2/25/2008

Prejudice Made Plausible? Foreign criticism and Chinese sensitivity

Living in Beijing as I do, it's not uncommon to be asked about my feelings on the Olympics. Chinese friends, family, colleagues, and even complete and total strangers (for reasons passing understanding) seem interested in hearing my opinion.

But I've learned the hard way that my perspective per se is not what is actually being sought, but rather confirmation of what The People's Daily and CCTV assure all Chinese is the only possible correct answer: Yes, the Olympics are going to be a huge success and will demonstrate to the world that China is becoming a modern, developed nation. Deviations from that line are not always received well and sometimes elicit outright hostility, which leaves me to wonder: Why is that? Why does concern about the Olympics, criticism of Chinese government policies, or even a news story about the effect of air pollution on athletes, provoke such a visceral response from many Chinese?

Obviously no one set of reasons can cover the gamut of reactions, everybody perceives issues in different ways, but in perusing the comments section of China blogs and the threads on Chinese BBSs, I sense three main themes: the close integration of state/nation/party in both PRC ideology and the minds of the Chinese people; genuine pride at China's rise in the world and a belief that many countries in "the West" seek to undermine China's development to satisfy their own selfish strategic goals; and finally, a barely smoldering resentment born out of a history of foreign imperialism in China.

In the United States, there is a tradition--fragile though it may be at times--that says criticism of government policies is not only a right, but in fact is the responsibility of a concerned citizen. Painting in the broadest possible strokes, the founding fathers established a system whereby the state and the nation were separate entities, one under the supervision of the other. This separation means that one can accuse the government of wrongdoing without necessarily implicating the nation or its people. Sure, I might get annoyed a bit whenever non-American friends denounce the United States for the invasion of Iraq or whatever, but at the end of the day it doesn't affect me all that much: I know it's a policy of my government that's being criticized, one which I also oppose, and generally speaking they aren't attacking me personally or the American people as a whole.

In China, on the other hand, the demands of 20th-century state building, first under the KMT and later by the CCP, fused the ideas of nation and state (and later nation, state, and party) into an inseparable ideology which was then disseminated through propaganda and education to the people.* To criticize one is to attack the whole. Political culture in the PRC has no place for a loyal opposition, never mind the dictum, tenuously attributed to Thomas Jefferson, linking dissent and patriotism. As a result, publicly questioning the government in China is a crime for which the perpetrator risks arrest as a 'threat to social stability and state security.' Foreigners who do so are counterattacked as China-bashers; those Chinese who speak out against their own government in the foreign press are pilloried on electronic bulletin boards as hanjian, traitors to their race, an epithet to which Chinese nationals working for foreign media organizations are also frequently subjected.

Moreover, this response carries with it the implicit--and occasionally explicit--tag that those who criticize China are simply jealous and/or fearful of China's rise.

The Chinese are justifiably proud of how far their country has advanced in the last 25 years, and today's China is a testament to the spirit of its people, who through their hard work and entrepreneurial drive have launched an era of unprecedented economic growth and development. At the same time, old ideas die hard.

Social Darwinism was first introduced to China through the writings and translations of Yan Fu and Liang Qichao in the late-19th century, at a time when the rapacious demands of the imperialist powers threatened to carve up China (as the oft-quoted trope goes) like a melon. It is little wonder then that early 20th-century intellectuals and state builders looked out into the world and saw nothing but power politics and a global struggle for national survival. After the founding of the PRC, this concept of a Darwinian international order diffused throughout society as CCP propaganda stressed the need to strengthen the state so that China would never again be bullied by foreign powers. Early production campaigns called on the people to overtake Britain and catch up with the United States. Competition was the name of the game. The antagonism and paranoia of this Cold War propaganda reinforced lessons learned during a long 19th century, and many Chinese came to believe that the world was indeed out to "get China" and geopolitics was a zero-sum game. It's a perception that lingers to this day.

