly in the case of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, US government-funded and supported human rights groups, including Human Rights in China and recepients of National Endowment for Democracy funding and various think tanks and Naval Academies where would-be Chinese Chalabis are being groomed by proxies of the Pentagon, the US claims a right to violate the very human rights it pays others to complain about in foreign countries. We're different, you see?

China has not invaded any sovereign state recently, nor has it had in my memory the temerity to roll its tanks down the streets of someone else's capital city, shooting and killing foreign civilians with impunity, but the US gets away with such abominations in the name of spreading freedom and democracy. Increasingly, in no small part because of the mean-sprited, divisively-partisan Bush administration, American self-confidence in America's proud manifest destiny has had cause to be shaken. Yet for the recalcitrants, it's shaken but not stirred. For many Americans, despite a distaste for Bush, remain mired in a self-perception of unspoken superiority, assuming the American governmental bureaucracy has genuine altruistic intent and presumed democratic benevolence, which if ever was the case, and I'm not entirely sure it was, would have been a cogent argument only for a brief window of time, sometime between the liberation of Nazi death camps and the start of the anti-communist witchhunt and the wars it engendered in Korea and Vietnam.

Chinapol, like much of the US defense establishment, has not fully emerged from the straitjacket of Cold-War style thinking; although composed of minds more subtle, supple and generally more liberal than those who currently run the Pentagon and lord over the American public from the White House, it is mired in the same expired paradigm. In essence, China can never do right and America can never do wrong.

There are currently 33 Comments for Phil Cunningham responds to Danwei comments.

Comments on Phil Cunningham responds to Danwei comments

Sounds like a really intense American version of TalkTalkChina.com (no offense to the Ds).

A lot of things you say about Chinapol are equally true for Dialogue. How can you complain about bias in a US-centric China discussion group when you are only too happy to be identified with another tightly controlled China "discussion" forum that excludes all but the most timid voices of dissent?

Yes, that's true about Dialogue. But Dialogue is broadcast on a public access TV station.

Isn't Cuningham's point about Chinapol that it is a private, but very influential email list that has an agenda just like Dialogue, but no public face?

Since the topic of this thread is Chinapol, I think it is worth pointing out that dozens of Chinapol members, including former and current US officials and government advisors, including Chinapol founder Rick Baum, have appeared on Dialogue over the years, many of them on a repeated basis, where they have been free to express their views to a broad public in the face of tough and intelligent questioning.

Phil

Philip, I laregly agree with your analysis, and in fact, I have been engaged in a debate about the nature of China's governance with a writer named Sojourner for some time now, via email, which we have both agreed to make public so that people like yourself can participate. The MAJ-Sojourner Debates will be launched on August 7th, and I would be delighted if you would participate in the debate. I will announce the site's address at a later date.

For now though, let me say that I agree with your comments on media bias: the US government only has to feed information into a giant international mass media machine like Reuters to put its own views over to the Western world, and when it comes to managing foreign relations, information is always carefully selected and propagated in order to justify the government policies of the day.

Colin Mackerras, in his book "Western Images of China", believes that the dominant images the West has had of China, both past and present, "accord with, rather than oppose, the interests of the main Western authorities or governments of the day." Mackerras' study shows quite clearly that there has indeed been a "regime of truth" concerning China, which has effected and raised "the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true" about that country. Having carried out both thorough qualitative and quantitative research, Mackerras reaches the conclusion that the period from the late 1980s to the present represents the most complicated period since Roman times in terms of Western images of China:

"What is striking about this period is that the preoccupation of Western images with matters concerned with human rights and dissidents gained an added emphasis at just the same time that the general standard of livelihood of the Chinese people rose to an extent unprecedented in China's history. This is not to deny the existence of human rights issues, but the focus they received in the Western media was both ironic and unwarranted by comparison with the improvements."

Sites like Chinapol merely help to further reinforce negative images of China, the images that dominate China-related discourse, which of course reflect political discourse, and as a result the relationship between the "knowledge" Chinapol presents and the realities of China dwindles in importance when compared to the "knowledge" Chinapol presents and the exercising of corporate power, since it is predominantly the "knowledge" produced by corporate power that most Chinapol contributers draw most heavily from when making their arguments.

