Goat Meat, Loose Women, and the Imperfect China Dialogue

Chinglish sign: "You're Polite People please wait here! Don't go until the Green light on!"

china/divide is all about the different ways that Chinese and foreigners perceive each other and the events and issues that contribute to these differing viewpoints. That the gap exists is undeniable, unsurprising, and a never-ending source of both frustration and entertainment.

It all starts with perception, which results from a process that begins with sensory data filtered through past experiences and culture and ultimately focused in our pea brains as an interpretation.

Google's China Angst

Google's China Angst

And we sure do perceive things differently, don’t we? Google’s recent announcement that they would no longer filter search results on Google.cn resulted in a flood of wildly differing opinions. Looking at the same set of facts, some people saw Google’s move as a brave, bold statement in support of Internet freedom, while others saw a foreign visitor attempting to flaunt the laws of their country.

When Chinese oil company CNOOC tried to buy some offshore assets of U.S. firm UNOCAL a few years ago, some people saw it as a straightforward commodities transaction, while others were sure it was an attempt to infiltrate the American energy sector by a sinister Communist enterprise.

History, culture and experience are wonderful things, but they do have a tendency to complicate cross-border interaction. Students, teachers, government officials, businesspeople, even bloggers constantly run afoul of cultural misperception.

Asking the Experts Consultants

Bookstores are full of tomes that purport to contain the secrets that will unlock another nation’s culture (and make you wealthy).

China Expert: When in China, hand over your business card with two hands and you will be treated like a local.

Foreigner handing business card with both hands.

Savvy Foreigner in China

Actually, no you won’t, but you should do it anyway. I tell my foreign clients to ignore the two-handed card gambit in favor of folding your card into an origami crane. Clients usually believe me since the practice seems vaguely Asian.

Western Expert: When traveling outside China, don’t let your female secretary open the door for you.

No one likes a sexist, and it’s certainly better advice than I give to my Chinese friends going overseas for the first time. I tell them that foreigners greet each other like canines by sniffing each other’s posterior. You should see the YouTube clips. It’s priceless.

So, aside from my own personal efforts to help, what is keeping us from bridging the China divide?

Stuff That Gets in the Way

Nationalism – One of my favorite topics of discussion. Most of us have an innate tendency to relate to our “group,” and when we are relating to foreigners, the nation state is the reference point.

We become rabid nationalists at the drop of a hat, or a beret or sombrero or yarmulke. Sporting events like the Olympics have us congregating in bars, shouting for some guy we’ve never heard of before to win a match in a sport we’ve never seen. I’m speaking of course of the Winter Olympics.

Nationalism rears its ugly head all the time, on trade disputes, immigration and nationality, foreign investment, product liability, the environment and the global economy. Many people are convinced that “My way is the right way,” so we get treated to endless discussions of “American Exceptionalism” and the “China Model.” Others, such as the Greek Model, have for unforeseen reasons dropped off the list of things to emulate.

The RED MENACE.

Days of Yore

History – When your modern historical period begins with the “100 Years of Humiliation,” it’s a good bet that foreign relations are going to be tough to wade through. Alternatively, if you’ve grown up learning that one is better off deceased than a proponent of Communism, then friendly relations with a country containing over a billion so-called Communists requires a change in attitude. The Cold War is over, but many Cold Warriors live on, as do their influence on public discourse and government policy.

Culture – When you visit my home in Beijing, you will be asked to take off your shoes, to refrain from stepping on the cats, and to partake in drinking a beverage made from hot water and leaves. Some of these things are culturally distinctive, others are a matter of personal taste.

Two thousand years ago, I would have invited guests to enjoy goat meat and loose women, the latter only if I had a sufficient number of daughters on hand. In other words, cultures differ and times change. Rigidity is the sure sign of a culture warrior and someone destined to be an international business failure.

That’s Fine, but Who Can I Blame?

When it comes to navigating cultural misunderstandings, there are two groups of knuckleheads that make the job difficult. First, there are the people who thrive on the misperceptions and benefit from friction. These include defense contractors, authors of books full of helpful business tips for overseas travelers, and government officials that have staked their reputations on being Cold Warriors, protectionists, or the tireless champions of certain disputed Chinese Western or coastal regions.

Kamp Kumbaya road sign.

Can't We all Just Get Along?

Second, there are those who fail to perceive the gap at all, gaily going about their business in a world they think is bound by universal norms. For these people, also called apologists, there are no real differences, just a failure to understand the other side.

Assholes and apologists, both groups make communication difficult. Perhaps the best way is not to bridge the China gap at all, but rather to acknowledge its presence, understand it as much as possible, and tread carefully on either side.

Thanks for visiting china/divide. Feel free to come back any time, partake of some goat meat and loose women, and tell us what you think about China and the outside world.



48 Comments

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  1. Nice post, Stan! Everyone else, we welcome your comments (note that your first comment will have to be approved by a moderator before it appears on the site, but after that, it’s smooth (moderation-free) sailing.