What is a bit unusual however is the assumption by many people here that all Americans think this way too: that every single person in the US is fixated and frightened by China's rise, and it is this fear that drives the negative media reporting on China's environment, food safety problems, human rights abuses, etc. Part of this reaction can be attributed to the "CCTV-effect." In China, the media is a tool for political control, and many Chinese--especially those who have limited international experience--have trouble believing that the foreign media could operate any differently.

Adding to this, the Chinese media is fond of parroting government officials who label the United States as human rights hypocrites, citing the usual suspects (slavery, imperialism, policy toward indigenous peoples) as well as tossing out a few new ones (waterboarding, the invasion of Iraq). Whether one feels this is a valid defense or not, the salient point is that many in China accept the government line as unequivocal proof that foreign critics cannot be trusted.

Now, I can't speak for everybody, but in conversations in Beijing with foreign journalists, activists, bloggers, researchers, businesspeople and teachers, the general consensus is that few, if any, have a problem with China's development or truly fear China's rise, certainly not in the way that nationalist rags like The Global Times would suggest. Generally speaking, we believe that criticism of the government is based on the notion that certain reforms would make the lives of the Chinese people more secure, prosperous, and free. Surely this is not "bashing China," rather it's expressing enthusiasm for our hosts' good fortune and concern for our friends, the Chinese people. Right?

Wrong, apparently. For you see, China has a long history of foreign do-gooders stepping on her soil and offering suggestions. (Who could forget Columbia professor Frank Goodnow's helpful hint to Yuan Shikai in 1915 that what the Republic needed most was an emperor?) Missionaries, traders, academics, officials, and writers came to China in droves during the age of imperialism, all with ideas on how to fix China and make the lives of the Chinese better. The problem was of course that no matter how well-intentioned a notion, no matter how sound or rational it might have been, any idea becomes a hard fit when it arrives shoehorned between military occupations and adventures in gunboat diplomacy.

This left its mark on how foreign ideas were perceived and deployed in Chinese society. The challenge in the early-2oth century to reconcile Chinese tradition and foreign ideas has been a recurring theme in the literature on modern Chinese intellectual history. That struggle to define modernity, to understand how to be both fully modern and fully Chinese, and how to achieve a sense of equivalency with the West, was left unresolved at the time of the CCP takeover in 1949. Marxism purported to be the answer to this dilemma, but as Marxism loses its intellectual currency in today's China A-Go-Go, old questions and nagging insecurities start to reemerge.

At the same time, the legacies of imperialism are reinforced in many ways, not the least of which is through the 'patriotic education' that's a key part of the elementary and secondary curriculum in the PRC. Nobody needs to be reminded of the intimate link in China between history, politics, and education. The CCP itself never stops telling the people that it was the Party who was responsible for driving out the foreign imperialists and ending the 'century of humiliation' that began with the Opium War in 1840. As such, the story of imperalism is not only an important aspect of China's recent history, but also a fundamental building block of the CCP's political legitimacy.

Given that historical context, the politics of education, and the effectiveness of CCP propaganda, it is easy to understand why many Chinese have a hard time believing that foreigners who criticize the Chinese government might actually be doing so in the interests of the Chinese people. At best, it's seen as a kind of misguided paternalism, at worst, a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing attack on Chinese sovereignty. The issue becomes murkier still when the issue is "Chineseness" itself, as in the case of Tibet, Taiwan, and Xinjiang.

The notion of 'face' obviously deserves to be a part of this discussion, but at the same time it's a bit of an intellectual cul-de-sac. It's not that I consider face to be unimportant, but I do feel non-Chinese are too quick to dismiss an inability to handle criticism as some sort of inherent quirk of Chinese culture. Nobody would deny that 'face' is a crucial factor in business, diplomacy, and even daily life here, but there is more to the Chinese response beyond the somewhat simplistic and essentialist explanation of 'saving face.'