Philip, I admire you for speaking out, for having the courage to challenge existing regimes of truth, and once again, I hope that you will join the MAJ-Sojourner Debates next month when they are made public.

You're an anti-US commentator upset about being kicked off a US-based discussion group. I would find your arguments a bit more persuasive if you had ever publicly challenged the makers of equally biased forums like Dialogue as to why they never feature "anti-China" commentators. Don't see people like Archbishop Zen of Hong Kong, evicted Taishi villagers or the Dalai Lama's representatives complaining about being excluded from PRC discussion forums.

Sorry - I described Chinapol as a "site" in my comment above, though it isn't really a site, but an email discussion group. Nevertheless, the "group" does push a particular discourse - one which I believe mirrors the regime of truth produced by corporate America.

I am highly disappointed by this response. Mr C tried to pretend that we were asking him to show us what was so bad about the mailing group, when actually we wanted him to authorise the administrators to publish the comments they claimed got him kicked off. If he is as innocent as he says he is, there will not be any evidence of "bad behaviour" or whatever they can publish. However he just expects us to take his word over their's that there was no reason for him to get removed. Without him saying they can publish them, he just looks to be trying to cover his tracks.

A point for Mr C. The internet is not a democracy. People get pushed off forums, mailing lists, etc all the time. Plenty of people are "wrongly" denied access. But this continual whining just makes you look sore. Go and find a new mailing list - stop making this into a silly crusade.

"China has not invaded any sovereign state recently"

No, it hasn't. But it still treats its own citizens badly when convenient (or when it doesn't care), trampling on rights its own Constitution should grant. In comparison, the US Constitution does protect US citizens.

In 2008 Bush will leave the White House and the Republicans may not win it back - the same applies to Congress. People can vote Democrat (or whatever), campaign for them, etc with impunity. More importantly, Mr C, you are free to say what you do about the US in the US. There is no way as a Chines person you could make the same level of criticism in China in public. Even if you weren't thrown in jail or taken off for "re-education", you'd be cut off from public discussion mediums, your career would be finished, etc.

In my mind, if you want to examine a country you should compare how they treat their own people before anything else. On that point China loses hands down to the US.

Sorry this might be too off topic, but can someone clarify what it means to be "Anti-American"? If we assume that Taliban and Al-Qaida members are "Anti-American", doesn't it seem like a bit of a jump to be lumping Mr. Cunningham into the same categorization? The term itself sounds like its describing a person who doesn't acknowledge the country's right to exist, which I think at least some Taliban and Al-Qaida members believe, but I have a feeling Mr. Cunningham wouldn't quite agree.

As for the show Dialogue, I don't think anyone needs to challenge the makers to tell us why they don't invite "anti-China" (whatever that means) guests--they'd be happy to tell you the Central Government censors would keep it off the air and that whoever was responsible for inviting the guest would be severely punished. The Dalai Lama, by the way, is considered a criminal by the Chinese government, so it wouldn't be very easy to get him on the show in the first place.

The other point I'm implying here is that China actually doesn't pretend that it doesn't censor. Everyone knows they do it, and they tell people they do it. "We have 30,000 people [or more] watching all the internet content that passes through our pipeline to the rest of the world," they say. At least they're not secretive about it, unlike some countries governments I know.

As for Chinapol itself, I'm really quite curious about why they won't let Chinese scholars put in a word. Seems kinda pointless if its only a discussion between non-Chinese--like talking to your face in the mirror to feel better about your own points of view. Actually that's exactly what it's like--a Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley. Cuz doggone it, I'm good enough, smart enough...

From The Peking Duck:

Cunningham has drawn a line: on the one side are those who criticize him, flame him and rant against him, and do so because they harbor a deep-seeded belief in the myth of a magnanimous America; on the other side are the open-minded, non-hating truth-seekers like himself. The implication is that those who take issue with Cunningham are, in effect, victims of brainwashing from the American government - the exact same argument made by one Jessica Copeland. Never mind that if Cunningham were to do some research on many of the commenters (and it's not that hard to do) he'd see that many, perhaps most, have a track record of standing up to the Bush doctrine, of rejecting it, and of criticizing America in no uncertain terms. Philip doesn't get this: that it is possible to be enraged by the CCP without having been hypnotized by US propaganda. (Maybe he should talk to Hao Wu's sister Nina; maybe she can help explain why everyday people uninfluenced by American propganda can hate the CCP.)

