Voices from China and op-eds from elsewhere

Some recent opinion pieces and commentary from China and abroad:

Chinese Storytellers is a collective of ethnically Chinese journalists writing in English who send a regular newsletter summarizing their work. This is from their latest issue, and it neatly captures a problem we face daily at SupChina:

We are Tony Lin and Isabelle Niu, video journalists at Quartz. In the past year, we traveled all over the world for a video series called Because China, an in-depth explainer series about China’s international influence…

One of the biggest challenges we had was: how do we tell in-depth China stories for people who don’t necessarily know the context?

Sometimes the missing context is technical. For people who don’t use WeChat, it’s hard to explain its fake news ecosystem, let alone discussing how “public accounts,” “mini-programs” and WeChat Pay collectively contribute to the proliferation of clickbait and extremism. (People might ask, “What is a public account, again?”) Sometimes it’s the emotional context that’s lacking. It wasn’t until the recent NBA fiasco did many people in the West have a taste of being indirectly censored by China. That constant fear among Chinese citizens, however, is essential to understand China’s quickly expanding self-censorship mechanism. Historical and political context also requires constant clarification.

Each contextual gap could take pages to clarify. And for every journalist who covers China, trying to navigate this is a daily practice, which could feel like describing a rainbow-colored flying unicorn to, a brick wall.

But context matters, a lot. It gives characters agency, builds empathy, and it’s the one thing that distinguishes good stories from the ones that festishize the country or resort to easy stereotypes.

India and China are treated differently by the West on “ethnic issues,” says the Global Times: Comparing the relative silence of the West on India’s treatment of Muslims and recent events in Kashmir with the attention paid to Xinjiang, the newspaper says:

China and India are treated differently not because India is a democratic country under the Western concept, nor is it because of the deep-rooted ideological prejudice of Westerners toward China. The West applies double standards on China because the US cannot accept the fact that China is rising.

Planning for financial war? “Many members of the Chinese elite, even longtime advocates of market reform and economic opening, see a dark future for U.S.-China relations — and they are increasingly focused on America’s global financial hegemony as a long-term risk for their country,” writes Julian Gerwitz at Politico

They’re indicating, subtly but unmistakably, that they see global finance as a rising theater of conflict, and are considering new ways for China to defend itself and even to retaliate.

Xi Jinping’s China is losing its propaganda war left, right and center this year,” says Chauncey Jung at the South China Morning Post:

The overseas propaganda arm of China has suffered major defeats this year, with regard to Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the trade war. Officials show so little understanding of how democracies work, they almost seem to be trying to make China look bad.

Xi Jinping can blame his centralization of power for a rotten 2019 — and maybe an even worse 2020,” says Minxin Pei in the South China Morning Post:

The trade war took a toll on the Chinese economy, Hong Kong revolted and the world stepped up scrutiny of Xinjiang. One-man rule and fear of Xi aggravated each of these situations, and may set China up for worse in the year to come.

Au contraire, says business consultant and former Australian ambassador to China Geoff Raby in a piece in the Australian Financial Review titled: “Why Xi Jinping has had a very good year:

China’s leader has shrugged off a trade war and an uprising in Hong Kong, and confounded Australia’s establishment security hawks.

—Jeremy Goldkorn