  2. Expert,doctor, harmonised…
    This is such a fairytale land. ~ ~

    • I am keeping this comment only because (a) this is a fairytale land and (b) expert doctor describes us perfectly.

      Harmonized, though? I hope not…

  3. “…and tread carefully on either side.”

    Up to a point. There are times, however, when neither side should be ‘treading on eggshells, but should rather call something for what it is.

    Certain actions or opinions directed at or perpetrated by China are in need of a smack down. Most issues are nuanced enough to justify debate; but not all.

    • Josh

      Nice post and I’m glad we have a voting system here. That’s one thing that made me a bit disappointed when it was taken away at Chinasmack. And I think it works a bit better than your stars, Custer, even though they’re not there anymore.

    • stuart! Welcome to china/divide. Hope you enjoy it.

      Just to push back, though, I think the vast majority of things you argue as not justifying debate actually do. Black and white perspectives are almost always a product of the observer, not of the subject itself. Respectfully, this has always been a (heh) divide between you and I, where you insist there’s some objective morality to guide us, and I can’t help but recognize when others don’t subscribe to that objective morality of your’s, and find nothing unreasonable about it.

      • Well, I can see from the responses to post #1 that there will be some vibrant discussion here. Good!

        “Black and white perspectives are almost always a product of the observer, not of the subject itself.”

        I can agree with that, but I also think that there are moral absolutes. For example, locking up Liu Xiaobo for 11 years for articulating common sense is just wrong. End of. Sure, it can be discussed, but if ‘bridging the divide’ means agreeing that locking him up for only five years is alright, then I refuse to step into the grey void.

  4. While I agree with foundinchina above in that some ideas (on both sides) are just dumb and need a bullet put in them; I like the idea that you’re not attempting to be yet another “bridge” across the divide, but rather observers of the divide itself.

    Great first post Stan — looking forward to the new blog and commentary from you guys.

    • But sharing what we observe could be bridging in some way as well, Ryan. Is your hair still long and glorious?

      • Just cut it a couple days ago. But it was glorious! I teared a little as the hairdresser reached for his scissors and gave me one last “are you sure?” look.

  5. Something rubs me the wrong way about the whole premise of this blog.

    I see through this post and through launch posts at CNReviews and ChinaGeeks that the ambitious goal here is to rise above the stream of misinformation. Obviously.

    However, I can’t help but think there is something arrogant about believing oneself to truly somehow be above the roiling currents and tempests that is the world of “China dialogue.”

    Using the phrase “assholes and apologists” as you use in your last paragraph really is soaked with this perhaps unjustified self-assurance that you indeed are not an asshole or an apologist. I mean, seriously, who makes that judgment call? Do the people who you consider to be assholes and apologists think themselves as assholes or apologists? Probably not. Then, therefore, does the fact that the founders of this blog apparently consider themselves to be in some sort of separate intellectual category verify that they are indeed not assholes or apologists? I guess the cliche phrase is, who died and made you king?

    I, for one, put on my asshole face, my apologist face, or both, when I am participating in a real life or online discussion, when I feel like the context merits it. I believe that no rhetorical or tempermental stance – be it being a polemical asshole or being a “kumbayah” lovey-dovey “lets understand the viewpoints!” peacemaker – is the magical panacea. I anticipate stumbling in the future of this blog because just as being a 50-cent prick isn’t going to work in all situations neither will this approach.

    I find something naive, frankly, about this wholesale rejection of the so-called “asshole/apologist” approach and this extreme self-confidence (from where does this come) that you carry credentials so removed from “those assholes and apologists” that you can make an entire blog on that premise. I see a section in the above post that lampoons the “so-called China experts,” and frankly I agree with that poignant criticism, but if their fault is to convince readers that they have some sort of monopoly on the “real China” by using a specific tone, ideology, or rhetorical approach, I have no idea how the selling point of this blog, which has been trumpeted at its debut, is any different.

    • It rubs you the wrong way because, like us, some part of you resists the notion that you might not have the monopoly on truth and reason.

      And just as you express your resistance with your comment, we express our own, to what we see and read. Only difference is that we do so with a blog post.

      So we’re not so different, you and us. It is indeed a certain arrogance — or, to put it nicely, a certain extreme self-confidence — to be so secure in one’s interpretation and perspectives as to share it with others. But if expression itself is damnable for arrogance and extreme self-confidence, I think we can be forgiven for it.

      No one died and made us king. We just made ourselves kings of our own little artificial kingdom. Some will like the climate here (and our low tax rates) but not everyone. That’s okay. We will, often, be seen as assholes and apologists by others and, as you correctly defend, we’ll do so when we feel the context merits it. That we reserve the right to not think of ourselves as such just as others do is stating a known truth of life.

      We’re not going to satisfy everyone. I don’t think we aim to. Readers themselves will decide what value we bring to them. For the moment, we’re seated around a patio table, smoking pipes, stroking our beards, and expounding. We’re welcoming people to the table, welcoming you to judge us on the merits of our ideas and arguments just as we’re certainly going to judge your’s.