While I don't necessarily agree with all of what Phil's said, I do think Chinapol's exclusion of mainland Chinese scholars should be changed.

After all, if the stated purpose of Chinapol is better understanding about China, why close the listserv to Chinese scholars? It's not like they'd censor the place or have the power to otherwise damage a listserv with a primarily American clientele.

It saddens me to see Phil so blatantly distort the record. Point of fact: No-one quit Chinapol in protest over Phil's expulsion (most people who expressed an opinion online agreed with the decision to exclude him). Point of fact: Chinapol has no connection, hidden or otherwise, with the US government. Point of fact: the majority of Chinapol members have been highly critical of Bush administration foreign policy. It seems pointless to engage in further refutation (or debate) when reality is being so grossly distorted.

Rick Baum, ni hao!

It sounds like you don't know what's going on in your own organization. I will offer one comment from a member who quit because of this and can continue to humbly post such testimonials if the "chairman" needs any clarification on that or any other Chinapol-related points.


(private communication from a professor trained in social pyschology)

"Rick likes China because it is a culture where he can be what he shows in his management of CP he wants and needs to be - the man! the autocrat! He savors yellow and red cards, the power of them. He doesn't want to enjoy them but rarely - the rarety shows his power through the absence of chaos in CP. Then there is the way he adds "non-negotiable". It's the other whip. Because it is entirely unnecessary, it shows he likes to hurt people. Seeming to pre-empt calls for mercy and reinstatement, he savors his power to permit negotiation or otherwise. The Daddy character with a whip in each hand - a punishment card and a non-negotiation card. What a man! So strong! (drool, drool).

For some of the CPers, he's an impressive guy;those who curry his favor are mildly interesting for their role in an authoritarian scheme of things - they are the key to the dictator's appearance of power. If there is any chance of a yellow card, if there is any chance of Rick saying they're naughty boys (or girls), some panic. CP is definitely a drug. They depend on it, perhaps hourly - like Rick himself I suspect. Withdrawal is not to be thought about..

An analysis of Rick's postings and the responses of certain others imay confirm a lot of stuff about the dynamics of his power. What you may have missed is his call for to people to dine with him in Taipeh. I would guess that those who dine with him at any time really like his power-style, and feel honored being admitted to the inner sanctum of America's holier than thou China Experts. They' haven't the little red book, but they can dine out nicely on the experience of having had supped with Big Rick!

Anyway, this is something of the core of what I will finally say.

This is getting increasingly bizarre. First, to frame Chinapol as "a hidden locus of power" is an illusion of grandeur well beyond the reality of a variety of academics and journalists passing around articles and brief opinions. The list is made up of many people, but I would guess the majority are American academics - you know, the people who are regularly criticized as being "anti-American" by neo-con Republican power holders. The idea that US academics are somehow a secretive cabal linked to the deep inner workings of the US government is truly a conspiratorial fantasy (even if we are speaking in more ideological Gramscian terms - we try so despartely to be "counter-hegemonic"!). As to "The Chairman's" autocracy, he is just trying to keep the list from getting bogged down in endless argumentation. The point of the list is to exchange references and brief opinions. When discussions go on too long, Rick asks them to take it off line to clear the way for the next issue or article. Just about everyone understands this. It is not a soapbox, it is an exchange. And sometimes we joke about "The Chairman." Repeat: Joke. The idea that there are deep social psychological dynamics at work that cause us to feed the power of the Great Man is a parody.
I'd like to say more, but I have to get back to dominating the world through... oops, I almost blew it and let you all in on the big secret....

I find it highly ironic that Danwei has said no more personal attacks, rude comments, etc - especially towards Mr C.

Yet interestingly enough that is exactly what Mr C is doing - slagging off Rick.

So basically, Danwei, your mates get to undermine people with unsourced comments from "others" (so they can say it's not personal), whereas we have to be nice to them.

Why don't you practice what you preach? Or are you proud to be hypocritical?

Raj,
cool down, cool down...