China's development has been something to behold, but there are challenges still unresolved: staggering environmental problems, a widening gap between the haves and have-nots, and endemic corruption that flourishes in a political culture where the media is censored, non-governmental organizations are proscribed, public speech is still tightly controlled, and where the priority of judges and the courts is maintaining 'harmony' at the expense of petitioners' requests to avail themselves of their legal rights. The CCP and the Chinese government have done a thorough job of spreading a message that is equal parts Lenin, Louis XIV, and Ronald Reagan: The party represents the people because apres mois, le deluge and, by the way, it's morning again in China and you are better off now than you were four years ago. It's an interesting mash-up of political philosophies, but one that has to a large extent become internalized by the Chinese people, especially the urban elite who have benefited the most from the recent economic boom. Regardless of class however, the idea that the nation's interests exist independent of the state and party is, for most people, inconceivable.

Foreigners should be allowed to criticize the Chinese government when such criticism is warranted, and I don't waive my right to speak out against injustice just because I wasn't born in the country where that injustice is occurring. But at the same time, I shouldn't be surprised when my criticism sometimes meets resistance and resentment. Sincere engagement with the Chinese people can only come about when the roots of that resistance are acknowledged, and met with equivalent understanding and sensitivity. In this way a true dialogue can begin with people talking to--rather than at--each other.
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* For further reading and a more in-depth treatment of this issue, see John Fitzgerald, Awakening China: Politics, Culture, and Class in Nationalist China. (Stanford Univ. Press, 1998)

25 comments:

Bill said...

Don't understand the power of Guanxi, when it is applied to the motherland. Guanxi, in its purest form, will urge and bound one to defend one's buddy, righ or wrong. It is "Yixi" that is demonstrated well when Guan Yuncheng released Chao Xao, the principle enemy of his liege lord. And it is defending till death. Now, apply that the your dearest motherland, the effect is obvious.

Face is so important to them. They may not agree with CCTV or Xinhua or China Daily, but they won't want any foreigners to tell them that. It is like a parent who don't want anyone else to tell them what bad stuff their child did.

The other reason for the behaviour you observed is that the Chinese has no choice in their government, so who ever is in place is their only choice. They have to accept it as their own, and therefore become extremely defencive.

If you want harmony, just go along with China Daily.

Ban Kangde said...

Very interesting and insightful post.
When I visit China and run into this kind of question as a form of interrogation, I usually reply that it is true that we in the West learn many myths about China and the Chinese. Usually this is the end of the matter as my interlocutor goes away satisfied, but sometimes they ask what I mean. I then give as an example that we learn that Chinese people are both courteous and treat guests well [又禮貌又好客], but that this is incorrect, as demonstrated by the fact that foreigners get asked questions that are not really questions but just a way to either force the foreigner to say what the Chinese person wants them to say or otherwise give the Chinese person an opportunity to berate the foreigner. This kind of behaviour is neither courteous nor welcoming.
Usually the person just walks away in a state of cognitive dissonance [helped, I am afraid, by my poor Chinese]; however, occasionally this gambit is an opening to some of the more real heart-to-hearts I've had with people on the street, even those who quickly realize that I was being provocative on purpose.

Anonymous said...

The US is not the only country whose citizens are critical of the government.

Consider most Western European countries.

And as for Chinese tradition, look at Taiwan and how people criticized the government.

If China had freedom of speech, once even a few people people started raising questions, the floodgates would open.

Froog said...

I think Bill probably has a good point at the end there, where he suggests that the lack of democratic mechanisms in China is part of the reason why the identification of party/state with nation/people is so strong.

For us Westerners, our first line of defence/first means of dissociating ourselves from our government is to say, "Well, I didn't vote for them." (Or: "Well I did vote for them last time, but I didn't realise they were going to do all this shit; I'm probably going to vote for the other guys next time.")

