Breathless prose; vulnerable Canadian journalists
Alright, let’s just say it: Jiang Qing’s trial was infinitely better than Gu Kailai’s. The Gang of Four came with fun DIY agitprop, extensive television coverage, and featured an ageing woman defiant to the end. Gu Kailai’s trial had a promising set-up (goddamn time poison made a comeback as murder weapon of choice) and rumors of a body double and discrepancies in the official version were mildly interesting. But that aside, we had a somewhat porky murderer in a black suit who was obsequious to the point of thanking the court for finding her guilty. Hell, even the media coverage was mind-numbingly predictable. Every columnist and their mother decided to write what the trial says about China’s rule of law (it’s fine and we can all go home now). Some added the groundbreaking observation that social media makes it harder for the CCP to control its narrative (do tell us more). Still others went trippy on the prose. If you ever find yourself writing: “Gu broke the first rule of survival in the Chinese bureaucracy: that allies must be equally vulnerable to each other,” you need to take a deep breath, get “Bittersweet Symphony” off repeat and go for a quick jog.
But speaking of vulnerable: freelance journalists in Ottawa, Canada. One alleged this week that Xinhua asked him to attend a press conference by the Dalai Lama, the results of which would be relayed to the Chinese government. Aside from the fundamental breach of our implicit trust in humble Xinhua News, we’re shocked that a press conference passes for sensitive, “government-eyes-only” intelligence in Beijing. Someone relay the message that we here at CER will – for a price – relay sensitive “government-eyes-only” pics of Prince Harry.
Is it just us, or have the last days of summer been filled with good-bye barbecues and goodbye manifestos? (Quitters can find a good all-purpose one here). Well-known China hands are leading the rush for the exits, and some are arguing that the halcyon days of the “foreign expert” are over. Since we’re still here, we have to disagree. The pace may be slowing, but foreigners are still pouring in – they just don’t have the blog followings yet. It’s not just the gweilos that are jumping ship, however. Numerous reports say that growth is providing migrant workers with more opportunities inland, which is in turn helping to buoy the economic prospects of delightful homegrown brands like Maikeji and E-Spot Raw. Of course, most “foreign experts,” will have to take their word for it, not having ever really set foot in China’s interior. According to the tales, lower-tier cities are magical places of insta-skyscrapers, rampant movie theater construction and vengeful golden eagles. But it’s not all fun and games. Sometimes scary things happen in the hinterlands, such as this recent incident where a sour-faced foreign dude was surrounded by a crowd of angry Chinese for ostensibly harassing a Chinese woman. (You would be sour-faced if you were in Henan too.) The Chinese who complain that foreigners are often subject to special rights do, of course, have a point. Foreigners generally are treated respectfully, while China’s poorest often have to resort to extreme measures to get even basic rights. But does China really want to reduce everything to the lowest common denominator? If so, we may see a lot more people, Chinese and foreigners, running for the exits.
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