I think we all just learned a lot about Mr. Cunningham.

Raj - with all due respect, I think your argument above is a little unfair. There is a fine line between making a valid criticism of somebody's behaviour and or ideas, and slagging them off, I agree, but I think Philip has made a valid criticism of Chinapol and its primary characters, which he has expressed in a civilised manner. If you read Danwei's comments policy, you will see that neither Philip nor Danwei are guilty of hypocrisy.

The responses of many towards Philip and the general discourse he pushes tend to be a little too emotionally charged, with some people adopting rather hostile poses, as though they feel personally threatened by the ideas he presents.

Sam's response above is every bit as biting, as every bit as critical of Philip, as is Philip's criticism of Rick. Both are acceptable though, because, although highly critical, are expressed in a manner that is civilised.


Sorry - one more thing Raj. I don't wish to appear to be too much of a knit-picker, but I couldn't help but to notice that in your comment above, you ask Danwei why you and others "have to be nice" towards Mr Cunningham. So are you suggesting that, just because you feel outraged by Mr Cunningham's discourse and behaviour, that you therefore have a right to not be nice - to be nasty, if you like?

Seems like a rather childish stance to take, don't you think?

You may regard Mr Cunningham's behaviour as childish, but does that mean that you too need to be childish and vicious in your responses?

Luckily, none of us here is ever childish.

I'm sorry to see that my comment from this morning was not posted. I'll try putting this in somewhat nicer terms.
PJC's response suprised me. He sounded more like an angry child who had not gotten his way than a professional Asia-watcher.
I also noted a not-so-subtle hint of jealousy in his comment. His discussion of "the Chairman," "holier-than-thou China experts" and others' excitement at associating with Baum reflected poorly on Phil's own character. It all sounded quite jealous to me. I'd imagine the jealousy stems from the fact that Baum is a successful China-watcher respected in his field, while Phil has been largely marginalized on account of his somewhat bizarre views ("exile from America," "His Excellency Hu," "state funding of 'anti-China' organizations," etc.) We should also consider that the membership of Chinapol is probably much larger, and its discussions more lively, than at Phil's so-called "America Watch."
Rather than fretting over being expelled from Chinapol, I'd recommend that Phil consider some of the problems inherent in the way he presents himself. He is very critical and thoughtful about US policy, which I think is great, but he does not apply the same critical eye to the current situation in China. In fact, all of his critiques of America always seem to echo back to how great China is, in a true case of "blinders." Until he approaches both societies seriously, I think it will be hard for people to take him seriously.

This argument is going nowhere. People commenting here either think Cunningham has a point about Chinapol, or they think he is a commie stooge. There is no middle ground, and nothing will come out of this debate except acrimony.

Phil Cunningham is still a respected writer and teacher, who has enough credibility to work and get published all over Asia and the US. This is because most of what he writes makes sense, no matter what your point of view on US policy is.

So the baseless assertions from Kevin above (marginalized!) are just plain silly.

I agree entirely with Alexis Levy's comment above. I identify very closely with Philip Cunningham's plight, because I too have been greatly misunderstood by many of those who frequent cyberspace. The claim that Philip and I slam Western parliamentary democracies whilst ignoring China's problems and downsides is just plain wrong. People read way too much into what we say, and then attack us (sometimes quite visiously) for being "CCP apologists" - a charge I totally reject, and one which I suspect Philip rejects too.

My argument has always been this: that the CCP has generally been steering China in the right direction over the last twenty years, but that its reforms have also brought about new problems and difficulties, many of which the CCP has been slow to address. I don't believe that China is, overall, a better, more livable country than those of the West, nor do I believe that its system of governance is inherently better, though I don't think that it's as bad as what many of my critics think either. Rather, I believe that the differences between China and countries like the United States for example, are narrowing. Is this a progressive development, or a reactionary one? In my opinion, it is both positive and negative. I will elaborate more on this in my next response to Sojourner, when he and I make our private email debates public on August 7th.

For now though, I would just like to urge people to be a little more tolerant of those who express dissenting views, and to request that people take greater care not to read too much into such arguments.