When the government is always the same and you have no choice in the matter, I think acceptance of whatever the government does, and a loss of awareness of the distinction between government and country, probably becomes inevitable - regardless of the reinforcement of those beliefs through propaganda or other cultural factors.

Dmitri said...

Chinese political culture has no place for a loyal opposition, never mind the dictum, tenuously attributed to Thomas Jefferson, linking dissent and patriotism.
I disagree with this assertion in the wider sense of political culture and tradition in China, as I am minded of the Confucian tradition of memorialising the emperor even should it cost one one's head. You only have to look back to Li Changping's recent 《我向总理说实话》for a prominent contemporary example of the same.
If you mean that the Leninist Party wants no opposition outside the framework it dictates I would concur, but that would be something other than what you have written.

davesgonechina said...

@Jeremiah: I told a friend, a foreigner with a Chinese wife, about ur post, and he told me the following story:

A while back, they were abroad and the TV was tuned to a Taiwanese station. A Chinese pundit, who had left the Mainland some years before, said something that made my friends wife stop and say "He just said that criticizing the Chinese government and criticizing China isn't the same thing". My friend, perplexed, said "...yeah?" "I never thought of it that way", was the response.

@Ban Kangde: I love those sorts of provocative responses that can lead to frank talk. I'm gonna try that one.

@Dmitri: I'm not well read of Li Changping's Telling The Truth to the Premier, but it was my understanding it falls acceptably within the current administrations "Three Rurals". But I do partly agree with your point: there is a tradition of dissent to be found in Chinese culture. I wouldn't, however, go so far as to say there's a rich tradition of accepting foreign criticism, especially in a context that separates the individual from the nation, which one is forced to represent. And there's certainly a tradition of seeing foreign relations in terms of zero-sum, my nation/people/culture (these are certainly conflated) against yours terms.

One other tidbit: my girlfriend was talking to a Chinese friend the other day, and when she praised something from the Philippines, an eavesdropper couldn't help but break in and say "What about Chinese stuff? Don't you like it?" Sometimes there is still a kneejerk tendency to see everything as some sort of intercultural competition in everyday conversation.

davesgonechina said...

Oh, and this pop-up comment thing is screwing around with me. I'm gonna vote you guys go to an in-browser format.

The China Beat said...

Comments should no longer open in a seperate window. Thanks for mentioning that it was annoying; easy enough to fix it!

Jeremiah said...

Just a quick comment:

I think my language was too vague when I said that "Chinese political culture has no place for a loyal opposition, never mind the dictum..."

As Dmitri and 'Anonymous' pointed out, there are counterexamples in history (Confucian remonstration of the emperor) and today (Taiwan).

But my original meaning, keeping with the theme of the essay, was referring to the situation specifically in the PRC.

I should have been more clear in the original post.

One other quick point for 'Anonymous,' I mentioned the American system only because I'm an American and that's the system I know best. Of course there are many countries that have this tradition, I was using the United States as just one example. (In fact one could argue that this tradition might even be stronger in some of the Western European democracies than in the US. But I'll leave that for others to debate)

Thanks to everybody for reading the post and the excellent comments.

Froog said...

Re: the Olympics, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that this is one topic where 'dissent' is actually quite common. My more cynical side actually begins to suspect that this might in fact be some sort of officially sanctioned 'dissented', seeded by certain media discussions, but.... I have heard quite a few people recently saying things like "The Olympics are a waste of money", "China isn't 'ready' for an event like this yet" [talking about economic and social development, rather than the political situation, I think], and "There are more important things we should be spending the money on".

China Law Blog said...

Jeremiah,

You've nailed it. Thanks.

Pffefer said...

First of all, I'd like to know how the Chinese government has been trying to propagate the following line - "Yes, the Olympics are going to be a huge success and will demonstrate to the world that China is a modern, developed nation." China sure wants the games to be a huge success (which host country doesn't? Can you blame them?) and showcase its economic success, but I'd be astonished if the Chinese actually believe they are a modern and developed country. The Chinese government has repeatedly said that it is a developing country facing tremendous problems and hurdles. According to the government China will become a moderately-developed country in 2080. I think they are very modest and realistic in this regard.

