Saturday, November 26, 2011

Global Times' popularity - social outlet, propaganda or conscience of the people - frank and outspoken Hu Xijin demolishes myth of simplistic China - meaning of democracy, human rights, sovereignty

Hu Xijin is the editor-in-chief of Global Times, often regarded as one of the "mouthpieces" of the Chinese government (aka communist party in western press). 

China is a huge multicultural country with wide economic and social disparities which need to be addressed efficiently. It is easy to point fingers especially coming from those who do not know Chinese history and local conditions well. China is more complex than outsider's simplistic viewpoint.  Development takes time - this is nothing compared to the thousands of years of Chinese history. It pays to be patient is the wise message to hot heads. 

This is a frank interview with Hu Xijin. No political rhetoric, just plain words from the heart of a Chinese. 

Quote :

Hu: I respect the voices on weibo, but I don’t think the voices on weibo represent the whole of China. Weibo only gathers people of the same mind. These people are active but they are not the mainstream. If the majority of Chinese society thought I was wrong, then I would think carefully if I should change. The Global Times is doing better and better, and its influence is getting bigger and bigger. People are still buying it even at 1.2 yuan. The circulation is huge. It means people are reading our newspaper, they agree with our position. Most people are still on my side. 

We have been touching sensitive topics in recent years, which laid the groundwork for our prompt comment on the Ai Weiwei case.

There are diverse public opinions in China. Some people try to label everything and everyone. This is not healthy. I think GT has been trying to take an impartial position on sensitive issues. But I have to admit, it’s difficult. Take Ai’s case for example. 

We wrote four editorials about Ai in a row. Maybe not every word was accurate, but the overall message was not wrong. If you have to pick a particular sentence and ask me what it means, then it’s like punishing people for their words. We can’t take things out of context. Any article would be problematic if taken out of context. 

We wrote those editorials out of China’s interest. The articles reflect our overall understanding of the world. I don’t think we should single out the government. The Chinese government is part of China. Under most circumstances, the interest of the government is the same as the interest of the people and the nation. I don’t believe the US government cares more about the well being of the Chinese people than the Chinese government does. I don’t believe that.

 It’s a simple way of putting things. The key is to understand the word “rise.” The authorities do not like this word; they prefer “development.” The foreign media like to say “China rise” and many Chinese people followed suit and grew used to it. It’s a reality for China. There are good things, such as rapid economic development, but there are weaknesses and problems too, such as the income gap. And we haven’t completely solved the theoretical questions; such as how do we connect the superiority of socialism with economic development and the fruits of a market economy. These haven’t yet been solved. The rise of China is complicated.

The China consensus is not mature, neither is the China model. At least we haven’t figured it out ourselves.
But we do walk on a different path than the West. 

We shouldn’t be obsessed with the question of whether this path is unique to China or not. That’s meaningless. No society develops completely isolated from the rest of the world. It’s impossible. In this age of globalization, we most definitely have been influenced by the West. We can’t develop without the West. Our opening up, to a large extent, has been toward the US. All kinds of Western thoughts and good things have had a positive impact on us. China can’t develop in isolation. No doubt about it. 

Yet China can’t simply copy the US or the UK. That can’t be done. China takes all the good things from different countries, puts them together, remixes them in China, and moves on from there. That’s a fact. And that’s the way it should be. What’s the population of most Western countries, tens of millions? That’s just a small province or a city in China. China is a huge truck, and the West is a go-cart. If you put someone who’s used to driving a go-cart behind the wheels of a big truck, they will feel completely different. 

 I agree that there are common universal values; human rights, freedom and democracy. Call them universal values and I agree. But the West has made these words political. The meaning of those words have gone far beyond their original concept. The situation changes when the West uses them as diplomatic tools to pressure China. In fact most Chinese people have the same understanding about whether we should have democracy and freedom. It’s just that we don’t have a consensus on how to get there. 

China is moving forward. You’d be a fool to deny it. But we can’t equate democracy with votes, one person one vote. That’s too narrow an understanding of democracy, and that’s a path designed by the West. Chinese people aren’t that stupid. We should call a spade a spade, and continue to promote democracy. 

I think human rights and sovereignty are consistent. Separating the two is the Western discourse. How can human rights in China be separated from sovereignty? Hasn’t China suffered enough throughout history over issues of sovereignty? How many people were killed by foreigners? In the past, when sovereignty was weak, the country had little say in the world. Today every country is competing to develop. The stronger their sovereignty, the bigger say the country will have. This is directly connected to human rights. Why do we set them up against each other? That’s Western discourse and Chinese intellectuals who believe it are either not thinking for themselves and following the West, or doing so deliberately out of personal interest. 

China’s national strength is still weak when compared to the West, so stressing no interference in the country’s domestic affairs is in line with China’s national interest. It’s also against China’s interest to intrude on other country’s domestic affairs.

There is only one China, there is nothing wrong with loving the country and doing one’s best to help push it forward. A friend of mine told me another story. One of his friends was rich and wanted to go to the US, so my friend said, “You will always be Chinese even in America, and you will always rely on China. If China gets better your status will rise, if not, you will be more miserable, as you won’t be accepted in that society.

The country may not be perfect but why belittle it?

This is how I feel. The US doesn’t need us to defend its interest as other people do. China has finally grabbed the chance to develop and is very likely to succeed. There are people saying online that China is messy, I agree and I have said so in an editorial. Sometimes we don’t know whether to love or hate the country seeing all the problems, but once I see hope and the progress that’s been made, I choose to love it and protect it.

Full report of the interview with Hu Xijin :

The fact is that majority of people do not want to rock the boat does not mean that they are ignorant or have been subdued or brainwashed. 

Self-righteous humanists, please give more respect and credit to the intelligence of Chinese people. 

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