Happy New Year, y’all! Let’s start 2016 with something warm and uplifing:
You are being misled, made to fear the unknown, left wholly uninformed, given information without any perspective and led down a path of aggression and war mongering by a pack of chicken-hawks. The guilty party – the Western media.
But Zhou, you protest, isn’t the [COUNTRY REDACTED] media guilty of all of those offenses too? Sure (with significantly less war/fear mongering) but we already know to take information from the [COUNTRY REDACTED] media with a grain of salt. No, I’m far more worried about the “free and independent” media of the West. They are constantly selling out – replacing the objectivity they supposedly hold in high esteem for clicks, likes, shares and ad revenue. What sells the most ads – clickbait, fear mongering and bullshit. See anything Trump, Kardashian or terrorism related for examples.
I, with a desire to stay in touch with my homeland and in an attempt to keep my English language “skills” somewhat passable, make a great effort to keep up with news and happenings of America and the Western world. I read the papers, websites and other news sources of the “free world” and feel quite depressed by the sheer volume of dog shit that is out there – particularly on the topic of China. I would put the garbage-to-acceptable ratio on China related news stories at about 19:1.
That means that about 95% of news on China belongs in the dumpster. However, due to the fact that most Westerns have some amount of faith in our media, this leads to a gross misunderstanding of what life in China is really like, how the politics play out on the ground here and what’s behind the very real tensions and issues that we expats and Chinese nationals face.
Sure, there are decent sources of news on China like longform or vice but they tend to focus on the horrific. Even some of the business related newspapers will give you some quality imformation on the macro level ecomonic news of what’s happening here but those tend to focus on Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. It’s tough to find reliable news on China and that hurts us as a society. How do you not know about what’s going on with a major trading partner, a leading driver of the global economy and a fifth of the humanity?
We expats see this misinformation and gross simplification come into play often in our lives. Usually in the form of conversations with friends and relatives abroad or in our interactions with newly arrived expats who still need to unpack their misconceptions before they can begin to settle into life here.
Let’s look at a few examples.
TERROR THREAT! POSSIBLE ATTACKS IN BEIJING
Strangely, this is the same Uniqlo from this summer’s WeChat porn scandle, proving there is no such thing as bad press. (And how do you say Uniqlo? Is it u-niq-lo or uni-qlo? I’m old and that’s not a real word)
OMG! Be afraid of knife weilding mad men!!! The terrorists are going to kill you!!! Maybe you should cancel that tourist trip to Beijing.
This even made my terrible CNN and BBC channels on my Chinese cable package for three days. It had all of the approriate doom and gloom and absolutely zero perspective on crime or violence in China. Let’s try to put this into a simple perspective.
China is super safe. It’s that simple.
All of the big brother stuff works and a vast majority of Chinese people couldn’t even consider comitting a crime against a foreigner (other than fraud).
China, even with a specific terror threat in a specfic location, is still far safer than any major American city. I know. I’m from Detroit and lived in the murder capital of America for more than a decade. I have been the victim of crime several times (non-violent), I have friends who have been shot, robbed at gun point, beaten and had all of their worldly possessions stolen. Right in the heartland of the good ol’ U-S-of-A. This doesn’t make me tough or to claim badass status – I can hold my own but I’m neither tough or a badass. That said, living in Suzhou is like some sort of bizarro Detroit. A dark alley in Suzhou, not scary. People walking in blind spots, not scary. A pack of ten 13 year-old boys, not scary in the least. Everything is new, works and is super nice. The fact of the matter is that you a far safer in China than in almost any part of America and almost any big city in Europe.
You will never hear that in the western media. The fact that on a 1 to 10 scale, with a normal western city being a 5, Detroit is a 9.9 and Suzhou, Beijing and Shanghai would roll in at about a 0.3. With a specific terror threat, Beijing’s Sanlitun would be about a 1.5. Just look at how many Chinese students get killed in LA simply because they go to USC, live in the hood and have no street smarts. When that happens, it’s a minor blip on the radar. But TERROR IN BEIJING!!!! What utter garbage. This BS got about as much press coverage as a minor school shooting in the US. You know, like when one or two CHILDREN die.
Oh, these stupid islands. These damn things are nothing but trouble. Not because of the real threat they pose but because of the stupidity of politicians and a hawkish media. Leave it to moron politicans and media excutives to get a bunch of people killed, destroy the world economy and drive a rift between East and West all on a quest for votes and a little bit of money. Sadly, these are the people who run the world.
News flash: China is a new emerging superpower. When this happens, said new emerging superpower is going to flex its muscles a bit. The English did it, the French did it, the Germans really did it, the Russians did it (and are currently doing it as a reminder of their power), we Americans did it and still do it often (including right now in several different locations). Guess what, the Chinese are going to do it. This is all totally normal and should be handled behind the scenes, not on the front pages.
But, of course, the media is screaming bloody murder, reporting only the Western side of the story and working the situation up to a simmer – one that could easily turn into a rolling boil with a downed airplane or ship that gets sunk.
All that’s needed is for some idiot American, Chinese or Japanese politician or admiral to go too far and some moron on the other side to overreact and we’ve got a major problem on our hands. Fortunately, the American and Japanese political systems are just filled with wise, level-headed statesmen who order things like flyovers and visit shrines filled with the remains of war criminals. Can’t this be handled with an unjust tarrif, like in the old days?
I think you get the point. You can’t trust these media people at all. There are a lot of things I understand reasonable well about China and a whole lot of things I have no idea or opinion on, mostly due to a lack of real information. You have to do your own research, look at a million sources, use your own experiences, sort through a lot bullshit and accept that there are many things you’ll never understand. Do that, and you can begin to scratch the surface of this crazy and amazing country.