Hardly all Americans are taking criticism well, so speak for yourself only. Many conservatives label liberals "anti-American", "sell-outs" etc. And these are Americans. Who knows what they are calling those foreigners that speak ill of America? Of course, being the lone superpower, the best of the best, America can afford to simply laugh it off and sneer at criticism from abroad.

I certainly don't agree that all westerners "criticize" China because they are afraid of China's rise, but there are definitely many who are. They feel threatened by this the rise of this big non-western, non-Judeo-Christian, non-white, autocratic entity known as China. Otherise why don't you think they pick on China so often?

Who are you kidding when you are saying westerners criticize China with the good intentions to make China a better place? Maybe some do, but I find that sheer ignorance and arrogance often constitute "criticism". They whine all day long. They preach to the Chinese in a way as if these westerners were superior. I mean if things are that bad in China, why don't they just leave?

I do agree though that too many Chinese are suffering from inferiority complex and knee-jerk reaction of accusing someone a "China-basher" when they hear something they don't want to hear. Certainly not everyone is out to get China (even though there are many who are, if you a regular reader of American political journals you know what I mean). The problem of the Chinese is that they place too much importance on what foreigners say about them. "Who cares?" should be what replaces that sick inferiority complex-ridden mentality.

J said...

Good post.
The Chinese government's efforts to make Chinese people feel threatened by a racist, aggressive and anti-Chinese West remind me somewhat of Bush and the Republican Party's post-9/11 efforts to play up the threat of terrorism in order to push through their policies. The logic is that dissent is dangerous because our enemies will take advantage of any division.
The most disturbing thing about this is that because many Chinese still see the world in Social Darwinist terms, even if they know that Chinese policies in Tibet and Xinjiang are basically neo-imperialist and colonialist they feel that it's acceptable anyway, because China has to be ruthless to keep up in the world. Even in the US, there would be very little support for policies like the invasion of Iraq if people didn't feel immediately threatened or think the invasion would not bring democracy to Iraq.

Justaguy said...

Meh,

Its so much easier to see and criticize other people's nationalism than your own. I've had a lot of conversations about Chinese nationalism with Americans studying about and or living in China where they say 1) China is incredibly nationalist, 2) the United States needs to contain China's rising military and economic power and 3) we could totally kick their ass in a war.

Which all strikes me as very nationalist on their behalf.

You might run with a more enlightened crowd, but the American media discourse on China is strongly colored by a perception of China as a looming military and economic threat that paints their rise as harmful to US interests.

Beyond that, you downplay American nationalism. Listen to what people are saying when we start bombing other countries. France was portrayed as anti-American because they didn't support the Iraq war, for example. MSNBC fired Phil Donohue because he was anti-war, even though he was their highest rated show. The Dixie Chicks got death threats for criticizing the president, etc.

I just don't see what makes Chinese nationalism so special.

dave zimmerman said...

It really doesn't take much to trigger the defensive relex.

I work with a guy who had to leave Beijing in '89. I consider him open-minded. but I don't say a lot of what I think to him. He thinks the PRC government is corrupt, but hates Tibetans because of the subsidies and special considerations they receive (I say nothing). All in all, an interesting, complex person; I learn a lot from him if I keep my ears open and my mouth closed.

We were on a business trip last month and spotted a restaurant that promised Burmese noodles. We both like to explore new cuisine (if you get the chance to eat Burmese, don't pass it up). After we had sampled our dishes, I said that I wondered what Burmese, Chinese, even Italian food were like before tomatoes were imported from the New World. My friend said that there were always tomatoes in China. But when I said that peanuts were introduced to China by the Jesuits in the 1640's, I really got the full treatment.

"How can you think such a thing? You don't have all the information. You must consider both sides before you make up your mind."