I don't agree with all of what Philip Cunningham has to say about China, but I do agree with much of what he says, and I think that his imput into the debate over the nature of China's governance has been very valuable. It's always useful, essential in fact, to have people around who are courageous enough to challenge convential wisdoms and modes of thought, to question the orthodox. "Tell people what they want to hear, what they already know to be true, and they'll love you for it," as George Monbiot once observed. "Tell them something new though, and they'll hate you for it."

"He is very critical and thoughtful about US policy ... but he does not apply the same critical eye to the current situation in China."

That just about sums it up.

Yes, Michael, that pretty much says it all.

I guess this would all be resolved, or at least clarified, if Philip answered the single simple question that keeps arising: Why does he apply a standard to the government of the US that differs from the standard he applies to the government of China?

Richard and michael: Because China is a different place from the US, with different problems.

Kevin's impression that Philip Cunningham doesn't apply the same critical eye towards China as he does towards the United States may be true to some extent - perhaps it's Philip's own fault that he gives this impressions to so many. But once again, I think many people may be reading too much into him.

By pointing out the double standards of the West to the extent that he does, Philip is challenging a particular ideology: that being, that parliamentary democracies best embody and protect The Englightenment values of peace, justice, democracy, and human rights, and that authoritarian one-party systems are significantly inferior, in that they are not democratic, are somehow totalitarian, etc. All the old Cold War rhetoric is employed, as Philip has quite rightly observed, to push this discourse.

By focussing as much as he does on the shortcomings of the West, Philip challenges such orthodoxies. He is right to do so. The fact of the matter, I believe, is that the two systems produce similar social results in many (though not all) ways, and that if one were to objectively compare China today with the United States today, one would have to conclude that, while both have their strengths and weaknesses, China is the more benign - at least in terms of its present role and place in the world. Even Amnesty International, which of course is fiercely critical of China's human rights record, now view the United States as a serious violator of human rights, even going so far as to suggest that they now "lead the way" in rolling back human rights.

The knee-jerk reaction of many is to accuse Philip of being "anti-American" and to accuse him of being a "CCP apologist" but I think he is right to point out that both countries have questionable human rights records at present, because by doing so he is calling into question an ideology that I and many others I know believe to be fundamentally flawed.

China and the West have a lot more in common than many like to acknowledge or feel comfortable with. Once again, I'll be elaborating on this in considerable detail when Sojourner and I make our email debates public on August 7th - but for now, let me just say that my polemic will be focussed on demonstrating empirically the similarities between China's jurisprudic forms and those of the West.

Who are these anonymous commentators above (and in the latter half of the previous post)? Do they belong to China-pol, or have they seen sufficient number of mails from the China-pol list?

I am not. So I do not criticize either side.

These birds are trying to degenerate your site into an 'angry-netizen' pond.

All I will say here is that Philip Cunningham has found a kindred spirit in Mark Anthony Jones. (Who, last I heard, does not exist, but never mind.)

Ahem... I'm sure my opinion will count for naught but...

Though I have not met Mr. 'C', I have read (ohmygod) a lot of the posts, his and commentators, on two specific subjects.

1.) Chinapol- My opinion. He's right. He was wrongly excluded. I believe it is backed by government. History (and political NGO newsletters) is written by the victor. No Mainland Chinese equals no local (note: I did not say informed) opinions about China's political scene. If you don't have ANY of that input, what's the point. It just becomes a newsletter full of conjecture, written, subscribed to, and read by a bunch of guys who come here once in a while to buy cheap DVD and score some cheap...ah...massages.

2.) Mr. "C" does seem, as Richard put it, to hold the USA to a higher standard than China, when speaking publicly.

I find, in particular, it could be a little offensive to some Western viewers, for Mr. "C" to slam the US government, while mimicking the 3 monkeys when it comes to China's internal political situation.

Having said that, Mr. "C" does in fact fulfill his destiny, and duty, as an American, by speaking his mind, AS he chooses, WHEN he chooses, WITH conviction.

You cannot condem him as anti-American, when he behaves as an American SHOULD, and CAN do, and when given half a chance, WILL do.

You may even want to resort to McCarthyism, by complaining that he is too "nice" to China, and the Chinese government's sensibilities. But, all American's know that road is the wrong one to get on. Glass houses...rocks...get the picture?

