I’ve been really sick the last four days, and probably spending more time on the Internet than usual. Nothing is more discouraging than a few minutes at the China Daily website, the English-language “news” site which has become increasingly more professional over the years, and thusly, more dangerous.
The lead story on the BBC News webpage is about severe protests and demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet. There, you can read that activists have released graphic photos of dead bodies showing bullet wounds, and that the police have finally admitted to firing shots at some protesters. You’ll also read that riot police raided a monastery, causing 300 monks to run for their lives as police committed acts of “gratuitous violence” and kicked monks in the stomach while they lay on the ground. The phone service had mysteriously been cut. And the BBC’s own reporters noted that there had been severe limitations on their travel and ability to report.
Cruise over to China Daily. The lead story is on the Olympic flame. Click on “China” to get national news stories. The lead story there is “China’s new cabinet maps out working rules.” You have to dig for a story about the crisis, and I found one. 105 Lhasa rioters surrender to police. There, you’ll read that “rioters” killed innocent civilians. There’s no mention of China’s military actions. But, there is a link to a story couple of days old titled, We fired no gunshots — Tibetan government chairman. I wasn’t able to find any article admitting that the government in fact had shot anyone. Rather, I found a humorous and pathetic grab-all story recounting that local religious authorities were decrying the Dalai Lama (who’s won the Nobel Peace Prize), that Tibet’s 1957 military invasion was “peaceful,” and for good measure, that “mobs” stoned a Han Chinese girl’s head without provocation. (The Han are eastern China’s ethnic majority.)
Although China Daily never likes airing China’s own dirty laundry, it always enjoys having a good laugh at the United States — a country where protests against the government usually do not result in death. Some people actually take pride in the fact that this is a country where protesting is legal: a point that seems lost on the site’s editors. Thus, photos of Iraq war protesters are often prominently displayed on the front page, including today. This is pretty typical for the website, but what I found truly bizarre is that the CD has created a special slideshow about Eliot Spitzer. For fans of the absurd, this is not to be missed. What sounds like plaintive Chinese pop music starts up soon into the slides. As the captions peter out, it appears that the editors are simply running out the clock so that they can finish the song. I have asked for a translation.
Also good for a laugh is the commentary, Property boom is here to stay. After the ritualistic paean to Beijing’s “beaming vitality” and the amusingly gushing reference to “millions of skyscrapers being erected” (do the math — even in China, it can’t be millions), the author gets down to business. “Are these sprouting buildings constructed on speculated ground, as property prices have been surging at a pace faster than the average growth in incomes?” The answer is, of course not. Do I even need to spell out the irony here? And tragically, the author has failed to learn his microecon 101, confusingly calling the government to impose “price controls to make housing affordable for everyone” (but China must not “resort to administrative means to rein in housing prices”) while at the same time “subsidizing buyers with cash reimbursement” and cutting deals with developers to cap initial sale prices. Huh? Even Paul Krugman could not get behind this weird a plan, but “the authorities seem to have acknowledged this approach.” And despite the opening reference to China’s glittering array of wealth, the column contains the rare admission that it is “a society where the majority of people cannot afford housing.”
As the Olympics near, we are going to hear more and more about how China is doing for itself. The record continues to be one of shame. And I remind people that it was just 2001 that China’s military captured and interrogated several U.S. airmen after one of their inept pilots caused a mid-air collision. They are not our friends. In the 1980’s, America was obsessed with the prospect of having to surrender our economy to the Japanese, and that was a country we actually got along with. It is a long road from the China of 2008 to the Japan of 1980.