And that was just over peanuts.

chris said...

Although it is not true that "every single person in the US is fixated and frightened by China's rise". If you watch the debates in US primaries, you would get a sense that China is at least an adversary, if not a potential enemy of the States, and definitely not an adversary worthy of respect. It is more of a cheater making dangerous products and robbing US jobs, let alone the poor human rights record. So I believe there is a negative public sentiment toward China that politicians are pandering to.
This is not to defend the bad things in China, just to point out that some of the Chinese perceptions of how foreigners view them are not completely unfounded.
Also Kudos to NYT, Washington Post,
WSJ, BBC, etc for they can write China in a more comprehensive manner.
Chris

ShaMao said...

What is a bit unusual however is the assumption by many people here that all Americans think this way too: that every single person in the US is fixated and frightened by China's rise, and it is this fear that drives the negative media reporting on China's environment, food safety problems, human rights abuses, etc.

When you return to the US you will learn that Americans are not thinking about what is happening in China at all. This is one of the misconceptions that leads to these issues. There is a much greater awareness in China of what is happening in America then vice-versa. It is assumed in China that the interest and knowledge is reciprical but it just isn't.

Anonymous said...

Some Chinese may be sensitive about foreign criticism, but aren't they justified? The reality is, while people in the US and other developed nations can shrugg off foreign criticism with a "who cares" attitude, developing countries gets bombed if foreign perception is bad enough. So, Jeremy will have an easier time in understanding this sensitivity if he put himself into the shoes of the others.

lizard said...

Jeremiah Jenne! I'm not sure if this is you, but I happened to read this post as my fellow study abroad classmates from the east coast who studied with me at Peking Univ were passing this link around. My name's Elizabeth Kimura. I had emailed you a couple years back:) If you're the Jeremiah I presume this is, you were my TA in a lower division Asian history course when I was still attending UC Davis. It's been many many years, but if this is your blog, cheers to you! Your post has brought a lot of discussion among a number of americans who had lived abroad 2005-2006. :D

Jeremiah said...

I wanted to once again thank everybody for reading the post, for their links, and for the fascinating comments.

In the post, I tried to avoid criticizing nationalism in China and I certainly wouldn't suggest that nationalism, even in its extreme forms, is in any way unique to the PRC. As commentators were quick to point out, the USA has its jingoism too, of which I am well aware, and this is one reason I was careful to qualify my statement on dissent in the United States as many times as I did.

This piece was more of an exploration of an idea and a look at possible root causes rather than an opinion piece on the subject.

That said, I might also gently suggest that I found a few of the responses to this post, especially those who did feel I was in some way maligning Chinese nationalism or touting American values, interesting in light of what I actually was writing about.

chinaphil said...

I'm a bit late to this post, sorry about this. Funnily enough, I think this is one of Jeremiah's weakest posts, because of its lack of analysis of "the Chinese". For those of us who live here, the term ceases to mean much pretty quickly. I see an extraordinary range of viewpoints reflected in the people around me (not, admittedly, in the media around me), and don't find anything like the monolithic agreement that often gets commented on.
Certainly this is in part a function of the company I keep - Chinese people with quite a lot of experience of western stuff, through me if nowhere else. But also it's a fact of an enormous(ly varied) country. To anonymous, I'd say, the floodgates are open. The media isn't, but I'm just not meeting the closed minds here that Jeremiah seems to be commenting on.
One reason I think is the type of interaction being described. Ben Kangde talks of "real heart-to-hearts I've had with people on the street". Does it never strike you how odd this is? I've never had a heart-to-heart with anyone on the street in Britain; I don't do it here; and I'd never expect to get any kind of normal conversation out of such a thing if I did. To davesgonechina - were you being sarcastic there? Please don't try it. Would you go up to people on the street in the USA and say provocative things in order to provoke a heart-to-heart? You'd be more likely to provoke an ass-whipping, surely.

ben said...

Thanks, I really enjoyed reading that. I very interesting perspective

Jeremiah said...

Chinaphil,

I wasn't trying to analyze the Chinese as a group and in fact, my main point was that we should move beyond overly broad essentialist/culturalist analyses. Perhaps I should have emphasized that point more.

I couldn't agree more as to the diversity in Chinese society and that's why I started with this important caveat:

"Obviously no one set of reasons can cover the gamut of reactions, everybody perceives issues in different ways."

What I was looking at were three themes that emerge when looking at responses in the media, on the internet, and in conversation.

Thanks for your comment.

jmyang said...

I'm Chinese.
Here is another point of view concerning criticism with us Chinese.
"Mind your own business." That's how we see it. We mind our business, you mind yours. The problem is 'most' foreigners are not like that. They give their opinions so freely even when not asked for. If their opinions happen to be praise then that will not be a problem. But if it is not praise, then that is another matter. I would like to use what Thumper said in BAMBI, "If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all. " I am an overseas Chinese born outside China. I have lived throughout Asia for my whole life, and that is mostly how it is, specially in Chinese communities anywhere in the world. I have watched and compared the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, CCTV and a whole lot of other media. I have read many articles from Newsweek, Asiaweek, and much more. (I only mentioned mostly foreign media to point out that I do have a broader source of information than most people in China.) I have not yet encountered any official criticism of other countries or governments by China, unless you include issues that were first raised by others, for example Tibet. Which for a Chinese person, is our business, not yours. Compare that to the almost tsunami like number of criticism of China. I myself am furious with the real bias being disseminated through international media. (you must admit that these media do have 'real' power to 'influence' the people of the world.) Culture is the bigger reason why criticism has a huge effect on us. It is not because we are too sensitive. I could say it is because foreigners are too numb. The differences in culture is the best explanation for the misunderstandings. But us Chinese are at a disadvantage, foreign lack of understanding and foreign culture often "embarrass" us Chinese with their "good intentioned advise." While we just "keep to ourselves" the mistakes of others, not just foreigners.
That is just with criticism. This would be a long comment if I were to include more, like respect, family, loyalty, and more which are also very important cultural factors to us Chinese.

WiseOldMan said...

First of all great post, and it's great reading about all different opinions and views.

I myself am Chinese, however I was brought up in Australia for the majority of my life so I am not numbed by the Chinese Propaganda.

I have had many discussions with fellow Chinese Australians both from younger and older generations.

With the older generations who have lived under the Communist regime, the poverty and lack of future in their time had forced them all to migrate. They do not hold in high regards what the Chinese Governments are doing. After migrating they do cherish the freedom and the opportunities that are available to them. However everyone of them still have a high pride in being Chinese, a Nationalism beyond the wrongs of the Chinese Government. The younger generation feel this way too. They are proud to be Chinese, as would any other person from another race would be of their own culture.

But as you have said the matter can not be waved away alone with the explanation of the Chinese wanting to save "face". The fear of the Chinese with "ChinaBashing" and the perception of the West trying to subjugate our advance into a super power is very strong, but can you blame us?

It is still fresh in the minds of many Chinese of the foreign rule and influence in China during the 1800's. The Opium wars, annexing HK and Macau, seeing the national treasures being shipped over seas, and being called yellow Dogs unable to enter into parklands of our own lands during foreign rule, is a disgrace that still stings us deeply (thus the power display of HK takeover in 1997 to show that we will not be humiliated again).

The Chinese are not sensitive to criticisms but we are sensitive to foreign criticisms. As JmYang has mentioned the Chinese like to keep matters of State and Country internal.

As a old Chinese saying goes, "Rather teach you to discipline your children, but never teach you to divorce your wife" the Communist Government is the Husband, and the people its Wife. No matter how bad the Husband is, the Wife can only endure but doesn't appreciate outsiders telling her to divorce her husband.