      Thanks for the comment. Hope you enjoy it here, even if it might be in a masochistic way.

      • Great blog! I’ll be adding this to mine if you guys don’t mind.

        I agree with the post and seems like a fair review of the dialog landscape at certain popular sites. While no one can completely clean themselves of bias from their past experiences and influences, awareness and disclosure of biases is probably the best way to get around it in public discussion.

      • Kai, you may think your being quite clever turning my argument on its head so to speak and pointing out that I belong to that “crusade against irrationality” mindset that you three are ostensibly enshrining here. But that’s just underscoring my point. There is nothing knew about claiming to speak from a “middle ground” on political, cultural, and social issues on China. First of all, this is just fancy icing on the same underlying axiom that all people writing, blogging, or working in China start with vis-a-vis their own views – that they have some semblance of “rightness” to them. The 50 cent party and the DC activists are starting from the exact same premises you are.

        Secondly, everyone is *already* doing this. Richard at the Peking Duck, as illustrated through the corpus of is work, is ascribing to your “policy” word for word. The good folks at Fools Mountain are ascribing to your policy. Word for word. Kaiser Kuo has been giving speeches about this kind of approach for months now. And, to top it all off, all *three* of you have already been doing this. Yep, you all are already on my RSS feed. All three of you have already been writing with this view in mind. What separates china/divide you from CNReview you, or from Richard or the Fool’s Mountains folks, or whatever, is this self-congratulatory attitude you have towards this neutral ground “objective” “let’s-take-a-step” back viewpoint that apparently seems groundbreaking. I mean, will you actually read what you’re writing here? “Three incredibly awesome guys.” And yes, before you start gleefully flinging accusations that I don’t somehow get satire, or a tongue-in-cheek tone, sheathe your glee-swords. I get it. I get it in the eye-rolling cliche way, because being satirically self-denigrating can be so overdone that it overthrows its purpose and reveals that, actually, in fact, you DO think you are three incredibly awesome guys which is why you are starting this blog in the first place. You’ve got Custer making the first comment on how awesome this post is (and I think that post honestly isn’t tongue in cheek) even though frankly it’s disingenuous and it’s not saying anything new. You’ve got you on CNReviews making a flashy exit, actually *talking* to your imaginary debate partners (actually yourself) using italics. As much as you can accuse me of not getting an ironic tone, this is a very self-congratulatory project, no doubt.

        Now to say I’m not raising these accusations because I’m not a grumpy person would be wrong, because I’m a really grumpy person. But I’m also raising these accusations because the mindset from which fifty-cents “apologist” rants, or half-baked “get to know China” books or articles, or cliche yet self-assured newspaper articles by in-and-out journalists is entirely predicated on this self-congratulatory and oftentimes delusional perception that they have some sort of unique “eye” on China that no one else has. Granted, anyone writing on China has this “weakness” so to speak – including myself, and all the bloggers I mentioned aboved. We obviously wouldn’t be writing about China if we didn’t think we had some sort of unique perspective on it. However, you’re the only ones that are celebrating now. I don’t see what good comes out of that, other than feeling good about yourself.

        • yangrouchuan

          Richard at Peking Duck is more of a “bridge builder” and panda hugger who used his blog to self-promote as a “china hand(job)” and “king of nuanced concensus building”. And backed up by a little snot named Lisa, who could see no wrong in the CCP’s/PSBs/PLAs actions.

          Time will tell if this is stays a discussion forum or degrades into another ” I lived in China for __ years and am truly nuanced, everyone does it, blah blah” site as well as one infected by the dirty little fenqing like Hongxing and BBC1

          • Oh, yangrouchuan. So unnecessarily uncouth, yet capable of delivering such jewels of insight every now and again.

            While I personally admire Richard’s brand of blogging, I have to agree with your characterization of “that” (or perhaps “this”?) corner of the Sinosphere. The “I’m here, so I *know* China” style of contrarian writing, consciously (as we can see in this introductory post alone) built in contrast to a caricatured strawmen of “those other people who don’t get it [like us]” has actually morphed into a *brand.* I think there’s a blithe unawareness how self-supporting this project is – everyone’s linking to each other (and now teaming up on superblogs) and as a result have, I think, an inflated impression of the power of their own observations. I mean, look who’s linking and commenting here? They’re all members of a large yet compact and tightly-knit network of blogs who, though diverse in writing, subscribe to this superiority-complex addled “I know China” view on things.

            Yangrouchuan, I think, is also quite accurate, despite his vitriol, on his prediction about the coming infestation. I join him with probably 95% certainty that in spite of the noble mission statement of this blog it’ll quite rapidly be infested and then dominated by individuals with extreme viewpoints. I already see the extremely untasteful decision to install a voting system on the comments section. Despite protestations of being “middlenuts” the owners of the blog seem to be unaware that by installing a “voting system” on the only outlet of discussion on this site they are giving the masses a tool to drown out particular viewpoints and eventually monopolize the discussion under the aegis of one particular school of thought. Why not let comments stand on their own merit, and delete the most outrageous ones?

        • Porfiry: You may want to turn your sense of humor’s sensitivity up a bit. The stuff in the bio, and in our posts on our own blogs, is obviously tongue-in-cheek.

          We are celebrating, yes; what we’re celebrating is culmination of months of work behind the scenes, and the hopeful prospect of running a successful blog here that people may get something out of. You may not think that’s worth celebrating, but you weren’t privy to any of that work.

          In conclusion, lighten up and laugh a little bit, buddy, geez…

          • Obviously I know that the biographies are “obviously” tongue and cheek. You’re missing the point. Nor am I faulting you for celebrating whatever work went into making or planning the blog. Celebrate away. I’m faulting you for celebrating the hackneyed theme of the blog which isn’t new, which everyone is abiding by within their own mind anyway (including all three of you, before you made this blog), and which is useless in enshrining unless your deliberately trying to draw attention to the superiority of your approach, which frankly defeats the purpose of trying to create an alternative to “assholes and apologists.”

            The difference between ChinaGeeks Custer and china/divide Custer, even though the content your producing I’m assuming will be quite similar, is that at ChinaGeeks C. Custer was saying “Hey, I’m C. Custer, here’s my blog, you can check out my ideas here” whereas the theme of this blog, no matter how much you wrap it in contrived and head-scratching “tongue-in-cheekness” is “We three magi are fed up with how wrong people (e.g. everyone except us) tend to be so we’re going to spotlight how right our approach is. Follow us to the baby Jesus that is true China!” But since everyone who writes on the internet about China is writing because they think exactly that, the premise is unoriginal.

            I love the “aw shucks” call for me to “lighten up” and the (rather awkwardly employed) tone of “irony” of the about page, but seriously, if we’re all supposed to by golly gee ‘lighten up’ then how is this supposed to be a serious blog providing quote “insights” on political and social aspects on China? You guys open the blog claiming to provide just that – including all these lovey dovey buzzwords like “discussion” and “dialogue.” I fault you on your approach, because as far as I’m concerned approach is half the battle when it comes to seperating the wheat from the chaff on China issues. And then you give me this “aw shucks buddy lighten up” spiel. Either this is a serious blog that adheres to some principles and can put up with some anonymous internet hack like myself raining on your opening day parade, or this is just a “good ole boys club” meant to be frequented by a pre-existing circle of “East Coast China Buddies” who share the same ideas and will coalesce around certain viewpoints and this god-forsaken comment system to post-haste eject people with unsavory views such as myself. Which sort of violates the whole point of the blog.

            The very fact that I’m getting this kind of response to my yes, immediate criticism really *does* seem to verify my hunch that this blog is a self-indulgent exercise; I mean, is it meaningful or unbiased or thought-provoking “discussion” only as long as everyone shares the same “Golly jeepers” tongue in cheek attitude that we’re sprinkling all over posts, about pages, and linking articles?

          • Case in point, the comment system. It’s what, day three of your blog and just because I, some anonymous internet user, have issues with the grandiose way you’re describing the purpose of this blog, I am already getting 被和谐’ed by the even more anonymous comment rating systems. Two negative votes, and my comments disappear.

            While I’ll certainly be the first to admit that my aggressive challenges to the blog may indeed be offensive specifically to the pride or the aesthetic sensibilities of certain users or administrators, I’m going to argue that I haven’t quite crossed the “uncivil brute” line quite just yet. That being said I think I’m not wrong in saying that the voting system is *already* being used to eject certain viewpoints rather than to democratically shift out spam posts or valueless flames.

            So again, I think it’s a little bunk. A blog created entirely on these neutral, middle-ground values and a love of discussion and right out of the gate someone who happens to disagree with the authors of the webpage is already being silenced proactively by some faceless clique. Case in point. I guess what I’m doing here is challenging the three of you to actually think about what actuating your stated values actually entails. I hope the irony that the guy who is doing that is already being silenced on like, day two, is readily apparent.

        • Porfiriy, I’m amused with you railing against the very things you yourself encapsulate in your comments so far, and by the contradictions inherent in your own behavior that you clearly seem oblivious to. You’re whole crusade to denigrate us for being unoriginal is ultimately misguided, spun from a conclusion you jumped to based on careless presumptions, even perhaps solely for the sake of beating a straw man.

          I really hope you don’t think your observations and insights here mark you as being any more original, meaningful, unbiased, or thought-provoking than those you assail. As it should be abundantly apparent already, what you do you do for self-validation, just like us. It isn’t about being original, it’s about doing what we feel we need or desire to do.

          You may be satisfied with your self-indulgent “grumpy person” persona justifying your behavior here (and elsewhere), but it doesn’t quite do it for me. Nonetheless, we (and I do mean “we”) do appreciate you commenting here instead of your own blog, adding to our comments, our traffic, and spurring discussion. It’s exactly what we want. Accomplishing this makes us feel good about ourselves.

          Onto more mundane matters, the reason your comment was hidden after it received two negative votes is because I had forgotten to increase the threshold when launching the website. That oversight has been taken care of now. Stuffing votes will not be tolerated. That said, I likewise find it amusing that you think a website’s beneficiaries are limited to, even dominated by, those who comment. Everyone who shares an opinion carries a measure of self-importance, but this is you taking it to a self-delusional absurdity.

          And seriously, are you developing a persecution complex already? Wow.

          • Come on Kai, a degree from Berkeley right? I mean, look at this:

            “the contradictions inherent in your own behavior that you clearly seem oblivious to. You’re whole crusade to denigrate us for being unoriginal is ultimately misguided, spun from a conclusion you jumped to based on careless presumptions, even perhaps solely for the sake of beating a straw man.”

            This isn’t saying anything, Kai. This is just making a bunch of vague statements and isn’t addressing anything I can say. Look, I can do it too.

            Kai has a funny looking mom, red herring, Oediepean complex, Thomas the Tank Engine.

            You can do better than that, though I guess maybe that is how they teach you to deal with criticism up at Berkeley.

            I’ve made several observations about your approach to this new site which you’ve opened with much pomp and fanfare; nevertheless, not only do you ignore them but also in *ignoring* them you’re verifying the very concerns that I address, namely, an overinflated sense of self-worth regarding the ability to comment on China, and, more importantly, a hypocritical and ultimately skeletal commitment to the idea of dialog. Is that how it is, Kai? You’re all for dialog and discussion until someone attacks the premises your starting from, and then you retreat to the vague pronouncements I’ve ridiculed above? I hate to be so critical – you probably learned this as “ad hominem” in your philosophy 101 class – but that’s the reputation you’ve staked out at CNReviews, a reputation you facetiously indulge in – Kai Pan, he can make long rambling rants and ripostes cloaked in fancy “I studied humanities” wording, and such blinding science is praised by others, but when someone bothers to mount a sustained attack against the Kai Pan (i.e., the people you encapsulated in italics in your post at CNReviews!) you resort to dismissive and ambiguousness. That’s my entire point. That’s been my whole freaking point. The commitment you guys are trumpeting to this idealistic and dreamy concept of dialog and discussion is hollow, and it’s hollow specifically because this is about tributing to oneself, not engaging in discussion. Your posts are just confirming that, come on now.

            “It isn’t about being original, it’s about doing what we feel we need or desire to do.”

            As I’ve said several times, everyone is doing what they feel or need or desire to do. And as I mentioned, the content of your (the three of you) posts isn’t going to be significantly different from when you were posting on your separate blogs. What’s *different* know is this naseauting worship of “doing what we desire to do” and dressing it up so that rather than saying it’s what you “desire to do” it’s actually “the authoritative,” middlenuts!, authentic, accurate, etc. etc. view on China. As I’ve said, there’s the Kai Pan on CNReviews who’s goal was, I’m Kai Pan, here are my ideas, and that is *totally cool* and it’s honest, too. And there’s the Kai Pan on china/divide whose approach, and I’m not making this up, is “When our powers combine, I am Captain Planet.”

            That being said, change your freakin’ about page. This is not some China bible that, with the power of some magic medallian, can cut through all the “assholes and apologists” and their false prophesy to reveal the truth; this is Stan Abrams, Charles Custer, and Kai Pan saying what, quote, “we need or desire.” You, me, all of us are assholes, apologists, we’re all snake oil salesmen and the *real* idea is that we all put our ideas out there and the ones that are better, are better, and that’s what the three of you were already doing before you made this temple to self.

            “And seriously, are you developing a persecution complex already? Wow.”

            Complex? Kai, let’s approach this logically. Berkleyean if you will. Who’s the only person who’s consistently been holding a contrarian view in the comments? Me. Where is the only place that dialog can be conducted in a blog that supposedly is interested in honest dialog? The comments section. How good are Porfiriy’s powers of telepathy? Bad, and thus forgive him for not knowing what the “negative votes threshold” was (you should actually thank me for bringing this oversight to your attention!). And what am I make to the actually, observable, objective fact that my votes were gradually being cloaked? That’s not a complex, Kai.

            Kai, I think you’re an intelligent person, and you actually have a reputation for making long long posts, and, I’ll give you this, an occasional valuable insight. You’ve just opened a blog and some anonymous guy decides to assault the premise right away. Dialog is ostensibly an important value in this blog. Are you actually going to address what I’m saying, or are you going to skittishly and shyly dismiss what the guy is saying with fancy pants terms like “self-delusional absurdity” which, in spite of how cool that sounds, actually isn’t saying anything?

          • Basically the thrust of what I’m saying is, you open a blog, you plant a giant sign on it that says:

            “china/divide features social and political commentary relating to modern China. We seek to go beyond knee-jerk stereotypes, nationalism, and prejudice to engage in genuine discussions of contemporary issues, both in our writing and together with our commenters.”

            Then you have a commenter come in and sincerely (I am being sincere here) voice his concerns and criticisms from some of the attitudes and approaches being demonstrated already in the writing and I get:

            1. Silence from Abrams
            2. Golly jee lighten up shuksterism from Custer
            3. and harumphy academic sounding but ultimately evasive exhalations from Kai

            I mean, it’s nervousness, it’s skittishness, it’s kicking at the dust with your shoes, it’s insecure, and if that, and I point to the mission statement, is what you’re operating on, where’s the patience? Where’s the commitment to dialog? Where’s the discourse-building-with-our-commenters? I think it’s fair to say that though I am being really critical and sometimes abrasive, I’m making observations, backing them up, and I’m not quite yet “trolling” or “flaming.” The mission statement and the collective response to your first challenger if you will doesn’t line up. There will be more like me in a blog where, basically, you’re painting a giant target as above, and I’m telling you, you either are going to stuck to your guns and engage in a dialog with us, or through dismissive attitudes and a bunk voting system you’re going to very conveniently drive away all the people you’re supposed to be having your coffee-table talk with.

          • Teacher in C

            End of second day, best comments section ever.
            *grabs popcorn*
            I ain’t goin nowhere till this here issue is resolved.

          • Jones

            I haven’t read anything more hilarious in a long time. Don’t stop.

          • Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal. Tip your waitress.

      • Teacher in C

        Nice original post, spot-on comment by Porfiry, and excellent defense by Kai – this is going to be good!

        And!! Perhaps most importantly of all, two posts by Kai that do not exceed 5,000 words ;)

  6. so… does this mean that you are all taking off your training bras (i.e. ditching your other blogs where you kept a bit of control), and are going full monty?

    Either way, seems that this is going to be a blog with some edge.. or shaved ice of the collective shoulders of its authors.. that is worth witnessing.

  7. @Porfiry
    Does it strike you that if you wrote as much on your own blog, rather than on a new and interesting one, yours wouldn’t be in constant hiatus?
    To all at China/divide – I came here on advice from Dan at China Law Blog and I can see why he has high expectations: ‘any blog combining these three really thoughtful people will be superb’.

    • Ha. Ha. Ha.

      First of all, I’d assume that a uk VISA lawyer would be the first person to know not to make an accusation against someone without giving full consideration of the circumstances surrounding that decision. You have no idea why I’m on hiatus. You have no idea what broke, who died, what funds fell through, etc. Yet apparently people entrust you to understand their circumstantial context and arrange visas for them.

      Second, I’d guess someone who’s a lawyer would also understand the logical fallacy of attacking someone’s observations by going beyond the observation itself to whatever behind and irrelevant to it.

      But, honestly, I think sadly you don’t have to exactly be a genius to get a law degree, nowadays. :D

      Oh, and Kai, that was me putting on my asshole hat when the context demanded it. ;D

  8. Kyle

    Looks great.

    I’m curious to see what real suggestions can be put forth for reconciling / understanding the cultural rift that exists. For me, it all starts with awareness, and that seems to be the aim here.

    In America, we subscribe to the “Everyone should speak English” philosophy (i.e. be American). Out here, though, foreigners are incapable of understanding anything Chinese because we’re “not Chinese” (i.e. we [the Chinese] are better than you [silly imperialists] because we’re so modest).

    Looking forward to future articles.

  9. Nice!

    I’m excited about the premise of the blog and all the people involved, although I’m not sure how it can more Hearsay than Hearsay, more Geeks than Geeks, and more Kai than Kai! But I’m sure that these 3 great tastes in 1 will provide for an interesting and unique new blend in the China blogosphere. I’m adding this to my RSS reader NOW!

    I think the “assholes and apologists” framework leave out the vast majority of people who are just clueless and inwardly looking. Is this because of slothful self-centerness, or willful disregard of the Other? Unfortunately, in this way, I think there are no countries more similar than the US and China, in our own inwardly-looking kingdom of own creation. And the coming years may see a China even more inwardly looking…

    Congrats on the launch, and I look forward to conversation on the Divide.

  10. Jones

    On the topic of cultural sensitivity: Even the cultured and culture sensitive types have a hard time knowing when a person should use their own culture and when to follow the other’s culture.

    In China, I did my best to follow the Chinese culture as much as I could or knew how. But in places like the US, where there’s been a lot of different cultural influences since the very beginning, how do you decide?

    For example, a Chinese businessman, with not much experience with real American culture (except for the random stuff he knows from movies) comes to the US to make a deal with an American company. The Americans he meets with aren’t the most educated or experienced on Chinese culture. When they meet, there’s cultural misunderstandings and both parties get upset. While, in an ideal world, both parties would have done their best to learn the culture of the others, but in a realistic world this isn’t realistically expected). Which group would be the most to blame? The Chinese businessman for not studying up on the American culture or the American businessman for not accommodating his guest by partaking in his own culture?

    Or, to put it more personally, let’s say I’m in my apartment in China and a friend brings Chinese friends I have never met. I end up being American in my own home and something somehow, via cultural misunderstanding, upsets them. Who’d be to blame?

    • Who’s to blame for cultural misunderstanding? No perfect answer here, but I always like to blame the person who gets pissed off.

      Sure, it’d be great if everyone took the time to learn about other cultures, but that’s not realistic. So we should be cool and accept it when people act differently. When behavior is completely unacceptable, instead of shouting at the person, calmly explain what the problem is and politely ask them to refrain from acting that way.

      The worst kind of people, IMHO, are the arrogant ones who think everyone should act as they do.

      • Jones

        I guess I shouldn’t have said that they got upset or angry, but just felt uncomfortable. I think that’s a more common reaction. I meant to leave ignorant, arrogant people out of the equation.

        If the people aren’t really knowledgeable on the cultural differences, how are they to know when they are asking a person to refrain from something that is cultural or just outright rudeness? I guess the real question is, which would have more right to ask the other to refrain from their cultural habits?

        • Now we’re getting into the realm of just being nice and using common sense, right? These things can go either way, often depending on your personal tastes. Imperfect analogy, perhaps, but it’s not really any different from asking someone not to smoke if you feel strongly about it. And if the request crosses a cultural boundary, hopefully the other person will point it out in a polite manner as well.

  11. Porfiriy,

    Apologies if my work schedule interfered with your frequent, albeit polite, ranting. Clients take priority over blogging, as it should be, and I’ve been unable to keep up with the voluminous flow of comments.

    I find it difficult to engage in this sort of non-topical dialog when I could be using my time in a more productive fashion. You obviously feel quite passionate about this, which is great, but I’m having a hard time overcoming my apathy.

    If you want to discuss something substantive, that’s excellent. However, if you seriously want to discuss the tone of a blog that is two days old, I’m going to have to bow out of that conversation.

    • That’s the problem Stan. You have a potent weapon here. You make a blog all about dialog, but you hold in reserve a giant stamp that says “irrelevant” or “insubstantial,” that conveniently dismisses not only stuff that’s irrelevant or insubstantial, but stuff you don’t like.

      And again, that’s fine. People do that. It just seems that the values you’re mentioning in the about page and in the multiple ways this blog was introduces seems to go against that.

      • 1. “potent weapon” — absurd, that’s taking all this way too seriously. Perhaps when I was much younger (20 years ago?) I would have gotten more excited about all this. It’s just a blog, anyone can get one and do whatever they want with it.

        2. Dialog – some clarification here. Sure, with comments, this blog encourages dialog with and between readers. But my personal #1 goal in writing here is to provide commentary on “the China dialog,” which I personally find interesting, as opposed to being the host of a BBS.

        3. Values – shit, man, I don’t really ascribe to too many value judgments aside from asking for basic civility. At the end of the day, I try to be gracious and polite when possible, but I also have strong opinions and a limited amount of time to express them. That’s really all the blog is for.

        I think I’m all tapped out with this.

        • Well, awesome! If I can get the other two guys then to admit that the entire themes and premises that this blog claimed with fanfare and jubilee at its opening celebrations across the internet are all just a load of soft, mushy elephant dung, then I’ll shut up!

  12. Ethan

    Porfiriy, what’s the deal man? Three dudes want to write a blog, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. As for your argument that there’s lots of other blogs, just because Chevy is making a perfectly competent pickup doesn’t mean Ford should stay out of the market.

    That’s the nature of blogs man, there’s millions of them, and about 90% are worthless, but the good ones will eventually float to the top. I think you have done a good enough job stating your displeasure on why this blog shouldn’t exist, there’s millions more, go get them tiger, time’s short!

    Relax man.

    • Hey Ethan.

      I don’t want this blog not to exist! Dear me. I just don’t like the approach. That’s all. The content made by these three gentlement is great. I eat it up. But my stomach is roiling a little bit because this time the content has way too high icing to cake ratio. That’s all.

      And I also disagree about good stuff rising to the top, man. After all, TONS of people like Glenn Beck. ;D

  13. Porfiriy, you’ve now made something like eight comments repeating the same thing. We get it. You dislike the notion of us thinking and consciously promoting that we have something worth sharing. It makes you angry that we are so arrogant, building this temple to ourselves and our self-delusions. We’re idolaters. Woe is us.

    Here’s the thing though: You’re confusing us disagreeing with you as us not addressing you. To me (obviously not to yourself), it seems odd that you persist in seeking our validation when you do such a good job of validating your own opinion. The irony that you’ve been criticizing us precisely for this self-validation remains lost on you.

    Let me also give you an example of you encapsulating what you rail against, of the contradictions inherent in your behavior:

    Second, I’d guess someone who’s a lawyer would also understand the logical fallacy of attacking someone’s observations by going beyond the observation itself to whatever behind and irrelevant to it.

    Come on Kai, a degree from Berkeley right?

    That’s just one of them, with regards to me. Way to go beyond my observation of — and disagreement with — your behavior to take a swipe at my educational background. I’m sure my alma mater is to be blamed for us not seeing eye to eye on things.

    There’s expressing a contrarian opinion, and then there’s a point where repeatedly doing so, on the same issue hoping the other party will submit to your harassment, becomes “trolling”. That’s not being civil. You’ve made your point, others like myself just don’t accept it. Let your point stand on its own merits without you spamming it repeatedly. Otherwise, please use your own blog to repeat it until you are satisfied.

    • Oh, Kai. I keep on reading what you have to say and always can’t help but think that it’s all very… well, cute is the only adjective that comes to mind.

      Contrary to your protestations, if you find me repeating myself, it’s actually because, no, you don’t get it. This is more than merely some ad-hominem attack against praise of self. It’s far deeper than that – don’t lose sight of what started this; a response of mine particularly to a characterization of a sector of China commenters who are “assholes and apologists” and the implication that you three are somehow beyond that. Why make this blog? Because you three say you have something special to offer through your perspective. I’m making a loud, and frankly clear case, that’s being humorously validated by all three of you, that as long as your approach is clouded by a needy, entitled need for verification (see: all the comments along the lines of “Great post!” “Wow, awesome!” “I’m holding my breath in anticipation!) and furthermore restricted by an over-willingness to dismiss dissenting opinions, then it’s hypocrisy. You can’t build a good blog on hypocrisy. However, hypocrisy is a great foundation for self-worship. I mean, if I get beaned by Abrams for critiquing a “two day old blog” why aren’t you rushing to choke down all the immediate praise you’re getting? Where’s the, “Hey, slow down guys, we haven’t even written anything yet!” No, you scurry to stifle the skepticism any way you can (unwarrented dismissal, silence, red herrings, what have you) but certainly take the time to bask in the praise.

      “You’re confusing us disagreeing with you as us not addressing you.”

      Kai, there isn’t necessarily a a priori distinction between these two. You’re disagreeing with me, and you’re not addressing me. It’s one thing to disagree, then refute. it’s another thing to disagree, then go “baaaw.” All three of you are cutely fabricating these excuses to ignore me “clients first!” “I’m too apathetic!” “Get a sense of humor!” “Self-indulging perfucntory Kantian postmodern whatchamacallit” but all these skims smoothly past the fact that all these tactics are going directly against the celebrated ethos of your freakin’ blog.

      “That’s just one of them, with regards to me. Way to go beyond my observation of — and disagreement with — your behavior to take a swipe at my educational background. I’m sure my alma mater is to be blamed for us not seeing eye to eye on things.”

      You know, even through the internet you can taste the tangible ooze that comes out when someone thinks they’ve done something clever. Mmmm, tasty. But sorry Kai. I didn’t go *beyond* your observations to jab at your background, I *overthrew* your observations then took a jab at your background. There’s a difference. You’ve *given* me a reason to laugh at the whole Berkeley thing, whereas “UK Visa Lawyer” was not. After all, the swipe would make more sense if you knew where *I* studied at, as it was there I got the requisite and good-spirited disdain for the golden bears, but since I’m not into self-aggrandizement and since I tend to cover an area that tends to get your ass banned from China (see this article) I’m cruising with my anonymous shades on. But that’s moot – wasn’t there someone important on this blog that sort of patronized me about having a sense of humor? You’re a berkeley grad! You’re going to get crap for it just like I always get crap about my school. And if you don’t like it, don’t put it on the internet. “Lighten up” a wise man said in this discussion. Hyuk hyuk hyuk.

      I like how your trying – in a very contrived fashion – to characterize my discussion as “trolling through repeating” (Again, in violation of the spirit of the blog! Trying to nudge someone out through the “troll” rubric because they’re making you squirm instead of giving you the praise you wanted!), but, I’m afraid that’s not so. I make a reply to whatever the previous person said to me, and I do a pretty thorough job of pointing out what’s wrong with their reasoning. You, however, ignore what I’m saying and have to stumble through the cookie-cutter riposte “vocabulary” that you were armed at. Probably at Berkeley. ;D Hah! You know I love you guys.

  14. babygrand

    It’s wonderful to see a new site that is premised on going beyond “stereotypes, nationalism, and prejudice to engage in genuine discussion…”and I anticipate to see a lot of interesting discussions on a wide-range of topics.

    My enthusiasm was somehow halted towards the end of post when I saw Stan’s greeting of “Feel free to…partake of some goat meat and loose women…”. I’m not sure if this is the best imagery you want to present in the launching post of a blog that herald itself to be free of stereotypes and prejudice. To quote what you had wrote in the post above “no one likes a sexist”.

    Otherwise, really enjoyed this article, got a chuckle w/ the hat/sombrero/yarmulke analogy.

  15. I have to be honest, whilst I don’t really understand Porifiy’s objections (which seems to be that you guys think you’re right, but castigate other people who also think they’re right, for thinking they’re right), this post sets a rather unpleasant passive-aggressive tone.

Continuing the Discussion