In the end, as gentlemen and gentlewomen, the only civil thing to do is agree or agree to disagree with Mr. "C". Or we can argue with him. But if you choose the latter, let us do it either in private email, or online with some sense of etiquette (like Richard and others), or even better... Invite the man for dinner or a nice brandy...That my friends, is the civilized way to have an argument...Especially after a a nice meal...

'Nuff said

A note from Jeremy Goldkorn:

I like the reconciliarity tone in the Admiral's comment above, but this thread has gone about as far as it can without degenerating into he-said-she-said, or namecalling, or even worse -- group hugs.

So it's time to shut it down before we all get boring.

However, I am going to give the last word to Philip Cunningham, as much as that will annoy some of you. I asked him to write some closing remarks to the debate; you can read them below.

What has this affair taught me?

Well, several points have been made by several people during this argument; I don't know if any of us have actually learned anything. Welcome to Web 2.0. All of us are Thomas Friedman now.

However, it is pleasing to note that there are stirrings of a real debate, in the bright light of the Internet, about the relationship between China and the U.S.A.. In case you hadn't noticed, those are the two countries that will probably decide our planet's fate in the next decade or two.

Here then, are the closing words to this debate.

CLOSING NOTE
By Philip J. Cunningham

I would like to thank every correspondent who joined the Chinapol discussion with an interest in examining the issue of how American exceptionalism colors perceptions of China, in this case the point of departure being the exclusionary policies of an American listserv of China specialists and China watchers known as Chinapol.

In an uncanny way, the tenor of the Danwei-hosted discussion, which ranged from thoughtful comment to the cacophonous cries of confirmed anti-communists mimics the problem vexing Chinapol.

As appears to be very much the case in large swaths of the US media today, the coordinated crowing of the national chauvinists and know-nothings tends to muddy, if not dominate the discourse and if and when anyone has the temerity to suggest, let's say, that on any one given issue China might possibly be in the right and America might possibly be in the wrong, the flames of a stubborn Cold War anti-communism flare up and burn up the thread.

I don't believe the handful of self-aggrandizing China-bashers on Chinapol and its small contingent of hard-core neo-cons represents the vast majority of Chinapolers any more than the quacking canards of the minuscule Peking Duck faction represent Danwei's diverse readership, but in both cases the conversation spoilers wait poised, ready to attack any one who deviates from their own grim worldview. This essentially makes sustained dialogue difficult if not impossible.

On the upside, the discussion about a heretofore secretive group helped bring attention to a hidden locus of power that helps shape American perceptions of China. Even in the cases where it generated more heat than light I think the conversation inched forward perceptibly.

I would like to thank the responsible and courageous individuals who identified themselves by name for addressing the difficult topic of this thread in a responsible, thoughtful and sustained manner.

I was initially happy to see Rick Baum respond, though his "point of fact" comment about no one quitting is not factual (I was copied on Rick Baum's terse correspondence with one professor who quit, it was that professor's email that I quoted in my earlier comment) and while
I never said Chinapol was a US government operation, Rick Baum had to move smoothly in intelligence circles as part of his White House advising job and thus perhaps he protests too loudly. I agree with him that many Chinapol members are critics of current US policy, I mean you'd have to be almost brain-dead not to be, but it just puzzles me as to why the "Chairman" continues to exclude consideration of such AS IT PERTAINS TO HUMAN RIGHTS AND CHINA POLICY.

As for the quacking of the Peking Duck faction, mired in an expired paradigm of Cold War belligerence, this tiny group of China-can-do-no-right commenters offered mostly snark and awe diversion, acting out in an amusingly predictable way the sort of identify crisis that comes with a paradigm shift as I alluded to in the opening comments.

What really scares the Cold Warriors to the core is any discussion which permits the contemplation of a possible parity between Chinese and Americans on any level whatsover. To paraphrase Orwell, part of the problem is that while all men and women are created equal, Americans are much more equal than others. This kind of thinking infects US foreign policy of course, but it also extends to the rules of engagement for the American listserv Chinapol, which despite the diverse China views and collective intelligence of its members, discourages true dialogue, not only because of the bullying of its nattering neo-cons but because Chinese need not apply.

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
laomo2010x80.jpg
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives