“US Marines: the few, the proud, the 太牛逼了!”

They don’t want me to tell you this, but some time ago the US military hired a team of 90s generation Chinese students from Tsinghua University to produce a batch of recruitment commercials for the US Marine Corps.  So far, the commercials have been a tremendous success, and the Corps’ 2009 recruitment numbers are off the charts.   It is no exaggeration to say that the relationship between Chinese teens and American military men is at an all time high.

I know all of this because I’m the world’s premiere expert on the Chinese-Teen-US-Military-Marketing-Complex (CUMMCom).  The existence of the complex is, admittedly, still only a theory, but in 1960 Eisenhower clearly warned the American people about it’s existence, saying “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”  If you’re having trouble seeing it, let me help you.

It should be obvious to some of you (right???!?!), but, I’m probably moving too fast for most of you, and I don’t want anyone’s head to prematurely explode.  So, let’s take a few steps back.



And now, being far enough removed from the fray, lets get serious.

CUMMCom is, of course, something I made up, but even though it’s an idea that has one foot squarely in Glenn Beck’s studio, the thought of Chinese student’s writing screenplays for the US Military’s commercials is not far fetched.  Both Chinese students and the US Military have become exceedingly good at propaganda, and at times they seem to be using the same playbook. I’ll draw on a few of my real life experiences to support this assertion.

Between January 2009 and February 2010 I edited applications for Chinese high-school students aspiring to enroll into American universities.  In total I edited somewhere around 300 essays. During the same period I watched an estimated 3500 hours of ESPN programming, which wouldn’t be terribly important if it wasn’t for the fact that this roughly translates into 350 hours of US Marine Core commercials.1

At 2am, on Friday, January 22nd, 2010,  I unexpectedly found myself in a situation where I was both editing essays and watching ESPN.  I had just come back home from a sneak preview screening of The Tooth Fairy, opened my email, and turned on SportsCenter.2  My head was still reeling from Dwayne Johnson’s clutch performance, and I was unconsciously humming the Star Wars inspired theme song from the new, two-and-a-half-minute National Guard ‘movie preview’ advertisement (see below).  On my laptop, an email from my boss at the College Prep company was marked ‘urgent’.  A Chinese student, someone called Bao Dixin, had sent along an essay packet that needed to be finished by the morning. I had no choice but to edit it now, because if I was late with this essay the boss would give future work to someone else, resulting in less money for me.

Bao Dixin’s packet included a personal statement and a few short answer responses. I decide to start with the short response he wrote for an Ohio State University prompt, “What is the best advice you have ever received? Describe how it has helped you and how you have used it.”  His actual essay, with some parts removed removed for brevity:

I have watched ”Forrest Gump” dozens of times, but I never get tired of it. Perhaps, however, it will still come as a bit of a surprise that Gump is the person I admire most….

…In my sophomore year I came up with the idea of establishing a student association that would  think of ways to individualize uniforms for each grade…

…After developing this idea, I came to the teacher in charge for student activity support. However, after listening to my thoughts, he told me, in an assertive tone, that the association would definitely go against the dress code of our school…Although I had expected that it would not be an easy task, the teacher’s pointblank refusal still caught me off guard.

The knock caused me to be in a very downcast mood the whole day. I did not want to see my plan stifled before it could even walk, but the barrier in front of me seemed invincible. Just as I was deciding to discard the plan, Forrest’s voice sounded in my head,: “Bao Dixin, you cannot quit. Nobody can easily succeed.” I accepted Forrest Gump’s advice….

…My continuous efforts paid off. At last, the teacher was persuaded to grant me permission to found the Association of Clothing Pattern Design.

Though there are variations on structure and topic, ninety percent of Chinese students’ essays are carefully crafted hagiographies.3 To answer the OSU prompt, Dixin chose to go with the “Inspirational Voice in the Head Told Me to Keep Persevering During a Tough Moment” structure: designed to turn a trivial event from Dixin’s past into something worthy of a Nobel.  I designed a “How To” chart for your reference.

I’m positive that the practiced jiade of Chinese student writers like Dixin is due to an educational system in which students are taught that writing is considered good only if it can compete in the local Ministry of Propaganda sponsored essay contest.  A student writer’s is dependent on sticking to a predetermined formula.  In that way, the student’s writing is an approximation of how Chinese leadership chooses to market itself by writing about the way that things are supposed to be, or could be, as opposed to how they really are.

So, I’m surprised anytime I hear that a student whose essays I edited has been accepted into a top American university,  because every college counselor I know says that creativity on the application essay is a must if one wants to get into a competitive college.  Which is it then? Am I a very good editor, or are admissions committees in the US unaware that the essays of these students are basically assembly line forgeries?

Well, that January night I came to believe that it was the latter – we Americans are just really bad at recognizing propaganda, and admission committee members aren’t exempt –   when, in the course of editing Dixin’s masterwork of self-aggrandizing fiction, the US Marine Corps commercial, “Leap”, came on. Play it,  and listen closely to the words.

If you were able to recognize the eerie similarity between the commercial and Dixin’s essay, then kudos, you’re on to something.  In fact, the storyboard for “Leap” uses the exact same essay structure as Dixin’s essay, albeit presented in audiovisual format. Let’s look at the transcript:

Narrator: I faced one of the toughest challenges of my life.  I couldn’t swim.  But, I can still hear my drill instructor today.

Voice in head (Drill Instructor Yelling): Don’t quit.  If you quit now, you’ll always quit in life.

Narrator: So I jumped in.  Unsure.  Apprehensive. And scared out of my mind.  But I came up a marine.

Heavy Rock Music
, accompanied by images of the Marine looking bad ass with all of his adoring Marine brothers.

Movie Trailer Voice: The Few The Proud The Marines

Everything is there. The trivial problem (learning to swim with the aid of military instructors is a rather pithy problem), the voice (in this case a military Sargent), the ability to overcome by doing something trivial (jumping off a diving board with medics present), and praise from a group of peers (visual component: narrating soldier is pulled into the boat by his peers).  In addition, everything is made to look and sound pretty Hot Tub Time Machine exciting — like in the very best essays, all the dressing and detail is there.

If you’re curious, go check out other US Military commercials on YouTube and listen to how they’re structured.  Most of the ones I listened to would fare well in the aforementioned Ministry of Propaganda contest.

Now, I’m not claiming that the US military using propaganda is a huge revelation, but I am a bit incredulous that record recruitment numbers are being pushed up by commercials whose story lines are no more complicated than the ones being mass produced by some of the world’s least creative students. So many writers spend their time proselytizing about how uncreative and ignorant Chinese students are, but if the essays those uncreative Chinese student write have the power to send Americans into war zones, then what do those writers have to say about adult Americans?

  1. The Marine Corps knows that men without jobs, or who work from home like me, spend most of their free time fantasizing about Hannah Storm in Helen Mirren’s bikini, and the remainder of it begrudging an old coach or teammate who ruined an opportunity to play professional sports. A military career promises to provide a slightly less glamorous, slightly more off-label, TJ-Max version of bikini clad Hannah Storm, and is the closest thing to a professional sport that an out-of-shape man in his mid-20s to mid-30s can aspire to. []
  2. When I wasn’t working or watching ESPN, I went to movies, so I was always up to date on the latest two minute US National Guard propaganda ‘movie preview’, which now, thanks to this massive budget, is guaranteed to be part of any movie experience not involving Jennifer Lopez or Matthew McConaughey (proving once and for all that there is a ‘too gay for navy blue and marine gray’ cut off in the American military). []
  3. One of my editor colleagues, Nick, accurately characterized the Chinese student essay in a slightly more drunk way, after coming home from Sanlitun at 3am, only to find a packet he had to have edited by 8am that morning. [sic]: “I am the greatest student ever because I sit in the front row and actually answer questions and do my homework. one time i had the glimmer of an independent abstract thought, but unfortunately it was stupid and crazy. another time i even read a mediocre book by an american CEO, which i have no comment on but i figured you’d be impressed. so, you can see, i’m pretty much awesome. the most exciting thing i’ve done in my life was to be a summer camp counselor. or maybe it was going ice scating. it really touched my heart when the sad kid was slightly happier at the end than she was at the beginning. i plan to go to america, where everything is way better, then return home for some unexplained reason and be a global leader in crosscultural accounting, whatever that is. i’m going to be the leader of something, that much I’m sure of.” []


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  1. Fransisco

    First! wow…again…I dont think such “inspirational” essays are really related to propoganda as much as crappy old English books on how to write the perfect essay. I found many students using books that were copies of old books that were written in the 40s and 50s. And I saw similar crappy essays in other non-communist asian states. I think this is more about not being familiar with the 21st century American essay writing format.

    • Fransisco

      (that wow was related to being first….)

    • Damjan

      Fransisco –

      You make a point worthy of its own post. If the Chinese students are just copying old essays from the 50s and 60s, then there is an avenue open to delve into how today’s propaganda pieces in China reflect those of the US. There has to be a book on Amazon about this.

  2. Jones

    I recognized a massive difference between Dixin’s essay and the Marine Corps’ commercial. Dixin was on a quest to change up some school uniforms per age level. A Marine Corps recruit is going to actually have to physically and mentally (Stress, not intelligence–It’s the Marines, after all) pass muster to become a Marine. There’s a very large difference there, and as far as your average Marine recruit, there’s definitely going to be a bit of nervousness, doubt, screaming, pushups, dirt, so on and so forth followed by inspiration and a renewed self-confidence. In the end, you get a brand new uniform. I guess the uniform part makes the Marines and Dixin kind of similar.

    Point being: There is hardly a story in the world that doesn’t involve a seemingly impossible problem to solve that is eventually overcome by perseverance and followed by glory. It’s definitely not just, or even mostly in Chinese propaganda and US military advertisements. Go read almost any book or watch almost any movie from almost anywhere (North Korean media excluded) in the world. You’ll see a world of the same plot and story pattern.

    • Damjan

      Jones –

      You’re right, the story of overcoming a challenge on the way to glory is an international best seller, and has been probably since one of our earliest ancestors in Africa first figured out how to turn random sounds into a camp fire narrative.

      If my essay made you think of this point, then I’ve done a good job since that’s exactly the kind of response I was hoping to garner.

      And, don’t sleep on North Korean media. It has some wonderful literature of the type we’re discussing here. I would urge you to go online and check out two of their best sellers – Kim II-sung and it’s fabulous sequel, Kim Jong-il.

  3. King Tubby

    Absolutely top and perceptive op ed and right on the mustard in both instances. Vladimar Propp(Morphology of the Folktale. 1927): there are seven cross cultural ways of organising a narrative and must surely be one. Forest Gump was simply rehashing a much older Europeon narrative code….da challenge.

    Wrote a few of those US personal statements, but it needed a lot of Tsingtao to get into serious scribbling committment. Felt like a money whore next day. To assuage the guilt, took everybody shopping.

    A fate worse than death. Came up a marine, a tittie bar, a clumsy tattoo and a really mongrel hangover. Story board right out of Jarheads.

  4. The difference is that the US Marines are a highly capable fighting force whilst the Chinese government is a corrupt, purely self-interested Oligarchy.

    • Bai Ren

      Yes Playa, you are right, the us army is a nobel entity that follows the rules of war and does not illegally detain, torcher, or dehumanize those who do not wear the uniform of a nation’s army. This army is only used in the defence of its people and not to ensure economic expansion and solidization of natural resourses in far off lands. This army is one that people of the whole nation join for the common good, not one that the sons of middle class families refused to join so it had to become a volentary one to fight offensive wars and is now filled with the ranks of the poor who have few other economically viable options.
      yes playa the us army is not a part of some self interested Oligarchy, like the military indiustrial complex.
      Dont be a redneck and make me tell you plainly that I am being sarcastic. dont show yourself to be more programed that your average young pioneer in china and demand evidence of the economicaly driven actions of the us army
      Dont be a hater and use any excuse to slam the chinese government. BE CRITICAL
      but for the record, yea the CCP is in power only to fill their pockets and if the lao bai xing make a little pocket change, or lose their homes and become beggers, it doesnt matter to them. just as long as they remain ‘harmonious’

      • B-real

        I agree with almost you said but.BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. (with a redneck accent).

        And I care not to give a reason why I object because its fairly obvious but you come up with your own conclusions I won’t stop ya buddy.

      • I’ve been drinking so I’ll respond in point form:

        * The “rules of war” are simply a bizarre combination of late 19th Century Victorian sensibilities and Cold War era posturing. I don’t give a fuck if, how and when Korea’s enemies die and why should American patriots feel otherwise?

        * All Americans would suffer if their oil supplies were to be interrupted by savage Arabs who play no role in the global industrial economy that their oil sustains

        * Conscription isn’t a great idea, I’m not saying that just because I served two years in the army. America learned why conscription was a bad idea in Vietnam so don’t play the class warfare card you stupid commie, lots of poor Americans join the armed forces, big deal, poor people have joined armies throughout history, whoptie-doo.

        * America may have a military industrial complex but the cosy relationship between US defence contractors and their government doesn’t exactly compare with China’s wholly state owned defence contractors.

        * I am critical and the legions of CPC apologists on this blog, both writers and commentators deserve a shitload of criticism

        Why was I never invited to write for this blog? Is it as terrified of dissent as the system it so consistently defends?

        * If the CPC cared about China’s future instead of ensuring that their grandchildren would rule the CPC Oligarchy, they’d build a society that wasn’t so hostile towards innovation. They don’t care that most of China’s intellectual elite emigrate at their first opportunity, they’re happy about it because it minimises dissent.

        • B-real

          Im going to take a crack at the recruiting stats went up after the commercials began to air. I don’t think the commercials have any real affect on any sound minded American. If any the commercials tell me that the marines are short on a few good men and recruiting contracts are beefed up with bonuses, and the prospects of either GI bill or college tuition to a college of your choice (that they don’t plan on fulfilling 1 of them). When I went into the Navy in 99 the commercials were at full blasts. But they sometimes are a turn off because they are full of shit. They just needed bodies and not really for any war at that time but for the shift of ranks and contracts ending. But most of us stayed home or toured the immediate region of our Continent. During the wars same thing things but this time selectively placed able bodies where vets don’t fit (joke for career A.B. who can’t do a pull up).

          There are certain type of people who join the military. Those who follow family tradition, those who have no direction in life, those who are driven by pride and determination, and those who would die for their country when duty calls and future politicians.

          In the end after all the PT, boot camp, special training the commercials are right on the money unless you’re a flunky. Once you get your station assigned and man your post day in day out its not so glorious. But if they called me back, I wouldn’t hesitate to get on a plane and serve another 4-5.

        • Bai Ren

          I appologise for any offence I might have caused to the marines. Yes it was foolish of me to call them part of the ARMY and not part of the MILITARY. However if you think that the relationship between the military industrial complext and the US government is any less of an oligarchic dictatorship over the people than the CHinese CCP is I tell you to take pause. In the US there has only been a 2 party system. Over time these parties change, and in the past century we have seen the Whigs and their anti-expansionist/interventionalist agenda dissapear to a Republican/Democratic tug of war. Both of these parties support the large expance of military contracts and world wide bases. These insitutions help facilitate their finacial grasp of power. Yes the US is more of a democrasy than the CCP is, but the propagandic use of media is no less developed and potent, as it is money which gets people and parties voted in (we might argue than the American propagandic machine is not working so well because fewer and fewer americans vote).
          China, in a way, is similar. Their legitimacy rests upon their ability to grow the nation’s GDP. They have brought many into a consuming middle class and these people are not apt to whidely criticize their government just like most Americans wont (criticize the legitimacy of the government to rule) as their livelyhood depends on the actions of the government.
          Another point, the use of poor to fight wars prevents those with more economic stake (and therefore more potential influence in America’s voting system) from having anything to loose by the country being at war. This too is an example of oligarchic control, as it is those at the bottom who must suffer.
          DO NOT THINK that my critical stance og the US government make me some sort of appologist for the CCP. I am far from that. I do not think the CCP should be appologised for, but should be explained, critiqued and encouraged to be better. China most likely won’t change by revolution, in fact it will be best if the change is internally developed and evolved so that peaceful transistions of power can occure.
          I am critical of the US because I disagree that it can be used as a counter example against the US, rather that both of them examplify the growing global influence of neoliberal ideology. That both legitimate their power, justify their governance, and move to dominate their neighbours under this ideology. This ideology entrenches class power and limits class fluidity.
          So you American appologist capitalist sap. go suck on an egg. I am no religious ‘ist’. rather I aim (sometimes better sometimes worse) to be an ‘ologist’ to understand how and why things are as they are.

        • pug_ster

          At least the Chinese armed forced is voluntary, unlike South Korea or Taiwan.

      • Jones

        He said the Marines are a highly capable fighting force. You’re reading into it way too much. If you need something to bleat about, look to somewhere with a bit more information presented. He also spoke of the US Marines, not the US Army. Go tell a Marine that he’s Army and he’ll probably “ille­gally detain, torcher, or dehu man ize” you.

        You talk about people being programmed as if you’re not automatically programmed to regurgitate a bunch of run-on banter any time someone just says “US Marines” or anyone associated with them. I could say “The US Military wears helmets from time to time” and we’d probably get folks like you coming in “OH YEAH?! Thay Awlays kil peepil with HACHITS and BOMS all the time!!!1″. Get over it.

        • “He also spoke of the US Marines, not the US Army. Go tell a Marine that he’s Army and he’ll prob­a­bly “ille­gally detain, torcher, or dehu man ize” you.”

          I was in the US Army (KATUSA) so when I speak highly of the Marines I’m being very objective.

          • Jones

            Oh, I wasn’t knocking the Army. I was just pointing out the sort-of rivalry between the two as far as mistaking one for the other.

          • No I knew exactly what you meant, back in the Army we were told that the Marines were all gay but so were the Spartans so I didn’t really care.

    • Damjan

      P. Playa –

      That is a difference between the two groups discussed in the essay, I agree. And, we should not forget, there are many others. Perhaps in a more academic essay I would have given the topic a broader, fuller contextualization.

      When writing for china/divide, where the essay is not subject to peer review but rather to a group of dedicated online commentators, I am more interested in creating analogies that spark discussion and, as the blog’s title suggests, division within that discussion.

      The US Marines have been at times a highly capable fighting force, and the Chinese government is in many instances a proven oligarchy. By the same token, neither is wholly good or wholly bad. In highlighting similarities between the two (which I did not do in this post, but got close by comparing the Marines to China’s students, the leaders of tomorrow) I had hoped to spark a discussion centered around their shared DNA.

      In the end, that’s what it really comes down to for me, we all share the same DNA.

  5. Bai Ren

    To make an argument like this 2 sides are presented and a ‘form’ to compare them is developed. The form used here is the hagiogra­phies described above. This is not a falacious argument, but it is not sound. As Tuby mentioned above, more than just current chinese propagandist students know this literary form. The connection is possible but not necessary. Far from being necessary, the key concepts of propaganda, finding what works, is not discussed here. Yes hagiogra­phies, may be in current use by the military, and possibily they are even being written by chinese students, but to have the data that this form of persuasion would be affective with the current market is most likely the result of indepth research and analysis, and likely to change with the seasons. People are motivated by appeals to their normative values. If hagiogra­phies work effectively in both America and CHina right now this tells us how little of a divide there is between our lao bai xing (my favourite phrase for the day), but it is unlikely that the Americians ‘discovered’ (yes I am putting words into the author’s mouth) this occuring in china and decided to bring it over, and it is also unlikely that they would need to contract these students as hollywood could probably provide a few such out of work writers.

    • Matthew Stinson

      Agree with you but we could just break out The Hero with a Thousand Faces and end that part of the argument. Normatively persuasive narratives draw from well-nigh universal archetypes, and propaganda, insomuch as it requires a normative narrative, will also be archetypal.

    • Damjan

      Bai Ren –

      Like P. Playa, you also make a point (two actually) that would make a good footnote for a more complete, academic essay. Propaganda, in fact, is not unique to Chinese students and the US Military – that’s footnote number one. Footnote number two is that hagiographies could very well be the marketable trend of the moment. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to be able to take a look at the data sets that identify these market trends?!

      However, you seem to have missed out on some of the sarcasm in the piece. The US military is not, in fact, taking student essays and turning them into commercials. It’s just that if the military did, there wouldn’t be much of a perceived difference.

      I am curious to read your opinion – if there was, in fact, currently a vogue for hagiographies in China and the US, what could it tell us about each country individually and both countries together?

      • Bai Ren

        I am too much of a north american to not understand sarcasm unless it is said to be as much.

        I think what might be said of people of any nation if hagiographies are effective on them, will be found through netizen behavoir.

        While differing in languages and interestes each netizen belongs to a far greater local collective than once before. Finding ways to participate in the universal, be it physical through actions, or virtual through communication is now related to a want of experiancing an authentic self.

        This want of an authentic self may or may not be a result of consumerism. It may or may not be a current world social trend. But for my experiance, it is an important mechanizm in global social life.

        Authentic self, often turns out to being the best at something. I just watched Men who Stare at Goats and while a farce initself its mention of the Army or Marine? (I am a Canadian and dont know the details of these things well) as Be all you can Be.

        Hagiographies connect to this norm. Of pushing our epistimological sence of experiance to the most successful and accoiatedly most authentic, or best.

        This being said, I am sure this mode of propaganda, or rather public relations, is just a current trend.

  6. Damjan, thanks for posting the two military commercials. Seeing them, I sense that I’m a cultural Rip Van Winkle just waking to find a new reality just replaced what I understood to be reality. I had not seen them before.

    I am amazed at their professional editing and compelling narratives. While the National Guard briefly showed humanitarian cleanup efforts, the two commercials skimmed over the true nature and consequences of the military, which are the killing of proposed enemies and the physiological horror entailed in the killings and of the potential collateral damage. Apparently, my values have become so obsolete, that the recruitment of young people to serve in the military is no longer considered different than the selling of cars or soaps.

    • Damjan

      Mao Ruiqi –

      If you’re thinking about joining the National Guard I will guarantee you two things.

      1) All of the people who join the National Guard are really attractive.

      2) You’ll save lots of American babies from burning buildings.

      – National Guard Recruiter, Joe

  7. Matthew Stinson

    While National Guard commercials deserve more than their fare share of mockery, your attempt at satire misses the core difference between American and Chinese propaganda. Whereas the American government and its constituent political parties are inclined to propagandize in oft-ridiculous ways, Chinese government institutions not only produce their own similarly eye roll-inducing propaganda, they are also up front about their “duty” to control public opinion, and force the role of propagandist upon common people, from schoolchildren to Tsinghua students to journalists to IT company CEOs. Americans may choose to produce and consume propaganda on their own, and certainly during wars American media propaganda has been encouraged by the White House, but Chinese-style universal propaganda is something you aren’t addressing because it nullifies your line of tu quoque argumentation.

    P.S. I suggest you consider the implications of this post and how the foundations of Chinese academic essay writing affect the cultural construction of truth in China.

    • Matthew –

      The differences weren’t missed, they just weren’t explicitly stated. Thank you, for explicitly spelling them out.

      Indeed, one of the ideas I’d hoped would be communicated is that there is a deliberately implemented culture of propaganda in China, that everyone is aware of and sees as necessary, whereas in the US this sort of public awareness doesn’t exist: and that Americans are more susceptible to taking a carefully constructed propaganda piece as truth or otherwise somehow representative of reality.

    • Sam

      Again a “wholesale garbage is fundamentally different from retail garbage” kind of argument.

      These Chinese students are goal oriented and understand the purpose of a personal statement is to get them admitted to the best possible universities, not to win a creative writing award. The only reason they write in such crapy style is because the admissions committees buy into it.

    • Sam

      Still I’m quite confused here.

      The us government never explicitly said it wants to shape the public opinion but does it anyway, does this make it more honest than the one who does what it says?

      Also, if the Chinese schoolkids are taught to cheat, they apparently see the lies when the lies are present, while your innocent fellow citizens truly believe they are doing other nations a favor by invading them. I don’t know which is less evil.

  8. pug_ster


    hey don’t want me to tell you this, but some time ago the US mil­i­tary hired a team of 90s gen­er­a­tion Chi­nese stu­dents from Tsinghua Uni­ver­sity to pro­duce a batch of recruit­ment com­mer­cials for the US Marine Corps.

    What I would like is kind of proof you have concerning this statement. The US marines could’ve used any kind of PR firm and they could’ve increased recruitment. Besides, if you watch a movie like Saving Private Ryan could’ve been a propaganda movie. I recall that a couple of years ago during the height of the Iraq war, ABC was allowed to show it on 8pm Sunday night, unedited, and uncensored.

  9. King Tubby

    To expand my point which some posters noted.

    This discussion is less about the effectivity of propaganda and more about the way language is structured, irrespective of the culture in question.

    And we can thank the great Russian and central Europeon (structural) linguists for pointing out that language is an independent/self-referential system which does not bear any one-to one-representative relation to *the real*.

    *Da challenge* is but one narrative form which goes back to the Greek Myths. Someone might want to make reference to similar in Chinese mythology.

    Each of the seven identified narrative codes/forms are internally self-supporting, and can be further broken down into their respective stages. And there is an inbuilt determinism in each which works to satisfy the deep needs of the listener, when the final full stop is reached.

    *Da challenge* is for warriors: I prefer the trickster.

    • “This dis­cus­sion is less about the effec­tiv­ity of pro­pa­ganda and more about the way lan­guage is struc­tured, irre­spec­tive of the cul­ture in question.”


      As per your discussion about “da challenge” and the other six narrative forms, I am hopelessly under-informed, but since you have provided plenty of references I will just have to make myself better educated and see what I can get out of it.

      • King Tubby

        That’s just what jumped out of the piece for me.

        Its funny. Sometimes you labour over a post, proof it to the best of your ability, hit the post button and it doesn’t cause a ripple. Other times in the middle of an alcohol event, you belt something out in a minute or so, hit the post button and then immediately regret it, yet it is the one which gets a bit of a response.

        Can’t figure that one out…different educational and work backgrounds, prejudices, mood of the moment and personality, like or dislike of particular posters.

        I simply pass over long nit-picking comments which don’t use paragraphs and which include lots of cut and past. Sort of like throwing bricks at each other. The ten line sentence is another major offender, indicating non-clear thought processes and woolly definitions.

        Off topic, I know. That was a good piece all the same because of the associations made.

  10. Terry

    I just loved your writing DamJam… gems like the all so realistic “CummCon”, “The Association of Clothing Pattern Design” and Nick’s characterization in the footnote…

    and I too feel like MaoRuiqi’s Rip VanWinkle moment… dayumm.. they certainly have used our stolen taxpayers money to up the production values!!

    Great Post, but then on the “da challenge!”…don’t we live in culture that also glorifies the beauty of being a victim and eating bitterness? chi ku, hou tian…the glory of suffering and all that… I mean come on… life ain’t supposed to be easy… or is it? (where’s old Lao and Zhuang when we need them)

  11. zball

    Interesting point. I guess the assumption of lack of creativeness among Chinese students might come from the observation that current education system in China stiffens students desire to invent and explore. I kind of agree with what you said. However, do all those uncreative, banal propaganda work? Sounds like they all work pretty well. In the end, this world might cry for a few creative geniuses to point the direction, however, the road to that direction was mostly paved by those who just follow the propaganda. Ironical, isn’t it?

    • @zball

      The propaganda does ‘work’ but the interesting question is about why it works in the Chinese context and why it works in the American context. Among other differences, in China, people have extremely sophisticated propaganda filters, while in America, people do not. This shapes the way that those two groups respond to each other.

      As per your comments about propaganda painting the road to greener, more openly creative pastures – c’est la vie. For creativity to exist, it must be surrounded by banality. Otherwise, how would we recognize it. To see this at work in China all we have to do is look at its record setting modern art market.

      • zball

        @ Damjan,

        So, considering all the sophiticated filters set up by Chinese government and no filter in the States, which side so you think better understand each other, American peolpe or Chinese people? or They might stand at the same level in terms of understanding each other?

        Unfortunately, the fact is that general red necks have no interest in the things happened beyond their backyards. And, slant eyes need to climb over the great wall to peek through their front doors.

  12. lolz

    It appears that the Chinese students are still a bit behind the times when it comes to college essays.

    A Japanese friend of mine who went to Harvard made up this bogus story about him going to India to help run some charity. I am thinking that helping citizens of the 3rd world is probably the best thing to put on the college/grad school/law school applications right now? You get compassion, leadership, insight, and all kinds of goodness rolled into one single story.